Styrene for Miniatures, Scale Models and Dolls Houses:
Styrene or polystyrene plastic is used for formed plastic model cars, airplanes and boat kits, as well as for scale buildings and scratch built models. It is also used to sheath smaller scale dolls houses and is used extensively in the architectural trade to create building models. It is easily shaped with a thermoforming or vacuforming technique where the material is heated and shaped over molds. When used in sheet or strip form, it scores and snaps easily and can be welded together with plastic glues to give firm bonds. It is not a particularly strong material and will warp in heat and breakdown in UV light.
Available Forms of Styrene for Modelling:
Styrene is available as clear sheets (may shrink when heat formed), white sheets, (susceptible to uv light breakdown and off gassing), and black sheets treated to withstand uv rays. Various patterns are available designed especially for scale and railroad models. Shaped flat sheets include:
- Freight Car Siding
- Passenger Car Siding
- V Groove Siding
- Drop Siding
- Clapboard Siding
- Board and Batten
- Square Tile
- Standing Seam Roof
- Corrugated Metal
Building strips and shapes as well as sheets combined with metallic finishes can also be found. Backing support may be needed for larger structures as sheet styrene bends easily.
Using Sheet and Strip Styrene:
Styrene sheets are available in various thicknesses, and Evergreen Scale Models have a handy converter chart which helps a modeller decide which thickness and pattern size will best suit a particular scale project. The chart is also found on the back of all their packaging. As the sheets are produced mainly for plastic modelers and railroad modelers, the scale conversions given are from N (1:160) to G (1:25). Sheets are available in various thicknesses, from .005 to .125 inches (0.13 to 3.2 mm), suitable for everything from vacu - formed model parts to building walls.
Sheets are sold by the thickness of the sheet, and by the spacing of the pattern in tenths of an inch. For example a V Groove sheet could be any of a number of thicknesses, and might have a spacing between the grooves of 0.1 inch, (.100) meaning there are ten pattern grooves every one inch. In 1:48 or O scale this gives you the scale equivalent of 4 ¾ inch wide siding, in HO scale it would be equivalent to 8 ¾ inch wide siding.
Cutting Styrene Sheet, Strip or Parts
Sheet, strip and molded styrene are easily cut with a sharp hobby or craft knife. The material should be scored and snapped along the score lines for the best results.
Working with Styrene
Styrene can be molded or shaped using heat. Wrapping thin sheet styrene around a plastic dowel, clamping it, then immersing the clamped styrene in very hot to boiling water for five to ten seconds will shape the styrene into a curved section that will hold its shape for a building project once cool. Heated sheets of styrene can also be clamped into two part molds or placed over molds in vacuform systems. Styrene's ability to be shaped by heat, can also be a liability for models which are exposed to strong sunlight, where warping of the material may occur.
Glues for Styrene
Styrene is best glued with plastic welding glues, cyanoacrylate glues or two part epoxies where styrene is being glued to wood or another material. Where parts are precisely cut, liquid plastic welding glues work best, as they dissolve the styrene and allow it to weld together. On less precisely cut pieces, tube plastic cement or thicker cyanoacrylate glues work best, although the bond may not be as strong.
Styrene can be sanded. Sanding with course paper can give the plastic a wood grain finish. Styrene is best painted with acrylic or enamel paints. Laquer based paints or paints with xylene thinners, such as Floquil may dissolve, pit, or craze styrene.