<HTML> <BODY background="foam background.jpg"> <H3>NOTE: If you have visited this site before, hit the Refresh button on your browser so you see the latest updates. Also, "active content" does not allow me to access your computer, despite what your anti-virus program tells you. It only activates the Comment Box and Hit Counter at the bottom of the page<P></H3> <H1> <CENTER>MakeItMike's<BR>Styrofoam Hints and Tips <P> ATTENTION - I DON'T MAKE ANY CUSTOM FOAM CREATIONS TO SELL. THE PURPOSE OF THIS PAGE IS TO SHOW HOW EASY IT IS FOR <B>YOU</B> TO WORK WITH FOAM.</H1></CENTER><P> <FONT size=5><B>MATERIAL</B> Styrofoam sheets- a 4'x8'x2" sheet of foam is about $22 at Lowes or Home Depot. It comes 1/2", 1", 1 1/2", and 2" you can get some thicknesses in half sheets. Walmart and Michaels sell some smaller sheets but it is very low quality, brittle, and more expensive. Lowes and Home Depot also sell a pink or blue high density foam which is more expensive and slower to cut, but more durable.</P><B>ADVANTAGES</B> Cheap, lightweight, easy to work with.<BR><B>DISADVANTAGES</B> Not durable unless coated<P> <B>DRAW OUT YOUR DESIGN</B> freehand (if you're artistic). Overhead projector and transparency (big designs). Cut out a posterboard template and trace (multiple identical items). Print on paper, trace onto foam and go over indentation lines with a pen or pencil. Sharpie markers work well on styrofoam but it will bleed through light colored latex paint.<P> <B>CUT OUT WITH A HEATED WIRE CUTTER</B><BR>A hand-held Wonder Cutter works well, especially for small projects. Because it melts the foam, it cuts smoothly without making little pieces of foam everywhere. They are available at Michael's crafts or online at <A href="http://www.dickblick.com/zz608/02/products.asp?param=0&amp;ig_id=2434">Dick Blick Art Materials</A> for about $12. They cut slowly through thick foam so you'll need some patience. They also burn through batteries, I don't know if rechargable batteries will work or not. The Wonder Cutter will only cut in about 4 inches from the edge of the foam, if you are working on a large project, you may need to rough cut outside the lines with a knife or saw, then finish cut with the Wonder Cutter.<BR> For large projects I built a <A href="heated wire.html">Table-Sized Heated Wire Cutter</A> and a <A HREF="horizontal wire.html">Horizontal Wire table/Lathe</A> for cutting thick sheets of foam into thinner sheets and for cutting round columns.<P> <B>GLUE</B> White glue works but does not dry well on large projects. Gorilla Glue or Ultimate Glue (seem to be the same thing but Ultimate is cheaper) work well but need some moisture - dampen both pieces of foam with water first. Pin in place with toothpicks or bamboo skewers, leave the picks in for added strength. Allow to dry for at least 2 hours (patience!)<P> <B>SCULPTING</B> <a id="sculpting"> You can also "sculpt"</a> pieces by rounding the corners and edges. This gives a more realistic look to foam animals. Depending on the design of the animal and the way it will be displayed, you may not need to round all the corners. The easiest was to do this is with a SurForm rasp.<BR> <CENTER><IMG SRC="rasp.jpg"><BR></CENTER> You can see here where I have rounded some of the edges on this cougar. These were done with a heated wire before I discovered the rasp but the principle is the same<BR> <CENTER><IMG SRC="sculpt7.jpg"></CENTER><BR> I also bought a $10 soldering iron from Harbor Freight and replaced the soldering point with a loop of heavy wire. It can carve out a channel about 3 inches wide and 2 inched deep, it was used on the cactus and tiki below. I also use a wood-burning tool for more delicate operations like the tombstone lettering below<BR> <CENTER><A HREF="soldering iron.jpg"><IMG SRC="soldering iron t.jpg"></A></CENTER><BR> <P> <B>SURFACE TREATMENTS</B><BR>Use latex house paint or acrylic craft paint, not spray paint or oil based paint as they will eat the foam. After a few good coats of latex you can use spray paint for shading, etc. If you really need to use spray paint for a special effect like metallic, use a base coat of something other than white so you can see if you have covered the styrofoam. Any pin-holes in the latex will allow the spray paint to dissolve the foam. <BR> Krylon H2O Spray Latex paint works great, especially on small items like letters. Krylon H2O has become hard to find, they may have discontinued it?<BR> Use spray adhesive to glue mylar film to the foam BEFORE you cut it. The heated wire will cut through the mylar film and the foam together, resulting in a perfect trim job.<BR> After painting, coat with white glue and glitter<BR> Use fabric or fake fur and white glue to cover the foam<BR>Use wrapping paper, texture scrapbooking paper, aluminum foil, etc.