how to cut styrofoam

How to Cut Styrofoam Artistically With Precision

September 16, 2021

Cutting Styrofoam tends to be a difficult task because the material cracks, thereby leaving uneven edges. Furthermore, if Styrofoam is cut incorrectly, the plastic foam crumbles at the wrong places. If you are looking for ways to cut Styrofoam, you must be wondering how to cut Styrofoam artistically? Styrofoam is easy to cut; however, cutting with precision becomes a harder task, plus the tools you use to open some create huge amounts of static. There are various methods for cutting Styrofoam quickly and without making any mess to achieve your desired outcome. This article has laid down cutting methods you can work with when you must cut Styrofoam, tips to help you carve Styrofoam into smooth and even edges, and so forth.

So, What is Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is made from styrene, a petroleum-based product. Styrofoam is somewhat expanded polystyrene or a polystyrene foam used to make food containers and take out coffee cups.

What Are the Best Ways to Cut Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is an ideal material that is light in weight and simple to paint different arts and crafts. Even though Styrofoam is easy to cut, you need the right tools for the task. It’s an option to cut Styrofoam with knives, cookie cutters, and box cutters. However, if you want a more finished and smoother look, use an electric knife to cut the foam. With this, you will cut Styrofoam into all the different shapes you want, whether you want them for some prop elements, exceptional decorations, or custom pieces.

a). Use a blade to make straight cuts

Ensure that before you cut Styrofoam, you run the blade over a candle to give you a clean break.

  • To avoid getting colored wax on your foam, consider waxing your blade with a white candle.

b). Use dental floss to cut through Styrofoam sheets

When you opt to use dental floss to cut a straight line across Styrofoam sheets, push the end of the floss far from you then towards you to slice the Styrofoam.

c). Use a cookie cutter to make unique shapes.

If you have a thin slice not more than two inches thick, cut Styrofoam with a cookie cutter. Apply even pressure on the cookie cutter’s thin edge against the Styrofoam until it hits the other side. The outcome of the Styrofoam slice should be in the shape of a cookie cutter

Try cutting Styrofoam underwater. If you don’t like making a mess when cutting Styrofoam, submerge a Styrofoam slice in a bucket of water and then cut it using a knife. This way ensures that no crumbs fly all over the place, allowing you to make quicker and smoother cuts. Don’t worry about the Styrofoam absorbing water because all you need is to pay it dry afterward.

 7 Steps You Need to Take When Cutting Styrofoam

Step 1: Mark the place you will cut on the Styrofoam surface

  • Use a sharp and thin object to pierce the foam to make a straight cutting line. Then make the groove in the Styrofoam.
  • At the place where you drew a straight line, break the Styrofoam. Place the foam at the table with the scored line around the edges for a greater outcome. Press down along the scored to create a clean split. Ensure that you remove any excess foam with a serrated kitchen knife.

Step 2: Use a sharp waxed kitchen knife to remove Styrofoam pieces

  • If you want to wax a knife, rub the whole blade over a candle as many times as possible. Use a white candle to avoid having a colored candle wax on your foam.
  • Use a serrated knife to cut polystyrene foam with long and sawing motions. As you perform sawing motions, apply even pressure to the knife to avoid the Styrofoam from cracking and crushing.

Step 3: Use an electric kitchen knife to cut polystyrene foam

  • If you want a clean-cut in Styrofoam, ensure that you use an electric kitchen knife, for example, a fish fillet knife.
  • In addition, place the fish fillet knife or any other electric knife along the preferred cutting line on the foam. Don’t apply pressure as the serrated blades of the knife cut through the Styrofoam.

Step 4: Take a craft knife to cut Styrofoam

1-inch Craft knives are highly recommended and ideal for cutting small and thin foam parts. Craft knives have sharp blades to flatten or compress the Styrofoam, unlike serrated blades that usually tear through foams leading to irregular cuts in thick foam sections.

  • Use a craft knife if you want to make small and precise cuts. Craft knives make bevel cuts and v-cuts in foam.
  • Using the craft knife, make small and steady cuts into the Styrofoam. First, make a shallow cut mark in the foam. After the initial cut, make sure that you run the craft knife through the foam various times, ensuring that you make deeper cuts until the Styrofoam is cut through from top to bottom.
  • As you cut, continue cutting through the Styrofoam, ensure that you keep changing the blades. Dull blades cut the foam in irregular parts.

Step 5: You can also use a hand saw to cut Styrofoam.

Use compass saws, coping saws, and hack saws to make straight cuts in polystyrene. Ensure that you avoid using a saw with a flexible blade because it makes the blade wobble, resulting in irregular cuts.

  • Use sawing and long motions when cutting the foam. Moreover, keep the pressure on the saw consistent so that you don’t crush the Styrofoam.
  • Use long and sawing motions to cut the Styrofoam. To avoid crushing the foam, ensure that you apply and maintain consistent pressure.

Step 6: Use a power saw to cut Styrofoam.

