Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by jthomfoolery on May 10, 2014
Creating a puppet show for my kids book, "Some Bunny Loves You," and looking for some advice on how to bring to 3D life a "whale submarine" that one of the bunnies rides in.  Basically I want to know how to turn the 2D whale into a 3D foam object.

I could simply carve this whale from a big foam block, but I need her to be quite light so I am hoping to make a whale "shell" by joining thin sheets of foam, similar to how many puppet heads are made (cut out one side, flip the shape and cut out the other, glue them together at the seams).

Is there a known process for determining how to cut the foam to include the 'center piece' that makes an object 3D?  In other words, after I draw the 2D whale image onto the foam and before I cut it out, how do I add the pieces that will curve and connect to create the whale in 3D?

Wow - that was challenging to articulate!  I hope I've made it understandable?

Here is the illustration from my book that I am hoping to create in foam 3d:

Here is an image of the kind of whale object I am going for:

Thanks for your help!
Re: Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by Gail on May 10, 2014
I would make a scaled down model of what you want out of clay or model magic. Put masking tape on it in little pieces to cover it similar to paper mache over lapping then try to draw lines down the length in pieces that could lay almost flat.  You can cut some darts for very curvy areas if you need to.  You could do this several times until you find the pattern you are happy with.  Then add a little seam allowance to the edges and enlarge them on a copier or scanner to the size you want.  There are some other posts that talk about this technique too. It may take some time to figure out the best one but in the end it will probably give you the best product.
Re: Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by Gail on May 10, 2014
Posted by: Shawn Sorrell on Aug 29, 2012
Here is the link to the thread I'll be adding to latter today. On the second page it really starts to get into how you can pattern something. On the fourth page you'll find a video by pagestep007 that shows how he used the method to pattern a puppet. It is a great video that takes you through the whole process.,7403.0.html

Here is one link where Shawn was talking about making a pattern for you.
Are you going to patch the fabric together like a quilt also?  One time I made a patch work vest for a puppet and it was harder than I thought when I tried to use the pattern.  It worked out better to patch the fabric together in a flat piece then cut out the pattern from that flat piece for my project,, but then a vest is pretty flat compared to your whale.  How big do you want it? The bigger the heavier, and then the less time it can be used. If you can support it with something to take some of the weight off it will be usable longer. If it is very large then the thin foam may collapse and need some cross pieces glued inside to keep it rounded out or tubing, something light.
Re: Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by Shawn on May 11, 2014
Looks like Snail has you covered on this one. Your other option would be to hit the fabric store and see if maybe they have a pattern for a whale stuffed toy that you can modify for use. Try Google Search: "Stuffed Whale Toy Pattern" and check the image results. It should bring up some images that look like patterns used for the whale you linked to second.
Re: Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by jthomfoolery on May 11, 2014
Thanks Snail and Shawn - very helpful.  I don't quite understand how to take the 'tape' off the clay model in a way that preserves the shape to be transferred to foam, but I haven't watched the video yet - hopefully it will be become more clear.

The other idea I had was to just use a pattern I have for a foam puppet head but enlarge it and then carve a foam tail to add to the back.

Thanks again!
Re: Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by Lizzies Lair on May 12, 2014
Just saw this and what I'm about to suggest is so simple I can't help thinking I've misread your question. Apologies if that's the case.

In doll/toy making (and admittedly in my puppets) the easiest and simplest way is to make a gusset. Just draw your two whales *sides" and gussets that will run along those joins to make him 3D. You'd probably only need one for this guy running along the bottom. The key is to make your gusset the same length and measure the areas where it needs to be widest to create shape  - like the head for example - and where it narrows for the tail. You could knock that up much more quickly than casting moulds or creating models.
Re: Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by jthomfoolery on May 12, 2014
Thanks Lizzie - I think you're reading the question right, my main challenge is how to create the 'gussets' as you call them.  I am basically looking for the technique/stretegy for making effective gussets.  I notice darts are used with the foam puppet heads to create curves, for example.

And just to clarify, I am making a foam puppet whale, not a stuffed fabric toy - I just posted that photo to give an example of the 3D whale effect I'm going for.

Re: Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by Gail on May 12, 2014
I use an exacto knife blade to cut the tape off the mold. With the patchwork design on your whale you will have lots of ways to hide darts or gussets.
Re: Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by Lizzies Lair on May 13, 2014
Yes, I make my puppet's foam skeleton the same way I made my dolls. Usually two identical side pieces to create the side profile I want and gussets along the top and bottom to make them 3D. Doing it that way, I don't need to make darts. I know it's not proper, but it's what I know.

If you check google images for head gusset patterns you'll see some basic examples. If I could work out how to draw it for you and upload I would. I would place your gusset on the base. Join your two side profiles at the top. Cut your foam for the widest length you want them trim it down significantly where contours are needed. Or, if you've joined the top, sit your whale on top of a piece of newspaper so the bottom side profile edges are touching the paper. Using your hands to shape where you want thickness/narrowing, trace it on to the paper and use that as the basis for your design. I usually trace one half, fold the newspaper in half then cut it out so my gusset is symmetrical. It sounds crude but it does work. I think your tail would need to be a separate piece pending what direction you want it facing.

Re: Creating a 3D Foam Whale Posted by Shawn on May 13, 2014
Even though you are not making a stuffed toy the pattern for the foam is going to be pretty much the same.

Your idea of using the pattern you have for a regular puppet head may work ok also. In fact you might not even have to carve a tail really. Since a whales tail is pretty flat you may be able to cut the shape out of flat sheet foam and attach it to the head form.

No More Post