Styrofoam is a lightweight material that, when worked well, can be used to create expressive models. Using a block of styrofoam you can re-create the unique soaring architectural style that distinguishes the design of churches during the medieval era. Many of the techniques used in wood carving can be applied to styrofoam to create detailed lines, planes and curves. This makes the material useful for building 3D models that can be enjoyed from any angle.
Create a foam block large enough from which to sculpt the full model of the church. A foam block of any size can be created by gluing multiple foam sheets or blocks together using a foam adhesive. Allow the adhesive to dry before beginning the carving process.
Create reference materials for use in sculpting the church. Photos of the actual church taken from multiple angles or drawings of a church in the medieval style done from various angles can serve as reference materials.
Mark the design for your church on the foam block. Draw all faces of the church on the sides of the block, marking the areas that will be cut away from the block.
Use a hot-wire foam cutter to carve away the larger portions of the foam block that are not needed for the church carving. Turn the cutter on and wait 30 seconds for the wire to reach cutting temperature. Place the wire on the edge of the foam at one of the marked lines and slowly move it through the foam using the lines as a guide. The wire will quickly cut through the foam making a clean line. Use this method to cut out the general shape of the church from the larger foam block.
Create greater detail in the foam using a hobby knife to cut away smaller chunks of unneeded foam. A wood rasp can be dragged along the foam to aid in creating greater details.
Continue to sculpt your shape from the foam block using a sharp hobby knife and a wood rasp to create details. Use assorted carving knives to cut away corners and openings in the block. Follow the cuts with files to smooth the cut surfaces. Use the photo or drawings of your church to guide you during the sculpting process until you've finished carving the model.
Sand the edges of the model to smooth the surface. Use a fine-grained sandpaper to gain as smooth a surface on the model as possible. This will help if you intend to paint the model after construction.
Using a hot-wire cutter on styrofoam creates fumes that can be hazardous when breathed, cut only in a well-ventilated area.
Tips and warnings
- Using a hot-wire cutter on styrofoam creates fumes that can be hazardous when breathed, cut only in a well-ventilated area.