Monday, November 14, 2011

More Experiments with Foam Sheet

This is the first time I have done it, and I really should have done it every time someone new joined the blog, but I would like to welcome the new readers Captain Richard's Miniature Civil War, Schrumpfkopf, and Danjou's Hand. I hope you enjoy the material.

Using Foam for Arms, Feet, and Spiky Bits

So, I told you in a previous blog entry that I was going to experiment more with craft foam sheet for those parts that need more flexibility, or that are just a bit too hard to produce in wood. In this first example, I want to reproduce the classic 'defending' pose, as shown in the figure below.

In order to make arms for this pose, the material for the arms and hands really have to be flexible, hence experimenting with foam sheet. As you can see in the figure below, using a wooden template I cut a 'bent arm' shape from purple foam, glued it to the sides, glued the hands to the musket, and have a perfect shape. (The right hand has some modelling paste on it where I had to fill in cutting out too much foam.)

One of my concerns about using foam sheet is that it will not be solid enough to withstand handling. Only time will tell, but my thoughts were to try to saturate the foam with various liquids to both give it more strength and to provide a better painting surface. Previous tests with standard white glue were not satisfactory as the water-based paint dissolved the glue to some degree. Using Gorilla Glue Super Glue was a thought, but it is expensive and the foam absorbs a lot of liquid. In this last test I used Liquitex Matte Medium and the thickness seemed to clog the pores and create a even surface. Although I would not say the foam is significantly stronger, it is more rigid.

So here is the Prussian Napoleonic Landwehr private painted up. Although the top of the hat should be larger – a flat head plug of the appropriate size would be better than a 1/3 spool – I am not going to complain with the results.

You can see how I used a lot of foam for this troglodyte archer (still needs his bow). Although the hands look misshapen and out of scale, you can easily cut it back once you fold the material, glue it in place, and see what needs to show and what can go.

Making Templates

The easiest way to get a little consistency in you foam parts is to make a template. I created my in a computer drawing program, printed it to paper, used that paper to transfer to wood, then cut the wooden part out. You want a wood (or metal) template so that when you cut around it with scissors, you cannot damage the template itself.

Here you can see my template for the bent arm. I usually cut a little excess at the flat end to make the hand, leaving more material if I need a longer hand to grip something. Once I've fashioned the wood piece I can simply press it hard into the foam sheet and cut out the indentation, as (barely) shown in the figure below right.

The troglodyte arm and hand was fashioned in the same way, using an old wooden base for the template material. I hand-drew the arm and hand (should have used the computer) and whittled the foam down to a manageable size from there.

Again, getting the basic shape is the most important thing, not getting the perfect shape. (Although that's nice too.)

For my spiky bits (troglodyte crests and spines) I found some craft scissors in the scrapbooking section of Michael's and found some that produced a nice jagged edge cut. Those make creating strips of spiky bits very easy!

The good thing about craft foam sheet is that they come in a variety of thicknesses and colors.

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