<BR> Paint and coat with glass beads for a refective surface. (You can probably get a cupful of the glass beads from your local Highways or Public Works Department)<BR> There is at least one commercial coating, "Steve's Coating for Foam", which can be used over styrofoam to make it more permanent. But it is rather expensive and I wasn't all that impressed with the results. I used Steve's Coating on the Moai at the bottom of the page, it took $45 to coat it and I'm not sure it protected any better than a couiple of good coats of latex paint.<BR> You can coat foam with Monster Mud (1 part latex paint and 4-5 parts premixed wallboard joint compound). If it will be displayed outdoors, the Monster Mud needs to be painted with clear polyurethane or exterior latex paint<BR> I have done concrete over foam. Carved a boar out of foam, added ceramic tusks and eyes. Coated with 2 thin coats of mortar mix, allowing to dry between coats. Final coat of Quikcrete Vinyl Patching Compound mixed with a little concrete colorant. Finished boar at bottom of page <CENTER><IMG SRC="boar01.jpg"></CENTER><BR> My latest experiment was a foam hornbill bird covered in paper mache. A few coats of paper mache, a coat of acrylic craft paint, posterboard feathers glued on, and then a couple of coats of clear polyurethane. Finished bird at bottom of page. This worked out well, smooth coat, inexpensive, fairly quick, and should be well protected by the polyurethane. I expect to use this technique again<P> <B>FOAM REPAIRS</B> Sometimes your foam creations may need some repairs from accidents that happen during or after making them. If a piece breaks off, save it and glue it back on using Gorilla Glue and skewers. If a chunk is missing, it can often be repaired with GreatStuff expanding spray foam. In the pictures below, I had made a mistake and rounded off the wrong side of the cougar's face (Fig. 1). First, spray some GreatStuff in the gap (Fig. 2), allow it to expand and cure overnight (Fig. 3). Use a sharp serrated knife to trim off the excess. The GreatStuff often creates bubbles as it cures and the surface wont be as smooth as the original styrofoam. If it is in a critical area, smooth it out with paintable caulking and paint it when the caulking is dry.<BR> <CENTER><A HREF="repair01.jpg"><IMG SRC="repair01t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="repair02.jpg"><IMG SRC="repair02t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="repair03.jpg"><IMG SRC="repair03t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="repair04.jpg"><IMG SRC="repair04t.jpg"></A></CENTER><P> <B>HANGING YOUR CREATION</B><BR> If you are hanging a sign, you'll need 1 or 2 anchor points. Pick up some large plastic screws used for drywall and some eye-screws about the same size as the metal screws that come with the plastic screws. Screw the eye-screws into the plastic screws and screw the plastic screw into the styrofoam. Screw the plastic screw out and dip it in water, put a drop of Gorilla Glue in the hole and screw the plastic screw back into the into the hole. <CENTER><A HREF="hanger 01.jpg"><IMG SRC="hanger 01t.jpg"></A HREF> <A HREF="hanger 02.jpg"><IMG SRC="hanger 02t.jpg"></A HREF></CENTER><P> <B>EXAMPLES</B><BR> <CENTER> <A HREF="driscolls.jpg"><IMG SRC="driscolls-t.jpg"></A><BR> A 3x4 ft wall decoration for a local surf and skate shop. Cut out with a hand-held Wonder Cutter.<P> <A HREF="giraffe.jpg"><IMG SRC="giraffe-t.jpg"></A><BR> A 13 ft tall giraffe made for Serengeti Trek VBS.<BR> <A HREF="giraffe2.jpg"><IMG SRC="giraffe2t.jpg"></A><BR> A year later, I re-worked the giraffe. It was originally made to go up on a stage where it would only be viewed in profile and it was only 10 inches thick, a rather skinny giraffe. I needed to use it again in an area where people whould be walking all around it so I bulked it up. I increased the neck, shoulders, and "hips" from 2 inches thick to 6 inches thick each then used a serrated knife to round them out. This brings it to 22 inches wide.<P> <A HREF="STsign.jpg"><IMG SRC="STsign-t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="HLJM sign 6.jpg"><IMG SRC="HLJM sign 6t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="fiesta sign 01.jpg"><IMG SRC="fiesta sign 01t.jpg"></A><BR> Signs for Serengeti Trek, Jerusalem Marketplace and Fiesta! VBS, the letters on the Serengeti Trek sign are covered in animal print fabric.</A HREF>.<P> <A HREF="gerenuk.jpg"><IMG SRC="gerenuk-t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="ostrich.jpg"><IMG SRC="ostrich-t.jpg"></A><BR> A pair of Gerenuk and an Ostrich with his head buried in the sand for Serengeti Trek VBS.<BR> The ostrich was painted grey then real ostrich feathers were added to the tail and wings<P> <A HREF="llama01.jpg"><IMG SRC="llama01-t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="llama02.jpg"><IMG SRC="llama02-t.jpg"></A><BR> A Llama head made for the "Temple of Chili" booth. The styrofoam pieces were glued together and the edges rounded off with a Wonder Cutter, some detailing was done with a hot solder iron. The foam was painted then covered with faux fur, black pipe-cleaner eyelashes were added after this photo was taken.