Taxidermy tips – about the 2-Part Foam

Elvis Elvis

2-Part Foam Sceneries are a lot of fun to build. I highly suggest, if you haven’t already, that you order a small kit and begin to experiment with using it. I also highly recommend that you experiment with your 2-part foam BEFORE you use it on a customer mount/scenery! Foam has a mind of its own. Once mixed you will see it expand and grow with in seconds. You can help steer its progression, but you can’t do a lot to make its expansion exact.

Years ago Chriss got stuck with this duck the customer never picked up. He suggested I build a base for it, so we could at least use it for display purposes. This was in my very early scenery-building days, and it shows (!), but I came up with this idea of building a flower pot in to the scenery so something green and alive could always be growing in it.

My method here was to stack blocks of old foam, and even some wooden scraps in to an arranged pile around the drift wood, then pour the 2-part foam over it.

For the flower pot container, I cut a bleach-jug to make the cylinder, and poured the foam around it to keep it hollow.

All this was poured in small increments, but one nice thing about foam is that it sets up so fast there is little down time waiting for it to dry before you move on to another phase.

Remember now I said this was one of my earliest attempts to build a scenery, and my idea was a little bigger than my experience here – but experimenting was fun and I did learn a lot from making this foam scene. The photo above shows how the whole thing comes together for display.

If I were to do this today, I would know a little more about it all – and would definitely change a few things. For example, the moss. Waaay too much moss. And you’ll notice moss doesn’t age well. However, I didn’t know that back then. As a result, this scenery is several years old and looks every day of it with dullness and dustiness.

Another problem I discovered later is the natural grass became too brittle with age and again, it shows. Done today I would opt for an artificial variety.

What I do like about this scenery though is the “Idea” behind it; incorporating a living plant in to the scenery; the pond; the duck weed in the pond. A lot of people have complimented me on this over the years, but all in all, it’s not a scenery I am that fond of or proud of.

The biggest lesson this experimental scenery taught me is to build for duration: meaning, don’t just build a scenery that looks pretty today, build one that will still look pretty five (and hopefully fifteen!) years from now.

Taxidermy tips   about the 2 Part Foam

Foam Is Very Un-Forgiving!

While 2-part foam allows for some great creative options – it also opens the door for horrible, unrepairable mistakes.

For example, 2-part foam doesn’t wash off. It doesn’t wash off of you, your hair, your hands, your animal, your work bench, or anything else it comes in contact with. Once mixed, it will adhere to everything it comes in contact with. If you have long hair, tie it up securely behind you before you begin.

Also, much like concrete, 2-part foam is very unforgiving and must be worked with quickly. Once it begins to set, there is no going back. Before you mix a cup of it, plan on letting the telephone ring, the baby cry, the dog bark or the pot boil over because if you stop, your project will harden and be ruined before you come back.

An embarrassing case-in-point….years ago I was using a can of Great Stuff, which is 2-part foam in a can purchased at hardware stores for filling gaps around the house. My idea was to fill a gap around an incoming water pipe in my bathroom. The foam expanded. And expanded. And expanded until I foolishly panicked and wiped a glob off the wall with my hand – then rushed my hand to the bathtub to rinse it off. The wet glob of foam came off my hand and fell in to the drain pipe.

It never occurred to me the foam would harden, even when wet. But harden it did, clogging up my bathtub drain.

Ya…explain that one to the landlord.

So the Moral of the story is: Don’t put foam on anything you don’t want it stuck to!

A third thing to remember is that 2-part foam has a short shelf life. Once your containers have been opened, they will only last well for a few months, so purchase your foam in small quantities unless you will use a lot of it quickly.

Also, keep small paper cups and wooden mixing paddles on hand for building your 2-part foam sceneries. The foam will eat through plastic and styrofoam cups. And because it is so hard to scrape out of any other container, use paper cups and popsicle stick mixers you can simply throw away.

On the upside, 2-part foam lends itself well to carving and shaping once dried. A knife and sand paper with a little imagination can do a lot of things. Foam also takes well to paint, however, if you use hot glue to attach the foam to an object (or an object to the foam), I suggest you put the hot glue on the object and let it cool slightly before adhering it to the foam. Hot glue will melt foam if it is too hot (and most glue guns do get too hot).

As long as you don’t melt the foam with your hot glue, this glue works great on 2-part foam.

Foam lends itself easily to water-themed sceneries and in this case (photo above) mimicked the clear water Illinois river where the fish was caught.

Your goal in making any scenery is to blend nature with a reasonable amount of “art”. Think of it like Nature, only better.

A person wouldn’t find a river bottom that looked like the one in the 2-part foam scenery photographed above – yet the smooth roundness of the sand-covered foam is very pleasing to the eye and mimics nature enough that it works well for displaying the trout.

Likewise, driftwood isn’t glossed in nature, but on a scenery, glossing the dead wood makes it look real, only better. Years ago I built a fish scenery with lily pads standing around the fish. I used copper wire for the stems, and spiraled them upwards to the lily pad leaf.

Browsing taxidermy catalogs and visiting conventions and shows will give you many, many ideas to work with to create a scenery that is real, only better. The 2-part foam scenery is just one of many options available to you.

The two scenery photos above show a small base I created with 2-part foam for re-sale. This demonstrates simplicity with just a touch of grass, and the clam shell suggesting an underwater location.

With any scenery you build, learn when to say when, or when enough is enough. The scenery should compliment the mount, not suffocate it.

Follow along with our photo tutorials as we demonstrate working with 2-part foam in both practice situations and real sceneries.