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Unread 01-16-2006, 06:56 PM   #1
Rydain
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Question Best source for large sheets of EVA craft foam

I've recently become fond of making props by heat shaping craft foam over the stove. In my experience, the 1/4" craft foam sold at JoAnn Fabrics is ideal for this application. This particular foam is rigid, particularly resilient to being pulled apart, and very forgiving to heat shape. You can tape it temporarily and then remove the tape without trashing the surface, and you can squeeze the foam when it's warm without putting finger dents in it. Its surface is smooth and water-resistant enough that you can easily seal it with gesso or even paint directly with a few layers of acrylic paint. As I recall, its brand name is Creative Hands.

The problem is that it's sold in 8 1/2" x 11" sheets only, and I've been trying to find larger sheets for some time. My favorite way of finishing the surface is to gesso it, so it's ideal to be able to make individual pieces out of single sheets of foam so the surface will be seamless. Last year, I tried ordering random 1/4" closed cell foam I found on a supply site. It did not work out nearly as well as the craft foam for my intended purposes. If I tried to tape it temporarily, it tore when I removed the tape, and it was significantly softer than the craft foam. I dented it even when doing my best to gently hold it by the edges.

I have seen McMaster-Carr suggested as a source for large sheets of EVA foam. Has anyone recently bought this foam or foam with identical properties? If so, how similar to craft foam is it for my purposes?

I don't see any way of getting a cheap sample, and I really don't want to order a sheet and then find out that I can't use it. (I already have a roll of mushy foam taking up space in my closet...) The moisture resistance and temperature range sound about right for craft foam, but the too-soft foam I had was also a charcoal color, and I can't tell from looking at this whether or not this foam would be likely to be stiff or soft.

The property list is as follows:

Form - Sheets
Backing - Plain Back
Material - EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate)
EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) Material Type - Moisture-Resistant EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) Foam
Durometer Range - Not Rated
Tensile Strength Range - 0 to 500 psi
Elongation Range - 201-300%
Lowest Operating Temperature - -99° to -1° F
Highest Operating Temperature - +100° to +200° F
Actual Operating Temperature Range - -70° to +160° F
Color - Charcoal

If anyone knows of other sources of stiff, dense EVA foam, I would appreciate knowing those as well. (I would especially love to know where the heck Yui gets her foam of the gods... ) I came across a foam site a while ago that sold something called toy foam in a variety of sheet sizes and thicknesses. I'm pretty sure that this was craft foam, but I haven't been able to relocate the site.
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Unread 01-16-2006, 11:24 PM   #2
xkiddo
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this craft foam sounds interesting! since you've used it before, I'm wondering if you can tell me if its a good material to use to make this visor [link] ?
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Unread 01-17-2006, 12:06 PM   #3
kabuki_ikenie
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i have worked with EVA rubber before... there's loads of different types of EVA and i suggest looking at sport shoes manufacturer supplies, since most sport shoes soles are made with EVA rubber...

check this out

http://www.deviantart.com/view/16311677/

i made this shoes some years ago. in my research for my prototype, i learnt about EVA rubber and about its densities... there's a stiff one for the outer sole (the one that touches the ground)... it feels like a tire or something it's very hard to cut (you need a special tool) and it's too hard to bend and keep shape... as for the other types of EVA, there's a "foamy" type, only much thicker (check that white part with the logo on it)... it has *almost* the same behaviour as the "foamy" (or fun foam), but it's more resistant since it's made for shoes!!

i brought these on a "sueleria" or a place where you buy all kind of stuff to make shoes... good luck!
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Unread 01-19-2006, 01:42 PM   #4
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i just went to joanns and they had huge rolls of the craft foam. it was the joanns superstore which is the bigger one that has more things than a smaller one.
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Unread 01-19-2006, 03:53 PM   #5
Rydain
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xkiddo
i just went to joanns and they had huge rolls of the craft foam. it was the joanns superstore which is the bigger one that has more things than a smaller one.
Aw man! I've heard something about certain JoAnn's carrying rolls of craft foam, but our local JoAnn's is small and never seems to carry anything bigger than those sheets I mentioned. I just checked the store's website. Apparently they don't sell the foam rolls there, and I live 3 hours from the closest super store. Sigh. I will be going near one this weekend, though, so hopefully I can persuade my husband to help me locate it.

