While you have lots of great options to try for any upcoming project, it’s important to use the correct tool based on your needs. A staple for any serious crafter is a tool to cut through foam.
There are a variety of helpful tools that can help in foam cutting. This article will walk you through the best options for your next project.
What are foam cutting tools? Which are the best options? Styro cutters, hot wire cutters, hot knives, utility knives, and hot wire cutting tables are all useful tools for cutting foam. The best option depends on the project. Smaller tools are better for details while the larger tools are best for big cuts.
Whether you’re hoping to bevel, cut large pieces, or work with smaller pieces of foam, these tools will all bring a different specialty to your hobby table!
Before jumping into the unique features of each tool, let’s talk about some reasons why your foam cutting tools may benefit your project and the ways in which they can be utilized in the future!
The Many Uses of Foam and What a Foam Cutting Tool Can Help You With
Since we’ve touched on the variety of tools one can use to cut through foam and other materials, it’s vital to take a step back and talk about why you may need such an addition to your toolbox or crafting desk.
Foam can come in handy in many areas of your life whether you’re making a Halloween costume or cosplay, a project for work or school, or are doing home improvements.
Many artists use foam for sculpting, dioramas, or positioning. Even bakers use a variety of foam materials to aid in the placement and structure of desserts, like large, elaborate, wedding cakes.
Architects and builders utilize sturdier foams for home improvement and building projects of all shapes and sizes. They even use foam to build models to show their clients.
At home, foam can be used for DIY upholstery and hundreds of other uses.
So, whatever project type you’re taking on, whether for business or for fun, the following tools can make your process easier and more efficient.
Foam Cutting Tools
The Styro Cutter and Hot Wire Cutter
For more precision, consider using a hot wire cutter or styro cutter for your project. With a smaller surface area and the help of added heat, these tools are able to make small and exact cuts.
This makes them great tools for foam cutting.
However, they do serve very different purposes due to their structures. Below, we will dig further into the differences.
The Styro Cutter
First, the styro cutter is going to be a very user-friendly cutter. This tool consists of a wand with a heating needle that heats up to effortlessly cut through most types of foam.
This is a low-maintenance tool as all the maintenance required to keep it up and running for as long as possible is just a quick wipe down of the heating needle with a sponge after each use to avoid any blackening.
An alternative for cleaning is to use a piece of cardboard and thread the heating needle through to get any pieces of Styrofoam off of the needle before it cools.
Either way, this is crucial because foam is made of synthetic materials that harden and won’t come off after they cool.
The styro cutter is ideal for carving sections out of a larger block of foam. This may look like writing letters, creating a design, or carving small bits out of your Styrofoam block.
The heating needles are generally around 2.0 mm in diameter making for fine work.
The Hot Wire Cutter
The hot wire cutter is very similar to the styro cutter as it also has a wand and heating element.
However, this tool generally has two heating needles that create a half-circle or Y-shape. The two sides are connected by a wire with a radius of around 0.25 mm.
This wire heats up and allows you to bevel or create designs in your foam. This tool makes it easy and convenient to carve or slice your material.
The wire does get worn down and can break. However, it is easy to replace in just a few steps.
- The wire is connected to collars on each end. If your wire is worn out, you can cut it right off the collars. However, if it breaks, be sure to cut down the remaining wire bits.
- Grab a new nichrome wire and thread it through the collar on either side, and tie it around itself about three times on the ends to secure it.
- Pull it tight and trim, giving yourself about an inch of leftover wire at the end to wrap the wire around itself on that end as well.
- Once you’ve completed the replacement, you’re ready to continue using your hot wire cutter.
- To minimize the chance of breaking your wire, be sure to move the tool slowly through foam when cutting.
Another great advantage with these wire cutters is the ability to move the collars down the heating needles.
This allows you to flip your hot wire cutter over to hold it steady on a surface and feed your foam through the wire to get an even, clean cut.
Be sure when using your hot wire cutter that you go nice and slowly through your foam, this ensures that the heat is doing the work. This, in turn, will prolong the life of your tool while also giving you a more accurate cut.
If you force the tool too quickly, however, your wire may bend or break, leaving you with a messy cut and the need to replace your wire.
These tools are a necessity for those looking to master the finer details in their project or make precise cut-outs in your Styrofoam. They can be used to perform simple, basic cuts, but really shine when it comes to the details.
The styro cutter and hot wire cutter are often combined and sold together since they complement one another.
The GOCHANGE 3 in 1 Foam Cutter Kit is recommended based on consumer feedback as you get three functions in one tool kit!
Hot Knife (Small and Large)
The hot knife is another great tool to have in your toolbox when it comes to cutting your foams.
There are two different sizes of this tool, the smaller head and the large head. Keep in mind that the large head is going to be a bit excessive if you are only foam cutting.
This tool is not only versatile in the materials it can cut but can also deliver a range of cutting techniques. With your hot knife, you can create a straight cut, beveled cut, or wavy line cut.
Some areas that your small hot knife will help you include cutting:
- Thin and heavy plastic sheets.
- Foam pumpkin carving.
- Foam core board.
- Fibers that you need a clean-edge cut.
The Walnut Hollow Professional Hot Knife is supplied with two blades, a tool stand, and instructions for use.
