Industrial plastics can be quite expensive and this is compounded by the fact that for certain applications you may have your hands tied to use a material that is costly because it’s whats required to work. However, there are some tips you can use to minimize the costs to yourself and make sure you don’t waste your money! Without further adieu, here are some tips for saving money with your industrial plastic purchases.

1.) Don’t be picky about color

This is a surprisingly big deal and why we’re leading off with this suggestion. Members of the DIY community at times seem to want to prioritize a certain color of the plastic to fit in with their application. However, in the world of industrial products color is often not changeable without high costs or custom orders. In most cases, plastics have a standard color and if you insist or request certain colors you will pay dearly for it. Accept that color is just that – color – and for the right functional material go with the standard color the material happens to come in.

2.) Hunt for offcuts

Most plastics distributors with fabrication capabilities get left with offcuts from larger fabrication jobs. These pieces of sheet may be in odd shapes that are difficult to use or sell so they sit in a rack collecting dust. If you need just a portion of sheet material, ask your distributor if they have an off cut close in size they could cut you a deal on. Many will! But don’t make the mistake of then asking them to take that offcut and cut it to size for you. This will incur costs and essentially rob the distributor of the convenience you’re offering by taking an “as-is” piece of plastic they don’t need to do any work to.

3.) Don’t request a higher grade of plastic than you need

For many DIY applications a top-level grade of plastic isn’t required for success. An example we commonly see is people requesting cast acrylic or “Plexiglass”. This product is about 30% more expensive than the more common, and more available, extruded acrylic. For a modest boost in physical properties and optical clarity you may be paying a lot extra. People tend to look at websites, see something “cool” that happens to be a premium grade product and request a quote whereas an economy grade will work just fine.

4.) Ask for help with your application

This one is pretty simple but effective. Simply tell your local plastics distributor what you’re doing with the application and ask for the most economical plastic for that purpose. They’ll likely have questions for you such as what tolerances your part needs to be held to (if any), impact, chemical exposure, etc. However, as long as you’re able to answer those questions, they will have the knowledge to point you to the least expensive material that will still work.

5.) Do the fabrication yourself

This might be a surprise to see on a blog devoted to people who “do it themselves” but surprisingly members of the DIY community often provide sketches of the simple parts they need and request that the distributor quote completed parts instead of material. This should go without saying, but you are adding massive cost to your project as shop labor is sold to you within the price to make your pieces. If at all possible, BE the “Do-It-Yourselfer” and make the parts yourself buying only the raw sheet/rod/tube.

For assistance with your plastic application, please contact Redwood Plastics and Rubber.

There are a lot of outdoor enthusiasts who are interested in food-grade plastic cutting boards. But it for an outdoor kitchen to something exotic like a fish cleaning station on a boat. The applications might seem different; however, the same family of plastic, polyethylene, is almost always used. But which plastic to use? What concerns are there?

Both UHMW (ultra high molecular weight) polyethylene and HDPE (high density polyethylene) in their “white” or more correctly, “natural” grades are FDA and CFIA approved for direct contact with food. HDPE, even though it’s less expensive, is preferable because unlike UHMW, it will not dull knives over time. If you have UHMW lying around it’s certainly a good option though and is probably worth the trade-off vs. buying a whole new sheet of HDPE. UHMW is commonly available in 4′ x 10′ sheets but many plastic companies will send you a partial piece of that sheet (with a nominal cutting fee included). HDPE is commonly available in 4′ x 8′ sheets though many companies also stock it in 4′ x 10’s.

Cutting the plastic to size is easy: household power tools such as drills and saws will easily cut it. Having a 40 grit sandpaper on hand would be good to deburr the cut edges. The plastics glue very poorly so if you’re installing a blacksplash, for example, attached to the cleaning station or cutting board you will need to screw it in. 3/16″ or 1/4″ self-tapping screws 6-12″ apart should be fine. The plastics are soft enough that your drill will countersink the heads slightly.

The problem with these natural grade plastics is that they are not UV-stable. You should expect some cracking of your cleaning station if exposed to the sun in about two years depending on exposure. The board surface should be seen as a “sacrificial” surface which will need replacement every few years – just part of the gig. The surface will become brittle and crack which isn’t good because it allows bacteria to hide in the crevices but otherwise this degradation does NOT make the plastic toxic.

If you need assistance or a quote on either of these food-safe plastics, please contact Redwood Plastics and Rubber.


SDS Documents

Posted: March 21, 2019 in Uncategorized

Commonly requested from plastic companies by industry and government are “SDS” or ‘Safety Data Sheets’ (sometimes also referred to as MSDS). These sheets give a range of information on potential hazards of plastics and are legally mandated for plastic producers to produce and regularly update. Where these sheets intersect with the DIY community is that home machinists and fabricators should be aware of any hazards with the materials they’re working with too. The sheets will cover what to do if the plastic shavings or dust touch you or enter your eyes or lungs, for example. The good news is in most cases these plastics are simply irritants and won’t cause harms but others, such as phenolic industrial laminates, can cause more issues.

