My roommate is a bit of a pack rat and has several old TV and computer monitor boxes with styrofoam supports.

I am thinking of cutting the styrofoam into little "bricks" and building a small house out of it.

Is there a trick or special tool to make clean cuts without making a mess of little styrofoam bits everywhere?

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Is there a trick or special tool to make clean cuts without making a mess of little styrofoam bits everywhere?

Yes, it's called "hot-wire (foam) cutter" and can look like this:

foam cutter

You can even make one yourself out of an old flash light (YouTube).

  • 4
    Is there anything we need to know about how to use this properly and safely? Does it work the same on all types of foam? – Web Head Apr 27 '16 at 23:23

An X-Acto knife is probably going to be your best bet for the least cleanup of loose Styrofoam. Cut firmly but not so deep as to tear the Styrofoam. Basically just the tip each pass and make multiple passes. It will be slow and tedious but if you do it right it wont be messy. Xacto Knife

A faster method is to use a scroll saw with a vacuum attachment. This will create more pieces of Styrofoam but most of them should end up in the vacuum receptacle reducing the amount of clean up. This will be alot faster at the cost of a bit more clean up.
enter image description here

  • 6
    Scroll saw I think is a terrible choice for this since it would be moving up and down. Foam is light enough that the blade would be picking it up. Not to mention that cutting the foam could make it move around and expand just slightly as it is cut so that the blade would rip it more that cut it. This can largely depend on your foam choice as there are OODLES. Craft knife would be good as long as the blade is thicker that the work piece. – Matt Apr 26 '16 at 21:27
  • @Matt It is what I have used in the past It moves so fast and the blade is small enough that the "sawdust" pieces are actually very small. I have used it on several different types of styrofoam. The only type I would be leary of trying would be the spongy type that never really hardens. – Chad Apr 26 '16 at 21:35
  • Cant argue with experience then. – Matt Apr 26 '16 at 21:37
  • Why don't you use a hot-wire cutter? – New Alexandria Apr 26 '16 at 23:06
  • 1
    Styrofoam releases VOCs, so the odor doesn't stay around for long. – New Alexandria Apr 27 '16 at 3:33

Just take a lighter and slightly burn the area that was broken in half or cut and it will no longer shed. Be careful as it will burn and may drip on your skin.

  • 1
    This is useful, but not much of a help for making clean cuts in the first place. – Erica Dec 10 at 0:23

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