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Woodland Scenics Hot Wire Cutter

by Gary James

Woodland Scenics are well established and respected in the modelling world, mainly for their wide range of landscaping and construction materials. They also produce a small range of tools, the most significant of which is their hot wire cutter.

This is a review of the Woodland Scenics Hot Wire Foam Cutter part number ST1440, and the Foam cutter bow & guide, part number ST1437.

The review sample was supplied by The Model Makers Resource who, alas, no longer exist however the cutter can be easily obtained from <a href="http://www.ecscenics.co.uk/">Ec Scenics</a>.

Specification

Model: Woodland Scenics Hot Wire Foam Cutter ST1440

Capacity: Normal frame cutting width 4.5 inches / 115mm, depth 5 3/4 inches 145mm
Bow & guide width 4 inches / 100mm depth 6 inches / 150mm

Power: Mains powered UK Power supply 9v/1300mA, cord length 70 inches / 1780mm

Construction

Woodland Scenics Hot Wire CutterThe cutter has a chunky plastic grip handle with a yellow slide switch to make and break the power supply to the wire. The power cord plugs into a socket on the handle. The bow consists of two strong cranked metal bars which slot into the handle and are fixed by thumb screws.

Woodland Scenics Hot Wire CutterThe wire is attached by threading it through small holes in metal collets which then slot onto the bow. The collets have thumb screws to clamp them firmly and make a sound electrical connection. This seems unnecessarily fiddly to me and I can't really see its advantage - in the end I just twisted the wires onto the bow directly.

Because the cutter is mains powered the wire is of reasonably heavy gauge and is likely to last much longer than the flimsy wires often used in battery powered cutters. Woodland Scenics advise that you only use the approved wires.

Operation

Woodland Scenics Hot Wire CutterThe yellow thumb switch is spring loaded and when pushed the wire heats quickly. As soon as the switch is released the power is cut off. This is a good feature - it is impossible to put the cutter down with the wire still powered.

The cutter slices easily through both white and blue styrofoam (polystyrene).

Bow and Guide

As an accessory Woodland Scenics produce a side-cutting bow with adjustable cutting guide or fence.

This consists of a second metal bow with a side rather than end position for the wire. A plastic guide clamps onto the bow.

The guide can be used to make repeat cuts that are square or angled. I found the accuracy surprisingly good when making repeat square cuts in the foam. I also preferred the side cutting arrangement of the bow to the front cutting

Woodland Scenics Hot Wire Cutter Woodland Scenics Hot Wire Cutter

Woodland Scenics Hot Wire CutterThis picture shows the guide being used at an angle. The slot in the guide means that it can be positioned just about anywhere on the bow, even at the very end to the arm such as this.

I found that the cutter was not very accurate when making repeat cuts at an angle, and it wouldn't be suitable for making precise mitres. It would be fine though for keeping more or less the same angle around the side of a hill, for example. With practice you could probably get more accurate results then I did in a short test.

Summary

The Woodland Scenics hot wire cutter is a sturdy well constructed tool that will give long service. Anyone who makes more than a trivial amount of terrain needs a hot wire cutter, and this is likely to meet the needs of all but the most specialised jobs. It's not cheap though - there again, neither is buying commercial terrain rather than making your own. If the price is a problem it would be worth sharing the cost with a friend, or perhaps buying the model for a gaming group or club.

Pros

+ Well constructed

+ Sprung switch for extra safety

+ Bow and guide add functionality

+ Low voltage mains powered system (saves on battery costs)

Cons

- Pricey

- Fiddly collet system for attaching the wires (but you don't have to use it)

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