Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Styrofoam Airplane Propeller for VBS

I have been asked to make a styrofoam propeller for a VBS.  They want to paint it themselves so I just have to make it.

I started by drawing off a pattern on paper mill paper. It is about 4 feet long from tip to tip.   I cut it out a little big with the heat knife.  The heat knife tends to melt a little farther than you really want it. (In the past I have used an electric knife.  That's right just like the one that is used only at Thanksgiving to carve the turkey.  It works well for cutting styrofoam.)  I want a very clean edge because I am going to shape it.

I also cut out 3 circles.  (I know only there are only two here.  I can count ok? I just didn't take a picture of the third circle.)

I cut out the shape on the band saw.  I took my time because one small bump can make a huge cut in the wrong spot.

I stacked the circles, one on the bottom, and two on the top.  It has to be away from the wall a little.  These two on top will be shaped into a cone.

I glued the circles with gorilla glue.  This glue does not eat foam and it bonds extremely well.  Just be careful not to put too much glue.  The glue doesn't sand as well or as fast as the styro so learn from my mistakes and don't use too much.

I put glue on all the pieces not realizing that I didn't need it on the top one.  So the top circle got twice the glue that it needed.  
One thing about Gorilla Glue is that it needs moisture to work, so I sprinkled some water on it before I put them together.  I was going to use my spray water bottle but I couldn't find it.

I clamped it together and waited.

Then I used my sander to shape it.  Yes you can sand styrofoam.  

I did the same for the other side and formed the nose into a cone.

I am going to ask them to take a picture of the final product so I can post it here.


  1. I have looked at you past works and love them! My church is also doing the Aviation Wonders for VBS, with my husband's help we are building a 15 ft airplane for my room. My plan is to turn my room into the inside of a WW2 era hanger, most of the decor I have figured out (after all we are military), however the biggest problem is trying to get the corrugated metal look. We don't have the funds to actually use corrugated metal of course, so I am left with trying to use scene setter paper. My current plan is to paint it, but would love some other insight on how to make it look even more like corrugated metal. Any ideas???

    1. I am not real familiar with scene setter paper. If it can be painted, I would lay it out flat and paint it all with a latex grey color. (maybe even get some rust colored spray paint and hit it in a few areas.) Then once it was dry, staple one edge lengthwise to the wall. Then bend the paper so it made the ripple and staple it again. Keep going until you have the corrugated look.

      Does that make sense?

  2. Thank you very much for your reply! "Scene setter" paper is just a small or large roll of paper that already has a design on it..e.g, clouds, brick, field..ect.. Pretty much a photograph of a design has been printed on one long roll of paper. I have yet to find a corrugated design, hence having to paint one. Your idea is pretty much the same as mine. I thought I would lay the paper out, roll on a shade of grey then paint the darker lines that can be seen in the crease of the corrugate. I had thought to get some bronzed color metalic spray paint and perhaps spray a sponge to do a sort of dry "brush" effect for the rust. Unfortuantly, the wall I must use is a concrete wall, so no staples, however I discovered last year that fabric glue will hold things to the wall and then can be removed without removing much, if any, paint.
    I will see what I can do with your idea though, thank you very much!

  3. Where do you get your Styrofoam from?

    1. I get it from Lowes now, because Home Depot quit selling it where I am. I have tried ordering it online but so far I haven't found a company that will ship me sheets of it.