View Full Version : Foam Question

10-13-2005, 03:12 AM
I am building a pastel box. Can anyone tell me what kind of foam to get? I did a google search. Turns out there a dozens of kinds of foam. What works best for pastel boxes?

10-13-2005, 03:53 AM
You might call Dakota Pastels and ask them what they use- or Great American Pastel Company- whatever it is, it is good stuff and I save every piece of foam that comes in the house for re-use with the pastels in boxes, drawers, etc. The Heilman box has the best foam in the world, a soft white stuff, but since they sell their own boxes this might be their own secret. I don't suppose Home Depot carries foam?

10-13-2005, 04:07 AM
The foam is there to cushion the pastels so that they do not knock around the box and break. It doesnt matter at all what type of foam you use. The only inmportant consideration is that it fits well, and that you can close the box without crushing the pastels! Check the width rather than anything else. Too thin, and it wont cushion properly; too thick and you wont be able to shut the box.


10-13-2005, 07:33 AM
I know they call the foam in the Heilman Box "memory foam". I am looking for some also as my Dad is making me a travel box. But, I do agree with Jackie, that the consideration is the thickness -- needs to be just right!

John, you might want to share how you are building this box. I know loads of us would be interested. Would you do so?

10-13-2005, 07:41 AM
I know they call the foam in the Heilman Box "memory foam".

I knew it had to have a special name! It is wonderful stuff ... seems to hug the pastels, almost. My Heilman box contains everything from thin Conté sticks to chunky Unisons and that stuff keeps them all in place perfectly.

10-13-2005, 07:51 AM
That is what is most wonderful -- the fact the foam "hugs" the pastels. It keeps them firmly in place. Pressure from other thicker foams can do the same thing, but then it requires more pressure to close the box and possibly breaking (I should say crushing) some pastels. And . . . they seem more easily shifted on other foam.

I wanted to buy the Heilman Box when I went to the IAPS convention, but instead decided to come home and have my Dad build me a custom box. Guess what? It has been several months since that convention and . . . no box yet!!!! I'm beginning I should have just bought one!

10-13-2005, 08:39 AM
I'd check a full service upholstery shop. The one here has an amazing array of thing to thick foam paddings, etc. for redoing things like padded dashboards for cars, car seats, chair pads, etc. If they didn't have exactly what you wanted, I bet they could order it.

10-13-2005, 09:40 AM
There have been a couple of threads recently on foam. If you do a search in the forums for pastel foam, you'll probably be able to find them.

I lucked out and got a whole roll of thin upholstery foam. I love it and it does the trick nicely. I also bought some slightly thicker upholstery foam at a fabric shop for fairly little expense.

10-13-2005, 12:56 PM
Thanks, everyone.

I've seen "memory foam" on the internet. Maybe I will order some of that. My box will be similar to the plein air pastel box that Marc Hanson made (there is a thread here that describes it). But, since my woodworking skills are less than zero, I've started with an oil paint box that I bought at Aaron Brothers.

So far, I've gutted the insides (removed all the dividers). I then took of the lid and put it back on upside down (So that when I open it, the flat side faces me and can be used as a support for my paper). Next, I've added a locking table brace to hold the lid up.

Next, I glued in some basswod strips so that the combination drawing board/lid can slide in. I had to saw out an opening on the side of the box so that the drawing board/lid can slide in and out.

I still need to glue and screw a piece of plywood to the bottom of the box to reenforce it since the original box was not built too strongly.

A few more finishng touches and I will be done. I know this sounds confusing, but if you look at Marc's box, mine looks almost identical. I just started with the oil paint box to save a lot of carpentry. I'll post some pictures when I'm done.

The box will be able to hold two paintings safely: one on the drawing board that also serves as the lid for the pastels and another on a second drawing board that will attatch to the outside of the box lid (which, remember has been turned upside down so that the original inside of the lid is now on the outside.)

When finished, the box will mount on a tripod. It will hold about 200 pastels and will also serve as my easel and panel carrier. I can't believe nobody markets a product like this. It is perfect for working with pastels en plein air.

