Homemade Plastic Lumber

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(Image: Deck de madeira image by CarlosNeto from Fotolia.com)

You can make plastic lumber at home for projects that you have in mind. It’s not easy, however, and there are dangers as well as expenses involved in addition to the materials you need. Whether you would save money in the long run is worth looking into. As noted, there are dangers. So heed the warning from various suppliers. Whether you’re planning a plastic lumber deck or just a garden ornament, there are similar steps to take, and good research is necessary.

The Plastic

It might be tempting to try to supply your own plastic from the bags and wrappings that accumulate in the trash. Some homeowners have tried to recycle this plastic waste and had problems with it. Be safe with this. There are various types of plastic, and not all are compatible. Besides, heating plastic materials can be toxic. Mad Sci Network, linked in the References section, has advice on melting plastics at home and includes information about being aware of the danger of coming up with a black smoke and noxious odor.

Your best bet is to buy plastic pellets of the type you want and melt them according to the supplier's instructions. Craft and hobby materials suppliers have plastic pellets that can be melted and molded, but these would be too expensive to use for making lumber. A number of sources for pellets can be found at Business.com, linked in the Resources section. ThomasNet, linked in References, also lists many suppliers of plastics. An innovative company in Nebraska, NatureWorks LLC, linked in Resources, makes plastic out of plant material that is organic, safe and good for the environment.

The Mold

Before you start, you must know the size and shape of the lumber you want to produce. This is because it’s hard to cut and shape molded plastic, especially if it contains fibers, which you need to add in order to give strength to the finished product. For a board or plank, you can make a wooden mold and line it with a rubber coating to keep it from sticking. Information on extruding plastic resin, molding and finding extruding equipment is on Plastic Machinery Data's website, linked in References. Melted plastic in quantities needed for making lumber pieces has to be extruded into a mold the size and shape of the piece you need. An extruder can be rented to use at home for this process.

For the best fibers to use to strengthen your lumber, check with your resin supplier. Fiberglass and/or wood fibers are the most common, but both have drawbacks.

Still Game to Try?

Even though there are hassles and dangers involved, information and help are available if you are ambitious enough to undertake this ultimate do-it-yourself project.

References

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