Common (and not so common) Questions & Answers
Frequently Asked Questions about Hot Wire Foam Factory Tools
Q: Are your tools made for crafts and hobbies, or professional artists?
A: Since 1991, Hot Wire Foam Factory tools have been used by the professional and hobbyist alike. You have come to the best place for affordable, yet professional foam cutting tools! These revolutionary foam sculpting tools have helped create the life sized Oscar Award for its 75th anniversary, were used to build the props in Disneyland's "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Haunted Mansion." Sculptors for Six Flags amusement parks, window designers for Fao Schwartz, haunt designers for Knott's "Scary" Farm, and Deal or No Deal stage prop builders are just a few who have added our line to their toolboxes. Did you catch us on Home and Garden TV and Do It Yourself Network? How about Wacky World Studios and Group Publishing's Decorating Places line of DVD's that show how anyone can easily make life sized stage props with our tools?
Now anything is possible! Ten-foot sculptures, architectural models, rockets, electric airplanes, diorama landscaping, game terrain, floral and party decor, custom molds for casting, unique mosaics, 3D wall murals, custom frames, crown molding, business signs and decorations for the holidays. With foam it's fast and easy.
Here are the tool kits that Disneyland and many other commercial foam artists use: The Compound Bow Cutter, The Pro Hot Knife and Freehand Router Kit, The Original Hot Scroll Table, or if you are doing a lot of complicated cuts, the 3D Scroll Table. Look at our Gallery to see just a few of the wonderful creations our customers are making with their Hot Wire Foam Factory tools.
Q: Do your products carry a warranty, and if so how long and what is covered?
A: The tools and power supplies have a 90 day warranty, but we are very lenient with this. If we find there is some sort of defect with the tool that caused it to fail even a year or two after purchase we usually repair it at no charge.
Q: Are the blades on the Hot Knives replaceable?
A: The blades are replaceable, but require special tooling. If it stopped working due to a defect we will repair or replace it at no charge. If the blade has been physically broken, we will replace the 4" blade for $15 plus return shipping and the Pro 6" and 8" blades for $20 plus return shipping.
Always let the heat do the cutting. Forcing and bending the blade will not speed up the cut. If you are cutting a high density foam, or just need to cut faster, ask about our generous upgrade discount to a Pro or Industrial Knife, which will cut much faster.
Q: I lost my tool manual - can I get another one?
A: Absolutely! We have the tool manuals for the Crafters Kits and Pro Kits available as downloadable PDFs.
Q: What is the primary difference between the pro sets and the craft sets? I realize that the pro has variable temperature, but how is that beneficial? Seems that the hotter the faster the cutting, so I'd probably set it on maximum anyhow. But maybe not...? Also, is there a difference in the quality of the tools and/or blades?
A: The Pro and Craft Tools themselves are the same, except that the Pro Knife is longer and the blade is stronger and cuts 1.5x faster than the regular Hot Knife. Also, the cutting wire on the Sculpting Tool is thinner on the Craft than on the Pro, and does not cut as fast. The Pro tools will only work with the Pro Power Station. The Pro Power Station is protected with a resettable fuse, whereas the Crafters AC power supply is not. If you use the Craft tools on the Pro Power Supply, they can run up to 2-3 times faster by raising the tool's temperature. Also, you will be able to control the cut better by being able to turn the tool's temperature down when doing detailed work, especially with the Engraver. The regular Hot Knife reaches the same temperature with the AC as with the Pro Power. The handles and switches are the same on all the hand tools.
Q: Can I use the craft tools with the Pro Power Station?
A: Yes, all our craft tools can be used on the Pro Power Station, but not all of the Pro tools can work on the Craft Power Supply. If you use the Craft tools on the Pro Power Supply, they can run up to 2-3 times faster by raising the tool's temperature. Also, you will be able to control the cut better by being able to turn the tool's temperature down when doing detailed work.
Q: Why is the Pro Power Station so expensive?
A: We make all of our products in the USA, and the Pro Power Station is a more complicated piece to manufacture. The tools do work much better with the Pro Power Station, so it is worth the investment.
Q: What temperature do the Hot Knives work at?
A: Our tools are designed to cut EPS (polystyrene) foam, which melts at 180 degrees Fahrenheit/82 degrees Celsius. The 4" Hot Knife blade that is in contact with the foam is about 194-212 degrees Fahrenheit/90-100 degrees Celsius. The 6" Hot Knife is about 266-302 degrees Fahrenheit/130-150 degrees Celsius if the power supply is turned all the way up. The blades reach a temperature of about 2 times hotter than that when they are not cutting, as the foam absorbs a great deal of heat from them while they are cutting. The 4" Hot Knife can be used with either the Crafters Power Supply or the Pro Power Station, and reaches the same heat with either. The 6" Hot Knife can only be used with the Pro Power Station.
