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Poor man's 200 dollar plastic heat strip for pennies!

Picture of Poor man's 200 dollar plastic heat strip for pennies!
Want to bend sheets, tubes, sticks of plastic?
Don't want to buy a 200 dollar heating base?
Build one for pennies! (free if you go dumpster diving)
 
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Step 1: Materials and tools

Picture of Materials and tools
For a totally free unit, dumpster dive for these materials:
- Toaster oven (cylindrical, rod-like, non bent, heating elements)
- Sheet metal (I used old brass door kick protectors)
- Outlet plug (old extension cord or whatever)
- Light dimmer
- Wiring nuts (or soldering gun)
- Liquid electrical tape (optional)
- metal pipes (optional)

Tools:
- Garden Shears (or anything that cuts sheet metal)
- Dremel or drill
- Pliers

Step 2: Dismantling the toaster oven

Picture of Dismantling the toaster oven
Rip apart the toaster oven. Bash it, unscrew the case, use the jaws of life, just dismantle the oven and retrieve the heating elements. Keep as many as possible, because you can make the heating strip as long as required.

Step 3: Building the base/heat strip and wiring.

Picture of Building the base/heat strip and wiring.
-Take the sheet metal (must be longer than the heating element, or series of heating elements if you wish to make the heat strip longer) and cut out tabs to be bent perpendicular to the rest of the sheet metal.
- Drill holes on the tabs to thread the heating element through.
- Wire one lead of the power cable to one lead of the dimmer switch, and the other lead of the dimmer switch to one lead of the heating element.
- Wire the other lead of the power cable to the other lead of the heating element.
- (Since the heating elements work on A/C current, you can disregard rectifying the current, and you can disregard which lead of the power cable goes to which lead of the dimmer or heating element.)

Optional:
- Mount metal pipes (with nuts and bolts or cut tabs on the sheet metal and bend them in towards the pipe) parallel to the heating element, with an about 1 inch gap from the element.
- Apply liquid electrical tape to seal any exposed wires (don't want to be electrocuted. I used tape)

Step 4: Using the heat strip

Without the optional metal pipes:
- Turn on heating strip, adjust the dimmer for the right temperature (I usually turn it on all the way, then reduce the heat.)
- Hold the sheet of plastic hovering about half an inch over the heating strip. The edge of your intended bend should be parallel to the heat strip.
- Once the plastic starts drooping just the teeniest bit (you may also try and bend the plastic a bit to judge when it's good enough to start bending), move it away from the heating strip and bend. You may use a jig for definite angle bends. (I use square wooden dowels for right angles. I pin one against the bending edge and slide the other dowel under the soft plastic to fold and keep it at a right angle.)

With the metal pipes:
- Same as before, but you do not have to hold the plastic sheet while the plastic is softening, just leave it resting on the metal pipes.
jordanrick2 years ago
Nice! I am cannibalizing the controls from the toaster also- the timer and temp controls are already there, so I am gutting it instead of smashing it [that comes later].
regaltool3 years ago
Pretty awesome make-shift heater. Certainly a different purpose than these heaters, but still nice not to have to spend so much: http://www.regaltool.com/Drum-Heaters-Barrel-Warmers
Just as a thought would this work for bending an arch into a strip of plexi-glass? If anyone has any idea's on how to get a peice of plasic into an arch please tell.
I would imagine it might need a bit of trial and error if you are going to use an standard oven. a temperature of between 140-160 degrees centigrade works best  for rigid foam pvc sheets.
An easier way in DIY situations might be to build a jig or former the required shape, and use a hot air paint stripping gun, applying localised heat and working your plexigalss around the Jig.
You must clamp it in position and allow it to cool completely before removing it, If it is anything like rigid foam it will hold its shape.
Thai plastwood have a series of guides to working with plastic. Check out: www.thai-plastic-wood.com/plastic-uses.html
xeijix (author)  Nunavutnewsrules6 years ago
A while back, I wanted to bend a strip into a parabola, and was trying to think of ways to do it. I saw a video a while back where someone placed a sheet ontop of a parabolic dish and stuck it in the oven. For a strip, perhaps if you taped the ends so that you're adding tension (curves it parabolic like) and place it flat in the oven, that might work.
briskheat5 years ago
BriskHeat offers an inexpensive plastic bending strip heater at

http://www.briskheat.com/p-152-rh-plastic-bending-strip-heater.aspx.

