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Foam

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Mjolnir:
Question, I live about thirty minutes from the west side of Fort Collins, Colorado, I need to buy some foam. What is the best type of foam, what is the difference between one foam and the next and where can I buy some? A few pointers would be helpful.

[ June 04, 2005: Message edited by: Mjolnir the Axeman ]

Wymarc Ironwill:
in my opinion the VERY BEST foam is called "evalite" (sp) and you can buy that off line it is just very expensive.

The easiest way to get good foam is from walmart. Its in the camping section. Its in big blue rolls and its about 6 bucks a roll.

Rule of thumb- The green stuff from mijer is a BIG no-no.

Good luck and happy building.

Magnus:
Well, I believe I can offer some insights.

There are 2 kinds of foam you'll be using to make weapons and shields, open-cell and closed-cell.  You've probably seen both kinds before: open-cell is the yellow, white, or light green stuff that sofa cushions are made from, and the gray stuff that computer components are shipped in.  Closed-cell, on the other hand, is the stuff that foam camping mats are made from, as well as some sports pads.

Closed-cell is what you use to make most if not all of pretty much every weapon you'll make, whereas the softer, squishier open-cell is what you use to make stabbing or piercing tips, like spears, arrows, and javelins, as well as padding some kinds of shield--generally, the heavier, wooden-core kind, since they hit a lot harder than the lightweight, foam-core kind and therefore need more padding when used to bash someone.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of the various grades of each kind, their appearances, and their uses, as I and others have employed them.

Open-Cell

1. Couch foam: this is yellow and squishy and comes in thick pieces.  It used to be THE foam for Dagorhir weapons and shields, but that was about 22 years ago.  These days, it's most useful in making rocks and some javelin heads.

2.  Cushion foam:  this is light green, not as squishy as yellow foam, and you can find it at Jo-Ann Fabric Stores in the cushionmaking section.  It's relatively cheap, easy to find, and comes in large pieces, so it's the ideal choice for making a less expensive wood-core shield, though you'll need to use a "sandwich" construction method to make sure it's not too soft.  Don't bother with the white stuff, as it is too soft to be useful.

3.  Computer foam:  this comes in various shades of gray, though they two best I have encountered are either light gray, come in blocks 2" x 4" or 4" x 4", and very stiff, or are dark gray (charcoal) in color, known by the brand name 'Unifoam,' and can be found at McMaster-Carr.  This foam is very easy to work with and just stiff enough for all your needs.  I would recommend the 2" thickness.

Closed-Cell

1.  Camping mat foam:  This polyolefin foam is blue, 3/8" thick, found in the Camping section at Wal-Marts across the country, and costs a mere $5.88 a roll.  Used by, I would wager, 90 out of every 100 Dagorhir fighters to make swords, flails, and most if not all the padding on their shields, it is by far the most convenient and cheapest foam to make weapons with.  It will eventually break down after about a year of hard use, but is easily replaced.  NOTE: some use this foam, in 4 layers, as the entirety of their shield's padding.  I would not recommend this, as it makes for a very hard shield, though in most realms it will technically pass.  NOTE: Target also has foam similar to this, except it is only 1/4" thick, and costs $10.  Don't use this.

2.  Ethyl Vinyl Acetate (EVA) foam:  You can find one kind of this foam, usually made by Coleman, at Wal-Mart as well.  It is typically dark blue or dark green in color, and has bumps on one side.  It costs twice as much, but is a much higher-quality foam.  The bumps make it impractical for swordmaking, but it works well as padding on shields or axes, when if the open-cell foam you have is too soft but your other closed-cell is too firm.  The other, more commonly-used kind is called EVAlite, and is probably the best kind of closed-cell for Dagorhir weaponsmithing.  It is also available from McMaster-Carr, and you will likely want the 1/2" thick kind.  This is good for all applications, especially swords and arrows, as it does not break down the way blue foam will.  It also costs about 4 times as much as blue foam, but once you get the hang of making weapons, seriously consider switching to this foam for the weapons you plan to use most of the time.  NOTE: it comes in two colors, black and gray.  The black foam is firmer, the gray is squishier, and both will make legal weapons.  By the time you get to the point where you want to use EVAlite, you'll probably already know which firmness you want.

3.  Plastazote:  This foam, light pink in color, was recently recommended to me by Chief, who uses it.  It is quite firm, perhaps a little too firm for making the blade of a sword you plan to use in Dagorhir, but it is heat-moldable.  I have used it to make the inner part of the blade on the latest sword I made, with EVAlite forming an outside layer.  I wouldn't recommend it unless you know what you're doing, but it seems pretty good.

There you have it.  Good luck!

Dominus:
For Magnus' recommended foams from McMaster-Carr (above), Unifoam and EVAlite. The part numbers are included below for your online shopping convenience. I recommend these also, way above the other varieties. They're more expensive, but you get what you pay for.

Open Cell: McMaster-Carr Unifoam 2" thick 24" x 48" part 85735K56 for $23.95

Closed Cell: McMaster-Carr EVAlite 1 sheet of 3/8" thick part 86095K23, for $20.46
McMaster-Carr EVAlite 1/2 sheet of 1/2" part 86095K24, for $23.83

And Magnus, with your permission, I'm going to put your eloquent foam treatise on Dagorhir's How-To page. With credit to the author, of course.

Magnus:
Wow, thanks Dom.  It'd be nice to give something back to the community for a change.

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