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.
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.
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.
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.