thermoplasticsI found myself last weekend without and in need of a swage block. After combing the shed and workshop for something to improvise with I came across a bag of thermoplastic and remembering Dave Wallis' review from last year, thought that perhaps I could use it to make one.

A thermoplastic is a polymer that becomes pliable above a specific temperature, and returns to a solid state upon cooling. Because of their molecular structure, most thermoplastics can be remolded and thereby reused again and again for various jobs at the bench.









First, assemble the neccessary equipment: thermoplastic beads (or pre-used thermoplastic), a sharp knife, a bowl or pan for softening the plastic in, a rolling pin, a 'former' (in this case some doming punches) and a chopping board (or a table that you're not fussed about)








Tip the thermoplastic into a container and add hot water









Wait for a few minutes until the plastic starts to look more translucent/transparant










then fish it out of the water










and give it a good squeeze to consolidate it.










Roll it down to flatten into a slab that has a depth roughly twice the diameter of the formers. You may need to heat it again in hot water to maintain its malleability.










Push the formers down into the thermoplastic and squeeze the sides in to 'hug' the shapes.










Work quickly to slice off the excess plastic from the sides










and slide the punches up an inch to cut off the bottom of the slab, holding the punches down and the sides in whilst doing so, to maintain the shape. Then flip the punches around and do the same for the top of the slab.










Remember to keep your cut-offs for other projects! Just pop them back into the hot water to remold them.










Leave the formers in place until the material is cold and opaque










and then remove them to use the block.

Only question is, is it up to the job?










Seems to be!


Thermoplastic material is available for sale under various brand names and from various suppliers, mainly onlline.

What do you do with yours? Send us your pics and we can share them on the GoJD website!


Jayne Coulson

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