Modelling > Tips, Tools & Techniques

Cheaper Sheet Plastic For Model Building‏

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Jeffry Fontaine:
I had posted on the other forum a while back.  So if you were thinking you might have seen it before it is quite possible that you did.  :^)

As prices soar in our troubled economy it becomes a challenge to get the most for your model building dollar when your paycheck is not keeping up with inflation I have had to look at alternatives to Evergreen and Squadron brand sheet plastic.  I have found that some of the larger hardware and chain stores stock plastic signs that are an ideal resource for plastic card stock or sheet plastic that has all of the properties of the Evergreen and Squadron brands without the hobby shop prices.  The majority of these signs I have found on the shelf appear to have been manufactured by The Hillman Group.

These plastic signs are available in various sizes and thickness and all appear to be made from polystyrene or very similar plastic that will bond with normal model cements.  Prices range from $1.00 for a small 8.0" x 12.0" sign that is about 0.0015" thick to approximately $9.00 for the larger 18.0" x 24.0" sign that is about 0.0040" thick.  When you compare these prices to Evergreen or Squadron brand plastic card stock prices you are getting much more for your model building dollar.  The painted message is only on one side of the sign so you have the option of using the blank side for working your your measurements and cuts and gluing it with the painted side down and away from view or you can lightly sand away the painted surface before you start working with the plastic.

These signs can be found at places like Lowes, Home Depot, WalMart, and other large hardware stores and office supply stores such as Office Depot. 

The signs made from white plastic will be available in the following dimensions:

For Sale By Owner (18.0" x 24.0")
For Rent (18.0" x 24.0")
House For Sale By Owner (18.0" x 24.0")
For Sale (15.0" x 19.0")
For Rent (15.0" x 19.0")
Help Wanted (8.0" x 12.0")
Exit (8.0" x 12.0")
No Trespassing (8.0" x 12.0")
(Vehicle) For Sale (8.0" x 12.0")
For Rent (8.0" x 12.0")
Keep Out (8.0" x 12.0")
For Sale (8.0" x 12.0")
No Smoking (8.0" x 12.0")
Business Hours (8.0 x 12.0")
No Trespassing (with blank space)(8.0" x 12.0")
Garage Sale (with blank space)(8.0" x 12.0")
Beware of Dog (8.0" x 12.0")
For Sale By Owner (8.0" x 12.0")

The signs available in yellow plastic will be available in the following dimensions:

Private Property (11.0" x 11.0")
Garage Sale (11.0" x 11.0")

I have tested and used the above signs made from yellow and white plastic with Testors brand liquid model cement and found that the bond is strong and if allowed to set for any length of time should be permanent or close to it.  You may want to experiment with other types of model cement to see if you achieve similar results.  Other sources for sheet plastic/card stock to consider are sign shops that specialized in vacuum-formed signage based on raised letters. 

great minds must think a like  8)

only 2 weeks ago whilst sorting my mums shed out i found half a dozen plastic Health and Safety signs that i had 'acquired' years before going to come in very useful in the future

last year i was going to throw out a cheap and nasty picture frame from Ikea, realised the 'glass' was perspex so saved it. it was @2mm thick and a3 size. ended up using some of it for the body of a tank, just had to be careful cos since it was perspex it liked to shatter but it still worked very nicely

i love finding cheap alternatives since what they charge us for sheet plastic is outrageous  >:(

Jeffry Fontaine:
I am always looking for cheaper alternatives to what the hobby industry is offering.  Especially if you can find it for lower price or better yet, for free. 

For folks in the US:

TAP Plastics has white styrene in 1/16" (.060) and 1/8"(.125) thicknesses, and a nice online calculator tool:

TAP will sell it to you in sizes from 1" X 1" up to 48" X 96", any length over 48" will incur a $10.00 oversize
shipping charge. A setup/cutting charge is figured into the cost of the first piece, but is not added to the cost
of the rest of the pieces, for example: 1 sheet of .060, 12" X 18" is $10.00, but if you order three sheets that size
the cost is still $10.00, 4 sheet price is $11.70 etc.

US Plastic sells styrene in full sheets only in thicknesses ranging from .020 up to .187:

A 40" X 72" sheet of .040 is $13.63, estimated shipping to where I am in the PNW is $4.99.

Industrial Plastic Supply has white and black in thicknesses from .020 to .250 (1/4"):

Sizes available vary by thicknesses and are sold only in multiple sheet lots i.e.:
White .040, 16 pieces @ 12" X 24" is $24.00 (Black is more expensive being $29.58 for the same
thickness, size and quantity).
UPS Ground shipping estimate is $12.88 for a total of $36.88, or @ $2.30 per 12" X 24" sheet.

There are other suppliers in the US/Canada and similar suppliers in the UK/EU, OZ etc.,
Google for 'High Impact Styrene sheet'.

Cheers, Jon

I use the cheap plastic signs quite a bit for scratchbuilding; they melt easily with all the standard glues for styrene/ABS. The only minor annoyance is that the paint used for text and colors on the sign side can have a noticeable thickness. It will show up under a coat of paint. I either sand the signage color off (the solvents that I've found affect the paint also melt the plastic) or just make sure that I use the unpainted side.


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