In regard to your question about making the Ghost in the Shell visor out of foam - I really couldn't give you an informed answer. It looks possible to me
(though you wouldn't be able to get the same soft rounded edge as the prop in the picture), but I don't know how well it would work or how easy it would be because I've only made props consisting of flat plates bent into shape. I haven't tried constructing a 3-D object by cutting each side out of foam and gluing it all together. Amethyst Angel has quite a lot of experience at making 3-D items from foam and plastic, so perhaps she might have a better opinion on how you might proceed.
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Unread 02-09-2006, 07:51 PM   #6
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Update!

Lately I've been researching the vinyl over foam propmaking technique as shown in these amazing production diaries. The craftsman evidently uses polyethylene foam, which I can tell is not the same as craft foam because it can be carved neatly. (Try that with craft foam and you'll most likely make a mess.) I tried searching McMaster-Carr for polyethylene foam, and I think I found a winner. In the 1/4" thickness, the foam has a stiffness rating of 10 (which is comparable to a tennis ball), and it's CHEAP - $1.04 per foot of 24" wide foam sheet. It's available in a range of other thicknesses as well. Now I'm annoyed with myself for buying a bunch of craft foam sheets...but at least they were on sale.

I got rid of the mushy foam, so I don't feel doofy about ordering a bunch of this polyethylene stuff to play with. Hopefully it will do the trick, and if it doesn't, I'm sure one of my friends will find some use for it.
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Unread 02-13-2006, 02:20 PM   #7
trance
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keep us posted! it sounds pretty promising, and i've been looking for a technique similar to this-i'm really interested!

also, what was the exact product you chose? i've been looking at the website, and they have a LOT of materials in the catagories you mentioned.

good luck!
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Unread 02-13-2006, 03:48 PM   #8
Rydain
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trance
keep us posted! it sounds pretty promising, and i've been looking for a technique similar to this-i'm really interested!

also, what was the exact product you chose? i've been looking at the website, and they have a LOT of materials in the catagories you mentioned.

good luck!
I just ordered a bunch of foam last night. I don't think I can direct link to the product, but I can tell you how I got there.

1) Search for polyethylene foam.

2) In the list of form options, click on Sheets.

3) In the Polyethylene Material Type list, click on Polyethylene Foam.

4) Scroll down to the Thickness listing. Click on 1/4".

5) From here, all you need to do is pick a color and size. I chose white because it is easier to mark and paint. (Grey foam can of course be coated with gesso for a white surface.) The white foam only comes in 24" wide custom length pieces (sold by the yard), but that was what I wanted.

I started a thread on the vinyl over foam method, and whatever happens (good or bad), I'll post about it there. My foam shipped this morning, but I won't be able to do too much with it until I get some stretch vinyl and contact cement. I really hope that my experiments will be helpful to someone...
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Unread 02-13-2006, 04:25 PM   #9
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Tagged.

Would this stuff work for making armor?
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Unread 02-13-2006, 04:58 PM   #10
Rydain
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AquaHaute
Tagged.

Would this stuff work for making armor?
Yep. Craft foam and closed cell foam are great armormaking materials. I personally like to wave the foam over a medium-high electric burner for a few seconds to soften it and then bend it to shape. When it's curved the way I want it to be, I glue on any raised details and then finish the surface. My first foam projects (the gauntlets and armor of my Zhang He costume, which you can see in my gallery) were sealed with gesso and painted with cheap craft acrylics. Yui's painted foam work was (and, of course, still is!) very inspirational to me.

Amethyst Angel wrote a very popular tutorial for making slick-surfaced armor out of craft foam and plastic. She generally hot glues the plastic to the foam so that she can finish and bend the surface in a single step. Hot glue hates me, so if I wanted to use plastic, I would bend first and superglue the plastic on top afterward.

And then, of course, there's vinyl lamination. I've never tried this myself, but I will be giving it a go in the very near future. Stretch vinyl should cover many surfaces smoothly, but judging from the pictures and translated text of the awesome Japanese vinyl over foam armor site, if the surface is too convoluted (or requires bidirectional stretch and your vinyl only stretches one way), it seems that you have to remove the fabric backing and possibly heat the vinyl in order to get it to stretch enough. As I said, I haven't tried this, so I don't know the details.

