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Make a Hot Wire Foam Cutter - Part 3: Building it

In this part of the tutorial we build the unit.




Cut out the pieces

Cut out the various pieces. I am using 1/4 inch thick wood. Plywood is preferable for the base and the hand held unit. This is because it is strong. For the internal pieces I used quarter inch thick poplar.

There is a total of eleven pieces in this project.

Glue the pieces on

Glue the seven pieces onto the base plate. Note that you can't see one of the pieces in the picture. The arrow shows you where that piece goes. It is a stop for the hand held unit. When you slide the hand held into place it inserts into the keyhole and is stopped by that piece.

Test the slide fit while gluing

And when gluing in the two guide pieces install the handle piece. Adjust those guide pieces so the handle piece slides smoothly and snugly.

Before we glue on the top board we should make the handle piece. We will use it as a guide to installing the top board.

Drill three holes

Drill three holes in the handle unit. Two holes are clearance holes for your 6-32 bolts. The third hole is a thru hole for your push button switch. The size of these holes will vary depending on the screw size and the switch size.


A look at the hardware assembly

Next install the two bolt assemblies. From left to right:

Bolt, wire, washer, wood unit, washer, nut, washer, hot wire, washer, nut


Next let's wire it up. The wiring is extremely simple. The hot wire is connected to the power supply and there is a switch in between.

The wiring diagram

There you go. It is wired up.

It is wired up

Then tape over the handle and the switch.

Taped up


Next install your nichrome wire. Each end of it goes between two washers. Make it taut but not overly taut! There is a bit of a feel to that. And you will get a better sense of how taut is good once you start using it. Too loose and it bows a lot making a sloppy cut. Too tight and it is prone to snapping when heated.

Adding the nichrome wire


Now that the handle piece is fully assembled you can use it as a guide for gluing on the top surface plate. Be cautious of the nichrome wire. Don't get it caught on anything.

Now glue on the top piece


And don't forget to glue the spacer block on to the hand held unit. It is important because it keeps the handle snug and tight in the unit.

The Spacer


Connect it to your power supply and test it. You can adjust the current as needed to get a smooth and easy cut.

TEst it for cutting ability


For me with this four inch nichrome length a good setting is .90 amps at 4.4 volts. Ths is a good setting for cutting various types of foam. For cutting simple styrofoam we can bring this down a bit to .90 amps at 3.9 volts.

Adjust the power supply for good cutting


And that's it! You have made a hot wire foam cutter that works both as a hand-held unit and as a table-top unit.

The hot wire foam cutter is complete



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