Foam toolbox inserts

Discussion in 'UK DIY' started by Thomas Prufer, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. I'd like to make foam toolbox inserts, the kind where each tool has a foam
    pocket shaped to fit the tool. Usually, that would be made with a scalpel, foam,
    and patience, or foam precut into little cubes.

    I am looking for a shortcut, and have come up with following idea: place the
    tools on a flat surface, cover with plastic sheeting, possibly pull it close
    using a vacuum, box sides suitably, and spray with expanding foam. Let harden,
    even the top side, flip over, trim any undercut and remove tools. Possibly cover
    nasty yellow crumbly foam with pretty felt. (A similar method is used for custom
    packaging:
    <http://www.sealedair.com/eu/en/products/protective/instapak/instapak.html>).

    It sounds cheap, easy, simple and effective.

    However, from own experience (and reading about canoes), polyurethane foam can
    be nasty stuff...

    Does anyone see downsides to this, aside from the hell of picking and scraping
    polyurethane foam off the tools should the plastic sheet break? Any
    improvements, caveats, better ideas?


    Thomas Prufer
    Thomas Prufer, Oct 19, 2009
    #1
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  2. Thomas Prufer

    Tim W Guest

    Thomas Prufer <>
    wibbled on Monday 19 October 2009 08:57

    > I'd like to make foam toolbox inserts, the kind where each tool has a foam
    > pocket shaped to fit the tool. Usually, that would be made with a scalpel,
    > foam, and patience, or foam precut into little cubes.
    >
    > I am looking for a shortcut, and have come up with following idea: place
    > the tools on a flat surface, cover with plastic sheeting, possibly pull it
    > close using a vacuum, box sides suitably, and spray with expanding foam.
    > Let harden, even the top side, flip over, trim any undercut and remove
    > tools. Possibly cover nasty yellow crumbly foam with pretty felt. (A
    > similar method is used for custom packaging:
    >

    <http://www.sealedair.com/eu/en/products/protective/instapak/instapak.html>).
    >
    > It sounds cheap, easy, simple and effective.
    >
    > However, from own experience (and reading about canoes), polyurethane foam
    > can be nasty stuff...
    >
    > Does anyone see downsides to this, aside from the hell of picking and
    > scraping polyurethane foam off the tools should the plastic sheet break?
    > Any improvements, caveats, better ideas?
    >
    >
    > Thomas Prufer


    Sounds good. I lined my boxes with that cubed foam you mentioned - but,
    despite being glued in with spray Evostick, it does tend to be a bit
    wobbly.

    Didn't someone mention soft expanding foam the other day?...

    --
    Tim Watts

    This space intentionally left blank...
    Tim W, Oct 19, 2009
    #2
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  3. Thomas Prufer

    John Guest

    "Tim W" <> wrote in message
    news:hbhajs$iqe$-september.org...
    > Thomas Prufer <>
    > wibbled on Monday 19 October 2009 08:57
    >
    >> I'd like to make foam toolbox inserts, the kind where each tool has a
    >> foam
    >> pocket shaped to fit the tool. Usually, that would be made with a
    >> scalpel,
    >> foam, and patience, or foam precut into little cubes.
    >>
    >> I am looking for a shortcut, and have come up with following idea: place
    >> the tools on a flat surface, cover with plastic sheeting, possibly pull
    >> it
    >> close using a vacuum, box sides suitably, and spray with expanding foam.
    >> Let harden, even the top side, flip over, trim any undercut and remove
    >> tools. Possibly cover nasty yellow crumbly foam with pretty felt. (A
    >> similar method is used for custom packaging:
    >>

    > <http://www.sealedair.com/eu/en/products/protective/instapak/instapak.html>).
    >>
    >> It sounds cheap, easy, simple and effective.
    >>
    >> However, from own experience (and reading about canoes), polyurethane
    >> foam
    >> can be nasty stuff...
    >>
    >> Does anyone see downsides to this, aside from the hell of picking and
    >> scraping polyurethane foam off the tools should the plastic sheet break?
    >> Any improvements, caveats, better ideas?
    >>
    >>
    >> Thomas Prufer

    >
    > Sounds good. I lined my boxes with that cubed foam you mentioned - but,
    > despite being glued in with spray Evostick, it does tend to be a bit
    > wobbly.
    >
    > Didn't someone mention soft expanding foam the other day?...
    >
    > --
    > Tim Watts
    >
    > This space intentionally left blank...
    >


    I recently watched some guys from Snap-On preparing to make some foam
    inserts. They were using a scanner to make a scan of each of the tools. I
    guess they were then going to use these scans to produce some outlines for
    designing an ideal layout and then cutting the foam.
    John, Oct 19, 2009
    #3
  4. On Mon, 19 Oct 2009 10:18:31 +0100, "John" <> wrote:

    >I recently watched some guys from Snap-On preparing to make some foam
    >inserts. They were using a scanner to make a scan of each of the tools. I
    >guess they were then going to use these scans to produce some outlines for
    >designing an ideal layout and then cutting the foam.


    There's plenty of companies that will make these inserts: from reading the
    buzzwords in the websites, they are routed, die cut, made from diced foam
    ("pluck foam"), cut with lasers and maybe water jets, in a bewildering variety
    of foams. All good clean fun, but over the top to keep a handful of DIY tools in
    place...

    Anyway, I've bought two cans of expanding foam, and we'll see. I'm a little
    uneasy because the darn stuff won't shift once cured, and also the maximum depth
    on this stuff is 30 mm in one go -- I'd like a thicker first layer.

    Thomas Prufer
    Thomas Prufer, Oct 19, 2009
    #4
  5. Thomas Prufer

    Stuart Noble Guest

    Thomas Prufer wrote:
    > On Mon, 19 Oct 2009 10:18:31 +0100, "John" <> wrote:
    >
    >> I recently watched some guys from Snap-On preparing to make some foam
    >> inserts. They were using a scanner to make a scan of each of the tools. I
    >> guess they were then going to use these scans to produce some outlines for
    >> designing an ideal layout and then cutting the foam.

    >
    > There's plenty of companies that will make these inserts: from reading the
    > buzzwords in the websites, they are routed, die cut, made from diced foam
    > ("pluck foam"), cut with lasers and maybe water jets, in a bewildering variety
    > of foams. All good clean fun, but over the top to keep a handful of DIY tools in
    > place...
    >
    > Anyway, I've bought two cans of expanding foam, and we'll see. I'm a little
    > uneasy because the darn stuff won't shift once cured, and also the maximum depth
    > on this stuff is 30 mm in one go -- I'd like a thicker first layer.
    >
    > Thomas Prufer


    I think you'd be better off with a proper foam gun (£15?), but too late
    now :)
    Stuart Noble, Oct 20, 2009
    #5
  6. Actually it turned out amazingly well, so far. Pores of the foam near the tools
    are a bit large in places, but I wanted 10 cm of foam, so dumped a whole can in.
    Ok, details and procedure so far: Box 60 cm by 30 cm, about 10 to 15 cm of foam
    to be under the tools. Tools basically flat, some undercuts. The goal is a
    pleasing tool box insert, with the shapes of the tools in a soft padding foam.
    This is more for display than use, and to see how the whole idea works out. So
    didn't use much of the depth of the box.

    I had no idea how closely the foam would conform to details, nor did it say on
    the can how many liters the foam would expand to. This was the cheapest can of
    one-component polyurethane foam with a one-off screw-on nozzle I could find, but
    less than four weeks old. (I have had problems with foam a couple on months old
    being reluctant to come out of the can and expand).

    So:

    First, I placed the tools in pleasing arrangement, turned so that the less
    undercut side is up. Photographed arrangement. Wrapped tools in clingfilm in
    case foam gets through to them. This also reduces the detail somewhat -- I
    didn't want foam to mold to every loop and crevice, just to the general outline.
    Placed tools on cardboard face down, mirroring arrangement, referring to
    photograph.

    Taped tools in place on a piece of cardboard, using masking tape to reduce
    undercuts. (I decided to leave out some small boxy bits, and just cut holes for
    those later.) Covered tools with a thin bit of jersey fabric, to provide
    protection from foam, and a little overall clearance between foam and tools --
    there will be fabric over the foam in the final inset. This also softens any
    sharp edges that may cut the plastic bin liner. Placed a bin liner over the lot:
    tools, cardboard, fabric. I used a polyethylene bin liner so that the foam will
    not stick to the liner -- PE is one of the things listed on the can that PU foam
    won't adhere to. Now, I sucked the air from bin liner. I used an injector pump
    and a bit garden hosepipe attached with a cable tie. Fiddled with the plastic to
    get it to conform well to the tools, and get the folds and wrinkles to lie flat.
    (This was the part that had me really worried: I wanted a vacuum to get the
    plastic foil good an close, but any tiny hole would result in foam being sucked
    all over all the tools.)

    Built four cardboard sides, a bit smaller than the box it will fit in. Fold out
    bottom edge, and attach over the cardboard/tools/bin liner using binder clips.
    Taped gaps on the inside to keep foam inside. Dampened the foil and cardboard --
    the foam wants a bit of moisture to cure.

    Put on old clothes, rubber gloves, shook can and foamed away, squirting the
    stuff in the undercuts first. As the final foam block was to be about 30 liters,
    I ignored the "maximum thickness of 30 mm per layer" and emptied the can. (I
    have had half-used cans sitting in the corner harmlessly at first to find that
    they had oozed their guts out the moment I turned my back. So out with it.) This
    thick layer may have contributed to the large pores near some of the tools.

    It looked as if it were far too little for a while, but then expanded slowly and
    continuously. From previous experience with the stuff, it always does, and still
    I put in too much. So I'd left the cardboard sides very high, so no worries. (No
    canoes here!)

    I let the injector pump run for about two hours, and then turned it off. The
    lightly moistened top layer had started to cure and was no longer tacky or soft
    by then, so I assumed the bottom with the tools would also have started to cure.
    This foam block cured overnight.

    The tools came out easily this morning: I cut open the bin liner from
    underneath, pulled the tools out, pulled the fabric off, and peeling off the
    plastic sheet from the foam without any trouble. No leaks. There are large
    pores, gaps, and holes under the tools, but overall, details molded well. The
    pores tend to be at flat surfaces. Some narrow gasp of 1.5 cm wide an 2 deep
    have filled in well, with a fine-grained foam. Perhaps the moisture keeps the
    pore size down? The bin liner rounded out the edges nicely.

    The next step will be to cut the remaining holes with a cutter knife and a
    scalpel, reduce some of the undercutting, and maybe provide some clearance holes
    to make it easier to grip and remove tools.

    Yellow foam with large pores is not pretty - this would do for packing, but not
    for use or display. I have bought some crushed velvet to cover the foam. This is
    a synthetic fabric and very elastic, so placing it over the foam and inserting
    the tools one by one, from the middle out, pulls it into the cutouts nicely. The
    crushed look makes the inevitable folds and wrinkles much less noticeable and
    unobjectionable. Hot-melt or double-sided carpet tape should hold the fabric
    down nicely, perhaps aided by the odd pin; I have yet try this.

    Should you think crushed red velvet a bit too much -- it was cheaper than felt
    by about half, and felt would have required a lot of cutting, joining and
    gluing!



    Thomas Prufer
    Thomas Prufer, Oct 21, 2009
    #6
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