The Illusion of Cheap Foam

EDITORS NOTE: This post is one that has been sitting my drafts folder since 2010.  I really have no idea why I haven’t bothered to finish it until now.  Whatever the case, it’s still mostly relevant information, and I figured it should get out there.  Since the start of this is old information, some of the tense issues are inappropriate by today’s standards, but the information is still good.

Try as I might, I can’t seem to find a “cheap” solution to store my models in.  When I say cheap, I really mean cost-effective, as anyone can throw their painted models into a trash bag and carry them to and fro.  I want a solution that will protect my models in transport, but not cost me an arm and a leg.

Years ago, I picked up a couple of Army Transport bags from Sabol Designs and they’ve served me well as a transport solution for my Ultramarines.  Since my marines took too long to paint, I opted for a quick and dirty solution in order to field a painted army quickly: thus the birth of Hive Fleet Proteus.  It wasn’t ever intended to be a great looking army, just a cheap and quick solution that I wouldn’t care if they got damaged.  Well, after a year of painting and basing the horde, I’ve actually grown to like them, and sadly I do care if they get damaged.  So, with several hundred painted bugs, I’m now in the market for a cost effective transport option.

My first consideration was to go with Battle Foam, but paying $500+ to protect my models seems like highway robbery.  Yes, their catch-line is fitting, but that’s alot of cheese to be spending on what’s essentially packing material.

I could go with Army Transport (which would make sense, seeing as I already have some investment in them), and on the surface they look relatively inexpensive (at least, compared with battle foam).  They’re pluck foam though, which isn’t as ideal (or as cool) as the laser cut option, and the trays are considerably smaller, so you’d have to consider that when coming to a final price.

Then I came across an article on House of Paincakes detailing how to make cheap foam trays, which couldn’t have come at a better time.  So, I started scouring the local papers for coupons to my local craft store (Jo-Ann Fabrics and Michael’s–who allow you to use each other’s coupons interchangably).  Each week one or the other vendor (sometimes both) tends to have a 40% off coupon.  So, armed with that mighty coupon, I made my way to the store to see what damage I could do.

Upon initial inspection, the prices weren’t astounding, but the selection was quite good.  The pricing at first blush wasn’t going to be all that much cheaper than buying direct from Battlefoam.  It’s been years since I actually went and purchased it (spoiler alert: I did purchase it), but you can look at Joann’s website to see current pricing.  For a 2″x24″x90″ sheet, they’re asking $83.99.  In comparison, Battlefoam charges $22.99 for a single 2″x12″x15.5″x foam tray (of which you can get 10 of in the Joann’s sheet).

Now, battlefoam tends to offer a 25% discount for anything you buy on Black Friday (or at least they have as of the past couple of years), so to get 10x 2″ foam trays, it would more likely cost you $172.42.  Joann’s foam with a 40% discount comes to just $50.39 for the same sheet.  At those prices, it’s an easy decision.

wh39kBuildingFoam (3)But with Battlefoam, you have to account for the fact that you get a bag, and some level of discount on the foam contained within for buying a bag full.  Likewise, everything is custom cut (and potentially etched with your name/logo).  Still, it was hard to pass up the discount offered by Joann’s, so I bought a boatload.

Part of me now remembers why this post has been so long in the making–I had taken pictures of my Tyranids in foam, but not uploaded them.  So, in the interest of keeping things flowing, I’ll post a picture of some marines in foam (at right).  The foam isn’t identical, but you get the idea.  The foam from Joann’s was for upholstery, so it was more dense and it was green for some reason.

In total, I wound up paying about the same amount for foam from Joann’s as I would’ve had I purchased a battlefoam bag, but I got so much more of it.  Of course, I had to cut it out myself, which was a royal pain when it came to things like hormagaunts, but I eventually got it done.  Likewise, I had to find some way of storing/transporting that foam.  I did find some totes over at Walmart that proved to be perfect.  They were 12″ wide and 31″ across, and roughly 12-15″ deep (I forget exactly), so they allowed me to cut my foam into “battlefoam sizes” and store them in tubs.  In total, I’ve filled three and a half of these tubs with foam/bugs (did I mention I have too many bugs).

The thing is, that I’m still several hundred dollars deep in foam–plus all of the time/effort to cut them out and glue them together when necessary.  Granted, I’m sure I’m better off (financially) than if I had purchased Battlefoam, but it wasn’t exactly cheap.

Then later, I stumbled on some camping foam.  At our local Fred Meyer’s (which is a department store that is owned by Krogers), over in the camping section, they have 6′ foam pads in the camping section.  The foam isn’t quite as dense and it only comes in one size/depth, but a sheet is only $22 when it’s not on sale.  That’s at least a 50% savings over Joann’s! (and coincidentally the foam I used for my marines pictured above).

When I started this post, years ago, I was going to complain that there were no real cheap alternatives to battlefoam, and was likely going to suggest that you buy that.  Now that I know the foam exists at my local department store, I’ll definitely forsake the upholstery foam for something practically as good and a quarter of the price.

And now that I look back, I’ve already done a post on foam cutting (which explains why I have photos of my marines uploaded in their foam).  Oh well, I spent this time writing this post, I’ll be damned if I’m not going to put it up.






6 comments on “The Illusion of Cheap Foam

  1. Yes, still relevant. I’ve got a collection of different solutions from custom cut to pick not pluck, standard trays down to my own customised cushion foam packed in plastic tubs. It all suits different needs like long term storage, moving house and easy pack n unpack for competitions.
    Thanks for the post, no matter how long it takes to finish. Sometimes these long time frame posts are good because you can validate what works and provide your experience.

  2. You should always post, even if you don’t feel it benefits anyone but yourself. It’s still your blog!

    On the foam. I feel that density of some of the model foam is a bit higher then the craft foam (if the one you got is the same I’ve dealt with before at joanne’s or michaels). That being said I don’t see how one would protect more then the other. It’s mainly the time required to cut all that stuff up and fit it!

    • Oh there are definite differences in density. Some of those camping pads at the local grocery are super soft and don’t make for good model storage, but others are pretty close to what Battlefoam offers. As for the stuff from Joann’s, I think that’s actually more stiff than what battlefoam offers.

  3. Hormagaunts, Termagaunts, Genestealers= egg cartons especially the three dozen variety. Now I just have to find Ostrich egg cartons for the Monsterous Creatures. Does the spikey bits on the Nids get snagged on the foam?

Have something to add?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s