Kaizen Foam – Protective, Customizable Storage For Your Tools & Equipment

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases (more).

Kaizen foam to the rescue!

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

Camera storage cases.
Most of my cameras and lens reside in these cases. The red case is an old VHS camcorder storage bag. It’s padded all the way around but the interior was just one big cavity.

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.

Kaizen foam protection.
About 4 years ago I outfitted my camera cases with kaizen foam. Here, my DSLR is so well protected, I wouldn’t worry one bit if I dropped the bag. And I have dropped the bag.

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.

Kaizen foam - making order from chaos.
All of these point & clicks (and their accessories) fit snugly into custom cut openings. I could hold the case upside down and none would fall out. They’re perfectly nestled – not squeezed to death – and I have 100% confidence in their safety.

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?

Sheets of FastCap kaizen foam.
Kaizen foam is sold in 2′ x 4′ sheets. It comes in three different thicknesses and two color choices (all black or black with white core).

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.

3 thicknesses of kaizen foam
It’s available in three thicknesses: 20mm (7/8”), 30mm (1-1/8”) and 57mm (2-1/4”).

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.

Layered foam.
Kaizen foam is made of thin layers laminated together. The layers give you control over the depth of your cutouts.

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

T-track accessories.
For me, the most difficult thing about using kaizen foam is settling on a layout, but I finally decided what I want in the first drawer of the cabinet I recently built into the Rockler shop stand.

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.

Outline each item onto the foam.
Once you decide what’s going where, outline each item.

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?

Kaizen foam frame for tool walls.
Another common way to use kaizen foam is to frame it and hang it on the wall. It sure makes for a better presentation than pegboard. You can either build a wooden frame or use FastCap’s extruded kaizen foam frame edging (works with the 57mm (2-1/4”) foam only). Photo – FastCap.com

It’s Easy To Make Custom Storage Inserts With Kaizen Foam!

utting with FastCap's kaizen knife.
Cut to the desired depth with a sharp knife.

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.

Remove waste material.
Finally, tear away the waste material.

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.

Multiple depths in one cutout.
Since kaizen foam is layered, it’s easy to make cutouts with multiple depths.
In their cozy little kaizen homes.
Now my T-Track accessories are handy, where I can always find them. And I have lots of room to expand as I buy (or make) others.

Kaizen Your Kaizen Foam – Tools To Make Easy Even Easier

Kaizen knife.
FastCap’s kaizen knife is perfect for cutting the foam. With a fresh blade, the foam cuts like a hot knife through warm butter. Even completely through the thick 57mm sheets.

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.

Thin kaizen blades.
For even tighter curves, try the thin kaizen blades. I really like these blades for tight radiuses.

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.

Straight cuts in kaizen foam.
Use a straight edge to get nice clean cuts.

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!

FastCap long nosed pattern marker.
This long thin tip is perfect for marking out your kaizen foam. The other end has a wide chisel tip, like a standard marker.

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.

Tracing with the long nosed marker.
Try doing this with a regular marker and you’ll understand how “magical” these are.
All laid out and ready to go.
Marked up and ready to go under the knife. Even though these are permanent markers, if you don’t wait too long you can scrub the ink off of the foam with a dry rag after making the cutouts.

Cut, Smooth & Shape With The Kaizen Foam Hot Knife

FastCap kaizen hot knife.
FastCap kaizen 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.

Making grab notches.
Following FastCap’s lead, I used the hot knife’s shaft to melt finger notches into the foam.
Angled notches make it easy to grab things.
Now it’s easier to grab the tools that sit lower on the surface.

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.

Smoothing tip.
The foam doesn’t tear out perfectly smoothly on the bottom. But this flat tip works great to clean up the bumpy texture.

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.

Rough texture.
When you clear away the waste material, the bottom can be a little bumpy and uneven. That’s not a problem, but it might not look as pretty as you’d like.
Smooth as a baby's kaizen bottom.
After using the hot knife and flat tip, the bottom is a lot smoother and more presentable. It really does make a big difference, but it’s not something you necessarily have to do.

Pluck Off With Your Cubic Cutouts – Kaizen Foam Is Far Superior!

Form fitting.
You aren’t getting clean, form-fitting shapes like this with pre-cubed foam.

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.

Everything in its place.
With perforated plucking foam, it’s very rare for any opening to be the exact right size (or shape) for the thing you put in it. With kaizen foam, every cutout can be perfectly contoured. You can’t tell here, but I angled the cutout on top of the mallet, allowing the head to pivot upward when I grab the handle.

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

What a mess!
The final thing I wanted to tackle for this review was to tame the DeWALT 4-tool combo kit we reviewed late last year. The tools just pile in on top of each other; let’s fix that.

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.

Working on the layers.
I started near the bottom and worked my way in both directions. The lower three layers, seen here, consist of one 20mm (7/8”) piece between two 57mm (2-1/4”) pieces. The use of different thicknesses made for cleaner results.

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.

Making progress.
Making progress.

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.

Layers ready for assembly.
Here are all of the layers. I glued them together then put the assembled block into the DeWALT tough system case.

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 saves the day!
This is so much better than before. The two batteries are in place on the drivers. I may add something to store wheels for the angle grinder. The charger sits on top of the circular saw. But other than that, the tools are all isolated, well protected and easy to retrieve.

Kaizen foam starts just over $13

Buy Now - via FastCap

Kaizen knives start a hair over $3

Buy Now - via FastCap

Get the long nosed pattern marker for around $6

Buy Now - via FastCap

Kaizen foam hot knife kit sells for around $33

Buy Now - via FastCap

49” extruded kaizen foam frame pieces (use with 57mm foam) can be had for under $10

Buy Now - via FastCap

Photo of author

About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don't judge him.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get access to free prizes, product sneak-peeks, reviews, how-to's and much more!

More Info | Email Privacy

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.