Q: Is there a trick to make the wire on the Sculpting Tool taut like a tight rope that stretches across the two arms?
A: We have the arms of the Sculpting Tool adjustable so you can make a slight outward loop of the cutting wire for carving indentations (i.e. canyons) in foam. This does create a problem with keeping the cutting wire taut. The best way to make it taut is with the wire mounted, to pull one arm all the way in one direction, then grab the other arm and pull it back so everything is centered again. You can also wrap your fingers around the brass arms to hold them taut while making your straight cut. Let the heat do the cutting so there is no resistance to the cutting wire.
We also offer a Sculpting Tool Wire Tensioner, an accessory which holds the cutting wire taut when you do not need to shape the cutting wire or loop it outward for sculpting negative cuts.
Q: What is the gauge of the blades on the hot knives?
A: The 6" and 8" Hot Knives are 17 guage (0.0578 - 0.0585 diameter) and the 4" Hot Knife is 19 gauge (0.0415 - 0.0425 diameter)
Q: I am a long time user of Hot Wire Foam Factory's tools, but I have been going through the wire blades for the Bow Cutter when using the 2' portion. I have broken all my original wires and have ordered replacements and have broken 3 in two weeks. They are breaking at the clip end. The bow is very loose when using 4' and also when using the extended 2'. Why are these blades breaking and why is the cutter not taut? You cannot replace the clip end because it becomes too short.
A: It is rare for the blades on the Bow Cutter to break. We have hundreds of customers who are using the bow cutters all the time and we rarely hear of blades breaking. I have been using our bow cutters for years, and have found some tricks to extending the life of the blades. Naturally as with all hot wire tools always let the heat do the cutting. Here are a few less obvious tips:
If you are changing sizes and blades often you should try not to unbend and re-bend the ends with the terminals, as this will cause them to break prematurely. Push them back down into the slots so that the bend stays in the same place.
To put more tension on the blades turn the heat on (notice that the blade grows in length and slackens with heat) then rotate one or both arms until you get the tension you need. If the blade is slack while you are cutting it allows it to bend back and forth at the slot in the arm, which will weaken it to the point where it will break. It is very important to let the tension off the blades before turning off the heat. If you just turn the heat off it will create too much tension and the blade might break.
I will have a new set of 2' and 4' blades sent to you at no charge. If you continue to have problems, we can sell you a 50 ft roll of the cutting wire and bag of terminals at a much lower cost than buying blades. We can send you some terminals that you can use to recycle your 4' blades into 2' blades if you would like.
Q: I have an old Pro set (with an all black handle) that I bought 8 years ago. I finally broke my first wire but I can't find the replacement wires. I tried using 20 gauge galvanized wire and 22 gauge copper but neither work. Where can I get replacement wire?
A: You probably need .010 or .020 Nichrome wire. Using any other kind of wire will very likely kill your power supply. We can send you wires if you can't find them near you or you can call us at 1-866-735-9255 and we will try to find a dealer near you.
Q: Can one of the wires for the Freehand Router be mounted taut, so that it will substitute temporarily for not buying the Sculpting Tool? I know I want to buy the Pro products from the beginning, and I want to start out with minimal investment, but do I really NEED to get the Sculpting Tool in order to see if making foam sculpture works for us?
A: You cannot make the wire straight between the arms on the Freehand Router because the wire is 10" long and cannot be shortened without stressing the Pro Power Station. You can, however, shape the blade somewhat on the Sculpting Tool. We have videos on these tools in the video section of our website, but the Sculpting Tool wire used in this video is the thinner wire that comes when you buy it with the Crafter's Power Supply. We supply a thicker, more shapeable wire for the Sculpting Tool when you buy it with the Pro Power Station. So you might consider getting the Sculpting Tool instead of the Freehand Router if you want one tool with more versatility.
Q: I am looking for a product that will allow me to cut perfectly measured squares at a measurement of one foot by one foot squares, at a minimum depth of 2 inches; it looks like that Crafter's Scroll Table set is close, but slightly short of a full foot clearance from the guard at the back and the wire; can you suggest any of your products that might meet these cutting specifications?
