April 2012 – Easter Stage Set
“I’ve been thinking of expanding my mediums to foam.”
With this simple sentence I doubled the number of materials I work with here at the Cardboard Workshop. Now i’m not changing the name of this blog to the cardboard/foam/other stuff blog, but I am excited to try out this new medium.
The project was to construct three foam crosses for the main stage during Easter. The design was based off of our branding, three spindly crosses with askew cross beams. Our tallest cross would be 12′ so we reached the point where scale mattered and I created a photoshop document with foam pieces overlaid with the branding. This gave me a sense of the scale as well as how much foam we would need to acquire.
We placed an order with Insulfoam for three 12″ x 12″ x 120″ (10ft) foam beams and three 12″ x 12″ x 72″ (6ft) shorter pieces. This would give me a little wiggle room and some extra space to practice some of my first foam cuts. Cutting foam is very different than cutting cardboard. With cardboard you just need a good razor blade and a flat surface to make any cut. I have gotten very good at crafting my cardboard creations, the knife does what I want it to almost 90% of the time. (Which is pretty skilled) But foam is a new surface to me, it needs special hot knife tools that melt through it more than cut. Our Children’s department had acquired a set of basic hot wire tools from the Hot Wire Foam Factory for cutting, slicing, and trimming high density foam.
The Foam Arrives
Our foam arrived delivered from Insulfoam shrink wrapped in sets of three. This foreign medium stood contained in our office for a week as my schedule cleared and I formed my plan of attack. I transferred my scale measurements onto the first 12′ block using the grid method.
Our media department has a large cargo shipping container we store most of our extra gear and tools. There was just enough clear floorspace to use as a simple workshop for the foam cross project. Now this part is very important so it will be marked in large bold font.
Always cut foam in a well ventilated area. I cut mine outside with a breeze or a large fan keeping the fumes away from me. Cut foam will produce fumes and proper safety precautions must be taken.
Now with that out of the way, I began my first cuts with our blue industrial hot knife. This tool was great, it cut very quickly and was easy to clean with the included wire brush. I shaped down the main beam into a rounder shape by repeatedly trimming corners. This took he shape from a square (4), to an octagon (8), to a hexadecagon (16) and so on and so forth.
Next I cut a large notch out of both pieces of foam and fit them together into the cross shape. The final detail work was done with the freehand router tool which gave the foam a beautiful rough wood texture.
Painting and Stands
With Easter fast approaching I enlisted the aid of my media team friends to help with the final texturing, painting and mounting the crosses on bases. A quick trip to Home Depot secured some 2’x2′ wood bases, which we ineffectively tried to scan in the self serve lane.
Jesus and Joe applied the first test coats of paint on the crosses. We had to secure water based craft paint from Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Normal spray paint will eat through and dissolve foam.
We drove a wooden stake 18″ up the center of the main foam block and cross braced it onto the 2′ wooden bases. These were painted flat black and could be screwed directly into the stage decks, securing the crosses from tipping over. While the final pieces would be extremely light the last thing we want on Easter is a falling cross.
In the end we had produced a trio of tree brown crosses, textured and shaped to be as close to wood as possible with our skills and timetable.