Monday, July 14, 2014

Working with Pla Plate: Making Copies

Now that we've established how to design and make your own shapes out of pla plate, we can move on to the not-so-fun part of customization: making copies. This mind and finger numbing task of having to replicate a ton of mods can lead to loss of interest in a project. Here's a guide on how to quickly copy your custom shape so you don't get burned out.

What you will need:

1. Pla plate
2. Masking tape
3. Compass needle
4. Hobby knife
5. Scriber (if you're using thick pla plate)
6. Your custom shape

Click on the Read More link for the rest of this post...

1. Place your custom shape on a piece of pla plate and secure it with masking tape. Take your compass needle and trace tightly around the shape, just like you would with a pencil. Do several light passes instead of one heavy pass to avoid slips.

You should end up with something like this...

*TIP: work near a corner of your pla plate so you can get the shape out easily
2. If you're using thin pla plate, skip to step 5. For thicker pla plate like the one I'm using here, trace along the design again with the compass needle, this time using a bit more force. If you slide your finger across the design, you'll notice a raised edge has formed around the lines. This will help guide the scriber in the next step.

3. Use the scriber to deepen the lines. Do several light passes. Don't maneuver the scriber around the corners and try to scibe the whole thing in one go. Instead, do separate straight strokes for each side, overshooting the corners a little bit. This will give you sharper corners in the finished piece.
Also, scribe away from the shape when possible - not into it - to reduce the risk of scratches.

4. Keep scribing deeper and deeper until you start to see the shape on the opposite side of the sheet. This means the cut is now deep enough for the hobby knife to work.

5. Use the hobby knife to cut out the shape. Do a separate cut for each side, drawing the blade away from the shape, and overshooting just a bit to keep the corners sharp. Warning: thick pla plate can be quite resilient. If you encounter some resistance while cutting, don't increase pressure and try to slice through it in one go- that is exactly how you end up with unwanted scratches, or a blade embedded in your finger. Instead, do several light passes with the knife until you're able to cut through smoothly. Always keep your fingers clear of the direction your knife is moving.

6. Break the trimmings away to free the shape from the sheet. Be careful not to bend or stress the shape while doing this. If a corner is still clinging, use the hobby knife to cut it free.

7. Your copy will still need a bit of clean up. Use sand paper for the larger outer edges. For the inner, hard-to-reach edges, use the hobby knife and drag it lightly along the edge while keeping the blade perpendicular (just like you would do Beveling, but at a 90 degree angle). Don't over-sand the edges or your shape won't be identical to the original anymore.

8. And there you have it! If you want them to be perfectly symmetrical, put a tiny bit of glue in the middle of the one piece then stick the other onto it. Sand the edges even, then pull the pieces apart again.

This whole process took about 10-12 minutes. Naturally, a thinner sheet will be easier to work with, so consider the thickness when buying pla plate for your project. Remember to keep your hands safe and exercise extreme caution when using your sharp tools.

Until the next tutorial, keep building plamo!


  1. sir is this pla plates tlga? san mo po mabibili pla plates or tlgang inoorder nio sa japan..have you ever tried using high impact sheet (HIPS) as alternative for pla plate? sana po may tutorial kayo para dun para sa mga ka2llad ko wla pang access sa pla plates TIA ^_^

  2. Pla plates = plastic plates, or sheets. Tamiya is just a brand of pla plate. I've read about people using cell cards, atm cards, old IDs, even an empty baby powder container. It doesn't really matter what specific type or brand you use as long as you can cut it, glue it to your kit and paint it. I've never tried HIPS, but the one is used above is a PVC sheet purchased from Deovir arts supply and is also available at some Architecture supply stores around UST. You can get an A4 sized sheet at about Php60 or less.

    1. thanks sir...that really helped. I just bought HIPS from jolis [UST] last saturday and I'm really glad that the plate you're using is "slightly" the same to my plate. Anyway, the guy from Deovir told me that HIPS are styrene based just like the plastic used in Gunpla so you can actually use modelling cements when modding. I hope my little info helped too.