Friday, November 23, 2007

The best thing since sliced turkey

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A little foamlore® today kiddies. Here's my quarry - an old sofa cushion I've been mining for many years - all the puppets I've made since Ahab came from this massive chunk of fluff.

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But as you can see, it was getting a bit ragged. It was great having such a big piece of foam, but I didn't have a decent way to cut off slabs from it. I used to just attack it with scissors, saws and knives and basically rip chunks from it - about as precise as a shark attack. Witness the results above.

But tonight the Thanksgiving Butterball came to the rescue - a strange ally in my ongoing pupetquest. I discovered my mom has an electric knife! Where that thing has been kept I couldn't say... I never knew she had one, but out it came along with the good china and monstrously huge dinner platters that come out only once or twice a year (and that I got to wash along with the other menfolk this year..... ). Seeing it triggered memories - I had read somewhere on some vast black message board that such a knife is perfect for cutting foam cleanly - so I appropriated it and whisked it away to the Darkstudio under the pretext of fixing the latch, which is hard for her senior hands to open easily. It took me all of two minutes to X-acto away a little sliver of grey plastic and fix the latch, and then the fun began.

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Clean as a whistle!!! (a saying that has never made sense to me.... maybe a brand new whistle is clean, but after a while they get filled with all kinds of saliva reside.....)

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Now I have a nice stack of neatly sliced foam slabs! It actually took me about two hours to cut all these pieces because the knife gets really hot. It's not used to so much stress for a prolonged period - it takes maybe 2 minutes to cut all the way through the entire cushion, and by that time it's hot and needs to cool off for a half hour before making the next incision. I don't use electric things when they're hot anymore, ever since losing my first Dremel that way.

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And here's some Deli-Sliced® foam too - otherwise known as Athletic Pre-Wrap. It's also known as UnderWrap in case you're looking for it locally. It's used underneath tape when athletes wrap parts of their anatomies. But I know a better use for it - shaping puppets and wrapping their tiny little limbs.

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Here's how I use these two foamslices in conjunction to form puppets. Above I've (crudely) fashioned what I term a foam Bodytaco for Huck (from back in November 2006 - wow, have I really been working on these guys for over a year now!!!???). A little spritz of spray adhesive is what attaches the foam to itself and to the armature.

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Then I shape with scissors as closely as I can, which leaves a kind of bulky semi-formed puppetbody.

And finally I wrap that with the underwrap, using little dabs of Barge flexible contact adhesive at each end to secure it. It's nasty, stinky, toxic stuff, but it's the preferred adhesive among puppetsmiths. The underwrap can compress the cushion foam where needed, like for waists, and build up form in areas like hips or chest. You can cut it into strips and fold them over if you need to. For arms and legs that will be covered with clothing you can just use it alone, no cushion foam needed.

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I've also devised a technique of sculpting forms from liquid latex and cabosil to make implants (like for Veronica's boob job) that can then be Barged on and wrapped in place to give further shape.

Ok, well Kiddies, I hope you've learned something today. Fabbin' with Foam can be Fun!!!


Paul (Vortex42) said...

Great post! I might take a pop down to town and pick one of those up!

Loving the nudie pic of Veronica!

UbaTuber said...

Ditto the nudie pic.....strangely erotic :)
Excellent tip about the carving knife, I struggled with this stuff making props for that play a few months ago, had to carve out leg-sized pieces with a pair of scissors, ugh....never again now, though, thanks!

Darkmatters said...

I also recall reading that a beard trimmer or electric clippers are good for trimming it to shape. Hmmm.... I gots one of those around about here somewheres.....

Sven Bonnichsen said...

Excellent! I've heard often about using an electric knife -- but never saw it demonstrated before. Seeing is believing!

Good tip about using electric clippers, too.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, Mike the Knife!

Michael Granberry said...

Awesome post, Mr. Strider, as usual! By the way, I have a suggestion for another adhesive for tacking down the underwrap--"Fabri-Tac" is a permanent adhesive made by Beacon Adhesives, available in most fabric stores and some art stores. Put some in a lil' plastic syringe and apply drops where you need's much less harsh than Barge and great for thin stuff like underwrap, not to mention fabric, hair, etc...They use this at Shadow Machine, which is where I found out about it. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Hey Strider - its ur Niece. That is a new knife - i bought it for the g-ma this year because she specifically requested it. So you were not fooled, she just aquired a new item! lol, Glad it could help you so!


Darkmatters said...

Hey cool!!!

Um Jazz.... ya don't actually have to mention to her that I like.... uh... used it to cut foam and stuff....