Due to changes in U.S. Federal law plastics distributors can no longer rebrand and pass off SDS data as their own. Instead, distributors such as Redwood Plastics and Rubber need to supply SDS documents straight from the manufacturer. So this means the documents are somewhat harder to come by these days. However, for the home fabricator the most recent SDS isn’t required and Redwood still keeps some old SDS documents on their site. You can access them here:

Plastics are very recyclable in general and it is a travesty that poor recycling behaviors have given the material an undeserved bad reputation. Efforts begin at home and fortunately LDPE and HDPE, two common household plastics, can be melted down using household appliances and then remade into new objects. The video we are sharing below doesn’t actually teach you what to make with the polyethylene recycled plastic; however, it does teach you a simple way to melt the plastic into a brick, which could then me fabricated into a new project or alternatively, melted down into a new mold.

In less than five minutes this video will provide you with the essentials to recycle your own HDPE and LDPE:

Breaking Down “Phenolic”

Posted: February 13, 2019 in Uncategorized
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Phenolic laminates (properly termed “industrial laminates”) are one of the largest groups of plastics, a large family that consists of five primary resin binders (the actual ‘plastic’) plus a substrate (glass, cotton, or paper material) to form a composite “sandwich” that is tough with strong mechanical properties. As such, you really need to know what industrial laminate you actually need for your project. Step one is not making assumptions: if you’re unclear, ask a knowledgeable plastics representative who will work with you by asking pertinent questions that will help select the best laminate for you.

In most cases where mechanical properties are desired, simple C/CE grade laminate will suffice. This is a brown colored material that is commonly stocked by distributors and uses a cotton substrate. These laminates are made from true phenolic resin. For electrical applications, FR-4 is used. FR-4 is also commonly stocked but comes at a higher price point than the C grade laminates. These two laminates will makes up perhaps 95% of the applications for the DIY community. Melamine-based laminates are often inexpensive and brought in from Asia, these are used as cupboards or table tops for residential construction. Silicon and polyester laminates are used much less often in DIY applications.

The main property you can expect from industrial laminates is excellent mechanical strength and rigidity. Many thermoplastics are pliable to some degree but laminates are very hard. This makes them serve well as spacers, load pads, and bearers of static load. They do have a high coefficient of friction and are not good at dynamic wear.

One of the most common questions the DIY community has is trying to figure out what type of plastic they have or need. Maybe you have an old part or sample and you forget what it is? Perhaps the two plastics people most want to differentiate between are acetal and UHMW (or other polyethylene). But they both come in white and black and they kind of look similar, so what to do? Well, if you’re familiar with the two plastics UHMW or HDPE will feel different: more waxy and lighter than the acetal which almost feels like more of a metal than anything.

There’s another way to identify polyethylene though as long as you can disfigure the sample. Take a sharp knife, such as a steak knife, and start scraping the plastic, give it some gusto with long strokes. If the plastic shaves off in curls then you have polyethylene. Acetal and other plastics will not do this, an example of polyethylene with this type of shaving is pictured here:


Part of the trick of figuring out your plastic application and finding which type of plastic to use. This is because 1.) engineering plastics are not widely known to most people and 2.) several of the plastics may work in an application. The trick is to find out which plastic is ideal in a given application, but how do you do that? Well, first you need to figure out what your priorities are either regarding properties: do you need a plastic with excellent impact-resistance? Or perhaps slickness? How about the ability to hold tight tolerances when machined?

After you pick your top couple priorities the next step is find a plastic that best matches your needs. Redwood Plastics and Rubber offers a handy webpage with some information here. However, we’ll also copy and paste the contents of that page below:

SLICKNESS (Most to Least)

Redco PTFE (Teflon®)

Redco UHMW

Redco Tuffkast

Redco Polyurethane (Redco 750SXL)

Redco Nylon

Redco Polyurethane (Redco 750)

Redco Phenolic




Redco PTFE (Teflon®) (500 – 600°F)

Redco Phenolic (400 – 500°F)

Redco Nylon (240 – 275°F)

Redco Tuffkast (220 – 240°F)

Redco Polyurethane (200 – 240°F)

Redco UHMW (160 – 180°F)




Redco Phenolic

Redco Nylon

Redco Tuffkast

Redco Polyurethane (Redco 750 & Redco 750SXL)




Breakage Resistant Windows

(Redco Acrylic/ Redco Polycarbonate)

Security Windows

(Redco Acrylic / Redco Polycarbonate)




Redco Phenolic (10000)

Redco Nylon (4000)

Redco Tuffkast (3800)

Redco Polyurethane (3000)

Redco UHMW (500 – 800)




Redco Polyurethane

Redco Tuffkast

Redco Phenolic

Redco UHMW

Redco Nylon








Redco Synsteel (Redco UHMW)

Redco SPS-2000 (Redco POLYURETHANE)




Redco Acetal

Redco UHMW