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Subject: Best way to get straight and clean cuts on foamcore? rss

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Ken Hill
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Just starting to try to build my inserts and I can't seem to cut straight and cleanly. I'm sure that there are tricks of the trade.

Anyone care to share?

Thanks
 
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Francisco Gutierrez
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Sharp knife, metal ruler, and practice
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Brent Gerig
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I bought a FoamWerks foam cutting tool. Combine that with a good metal straightedge, and you should get really clean cuts.
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Rob
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Most important thing - a very sharp blade. Once the blade begins to dull it will start tearing through the foam as opposed to slicing it cleanly.

I use a metal ruler as a guide to cut along for straight lines. Get one with a cork backing so it doesn't slide around on you while cutting.

Using a proper cutting mat under the foamcore also helps to keep it from moving and helps your blades stay sharp longer.

Edit: Beaten to it.
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Ken Hill
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Best way to make sure you have an even cut - I thought about an old t-square tool. It is just as simple as making sure you have good measurements?
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Ken Hill
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Osiron wrote:
Most important thing - a very sharp blade. Once the blade begins to dull it will start tearing through the foam as opposed to slicing it cleanly.

I use a metal ruler as a guide to cut along for straight lines. Get one with a cork backing so it doesn't slide around on you while cutting.

Using a proper cutting mat under the foamcore also helps to keep it from moving and helps your blades stay sharp longer.

Edit: Beaten to it.


I've acquired all of that stuff I think: Self-healing mat, xacto knife, straight edges. Maybe it just takes some practice
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Drake Coker
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I'll agree with checking the knife is really sharp. Foamcore does a number on blades and they dull surprisingly quickly.
 
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Brent Gerig
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KenH wrote:
I've acquired all of that stuff I think: Self-healing mat, xacto knife, straight edges. Maybe it just takes some practice

Just a warning: since you're using an xacto knife, you're going to have the blade running directly against your straightedge. If your straightedge is anything soft (wood, aluminum, etc.), then you'll invariably catch it with your blade, turning it into an unstraightedge over time.

Also, a couple of the most important things to getting a good, clean, straight cut:
- Blade angle (front-to-back, not side-to-side) -- you want your blade to be about 45 degrees from the foam core.
- Cutting depth: you don't necessarily want to cut all the way through the first time. Just take it easy, multiple passes, let the blade do its thing without forcing it. On your final cut, you ideally want the tip of the blade to just barely penetrate the bottom layer.

I like the FoamWerks knife because it takes care of both of those things for me, plus has a nice long plastic edge that runs against the straightedge. But it can definitely be done with an xacto.
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James Arias
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I use a metal carpenter's square and a carpet/utility knife, and I'm still learning

Just cut a bunch of cork-backed-foamboard map tiles for a dungeon crawler ... Inside corners are a PAIN!

TerrainTutor on youtube has some nice how-to videos. I've also seen some good ones here in the forums.
 
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Brent Gerig
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crazybyzantine wrote:
I use a metal carpenter's square and a carpet/utility knife, and I'm still learning

I really hope you don't use an actual carpet knife. Those blades are two-sided and sharp. When using them, there's an exposed edge on the top as well as the bottom. I ended up with 3 stitches and permanent nerve damage on my thumb from one of those (was actually cutting carpet, but was stupidly not wearing gloves). Not a good tool for crafts.
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Ken Hill
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flaquito wrote:
I like the FoamWerks knife because it takes care of both of those things for me, plus has a nice long plastic edge that runs against the straightedge. But it can definitely be done with an xacto.


OK, I think the FoamWerks knife is definitely on my list. Have you tried their straight edge cutter? Seems to require the guide but that seems like a good investment as well.
 
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Andrew Dale
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One tip I picked up is that it is important to be drawing the blade towards you and while doing so make sure it remains upright. Standing-up is important as the cutting action then means you are pulling the blade towards your side. It's a more natural motion and easier to keep it straight.

That should increase the chances of getting a neat and straight cut. But practice is the main thing - expect to get a few wrong to start with.
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Brent Gerig
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KenH wrote:
OK, I think the FoamWerks knife is definitely on my list. Have you tried their straight edge cutter? Seems to require the guide but that seems like a good investment as well.

I haven't. Just the knife with a steel carpenter's square.

I did experiment with some different ways of doing corners... can cut a V with 2 45-degree cuts that don't go through the bottom layer, then you can fold it for a nice corner. Also can make a cut all the way through, then make another one one foam-core-width away from the edge that doesn't go all the way through. Scrape off the foam and top layer, and you've got a rabbet joint.
 