A: Even our 3D Scroll Table falls a bit short of the 1' depth of cut. The least expensive alternative is to buy the Hot Knife and Sled Guide. You can mount it upside down, with the knife blade sticking up, on the edge of a work table. Or, you can make a hole in the work table and stick the blade up through the hole. You can easily make your own fence guide. We can sell you ABS plastic L stock in whatever length your need for your fence. You can even tilt your table towards the blade and let gravity push the foam through the blade. If you are going to do a large quantity of cutting and get frustrated with the speed of cut of the AC Hot Knife kit and try to force the foam through the blade it might break the blade. The Pro 6" Knife, which needs the Pro Power Station, cuts 1.5 times faster and so far has never been broken even by people doing very large projects. The blades are replaceable for $20, but it has to be done with special tooling in our factory.
Q: What the difference is between the 3D Scroll Table and the Crafters Scroll Table? I'm thinking about buying one of the 3D Pro Model Kits and wanted to make sure that the 3D Scroll Table can cut accurate straight lines and angles like the Original Scroll Table. Is there a difference between the two tables?
A: The 3D Scroll Table can make all the same basic cuts, including accurate straight cuts, as the Original Scroll Table, and much more. The Instructional DVD spends about 30 minutes going through all of the set-ups for the 3D, while it only takes about 5 minutes to breeze through the instructions for the Original Scroll Table. In case you were unable to find this, click here for the section of the 3D's product description that shows many, though not nearly all, of its capabilities. If you do need all of these sophisticated functions, I recommend that you also purchase the Sled Guide and a Hot Knife (any of the hot knives will work - 4", 6" or 8") which attaches to the bottom of the 3D Table for doing plunge cutting and the opportunity of using a super rigid vertical blade.
Q: The tips of my tools are getting dirty, so how do you recommend cleaning the tools? I use Blueboard foam mostly.
A: That Blueboard foam does leave a lot of residue. Most people clean their tools as they are working by just gently wiping them against a cloth or paper towel while the foam is in a melted state. If you feel the need to clean them even further, you can clean them while they are cold with acetone.
Q: I saw the show on the DIY network and would like to buy some tools to get started creating things with foam. I am not sure what tools to purchase. Can you make some recommendations for me?
A: First, we need to know what kinds of things you would like to make. If you are going to make smaller craft projects any of the craft kits will be adequate. If you need to make accurate cuts, say for signs, the Original Scroll Table Set will be best. If you are going to be doing larger projects, then you should be looking at the Pro Kits. Give us some idea of what you would like to try to make and we will be better able to help you. You can also talk to one of our friendly staff on our toll free line, 1-866-735-9255.
Q: What is the best kit for the money?
A: That really depends on the job. K44P6, which retails at $164.95 is my pick. You get the Pro Power Station and the two most diverse tools we offer: the Freehand Router and 6" Pro Knife. The Freehand Router is shapeable and the Pro Knife offers a fine line and a "turn on a dime" cut, but they are sturdy enough to hold under the pressure of a large piece. The combination kits are the best value for the money.
Q: I would like to be able to make letters for signs/logos as well as creating objects from small to no more than 3 feet tall. What tools would you recommend?
A: It really depends on your skill as a freehand artist. Some people have the rare talent of being able to pick up a tool and make perfect freehand cuts with our Pro 3-in-1 Kit. By far the majority of people making signs use the Original Scroll Table or the 3D Scroll Table. It is much easier to keep the cutting wire perpendicular to the foam using the Table model. Most people, including myself, are not able to make nice looking letters with the Hot Knife. Whenever we do demonstrations at conventions, nearly everyone decides on the Pro Kits right off the bat.
If you do well at making signs you will be able to more than pay for you tools with a single job. 3D signs for businesses cost from $1,000 to $5,000. If you go to the Sign Making section of our Gallery you will find several projects that give instructions and tips. EPS foam signs coated with our Foam Coat and then painted with high quality outdoor latex paint will be weatherproof and when mounted high enough that people can't touch them, will last longer than wood signs.
You can start out with our Crafters 3-in-1 Kit and Crafters Original Scroll Table Set. However, it sounds like you have some ambitious projects in mind. In which case you will be very happy that you started out with the top of the line Pro Kits: the 3-in-1 Pro Kit or even better, the 4-in-1 Pro Kit and Original Scroll Table (this will work with the Pro Power Station from the Pro Kits).
