Carving Foam

Last month I met an artist from a nearby Ohio town. When he learned I was a woodcarver, he asked if I had ever tried carving high-density urethane. I’ve carved the rubber centers in golf balls, the core of softballs and Potatowood but never urethane. I learned that this HDU is used for sign making and is designed to be durable enough for outdoor use. My new friend, a sign maker, uses power routers, Dremels, pneumatic tools and saws to shape the material on a larger scale than I work, but I was interested in trying to use regular woodcarving tools. I was told the material is very expensive so my friend keeps his larger scraps, just like me with my wood scraps except I seem to keep everything. He generously gave several pieces to me for experimental purposes. The scraps are 2 inches thick but can be laminated to increase that dimension.

I have two densities now. One is called Signfoam and at 15 pounds per cubic foot, it’s easier to use of the two. It’s white with a smoother surface when carved. The second type, from Jasper Products, is darker with a grainier rougher carved surface. At 18 pounds per cubic foot, it doesn’t appear to be as dense. I can’t explain the logical contradiction except that it is a different compound.

I prefer the 15 PCF foam but, in both densities, a slicing cut is required. I used a carving knife for most of the work. A gouge will work but only if it’s rotated to make a slicing cut. A V-tool is not very effective because it’s usual cutting method tends to crush the material and a slicing action is difficult. I had to resort to using a knife for making hair.

Here is a link to a vendor if you want to learn more.

The first two examples are from the Signfoam.

This is an example from the Jasper Products foam. You should be able to see the rougher texture.

I still have some of both left so I may do some more experimenting. It is interesting but I’ll stick to Basswood for now.