Solid "foam" choices

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I have several "cases" that I'd like to convert into
carrying cases for various tools that seem to keep
multiplying around here.  (primarily hand tools)

I figure all I need to do is find some reasonably stiff
"foam" in which I can cut holes to set the individual
tools in, then place these in the cases.  Not as good
as a case made *specifically* for a particular tool
but a lot better than storing tools in generic cardboard

Most of the "foam" I've encountered at craft stores is
just that -- foam.  Spongey.  It should be easy to
manipulate but I doubt it will offer much support to
the tools once the case is closed and carried off.

[Styrofoam is too "brittle" IMO.  But, reasonably "firm"]

The carrying case for one of my LCD projectors has a "foam
filler" that seems perfect.  *Looks* like styrofoam
(contrast that with the sort of foam with which you would
stuff a seat cushion) but rubbery-er.  And black.

I.e., unlike the "seat cushion foam", it has very little "give"
(just like styrofoam).  Unlike styrofoam, it doesn't fall apart
when abused!

Suggestions as to what I could use and where I might find it?


Re: Solid "foam" choices
Den torsdag den 5. december 2013 19.49.31 UTC+1 skrev Don Y:
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layers of sleeping pad ?


Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 06/12/13 05:49, Don Y wrote:
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Go to an upholsterer's supplier and buy polyurethane foam of the  
appropriate density.

Re: Solid "foam" choices
Hi Clifford,

On 12/5/2013 3:51 PM, Clifford Heath wrote:
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I thinnk that is likely to be the same sort of "spongey foam"
that I've found at craft stores -- various thicknesses, various
stiffness.  But, none would hold up to, for example, cradling a
10 pound sledge hammer, circular saw, sawzall, etc.

[yes, they would keep it from bouncing around in the case, but
the "foam" would quickly show signs of deformation]

The stuff I'm looking for is more like styrofoam in appearance and  
consistency (your foam looks like a bunch of little bubbles
welded together;  styrofoam looks like a bunch of little *blobs*
welded together (sorry, I can't come up with a better way of
describing them -- look at them side by side....).  But, the
stuff I'm after is much rubberier than styrofoam.  It doesn't
"chip off" like styrofoam does when you "pick at it".

I should see how well it photographs -- though that still wouldn't
convey its texture, mechanical properties, etc.  But, you could
see how "hard" an edge it holds, that you could pour water on it
and it wouldn't seep in, that I can set a 10 pound sledge on it
you'd not be able to tell *where* it sat *while* it was there or
after it had been removed!  (i.e., REALLY stiff)

Re: Solid "foam" choices

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And a real upholstery supply has PU foam that is that stiff; not just  
the squishy stuff. Floral supply has another stiff-foam variant, but  
it's generally white or green.  

However, a fully form-fitted stiff solution is also available. Two  
sheets of plastic film larger than the case, and a can of spray PU -  
Great Stuff (tm) or the like. Spray case, lay film, lay tools, lay film,  
spray top of case, close, wait. A few vent holes will make the need to  
judge the proper amount of foam slightly less picky - cut off what boils  
out. You can even get black, if you want it. DON'T get latex "foam."

Cats, coffee, chocolate...vices to live by
Please don't feed the trolls. Killfile and ignore them so they will go away.

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 12/5/2013 9:10 PM, Ecnerwal wrote:
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The polyurethane foam is *intended* to be compressible.  The
stuff I have (see photo elsewhere) is not.  It serves the role that
"molded styrofoam packing materials" served in the past -- hold
something in place.

The floral supply stuff that I am familiar with is brittle and

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This was the first approach I had tried.  I've used "Great Stuff"
(it comes in three? different "densities"/expandabilities, IIRC)
to pack things for shipment.  Again, "holding something in place".

