I was thinking of using foam in a future project, so I played with the idea to make my own foam cutter to help me with that future build. It turns out a foam cutter is rather easy to make!
The build uses two AA batteries to heat up a piece of 32SWG nichrome wire, capable of cutting through dense foam like XPS.
Warning: make sure you use this in a well ventilated room, as some potentially harmful fumes can be released when cutting, depending on the foam you are using.
Step 1: Handle
I wanted to make a robust handle for the foam cutter and had a try using wood.
First, I put tape on a piece of wood and drew the shape of half the handle. Using double sided tape, a second piece was stacked, so that when cutting using the jigsaw, both pieces would have the same shape.
With both halves cut out, I glued them together by the handle, and used some clamps to hold it in place while the glue dried.
Once dried, a router was used to round over the edges, making it more comfortable to hold while looking a bit more finished. Finally, holes were drilled at the extremities, to be able to pass some screws to attach the nichrome wire to.
Step 2: Wiring
The wiring is simple: a battery pack is wired to the extremities of the handle, with a nichrome wire connecting both ends.
To make things slightly easier to wire, I used crimping lugs at the ends of the wires and nichrome wire.
The battery holder is one for two AA batteries, which in my case seems to provide enough power. You can experiment with larger holders, for three or more batteries, or perhaps even try using a 9V battery. Just make sure the nichrome wire doesn't get red hot. The holder is attached to the handle using hot glue.
I didn't add a switch to keep things simple, and because it's very easy to pop out one of the batteries when finished. You could add a switch or even use a battery holder with integrated switch if you prefer.
Step 3: Video
That's it really! Using two AA batteries, I was able to cut XPS foam (quite dense) at a rate of 5mm/s for a thickness of 3cm. Check out the video for the entire build process and some cutting demonstrations.