Thursday, June 7, 2007

"What is your armor made out of?"

The answer varies slightly for each project...

I have used small portions of 3mm to 6mm Foamies (and other similar closed-cell craft foam) and Styrene sheeting such as Sintra (which Saeru uses much more than I do) from time to time in detail areas, but the majority of my armor has been based from the stunningly wonderful "Mystery Foam" that I discovered by fluke from American Science & Surplus.

Some of examples with it in use (in some cases with other materials)
301017 P5290402 PC040260a 254022
243741 P6050053 253612 243281
new wings in progress 243284 PC040257 DSCF3491 3931 - Kingdom Hearts 2 - Riku's keyblade

Now, the website claims that it is "Insulite" - which it is not, as it does not share all the properties of real Insulite of which I have procured a sample from the manufacturer to compare. I've been trying to get AS&S to figure out what it -really- is for -years- but nobody really knows. Anyway...

Why I like this stuff:
  • It is easily cut with normal tools (scissors, razors, etc. Hot wire cutters not needed)
  • It is extremely lightweight and actually soft - which is great to wear and transport, but being thicker than styrene sheeting makes it more significantly-weighted-looking. (Most of the time, this is desirable as it doesn't look like a piece of cardboard. For really delicate joint areas, I still recommend swapping in some thinner hard plastic sheeting like Styrene.)
  • It can be bent, curved and heat-formed in all ways that Styrene can.
  • The corners can be sanded-down and rounded somewhat with a rotary tool.
  • Unlike Styrene which needs rivets, staples &/or fume-y epoxies or plastic cements, you can validly use hot glue for a permanent connection. Instead of just -adhering- the pieces of foam together, high temperature hot glue will actually slightly melt and fuse the edges of the foam to each other.
  • It does have -texture- which admittedly isn't great for sci-fi fiberglassy-smooth mecha-stuff, but as I'm always simulating stone or bio-masses or weathered beat-up metals, having a starting texture saves me a few steps. It does -not- have that terrible duct-tape-looking mesh weave that you find on Wonderflex, and only requires thick coatings of paint &/or gloss if you are looking for a smoother effect. If you are looking for a -very- smooth texture, Foamies aren't a bad way to go - the thicker Foamies just don't come in very big continual sheets, is all.
  • The foam does not like spray-paint very much, but that's okay, because I don't either. XD (Spray-paint, even good Krylon, will flake off pretty rapidly. Spray-paint will not, however, eat-away at this foam as tends to happen with open-celled Styrofoam.) Good medium to high-viscosity acrylic (such as Liquitex) will however adhere wonderfully if you're willing to hand-paint it - the plastics meld together and everything remains flexible so it cannot crack off. And! after painting is complete, the paint-job can be protected and made metal-looking with Liquitex "Gloss Varnish Flexible Surface."

This foam is also very very cheap for what can be gotten out of it. If you do not happen to live near Milwaukee, Chicago or Geneva, you can actually buy some of this miraculous foam from the online selection, but it will be the smaller sheets than what can be found in the stores.

(By the way, if anyone can help me identify what my foam truly is, I'd love to know cuz I want to have a back-up in case AS&S ever stops handling it.)

* New * We have a lead that this might be similar to "Lionboard" so I will try to find a sample to compare the two.

* Newest * AS&S no longer carries large pieces of the foam in the stores (just the smaller thicker olive-colored sheets)...however, a blue-colored version of this foam has been spotted in the camping section of Wal-mart marked as a sleeping pad.

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