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Stretching Foam

How well does it work?

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#1 Birch

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Posted 17 June 2013 - 06:43 PM

I have read up on stretching foam and related topics, but I still have a few questions. Does stretching the foam make it inconsistant like in the middle area of the foam? And does stretching foam change in any way the longevity of the foam?
I also really like to make and use 3/4 inch darts for fun, so my question is, does stretching foam work the same with big foam, or does it have some weird effects on big foam?

I know these maybe be newbie questions, and I'm pretty sure someone will respond after only reading the above part, Why don't you just buy different foam? The answer is just that I don't want to pay for expensive foam on the forums, plus my parents are skeptical of the credibility of some of you(I don't). I also am just much more inclined of just modifying my current best materials foam because it is really great foam, it just degrades really easily when used it tight barrels. It is very firm and hard(gigity) right off the roll so if I could just make it thinner right off the roll it would be great foam.

Edited by Birch, 17 June 2013 - 06:47 PM.

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#2 roboman

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Posted 17 June 2013 - 08:12 PM

It really depends on the technique you use to stretch the foam. Ryan and Kane have had a great deal of success with the stretching frame they built for their pink foam, but that works particularly well for foam that's already cut into even segments, like theirs is. I'd imagine it would be a great deal more time consuming to have to do that to a whole spool of foam. I've seen some people hand-stretch their foam by tugging on shorter sections of it as they move down a length of foam. I've tried that, and it seemed to work, though it can be tough to achieve consistency while maintaining a good pace.

As for the big foam, it should work similarly, though you may need to pull a bit harder to get it to change diameters effectively.

You know that you can buy foam from other online suppliers, right? I usually get mine from Mcmaster, and while it's not necessarily the best out there, it works fine for me, and conveniently comes from the same place I order most other supplies for projects. It also tends to be a bit smaller than most other foam, for whatever reason (snug, but not particularly tight in CPVC-sized barrels). Of course, I can totally understand not wanting to throw out a bunch of foam, just because it barely doesn't fit.

You might consider switching to looser barrels on everything, though. That's usually significantly easier than shrinking your foam.
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#3 Birch

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 06:07 AM

It really depends on the technique you use to stretch the foam. Ryan and Kane have had a great deal of success with the stretching frame they built for their pink foam, but that works particularly well for foam that's already cut into even segments, like theirs is. I'd imagine it would be a great deal more time consuming to have to do that to a whole spool of foam. I've seen some people hand-stretch their foam by tugging on shorter sections of it as they move down a length of foam. I've tried that, and it seemed to work, though it can be tough to achieve consistency while maintaining a good pace.

As for the big foam, it should work similarly, though you may need to pull a bit harder to get it to change diameters effectively.

You know that you can buy foam from other online suppliers, right? I usually get mine from Mcmaster, and while it's not necessarily the best out there, it works fine for me, and conveniently comes from the same place I order most other supplies for projects. It also tends to be a bit smaller than most other foam, for whatever reason (snug, but not particularly tight in CPVC-sized barrels). Of course, I can totally understand not wanting to throw out a bunch of foam, just because it barely doesn't fit.

You might consider switching to looser barrels on everything, though. That's usually significantly easier than shrinking your foam.


Ya, I was thinking of a method similar to what Ryan mentioned it his slug making thread.

I used to use other barrels (mcmaster sch80, PETG, 9/16 brass) and they worked pretty well, but they were just expensive and all needed pvc couplers which were sometimes to big to use. I just like the cpvc because it is mad cheap and has its own couplers.

As for other foams, I really like foam that I can use a high-temp hot glue gun on just because it is much easier on the fingers and makes, in my opinion, better darts, and from What I hear mcmaster foam can't be used with a high temp hot glue guns.

I would really like people who actually stretch or have stretched their foam to respond(no offense roboman). And if anyone has different methods then what has been posted on Nerfhaven I would love to hear them.

Edited by Birch, 18 June 2013 - 09:42 AM.

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#4 roboman

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 12:37 PM

Ya, I was thinking of a method similar to what Ryan mentioned it his slug making thread.

I used to use other barrels (mcmaster sch80, PETG, 9/16 brass) and they worked pretty well, but they were just expensive and all needed pvc couplers which were sometimes to big to use. I just like the cpvc because it is mad cheap and has its own couplers.

As for other foams, I really like foam that I can use a high-temp hot glue gun on just because it is much easier on the fingers and makes, in my opinion, better darts, and from What I hear mcmaster foam can't be used with a high temp hot glue guns.

