How to Cut Styrofoam Letters

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Three-dimensional lettering can add pop to signage or room décor. Letters cut from cardboard or decorative paper have a limited life. Wooden letters last longer but require woodworking skills and special hardware to support the extra weight. Styrofoam is inexpensive, lasts forever, can be worked with standard tools and requires no special skills to achieve outstanding results.

Things You'll Need

  • Styrofoam insulation panel
  • Permanent marker
  • Computer and printer
  • Scissors and tape
  • Jigsaw
  • Sureform plane
  • Router and roundover bit (optional)
  • Sculptural arts plastic varnish or latex paint and white glue

Cutting Foam Letters

  • Purchase your foam. It can be found for a reasonable price at your local home center. You can probably save a little money if your city has a local foam company. Foam comes in a variety of colors and thicknesses. Try white styrofoam in a 2-inch sheet.

  • Create your message and choose a font for the lettering. Most home computers have dozens of different fonts if you are short on lettering ideas. Type your message into the computer, choose your font and print it out in the desired size. Don't worry if the edges pixelate on larger letters. You're just using them as a template. If you don't have a computer, hand-drawn fonts can be just as effective.

  • Cut your paper letters out with scissors, and tape them to the face of your foam. Use a permanent marker to trace the outline of the lettering onto the foam.

  • Use a jigsaw with a 3-inch plywood blade to cut the foam letters out. Be careful with thin sections to avoid breaking.

  • Smooth the edges down with a sureform plane, file or dremel tool. Use a second block of styrofoam to rub the rough edges off.

  • Leave the corners of your letters square or use a roundover bit with a bearing in a router to create rounded edges. Alternately, use any detail bit with a bearing to cut a design on the edge. Run the router clockwise and let the bearing run lightly to avoid cutting into the face.

  • Apply a coat or two of sculptural arts plastic varnish with your choice of color mixed in for a resilient finish. Latex paint mixed two parts to one part white glue can substitute.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make thinner letters with pink or blue foam insulation board.
  • Always work in a well-ventilated space and wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling styrofoam.

References

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