Bulleid Light Pacific No.34081 92 Squadron on The North Norfolk Railway (former M&GN) 14th May 2005
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Click picture for list of all sheet plastic

plasticard sheets, styrene, (HIPS)


Plasticard FAQs


Q:
What is plasticard?

A:
Plasticard is a hard plastic, it's industrial name is High Impact Polystyrene Sheet (this is NOT expanded polystyrene). UK modellers know it as plasticard, in the US it is commonly referred to as styrene sheet, plastcard or plastic card are other terms you may see. The same material is normally used for injection moulded plastic kits.

Q:
What sizes of plasticard do you stock?

A:
I list two sizes: 220mm x 325mm & 325mm x 440mm.

Q:
Does your plasticard have a gloss or a matt finish & does it Matter?

A:
It does matter. The styrene sheet that I stock is classified as matt. It has a matt finish on one side & a standard extruded finish in the other, this can vary between batches, anything from matt to a low gloss, either side can be painted. Gloss plasticard is coated with a lacquer, this makes it unsuitable for modelmaking as it prevent the paint from keying, it can also cause problems with adhesives.

Q:
Is plasticard sheet flexible?

A:
It depends on the thickness, the thickest sheets are quite rigid, the thinnest (0.25mm) are more like paper.

Q:
How do I cut plasticard?

A:
For the very thin sheets, cut right through with a sharp craft knife or scalpel. Thinner sheets can also be cut with scissors but this is not recommended where accuracy is needed. Otherwise the easiest way to cut styrene is by scoring it with a sharp modelling knife or scalpel, then bend it along the score, it should break cleanly. There will be a raised edge along the score line, this edge will clean up with a fine abrasive, file cards work well, or scrape it with the knife blade. For cutting curves there there are special tools available but sheets can be scored using either engineers or draughtsman's dividers. A fair degree of pressure is needed, so it's advisable to use the type that has a screw adjustment to avoid unwanted movement. When snapping off curved edges it is much easier to make radial cuts on the 'waste' side & remove the material in sections.

For shaping fine detail, use fine abrasives, needle files, rifflers or small rotary tools. Files & cutters do tend to clog but styrene sheet is very easy to work, cheap tools are fine for this.

Q:
What glues do I use?

A:
Polystyrene cement or any of the solvents or specialist glues that are used for the assembly of plastic kits. USE IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA.

Q:
How do I fill any gaps in joints?

A:
There are specialist fillers available from toy or model shops. The fillers sold for DIY or car bodywork are best avoided as they will either fail to bond or contain solvents that can damage the plastic. Some people make their own by melting small plastic chips in solvent but when applied to the model the solvent can leach into the base material, causing damage. Dental probes & wax carving tools are both useful for applying fillers.

Q:
Can I permanently bend plasticard?

A:
Yes, plasticard softens at 80C. To permanently bend it, tape to a curved surface then steam it over the kettle, or soak in hot water. Use any curved surface that can cope with heat & moisture, metal bar, tubing or ceramics i.e. the side of a coffee mug, whatever is about the right size, go for something slightly smaller than needed, the plastic will spring back a little when removed. Some trial & error is usually needed! Another method is the gentle use a heat gun, but be VERY CAREFUL or you will end up with liquid plastic. When heating any plastic, do so IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA. Alternatively glue the sheet to ribs or formers (also cut from sheet). Profiles can also be produced by building up several layers of plastic then filing & sanding to shape.

Q:
How do I restore the smooth finish?

A:
Use progressively finer abrasive sheet then finish off with a fine abrasive polish. Many polishes can be used, there are specialist items available but one popular choice is toothpaste.

Q:
Is plasticard suitable for vacuum forming?

A:
Yes, it's a thermoplastic, the sag temperature is about 80C.

Q:
What paints are suitable for styrene sheet?

A:
Any of the enamels or acrylic paints that are marketed for plastic kits. The acrylic aerosols sold by car accessory shops can also be used, but test out on a piece of scrap material first. To help the paint to key it is advisable to slightly roughen the surface first, a fibreglass brush is ideal for this.
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