<P> <A HREF="mayan.jpg"><IMG SRC="mayan-t.jpg"></A><BR> A 7x3 foot waterfall panel for the "Temple of Chili" booth.<P> <A HREF="champagne.jpg"><IMG SRC="champagne-t.jpg"></A><A HREF="hearts.jpg"><IMG SRC="hearts-t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="rings.jpg"><IMG SRC="rings-t.jpg"></A><BR> Decorations used at my daughter's wedding reception - an 8 ft champagne bottle, 4x8 ft interlocking rings and hearts. The rings and hearts were painted with latex paint, sprayed silver, and covered with glitter.<P> <A HREF="tombstone.jpg"><IMG SRC="tombstone-t.jpg"></A><BR> A tombstone used in an anti-smoking campaign, an example of spray paint over latex.<P> <A HREF="foam head 02.jpg"><IMG SRC="foam head 02-t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="foam head 07.jpg"><IMG SRC="foam head 07-t.jpg"></A><BR> A 5 ft tall Dragon head for "Sir George's Dragon Chili". Sides of head and horns are made of styrofoam, these face sides were attached to a tapered wooden box that housed a fog machine. The neck is Monster Mud over burlap and chickenwire. The head and neck were mounted on a wooden framework to make a 13 foot tall dragon looking over an 8 foot wall. <P> <A HREF="saguaro 01.jpg"><IMG SRC="saguaro 01t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="goat and cactus 01.jpg"><IMG SRC="animated goat.gif"></A><BR> An 8 foot cactus for Fiesta! VBS made from two 1x4 foot columns of styrofoam. The top was rounded with a serrated knife and a Surform rasp. The ridges were cut with a hot soldering iron. Goat with motorized head made for same VBS<P> <A HREF="floating tiki.jpg"><IMG SRC="floating tiki t.jpg"></A><BR> A floating tiki pool decoration for a luau. Made from a column of 12 inch diameter foam carved with a soldering iron.<P> <A HREF="pig.jpg"><IMG SRC="pig t.jpg"></A><BR> A roaster oven transformed into a roasted pig for the luau. Styrofoam carved with a handsaw and serrated knife, coated with tan Monster Mud, and "honey glazed" with oak PolyShades (polyurethane and stain combination)<P> <A HREF="hippo 01.jpg"><IMG SRC="hippo 01t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="hippo 02.jpg"><IMG SRC="hippo 02t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="hippo 03.jpg"><IMG SRC="hippo 03t.jpg"></A><BR> How do you carve a foam hippo head? Take a block of foam and cut away everything that doesn't look like a hippo. 10x20x40 inches, carved with a handsaw and a serrated knife, spray painted with Krylon H2O latex.<P> <A HREF="book.jpg"><IMG SRC="bookt.jpg"></A><BR> A 2x3 foot book made with foam and foam-core posterboards, then covered with brown vinyl.<P> <A HREF="fireplace.jpg"><IMG SRC="fireplace-t.jpg"></A><BR> A faux stone fireplace to surround a plasma TV. The pillars and mantle were coated with monster mud and spray painted with Fleckstone paint<P> <A HREF="lion mask.jpg"><IMG SRC="lion mask-t.jpg"></A><A HREF="lion costume.jpg"><IMG SRC="lion costume-t.jpg"></A><BR> A Lion Dance mask. Simply a modified cardboard box with some styrofoam attached. Not a very traditional design, but it worked for me :)<P> <A HREF="eagle11.jpg"><IMG SRC="eagle11t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="eagle12.jpg"><IMG SRC="eagle12t.jpg"></A><BR> A foam eagle with a 42 inch wingspan for Avalanch Ranch VBS<P> <A HREF="cougar three quarters.jpg"> <IMG SRC="cougar three quarters t.jpg"></A><BR> An 8 foot cougar made for Avalanche Ranch VBS<P> <A HREF="tiger sign.jpg"><IMG SRC="tiger sign t.jpg"></A><BR> 4x5 foot sign made for a class reunion using the same pattern as the cougar above. The letters are covered with red Mylar film.<P> <A HREF="cell.jpg"><IMG SRC="cell t.jpg"></A><A HREF="beetle.jpg"><IMG SRC="beetle t.jpg"></A> <A HREF="frog.jpg"><IMG SRC="frog t.jpg"></A><BR> Classroom decorations for a local biology teacher. The cell and beetle are 2x2 feet, the frog is 2x3<P> <A HREF="moai.jpg"><IMG SRC="moai t.jpg"></A><BR> A 3 foot tall sunken Easter Island Moai carved from a block of foam using a saw and a SurForm shaper. It was coated with "Steve's Coating for Foam", a couple of coats of latex paint, a coat of spray Fleckstone, and a wash of blue and green acrylic craft paint.<P> <A HREF="waterhole.jpg"><IMG SRC="waterhole t.jpg"></A><BR> Watering hole scene with an elephant, warthog, and gerenuk. Elephant is 4 ft tall and 3 ft wide.<BR> "Muddy" watering hole used to dramatize the need for deep clean wells in Uganda for a fundraiser.<P> <A HREF="boar.jpg"><IMG SRC="boar t.jpg"></A><BR> Inspired by the warthog above, I made a garden boar of concrete over foam.<P> <A HREF="hornbill.jpg"><IMG SRC="hornbill t.jpg"></A><BR> A hornbill wind motion sculpture, paper mache and posterboard feathers over foam.</CENTER><P> </HTML>