Guide [Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam]

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Krootus Maximus
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Guide [Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam]

Post#1 » Sep 29 2010 11:11

Even though I always look for deals I have spent gobs of money on this hobby. The last thing I want to do is pay $100+ to take my army to the game without damaging my figures. I've tried alternatives, but nothing beats a sturdy box with foam trays that hold miniatures safe and snug. So I plotted and planned and came up with this method to make foam trays out of high density foam.

High density foam is the bright green foam sold at fabric and craft stores for making cushions, children's costumes, and other nonsense. When I saw that JoAnne's Fabric and Crafts had a 50% off sale on foam I grabbed up all the foam I thought I would need to transport the army I'm building. For somewhere around $40 I made three 1" thick infantry trays, four 2" thick trays (one for suits, three for piranhas), two 3" thick tank trays, as well as several small trays integrated into my case's compartments. I picked up a plastic case for the trays for another $15, but that doesn't have anything to do with making the most important part...

DIY Custom Cut Foam Trays for Cheap!

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Materials & Tools:
High density foam, several thicknesses
Fabri-tac fabric glue
3M spray adhesive
Marker or felt pen (ball point won't really leave a mark on foam)
Hot wire foam cutter, I recommend getting the bow and guide

A quick word on substituting glue: Read the label! Make sure the glue you plan to use is recommended for foam. Many glues will just sink into foam and turn it into hard lumps, ruining it.

Before you even go buy foam it is absolutely necessary you know what measurements your trays will be and how many you plan to make. Measure the inside of the container you want to use. Keep in mind the size of the foam sheets to maximize how many you make. In my case, the store I buy from sells foam sheets 24 inches wide. If I buy a 12" length, I know I can make two 12"x12" trays from the single piece.
Here's another example of how to plan out what materials to buy. My current project is to make a bag to transport all my tanks and piranhas. If I make my trays 12"x14" I'll need two 3" trays and three 2" trays. When I'm buying foam, this breaks down into a 14" length of the 3" foam, a 28" length of the 2" foam, and a 42" length of the 1/2" foam. The 1/2" foam is to make bases for the trays.

Now that you have your foam make a template for your tray. I'm just making rectangular trays right now so a piece of cardboard fits the bill. For my previous project I filled a crafting case with foam that had ridges on the inside and I had to make a template in Illustrator.

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Trace your template onto the foam sheets–both the thick foam and the 1/2" foam.

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Use the hot wire foam cutter to cut out the pieces for the tray. Set the 1/2" pieces aside.

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Now you need to trace individual models onto the sheet. For my piranhas I made another template since they aren't posed differently. When I made my infantry sheets I traced each individual model to ensure a snug fit for everyone. Make sure the outline you trace is how you want the model to lie in the sheet. When tracing infantry I hold onto the model's base and keep the base perpendicular to the foam. A note about the picture below: I decided to make my piranha stands using Diehard's method so they are stored in the case separate from their models. To make all the stands fit in the tray I had to overlap them, every other stand will be placed in the tray upside down and rest on the paint pot instead of the wide base.

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After tracing all the models you want on the foam take your hot wire foam cutter and cut out the shapes. If it is not possible to cut each model from the edge of the tray don't be afraid to cut from one model to another.

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With the places for your models cut out, take your fabri-tack glue and glue the places where you had to cut through the tray. Alternatively you can use the 3M adhesive spray for this step.

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Once the glue is dry enough to handle the tray flip the tray over and spray the underside with 3M adhesive spray.

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Carefully set the sticky tray on the 1/2" thick piece you set aside.

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Wait for it to dry, come back and put your models in your new custom cut tray!

Note: After the tray way dry, I used my hobby knife to make shallow slits to hold the burst cannon and fusion blaster for each model.

9/30/10
Here are some templates I use for making tank trays. Since I magnetize everything some of the shapes might not work for you. http://www.mediafire.com/?q76cqrkdbqgbknp Illustrator editing capabilities have been kept on.
Last edited by Krootus Maximus on Oct 01 2010 12:14, edited 1 time in total.

tehlegend
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#2 » Sep 30 2010 12:34

Beautifully done. My only qualm is that the ink marks are so easy to hide by simply gluing the inked side down, but I guess that is more in line with me being hyper anal rather than you making some egregious error.

