Hot Cutting

In article <1992Jul15.141441.14757@rchland.ibm.com> ericj@rchland.vnet.ibm.com writes:
>As I was looking through the Into the Wind catalog I noticed that the hot-cutting tool that they offer for cutting rip-stop looks a lot like a soldering gun that I have out in my garage.  My wife and I are dabbling in kite making and are considering pick
ing up something to use for hot-cutting.
>Eric Johnson

For my "hot cutter," I have used soldering irons, wood burners and a "for real"
sail maker's hot cutter and they all work about the same for me. Currently my
favorite choice is a 30 watt Craftsman soldering iron from Sears. It has a 
normal pointed tip and works just fine, especially on lighter rip stop. The 
wood burner has replacable/interchangable tips and normally I use a knife
type tip which is ok but requires some patience going around curved surfaces.
Curved surfaces can be tricky with a flat tip as opposed to a point. The sail
maker's hot cutter was nice, a bit bulky but it heated up very quickly, would
cut through any material, and had a light built in. Of course at $100+, it
should be that good.

The question then becomes cost. You can get a soldering iron of sufficient
wattage for about $15 (and Craftsman have a lifetime guaranty so if it burns
out, just take it back to Sears), the wood burner ran about $20 and the
sail maker's I've already covered. So, how fast do you want to cut is the
question. For my money, I'm sticking with soldering irons as they are cheaper
and they all basically do the same thing, with same results. Remember, hot
cutting like sewing takes some practise to really get a handle on.

As far as cutting surfaces, I have to agree with Marty. Glass is the ticket.
Just get a big enough piece and treat the edges some way or you can
cut yourself very nastily and easily.

One thing I normally do is make cardboard templates for my pieces. In addition
to speeding cutting, you don't have to keep moving the metal straight edge,
the templates do not absorb the heat from the hot cutter like a metal straight
edge will do. The down side is that if you move to slow you can burn the
template. Once again, pratice is the answer. Also, the metal stright edge
(ie, yard stick) I use has cork on the bottom and it keeps it from sliding
to a great extent.

Gotta go.
The Mad Hata  

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