Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kaizen Foam --- French Fit for the 21st. Century?

     If you've ever made a case for a pistol or tool you're probably familiar with the term "French Fit".  Then, had you tried this technique you'd know that it's not an easy process to do -- very time consuming as you make layers of wood that taper to match the contours or else sculpt an opening in a solid board to fit an object.  This is something I've wanted to do for my dovetail and small crosscut saw but the time to do it has never seemed to be right!  Enter Kaizen Foam a new product from Fastcap I happened to run across while checking out the web.  Here's the final result:

Kaizen Foam Insert in Tool Chest
     You can click on my link to learn more about this and also see some videos they've produced about it.  It comes in sheets that are 2' x 4' and in three different thicknesses.  I  bought the thickest one and re-sawed it on the bandsaw to get the thickness I needed.  Price is reasonable and I have plenty for me and my neighbor who's building a case for an expensive jig he has and wants to protect.
      The process is pretty straight forward.  The first step is to position the tool where you want it to be.  I used some painters tape to align the saw to the edge.

Position Your Tool
     I used a black sharpie to outline the saw.  Angle it towards the tool as you trace or else your opening will be bigger than you need.  I learned that when I cut the opening for the first saw you see at the bottom of the foam.
      For the curved cuts you simply use a razor knife with a pointed blade (helps get the tight radius) and rotate it around as you cut.  You could mark the depth on the blade but eye-balling it worked just fine.

Initial Cutting

     For the straight cuts I chose to use a straight edge to control the cut, looks better too!

Guided Straight Cuts
     Now comes the fun part, peeling away the layers to make the recess.  I found that by digging in my fingers I could get the piece started and then by clawing all the way across the piece comes out, more or less, in one piece.

Removing the Layers
     Work slowly and watch the edges.  Better to cut too deeply than to tear the edge because it wasn't cut completely through.  Some areas of the saw needed to be deeper.  As an example, this portion of the handle needs to go lower than the blade:

More Depth Needed Here
     To accommodate that it was easy enough to draw in the approximate shape, cut that area deeper, and then remove the layers as needed.

Customizing the Fit
     The surface it leaves behind is a little bit uneven but more than acceptable for this application.  In the video a technique was shown where you heated up a piece of metal and used that to blend in the edges.  For this, that's overkill.
     So the question remains, will this replace a French Fit case for a pistol, musical instrument, or tool?  Not in my estimation.  It certainly makes fitting an object securely into a box or drawer much easier but lacks the finesse you may want when building a pistol case or other application.  I have a till at the top of this case where I keep my good planes and may add a piece of the foam there as well to cushion them and keep them from touching one and other.


  1. Thanks for the link and tutorial. I've been looking for ways to travel with tools and this looks good. another good thing to consider is:

  2. Glad it helped you out, I think I paid less than $30.00 including shipping for this piece so it's a good value in my opinion.

  3. Just wanted to add that the foam, at least the black, stains your fingernails and is pretty hard to remove! Probably the dye in it but I got some weird looks when I met some people and shook hands with them. Did some more of the foam for other tools and wore some disposable gloves -- not a big deal but thought I'd give a public service announcement!