Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

It’s very common for the home project enthusiast to not know what to ask for when it comes to clear plastic for a project. Often we’ll get “I need polycarbonate or acrylic for a project” and we on the distribution side, at the sponsor of this blog, Redwood Plastics and Rubber, are left with making a decision on materials. You know that? That’s OK! We love to help but instead of picking something for you, we would instead work with you to figure out the details of your application because there are good reasons for doing so.

Firstly polycarbonate and acrylic are *not* similar materials beyond the fact that they’re hard and clear. The first difference you should probably be aware of is price. Polycarbonate is about 25% more than acrylic meaning if all things are equal you could be potentially paying too much for a plastic that isn’t optimal for your application. So when is each plastic optimal? Lets start with what each plastic does well and where it is poor.

Polycarbonate is incredibly strong which is why it’s often used as safety glass. Any application where you’re going to face impact you want polycarbonate. Additionally polycarbonate has a bluish tinge that some people find more attractive than just a pure “clear” (like acrylic has). Polycarbonate is the only version of the “twin” or “multi” wall greenhouse plastic so if you’re needed that corrugated product than you need to know it will be polycarbonate. Where polycarbonate has trouble is outdoor weathering (UV-resistance) and very poor scratch resistant. Polycarbonate will eventually scratch and it will degrade in the sun over a couple of years. There are anti-scratch and anti-UV versions of the product but this is done by a film being applied (not a chemical added) which means eventually the film will degrade and the plastic will be vulnerable.

Acrylic on the other hand has excellent scratch resistance and good resistance to UV and weathering. However, acrylic is more brittle and is not available in less expensive economy forms like twin-wall polycarbonate. Colored acrylic actually has poor availability due to so many colors, levels of transparency, etc. It is also important to know that acrylic comes in two major grades: extruded and cast. Extruded is less expensive whereas cast is stronger, clearer, and yes, more expensive. How do you know which is which? Well, if you drawing or plans you’ve looked up happen to call for 49″ x 97″ acrylic sheet than that is cast – because it’s 1″ wider and longer than the standard sheet size of 48″ x 96″. Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t notice a difference.

Hopefully that helps narrow things down a bit?

Good luck with your projects and here’s to a great 2018!



Know Your “Phenolic”

Posted: May 28, 2018 in Uncategorized
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Phenolics, more correctly known as “industrial laminates“, are one of the most misunderstood industrial plastics available. There is so much confusion among the general public that many in the DIY community don’t even know what to ask for. This isn’t a good thing, as these plastics are on the more expensive side and a failure to figure out what’s best for your application could lead to failure or wasted money. The first thing you need to figure out is what your application requires and why a phenolic is necessary. Phenolic plastics are used in two primarily applications: where a super “hard” and mechanically strong plastic is needed and also in electrical applications, such as circuit boards. For applications where mechanical strength is key, then CE grade laminate is the most available and least expensive option. If the application is electrical and/or fire-retardant properties are important then a fiberglass epoxy product called FR-4 is likely the best.

An important note here is that the FR-4 product, which is very popular and widely used, isn’t a phenolic at all! Phenolic is an old plastic resin, one of the first ever used, and it became associated with industrial laminates which are essentially compressed layers of fabric, cloth, paper with a plastic resin binder. Typically the brown colored mechanical grade products like the CE grade laminates are the true phenolic. However, many industrial laminates exist which use different binding agents.

One other area people get tripped up with is the branch of “melamine” laminates. Melamine laminates are commonly used as kitchen cupboards; however, this is different from the engineering grade melamine laminates available from industrial distributors such as Redwood Plastics and Rubber. Watch out for that, as the products are not interchangeable.

At the end of the day, do not feel anxious or embarrassed to simply ask a plastics expert for help. They will work with you to understand the priorities of your application and deliver the best solution. That’s their job!

Why You Should Be Using More Acetal

Posted: April 30, 2018 in Acetal
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Let’s start with a question: Do you know what acetal plastic is? If you don’t, and you’re a member of the DIY community interested in using plastics you’re probably missing out on this readily available plastic with excellent properties. Acetal shot to fame in the 1990s in the paintball gun (called “marker”) aftermarket modification community. Acetal offers a plastic with the closest properties to metal: when you hold an acetal part it *feels* different than most plastics. Admittedly, most plastics feel and look the same…Soft and waxy. However, acetal is heavy and dense, it has a weight to it that makes it feel more like metal and that is where this material really shines: replacing metal.

In paintball markers acetal was a no-brainer. Like metals, and better than all other plastics, acetal is beautiful to machine and excels in replacing metals for small, precision parts. As a plastic, it does not suffer the same corrosion issues metals do and yet is still lighter. This allowed the markers to shoot better and faster. Outside of paintball, acetal works great as a bushing replacing nylon. It handles the same PSI in application (4000) but does not suffer the moisture absorption issues nylon does. As such, acetal is often used as a direct replacement for cast nylon in “wet” applications.

Acetal comes in two forms, the homopolymer (white) and copolymer (black). There used to be quality issues with the white but those have been remedied. Though the materials have some small differences, they probably would not affect any DIY application, so pick whichever is more available from your local distributor. Besides being available in rod acetal is also available in plate with 24″ x 48″ plate being the most common. For more information on Redco acetal please click here.


Matting For Your Workshop

Posted: February 14, 2018 in Uncategorized
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This posting is going to be a little different than the others. We’re not talking about plastic for a specific project but instead about the comfort of your own “DIY” workstation or workshop.  If you’re like us, you’ll be spending long hours standing as you machine and fabricate your various projects. Do your feet ever get sore? Do you get lower back or joint pain? How about even Plantar’s Fasciitis on your feet?

