Working with Styrene – Part 1

When you start scratch building your modeling projects (building from scratch, as it were) one of the easiest building materials to work with is styrene.

This plastic material comes in a dizzying array of thicknesses, sizes, and shapes. Pipes, I-Beams, H-Beams, sidings, rod, channels, you name it and they have it. Evergreen Scale Models is where I get my styrene by way of my local hobby shop (LHS).

S1-parts-1-1024x768If you are unfamiliar with styrene I suggest you get the Evergreen variety pack that has a number of different pieces and parts.




S1-tools-1-1024x768It cuts easily and is readily glued up for most any project. For cutting thin sheet styrene a sharp X-ACTO type knife and metal ruler as a straight-edge over a suitable backing works well. For thicker sheets use the blade to score the sheet and snap the sheet on the edge of a table or work bench.



I have a windmill on my layout and thought some pipes and valves would make a nice addition so using two sizes of styrene tubing I created the piping shown here.




S1-inprogress-1-1024x768The larger diameter tubing is used for the elbow, the valves, and the end pieces, the smaller tubing is the pipe.





Using a small miter box and saw I cut the pipe lengths needed. Using the 45 degree slots in the miter box I cut two short pieces, rotated them appropriately and using a suitable glue (MEK or something like Plastruct “Plastic Weld” solvent) created the elbows.



Gluing styrene works by actually melting the two surfaces together. You dry fit the pieces and using a brush you apply the thin, liquid cement and capillary action draws the liquid into the joint. Hold the pieces for a bit and they will become solidly bonded together.

S1-valve-1-1024x768Created the wheels on the fake valves was as simple as cutting a very thin piece of tubing and gluing some thin styrene in an X fashion to the rim of the cut tubing.





One of the best things about styrene is that it can be used to emulate almost any material. Scratch a grain on it and it’s wood. Paint it burnt umber or gray and it looks like metal.



Add some dark red sienna and some gunk (which I normally use for staining wood but it works great if applied and built up on plastic) and it looks like old, rusty metal. Some red on the wheels for contrast and it’s done.


Using several different shapes and pieces and a length of I-Beam I created a overhead hoist for the abandoned mine on my layout.





Using liquid nails I’ve found you can glue styrene to wood as shown here. The I-Beam is glued to a 1/4×1/4 piece of wood that extends over the abandoned mine entrance. Using pieces of styrene I created two faux sliding pulleys and using some chain from Ozarks Miniatures you get the result shown here.

Let me know what you’ve done with styrene. –TJ

(Originally posted 07/08/2011, revised 08/03/2012)

This entry was posted in Modeling and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *