When walking the isles of the craft store or surfing the web searching for the perfect foam board, there are a multitude of options to choose from. How do you decide? What makes them different? Foam is foam, right? To the newest scratch builder, it's all the same. But after the maiden flight of your first FT style build, you become aware that not all foams are created equal. The experienced scratch builder knows the following story all too well.
Elmer's is heavy but durable. Adam's Readi Board, also known as Dollar Tree Foam Board (DTFB), is light, wavy, and delaminates. Depron is expensive and missing the paper. Where can we find the perfect balance of the good and the bad? As builders, we invest precious time and effort to make our foam board planes last as long as possible and look fantastic. But yet, we have to resort to watching them re-kit themselves with even the slightest drop of water or high humidity. Despite our best efforts to remedy the rapid aging process of our creations, the foam delaminates from the paper or explodes into bits from a hard crash.
- What if I told you there is a foam board that was cheaper then $1USD per sheet?
- What if I told you that it doesn't delaminate, even after drying from being dumped in the lake?
- And told you that it is paintable?
- And sand-able to make the perfect bevels?
- And is perfectly flat?
- And weighs only 15% more than Adams Readi Board?
ROSS foam Board
How does it compare to Adam's Readi Board(DTFB):
- Size: 20"x30"
- Thickness: 3/16"
- Weight per full sheet: DTFB=114g/sheet Ross=134g/sheet
- Price: DTFB $1USD. ROSS $0.88 USD.
- Flatness: DTFB can be wavy and warped. ROSS is flat as can be.
- Brightness of paper: DTFB is dull white. ROSS is super bright white.
- Paper Quality: DTFB paper is textured, ROSS has a heavier weight paper and smooth finish.
- Crush Test: (Pound a corner of a piece into the table). DTFB paper peeled away from the foam. ROSS paper held on to the foam and crinkled.
- Paper Peel: DTFB peels clean and easy. ROSS is harder to peel and pulls up the contacting surface layer.
- Rigidity Comments: DTFB seems to be more rigid and prone to cracking and delamination around the area of a fracture. ROSS may be slightly less rigid but creases the foam and paper instead of cracking and delaminating.
- Fold Test: (Piece was fold 90degrees one way, then folded 90 degrees the other.) DTFB paper delaminated around the bend. ROSS paper held on to the foam creased the foam nicely.
- A&B style folds: Both are fine.
- Foam Bevels with sharp knife: Both are fine.
- Foam Bevels with a sanding block: DTFB foam smears and crushed into a bevel. ROSS foam sands easily with light pressure making perfect bevels.
- Painting: DTFB should be surfaced prepped first to help water proof it. ROSS becomes water proof with the paint.
- Water Delamination: DTFB falls apart. ROSS paper holds on strong.
Does it actually hold up with a real world test?
I'll let you decide. Here's my story: I wanted to put this new foam board to the true test. What better way to evaluate its ability to withstand water by building a float plane. I decided to keep it simple by building an Old Speedster. I also made my own floats from some solid foam I had laying around. The build when together as expected and the maiden flight with wheels was fantastic. Touch and goes were a lot of fun. I put the finishing touches on the floats and prepared for a Labor Day weekend vacation at the Lake. Keep in mind the only thing applied to the foam is blue spray paint applied with a brush.
I charged up the batteries, grabbed the plane and headed for the water. I plopped it into the water for the maiden "float test" and told myself this ought to be interesting. I've never flown a float plane before and was truly learning on the fly. I floated around for a little getting experience to controlling the plane on the water. Water spray was splashing up all over the fuse and wing. When I finally got comfortable, I pointed the nose in the wind and gave it full throttle. And the blue wonder just didn't have it in it. Floats never came up on plane and didn't have a chance of lift off. I made sure to bring my NTM 2826-1200kv power pod just in case. Taxied back to the dock and swapped it out.
With the larger motor, I knew for sure that it would take off no problem. I plopped the plane back in the water, pointed the nose in to the wind, and gave it full throttle again. This time the floats came up on plane higher, I eased back on the elevator and up it went. I flew 2 or 3 passes trying to figure out how to land it back on to the water and went for it. Plop, it was back on the water no problem. This is easy right?
Second attempt. I rushed it. I pulled back on the elevator too soon. The right float lifted free of the surface tension of the water and the plane quickly rolled over. Upside down, completely wet, and in the middle of the lake, I began the rescue mission. Kayak, life jacket and paddle, and I was off. I got out to the Old Speedster, picked it out of the water, placed it on the bow, and headed back to shore.
