Cutting Walls and Panelsby: Doug Schroeder
Before you Begin:
For creating flat walls and panels in custom ships you can’t beat sheet styrene. 1/16″ styrene sheet is easily cut, flexes well enough to make gentle curves, glues/welds well to PVC and other styrene, and best of all, it can be sandwiched together to make sturdy walls that are also resilient. A 4′ X 8′ sheet of 1/16″ styrene costs about $25 form a plastics distributor. This may sound like a lot of money, but consider that’s enough plastic to make 3 ships the size of Hasbro’s Millennium Falcon.
Sheet styrene has different physical properties than, say, the shelves from your old refrigerator, which are probably styrene too. The sheet is very flexible. Styrene “found objects” are almost always brittle, so the only reasonable way to cut such a found object is to saw it or use a Dremel cutting wheel. We can cut the sheet styrene much easier.
- Sheet styrene
- Utility knife
- Sheet of plywood
- Steel ruler/square
- 2+ vises
- Dremel with
(Optional) Make a cardboard model of the wall you’re going to build and test-fit it into place. Trim and refit as needed. When the cardboard fits exactly you can use it as a template for your styrene wall. You can skip this step and go straight to Step 2. But it is a VERY good idea to pre-measure. …The sheet styrene gets very expensive if you waste 1/2 of it….
Lay the piece of plywood on the floor. Put the styrene sheet on the plywood. Then draw the outline of your wall onto the styrene sheet with a pencil.
Lay the ruler on a line. Concentrate on just one line at a time. Make sure the ruler is inside the shape you want cut out, NOT outside. This will keep stray cuts from ruining your piece.
Make sure the ruler is exactly in place then kneel on it.
Keeping your weight on the ruler, make a very light pass with the utility knife tight against the edge of the ruler. This will make a track for future cuts.
Make 2-3 more passes against the ruler’s edge. Depending on how much pressure you use this will get you 1/3 to all the way through the 1/16″ sheet.
Gently fold the sheet at the perforation you just cut. It should snap cleanly at the cut.
Repeat for all lines.
Sand the edges as needed. If you are making multiples of the same wall shape it is helpful to sand all of the edges identically. Pinch all copies of that wall together with small vises (at least 2 vises are needed to hold the walls firmly enough). Then use the Dremel sanding drum to file all common edges to the same shape.