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Armor Sintra 101

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Sintra 101
« on: Jan 06, 2017, 02:38 AM »
(also entitled "An Evening with the Sintr'alor")  ;)

Everyone has to start somewhere when it come to building these kits, and for a lot of us doing armor for the first time can be intimating, especially when you've never worked with a thermoplastic before. Now the very best teacher is experience, but I've tried to make a short 101 for new sintra workers that will at least give you an idea of what you're going to be doing and what to look for when working with sintra. Remember that this is supposed to be a fun hobby, so if you get frustrated becasue things aren't cutting right or your ab plate is shaping crooked, take a break and come back it later. Practice really makes perfect, and armor is an enormously rewarding but difficult process to make. You'll pick it up and the second kit will be even better the then the first! Trust me. I know.   8)

Most mercs will use a demmel with a plastic or metal cutting wheel attachment to cut out sintra plates. I know people who have used eclectic knives, exacto knives, scissors and band saws. Work with what you feel comfortable and safe.

Most dremmels have speed settings. I usually work on a medium speed to cut my sintra.      

Practice cutting something out before you cut your plates for the first time.

You will look like an abominable snowman when you are done cutting/sanding sintra. Unless youíre using blue sintra. Then you will look like a smurf.
Use proper face and eye protection. Many of the people I learned from used sunglasses in place of safety goggles, and I thought that would be fine. It worked great until I got sintra flakes in my eye. It was painful and I promptly went out and bought safety glasses. Sure, I look like alien now when I cut sintra, but it sure beats chunks of plastic in your eyes. Trust me, I learned the hard way so you do not have to.
I also recommend safety masks to avoid getting the dust in your nose and mouth. It is not good to breath.

Sintra burns easily.
It takes some practice to know when your sintra is warm enough to bend, but not burn. Experiment on some scrap pieces before you work on your kit. Itís best to keep your heat gun a minium of 2-3 inches or more from the surface of your sintra when beginning. You can move it closer as you grow more confident, but use caution.
Sintra will turn brown or in some cases black if it has been burned. If it looks like a well toasted marshmallow, start over.   

Move your heat gun up and down the plastic in the area you want heated, rather then letting it sit over one spot. This heats all your plastic evenly and helps with shaping, and it also reduces the risk of a crispy (burned) chest plate.   

Brown sharpie turns purple right before your sintra has had enough heat. It is a great way to gauge how long you need to heat your sintra if youíre not sure you trust your fingers or eyes. ONLY USE THIS TRICK WITH A HEAT GUN! It will not work using other heating methods.

Use gloves. Unless you plan on developing the super power of heat resistance, youíll want gloves. Even lightweight knit gloves work to protect your fingers from being singed.

Even a few seconds can make a difference. You can always add more heat, but you canít always fix a warped chest plate. If in doubt, go for less heat first and add more as needed.

Sintra shrinks/stretches when heat is applied. Because of the way it is made, Sintra will always stretch in one direction and shrink in another when heat is applied. It relates to the direction of the original 8X4 sheet that the piece was cut from, regardless of weather you are working with a 2X4 sheet or a 5X1 sheet. Sintra will always stretch in the direction of the original 4 foot wide shape, and shrink in the direction of the 8 foot wide. (Iíll try to get a picture to demonstrate here)

Sintra has an distinct smell to it when heated. If you are working in an enclosed space such as an apartment or small garage, you will want to open some windows/doors. Outside is the ideal place to work, but not always available for those of us in colder places or small living places.

Heat guns are the best tool for shaping.

Heat guns can be found at most local or big name hardware stores. They are very good for shaping sintra but most of them heat up very quickly and are easy to burn plates with. Practice will make perfect with your heat gun, so try it out on scrap pieces first.

If you have access to an old oven, it may come in handy for shaping larger pieces. If it best to use one that is not used for baking. Be sure to clear it with the baker if the oven is used for baking regularly though. You will need to let it air out for several hours before baking again, and I recommend this method ONLY for larger pieces that are difficult to shape with a heat gun, such as backplates.
Place your sintra on a metal cooking sheet (I have a cooking sheet used ONLY for sintra) to avoid having it melt onto the oven racks, which would be a disaster. Be sure you have some windows open to help the house vent, and leave the door to the oven open afterwards to air out completely.

3mm sintra becomes nice and flexible after around 30 seconds in the oven at 350 heat. Pre-heat the oven first. Check the sintra every 15 seconds or so. It does not need very long to heat.

If you heat a piece of sintra in the oven more then twice, IT WILL SHRINK. I use the oven for heating the piece up all at once to get the general shape, then use a heat gun to get precise shapes on it.
To keep a piece of sintra taken from an oven warm for an extended period of time, use a heat gun (and a shaping buddy) on the section you want to remain flexible.

Shaping buddies are lifesavers. My brother has become known as ďMonsieur BackplateĒ for his outstanding work helping our clan shape their kits (in particular their back plates). I always go to him when I canít quite do something myself or I know Iíll need help shaping things. If you can find a shaping buddy, keep them close!

Shaping buddies are the best option for back plates. I have seen some good back plates by people working solo, but if you have any doubts, go for the shaping buddy. Even if you feel confident, go for the shaping buddy. Itís hard to shape something you canít see.

Everyday objects make great shaping buddies when a live person isnít around! (Exception: back plates).
Iíve used everything from a crowbar to a crock pot to a sewer pipe (unused, of course) to shape various sintra projects. If it has the shape youíre looking for and it wonít melt, it just might be your new shaping buddy.
When shaping plates, the best thing you can shape them on is yourself. Be sure to wear your soft parts and (if you donít like getting very hot) an extra layer or two
There is an off brand of sintra is known as Foamex. It shapes easier and with less heat then sintra, and the edges are easier to sand down. However, it dents and dings much easier then sintra as it is less dense then the name brand. I personally love working with it, but if you want a kit with little physical damage, avoid it.

When sanding down sintra, start with lower grits and move up. I personally use 60 grit if I want to round edges, but usually start with 100 and move up to 200 and finish with 400. You probably donít have to go past 200 unless you want a really smooth finish. I do know a guy who sanded his kit with 2,000 grit. Then he rolled it in the mud. We call this dedication.

Final advice:

Farm it out: if you know you canít do it, find someone who can. There are plenty of Mercs with the skills to make you what you need.

Donít be afraid to push yourself to try to make something, even if itís intimidating at first.

Remember to be safe while you practice this hobby, so keep in mind your location and available assets like heat tools and sand papers. Work within your limits and have fun. Safety first!

~ Aria

« Last Edit: Jan 21, 2018, 03:50 PM by Hik'aari Kelborn » Logged
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