In a perfect world, we’d all have laser cutters and could pop intricate designs out of acrylic sheets with just a few clicks of the mouse. But in reality, most of us have to make do with the pedestrian tools we have at hand. For many, that might even mean everything has to be done by hand. Luckily, [Eric Strebel] has been working on a series of videos that cover how you can make professional looking parts out of acrylic using a wide array of common tools.
The first video demonstrates how a simple cube can be constructed by a band saw, a table saw, and if need be, with hand tools. You might think the two power saws would have similar results, but as [Eric] explains, the table saw ends up being far more accurate and requires less post-processing to get a smooth edge. Ideally you’d run the cut pieces through a router to bevel them, but that’s a tall order for many home gamers.
As for the hand tool approach, scoring and snapping the sheets ends up making a surprisingly clean break that can actually be cleaner than the edge you’d get with a power tool. No matter how you cut them, [Eric] shows the proper way to apply the water-like solvent to your acrylic pieces to create a strong and visually attractive bond.
The next video in the series covers more advanced techniques that can still be pulled off without a top-of-the-line workshop. Sure the water-cooled acrylic bender he has is pretty slick, but if you can’t afford the $100 USD gadget, he shows you how to get similar results with an old toaster oven that you can pick up from the thrift store or even the side of the road. With some hand-made jigs and molds, you can warp and flex the heated plastic into whatever shape your project needs. Combining the tips from both videos, you might be surprised at what can be created with little more than a ruler, some hot air, and the appropriate techniques.
While you’d be hard pressed to find any serious figures on such things, we’d wager there’s never been a vehicle from a TV show or movie that has been duplicated by fans more than the Staff Jeeps from Jurassic Park. Which is no great surprise: not only do they look cool, but it’s a relatively easy build. A decent paint job and some stickers will turn a stock Wrangler into a “JP Jeep” that John Hammond himself would be proud of.
While no less iconic, there are far fewer DIY builds of the highly customized Ford Explorer “Tour Vehicles”. As a rather large stretch of the film takes place within them, the interiors were much more detailed and bears little resemblance to the stock Explorer. Building a truly screen accurate Jurassic Park Tour Vehicle was considered so difficult that nobody has pulled it off since the movie came out in 1993. That is until [Brock Afentul] of PropCulture decided to take on the challenge.
In an epic journey spanning five years, [Brock] has created what he believes is the most accurate Jurassic Park Tour Vehicle ever produced; and looking at the side by side shots he’s done comparing his Explorer to the ones from the movie, it’s hard to disagree. A massive amount of work went into the interior, leaving essentially nothing untouched. While previous builds have tried to modify the stock dashboard to look like the one from the movie, he built a completely new dash from MDF and foam and coated it in fiberglass. The center console featuring the large display was also faithfully reproduced from the movie, and runs screen accurate animations, maps, and tour information. The seats also had to be replaced, multiple times in fact, as he had a considerable amount of trouble getting somebody to upholster them to his standards.
But perhaps the most difficult component of all was the clear acrylic roof bubble. These were critical to filming the movie, as they not only let the viewer see down into the Tour Vehicles but also let the characters see out during the iconic tyrannosaurus attack. But because the roof bubble was created only for the movie and never existed as a real aftermarket product, it usually gets ignored in Tour Vehicle builds. It’s simply too difficult to produce for most people. The omission of the bubble was always considered a case of artistic license; in the same way nobody expects a replica DeLorean from Back to the Future to actually fly or travel through time.
But [Brock] wanted to take his Tour Vehicle all the way, so he partnered up with a local glass shop that let him rent time in their oven so he could heat up acrylic sheets. Once heated to the appropriate temperature, they could be removed and wrapped around a mold to make the bubble. The process took weeks to perfect, but in the end he and a few friends got the hang of it and were able to produce a gorgeous roof bubble that they fitted to the already very impressive Explorer.
Those of us who aren’t familiar with woodworking might not expect that this curved wood and acrylic LED lamp by [Marija] isn’t the product of fancy carving, just some thoughtful design and assembly work. The base is a few inches of concrete in a plastic bowl, then sanded and given a clear coat. The wood is four layers of beech hardwood cut on an inverted jigsaw with the middle two layers having an extra recess for two LED strips. After the rough-cut layers were glued together, the imperfections were rasped and sanded out. Since the layers of wood give a consistent width to the recess for the LEDs, it was easy to cut a long strip of acrylic that would match. Saw cutting acrylic can be dicey because it can crack or melt, but a table saw with a crosscut blade did the trick. Forming the acrylic to match the curves of the wood was a matter of gentle heating and easing the softened acrylic into place bit by bit.
Giving the clear acrylic a frosted finish was done with a few coats of satin finish clear coat from a spray can, which is a technique we haven’t really seen before. Handy, because it provides a smooth and unbroken coating along the entire length of the acrylic. This worked well and is a clever idea, but [Marija] could still see the LEDs and wires inside the lamp, so she covered them with some white tape. A video of the entire process is embedded below.