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Working with Foam: Tools

So you want to work with XPS foam (Typically known as blue foam, pink foam)? First of all you’ll need your tools. This is by no means a definitive list. This is based on what I use and the most common suggestions I’ve seen. If there is something you think is missing, comment!

First up, and most importantly of all, safety!

  • Face mask
    When working with XPS, a lot of dust is generated. Some processes create more than other, for example sanding. This foam, is NOT good for you. Always use a face mask, FFP2 or above should do. Failing that, a respirator.
  • Safety Glasses
    As already established, dust is bad for your lungs, so naturally, it isn’t too good for your eyes too! Any reasonable safety glasses should do, just make sure they are a good fit!
  • Gloves (Optional)
    Our favourite dust can be a bit irritating. If you get sick of brushing it off your hands, or simply don’t like getting your hands covered in PVA, paint, adhesive, get some gloves.
  • Cover alls (Optional)
    As with making anything, it can get messy. I would suggest using some cover alls, or at least some old clothing. No need to spoil your good stuff when you can cover something else in muck! Personally, I prefer cover alls, fewer gaps when the dust starts flying!

Now you have your safety gear ready, its time to start getting your tools.

  • Marker
    Pretty self explanatory. I’ve found a simple black marker is the best thing to mark up your foam. Reasonable felt tip will mark your foam without damaging it (Beyond marking it anyway)

  • Snap-off Blade Utility Knife (Multiple)
    The blade needs to be long enough to go through a single sheet of foam. This is by no means the best method for cutting large pieces from the original sheet, but it works.
  • Bread knife
    Optional, but for larger bit, a thin bladed bread knife can be a great replacement for trying to cut through sheets with a utility knife.
  • Hot Wire Cutter
    Personally, I don’t use one. If you have one, use it, you will get much cleaner cuts that you will from a blade.
  • Brush
    When it comes to it, blowing the scraps out the way is a good plan, however if you have a mask on, its not that easy (Unless you have a compressor handy of course). The solution to this is to have a brush handy. Not only can you move the foam out the way, but when you generate dust from fillers, it can be a great help!  Can’t forget of course, when you go to seal or paint your creation, a brush is always helpful.
  • Sand Paper
    A fine sand paper will do for foam. Too rough and it will just tear the foam. Foam is best sanded when it has been sealed.
  • PVA Glue
    When watered down a little bit, this can be used to seal the foam before sanding and painting.
  • Solvent Free Grab Adhesive
    Unless you are amazing, you will have create things in different parts. A solvent free grab adhesive works wonders for glueing the parts together, laminating sheets and making repairs where you have shaved off a little bit more.
  • Filler
    A general purpose filler is highly useful for filling in gaps and smoothing surfaces where sanding is just not the best option. A scrap bit of foam or some proper filling tools are needed if/when it comes to this.
  • Masking Tape
    Multitude of uses from holding a template down to holding pieces together while the grab adhesive sets.
  • CAD Software
    One thing to sketch up your item on paper, but once in a while you may want accuracy, share your designs or simply print out copies as a template you can destroy. Some basic CAD software can be a great help with that. Should you have access to the equipment, you can also run your foam through a CNC machine.

Something missing? Leave a comment! Stay tuned, there might be some more of these later.

Music Videos.

One of my favourite songs. Can’t help but love the video too.

TV On The Radio – Staring at the Sun

Although that does raise a question, what is your favourite song?

Site Maintenance!

New round of site maintenance coming up. Should only cause issues on partner sites and not the main one. If there is any weirdness tomorrow, please let me know!

Mini Project

New mini project up today. Following a request on Twitter from a researcher looking for a search application, I was curious and started writing my own. A few hours research (Mostly rebuilding git after a machine rebuild) and a basic design and program is ready to go. Although it has a few issues and some missing features, the tool takes a query from the command line and returns the 15 newest results. These are then outputted to a CSV file for later use. To take care of the heavy lifting, the Twitter4j library is used.

Want to try it or contribute it? Have a look at the repository.

Hidden Science Map

Think scientists are just stuck in labs all day and follow all the stereotypes? Well you are wrong! Slightly. No promises about some of the stereotypes…

To prove this, the Science Council launched the Hidden Science Map project. The map, aimed at school children is designed to show that scientists, engineers and technologists are everywhere. They play the same sports as you, shop in the same places you do and have ‘normal’ lives.

If you are a scientist, engineer or technologist, I urge you to sign up and get yourself on the map to help promote STEM careers!

Site Maintenance & Updates

Site Maintenance

On July 16 2011 from 9PM (Local time), the site will be unavailable while the server is upgraded to something new and shiny! This is expected to be done by 6AM. If you need to get in touch during this period please use the alternative methods or send an email and hope it survives!


Over the past few days a few updates have been made to the site. This is mostly just content in remote corners of the site. If you know about the areas you will know about the changes. Expect further updates in the coming weeks.

Merry Whatever!

Happy Whatever everyone! Whether it is Christmas, Kwanzaa or anything else, I hope you have a good festive season!


Important news first, Newcastle Science Fest and Maker Faire UK have been announced! Find out more about the Maker Faire at the site

In music news, System of a Down have announced they are getting back together. I’m very excited about this. Not often a great band gets back together. Cannot wait to hear what their time working on solo projects does to the overall sound.

In other music news, the head liners for 2011’s Evolution festival have been announced and include Iggy and The Stooges. Yes, you heard right, Iggy and the Stooges. I for one didn’t see this coming and are in two minds about it. On one hand it could be a brilliant show and as loud as the Stooges should be, but on the other it could just be dull as they all start to feel their age and don’t have the energy to do anything like you would expect. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. Then again, at £35 per ticket, maybe not.

In tech news, I must admit something. I got a tiny bit bored and may have started creating another CMS. Not sure why, it just felt necessary at the time…
This particular one is being based on the MVC concept and will also include a brand new authentication system to go with it. Parts may be made open source, but to be honest, getting it working is the priority right now.

Short update over, all is well, how about you?

Good Musics?

Tonight (October 6th), the amazing Marian Call plays at the Thinkgeek HQ, to add to the fun, the full event is being streamed live here. Why am I mentioning this? Simple, Marian is an amazing artist and of course, an amazing geek. I really cannot do justice here, you need to check her out for yourself. Whether you catch the second half of her show live, watch the recorded version later or whatever, you must check her out and support her if you like her stuff. Find out more at her site:


That is the days question, who do you write like? (Via Narfyyy)

According to the system I write like a variety of people including Dan Brown (Whut?!), Edgar Allan Poe and Douglas Adams. One of them amuses me greatly. What about you? Check here

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