Work safer and design better with foamboard

My favorite tricks are the elegantly simple ones. This one involves rigid-foam insulation, the humblest of building materials, sold to go into thin wall and floor spaces and resist moisture. It comes in a few different forms, some white with a silver backing, some pink and some blue, so just grab what works for you. It’s dirt cheap. Here are two reasons I can’t live without this stuff.

One of the trickiest building tasks is cutting a big board or piece of plywood with a circular saw. You actually need four sawhorses to support the piece because when you sever the last bit, one big piece becomes two, and if both aren’t supported, the last little bit breaks and splinters and damages the wood. The unsupported piece can also drop and jam the spinning saw blade. Bad times.

But rigid-foam insulation panels completely solve the problem. I just sit those big boards and panels on a big piece of this Styrofoam-type stuff, either on the floor or on a tabletop. The foamboard supports the whole workpiece and even has some friction to stop it from sliding around. And you can cut right into it, so it keeps your blade from hitting the floor or table.

There’s another fun fact about rigid foam that makes it even more useful. It comes in both 3/4-in.- and 1-1/2-in.thick sizes, so it’s great for making prototypes too. It cuts easily with any tool in the shop, and the different sizes let you mock up tabletop shapes, legs, even whole projects.

You can draw all day, even use CAD or SketchUp, but there is nothing like seeing how something looks in reality to know if the design is truly dialed in.

tableproto
I used 3/4-in. foamboard to mock up some different shapes for my coffee tables made with plumbing hardware.
cutprotos
I use cheap pine boards for prototypes too sometimes, but I also tried a few of these cutting board designs in foam.
guide
The rigid-foam insulations comes in huge pieces, big enough to support anything I cut in my workshop, though I always cut it in half to make it easier to store.
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2 thoughts on “Work safer and design better with foamboard

    1. True, but OSB is much harder on blades. I think foam is better in that way. Lighter and easier to move a big piece around the shop, too. Also, the foamboard is thicker, meaning you don’t have to worry exactly how much your blade is sticking past the bottom of the material you are cutting.

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