The idea behind this project was to make a vacuum former to make more cool stuff for future projects. I wanted it to be easy to make and use, look nice, store easily, and be cheap to make. It works really well, was made from scrap wood and cost next to nothing… Job done.
Vacuum former plans
To make an A4 sized vacuum former as in the video I used 1.2 metres of 25 x 50 mm timber (4ft of 2 x 1) as my side walls and handles, just make sure that your vacuum cleaner nozzle fits within the widest part. The top and bottom were made from scraps of plywood about 4-5mm thick (roughly ¼”), although MDF or a fine particle board would also work. In total the plywood had a surface area of 35 cm x 67 cm (14″ x 27″) assuming you follow my technique as seen in the video.
If I had planned a little better, I could have incorporated the frame into one of my faces, then the inner offcut from my frame would have made a top or bottom saving some timber. As I had lots of silly offcuts going to waste, I didn’t bother. But if you did want to do that, you could get away with some plywood 35 cm x 46 cm (14″ x 18″).
Best Vacuum former plastic
Because I’d never vacuum formed before this project, I did a little research and purchased some samples… I had mixed results. Some plastics were very thin or cheap meaning they either cooled slightly too quickly for a non professional setup, were slightly brittle to cut, or became opaque, and hard easily.
I had by far the best results time and time again with 1 mm thick virgin grade High Impact Polystyrene Sheets (HIPS) or PETG. It resists rough handling when removing items after moulding, and has the added bonus of being paintable. The 1 mm thickness also seems to hold the heat quite well as long as you don’t mess about. You have to switch on the vacuum, remove the plastic and form it all in one nice movement.
Vacuum former template
This is the template as used in the video. If you look closely in the video I accidentally left white areas around the edges of my printed A4 paper template, this caused my holes to be slightly too far in. Whilst this didn’t affect the forming, it would have been better to have them as close to the wooden sides as possible. Of course I could have drilled them in later, but it would have ruined the look. Try not to make the same mistake and resize the image on your computer / printer so it prints correctly.
The above project is aimed at adults for education and entertainment purposes only, not to replicate. Anyone doing so takes full responsibility for their own actions.