[I also used it recently to insulate and *secure* some 1" copper
pipes in the hollows of cinder-block posts I'd made -- not wanting
the pipes to be able to *move* left/right yet not able to fasten
each to the *inside* surface of the cinder-block voids!  (I've since
discovered a way to do just that !  :< )]

Among the cases that I have is a large one -- probably 3'x2'x1'.
It's sort of like a piece of hard-sided luggage -- wheels, telescoping
"handle", etc.  This would be ideal for my electric "breaker"
(think "jack hammer").  Similar to:


[I don't have a hand truck to "store" mine (well, I do but it is far
too big to set aside for that role) -- hence the idea of the carrying
case I was trying to make]

This thing is heavy.  About 70 pounds -- not counting the
attachments ("bits").  Anything compressible *will* compress
and deform while this is *stored* in it (I don't use this
"instrument of destruction" very often  :>  Makes me feel
like I'm vibrating for hours afterwards!)

I wrapped the breaker with a plastic sheet (it's almost like
vellum -- not polyethylene).  Then, suspended it partially
"submerged" in the case (i.e., so that it wasn't sitting on
the back/bottom of the case).  Then, sprayed *under* it with
the canned foam letting it expand *up* to meet the wrapping
around the breaker.

When it was clear that I had enough (almost 3 cans!), I misted the
exposed surface of the foam with water (apparently, helps it cure?
Not sure how but it did make a difference when I used it for the
pipe insulation outdoors!)  Then, walked away so not to disturb it.

The next day, noticed the foam had crept up *over* the top of
the breaker.  Lesson learned:  *suspend* the item by the sheet
that you wrap it with.  I.e., so the item creates a convex hull
in the sheet with "(near) vertical sides".  So, the only place
for the excess foam to go is over the edge of the case.

But, the real problem was the weight of the breaker had perforated
the sheet and allowed foam to push its way through and muck up
the breaker.  Lesson learned:  put something soft above the sheet
between it and the item.  The contours won't end up as tight but
there's less chance of screws and other edges damaging the sheet!
(probably find a thicker material, as well)

Thankfully, I had lined the *case* with a sheet as well so I was
able to "clean out" the case completely after this attempt.

I've not pursued it any further ($25 for "half" a case means you
want to know its going to work!) especially in light of "how am
I going to handle the attachments 'in the cover'?"  It seemed
like a solution that I could *cut* with a knife would be easier
to get right...

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 06/12/2013 02:37, Don Y wrote:
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The stuff you want is one of the Stratocell polyethylene foams used to  
cushion expensive gear in transit from the likes of UPS jugglers.

See for example:

Martin Brown

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 06/12/13 13:37, Don Y wrote:
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You're thinking of latex foam. It's rubbish.
Ask for high-density PU foam and you'll get what you want.

Re: Solid "foam" choices
Hi Clifford,

On 12/6/2013 2:54 AM, Clifford Heath wrote:
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I'm not hopeful -- but I will try.  I can't imagine this stuff
being used in any sort of "compressible" application!  It's
just too stiff.  (Can you imagine using styrofoam in that way?)

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 07/12/13 05:19, Don Y wrote:
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The stuff I bought for lining a flight case is 1.5" thick, and the kind  
of stuff that you could stand on one-legged all day without it going  
completely flat, and when you hop off, within 5 seconds there'll be no  
sign that you did it. And that's not the densest stuff they make.

Upholsterers need and use all grades, often with lower density glued  
over higher density foam. I've seen the light stuff that miso talks
about too, but a trade supplier - especially that supplies pleasure
boat chandleries and trimmers - will have the good stuff.

But it seems you like questions more than you like answers...
Find a proper trade supplier and don't take "no" for an answer.

Clifford Heath.

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On Thursday, December 5, 2013 6:37:00 PM UTC-8, Don Y wrote:

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[concerned with higher stiffness material]
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Well, you can use a molding technique to make a case, shooting
GreatStuff (or similar insulating foam in aerosol cans) into plastic
bags, then molding the plastic bags around your hardware or a model and in your
case (before it sets, it's nicely squishy).   Appearance isn't great,
but function is good.

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On Thu, 05 Dec 2013 11:49:31 -0700, the renowned Don Y

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Best regards,  
Spehro Pefhany
"it's the network..."                          "The Journey is the reward"             Info for manufacturers:
We've slightly trimmed the long signature. Click to see the full one.
Re: Solid "foam" choices
Hi Spehro,

On 12/5/2013 6:32 PM, Spehro Pefhany wrote:
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The first one I'm sure is the wrong sort of foam -- it's
very much like the stuff they sell in craft stores to make

Second one I am assuming is similar -- just sliced and
diced differently?

