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Carving foam is a foam product which is designed to be worked by carving. A wide variety of foams can be used for carving, including urethane foam, expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, and polyisocyanurate (ISO) foam. All of these foams share the trait of being firm, dry, and soft, in addition to being quite sturdy. Craft supply stores often sell carving foam, and this product can also be obtained from taxidermy suppliers, theatrical prop suppliers, and florist suppliers.
Foam is a great material to work with when carving because it is so giving, although an exuberant carver can easily take off too much by accident because foam is soft. Many basic woodworking tools can be used on foam, along with utility knives and electric carving knives. Carving foam comes in several colors and weights, ranging from very dense foam with small pores to more lightweight foam with larger pores. Many people develop a preference for the type of foam that they like to use.
Some people use carving foam to fabricate prototypes, roughing out the shape of a product which will be rendered in another material. Foam can also be used to carve a prototype for a mold, or the underlying base for a floral arrangement or taxidermy project. Artists may also use carving foam to create the base for a sculpture, relying on the foam for support and coating it in substances like clay and paint.
Prop masters in Hollywood also do a great deal of work with carving foam. Carving foam is an excellent material for prop fabrication because it is lightweight and easy to work with, and it can easily be coated in other materials. While such props might not withstand close inspection, they look real enough through the camera lens, and they are often easier for actors to handle than the real thing, in addition to being far less costly.
There are some precautions which should be observed while working with carving foam. The dust can be hazardous to inhale, and wearing a face mask is highly recommended. It is also advisable to work in a well-ventilated area, and to clean the workspace carefully after working with carving foam so that small chunks of foam are not released into the environment, where they can contribute to pollution and hurt wildlife. Using a sealed container to dispose of scraps is a good idea, as otherwise small pieces of foam may fly out of the garbage and drift around the workshop or out the door. Sharp carving tools should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.
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