Monday, March 4, 2019

Materials Monday - Insulation Foam


Anna's Foam blank for Fauxsciutto

Pink foam.  Foam board.  Blue Foam.  Rigid Foam.  Foamular.  That stuff with the Pink Panther on it.  Insulation foam has a lot of names and even more applications! 

Upholstery, bead, or insulation foams are standard base for a lot of fake food, but choosing what kind really depends on the project you're working on.  We will explore all of them eventually, but first: insulation!
Insulation foam has been featured in a few posts on the blog: Cakes ala DavidCheesecake and most notably, Fauxsciutto!  

Building:Insulation foam is a great choice for stability, as it doesn't break apart like most bead foams.  You can find it in several sheet sizes and thicknesses which gives it a lot of versatility.  For large projects, insulation foam can be stacked (laminated) together, as you can see in the picture above.  

Where it really excels is detail.  Carving shapes into pink foam will hold edges and designs.
(This is the only time you will see these buns, as the finished product was rough, at best.  Let's just say my painting skills have come a long way since 2010, and it's a good thing these ended up in the trash once the show was closed.)

Carving swirls into these cinnamon buns was very easy with an Xacto knife.
Insulation foam also sands easily and evenly (unless you have a lamination line, and then it can get a bit tricky...).  

Like bead foam, insulation foam is a great material to use as a false bottom or a firm filler.  I used insulation foam here because I needed to carve a hole for the spoon and I was worried bead foam wouldn't be able to hold the weight.
Need a dip?

Adhesion & Lamination: Like most foams, you can't just use any glue to stick it together.  Spray adhesive and some contact adhesives like  Dap Weldwood Original will eat away at the foam.  Hot glue will melt it  and shouldn't be used for laminating, but low temp will work if adhering to a plate or something, especially if the foam has been coated.  (In the photo above, the hot glue melted the sides and top, but I needed texture anyway, so it worked out) 
3M FastBond Contact Adhesive 30NF is an excellent choice for laminating sheets of foam for large projects.  It comes in tan or green, and it's a low VOC formula.  It doesn't smell awful, but, as with all adhesives, should be used in a ventilated area.  Safety first, y'all!
Unfortunately FastBond isn't the easiest to get, but DAP Weldwood Nonflammable Contact Cement is a safe bet.  It's carried at the big hardware stores in small quantities, so if you're a freelancer or small shop, it's a great choice.  
Both can be rolled on with a paint roller for large sheet lamination, or an old chip brush works just as well!

Side note: I once worked in a terrible fabrication shop that ran out of green glue, opted to use spray adhesive INSIDE, then when that ran out, decided that wood glue would work, "just fine" to laminate several 2'x4' sheets together into a huge tower.  Shockingly it didn't work and I didn't go back.  

Finishing/ Paint Prep:  This all depends your final goal, but there are several ways to seal coat your foam.  
A pricey and sturdy route is Rosco Foamcoat.  It will give your piece a hard shell, which is good if you think it's going to get handled roughly, which is why I used it for the Cheesecake.  
Aqua-Resin is a liquid & powder composite resin that gets very hard when cured.  It's also pricey, but I know some carpenters swear by it.  It's likely a bit overkill for fake food, but who knows what we might need a cake to do?
Jaxsan 600 is an excellent choice for foam coverage, but it does have some texture, which could be a deal breaker depending on the project or house size.  Jaxsan is tintable, which makes finish painting faster and easier.  (I love that Jaxsan has a theater tab on their website now.  They've embraced us!)
For a lighter touch, a coat of thinned out Flex Glue and cheesecloth or tissue paper will give your foam a paintable surface.  Don't want to spend $60 on a jug of Flex Glue?  Regular white glue will work, it's just less flexible when dry.  I have definitely used unthinned bottles of white glue from the Dollar Tree because when your budget is only $350 every little bit helps.  You can also get a package of tissue paper from Dollar Tree, because they're a freelance prop artisan's best friend.  
Straight paint: I don't suggest this, but sometimes you've just gotta do what you must.  Those ugly cinnamon buns from earlier were painted without any coating, using acrylic paint.  It stuck okay, but they were only display items, and you could see all of my sanding and carving flaws up close.  Thankfully they were under glass and upstage, but I would definitely do it differently if I had to make them now.  

A note about spray paint: if you do not seal your foam in any way, spray paint will eat away at it.  Design Master Floral Sprays are less destructive, but if sprayed too thickly will still degrade your foam.  This could be used as a distressing technique, but if you do that, please, please be in a very well ventilated area and wear a respirator.  Foam melting releases all sorts of awful things that are VERY BAD for you.  

Insulation foam scrap also makes a handy stand when you don't want your item sitting on a surface.  These crusts are made from 1.5" pink foam, covered in flex glue and muslin (I was on a time crunch and we didn't have cheese cloth or tissue paper, the horror!) with some hot glue cheese and red paint sauce.  

What other materials would you like detailed on a Materials Monday?  Send me an email at fakebakeprops@gmail.com or leave a comment below!

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