Kingston Micro Vacuform Machine
For those of us who remember when Paul McCartney was once in a musical group before 'Wings', you'll also remember the famous Mattel Vac-U-Form machine. When it was first introduced, it was a great toy for making 'stuff'.
As we grew into more sophisticated modelers, we might have sought out one of these machines again, this time to make canopies and/or create new details for our projects. If you were like me, the results we achieved were usually mixed - sometimes it worked and most of the time it didn't.
This same problem faced founder of Kingston Vacuum Works. He read an article in one of the modeling magazines about ten years ago about creating a scale tea pot from your vacuform machine. Despite numerous attempts, he discovered that a toy is still a toy, and scale modeling shouldn't have to involve so many compromises. After doing some research and experimentation, he created a whole new line of vacuform machines that are intended for the serious modeler.
This is the Kingston Micro - its working surface is 4" x 6" and is beautifully crafted of wood. The basic design revolves around a vacuum chamber that sits below a perforated surface. Your common household vacuum cleaner is the vacuum source for this device, the hose simply plugs into the PVC adapter on the side of the machine.
Place your master (the canopy or other item to be duplicated) on the perforated surface. Follow the instructions to correctly position your master and how to deal with different shapes. Once you have your master ready, it is time to do some cooking!
Two metal frames are provided, between which you clamp a sheet of clear or opaque sheet plastic (a generous supply of clear and white plastic sheets are provided in the set). The frame clamps (also provided) are simple binder clips, so if you loose one, bring a replacement home from work.
The instructions have you pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Use the two wooden blocks (also provided in the set) to rest the frame above one of the shelves in the oven. (Please use a good pair of oven gloves, as the hot metal frame will burn the heck out of your hands!). Place the frame on the blocks and let the plastic heat up for about 90 to 120 seconds (keep an eye on the plastic through the oven window). When the sheet begins to sag, it is time to fire up the vacuum.
Remove the frame from the oven (remember those gloves!), light off the vacuum, and simply push the frame down over the top of the vacuform machine. Once the sheet hits the perforated surface, the vacuum will create your replica instantly. The plastic will harden almost instantly.
It will take a little practice to master the vacuform, but you will finally be able to create two-piece (or multiple piece) canopies from those one-piece affairs that still appear in kits. With the size of the Micro's surface, you can certainly tackle larger shapes as well.
If you need more surface area to create fuselages, wings, etc., then there are three more options available to you:
Kingston Junior has a working surface of 6" x 8" - MSRP $119
Kingston Mono has a working surface of 8" x 10" - MSRP $159
Zeppelin Master has a working surface of 12" x 16" - MSRP $199
Refill packs of sheet plastic are also available from Kingston.
With an MSRP of $98, the Kingston Mini will satisfy the most of your vacuform requirements.
This is a nicely engineered and made device. The versatility of these vacuform machines using your home vacuum cleaner and oven make the job of making new parts easy. Not to mention that you're forced to do all of the work in the kitchen, so you're not needlessly cluttering your workbench…
My sincere thanks to the Kingston Vacuum Works for this review sample!