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What is Gatorboard/ Gatorfoam?


Question: What is Gatorboard/ Gatorfoam?

Lightweight and easy to use, Gatorfoam board is a favorite dollhouse building material of miniature artisans like Rik Pierce and is used for several building and display applications for miniatures. Gatorfoam has a very ridgid coating which is resistant to moisture, unlike foamcore board which is foam covered with lightweight card. Gatorfoam is not an acid free material, so you should check before using it for items which will be displayed in museums or other permanent archives.


Gatorfoam also known as Gatorboard

Produced by Alcan Inc., Gatorfoam is an extruded polystyrene foam mounting board encased between layers of a melamine and wood fibre veneer. Gatorfoam/Gatorboard has a harder outer surface than other foam core boards and resists warping. For miniature builders, Gatorboard is often used as a backing for wet materials like paperclay or stucco finishes which require a water resistant backing while the coating dries. Gatorboard is more durable than foam core boards and is a good choice for non archival applications, where strength and light weight are important. It is not suitable for archival applications as the facings offgas.

Where Do I Find Gatorboard?

Gatorfoam or Gatorboard is most often sold for mounting photographs or short term mounting of art for displays. Art stores and framing shops are the most likely sources.

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What Sizes and Colors Are Available?

Gator board is available in a white, black or natural (kraft) finish. For special applications (mounting photos and posters) it is available with an adhesive coating already applied. Black Gatorboard is not recommended for outdoor use as the color accelerates UV breakdown.

Gatorboard is available in the following thicknesses: 3/16 inch, 1/2 inch , 3/4 inch ,1 inch, 1-1/2inch, and 2 inch. It is usually sold by the piece, but is available in full sheets sized 4ft by 8 ft up to up to 5 ft by 10 ft.

Working With Gatorboard

The outer surface of Gatorboard is strong and chips unless cut by fine sharp blades. Handcutting of Gatorboard is not recommended although it can be handcut after scoring it with a very sharp, short craft blade. (Something similar to the knives used to cut melamine countertop material.) Hand jig saws or coping saws are preferable for handcutting simple shapes, more elaborate cuts should be done with power tools.

Gatorboard is easily cut with a power saw or router using sharp, fine tooth blades. It can be glued to the face of a structural framework, or held together with wooden dowels or biscuits to build without a frame.

Before gluing or painting make sure the surface is clean and dry. If necessary, scuff the top surface using 180 or finer grit sandpaper to create a better surface for bonding (when using glues other than contact cement).

Finishing Gatorboard

Acrylic and enamel paints are safe for use on Gatorboard, but test your paint on a section of scrap foam core first before applying paint. Paint solvents may destroy the foam core, so use water based (acrylic) paints if possible and apply paint only to the outer board layer. If you plan to paint the Gatorboard surface, a good prime coat is recommended before you apply your final paint coat.

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