Q: I would be using the Hot Knife and Sculpting Tool for carving various moldings, trims, and large architectural pieces for theatre sets. It seems that most users are working with small pieces, model RR's, etc. Would your products work for large pieces and props for theatrical use? Would the cordless kit with the knife and sculpting tool be a good choice? It doesn't seem that the engraver would be something I would need. I would be using the products for fairly long periods of time. Should I go with the AC adapter as well?
A: We have sold tool sets to many theater groups, movie producers, and parade float creators with positive feedback from all. The Hot Knife and the Sculpting Tool would definitely be the good choices for detail work. Lego Land in Southern California recently bought one or our Pro Kits to make foam backdrops for their amusement park. We have also sold Pro Kits to Disneyland, Disney World, Knotts Berry Farm, Columbia Studios, the FBI, and the list goes on. The Nightmare Before Christmas scenes for the Haunted Mansion, the remodel of the Pirates of the Caribbean, and Captain Nemo backdrops were made with our tools.
The Pro Power Station is used by most people who are doing serious projects. It has more power and outlasts the Crafters Power Supplies. We also offer an extension cord for the Pro Power Station, which you can use to get six feet of extra range for your tool.
As far as other tool options you may want to consider, we have a Freehand Router tool that has a stiff cutting blade for more serious carving. The brass arms are shorter than the Sculpting Tool's, and the cutting wire is 10" long. You shape the blades any way you want with your fingers or pliers and they will not bend while you are cutting. People who have used the tool say that cutting foam with this blade is the fastest sculpting they have ever experienced in any medium. We also have a Pro 6" Hot Knife that is much sturdier and cuts faster than the regular 4" Hot Knife, and a new 6" Industrial Hot Knife that can be used continuously for periods of up to 45 minutes, and much longer if turned off in between cuts. Our 2-4 foot Bow Cutter is also great for knocking those big blocks of foam down to size!
Q: My project requires a shaped carving that is too big for the Freehand Router. Do you offer a larger tool with a shapeable blade?
Q: I am trying to cut paper in various shapes and I was wondering if the Hot Scroll Table would work?
A: No, our tools will not cut through paper. They will not cut through paper coated foam board either.
Q: Do you have a tool to carve the pattern of a gun into the foam that comes in a gun case?
A: Yes, the Freehand Router is used for making cutouts in foam for packaging purposes. The other popular method is to buy 1/2" to 3" thick slices of foam and progressively terrace the pieces using the Hot Knife Tool. This is how the inside of many camera cases are designed. You can glue the pieces together after they are all cutout. We offer Armorfoam, which is easy to handle, cut, shape and form. Armorfoam is widely used in protective packing of fine art, artifacts and sensitive instruments, for both transportation and storage. It is a tough, flexible thermoplastic resin which, being inert and chemically stable, meets all preservation standards. If you use another kind of foam, always check with the foam manufacturer to make sure that there are no health or safety hazards when cutting their foam with hot wire tools. Click here for a great how-to for cutting foam for cases.
Q: My company manufactures large scale, composite model aircraft kits. The wings & flying components are made of 1 pcf polystyrene foam using a hot wire mechanism for the airfoil surfaces. What is taking a lot of labor intensive time is what we call 'honeycombing' ie. removing cells of foam from the wing cores. I am interested in your hot knife tool to assist with this job. I'm thinking if I can secure it to a base to keep it perpendicular & plunge into the foam & around the cell perimeter guided by a single template, similar in action to a router. Presently I am using 2 templates on either side of the wing & feeding a thin wire through a pilot hole etc.
Q: I would like to know if your products have a thermostat control on them. I make beeswax candles and I am looking for some "tools" to design and cut the wax.
A: I just tried our Pro Hot Knife on a regular candle, and it cuts fairly fast if you saw back and forth as you cut (though not quite as fast as the Candlecutter), and if you tilt the candle as you cut the wax drips out instead of resealing the cut. The Pro Hot Knife has a round blade so you can easily change the direction of your cut and also make holes. It looks just like the Hot Knife on our site, but it's longer and a little thicker. It will only work with the Pro Power Station. Let me know if you have any specific tests you would like us to run.
Q: I purchased a Woodland Scenics foam cutter and discovered your website. Are you the manufacturer for their products? If so, if I ordered a table and/or knife from you, will it work with my tools?
A: No. They actually purchased a set of our tools and made an imitation. We offered to manufacture them for them, but they said no, and they are having them made and packaged in China. Our tools require more power due to our longer cutting, so they are not compatible with their power supply. Our Crafter's 4" Hot Knife, Original Scroll Table, and Sculpting Tool all work with either the Pro Power Station or the Crafter's Power Supply.