If you’re interested in bending sheet plastic — say, for instance, because you were inspired by Charles Platt’s “Fantastic Plastic Desk Set” article in MAKE Volume 10 — you’ll get best results with a strip heater, which is pretty much just what it sounds like: a long, straight heating cord that softens the plastic in a narrow line along which it then easily and cleanly bends. Pro-grade units can be a bit pricey, but it’s easy to achieve comparable results with a homemade unit that costs about half as much to build.
One thing you will probably want to buy for your homebrew bender is the heating element itself, which is where TAP Plastics’ BriskHeat comes in. The BriskHeat consists of a 1/2″ x36″ heating element covered in a heat-resistant weave; the electrical plug is split, with the power lead at one end of the strip and ground at the other, which avoids having to use pricey heatproof insulation on the return wire. The BriskHeat can bend plastics up to ¼” thick, quickly and cleanly — a fact anyone who’s ever tried doing it with a heat gun will appreciate.