NoVac Vacuum Former (oz14956)


NoVac Vacuum Former (oz14956) by John Jennings 2020 - plan thumbnail

About this Plan

NoVac Vacuum Former.

Quote: "Make a 'No Vac' Vacuum Former. This DIY workshop accessory is less than $40!

This simple, inexpensive shop accessory is an easy to build vacuum former that lets you form canopies, cowls and other details up to 7x7 inches in size. The plastic for forming is cheap (or even free) by reusing grocery store packaging or fast food outlets. You probably already have all the tools and half the materials on hand.

The platen (forming surface) is 8x8 inches. My prototype setup creates vacuum using a piston in a 12-long piece of 4-inch diameter PVC pipe. It produces more than enough vacuum for forming, more than is available from a household vacuum cleaner. I tried using a longer piece of PVC pipe but there was no noticeable increase in performance.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS: You’ll need a coping saw, electric hand drill, a 1/16- or 1/8- inch diameter drill bit, a 1/2-inch spade drill bit, sanding sticks, pencil, ruler, and a scratch awl. A crosscut wood saw would be nice for cutting the PVC, but the coping saw gets the job done. A scroll or band saw would be ideal, but not really necessary.

As for the building materials, I used mostly what plywood I had on hand. If you have thicker plywood, it will work just fine. The only important dimensions are for the PVC pipe size. The purpose of the pine 2X4 is to raise the platen surface high enough to clear the C-clamps holding the device to the edge of the table and take up any stress on this device. I used Liquid Nails construction adhesive and sealer to hold the PVC pipe to the 2x4 and to glue the other major pieces together. It also stops air leaks. Use generously to stick the PVC to the 2x4. My total cost was $38.05 total for materials at the Lowe’s home improvement store.

THE PLASTIC: I rarely buy the plastic materials for vacuum forming. Suitable plastic material is abundantly sourced from packaging at the grocery store and fast food establishments. It can all be repurposed. Eat the bakery cookies, form a canopy. Pick up breakfast, use the tray to form a cowling. If you prefer to buy the new plastic, Solo brand disposable plastic picnic plates are cheap, readily available at the grocery store and work very well for vacuum forming. A word of warning: Do not use plastic from 2-liter soda bottles. It shrinks very hard when heated and will instantly turn your plastic holder into a pretzel! Don’t ask how I know! If none of the above suits you, Amazon sells Polystyrene and PETG plastic sheets in the 0.01 to 0.3-inch thick range, at reasonable prices.

BUILDING NOTES: This device can be used on a normal table top about 30 inches high, so clearances for the drop of the piston and the distance to the floor must be considered. In order to get the greatest vacuum with the least amount of the piston descent, the area under the platen that must be evacuated, is only 1/4-inch high, which is plenty. My 8x12-inch plastic holders were cut from the 1/4-inch Birch plywood. One has a 7x7-inch opening, and the other has a 3 1/2-inch opening for use with a quarter of a Solo plate or piece of plastic of similar size. You can, easily make other size holders but smaller plastic holders save considerably on waste.

I used a coping saw, which gives greater control over a scroll saw, when cutting out piston parts. I cut just outside the line and used 120- and 180-grit sandpaper glued to a paint stirring stick to sand exactly to the marked line..."

Direct submission to Outerzone.

Quote: "Hey Steve, Thank you for putting my Vacuum Former (oz14905) on your Outerzone site. I am amazed by the number of downloads. I hope they all build the parts and try vacuuming forming.
I built a second vacuum former that does not need a vacuum cleaner. I designed the NoVac vacuum former when I realized there are master model builders who live in places where home vacuum cleaners are not common. I will include it here. I let Model Airplane News publish my NoVac vacuum former but I designed it, drew it, built it and retain ownership of the article. You have my permission to put all the articles I send you, on your site. John Jennings"

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NoVac Vacuum Former (oz14956) by John Jennings 2020 - model pic

  • (oz14956)
    NoVac Vacuum Former
    by John Jennings
    from Model Airplane News
    September 2020 
    clean :)
    formers unchecked
    got article :)
  • Submitted: 09/11/2023
    Filesize: 74KB
    Format: • PDFbitmap
    Credit*: JohnJennings
    Downloads: 762

NoVac Vacuum Former (oz14956) by John Jennings 2020 - pic 003.jpg
NoVac Vacuum Former (oz14956) by John Jennings 2020 - pic 004.jpg
NoVac Vacuum Former (oz14956) by John Jennings 2020 - pic 005.jpg
NoVac Vacuum Former (oz14956) by John Jennings 2020 - pic 006.jpg

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User comments

Not all hero's wear capes, this is wizard level genius right here. What a marvelous hobby we share.
Tommy - 29/11/2023
Ingenious and nicely engineered.
Jan Novick - 30/11/2023
Hey Steve, Thank you for posting my NoVac article on the site. I finally found this video of me using the NoVac vacuum former - see: If you think it would help, please add it to the posting. Thanks, John.
John Jennings - 03/12/2023
The not reason I used PVC pipe was cheap, local availability. Though I have not tried them, bamboo, Terra cota or steel pipe would also likely work in this application. Please, be aware that too thin pipe walls will bend or crush under vacuum.
John Jennings - 10/02/2024
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  • Supplement Filesize: 267KB Filename: NoVac_Vacuum_Former_oz14956_article.pdf
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