Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What is the best tool for cutting Dupont Tyvek Soft Structure

E.L. asks:
I'd like to know Which would be the best (since I am lazy & don't know anything about sewing) to use on Dupont Tyvek Soft Structure, Pinking Shears or Burning Tool? I bought a new Dupont Tyvek Soft Structure car Cover for my Classic Car, and I want to use the old one in various sizes to make some Japanese Painting Scrolls.

I have only had hands-on experience with hard structure Tyvek, such as what is used in envelopes. The Soft Structure is more fabric like. But since it is essentially all spunbonded olefin the physical properties should be similar.

After taking a look at some Japanese Scrolls it seems that the actual painting is mounted onto other materials to form a 'frame' of sorts. The sides of the painting are straight so I think that neither of those choices would be the best for cutting your car cover into 'canvases'. The Tyvek shouldn't fray so you can cut it and use it without applying an edge finish (such as hemming). My recommendation would be to use a rotary cutter, which is basically a rolling razor blade. You can buy these in your craft store in the quilting notion area. You would lay a straight edged ruler on your cutting line and roll the rotary cutter against it. But to answer your question .... between the pinking shears and the burning tool, I would use the pinking shears. When you apply heat to the Tyvek it could curl the edges, as Tyvek tends to shrink away from the heat source.

Now for some technical information, straight from the horses mouth (ie. Tyvek Corporation):

Soft Structure Tyvek is designed specifically for applications where drape, hand, and soft feel are of prime importance. Made from very fine high density polyethylene fibers, Tyvek® offers all the best characteristics of paper, film, and fabric in one material. This unique balance of properties, which cannot be found in any other material, makes Tyvek® Soft Structure lightweight yet strong; vapor-permeable, yet water, chemical, puncture, tear, and abrasion-resistant. Tyvek® Soft Structure is also low-linting, smooth, and opaque. Can easily be sewn. It is a high opacity material with excellent whiteness and good surface stability that can be glued, sewn, and, to a limited extent, ultrasonically seamed and heat-sealed in fabrication. It can also be printed, although it is more demanding than hard structures.

Here are the hazards of working with Tyvek and heat (copied from the MSDS):
When exposed to temperatures at or above its melting point of 275F (135C), Tyvek(R) tends to shrink away from the heat source. If the heat source reaches the auto-ignition temperature of 750F (400C), Tyvek(R) will burn and ignited droplets may fall or be blown away from the ignition source, which can cause fire to spread. Gases/vapors produced in fire from complete combustion ofTyvek(R) are CO2 and water. Incomplete combustion yields hazardous gases/vapors including CO, acrolein, other aldehydes, ketones, fatty acids and short-chain hydrocarbons.

When we melt the Tyvek with the burning tools we are faced with the gases/vapors from incomplete combustion so proper ventilation and/or the wear of respirators is essential.

Hope this helps,

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