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Old 02-22-2011, 11:39 PM
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Phil Bates Phil Bates is offline
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Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

This thread is dedicated to my favorite pastel tool, the humble piece of pipe insulation.

There are a lot of questions about using pipe insulation, how, why, what, etc. So, I thought I would start a thread explaining what I do. Others can join in the conversation and we can have a grand old pipe insulation party!

Basically, I start with foam pipe insulation that can be found easily at home improvement stores. I bought these 6 ft. long sticks at Lowes for 99 cents each. There are several different kinds. I would avoid the dark dense rubber, and those sticks with ready made peel-off adhesive. Those will only give you grief cutting off the sticky part.



Here's a close up:



In this ultra close up, you can see the foam cellular structure:



I cut 3 strips lengthwise from each piece:



Then I cross cut those strips into short 1.5" segments. You can get 150 pieces from each stick, what a bargain! I keep them in a bin by the easel:



Here I am using one of them on a painting:



I can get two clean uses out of each piece (see the two dirty stripes). To keep the pastel from migrating on my painting, I wipe it often with a paper towel.



Each piece will wear out quickly. Once the foam cells break, the tool becomes more of a pastel removal tool then a blending tool. The above photo shows the cells still intact. For best results, replace them often, especially on sanded paper, they're cheap!

I must give credit to Terry Ludwig, who sent me a few pieces when I placed my first order of pastel. Thanks Terry!

Phil
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Last edited by Phil Bates : 02-22-2011 at 11:43 PM.
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Old 02-23-2011, 08:05 AM
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*Deirdre* *Deirdre* is offline
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

I've never tried it Phil, but I think it sounds similar to those foam packing pieces you get so many of, free...is there a difference?
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Old 02-23-2011, 08:38 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Excellent tip! As long as the tiny little pods of air are intact, they slide and blend. Once they pop open they are abrasive and you throw 'em out. Very clear and very useful.

Thanks, Phil!

Jan
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:16 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

I agree Phil...... I have been using these for a couple of years, though I don't do it as tidily as you - I usually just tear pieces off. It works great and with careful cutting you can form little pointy pieces to blend small areas. Works much better than packing peanuts.
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:50 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Great thread. thanks for posting it. I am going to buy some this weekend. james
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:54 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Coincidently enough I just purchased some of these on the weekend..although I did make the mistake of buying the adhesive ones which I am cutting off anyways. Have not tried it yet but will..I have been using peanut styrofoam for a while now but these look sturdier. I love all the tips & techniques I learn on this site ! Thank you.
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:54 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Use it a lot, works wonders.
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:56 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Quote:
Originally Posted by *Deirdre*
I've never tried it Phil, but I think it sounds similar to those foam packing pieces you get so many of, free...is there a difference?

Hi Deirdre,

Like Carol said, they work much better than the packing peanuts. Packing peanuts tend to remove pastel, even when they are new. The pipe insulation is a great blender until they wear out a bit, but at least you can get some blending time with them, and it's really inexpensive! Hopefully you can get it "across the pond".
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Old 02-23-2011, 09:58 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Ah yes. I went to visit Terry when he was in town to visit with him and buy some pastels. And he gave me some insulation and a demo on how to use it. Great guy he is.
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:29 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Thanks for this advice, Phil. Having recently been fussing about the paper tortillons - they drive me nuts! I am definitely going to try this -- the price is certainly right.

And if it can help me somehow get closer to painting like Phil, well ...
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:31 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Quote:
Originally Posted by *Deirdre*
I've never tried it Phil, but I think it sounds similar to those foam packing pieces you get so many of, free...is there a difference?

Hi Deirdre, not to be confused with packing peanuts, there may be some packing foam that is similar, but I've never seen any quite as sturdy as the pipe insulation. I'll see if I can find some and report back.

Phil
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Old 02-23-2011, 10:47 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Deirdre - I've used both and the difference is the durability. I'll eat up a packing peanut in a hurry on Wallis. I don't have the issue with the pipe insulation. And it's so cheap, why not get it.
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Old 02-23-2011, 11:05 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Great tool!
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Old 02-23-2011, 11:17 AM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

Funny, I bought an 8' tube just this weekend. Thanks for showing a good way to chop the stuff up. I was just trying to get a feel for how to size it and was cutting it way too small.

Tim
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Old 02-23-2011, 12:26 PM
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Re: Pipe Insulation Blending Tool

About 4 years ago I had the pleasure of attending a Terry Ludwig workshop. The first thing he handed out was strips of the pipe insulation to each attendee. I used it then and for a short period of time after that, then left it alone for a couple of years. I tried almost all of the other blending tools and found each of them wanting in some way, so then went out a purchased a stick of the foam insulation and have used it exclusively since. It's great that it can be cut, torn in to rough shapes for special effects, wiped off and used repeatedly. Since I tend to use the narrow end for a lot of blending, it is just a simple matter to cut the foam off or tear the end off and expose a brand new surface. Just hope that the foam companies don't decide to start selling the insulation as an art product. Then the price won't be 99 cents any longer.

John
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