10-13-2005, 01:31 PM
I bought a cheap art set for kids because it has a cool metal briefcase box- gave the stuff inside to the kids and have been sitting here thinking for 2 weeks about what would Cori do with this box???? The rounded edges and top being thicker than the bottom present a problem, but I hate boxes that don't make use of both sides. I must say, my husband PERHAPS could build some sort of box- eventually- given 5 years but it would probably weigh 90 pounds, be built of logs, and I would have to USE IT. Believe it or not, I need one more perfect box for breaking up the sennliers, and I really want to order another Heilman box. Just a bad time of year with Christmas and all, so will wait for awhile.

10-13-2005, 03:40 PM
lol, Linda. did you see my article on what I did with a metal briefcase from a kids art set? Mine is really evenly weighted though so I could use it as a cassatt-style box. If yours is larger on one side, I bet what John is doing would work for yours too. Make it into a slightly large pochade box. you might have trouble installing a t-nut into the bottom though for a tripod....

Ann Tucker posted a great article on the Oil Pastel Society website on how she did this with one of these boxes:

Kitty Wallis
10-13-2005, 05:21 PM
Another vote here for memory foam. It's many times better than any other I've tried. It even keeps the pastels cleaner!

10-13-2005, 09:11 PM
I would like to thank everyone who has offered their comments. Without them, I would probably have rebuilt this thing several times before getting it right.

Here's another question:

I found a source for memory foam. It comes in 1/2" sheets. If the inside of my box measures exactly 1" (vertically), can I use one piece of this under the pastels and another on top? The two pieces (one on top of the other) will just barely fit in the box without the pastels. When I put the pastels in, will this be too much foam and I won't be able to close the box? Or will the foam compress enough that everything will be OK?

Also, can anyone explain how I install a T-Nut so that I can attach my box to a tripod? Where do I get one? How do I attach it to the box? What do I ask for? I don't want to sound foolish like the time my guitar broke and I had to go to the store and ask for a G string.

10-13-2005, 09:24 PM
lol. You can buy a T-nut at pretty much any do it yourself store. I got mine at Home depot. You can buy them in the bulk hardware aisle (smae as were you'd get nails and screws). I can understand the whole wanting to look like you know what you're talking about thing. I used to work in a hardware store and still get embarrassed asking for things....

Anyway - they are really cheap..I think mine were 30 cents or thereabouts. I bought several different sizes because I had forgotten my tripod mount. If you have a removable tripod mount - take it with you so you can size it up right there.

As for installing it - once you know what size the t-nut is, just drill a hole in the box to match the size of the t-nut you are installing...perhaps ever so slightly larger.

Depending on how thick the bottom of your ox is, you may need to flatten down the little prongs on the underside of the t-nut (unless you can find them without these sharp little prongs. I had no luck up here).

Then you just gently pound the t-nut through the hole you have made. You may want to further secure it with a glue that will work for wood and metal. I think I would probably use epoxy, just for the strength factor. Just make sure you don't get it in the threads of the t-nut.

Hope that helps, John!

***edited to add: the memory foam...hmmm - good question. I would think you would want more give than that. I could be wrong...maybe someone with the heilman could give a bit more info on the compression...***

Kitty Wallis
10-13-2005, 11:43 PM
I'm not sure about leaving room, I'm tempted to say the pastel will fit fine.

How about getting a small sample and testing it?

10-14-2005, 11:21 AM
John, where did you find memory foam in 1/2 inch sheets? I started looking for the stuff out of curiosity and the smallest I could find was a twin size bed cover 2-3 inches thick! I ThinK the Heilman's use several sheets of 1/4 inch foam- 2 per compartment and one in the lid.

10-14-2005, 01:24 PM
John, where did you find memory foam in 1/2 inch sheets? I started looking for the stuff out of curiosity and the smallest I could find was a twin size bed cover 2-3 inches thick! I ThinK the Heilman's use several sheets of 1/4 inch foam- 2 per compartment and one in the lid.

It wasn't easy to find, but here it is:


The memory foam is about 2/3 of the way down the page. You can search the page for "Memory" to find it quickly. It comes in 30"x36" sheets for $40 each.

10-14-2005, 04:08 PM
thanks john- oh boy would the dogs love that in their kennel-