Make your own hot-wire or styrofoam cutter
Filicutter is a tool to hot cut styrofoam, which allows you to highlight any piece recovered, and do so a lot of things: modeling, layout, visual arts, etc ...
The principle is quite simple, there is a strong electric current in a thin resistive wire. The wire under the effect of current, heat and cut easily and cleanly styrofoam, much much better than with a knife or a cutter, particularly for large pieces (> 5 cm thick). It can also be use to cut plastic or synthetic foam.
Build a filicutter is only adding a current source to resistive electrical wire, adding a control switch and possibly a light bulb to limit a bit the current passing through the wires.
And of course mount the whole on a structure, insulated, easy to handle, so you can control the hot wire during phases of cut. The idea was to do something that looks like a bit to a saw wire, a kind of huge "U" who owns a handful at the end. Like this:
This way you control switching on/off heater wire with a finger, and guide cutting with the same hand.
What you need
- Resistive wire: not easy to find, you can try electronic components dealers, hardware, paint stores or plastic arts shops. This wire (sometimes called "constantan"), can also be replaced by piano chord/wire but's it is more fragile. Other idea by Alain, the recovery of resistance in an old radiator or electric toaster, you may need to increase or decrease the energy voltage depending on what you want to obtain (see below)
- A piece of plastic pipe: to do the handle, take about 10 cm or 4 inches of plastic plumbing pipe
- A push-button: for switching on (electronic components dealers)
- A piece of metalic pipe of 1 cm diameter: To make the "U", at your size. Mine is 26x30 cm or 10X12 inches, made from an old aluminium tent pole
- Electric wire: To put electric power to heating wire throught push-button. Take any kind of wire, with two sub-wires, and not too thin (bigger than telephone or network wires)
- A power source: One more time, anything you can get who could deliver a 20 volts power, no matter AC or DC (I use an old car battery chargeur)
- Miscellanous: Electrical scotch-tape, some bolt and nuts
When you've read the principle, you can do it in your way. Here is mine, made with resistive wire and car battery charger.
|Fold metalic pipe to make the "U" according to your dimensions.|
|Cut the handle in plastic pipe. On top of this pipe, make (using a saw) a place for the "U". Make a hole for your push-button, in the right place for your finger as a trigger. Connect two wires to push-button, and put them inside the handle.|
|Put the "U" in the handle, let 2 cm - 1 inch exceed, and fix it by making two holes througt the handle. Put two bolts in those holes, and put two nuts on the other side. You should have in your hand something light, with push-boutton right under your index.|
|Add then the resistive wire on the "U". On top, use a small metallic bolt with a ring head. You shoud use metallic bolt because and electric contact is needed on that side.|
|On bottom, contrarily wire should be insulate from the "U": use a small piece of wood, fixed with another bolt and nut, then another metallic bolt with a ring head.|
|Then connect: |
That's it, it's over, you can now discover the happiness of precision cutting styrofoam...
Alain told me that you should be careful with styrofoam smokes when cutting, they are toxic and should not be breath.
Filicutter with handle like this one is very useful for... sculpturing styrofoam, but it's a bit difficult to make straight cuts.
If you have this kind of cuts to do, it could be interesting to improve it by making a kind of stand. The idea is to make this stand with a right-angle system and another push-button commanded by your feet, so that your two hands are free to control the styrofoam piece move.
To do that, you should make a small table, with a hole in and where the wire pass through. Table and filicutter should be in right angle, stable and connected, for example in a clamp.
Home made filicutter
Here is some photos of mine (click to enlarge) :
ConclusionYou could now, according to your needs, enhance the filicutter. Just in case, here is some lines of enquiry:
- Using a lamp to enlighten the place where wire cut (more comfortable).
- Adding a guide for cutting on a side, to be sure to have straight cutted pieces.
- Adding a regulation sytem for bending wire, no matter it is cold or hot.
Of course, if you want to give or ask precisions or informations, don't hesitate to contact me.
Last modified on: December 28th 2011
Your 16 comments or questions on this page:
I want to make a hot wire cutter to cut round grooves [1/2"; 3/4"; 1"; etc.
in the styrofoam portion of ICF [insulated concrete blocks] after installation for plumbing and electrical channels. How can I make a cutting edge in a U shape for this purpose?
26 gage nichrom wire is too flexable for the U.
Comment #1 posted on october 1st 2010 at 21:48 by David.
Maybe you can use the heating wires inside a reformed old hair-dryer?
Comment #2 posted on october 2nd 2010 at 16:50 by jh.
Will guitar string work?? Have tons of that.
Comment #3 posted on november 21th 2011 at 08:08 by papastash.
I don't know, probably yes, but it should be tried.
Comment #4 posted on november 21th 2011 at 11:51 by jh.
Good job on your wen page! Is the battery 6 Volt or 9 Volt?
Comment #5 posted on april 20th 2012 at 21:34 by Maynard.
it's a car battery, 12 volts.
Comment #6 posted on april 21th 2012 at 10:06 by jh.
How about household current? (e.g. plug into house outlet?)
Comment #7 posted on june 28th 2012 at 14:26 by Bob.
No, too high in volts and so too dangerous.
Comment #8 posted on june 28th 2012 at 15:03 by jh.
I have sheets of strofoam which is 30" X 20", and is 6 cms wide. What I need to do is to slice the sheet into 1 cm widths. Will I be able to do this, using your method?
Comment #9 posted on january 21th 2013 at 06:49 by Joyce.
Yes, but you need a cutting wire of at least 20 cm long.
Comment #10 posted on january 21th 2013 at 13:23 by jh.
cain i used 24dc 1.5amp rectifier,what size of wire element should i used
Comment #11 posted on march 5th 2013 at 03:31 by Anonymous.
Yes, make tests to find the right one.
Comment #12 posted on march 6th 2013 at 09:04 by jh.
i just wana run to get one it seems to complex
Comment #13 posted on march 8th 2013 at 04:57 by Anonymous.
Not so much...
Comment #14 posted on march 8th 2013 at 11:07 by jh.
Can i use adapters so that i can reduce the volts if i'll plug it in a house electric outlet?
Comment #15 posted on march 21th 2013 at 07:51 by JC.
Yes, no problem.
Comment #16 posted on march 21th 2013 at 09:11 by jh.