Well that was fun; I wonder how this foam board is going to hold up? Let's try that again with some fresh electronics. Plopped it back in the water again and taxied back out. I was able to get it airborne successfully and was starting to trim out some pitch issues. Then disaster struck! The left wing folded 90 degrees up and I quickly jammed the stick the best I knew how, and raced it back to shore as fast as possible. Splash down! I came 10 feet short of making it back to land. At least I didn't have to get out the kayak.
With the wing folded and the plane completely soaked, it was time to test out the floats on the land. My aunts little dog was having a fit about the plane so I decided to chase it in circles around the yard with the plane. The dog decided to bite a chunk of foam out of the float. I was having so much fun it didn't matter. The wire cross braces were beginning to fall apart anyways. I was just happy that I was able to experience flying a float plane, completely soak the ROSS foam board, and try out my DIY floats.
Results of the real world test? A total success! The wing folded due to a high G maneuver with a water logged airframe and only a single layer of foam board wing. The paper absorbs water causing the foam board to lose its rigidity but it did not delaminate. Even after drying off, the paper has the same smooth finish as before, regained its regidity and is still holding on strong to the foam. The area that had a single layer of paint applied prevented the absorption of water and beaded the water on the surface. I cracked the tail of the fuse because of the dog chasing shenanigans, but with some minor repairs, this Old Speedster if far from retirement.
So whats the catch? There has to be some negative attributes to ROSS form board, right? Well, yes...ROSS is great for building nice airplanes and making them last longer but it does not crash as well as DTFB. Because the foam is more rigid, the paper and foam will tend to split on a hard impact. The nice thing is that the paper does not delaminate making for an easier repair. If you never plan on crashing your planes, then this becomes a non-issue. If you are investing the time into the airframe to make it super nice, you're probably not going to want to crash it anyways. If you do crash a lot, then I would recommend continuing to use DTFB and begin building with ROSS foam board when you get more proficient at flying.
I'm currently in the process of building the 800mm nnChipmunk and ss nnP-39.
Final Thoughts: Paint the plane to waterproof it and so it looks cool because ROSS foam board airframes will be in your hanger for a long time. Build light by trying white gorilla glue. Try not to crash and have fun.
How to build with ROSS Foam Board.
Building with the ROSS foam board is almost identical to building with DTFB. Since the size and thickness is identical you shouldn't experience any issues cutting out the parts. The most difficult thing about using ROSS is pealing the paper and removing the foam from the A and B fold areas. All the tips and tricks that Flite Test use for building with Adams can also be used for ROSS foam board.
The foam cuts fine with the standard utility knife blade or hobby knife. There have also been reports that it cuts really well with a CNC router.
A and B Folds
Because the paper is bonded foam so well it is slightly more challenging to remove the foam from the fold areas. I do my best to remove the foam and then slide a barbeque skewer in the slot to remove or smoosh any remaining foam.
Peeling the paper
I'm still working on finding a way to peel the paper in complete pieces, but with some patience and piece by piece it comes off. You will notice that it does tend to slightly pull the surface layer of foam with it. I think this is a great thing because you are assured that the paper will not delaminate anywhere else.
Check out Todd's video on how to peel the paper.
Beveling the foam
With ROSS foam board you can make the perfect bevels. Use a sharp blade to create the bevel to remove most of the foam and paper, but then finish it off with a sponge sanding block. But using this method, the bevels come out perfect.
I realized this when building the Nerdnic Sonic Series nnP-39. The plans call for beveling the wing tips and trailing edges. When I finished the bevels and folded the wing over the tapers came out exact because I was able to easily bevel the foam with a sanding block.
Just to be clear. The above picture is how the wing tip is designed to be created. I did not use a hot iron to melt the foam together to bevel the wing tip. Because of the nice beveling of the foam all you have to do is add glue and hold it together till it sets. I did not have to crush the foam or melt any of it to get it to take its shape.
Rounding over leading edges
The edges of the foam can be rounded over using a hot iron. I'm still trying to perfect this technique but its not hard.
ROSS foam board accepts paint very well. The paper quality is very smooth. This allows for a very nice paint finish with minimal to no surface prep. With DTFB, the surface should be prepped with oil based polyurethane and a light sanding to get a smooth finish. The paint also doesn't soak into the paper; it only bonds to the surface creating a water resistant barrier. With multiple coats of paint, the plane should be totally water proof.
