(Topic ID: 181290)

Home Run Plastics (Vacuum Forming) Project Available Again

By SteveinTexas

2 years ago

Topic Stats

  • 11 posts
  • 6 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 51 days ago by SteveinTexas
  • Topic is favorited by 8 Pinsiders


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    #1 2 years ago

    Baseball Game Home Run Plastics
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    This is a vacuum formed plastic that I make with my backyard BBQ grill and a vacuum box made with parts around the house and a vacuum cleaner.

    I previously wrote up how to vacuum form a Major league Baseball game home run plastic. I have recently had multiple requests for another rerun to make new plastics. The quality of the vacuum form is not as good as the original but it's stronger. After 60 years there is nothing much left of the original plastic, so there nothing you can lose replacing it.

    I have remade the form three times tweaking the dimensions and played around with the way we make them. My mistake was not writing down all the little changes we did during the forming process from the daily temperature outside, oven heating time, oven temperature, was it windy, how much blank sag did we have and it still worked. Number of rejects verses good pulls etc.

    The recent plastics pull quality has dramatically improved and I want to show this and some tips to get the best out of this arrangement. If you have the need to make something and a vacuum mold is needed maybe it is worth your time to make a similar set up.

    My back yard Vacuum Box Set Up
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    TIPS using this set up

    • Use a vacuum cleaner or wet/dry or similar.
    • The filter must be clean, If not the vacuum pulled will dramatically reduce. I keep a clean filter for when I do a vacuum forming.
    • The seal to your vacuum forming box needs to be good, I use duct tape to seal the hole to the box. The hose size and my collection of hole cutters were not aligned. And I was too cheap to buy the correct one if it exists.
    • I use this Weatherstrip material below for the plastic holder seal to the window screen frame. This product seems to be the best as it accepts the heat and stays together well during the forming. Better still I can reuse it multiple times during a batch run.

    Weatherstrip from a box store
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    The Heating Cycle.
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    Tips during the Blank Heating Step

    • BBQ Grill. Yes, it really works! Remove all surfaces that touch your food just in case.
    • The size of the oven needed is important as a kitchen oven is only so large and is probably out of bounds unless you are Clay Harrell, but I have a suspicion he waits for his wife to go out before he uses the oven in his kitchen!
    • The temp in the grill needs to be about 250 degrees F and above if using the PEFG material. The HIPS material is less critical on heat input needs to over 300 degrees F. To get this to work tweak your burner to the minimum to just before they blow out.
    • If it is too windy you will need to try this another day. If you leave the lid closed and your gage says it’s over 350 degrees F then you need to reduce/tweak the gas a bit more.
    • Temperature control is not that critical as by opening the lid you can release the heat and it only takes a few minutes if the gas is set very low to get the oven hot again. In this time you can get the material to heat up satisfactorily.
    • The position of the grill heating deflection plates is critical (not as shown in the picture). We must get even heating as the plastic gets to its sagging point. I have found that no more than one inch of material sag is all we need. If one side gets more sag due to uneven heating then we risk getting webbing and the blank is immediately scrap. I have destroyed more blanks than I care to mention due to this one problem.
    • An 8’ X 4’ sheet of 0.060” thick PETG makes 14 to 15 blanks if you cut it perfectly. Last October I was only able to make 3 acceptable plastics from one sheet. I was able to get 8 this last time now I have this process better researched.

    Vacuum Box and Wooden Form
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    • The form needs to be raised of the pegboard about the same as its thickness. I use six stacks of three quarters currently and it works perfectly now.
    • I use soft foam weather strip to seal the box to the plastic holder. It can accommodate the plastic holder book clips shape. It’s also OK to double it up if needed to make the seal.
    • If we leave the blank in the oven too long it obviously gets hotter and the material sags more and this excess material can form a crease or web when put on the form before the vacuum can do its job. This destroys the blank.
    • Too little heat and it will not pull over the center of the form.
    • Just right is when the sagging is uniform and it’s no more than ¾” to 1”.
    • The form by necessity is less than Ideal due to the sides of the home run target being little steep. The secret we found to get the blank to form is to use a hot gun.
    • Keep the hot gun moving and keep its nozzle no closer than 3” from the work. Continue to heat the plastic with the vacuum still on and it will slowly pull in as it softens and the vacuum will do its magic. It makes a close to perfect pull.

    I started out making white background plastics and have now moved to a more ivory color, this is I believe a better representation for older games. As they are made on request I could use any color shade you want.

    I will provide a daily pictorial step process on how the plastic batch is made in a little while.

    #2 2 years ago

    Here is a daily pictorial view of the process.

    Day 1; Make a batch of plastics on the grill and vacuum former.
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    After removing from the frame see the plastic in the right of the picture below.

    Using a pair of shears cut most of the side material away leaving about 3/8” left for final shaping see the one on the left.

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    Get the belt sander out and trim the sides to the correct dimensions. I still leave 1/8” on the total length for a final fit up check on an actual game and a nice snug fit.
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    Day 2; I paint the lines where the sticker will land to hid the transition.

    Day 3; I add the reverse printed stickers (Fast Signs). And hopefully have most air bubbles removed and leave overnight.

    Day 4; I use a pin to ensure any minute trapped air is removed before painting.

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    Still Day 4; I can now frisket over the sticker and carefully cut around the arrows (save the cut out) and paint them a transparent white with my air brush using Createx paint.

    Day 5; now place the frisket arrow cutout back on top of the painted arrow and do not remove until the completion of all painting.

    I then paint the plastic the ivory or white color.
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    Here are the paints I am currently painting.
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    Day 6; I leave the paint to cure overnight. Now I can give the final light eliminating final grey coat.
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    Time to test fit the plastic to a game and do any final trimming.
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    Lastly pull the frisket carefully of the arrows. And we are finished.

    Here is the back
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    And this is what the front looks like.
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    Hope you all like them and that you see that vacuum forming is a good way for the community to make parts for our games if we need to. Also thanks Clay Harrell for your video and tutorials that spurred me on to fill a hole in the hobby. I think I have covered most people that wanted new plastics.

    #4 2 years ago

    Excellent pics and explanation Steve!

    #5 2 years ago

    Nice wok Steve.
    Amazing results as usual.

    #6 2 years ago

    Thanks Guys,

    I read on RGP that others tried to get this plastic made by Shay and others over the years but it was not viable commercially due to the low numbers wanted.

    A home made vacuum form solution works. Two years ago I did not know how to vacuum form or use illustrator etc but others show you the possibilities.

    #7 2 years ago

    I want to buy a couple of these just to have . I remember passing on a machine a few years back that was a marginal buy
    because the plastic was rough like most of them and no one was making it . It is one of those things that your eye goes straight to
    if it has a big crack or missing chip in it . Great work . Put me down for two the next time you fire off the grill .

    #8 2 years ago

    Outstanding work! I'm in the process of restoring/updating a '64 Grand Slam. If you are making another run, would it be possible to reproduce the following? Many thanks!

    GS Plastic (resized).jpg

    #9 2 years ago

    Yes of course. I have made this before. Pin me when you are ready. I have to order more of the art stuff later this week but it takes less than a week to get ready.

    1 week later
    #10 2 years ago

    Hey Steve,
    Not to side track your thread but I am completing my Upper Deck restoration and I have a couple of questions that I think you could answer.
    Please send me a PM.

    2 years later
    #11 51 days ago

    Due to popular demand, I am not finished making these home run plastics.

    Materials are now ready for the plastics again. This will be the last batch I believe.

    The materials outlay, and time it takes to make these plastics is nuts! ONLY worth it to keep these games working.

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