This hot knife is also an ideal choice due to the safety precaution of riveted blades in the holder to ensure you are always safe when operating this hot knife.
A large hot knife is going to be a more industrial tool that will aid in cutting more stubborn materials.
As previously stated, this may not be the best tool to use when simply cutting foam but is not a bad tool to keep around as it can also be used to cut through:
- Marine fabric.
- A variety of fabrics.
Always be sure to use this hot knife in a well-ventilated area as it can reach temperatures of up to 1000°F.
This, of course, makes it efficient and easy to operate with its spring-loaded trigger and 10-foot-long power chord. However, it will also heat up your workspace quite a bit.
For your more industrial cutting needs, I recommend the RoMech Hot Knife. This hot knife comes with a 45-day, money-back guarantee and a 12-month warranty ensuring that you are shopping risk free and will be fully satisfied with your hot knife.
In order to keep your large hot knife fresh and running for as long as possible, be sure to grab a small wire brush, and brush down the knife before it cools completely.
This gets any excess Styrofoam off of the knife so it won’t blacken or have any hardened-on debris that can cause an uneven cut.
A classic utility knife can come in handy in different projects as it is one of the most versatile tools you can have on hand!
The OLFA Utility Knife is made of high-grade stainless steel and a sturdy, well-made grip on the handle that maintains the security of the blade so it can get through the toughest materials.
Utility knives can not only cut through foam but also through other materials you may be using in your current and future projects, such as paper, cardboard, and vinyl, among so many others.
This makes for a tool that crafters and do-it-yourselfers can use in all areas of your home.
The utility knife may not glide as effortlessly through the foam as a tool with a heated element can but will save you some time when you’re not looking to create any beveling, designing, or small details.
The utility knife is going to be the most useful for simple cuts on larger pieces of foam but will not give you as much control as some of the previously mentioned tools.
Hot Wire Cutting Table
The hot wire cutting tables can be very useful for clean and calculated cuts. Reaching temperatures of 360°F and coming complete with a printed grid, protractor, and lockable feed bar makes it easy for users to create pieces with little margin of error.
Based on user reviews, the Hercules Hot Wire Table comes in far ahead of others. This table has an aluminum working surface, ensuring you will be able to slide your foam across it with ease, as well as having a variety of measuring lines to guide you.
With this table, you will not need to keep your ruler, protractor, or straight edge handy as it covers all those bases! For those who are designing something with very specific or rigid measurement guidelines, this is the tool for you.
The hot wire cutting table will maximize the control and precision you get in every cut, leaving you with a perfect finished product.
Best Tool By Use
Finding the best tool for cutting through foam is not a one-size-fits-all answer! With a variety of helpful tools available today, finding the best tool depends on what you intend to use it for and what your end result looks like.
Below you will see some common uses for cutting foam and which tools will be the most helpful for that job.
|Hot wire cutter
|Hot knife (small)
|Hot knife (large)
|Hot wire cutting table
|Tougher material cuts
Whether you’re a professional crafter or you are just starting on a project requiring one of the tools explained above, be sure safety is a priority!
Many of these tools reach extremely hot temperatures that can cause third-degree burns if they come into contact with your skin. Wearing gloves may be a good idea while handling any of the heated tools.
For some of your sharper tools, use extreme caution when handling. Although many have safety precautions in place for storage, these knives can cause serious harm while being used.
Be sure to always pay attention to where you are cutting and keep fingers clear of the blade at all times.
When working with materials or tools that may chip or expel off the larger piece, be sure to protect your eyes with protective glasses or goggles. Many of these tools will leave small pieces of debris behind that could get lodged into your eyes if caution isn’t exercised.
Disposal of Your Foam
An important part of any project is cleaning up the materials that are not being utilized. When working with materials such as Styrofoam it is important that users understand exactly how to dispose of the material.
While many throw the majority of their waste in a recycle bin in hopes that it can be recycled, it’s critical not to throw non-recyclable materials into the recycle container or you will contaminate the ability to recycle any of the items in the bin.
Be sure to check online if Styrofoam is being recycled in your area. Many regions do not support this due to the cost of recycling this hard-to-break down material.
If your area does not recycle foam, then be sure to take any recyclable bits off of the foam (such as labels or paper) and cut the Styrofoam into smaller pieces. This makes it easier to fit in your garbage bag and is a space saver!
If your area does recycle Styrofoam, be sure you have plain white, undyed foam. Foams that have been dyed with any coloring are not recyclable and again, will contaminate the rest of the items in your recycling bin, resulting in the whole bin going to the landfill.
Check your foam for the classic recycle triangle symbol. If this is on your foam, it is safe to be recycled with the rest of your items!
If you are set on recycling your foam but your area does not support the practice, mail your Styrofoam to other regions that will recycle it. This will ensure that your leftover debris is reused in the future rather than polluting the earth.
Special note: It takes foam 500 years to breakdown, and it is not biodegradable.
Takeaways and Tutorials
Based on the size and intensity of your project, be sure you have your hands on the optimal tool for the job. Don’t forget to exercise safety along the way, and always dispose of your waste properly!
If you’d like a tutorial or visual of how to use any of these tools, here is a great tutorial for the hot wire cutters, styro cutters, and large and small hot knives.