Vacuum former: update post 1 (and some catch up)

Aligning the vacuum form: the oven is positioned over the vacuum box at the proper height and aligned with the frame.

This is my first daily update, where I plan on documenting my progress on whatever geeky activity I'm working on.

My current project is a vacuum former. I'm enrolled in an online workshop put on by the Stan Winston School School of Character Arts and being taught by Fon Davis, titled "How to make a sci fi helmet.". The goal of the workshop is to create a prop that can be used in a movie or as part of a cosplay costume (I'm still uncomfortable with the use of cosplay as a noun), but the workshop includes building a vacuum former and showing how to use it. It's a tool I plan on using for my own prop making and costume building.

Fon Davis is a master model and prop builder, having worked on Star Wars, Matrix, Starship Trooper, Nightmare Before Christmas, and many other films and projects. We've had two of the three classes so far, and they have been AMAZING!

I haven't been very good about recording the last two weeks of work since I hadn't started this blog. So I'll give a brief recap with a few progress pictures (very few) and then document today's progress. Future posts won't be so long (I think...)

The oven I used. You just see the sheet metal shell I removed when dismantling for parts.

The key parts removed from the oven, although I won't be using all of them.

The shop vac being disassembled.

In the last two weeks, I bought a toaster oven and a shop vacuum at Costco. These have been dismantled for the parts (see the pictures above).

The oven box, but without the wiring

The box that holds the shop vac parts and where the controls will go.

I've finished most of a heat box with the oven components that will be used for heating the thermal plastics. I've been building a box for the vacuum that will be used for pulling the softened plastics over the patterns (also called the bucks or forms). Both of these are shown in the photos, above.

The shop vac is mounted, the base of the vacuum chamber has been built and sealed, and the switch plate has been installed.

Current state of the platen; 126 holes to go...tomorrow.

Today I finished the vacuum box and worked on the chamber that distributes the vacuum over the working area. I also started work on the platen that is the base of the working area that supports the buck patterns. The platen is an aluminum plate into which I'm drilling 609 holes over a 1/2 inch grid. It's where the softened plastic gets sucked down over the pattern, creating the shaped item.

Finally, I worked on the mounting system that holds the oven over the vacuum (shown in the very first photo, above). When complete, I'll explain and demonstrate the operation, and why the major components are positioned and aligned the way they are. For now, the picture shows how I've used a pile of wood (of which there is no shortage in my shop) to set the height and alignment. Tomorrow I'll mount the channels (and buy the screws ... d'oh!), finish and mount the platen, and possibly start work on the wiring.