Topic: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)  (Read 4957 times)

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Offline Dave Heim

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Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« on: June 19, 2008, 08:46 AM »
Anybody have any suggestions on proper drilling techniques & bits for drilling Vistalite (Plexiglas) shells?   I have a lead on an old 70's Vistalite marching bass drum that I'd like to convert for drum set use, so I'll need to drill the shell for the spurs.
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Offline Chip Donaho

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2008, 09:44 AM »
Working with plexiglas I would first use a small, sharp drill bit. Then work in small incriments up to the size you will need. Use something that is a "fine" drill bit. Too big of a bite and it will just break the plexiglas. That's been my experience with the stuff. Same goes for fiberglass.  ;)
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Offline Louis Russell

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2008, 10:11 PM »
Do not use a sharp bit!  Use the dullest bit you own.  The sharp bit will dig in and crack the plexiglass.  Aircraft mechanics will dull a new bit to drill holes on concrete before trying to drill plastics.  Putting a new bit against the concrete floor and letting turn a few times will remove the sharp edge and make it perfect to drill plexiglass. A slow speed will also help.  Stop by the hardware store and buy a small piece for practice. 
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Offline Chip Donaho

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2008, 02:31 PM »
Do not use a sharp bit!  Use the dullest bit you own. 
WOW, that must be why my bits worked. They're always dull....  ;D  Thanks Louis, I never knew that.  :o
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Offline metalshredder

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2008, 07:44 AM »
I would suggest to drill slowly, or drill a small distance, and back out, let it cool.  That stuff can get hot and melt.  I don't know if it will get hot enough just drilling through a drumshell, but one can never be too careful.
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Offline Louis Russell

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2008, 09:01 PM »
That stuff can get hot and melt. 

That is why I recommended the slow speed.  When you drill anything you must use the correct drill speed and feed pressure for the best results. 
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felix

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2008, 08:23 AM »
When I drilled vistalites I had two problems:

Small drills would heat up the material, get stuck and not want to come out- it happens really fast too.  So maybe try to use a slower drill speed and keep your bit clean.  I wish I knew of a good drilling lube for plastics... maybe a PTFE or silicone based lube?  Try it is all I can say.

Breakthru-  very gnarly with this stuff.  Without a drill press to keep the bit from sucking thru the material wants to break/chip leaving a pretty big looking gouges on the breakthru side.

You could maybe drill part of the way thru, get an endmill, lock the head and then dial up slowly with the knee handle (if you are using a bridgeport type mill).

There is really no easy way I know of.  Hell I just went for it with a cordless drill and was careful.  It worked; not pretty, but worked.

Offline Louis Russell

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2008, 10:11 PM »

There is really no easy way I know of. 

Dull Bit and Slow Speed will do the trick!  Sharp bits will dig into the plastic rather than shear it off. 
No one will believe it's the "Blues" if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it last night!

Offline Dave Heim

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2008, 10:32 AM »
Update:

I picked up the green Vistalite bass drum last week.  It's a 14x24.  In its previous life, it was a marching bass drum for the CYO Youth Band of Chicago (Jr High-aged kids).  Consequently the drum looks a bit like it has been ridden hard and put away wet. 

The wood hoops will need to be repainted or replaced.  There's a lug/claw missing.  Nevertheless, there are no major scratches on it and the shell is in good shape. 

I plan to use this drum as the foundation of a Jellybean Vistalite set.  Next on the radar are a 8x12 or 9x13 rack tom in yellow, and a 14x14 floor tom in blue or amber.

I'll order the missing Classic lug & claw from Ludwig, and pick up a pair of spurs.  I'm leaning toward the newer style of spurs instead of the "period correct" retractable curved spurs (the newer style requires less drilling into the shell and smaller holes).

I'll put up some photos when I start working on it.
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Blaemirejinx

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2008, 05:28 PM »
When I am working on Vistalite shells I use a Unibit step bit.
The Unibit offers several advantages over conventional split-points for acrylic. First of all, a standard or side fluted bit will grab the acrylic. These bits are built with side flutes to pull shavings up and out of a hole. A Unibit or step bit only has a cutting surface on the face of each step.....they will not catch the work and cause cracks. The single-flute design on the face of a Unibit, cuts with a scraping motion and does not want to pull suddenly into the work like a standard fluted bit does. Next, the Unibit has a slight chamfering edge between steps. By just drilling a hair into the next step, you automatically chamfer the holes, a must-do on acrylic, sharp hole edges can be a source of traveling cracks later on. The Unibits also have many sizes on one bit.
You should not center punch acrylic, I suggest drilling a 1/16" pilot hole with a conventional bit first on ALL holes to be drilled. It will keep the Unibit on target and essentially "walk" it through the shell wall. Don't use excessive pressure. Let the bit do the work. I have drilled holes for years on all types of acrylic shells and never spit or cracked even one. These bits cut acrylic like butter.
Here is a link to a Unibit.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Irwin-Unibit-2_W0QQitemZ150295777508QQihZ005QQcategoryZ50384QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

Offline Louis Russell

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Re: Working with Vistalite (Plexiglas)
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2008, 05:33 PM »
There are bits made specifically for plastics.  I keep misplacing mine is why I use the aircraft mechanics trick of using a dull bit.  The unibit does sound like a good deal unless it is thin stuff you are drilling. 
No one will believe it's the "Blues" if you wear a suit, 'less you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it last night!

 

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