We’ve all been there; you load up a new tool box or equipment case only to realize that everything just flops around and bangs against each other. Your valuable microphones, cameras, lens, tools, test equipment and sporting contraptions all deserve love and respect. But finding an optimal ready-made storage solution can be an exercise in futility. That’s where FastCap’s kaizen foam comes in! It’s an excellent way to perfectly accommodate your own unique assortment of whatever it is that you have. It looks great, offers superior protection, and is a versatile way to organize. FastCap sent some kaizen foam our way and we’re going to show you what it’s all about.
E.T. Foam Home – Kaizen Foam
Kaizen (rhymes with “shy fan”) foam isn’t exactly alien technology, but it does offer “out of this world” protection. If an intergalactic traveler were to use it to pack, say, their Speak & Spell, we’re pretty sure it would survive the journey. Maybe even a few asteroid impacts. Though we haven’t tested this hypothesis, so launch at your own risk.
Unlike most products we review, kaizen foam is something that I’ve already been using for years now (and yes, it holds up very well over time). It’s what I trust to protect my camera gear.
Beyond my own experience with kaizen foam, I’ve also seen hundreds of examples of what other woodworkers, photographers, machinists, mechanics, manufacturers and other businesses have done with the stuff. It makes for highly visual tool walls, drawer and storage inserts. If something’s missing, you can tell immediately. And when you need a tool, you know right where to find it; no digging around in cluttered drawers.
What Is This Cushiony Kaizen Substance?
Kaizen foam is much like the high density vinyl foam used to make pool noodles and fill many life jackets. Other than shape and color, I can’t tell any difference. So I’m guessing it’s the same material.
Speaking of life savers, I padded those evil toe busting legs on the steel frame of my bed with pieces of pool noodle. It helps prevent fractured phalanges and curbs the cursing. Kaizen foam offers that same level of protection, but in sheet form.
If you need thicker pieces (or want to combine different thickness to simplify a more complex fitting), you can glue two or more together. FastCap recommends using their 2P-10 cyanoacrylate glue. I’d suggest the thick formula, but it’s still not as good a bond as the factory laminated layers and can be pulled apart.
For a far superior bond, I recommend contact cement. Don’t bother with wood glue or foaming polyurethane glue (like Gorilla Glue); they just don’t stick to the foam. Wood glue dries on the perimeter then effectively seals itself off and doesn’t dry throughout. And both easily peel off once cured.
Customize Your Kaizen Foam To Cradle Each And Every Item
I have way more tools than I have available drawers. Kaizen foam makes it easy to organize a drawer, but it also limits how much you can put in said drawer. Without it, you can just cram things in until it no longer closes. But then finding that elusive 10mm socket becomes an even more impossible task.
Auto mechanics love Kaizen Foam. Every wrench, screwdriver and socket can have its own dedicated spot. Who wants piles of socket trees and bulky blow mold cases when you can deck out your tool box with proper kaizen inserts?
It’s Easy To Make Custom Storage Inserts With Kaizen Foam!
Once you finalize your arrangement, trace the outlines and use a sharp knife set to the proper depth. Then dig in there and remove the waste material with your fingers. Now you have a cavity that matches the shape of your goodies.
The layers help you maintain an even depth, but it’s not perfect. Kaizen foam doesn’t pull apart between layers (at the glue). And that’s good; it means the sheets don’t de-laminate with repeated use. Instead, when you pull out the waste material you’re actually tearing the foam itself.
Kaizen Your Kaizen Foam – Tools To Make Easy Even Easier
In addition to the foam itself, FastCap carries tools to help you with the customization process. On their website and YouTube channel, you can also find lots of tips and tricks for using them and other things you already have laying around the shop (for example, heating a piece of pipe to melt and shape finger holes and cut circles) to get the results you want.
FastCap’s kaizen knife is a compact snap blade razor knife that feels great in the hand. The blade stays put until you choose to adjust it, unlike some cheapie units I’ve owned. There’s even a box opener to cut packing tape. FastCap actually sells four different knives and – given the quality – they’re surprisingly inexpensive.
We received the regular kaizen knife. But FastCap also has one made specifically for their thin blades. The thin blades will fit the regular knife, but they wobble if not fully extended. So get the “kaizen knife thin” if you’re going to use them.
I Cannot Lie – The Long Nosed Pattern Marker Is Pretty Awesome!
Like their kaizen knives, FastCap’s long nosed markers are good for a lot more than working with kaizen foam (but they happen to be perfect for transferring outlines to the foam). They’re available in black, silver and gold.
Cut, Smooth & Shape With The Kaizen Foam Hot Knife
To be frank, the hot knife is really just a wood burner. But that’s OK; it serves the purpose quite well. The temperature is adjustable and it comes with a variety of standard woodburning tips that are also great for shaping kaizen foam. Plus a razor knife tip that – when heated – cuts even easier than easy.
For my own needs, I found the tool to be most useful for creating grab holes and to flatten and smooth the bottoms of larger openings.
Before using the hot knife to smooth the bottom of the larger cavities, I expected the finish to be kind of hard and crusty. To my surprise, it actually left a nice soft, smooth, flexible surface. The texture doesn’t photograph too well, but hopefully you can tell the difference in the next two pictures.
Pluck Off With Your Cubic Cutouts – Kaizen Foam Is Far Superior!
User customizable storage cases are nothing new. You may be familiar with “pick & pluck” (or “pick and pack”) style foam inserts. It’s a spongy foam that comes perforated in a grid pattern. You strategically pluck away squares to roughly form the shape of your gun, test equipment, camera, whatever. It’s not a bad solution, for the most part. But it definitely has room for improvement.
For one thing, that other plucking stuff is divided into blocky “pixels” (voxels, actually). So any diagonal boundaries end up looking like Atari 2600 graphics (or, for our younger readers, Minecraft). And forget about curves; there are no curves. For another thing, if you want a depth other than what’s pre-scored, you’re pretty much plucked. Kaizen foam has none of these issues.
Another win in the kaizen corner is that this type of foam has a proven track record for longevity, unlike the dreadful old petroleum-based foam that’s notorious for breaking down into a crumbly mess. Or worse, degrading to a tar-like, corrosive goo that ruins everything it touches.
5S, Lean, Kaizen – Organization Is Key To Productivity
Paul Akers, founder and President of FastCap, is a veteran cabinet maker who’s fully embraced the Japanese manufacturing phenomenon of “lean” (also known as “5S” and “kaizen”). In short, it’s the principle of always improving your efficiency by taking steps to make things easier, faster and more convenient. It’s so much a part of Paul’s philosophy and company culture, in fact, that he’s a world traveling lecturer and author on the topic.
The use of kaizen foam encourages the idea of having a place for everything and everything in its place. When things have a home (and you put them back when you’re done with them) you aren’t constantly wasting time looking for them.
Personally, I often spend way more time hunting for my tools than actually using them. And I know I’m not alone. It’s bad enough in my own workshop. But imagine a company with multiple workstations – each having their own unique set of tools and having to hold each worker responsible for the tools at their station. Kaizen foam is a powerful solution for that situation.
Kaizen foam can go a long way towards achieving a “leaner”, more organized shop. If you’d like to improve your work space, give it a shot. I’ve never heard of someone being disappointed with the results.
Kaizen foam starts just over $13
Kaizen knives start a hair over $3
Get the long nosed pattern marker for around $6
Kaizen foam hot knife kit sells for around $33
49” extruded kaizen foam frame pieces (use with 57mm foam) can be had for under $10