Building a Homemade Vacuum-Forming Machine

You can actually make a homemade vacuum-forming machine pretty cheap and easily. I did it a few years ago myself (read about 10). Here is a list of the supplies you will need:

- a 5 x 9 metal loaf baking pan

- a section of heavy metal mesh (I actually used plastic mesh, but would use metal if I did it again)

- some PVC pipe

- some pieces of "L" shaped aluminum

- scrap pieces of basswood

- four machine screws and wing nuts.

The bread pan is your base. Cut a hole in the side of the pan that will accept a piece of PVC pipe that is the size needed to hook up to your vacuum cleaner hose. Epoxy the PVC to the pan.

Next, use a couple pieces of 1/4 inch bass wood going across the inside of the bread pan with holes drilled in them to allow air flow. These will be your internal bracing so the metal mesh doesn't collapse into the pan when the vacuum is applied. Epoxy them in as well. Now epoxy the metal mesh to the open top of the bread pan. You should now have a bread pan with PVC pipe sticking out one end, wooden braces inside, and topped off with a mesh top. The vacuum chamber is complete.

Now you need to make the frame to hold the plastic. Using the L"-shaped angled aluminum; bend it into a square just big enough to fit over the meshed top of the chamber. You need to make two identical frames. Once these are completed, the two frames need to be held together, drill holes through both frames and place screws with wing nuts to secure them. The plastic sheet gets sandwiched between the two frames.

Your vacuum machine is now complete. To use it, simply carve your master and place it on the mesh. Take your plastic sandwiched in the frame and heat it over the stove until it visibly droops in the frame and bows down. Turn on your vacuum and quickly transfer the plastic in the frame from your heat source and bring it down over the master on the vacuum machine. The vacuum will pull the plastic down to the mesh and around your master making an exact copy of it. It is pretty easy to do.

Happy Vacuum-Forming.
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About the Author

About Gino P. Quintiliani (HeavyArty)

Retired US Army Artillery Officer, currently a contractor at MacDill AFB in the Tampa, FL area. I have been modelling for the past 40+ years, really seriously on armor and large scale helos (1/32, 1/35) for the last 35 or so.


maybe stupid, but for what can vacu forming be used (not in terms of aircraft)
AUG 18, 2004 - 07:46 PM
Uh.... Canvas for trucks........ I'm sure there's more....
AUG 18, 2004 - 08:08 PM
you could use it for boxes, notek lights alsorts just got to put your mind to it
AUG 19, 2004 - 04:52 PM
Nice article, and a simple method of making a Vac former. as to what to make, canvas covers have been metioned and a few others. First thing that comes to my mind beside the obvious aircraft stuff, is scale thickness fenders.
AUG 19, 2004 - 10:46 PM
Interesting article, but one most important item was left out of the list of items needed. the VACUUM SOURCE. What do I use a shop vac?, a regular vacuum cleaner..How much vacuum is required?
AUG 19, 2004 - 11:58 PM
A good shopvac should work!!!
AUG 20, 2004 - 12:00 AM
Hi there Any vacuum cleaner should work. I've read that you should switch it off quickly after the vacuum is achieved, or you risk over-straining the motor. All the best Rowan
AUG 20, 2004 - 12:54 AM
Propboy, I use a 1 gal. 1.5 HP Shopvac. Our 2nd such, as I had to replace my wife's after discovering just the problem that Merlin mentioned... Great Timing, Rowan!!!!! :-)
AUG 20, 2004 - 01:59 AM
Sorry Robert I was there in spirit... I sent the vibes: "noooo Roooberrt, dooon't leeeave thee vacuuuum onnn tooo lonnngg!!!" Fizz! Putt! Whirr! ... so much for telepathy! Sorry Rowan
AUG 20, 2004 - 06:16 AM
Interesting article.... could we get some "diagrams", as I got a bit lost on the use of the reinforcement basswood. A nice vacuform would be excellent for creating things like wall sections and roofing as well....
AUG 23, 2004 - 10:17 AM