Power saws like jigsaw bands and scroll saws are used for cutting wood can also be used to cut Styrofoam. They are very useful, especially when cutting big and large pieces of foam

  • It’s very important that you follow the power saws’ manufacturer’s instructions. Also, ensure that you wear protective goggles when you are using the power saws to cut Styrofoam.
  • Ensure that you follow the instructions manufacturers recommend for the saw you’re using. Wear gloves when you are using power saws to cut foam.

Step 7: Use a hot wire cutter to cut Styrofoam

Hotwire cutters which you can find at hobby shops, use heated wires to melt through the foam, thereby creating a smooth edge. Hotwire cutters are very useful in cutting different shapes out of Styrofoam.

  • Ensure that you apply consistent pressure with a hotwire cutter to get your preferred cutting line. Be careful when using hotwire cutters because they are hot and can cause some serious burns.

Tips You Should Know When Cutting Styrofoam with Electric Tools.

1. Use an electric knife when cutting thicker pieces of Styrofoam

Use an electric knife if you will be cutting multiple pieces of Styrofoam all at once or one piece that is several inches thick. Knives are great for cutting straight lines; however, they may also help in curving.

2. Use a foam cutting saw to cut large pieces of Styrofoam

You will likely find that you will need to use the foam cutting saws to cut large pieces of Styrofoam like those that professionals use to package television and other large home appliances. However, the saws are expensive.

  • The first step is to turn on the saw3 and press the piece of Styrofoam you will be cutting, all while maintaining your hands clean. Also, ensure that you consult further about the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Ensure that you wear a dust mask and safety goggles when you start cutting your foam with a power saw.

3. For smooth cuts, use a hot wire cutter

Use Hotwire cutters because they have a heated wire that goes through the foam to leave a smooth edge. Use them to make round edge Styrofoam.

  • Using your hot wire cutter, apply and maintain a steady and consistent pressure along your preferred cutting line. The wire will break if you move too fast through the foam.
  • Be cautious when cutting the foam with a hot wire cutter as they can cause serious burns due to the hot wires
  • Hotwire cutters are the best at making smooth cuts and leave mall foam crumbs behind.

How to Cut Styrofoam Smoothly?

A lot of projects are a success because they use Styrofoam as their foundation. It comes in a variety of ball and cone sizes and various foam sheet thicknesses and die-cut forms. Make different shapes and arts by trimming and cutting smooth pieces of Styrofoam for your project. You can use household products as tools to trim and cut Styrofoam, making it simple and cheap.

How to Cut and Trim Styrofoam

1. Step 1

Using an old wax candle, rub the blade of your knife; it can be either electronic, serrated, or craft, thereby allowing easy penetration through the foam.

2. Step 2

Using a permanent marker pen, measure and mark the cutting line on your foam, and use a ball pen to press an indentation.

3. Step 3

Start cutting and trimming along the indicated line with the waxed blade using small and sawing motions. Ensure that you don’t yank the blade too hard, or the foam will crack and break right there.

How to Sand and Smoothen Styrofoam

1. Step 1

Start by cutting and trimming your foam for your project.

2. Step 2

Next, you will cut a 2-inch rectangle piece of Styrofoam. Then, cut the scrap pieces’ rough cut edges against another piece of Styrofoam rough cut edges. As a result, the rough edges will be sanded and smoothed.

3. Step 3

Use a scrap piece to rub it against the Styrofoam rough corner edges to form your project’s bits.

How Do You Make the Rigid Foam?

The ideal material for insulating a specific area as it minimizes moisture is rigid insulation foam. If you want to make clean cuts, you need a utility knife or a power saw.  Anyone can make precise incisions when dealing with rigid insulation foam, that is, if they have the right tools.

Tips to Consider When Cutting Styrofoam

  • Use cookie cutters to make various shapes of Styrofoam. Consider metal cookie cutters to cut Styrofoam sheets that are not more than ½ inches thick. Also, consider using a cutting board when cutting Styrofoam to cover the work surface.
  • If you want to smoothen the rough edges of Styrofoam, use another piece of Styrofoam to rub the rough area.
  • Use another piece of Styrofoam to smoothen the rough edges of another piece of Styrofoam

Warnings to Adhere When Cutting Styrofoam

  • Don’t allow children to use hot wire cutters because they can cause serious burns for they are hot.
  • Be cautious when cutting Styrofoam; the tools used are very sharp and can cause serious injuries. However, when you get cut, seek medical attention.
  • Ensure that you wear a dust mask as you cut Styrofoam with a power saw. Power saws produce something we call foam dust which looks like sawdust, and when inhaled, it becomes irritating.

Requirements for Cutting Styrofoam?

  • Hotwire cutter
  • A candle
  • A craft knife
  • A counter table
  • A dust mask
  • Serrated kitchen knife
  • A cutting board
  • An electric kitchen knife
  • Goggles for safety
  • Power and hand saw
  • Knives or any other sharp or thin objects

Best Tools for Cutting Styrofoam

Foam is the most flexible material to work with for DIY projects since it’s multipurpose. However, it’s different from cutting wood because it requires the right tools for the job. You will find that it can be messy without proper tools to cut it and consume a lot of time.

It would be best to have electric tools to make wider cuts of foam parts like professionals do. If you want to know about the tools that professionals highly recommend for cutting foam, check out the ones we mentioned below.

