hot wire foam cutters

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by Cactus, May 29, 2004.

  1. Cactus

    Cactus Member

    Has anyone had experience with the Hot Wire Foam Factory AC powered hot knife starter kit? This is the basic hot knife with the AC wall transformer (the wall wart)? I'm assuming that the full blown product with their $75 power supply would cut faster, but is the basic hot knife kit OK for use on a smallish layout?

    I want to cut and shape the standard 2" blue foam sheets from Lowe's.

  2. zeeglen

    zeeglen Member

    Have not tried this, but a couple alternatives that don't leave much mess either - a standard kitchen electric carving knife if you have one already will carve and cut curves etc, and a wide bladed snap-off-blade wallpaper trimming knife cuts nice straight cuts if you use a straightedge guide.

    And then there's the drywall rasp - but that makes such a mess!

    I've heard that some types of styrofoam can give off nasty smoke and vapours when melted. Don't know if the blue styrofoam does this, but i avoid melting it just in case.
  3. Lightbender

    Lightbender Member

    Yup it stinks when hot. Don't take my word for it thrust a hot soldering into into some foam and judge if you can live with a room full of that odour.
    I too enjoy attacking the stuff with sharpened steel but I agree it can get messy. I have a pal who has made some convincing rock by picking away at the foam with small cuts....His results make the clean up a pleasure, a time consuming pleasure.
  4. Cactus

    Cactus Member

    I've cut the stuff with saws, knives, rasps, etc., and I'm tired of the mess. The thing that attracts me about the hot wire device can be seen by following this link:

    then choose one of the little films to view. It's the hot knife one that I was asking about.

    At forty bucks for the hot knife and the power supply together, that looks pretty cool. I'd have paid someone forty bucks just to clean up the mess I made last time I cut foam! I can arrange plenty of ventilation here when I use it.

  5. Climax1880

    Climax1880 Member

    Hey Cactus:
    I'm using a bare bones WS hot wire with its little plug-in xformer and it's done right by me. I also use a 25-watt pencil soldering iron for fine carving. It makes some smoke but not enough to get exercised about.

    About the best one I did see was at a train show. This guy had a kit with a xformer, knife holder and on this table he had a vise. I wondered, "What's the vise all about?" His cutting material was what looked like 1/8" rod and he used the vise to bend that rod into all kinds of shapes for special cuts. The kit was about $50. I kick myself now for not buying one.
  6. Lightbender

    Lightbender Member

    Hello Cactus,

    I'd say if ventilation is adequate then go for it. I would be more inclined to building my own tools though. I remember an article in MR that showed how some dude had formed a wire in the shape of a roadbed cross section. In one pass he cut outside incline, the ditch, inside incline and ballast slopes. Pretty cool I thought. A soldering iron on a dimmer switch would allow several different shaped tools or blades to be made. A soldering gun point can be replaced with shaped wires.

    Another advantage is the pieces you cut off can likely be used as outcroppings and such unlike the little floaty curly shavings you have groan to detest.
  7. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member

    Yeah, Lightbencer, a friend of mine tried the "gun" with a wire replacing the regular tip.... it worked great, according to him.
  8. dcfxq

    dcfxq Member

    I use one that I bought at a show this past winter from an outfit in PA that does the rounds of shows around the Baltimore-Washington area.

    Works very well, it came with one shape wire and two unformed pieces for $40. I have used it on my dreaded "white" foam layout (real tiny at 33x31") and love it for contouring terrain. I find ith makes some smell but not really terrible.
  9. Cactus

    Cactus Member

    Thanks, I'll go for it.

    By the way, I tried wire in the soldering gun. Didn't generate enough heat. Do I need special wire for something like that?
  10. TinGoat

    TinGoat Ignorant know it all

    Hot wire on a budget....

    Hi Cactus

    I built my own hot wire foam cutter with some brass rod, ni-chrome wire and a transformer....

    PM me your e-mail addy and I will e-mail you a *.txt file with instructions on how to build your own for under $20....

    Or you can join the "The-gauge" yahoo group and find the file there...

    Join The-gauge Yahoo Group

    How to build a home made Hot-Wire foam cutter
  11. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    I've been using a car battery charger and heavy nichrome wire from omega. The trick is to adjust the pwoer source and/or length of wire to hot enough to cut, not so hot as to burn/smoke/stink. The stuff I have is heavy wire, not like you find in a toaster, so it's not fragile and I was able to skip making the handle. I just hold it between the charger clips. A handle would be nice tho...
  12. Iron Goat

    Iron Goat Member

    Cactus, My buddy is on the road right now, so I can't get a firm answer... but I am sure I remember him saying it was a brass wire. I think it was about the half the thickness of the type of wire they use in coat hangers. I hope this will help....

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