Think of (or, better yet, *hold* a piece in your hand!)
that sort of foam.  Then, think of styrofoam.  They are very
different in terms of their physical characteristics.
I.e., styrofoam isn't *intended* to be elastic.  When you
exceed a certain pressure, it deforms permanently.  The
other foam "always" deforms under load -- yet returns

What I'm looking for is closer to styrofoam but less flimsy.
It feels like it has rubber in it -- though looks much like
styrofoam (and not at all like the springy/spongey foam.

Said another way, I could cut styrofoam (and this
stuff I am looking for) with a sharp knife.  The foam you
cite above would tend to deform under the pressure of that
knife!  (you'd need a heated blade or an *extremely* sharp
blade to cut along an intended "line")

I need to see if this photographs well...

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 12/5/2013 10:49 AM, Don Y wrote:
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The foam you describe is what I find when I buy military surplus transit  
cases. I have never seen it at a foam shop. But the foam shop I use gets  
pretty close, and I prefer a softer foam anyway.

I saw the suggestions about an upholstery shop, and that is where I  
wouldn't go. In most industrial areas, they have foam shops that stock a  
variety of foams.

Granger has foam, but you probably won't like the price. You are better  
off finding a local foam shop and eventually one will have what you want.

The shop I use cuts to spec. I glue the foam to the case using a 3M  
spray on glue. Super 77 will work.

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 06/12/13 18:02, miso wrote:
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Here in Australia, it's about a half the price, and three times the  
quality of what you can get elsewhere. It's where good auto trimmers and  
professional re-upholsters go, so it's sold at trade prices.

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 12/6/2013 1:57 AM, Clifford Heath wrote:
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The problem is upholstery shop foam is too soft. We can get that foam at  
Wal-Mart. For light stuff, that is what I use.

For a lot of mobile radios/scanners, the USAF night vision transit boxes  
are just about the right size as is.
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I have half a dozen of these cases. I got them at a swap meet for $6,  
but Murphy's price isn't all that bad. Every one I got is air tight. I  
can barely open them after dropping in altitude.

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 12/6/2013 12:02 AM, miso wrote:
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I've never bought any military surplus cases.  But, this would be
in the same category as an "equipment case" for a relatively high
end piece of kit.  *Heavy* kit.  E.g., I have carrying cases for
professional microphones that are filled with the "spongey"
foam that I mentioned.  It's appropriate, there, as the microphones
are pretty lightweight.

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I will contact some of the hits google turned up for "foam" later
today.  I can always bring in what I have as a sample and say,
"Gimme some of this" or "Can you tell me what the heck this is?"
However, I don't expect to get much in terms of results.

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There's a Grainger in the general part of town I'll be in.  I can
always stop in and see if they have the equivalent product, regardless
of price.  Then, jot down what they *call* it and use that to locate
another vendor.

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This stuff is so rigid that I suspect I can almost *wedge* it in place!
E.g., When I pulled it out (despite the adhesive), I've been able to
push it right back into place, turn the case upside down, shake it, etc.
It *really* doesn't like being compressed so squeezing it just a little
(to get it past whatever "lip" surrounds the case top/bottom) and then
letting it return to its normal size seems to hold it in place well.

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On Thursday, December 5, 2013 1:49:31 PM UTC-5, Don Y wrote:
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Hi Don,  We have use this stiff but 'plasticy' white foam.  
It's easy to cut, but holds up to all sorts of pressure.

No sledge hammers here, but some pictures

I can't find the name of the foam right away.. but if that's what you are looking for I can contact our packaging people and see what's it's called.  It comes in various thicknesses and we sometime 'glue' pieces together.

George H

Re: Solid "foam" choices
On 12/6/2013 11:04 AM, Don Y wrote:
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I deliberately didn't downsample the photos so you can zoom in to see
a bit more detail.  Black on black tends to be a bit vague...

Re: Solid "foam" choices

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It sounds like you are looking for polyethylene foam.

Polyurethane foam is usually quite fragile, and turns to crumbs.  
Polyurethane foam can also revert to urethane resin, a gooey mess.

The black stuff is probably carbon loaded polyurethane.

Joe Gwinn

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