1. Hotwire knife

Powered by batteries, hotwire knife heats up to high temperatures to cut Styrofoam with ease without making a mess. Hotwire knife is ideal when cutting a lot of foam. This knife doesn’t mess like a serrated knife by removing small pieces of form when cutting; rather, the heat emitted melts the foam away, enabling you to push the blade through it. Ensure that the hotwire you pick is solid and durable to maintain high temperatures. It also has a smooth and non-jagged edge to perform the job. The best thing about this tool is that it’s portable.

2. Dremel

The Dremel tool is not used for cutting larger pieces of form down to smaller sizes, but they are great when creating intricate designs in your foam, and you want control over the outcome. However, you will find that it becomes difficult to perform the job when using this tool since it shreds the edges of the form. That’s why it’s limited in use hence not right for the job.

In addition, when you are in a hurry, the Dremel will still cut down your foam. However, your edges will be rough, thereby making a mess all over the place. Note that cutting foam with Dremel consumes a lot of time than when using a hot wire knife primarily set for this purpose.

3. Foam cutting saw

Invest in a foam cutting saw if you will be cutting thick foam. However, it’s very an expensive option available, but professionals use it, indicating that it’s the best alternative if you want fast and precise cuts.

The tool features a flat base with small wheels that roll along the surface of the foam you will cut, hence reducing friction. The big foundation ensures that the blade does not go to the side as they’re cutting. With this saw, you are guaranteed to smooth up and down motion to ensure that the foam has straight edges, so you won’t have to worry about its quality and precision.

4. Saw and specialized blade

A table saw with a specific blade is not ideal if you will perform some delicate work of cutting the foam down into your desired parts. However, it’s the best ideal when you want to make quick cuts unlike, conventional saw blades, which produce a lot of waste and cut when cutting foam; this type of blade slices through the foam and produces less dust. Due to the highly positioned cutouts in the blade, the saw handles the rigid foam with a lot of ease. It’s not a good idea to use a saw on finer or fragile foam because it will rip it.

Ensure that you find a blade with ceramic coating to minimize friction, thereby reducing the necessary efforts and force to drive the blade through the foam to make Styrofoam cuts. The main drawback of this tool is that it is difficult to transport from one place to another. 

5. Utility knife

 Although foam makes your knife sharp’s blade dull, it’s a great idea if you select one that can modify. For example, a utility knife has blades that pop off dull and show up with a sharp blade inside. However, a utility knife limits you from continuously buying new knives and blades.

6. Hotwire scroll table

Apart from a hot wire knife for cutting through the foam, it would be best if you had a scrolling table to allow you to place the foam piece on the table. Then, you will have full control over the foam as you keep cutting it, thereby releasing you from any worries of your hands shifting and causing a mistake.

Think carefully about which table you would like, with defined measurements or a simple scroll table. Both are a great choice in improving your ability to cut foam and control the location and size of the cuts. However, a table with measurements makes it easy to cut pieces to specific sizes without any need for measuring.

Features of Tools for Cutting Styrofoam

1. Battery operated

It’s very difficult to choose which type is the best between battery-operated and corded tools since each has its pros and cons. if you want to ensure that you can take your hot wire knife anywhere without finding an outlet to use, go for a hot wire that runs on batteries.

The drawback you will experience with a battery-operated hot wire knife is that when the batteries fail, you will not have equal strength to cut through the foam as you did before. The batteries prove to be an inconvenience, especially if you are in the middle of a project; that’s why you are advised to carry an extra pair at all times. If this proves to be hard, consider buying a corded hot wire knife to plug it into the outlet.

Although you will be limited to taking a hot wire knife, you will never have to worry about the strength to complete your project. Remember that batteries are costly for your hot wire knife, keep in mind this when purchasing your preferred tool.

2. Table measurements

Apart from a hot wire knife for cutting through the foam, it would be best if you had a scrolling table to allow you to place the foam piece on the table. Then, you will have full control over the foam as you keep cutting it, thereby releasing you from any worries of your hands shifting and causing a mistake.

Think carefully about which table you would like, with defined measurements or a simple scroll table. Both are a great choice in improving your ability to cut foam and control the location and size of the cuts. However, a table with measurements makes it easy to cut pieces to specific sizes without any need for measuring.

 Although foam makes your knife sharp’s blade, it’s a great idea if you select one that can modify. For example, a utility knife has blades that pop off when dull and show a sharp blade inside. Also, a utility knife limits you from continuously buying batteries.

Since you don’t need a table for all of your projects, you can leave it at times, but if you want to have full control of your foam, you will be cutting it as you cut through it. The tables size takes a lot of storage space, and it’s difficult to control it on the go, but if you want high quality and precise tool to cut Styrofoam, include a table.

3. Corded electric

To ensure that your tools are as safe as possible, consider using corded tools. However, this means that you will need an electric outlet to use your tools and also means that you will never have to worry about it dying on you in the middle of a project. When purchasing your preferred corded tool, consider the one with a long cord that can extend away from the wall, which is great, especially when cutting large pieces of foam. Even though long cords are expensive, they don’t need the extra cost of buying more batteries each time you start a project.

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