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Ken Hill
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What do you use for an adhesive? I've been trying craft glue but I'm not sure if that's the best option or not.

Thanks.
 
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Doug Lewis
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KenH wrote:
OK, I think the FoamWerks knife is definitely on my list. Have you tried their straight edge cutter? Seems to require the guide but that seems like a good investment as well.

If you're going to be doing this with any regularity, the FoamWerks stuff is the best option hands down. The amount of time and effort (and wrist wear) saved is worth every penny. Can't recommend their products enough.

The straight edge cutter can be used without the guide. Once you use it with the guide, though, you'll never go without again.

KenH wrote:
What do you use for an adhesive? I've been trying craft glue but I'm not sure if that's the best option or not.

Thanks.

My choice for adhesive is the same I would use for terrain - a mix of Elmer's and water applied with a brush. Haven't done it in a while, but I think the mix was 50/50. If it's something that could use an extra bit of style (or support), I'll add some flat-head pins.
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Craig B
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Cut with a sharp blade and a metal ruler.

Don't attempt to cut through in 1 go, cut a very shallow guideline on the first pass, then go deeper, then on the third one go all the way.
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Brent Gerig
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KenH wrote:
What do you use for an adhesive? I've been trying craft glue but I'm not sure if that's the best option or not.

Thanks.


Aleen's Tacky Glue.
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Gadi Oron
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Any kind of superglue / 3 seconds glue, it melts the foamcore a bit and you get a very strong binding.

KenH wrote:
What do you use for an adhesive? I've been trying craft glue but I'm not sure if that's the best option or not.

Thanks.
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Andrew Dale
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KenH wrote:
What do you use for an adhesive? I've been trying craft glue but I'm not sure if that's the best option or not.

Thanks.


I used to use tacky PVA but have been experimenting with Gorilla wood glue which is very very good. Sets up quickly and is a very strong bond. It is definitely foam-safe despite the "no foam" text on the bottle. Used it to toughen up foamcore edges without issue.

UK link but for reference it's:

http://www.screwfix.com/p/gorilla-glue-wood-glue-236ml/43424...
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Jake Staines
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I also use Aleene's Original Tacky Glue, which I was impressed to find actually lived up to most of the bold claims on the bottle. No idea if it's genuinely America's favourite craft glue, but it does grab really well and form a pretty strong join - since I started using it I've not had to use pins or even really tape for foamcore.

CA glue never occurred to me, I'll have to give it a go!

andrewmdale wrote:

It is definitely foam-safe despite the "no foam" text on the bottle.


Out of curiosity, does it definitely say that it's not safe for foam as opposed to non-foaming? IIRC regular Gorilla Glue is a polyurethane glue that foams as it cures, forcing the glue further into the clamped-up joint, whereas the one you linked to is a PVA which shouldn't foam at all but also I can't imagine why it should cause any problems for the common kinds of foam people have around the house!
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Lee Saunders
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Bichatse wrote:
I also use Aleene's Original Tacky Glue, which I was impressed to find actually lived up to most of the bold claims on the bottle. No idea if it's genuinely America's favourite craft glue, but it does grab really well and form a pretty strong join - since I started using it I've not had to use pins or even really tape for foamcore.

CA glue never occurred to me, I'll have to give it a go!

andrewmdale wrote:

It is definitely foam-safe despite the "no foam" text on the bottle.


Out of curiosity, does it definitely say that it's not safe for foam as opposed to non-foaming? IIRC regular Gorilla Glue is a polyurethane glue that foams as it cures, forcing the glue further into the clamped-up joint, whereas the one you linked to is a PVA which shouldn't foam at all but also I can't imagine why it should cause any problems for the common kinds of foam people have around the house!


You are 100% correct on the foaming. They really mean that it is a non-foaming glue.

On their web page: http://www.gorillatough.com/gorilla-wood-glue

In the FAQ section, there is a question:

"Original Gorilla Glue Foams as it cures. Does Gorilla Wood Grue foam?"

and the answer is:

"Gorilla Wood Glue is a water-based polyvinyl acetate (PVA) and will not foam as it dries.

Original Gorilla Glue, however, does expand 3–4 times the amount that you apply."

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Todd Egbert
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Aleene's quick dry and fast grab work well also.
 
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Amy Woods
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Would something like this band saw work? https://www.toolstation.com/shop/p30127
 
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Sam Phillips Beckerman
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Multiple passes with the blade is the way to go. Because the top and bottom are a different density than the middle, putting pressure on the blade as you cut just gets wobbly. I use 3 cuts. That means that the angle is very important so that the different cuts match up.
 
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