Make a StyroFoam Sculpting Tool





Introduction: Make a StyroFoam Sculpting Tool

About: Retired, doing art work now. Great. Have the time and the money to spend doing what I want to do.

I do a lot of work with styrofoam, and like to think of new ways to handle the foam easily and efficiently. To that end, I wanted to make a sculpting tool to add details to various styrofoam projects.  Since I had several hotwire machines, the next step was to make a cutter that could be hand held, used like a pencil or paint brush, not get too hot to hold, and be able to shape the material as wanted. Hence the tool presented here.

Step 1: Materials Needed

To make my cutter, I assembled wire of various types, some electrical wire of course, and a piece of nichrome wire to use as the cutter itself.  I needed a dowel to be the "pencil" or wand itself, and to this I used small screws to make "posts" where the supply wires could be attached. Miscellaneous hand tools are needed such as wire cutter, screw driver, needle nose pliers, etc.  Also, some alligator clips are used to connect wires for testing and use.

Step 2: Make Instrument

Wire cutter, the nichrome piece, is attached to the end of the dowel with two short screws. The dowel is one half inch, so screws need to be less than this.  So the nichrome is attached, and two supply wires are also hooked to the screws, then the screws are tightened, and essentially, the cutter is complete.

Step 3: Find a Power Supply

For this small of a cutter, I found that just about any power supply from other applications can be used.  I find them at garage sales, thrift shops, or have some left over from other uses.  Please see pictures, and note power parameters...usually, I want to use something in the 6 to 12 volt range, with outputs of around 1000 to 1500ma.  One is even less, and is just a little slower due to less heat generated.

Step 4: Plug in and Use As Needed!



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    Could you please explain more clearly how to attach the wire to the power source? I've reread it several times, and it's still possible that I missed it, but I can't find a picture or explanation of how to do this. I'm assuming it has something to do with the alligator clip but I don't know where to attach it or if I need to strip part of the housing. Thanks!

    I would like to make a hot wire knife like this
    ..any idea how it can be done?
    would it work if i make something like the above and i twist the wires together?

    1 reply

    Not sure I can give a good answer...although twisting the wires would cause a short a the first point of contact of the two wires...don't think that would work. I never needed a tool like this so didn't pursue it. If you come up with a solution, let me know, ok?

    Thanks for posting this – Nice example too...

    Love this! I am sure that with a simple jig, too, it would be easy to shape different "tips" so that you could achieve different angle cuts, clean line cuts, etc.

    Cool idea, nice post! I suggest you add a circuit diagram for clarity.

    Hey art, I think this is really cool and I can honestly say I would not be able to wire that up, however (and I hate to be a Safety Susie,) Should you perhaps mention that cutting foam with hot wire causes fumes that are really dangerous to inhale? Certain foams when being cut like this are reportedly cancer causing agents... We don't use these where I work anymore because of that.

    However, If you have a fume extractor this would be great!

    1 reply

    Thanks for your comments! When I first started working with the foam, I looked up the safety concerns you mentioned, and was satisfied that it is not all that dangerous...common sense would tell one to have proper ventilation, as in painting a room, perhaps. One source likened it to the fumes one would be subject to with a wood burning fireplace. I use a fan or open a window if not out in the garage. But most of all, I am melting the foam, not burning it, so there is a big difference.

    What is the gauge of the nichrome wire?
    your styrofoam mosaic cans were the inspiration for me to make my own hot-wire table :-)