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Leland Stone
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Inner circle
1204 Posts

Profile of Leland Stone
This past summer I had a temporary job helping a local theme park build its annual Halloween mazes and stages. One day, as I was carving a Corinthian capital for a styrofoam column, surrounded by rubber cockroaches, hazardous chemicals, and dangerous woodworking machines, I realized two things: 1) I had found the perfect job for me; and 2) Carving styrofoam opens up tremendous possibilities that I'd never even considered before.

If you've used styrofoam for magic prop/set piece construction, care to share? I'd like to hear how you've exploited this versatile material.

George Ledo
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SF Bay Area
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I've done a fair amount of it over the years, including a fluted Ionic column and two candlesticks, all of which required a lathe. More recently, an "Elvis" microphone (a Shure 55S). I wrote a column on it a couple of years ago, which included photos of a large cross I made for the graveyard scene in "The Sound of Music." You can see it here:
That's our departed buddy Burt, aka The Great Burtini, doing his famous Cups and Mice routine

Latest column: "Sorry about the photos in my posts here"
Ray Pierce
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Los Angeles, CA
2341 Posts

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Styrofoam carving has so much potential for scenic elements and other facets of magic production. There are several different ways of utilizing it depending on the durability you require.

The different densities of foam will give you different surface detail with the finer foams being used for detail applications and the coarser ones for situations where detail is not as critical.

The carving can take place in so many ways including creating everything from a massive lathe to create large columns, urns or rounded shapes, or simply using everything from chainsaws to electric carving knives to create different textural surface finishes. You can use a blowtorch to create some textures, or other woodworking tools such as rasps, files and I've even seen tools used for brushing horses utilized to work in foam.

The simplest is simply to carve the Styrofoam then coat it with one of many different coverings. The simplest is "Sculpt or Coat" which can be used to give a harder covering and different surface textures. You can also use glue soaked muslin or canvas strips to build up a harder surface on the top. If durability is really an issue you could go on up to a fiberglass coating which will give you a long-lasting durable finish. After the fiberglass coating has been built up, you can either leave the foam inside, or blow out the foam to leave a hollow interior.

For most high detail applications, we would sculpt the master from foam then create a fiberglass negative on top of that. After that cures, we would take out the foam then create a working fiberglass positive that has the exact surface detail and texture we require.

The key is to be creative and have fun as it is a very forgiving medium. If you mess up a section, simply cut it off and glue on another chunk of foam. You can build up areas this way without having to worry about being as careful.
Ray Pierce
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