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Old March 25th, 2007, 02:35 PM   #16
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Not as grand as Boyd's, but I made a number of styrofoam grave stones to put in the yard at Halloween. Idea is that they are 18th century so all the names have worn away . . .
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Old March 25th, 2007, 02:57 PM   #17
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If you use styrofoam be sure to test any spray paint on a scrap before using it on a finished project. The solvent in spray paint will eat into the styrofoam and make a mess; generally speaking it's a bad idea to use spray paint on styrofoam. If you do a base coat with the Jaxsan product I mentioned, that *might* protect the foam but again I would do a test and let it sit overnight. You may not see a problem at first, but after several hours sometimes the solvent will gradually eat into the foam.

As a general rule, only use water-based paints on anything which is made from styrofoam.
Good point. I had only used it on wood myself. How about a primer spray, or some other pre-coating befor using the spray paint. What would work?
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Old March 25th, 2007, 03:05 PM   #18
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Paint on the stones I did is just a high quality grey laytex. It stuck just fine to the 2" blue insulation board. When dry I applied several different washes with thinned down paint to simulate weathering.

Last edited by Peter Wiley; March 25th, 2007 at 03:07 PM. Reason: odd word
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Old March 25th, 2007, 03:11 PM   #19
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Photo references

Good idea, too, to look at some photos of real stones

http://www.graveaddiction.com/cemindex.html
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Old March 25th, 2007, 05:14 PM   #20
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How about a primer spray, or some other pre-coating befor using the spray paint. What would work?
The important thing is to use only water-based paints on styrofoam. The solvents used in most spray paints will eat into the styrofoam. And it may be a slow process which isn't immediately visible. Same thing with panel adhesives - use only water based adhesives also.

Many years ago when I was teaching, a student made a big wedding cake out of a number of stacked styrofoam disks glued together with "Liquid Nails" panel adhesive. It looked good when I saw it in the afternoon. The next morning when we came into the shop it looked like a Swiss cheese with big holes where the solvent leached through overnight, the whole thing was ruined.

Rosco makes a variety of products to coat styrofoam: http://www.rosco.com/us/scenic/index.asp

We don't use these very often though since we like the "Jaxsan" product described above. But I would still be careful with any solvent based spray paint because the solvent may penetrate your primer. Test with a scrap of styrofoam and let dry overnight instead of taking a chance ruining a finished piece.
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Old March 26th, 2007, 02:38 PM   #21
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Nice stuff Boyd! Any particular adhesive you use to make the larger blocks?

Two other tips for headstones:

1) There's all sorts of pre-carved wood goodies at home depot, like spirals, edging, etc, that aren't that expensive and look great when put on your form headstone....

2) You can texture the thing by using simple paper mache - this is particularly good for an old-looking head stone. Also, if you have a mold or form (say of a skull), you can paper-mache the inside of the that, let it dry, then apply in to your headstone.

It's tougher than you'd think - unless it really ges wet, it holds it's shape...
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Old March 26th, 2007, 02:58 PM   #22
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Nice stuff Boyd! Any particular adhesive you use to make the larger blocks?
Just look through the panel adhesives in any large hardware store or home center. Read the labels and you will find some which are recommended for "foam board insulation."

When we were doing big projects with styrofoam we used an industrial spray adhesive called "Stay Put II" which comes in 30 lb pressurized cannisters. Our local distributor stopped carrying it however, so we usually just get panel adhesives from local stores for small projects. But you can order it from Outwater Plastics - aerosol spray cans would be more practical for little jobs:

http://www.outwatercatalogs.com/2006...29&catalog=otm

By the way, something not mentioned yet in this discussion is the MESS involved when working with styrofoam. Don't do this inside your house! The shavings from sanding/shaping/sawing are statically charged and stick to everything. Will also make a mess outside if they blow around, your neighbors won't be happy ;-) Be sure to have a good shop vacuum handy. You should also wear goggles for eye protection. Little flecks of styrofoam can really irritate your eyes.
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Old March 26th, 2007, 03:00 PM   #23
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Thanks Boyd!

Great info (I always wondered how they made such huge blocks for things like LORD OF THE RINGS).
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Old March 26th, 2007, 03:19 PM   #24
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Well that might be something completely different....

Urethane foam is very nice for carving. It's completely different from styrofoam, has a much finer "grain" to it and can be good for this sort of thing. Also nice for statues where you want fine detail. It can be sanded smooth. But kind of nasty to work with, the dust is like itching powder!

