Tips for heat forming styrene?


New Member
I'm new to prop-making, and I was wondering if anyone had any good tips for heat forming styrene. My first adventure into it ended rather poorly using a heat gun and my hands (gloved, of course). Does anyone have any tips/tricks/tutorials? I learn best by watching, so if any of the above come in video form, that would super awesome. Thanks in advance.


Well-Known Member
I made a metal frame that fits into the oven. It slides in just like the racks. I heat it about 3 minutes till I get a nice drop, and move it to my box/shop vac and pull it. I don't have a "vac machine" like some guys. My box size was limited by the size of my oven. In my case, my pieces are cut to 23" X 15". I have a port on my box that hooks up to my shop vac. It's not super powerful, 4.25 HP. I've pulled .125 with it, but keep in mind I dont make things with a lot of detail.

I used some square 1/2" tube. I use 4 small C clamps to hold it together.


Well-Known Member
I think I would stick with a heat gun instead of oven. Heat guns are powerful so it's a combination of keeping the gun moving and distance. A few videos on you tube. For small parts I used a large bucket and house hold vacuum. Depends how much detail you want, the object you are making and the plug.


New Member
Thanks for the tips, guys, but I guess I should have mentioned, I don't even have a vacuum setup. I'm not trying to do any details, I just need to get some nice even curves. I tried to do it open-air with my hands and a heat gun, but it got kinda lumpy. Is it nearly impossible to do without some kind of vacuum and form? Or perhaps I just need to keep practicing?


New Member
Now I haven't tried this on big pieces and it probably wouldn't work but for smaller pieces I've need to bend and put curves in I've put it boiling water until it was soft then molded it around or shaped it how I wanted it in an ice water bath to cool it. Not long ago I did a whole bunch of 1:18 scale car ramps for my model case and I made a simple template out of wood and molded to plastic on that.


Sr Member
Strene cools quickly and forms unevenly if you are laying it across a form.
Depending on what you are making it may be better to use sintra. It heats nicely and keeps it's dimensions pretty well. It cools slower so you have more time to set it where you please.

I used sintra for forming this the curved wall of this toy for McFarlane Toys. It heated well over the stove and formed evenly over the cannister I used. Then they got angry because I made a part at home instead of in the shop. :p



New Member
I'll try the boiling water trick for my next attempt with styrene. I don't really plan on ever making anything larger than my biggest pot so that may work best. I'll also try to get my hands on some sintra next time I buy materials so I can try that.


Sr Member
You tube has some excellent videos on home vacu-forming. You will have to weed through a lot of junk, but you will get tons of ideas. You will be amazed at what you can achieve with only a shop vac and an oven.


Sr Member
The trick to heat forming with a heat gun is to have a form to shape the plastic over. Sometimes it takes a few attempts to get the shape right. Hold a piece of wood over an area that's right so you can apply targeted heat to the area you want to fix. Think of it as vacuum forming without the vacuum. It takes some practice but you can make some really complex shapes that way.
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