I would really like people who actually stretch or have stretched their foam to respond(no offense roboman). And if anyone has different methods then what has been posted on Nerfhaven I would love to hear them.


Yeah, Sch40 PVC couplers can get annoying, I totally see where you're coming from there. If you're REALLY careful, you might be able to drill out some CPVC to accept PETG, so you can stick with CPVC couplers, but use a looser barrel material. Alternatively, you can get [mcm]1658T49{/mcm], which is compatible with CPVC couplers, but is aluminum and has the same ID as PETG. Not as cheap as CPVC, but certainly not super expensive.

Mcmaster foam can sort of be used with high-temp guns, but only if you move quickly. I have a dual-temp gun, and I switch back and forth somewhat frequently to maintain a temperature somewhere in between the two extremes, but that's obviously less than ideal.

I have actually stretched foam, as I said, but I've only used the hand-stretching method with limited success.
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#5 DX-Robert

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 01:06 PM

NH has an old saying that you should adapt your barrels to your foam supply, not the other way around. It takes *far* less effort to tailor barrels to your existing foam vs tailoring foam to your existing barrels.

I used to stretch log home (white, dense, thick) foam and it sucked. It's a time intensive process to get the fit just right for each dart individually. High quality foam does not stretch easily on its own, you need to heat it a bit first. Use the foam straightening process for heat (kill 2 birds with 1 stone) and then immediately stretch the blanks while still warm. Patient, but firm fingers yield the best results.

Stretching your foam should not have any negative impacts on its integrity or longevity. I still have a few darts that I made in like 2006 that are still perfectly usable. However, you will introduce inconsistency in the shape. The middle does end up more pinched unless you have a ton of patience.

McMaster foam is pretty variable. That's what I used to use and still have half a spool of. I stopped ordering it when I got a horrible batch that was of Frost King quality. High temp glue guns could be used on it when domes were legal. You simply doused the dart in ice water immediately after creating the dome. With slugs…yeah go low temp.

Now, of course, I don't stretch my foam. I found barrels that provide a good fit. Now, I crank out darts more than three times faster than when I used to have to stretch the foam.

You can nest certain barrels in PVC, taking advantage of PVC couplers while also protecting the barrels. Homemades almost always use PVC stubs or couplers to attach hoppers/barrels, so if you ever want to step your game up to those, it's good to have barrels that fit PVC.

Some sizes of aluminum, brass, PETG, and copper will nest in 1/2" PVC pipe if you can find the right batch. Most 1/2" PVC is too tight, but you need to just keep looking.

One of my pet peeves is that people think a certain type of barrel always has a certain type of dart fit. With PVC, CPVC, and even some PETG, this is untrue - the ID varies wildly because the manufacturers don't care. You just need to stumble upon the right batch. Bring a dart with you and check the pipe on the shelf. Eventually you will find the ID you need for that foam.

Charlotte True Fit pipe sometimes has an unusually large ID that will sheath many other barrel types. It even sheaths CPVC without hammering and you actually have to wrap it with tape or glue it because it will fall right through the PVC!

Likewise, some CPVC have significantly larger IDs than usual. Curtis had a piece of this just this past weekend. I've seen it happen in Gold pipe and now in Genova, so it's definitely still in the wild. I used to think the wider CPVC was endemic to eastern CT, but it's clearly not now.

So, if you want to use CPVC with your Best Materials foam, just keep looking for the right batch. You don't have to ditch that barrel type if you like it. Although, keep in mind that you might not find the right fit for a while. In the meantime, you can glue certain pipes into a CPVC coupler. It's kinda ghetto, and you need to make sure the pipe remains straight while the glue dries, but works just fine.
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#6 Daniel Beaver

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 03:12 PM

NH has an old saying that you should adapt your barrels to your foam supply, not the other way around. It takes *far* less effort to tailor barrels to your existing foam vs tailoring foam to your existing barrels.

That's what I would do. Stretching foam works, but it's usually far more work than just re-barreling your blasters.
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#7 KaneTheMediocre

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 06:57 PM

It really depends on the technique you use to stretch the foam. Ryan and Kane have had a great deal of success with the stretching frame they built for their pink foam, but that works particularly well for foam that's already cut into even segments, like theirs is. I'd imagine it would be a great deal more time consuming to have to do that to a whole spool of foam. I've seen some people hand-stretch their foam by tugging on shorter sections of it as they move down a length of foam. I've tried that, and it seemed to work, though it can be tough to achieve consistency while maintaining a good pace.