Good job all around. I shall be visiting my local Joannes now. (Lord knows my Kroot have broken their fair share of guns cramming into that battleforce box. :sad: )

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hazmatt
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#3 » Sep 30 2010 09:14

Krootus Maximus wrote:With the places for your models cut out, take your fabri-tack glue and glue the places where you had to cut through the tray. Alternatively you can use the 3M adhesive spray for this step.
That's the bit of information I was missing when I tried to figure this all out in my head. Apparently I've never heard of a glue that doesn't melt foam. Now I know! :smile:

Thank you for the tutorial. This will make things much easier on my cadre.

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Tael
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#4 » Sep 30 2010 10:01

Great tutorial, nicely executed also. Certainly a topic to be placed in our Resources section. Though for now, I'm happy to leave it here so any Saal's can question you on the process :)

Thank you for posting this Krootus.

- Tael.

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Spezza Ossa
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#5 » Sep 30 2010 10:52

I made a hot wire polystyrene cutter last year for other purposes but I never thought of using it to make custom foam trays.

Brilliant, thank you :)

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Tsurugi
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#6 » Sep 30 2010 11:05

Would you be willing to post a picture or two of the infantry trays? You described the process well, but a picture would say at least 1000 more words.

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Krootus Maximus
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#7 » Sep 30 2010 01:42

Here's my Fire Warrior/Pathfinder tray. It's the first tray I made, so it's a bit sloppy. Never the less it holds all my Fire Warriors safe and snug. Note the strange shape of the tray; I needed to make it fit inside the case I got for holding my infantry. Also note the shallow incisions for storing pulse rifles and pulse carbines for those figures I magnetized to take either.

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I'm putting together some more Kroot right now. In a few days I could post a blow by blow of making an infantry tray.

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Tsurugi
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#8 » Sep 30 2010 02:48

That is really cool! Are you planning on a labeling system? I can see putting your models away becoming a really tough game of "Perfection." Looks great, I can't wait to see some more trays or a fully packed case!

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Krootus Maximus
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#9 » Sep 30 2010 11:36

All models have a number on their base. I have 32 Fire Warriors so they are labeled FW01 - FW32. The corresponding code is written in its place on the tray. This is really good for knowing if I have all my models when I pack up.

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Mal'Caor
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#10 » Oct 01 2010 09:13

Spezza Ossa wrote:I made a hot wire polystyrene cutter last year for other purposes but I never thought of using it to make custom foam trays.


Might I enquire as to how you made one? I can't seem to find anywhere around here which sells a decent one, except for the GW one, and for some reason it doesn't look up to the task...


Edit - Ignore that bit - it needs lots of stuff I don't have. Instead, Krootus Maximus, could you tell us where you got yours from, and what brand it is, so I can find one online? Thanks.

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Revenant
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#11 » Oct 01 2010 10:31

This is a great topic. I have a good deal of foam of similar density that I just never got around to playing with. After seeing this I think I will give it a try. I have a hand held cutter that is just a single rod, which would allow you to cut out holes without having an edge cut. I imagine it might be more difficult to get precise cuts at a uniform angle.

@Mal'Caor: As to buying foam cutters, I have two hand held tools bought from craft stores. They were cheap, but they get the job done for basic projects. If you are looking for more options or higher quality tools, I recommend Hot Wire Foam Factory.

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Krootus Maximus
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#12 » Oct 01 2010 01:45

My foam cutter is from Woodland Scenics. I've been all around impressed by it. Here are links to the cutter on the manufacturer's page to give you a better idea.
http://woodlandscenics.woodlandscenics.com/show/Item/ST1435/page/1
http://woodlandscenics.woodlandscenics.com/show/Item/ST1437/page/2

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Mal'Caor
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#13 » Oct 01 2010 02:46

Thanks Krootus Maximus. It does looks rather good, and I think I've found a decent UK supplier for it. Now all I need to do is see if the budget can stretch to it - I've been buying rather a bit of stuff lately, especially for my Tyranids - and see if I can find some 1/2" foam sheets. 1", 2", and 3" are quite readily available, but I'm having problems with the thin stuff. :roll:

Oh, and the trays look good - a very helpful tutorial. Just realised I'd forgotten to say that earlier!

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Vet Sgt
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Re: How To: Make Protective Trays from High Density Foam

Post#14 » Oct 02 2010 04:24

Very nice job! You have convinced me that I need to get a Hot wire foam cutter. This is exactly the sort of sharing of great ideas that got me to join ATT!

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