But Hollywood especially likes to work with spray foam. You can build rough shapes out of wood, chicken wire, styrofoam... anything. Then you spray a two-part foam (mixes in the nozzle as you spray) and it expands to a much larger volume. Very cool stuff. There are different densities, so you can make something strong enough to walk on or very light and fragile. But there are some serious health issues related to the fumes, so we have decided not to use it anymore. You need the proper kind of ventillation and respirators, it's not for hobbyists! But it's a really fast way to cover large surfaces, and it tends to create rock-like textures all by itself.

Here's an example from a few years ago. We took a bunch of rough-cut styrofoam chunks (an electric chain saw works well for this) and sprayed over the whole thing to create a rough rocky texture:http://tech.operaphilly.com/sets/car...ample01/03.pdf
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Old March 30th, 2007, 10:58 AM   #25
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Very cool.

Maybe because I was raised on the original STAR TREK, which used so much faux rock, but I am fasinated by this stuff.

Where would you order the spray form and what's the genral cost?

Great info Boyd -

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Old March 30th, 2007, 04:18 PM   #26
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Need help creating a tombstone

Just a thought,if you want to see some spectacular created settings and how to produce stuff like that, take a look at some taxidermy creations as far as rocks, water etc, when I had my shops rocks or similar stuff can be created with a base of styrofoam, wood, plaster, etc, then you spray a solution on elmers white glue and water, then sprinkle some sand, whatever grain you wanted, then airbrush to a certain color. i guess a tombstone could be created in this manner.I think you could buy powdered or granulated granite and that would work in place of sand
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Old March 30th, 2007, 09:37 PM   #27
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Where would you order the spray form and what's the genral cost?
We were using the Dow Froth Paks:

http://www.dow.com/buildingproducts/frothpak/

See the photo at the bottom of this page. It's a self-contained kit which you discard when done:

http://www.dow.com/buildingproducts/...rod_config.htm

Looking in our records, we paid $220 for the 180 kit (makes 16.6 cubic feet of foam) and $530 for the 600 kit (50 cu ft of foam):

http://www.dow.com/buildingproducts/...rod_config.htm

But keep in mind these were prices from September 2003. If you're interested in using something like this, find a local foam/insulation company. They should be able to quote you a current price and order for you.

However, this really isn't something to play around with in your basement :-) There are serious safety issues related to using a product like this. You need the proper respirator for the fumes, and as the foam cures it releases a lot of heat, possibly enough to be a concern. We were lucky to have a local vendor who is also an opera fan. He came over to our shop and spent awhile with our scenic artist demonstrating how to use the foam and relating a lot of interesting stories about various projects he's done (my favorite was about a "grotto" he created in the basement of a North Jersey mobster :-)

We haven't used it since learning of some city ordinances related to the amount of flammable/pressurized containers we could have on site without a special license. And the health issues are also a concern. But it's very impressive stuff and I'm sure we will eventually want to work with it again.
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Old March 31st, 2007, 08:34 AM   #28
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I think there are electric powered hot wire cutters like soldering irons for finer shaping and engraving work on foam. Long ago in Perth W.A., I think Paul Ritter, noted architect and city planner was using them to carve negative molds for his sculpcrete process.

I think I saw them again in the "how-we-dunnit" clips on the "Whale Rider" DVD extras, where they detailed the construction of the big wooden sea canoe.

IMPORTANT HAZARD ISSUE - Like the setting vapours, I think you need to stay out of the hazardous fumes from hot wire work.

Last edited by Bob Hart; March 31st, 2007 at 08:36 AM. Reason: added sentence
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Old March 31st, 2007, 08:56 AM   #29
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Yes, you can buy hot wire cutters and I have made them myself. But be REALLY CAREFUL. Burning some kinds of foam can release cyanide gas! I would stay away from this technique myself. You will find it easy to carve, sand and saw styrofoam with inexpensive handyman tools.
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Old March 31st, 2007, 09:31 PM   #30
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Yes, you can buy hot wire cutters and I have made them myself. But be REALLY CAREFUL. Burning some kinds of foam can release cyanide gas! I would stay away from this technique myself. You will find it easy to carve, sand and saw styrofoam with inexpensive handyman tools.
Indeed! This is a material hazard for anything containing Polyurethanes.
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