I think a "great deal of success" is an exaggeration. It's a great deal of work even with my massively (>32x) parallel stretcher. Since our foam was inconsistent in the first place, we wound up stretching a lot of good foam into too-loose foam. It's not quick either (2 days was the shortest time I was able to get a permanent stretch) and the foam will be less than it's final size for as much as a week, so you don't know what you've got as you're producing it.

Since I have a large pile to begin with, it's more immediately rewarding to sort out foam than it is to stretch it, and the sorting is required anyways.

Furthermore, since the force / cross sectional area is greater where the foam is already loose, I would expect it to exaggerate the inconsistencies. I have not measured and quantified this.

As for the big foam, it should work similarly, though you may need to pull a bit harder to get it to change diameters effectively.

You know that you can buy foam from other online suppliers, right? I usually get mine from Mcmaster, and while it's not necessarily the best out there, it works fine for me, and conveniently comes from the same place I order most other supplies for projects. It also tends to be a bit smaller than most other foam, for whatever reason (snug, but not particularly tight in CPVC-sized barrels). Of course, I can totally understand not wanting to throw out a bunch of foam, just because it barely doesn't fit.

I used to feel this way until I threw out a bunch of foam that barely didn't fit. I don't know if there are manufacturers that actually produce consistent FBR to our standards

You might consider switching to looser barrels on everything, though. That's usually significantly easier than shrinking your foam.


Personally, I find it impolite to use ammunition that tends to jam another person's blasters. Much less so, to use ammunition that other's blasters will fire, but poorly.

Admittedly, for most nerfers and most blasters, changing barrels is the easiest option. But the practice of deviating significantly from the size of Nerf darts makes nerfing less convenient for everyone else.

Edited by KaneTheMediocre, 18 June 2013 - 06:57 PM.

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#8 Draconis

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Posted 18 June 2013 - 07:49 PM

If you're REALLY careful, you might be able to drill out some CPVC to accept PETG, so you can stick with CPVC couplers, but use a looser barrel material.


Lee's rigid PVC aquarium tubing comes in 9/16"OD:0.50-51" ID, which is great for barrels, and 5/8"OD:9/16"ID, which both nests over the barrel size and couples in to 1/2"CPVC couplers. I use it to make CPVC RSCB clips too. Another option for this is 1/2" copper tubing.

NH has an old saying that you should adapt your barrels to your foam supply, not the other way around. It takes *far* less effort to tailor barrels to your existing foam vs tailoring foam to your existing barrels.


Which I've been telling you guys is flat wrong for five years. The absolute easiest and most consistent method that I have found for ensuring good dart fit is this, along with straightening the foam all in one procedure:

1) Decide what you want to use for barrels. In my case, I chose normal 1/2" CPVC (for springers) because of cost and compatibility, but there are numerous reasons.
2) Get your too-large-foam, the longest possible sections of a tube slightly tighter than your chosen barrels, and a piece of string a little longer than the tube. I use Flowguard Gold CPVC for these tubes.
3) Tie a weight to the string on one end and a slip knot on the other.
4) Tighten the knot around the end of your foam.
5) Drop the weight down the tube and pull the foam through until the knot pops out.
6) Cut off the trailing end of the foam and remove the knot from the leading.
7) Repeat for the all tubes.
8) Leave for a week or two.
9) Pull the foam out a little at a time and cut blanks immediately.

I will to this fifty feet at a time in five ten foot sections of pipe, and just leave them in the rafters of my garage. When I am making darts, I just pull out a section and cut it. The sections are only a few dollars each and can be used for plumbing if I need it.
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#9 Birch

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 06:04 AM

That's what I would do. Stretching foam works, but it's usually far more work than just re-barreling your blasters.

The main problem with my foam is that it is to loose for springers in PETG, but also a little to tight in cpvc. I can really only use specific sizes of sch80, and getting those means I have to order sch80 from mcmaster(best fit) and that can get expensive doing that monthly, on top of all my other orders.

Thank you draconis thats what I had been thinking of doing, since foam already seemed to shrink when used in tighter barrels, but now that I know that you can do in effectively. I was also wondering if heat will make the process go faster for draconis' method.

Edited by Birch, 19 June 2013 - 06:10 AM.

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