It is possible to make complex curved pieces from foam. I'm not sure how good these will look when laminated with styrene (because complex curve pattern pieces involve cuts that need to be glued together), but they can work quite well with vinyl lamination and probably with paint as well (you can fill the crevices somewhat with gesso and hide visible irregularities with a stippled paint job). The Japanese armor site I linked to has a few examples of this. The artist apparently irons the seams of the curved pieces to smooth them before gluing on vinyl. I'm actually working on a revamp of my Zhang He armor with funky curved pauldrons and all. I can't promise it will be done anytime soon, but I can promise that a basic tutorial on complex curve/3D shape patterning will arise from the process.
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Unread 02-13-2006, 07:05 PM   #11
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hmmm....i've been looking at those production journals, and they have some pretty intense stuff. i can't really understand anything except the pictures, but i wonder if there would be a way to skip the vinyl step...like, would it be possible to eventually paint on the foam? the way i plan it out in my head is like this...

cut the foam, heat it, shape it.
sand, gesso, sand, paint, gloss

would that work? it seems almost too easy (relatively speaking)
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Unread 02-13-2006, 09:47 PM   #12
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Yes, you can paint directly onto the foam. See my post above yours for links to examples of this sort of work. Painting on the foam works best if you're going for a variegated paint job of some sort. You don't have to worry about having a super smooth base, and it is indeed easy...and FUN. You can just go nuts dabbing and stippling paint. I had a blast painting my Zhang He claws.

It is possible to smooth out the surface of the foam to some extent by repeatedly applying and sanding gesso. Zhang He's armor was made out of a rough-textured camping mat that I smoothed down somewhat with gesso. Sandable automotive primer might also be helpful. Might being the operative word here. I have used this to get a wonderful smooth surface on fiberglass, but I have never tried it on foam. If you wish to give it a shot, I highly recommend using a test piece of foam and sealing it thoroughly first with gesso or a craft foam-safe water-based spray primer. There's a good chance that some ingredient in the automotive primer could eat the foam, and I'd hate to see that happen to someone's project.

If you want a slick, smooth, and possibly shiny look, vinyl honestly appears to be the best way to go. The application process for simpler shapes doesn't seem to be that bad. Cut vinyl pieces the shape of your foam pieces plus a generous allowance around all edges. When you glue the vinyl to the foam, start in the center and smooth it out as you work toward the edges, and then turn the extra material underneath and glue it to the back of the piece. Be prepared to snip slits in the extra material so it will lay flat. Shapes like the curly pointy horns seem to be more difficult. From what I gather from the Google Translated version of the site, you have to carefully cut the vinyl so that the seam edges meet up precisely. I'm not confident enough to try anything like that for a very long time.
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Unread 02-13-2006, 10:05 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trance
hmmm....i've been looking at those production journals, and they have some pretty intense stuff. i can't really understand anything except the pictures, but i wonder if there would be a way to skip the vinyl step...like, would it be possible to eventually paint on the foam? the way i plan it out in my head is like this...

cut the foam, heat it, shape it.
sand, gesso, sand, paint, gloss

would that work? it seems almost too easy (relatively speaking)

The eva foam bought at your average hobby store only needs watered down glue to be able to paint it (+ gives a smooth finish!) Gesso would be overkill (and heavy)
Alternatively, you can use amethyst angel's technique and line the outside with styrene.
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Unread 02-15-2006, 03:41 PM   #14
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Gesso didn't add any noticeable weight to my pieces, but maybe that's because I used the cheap stuff (Liquitex Basics). I only applied 2-3 coats of it, too. Are there other types that are thicker and heavier?

My cheapo polyethylene foam is here. I haven't gotten to do anything with it yet, but my preliminary verdict is "pretty promising". On the plus side, it looks like a thinner version of the cheap Target camping mat that I successfully made chest armor out of. (I didn't have any trouble bending said mat over the stove without overcooking it or leaving finger dents.) I can pinch it without permanently denting it, and its surface seems durable and plasticky. However, the surface is more textured than the mat (which, when I dug it out of the closet to refresh my memory, turned out to be pretty smooth - I don't know WHY I remembered it as being rough). I don't think the texture is enough to show through fabric-backed vinyl - and styrene will definitely cover it - but it will probably limit my options for a painted finish. A stippled, textured paint job would work well, but I wouldn't go for a smooth finish without laminate or a ton of gesso and/or primer. I haven't tried carving this foam, but I doubt it will be possible.

Sorry I don't have any pictures or experimentation reports just yet. I just wanted to describe the foam before anyone else ordered it. Like I said, it will probably work out for what I want to do with it, but it's not quite as perfect as I'd hoped it would be.

Now that I think of it, I remember coming across a site with rather expensive "toy foam" sold in sheets of various thicknesses and colors, and I'm pretty sure that that was craft foam. Too bad I can't seem to locate it any more...

Last edited by Rydain : 02-15-2006 at 03:55 PM.
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Unread 02-16-2006, 10:31 AM   #15
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Ooh! Thanks for the idea of using a camping mat! Is it any easier to use than foam...or, what I'm trying to ask here (stupid brain) is this: would you recommend the use of a camping mat for making armor?
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