Working with Foam- the real story
 
         Foam is one of the easiest materials to work with in crafting a Cambrian Creature.  Its relatively easy to come by, carves and sands easily, is affordable and can be glued, pinned,  and painted provided you use the correct paint.  All of these materials can be found at Michael's, Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware, JoAnn's Fabrics and Jerry's Artorama.  The choice is yours.

      In this tutorial, we are going to focus on choosing the correct foam, laminating, sanding and finally sealing our foam prior to painting.  Let's get started:



Choosing which Foam is Right for You
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    There are several different kinds of foam that are available and they range in both cell size, price and overall size or dimension.  They are:
1) Floral Foam
2) Insulation Foam or Foamular
3) Poly Panels



 Floral Foam     
        Floral Foam is a very dense, closed cell foam that is usually green in color.  It cuts easily and sands easily but larger sizes can be expensive.  Michael's sells packs of floral foam blocks similar to the ones pictured to the right at a very reasonable price however.  For larger projects, this choice might not be the most cost effective.

 



    
                      Floral foam
           (Michael's, Jerrys Artorama)
 Foamular    
        Foamular or insulating foam is also a closed cell or dense foam that comes in large square sheets 2 feet square snf about two inches thick.  It cuts easily with a cerrated steak knife and is great for large surfaces or laminating together in order to make odd shapes.  It's available in the insulation aisle of the Building Materials section of Home Depot.  The cost per sheet is less than six dollars.

     We prefer this foam simply because it is easy to work with, laminates well with Carpenter's glue and can be painted using sandable primer.

 



    
                        Foamular
                 (Home Depot)
 Poly Panels    
        Poly Panels is  one of the most economical of the bunch and comes in packs of five sheets one inch thick and about four feet long.  It is not as dense as the other two foams but cuts and shapes fairly easily and laminates very well.  One pack of five goes a long way and can also be used for packing delicate items to ship.  The cost of one pack is between $5 and $6.00 and they can also be found in the building materials section of Home Depot. This is a good alternative choice.

    
                     Poly Panels
                 (Home Depot)
Cutting Foam without using your teeth
   
        Cutting foam is easy if you use the correct tool.  The simplest tool in the kitchen tool box is the cerrated edge steak knife.  Bread knifes also have this feature pictured to the right and it will cut most types of foam. 

     A band saw or jig saw will also work really well but should only be used under adult supervision.  It cuts very clean and very fast and works well for curved or contour pieces of foam.

Glueing and Sealing Foam
   
        There are really only two types of glue that we would recommend for bonding or gluing foam together.  They are Wood Glue sometimes referred to as "Carpenter's Glue" and good old fashioned Elmer's White All Purpose Glue.  These are tough bonding, quick drying adhesives that do NOT react with the foam.  You do not need to use very much of either product to get good results.  Foam bonding rookies often make the mistake of using too much and then wonder why it takes two years for the pieces to dry.

     Finally, use clamps when securing two pieces together with glue.  This insures even contact and a tight seal.

   
        Achieving a smooth finish prior to painting is not hard when using foam but there are some things you need to know before completing this important last step.  Painting foam with any lacquer or petroleum based paint will dissolve and ruin your project.  Water based acrylics are great but sealing your foam first will give you amazing results.

     We discovered that drywall spackling does an incredible job of sealing your foam prior to painting.  It spreads on thin with just your finger and sands easily with fine grit sandpaper.  A 50/50 mixture of white glue and water can be used as well but will often require multiple coats, longer drying times and is more time consuming.

     Finally, always apply a sandable primer after you have sealed your foam and prior to applying an aeresol paint.  Dupli Color and Krylon offer sandable auto primer spray paint in a can which will work on foam.  DO NOT USE RUSTOLEUM.

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