ROSS foam board works great with hot glue. A lot of other members are beginning to recommend White Gorilla glue for building to helps reduce the weight of the airplane and prevent the plane from falling apart when left in a hot car. The White Gorilla glue takes much longer to set up and bond making the build slightly longer and more advanced. Be cautious to not use too much because the glue foams 3x its size during the curing process. Also read the directions on the bottle as it mentions that it cures fastest and best when there is moisture present at the bonding surfaces.
Here's a Flying Monkey tip: Apply the white gorilla glue and tack the parts in place with hot glue and allow the glue to cure.
Where to purchase:
ROSS foam board can be found in Walmart stores only. If you interested in purchasing the foam board at your local Wal-Mart, follow these steps. Note: Not all Walmart;s carry the product.
- Go to Walmart.com/ROSSfoamboard
- Find a local Walmart that shows it in stock on the website. Typically if it shows out of stock on the website at that store, they don't carry it.
- Call the Walmart that carries the product and ask for current stock levels.
- Talk with the manager of the stationary department and place an order with them. There are 25 sheets per box, but the foam can be purchased on a per sheet basis.
- Wait for it to arrive at the store. This may take up to 3 weeks, so be patient.
- The manager will call you to pick it up when it arrives in the store.
This product is not the same as Elmers board. Don't believe me?
So Elmer's is a large arts and crafts company that has positioned themselves as a premium brand. They bought out EnCore Products who now makes Elmer's brand foam boards for the signage industry. Walmart probably approached Elmer's and said we need a cheap foam board to compete with DTFB. Becuase Elmer's did not want to sacrifice their Brand by putting out a <$1/sheet foam board, they created ROSS foam board. Elmer's, EnCore and ROSS brands all share the same address and phone numbers. ROSS does not have a website because it is only a brand for Walmart stores.
After some research, it appears the Ross 950-033 is not identical to the Elmer’s White 20x30 boards available. The Ross 950-033 is only available at Wal-Mart stores.
I would be glad to send you sample pieces of the other Foam Board products that Elmer’s manufactures for you to test in your application if you would like.
CANDACE MARTIN, JR. PRODUCT MANAGER, ENCORE PRODUCTS, a division of Elmer's Products, Inc.
Continue the conversations over at the FT-Forum!
What other builders have to say about ROSS Foam Board:
SPONZ (FT-forum) says: "I built a pusher Versa Wing with two sheets of the ROSS foam board (RFB).
The build experience was similar to Adams Readi-Board (a.k.a. Dollar Tree Foam Board - DTFB, and Flite Test Foam - FTF). There were no A/B folds so I can't comment yet on making cavities or removing paper. Bevel cuts were very comparable to DTFB/FTF. Creasing and folding the wings was also very comparable. Overall the build experience was pretty much the same.
Now for the really interesting part. I got a couple of flights in with the Versa last Tuesday. Seemed a little lack luster for power with a 9x4.7 prop. But, other than that, it flew great. For the third flight I put an 8x6 prop on it. Better performance, but something wasn't right. It wasn't responding to the control inputs like it was on the first two flights. I couldn't get it to turn correctly anymore and when I try pulling up it started to roll. I tried to get it turned around but couldn't and when it started to dive in I cut the throttle and watched it go into the trees. It was too far away to see exactly where it went in. I looked for it for about an hour and it was nowhere to be found. Went home disgusted. A couple days passed and I started to forget about the plane and moved on.
Last night one of the neighbor boys came to the house with my Versa wing in hand. I couldn't believe it. By this time I had figured I would never see it again. This thing was sitting outside for 9 days! There is a little damage to the foam from where it went through the trees, but other than that, the foam is in great shape. No de-laminated paper anywhere. The battery drained down to nothing, so I think it's shot, but I plugged in a fresh LiPo and all the electronics are working fine. I think I'm a fan of the ROSS foam board."
Noah (FT Facebook fan) says: "Ross foam board is only provided to very select locations. Not all Walmart have it. I have to drive 30 minutes to a different town to get it.
My opinion is that it's worth the drive. I got The bushwhacker pretty wet from all the dew on the grass. I just let it air dry overnight and the very next morning it looks like it did before it got wet. I didn't notice any peeling or bubbling, which really surprised me because Adams would've been completely delaminated.
As for the actual foam, I noticed the Ross bounces back better when compressed. For example, I always compress the tabs on the Power pod to help it find the holes better. When I did that with the Ross foam board, the tabs bounced back to their original thickness.
Overall smoothness of the board is a lot better as well.
Only downfall I see is it's a lot harder to pull the paper off the foam, but that's also but that's also a benefit."