Over 60 years of flexible surface heating experience.
Do you think this could be done using "long" halogen floodlight bulbs as the element? I'm just thinking they give out alot of heat, with the electric safely contained inside a nice glass case. and if done with only a strip exposed as mentioned below you would have a clear indication of where the heat was going as it would be going the same way as the light. I think I may have just thought of my first instructable.
Patented6 years ago
Why am I a colaborator to this instructables?
jueston8 years ago
my tech teacher in highschool had one built something like this, but he had bent sheet metal around it makeing a flat serface so that the heat would rise through a gap in the metal |--   --||   O   |<--- from the side, the O is |_______| is the heater so the heattravels up through the gap and melts whatever is on top just in that little spot so we could bend very acuratelyand all this would take to build is putting 4 bends into some sheet metal and suspending the element somehow
Derin jueston7 years ago
good use of the "pipe"symbol cmon bend that
LanikoAtles7 years ago
EnigmaMax7 years ago
just an idea but, couldn't you use the dimmer already included in the toaster? ( the thing that makes toast dark or light colored.)
xeijix (author)  EnigmaMax7 years ago
Yea, I could've but the way toasters are made, the dimmer device and timer mechanism are cobbled together and it's very weird to work with.
smokehill7 years ago
One method for bending plastic pipe (plumbing-sized) I have never tried, but have had described by a couple of commercial plumbers. Apparently you can soften PVC (up to about 2") by attaching a tube to the exhaust of your truck and letting the exhause heat do the work gradually. My understanding is that they usually have some homemade adapter fitting stuck onto the exhaust, and sometimes they partially block up the "cold" end of the length of pipe, to keep more of the heat inside to soften the material. I don't think this is done every day onsite, but just occasionally when a run of pipes just doesn't quite match up and needs to get a bit skewed to meet another run of pipe.
trebuchet038 years ago
This looks great for vacu forming! Perhaps a little adjustment to the heating element position -- but methinks it could work :D
For vacuum forming, you want an area heater, not a strip heater. For local bends, you want a strip heater.

Check out my article on a small (12 x 20 inch) vacuum forming oven for under $30 using a two-burner hot plate and disposable aluminum pans:

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=621858

brokengun8 years ago
You think this will work for plexiglass too? I recently had an experience trying to working with plexiglass and a bender would come in handy!
xeijix (author)  brokengun8 years ago
Yea, it works. Be a bit careful tho. The plastic bubbles a little when heated and it might show on plexi.
drcrash xeijix8 years ago
The bubbling is due either to heating it too fast, or moisture in the plastic. Acrylics absorb moisture from air (humidity) and when you heat them up, the moisture can turn to steam and make bubbles. If you bake the plastic at 200 for about a half hour per millimeter before thermoforming it, that will drive off the moisture and eliminate the bubbles.
joakimk8 years ago
Cool! Would this also work for bending plexiglass?
Safety concern, tho: Doesn't this mean 110V (or 220, in Europe) will appear across the heating elements, making you, the user, potentionally... toast..? :p
xeijix (author)  joakimk8 years ago
Any thermal plastic. And yea it's pretty dangerous. But then again, so is operating a toaster oven (it's just a stripped down toaster oven minus the timer.)
charper xeijix8 years ago
Solution to safety concern I agree 100% - that's insanely dangerous. You can, however, get an isolation transformer. It doesn't affect the power in any way, it just prevents power from flowing back to ground through you. They're cheap ($30 range) and can be found with a little effort. Realizing that some people may only want to spend $10 to save their life... *ahem* You could go to radio shack and get two identical transformers (make sure they are rated for your toaster's power) and put them back to back. I.E. go from say 120V to 24V and then from 24V back to 120.

Just remember - if you touch the heating element by itself, it'll burn. But if you touch it w/ live power across it, it could kill you - not smart.

Subvert8 years ago
This is a godsend, and so cheap! I think that all thrift stores in existence have at least one toaster oven. What a great and simple idea, and still open to modification. I can now do all the things with plastic that I've been wanting to do for a while now.
i'm so glad you posted this - i've wanted one forever, and knew i'd be better off to build one, but i hadn't gotten around to figuring it out yet.
cylver8 years ago
With a few more pipes, you could make a quick'n'dirty slip roll for making curved shapes and tubes.
ZapWizard8 years ago
Not to offlink, but here is a guide that my friend made for one of these.
http://www.austinpcmods.com/how-to-story--1.html

He sunk the heating element into the wood, which works very well as you can just place the plastic flat on the surface.
cool
jtobako8 years ago
How are you connecting the heating elements, just twisting the leads together or what?
xeijix (author)  jtobako8 years ago
yea, you can't solder them together because the heating elements achieve the temperature where solder melts. You can, however, weld them together
lemonie8 years ago
Are you using the sheet metal as a reflector, heat-shield (for the wood) or both? L
xeijix (author)  lemonie8 years ago
heat shield, and somewhat like a reflector/director. But initially just a shield