The reality is for a long day’s work in the shop you need to take care of yourself. Investing is specially designed rubber “ortho” matting such as Redwood Plastics and Rubber’s line of Redco™ Protivity™ Specialty Floor Matting would be a good choice. The first two options of matting “Checkout Comfort” and the premium “Anti-Fatigue”. These function by reducing strain and pain for people having to stand for long periods. They also are finely textured, which will reduce slip and fall risks.

Another interesting member of the matting series is the “ShockGuard” mat. This mat serves to prevent people from receiving high voltage shocks and is compliant with ASTM D-178-81. A certificate can be included with the order. There are other mats available that could serve a purpose for the “DIY” community, for example if you’re building a home gym, there is a “Sport Floor” option that is highly impact resistant.

For more information on these products contact Redwood Plastics and Rubber.

For members of the public PTFE (polytetraflouroethylene) and UHMW (ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene) seem to be very similar materials. They’re both white, soft, food-safe, and widely available from plastic companies. But are they that different? Oh yes they are! The first thing you would notice is the price. PTFE is literally in another category of plastics called the “high performance” plastics. This means the cost is going to be much higher than UHMW. So when do you need PTFE?

It would be an application where slickness is important above all other factors. UHMW, while less expensive, will outwear, outbear, and outperform PTFE in tough mechanical applications like homemade bushings, cutting board, etc. PTFE is very soft, so soft in fact it suffers from something called “cold flow”. This means that PTFE slowly creeps like a semi-solid liquid almost just sitting at rest in room temperature doing nothing. What PTFE does have in addition to outstanding slickness (low coefficient of friction) is that it takes very high temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. UHMW does poorly in high temperatures and cannot handle more than 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

To be honest, in most DIY applications that call for a white plastic with balanced properties UHMW is going to be your go to. It’s too available, too cheap, and too balanced to go with PTFE. But in certain situations where very low friction is required (telescope mounts for example) or high heat will be encountered – PTFE may be your only choice.

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

Many members of the “DIY” community are attracted to the concept of plastic lumber. Usually made from recycled materials it carries both benefits to the environment by using less new material. In addition, plastic lumber can be manufactured in grades that are much stronger than regular wood. Most grades of plastic lumber are UV stable and involve much less maintenance than wood. They will not require repainting, will hold their color, will not rot or splinter, and will not come under insect attack.

However, with everything there is a “catch”. In the case of plastic lumber it’s the price and delivery. The problem comes down to two factors 1.) customers assume that plastic lumber is widely stocked in the available colors, sizes, and profiles they see on the internet. 2.) Customers assume that plastic lumber is, well, “it’s just plastic”. What people do not often understand is that many plastics, including plastic lumber, are not considered the “commodity” grade of plastics that the public usually encounters in everyday life. Commodity plastics make up consumer items, what’s in your car, your toys, your kitchen. Plastics are actually available in not one but three higher quality grades above “commodity” (yes, the actual grade of plastics used in consumer items is called ‘commodity’). The other three grades are, from lower to top, engineering, high-performance, and imidized.

The DIY crowd will usually only encounter high-performance plastics in PTFE, which is used in items like telescope mounts. They will never encounter the ultra-expensive and hard to obtain imidized plastics. What you need to understand is plastic lumber falls into the engineering grade of plastic and the most commonly quoted grade, fiberglass reinforced, is at the upper end of engineering grade plastic cost.

What are we getting at here?

You need to understand that the cost of plastic lumber vs. equivalent wood will be approximately 8-10x the cost of wood! We’re just stating the facts here, folks. Plastic lumber is not “just plastic” in the way a milk jug is. These plastics are considered a premium, specialty building material, which is why you see them in so many cool applications! It needs to be a great application to be worth the cost! The reason we provided a range on cost is that the color of the lumber actually plays significantly into the cost. Black is the least expensive, followed by wood tones, and finally really off-wood colors such as yellow or white. the difference is about 30% across the spread.

So when do you go for plastic lumber?

First of all, you need to be realistic about the cost. In addition to the lumber’s cost it likely will need to be shipped in from the manufacturing plant and this can easily cost several hundred dollars. You need to be realistic that the lumber will not get to you within a day or two (getting it on site in a month is typical). Finally you need to be realistic about your project. Hey, we love plastic here, but it has it’s time and place. If you want a premium, low-maintenance building material for your project, great, splurge and make your dream project come true! The issue is you need to have the facts on hand and analyze whether or not plastic lumber actually fits your needs.



Something a little different today. We found a short (3-1/2 minutes) video tutorial on how to make a corn starch based bioplastic. None of the ingredients are toxic and most are what you would have around the house. It’s easy to make, simply requiring a pot and heating element. It’s a good introduction into the world of bioplastics which is a rapidly growing segment of the plastic market. Large companies such as soda pop manufacturers and other food processors that currently use a lot of plastics in their packaging are looking for biodegradable and environmentally-friendly plastic options.

This particular project would seem best for children interested in science. The goopy starch-based plastic can be used in simple molds or laid across stencils but it doesn’t seem practical for too many functional products. Its resistance to wear and properties seem to be similar to LDPE once cooled. To be honest the examples that the host of the video shows at the end are…Underwhelming. But since the basic mixture for this plastic is so easy to do it would hopefully inspire in your mind some better things to do with it.

We’ve posted the video here: