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Discussion Starter #1
Since this was my first year, I don't have much if any tools for making props. I was thinking about asking for a hot wire knife. So, can anyone recommend items that I might want to get for my 'tool kit'? Also, any recommendation on a hot wire knife would be appreciated.

Thanks,
Brian
 

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Rutherford Manor Haunt
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We use the Hot Wire Foam Factory cutters, we picked up the Pro kits at HAUNTcon this year. I used them both this season they work very well and seem to cover all of our needs.

I just checked their web page, they have a sale right now!! 25-30% off the pro sets!

http://hotwirefoamfactory.com/home.php?cat=103
 

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My cousin is a professional prop maker. I asked him the same question, and he recommended a hot knife that costs about $135. I thought that was too much, so I spent only around $30 (after all, I am not a pro). Mistake. It fell apart within 3 minutes. It was more like a flimsy wire than a knife. So, next I will spend more and at least make sure it is a knife blade, not a wire. He said he only uses one blade all the time, so don't buy extra sizes. Forgot the brand he said, but I should have followed his advice.
 

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Going bump in the night..
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Others may disagree, but for me, the most used tool in my garage for prop making is my Dremel.

I recommend getting a quality rotary tool (I've purchased inexpensive ones, and have invariably killed every one of them. My Dremel (I purchased a beefy model with plenty of torque) has survived for more years than I can accurately recall - at least 7 or 8, maybe more), and in addition, I recommend one that has a flex-shaft accessory - this can give you great control, as you can use the tool without having to hold the weight of it.



I made my own hot wire foam cutter from an old "pistol grip" soldering iron - it has two collets which normally hold the "iron", so I took a couple pieces of steel rod that fit the collets, bent them a bit to give a good 10 inch gap between the ends, and then I string a piece of fine copper wire between them - cheap hot wire foam cutter (I've found the braided copper wires from the inside of phone cords to be perfect - just untwist them into individual wires (very fine gauge), and use those as the cutting wire). I'll admit, I do break wires more often than I like (never would be best), but this thing does get the job done.
 

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I'll second the dremel with router attachment for lettering in foam... As for hotwire I use a soldering gun with a copper ground wire... cuts like butter... videos on my site I think of that setup...
 

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My cousin is a professional prop maker. I asked him the same question, and he recommended a hot knife that costs about $135. I thought that was too much, so I spent only around $30 (after all, I am not a pro). Mistake. It fell apart within 3 minutes. It was more like a flimsy wire than a knife. So, next I will spend more and at least make sure it is a knife blade, not a wire. He said he only uses one blade all the time, so don't buy extra sizes. Forgot the brand he said, but I should have followed his advice.
No offense intended, but if your only tool is a hammer pretty soon all your problems start looking like nails.
 

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No offense taken, but I think you missed the point, BobbyA. Since the original question was about what Hot Knife to buy, I was simply passing on the advice to spend enough money to purchase something of quality. The cheap hot wire did not work for me.
 

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My cousin is a professional prop maker. I asked him the same question, and he recommended a hot knife that costs about $135. He said he only uses one blade all the time, so don't buy extra sizes. Forgot the brand he said, but I should have followed his advice.
Any chance on finding out the brand again ? :)
 

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I'm no artist...so I've never had the need for a foam knife. I use a saw: circular, drywall, hacksaw, standard wood saw, etc. For tombstone letters, I use an Xacto blade and also, this thing: http://www.harborfreight.com/curved-multi-rasp-66641.html

Handy hand tools:
Hacksaw: http://www.hardwarestore.com/mini-hacksaw-604149.aspx
Drywall saw: http://www.harborfreight.com/12-inch-compass-saw-66591.html

Other favorite prop tools: cordless drill driver, vice, electrician tools (wire stripper, soldering equip, wire nuts, heat shrink tube, electrical tape), spade bit set, ... and then something like this: http://www.harborfreight.com/1001-piece-nut-and-bolt-storehouse-67628.html ...which has saved me a bunch of dough over the years.
 

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Advice on the Dremmel.. if you need to do something bigger don't over-use the Dremmel, buy a 3 1/2" grinder. A very thin but strong circular blade in the Grinder will cut steel, plastic all very quickly and cheaply.
Wear goggles and gloves , don't act like some of the idiots on TV welding barefoot, grinding with no eye protection, ect.
There is a very slick chopping tool for cleanly, quickly cutting PVC pipe. it rachets after a pull or two, tightening down, makes the cut very precisely, sells for $8.00? stainless steel blades.
If you are buying electricians tools buy the good ones, they will keep working much longer than the $2.98 stuff, especially screw drivers Klein is an old company who make screw drivers that don't go "Round" on you after the 10th screw you turn hard.
Side cutters that keep on cutting too.
When I began here making my house,it was So Pathetic! The tools I didn't have.
 

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Undaunted Haunter
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Safety Goggles
Soldering Iron
Dremel (most used toy I own)
Clamps (I only use these as they are one handed jewels) http://www.homedepot.com/p/Irwin-Quick-Grip-13-3-8-in-Bar-Clamp-Spreader-506QCN/202214074#.Uo7hSuJC2HQ
Chop Saw
Saws All
Power driver
Excellent quality set of drill bits
jig saw
power sander
Extra batteries for power tools
Wish I had a hot knife so I second that idea also

As mentioned before...don't try to save money on ANY of your tools by buying the cheap brand. If you don't have the money for a good one, don't buy it yet. You will end up wasting money and be very frustrated when it breaks or does not perform as expected.
 

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My neighbor bought one of those "Sets" all-in-one, a battery drill, saw, flashlight , ex cetra. Everyone of those "tools" were very imprecise pieces of expensive junk, with a well-known brand name on them.
I asked the person incharge of the tool dept. in the Farm & Fleet Store about which tools in a certain catagory are the ones less returned? Which ones seem to need fewer replacement parts ordered for them.
Following their advice I then bought a Cable-Porter "Sawzall" and a Ryobi palm sander and they both still work great after all of these years.
Sometimes a brand name tool will not be great designs or products straight through their entire "line".
 

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Hauntless
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I'd love to give you some suggestions but first - what kind of props are you thinking of making?

A Hot Knife is a great tool but the Hot Wire Foam Factory one may be overkill. I love mine because it really comes in handy when making my huge Styrofoam props but not when making tombstones. For tombstones: my go-to is the jigsaw for cutting out the shape from the board because of the precise 90 degree cut you get. So, I generally don't reach for the Hot Wire during tombstone construction. It's cool to have (also The Engraver) but not mandatory. They are very expensive and if you got a healthy budget - then by all means - they do make things easier and you get a better prop from it. If it helps - here's my review of those two tools:



 

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Discussion Starter #19
Terra,

I did up an singing pumpkin arch, that can been seen in the new member section. My plan for next year is a grave yard. I want to make a fence, using my arch at the entrance. So I'll me making a good number of tombstones this year. I don't think I'll be doing any artistic props like the large cat you did, at least not this year. I'd like to make up a flying ghost rig too. So, maybe a hot knife isn't needed this year.

Brian
 
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