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Foam Seams

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by Joel Morgan, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. Joel Morgan

    Joel Morgan New Member

    Howdy! Up until now, I've been building puppets by sewing an outline in faux fur or felt and then cutting/gluing disks and tubes of foam for bodies and such. I've been trying to build some foam heads but each keeps turning out with a really hard and protruding seam, where ever I place it,(going up the face, rainbowing on the arch of his/hers/it's head.) Just wondering if anybody else has had an issue with this in their puppets? I'm using hot glue, which i think may be the problem, but I've heard of some using hot glue just fine. So, again, I'm at a loss.
  2. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    It's hard for me to describe in words what I eventually learned from my gluing and foam mistakes, but I'll try my best...

    In the old days, whenever I would construct a foam head, what I was would is pattern the head completely, then what I would do is I would slightly carve the edges of the foam where they would be glued together... I don't know what I was thinking, but somehow, I thought that would help. Then, once I was ensured that the patterns were glued together, I would turn the foam head inside out (much like you do with fabric when you finish sewing it), the results weren't spectacular, but then again, I never claimed to be a good puppet builder, plus, no one was going to see the foam head anyway as it would be fabricated later on.

    More recently, however, I would actually watch footage of Don Sahlin building puppets while I was building, and instead here is what I started doing instead with better results:

    First, after I had completed the mouthplates, I would glue a large scrap of foam to the top of the mouth, then as needed, I would cut away at it until I had the shape I wanted for the head (so it's almost as if I'm both attaching and patterning at the same time), then, like Don does, I started gluing the edges (without doing the additional minor carving that I did) directly together: edge to edge. This has much better results I find, and then I would do the same with the foam jaw (which I find somewhat trickier, because sometimes the foam likes to pull on the mouth plate, which can result in a sneer, which is a problem I still have). Lastly, I do some additional patterning for the back side of the skull to give the head the shape it needs, gluing in the same method: completely edge-to-edge.
  3. TheCreatureWork

    TheCreatureWork Well-Known Member

    I do the inside out method as explained above :) Great minds think alike. I recommend a clean straight foam line- use a razor to cut your foam and once you start cutting, follow through your cut without stopping. Stopping can cause the line to be jagged. Secondly, I work with Barge glue and find that works...however, the trick is just applying a small amount to hold the seam and enough so that you don't have glue spilling out. Another key is to wait until the glue is tacky before "marrying" the two pieces of foam together. Work slowly to ensure the edges meet clean. I wait a couple of hours so the glue has cured hard and then turn the head inside out and you should get a clean line. The line might be noticeable with the naked eye but on video it is hard to find. In old episodes of the Muppets most of all the characters in Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem are not covered by fabric and it is hard to see the seam lines.

    PS- Do your research in regards to Reticulated Foam! A friend gave me some 30 ppi foam and it was much different from the 30 ppi I got later on. I found his foam to be more "tight" but flimsy...my foam was more sturdier but the foam seemed more porous. It caused me to call the manufacturer to make certain they got the order right and the manufacturer confirmed the right ppi (pour per square inch) he told me that each foam will have different characteristics even though it is the same PPI...weird, but this might also explain why some foams hide the seam better than others too.

    Hope this helps.

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