Sculpting foam is a hobby for some people and a living for others, but the beauty of most foam products is that they are easy to work with and a variety of tools can be used to sculpt and mould the foam into the exact shape you are looking for. When it comes to finishing the project and sanding everything to a smooth finish, it helps to know exactly what types of tools you can use to make the job easier.
Sandpaper is the most common tool used to shape foam. A rougher grit will allow you to take care of the roughest areas or allow you to remove more foam in one swipe. Smoother sandpapers are used for the finest areas where only a small amount of polishing is necessary, or where just the tiniest bit of foam needs to be removed. One hundred grit paper is sufficient for rough work, while 200 grit is recommended for finishing work.
Sanding Block Pad
Sanding block pads are nothing more than sandpaper wrapped around a block of some kind. While you can buy pre-made sanding block pads at any home improvement store, they can also be created in a pinch using a block of wood or other material and a piece of sandpaper wrapped around it. They are most useful in areas where detail is not as important as the hand-tooled sections.
Files and Rasps
Files and rasps can be used in a variety of stages during the scoping process. The more aggressive files with large teeth will rip larger chunks of foam away from your project, while a medium rasp or file will remove smaller pieces and leave a smoother finish for working on later with sanding blocks or sandpaper. Fine rasps and files are not useful because the foam can pack up and block the teeth from working. Sandpaper is more effective on the final touches of a project.
While rotary tools, such as a Dremel, can be used to shape foam, they are generally only used for the roughest sections of the project. The most important factor when using a rotary tool is to remember to keep the RPMs of the machine as low as possible; go too high and the foam will melt, rather than flaking away. The type of bit used depends on how aggressive and rough you want a section to be.
Regardless of which method of sanding is used on polystyrene foam, dust and particles are a major factor. Safety glasses should always be worn, and a dust mask or respirator should be used at all times. Gloves are optional.
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