Make A Huge Hot-Seat Reusing Styrofoam and Feed Bags

This is a triple win, and I’m so excited to share it with you! We are going to reuse TWO hard to recycle plastics and turn them into a fantastic resource so you can keep working through the harsh winter. I ran into some big obstacles with this project, so read to the end before jumping in…better to be forewarned! The first step is to save all that Styrofoam.

About 8 years ago I bought this bean bag cover at Sears on clearance for about $4 and I had no intention of paying $25 for packing peanuts. I tend to save too many things like packing peanuts anyway, so the bean bag cover became the place we ‘stored’ packing peanuts. Then I started putting other stuff in there like this random egg carton, the foam inserts out of worn out seat cushions and a “We’re Number 1” foam finger in there somewhere.

The next thing you will need for this project is a feed bag. The burlap bags of grandpa’s days would be great if you can get your hands on them, but this project makes use of the woven plastic feed bags currently used. The paper bags of my child hood won’t give you satisfactory results…especially if you hope to use this huge hot-seat to sit on the snow while working outside. Even better than burlap in that case. Just ask a friend for one. Most livestock owners have a few empty feed bags stuffed in a nook somewhere.

Wipe out your feedbag really well and spray the inside and corners with Lysol or Febreze or essential oils that mice hate. Having a mouse chew into your heat bag because it still smells like food would be disappointing. My unrealistic fear of mice is one reason I chose this white bag with very little lettering. Against the sun I can ‘see’ through the bag and most of the white foam. If you have a more colorful bag, don’t worry, it will work fine. If you are at war with rodents just be aware of how and where they might camp, just check like you would a regular hot-seat that you buy at the store.

Next, you want fill the bag with Styrofoam. No need to be picky here. You can save the good packing peanuts for your kid’s bean bag and only use scrap Styrofoam if you want. That’s what I did. When I went to retrieve the lower-quality Styrofoam from the bean bag I did run into a problem. The broken Styrofoam I had put in had made a mess…as Styrofoam does. The worst pieces were the corner blocks that get compressed for electronics or glass light fixtures. Those are pretty hard and don’t move around like peanuts and random foam does to accommodate your bottom. When they break you have a mess on your hands. This is where my project became a huge mess and took an extra day. But, I will show you what I did, what didn’t work and what you can do to get around it.

Those little static cling white dots of Styrofoam make me crazy! I realized if I could scoop the Styrofoam with a hot utensil that there wouldn’t be breakage….there would be nice, small homemade peanuts. So I looked up a YouTube video on how to make a ‘Hot Wire Styrofoam Cutter‘. I am not going to link to any of these videos because when I made mine the battery got hot but the wire did not! I put a few hours into this trying to scrounge materials from the garage, kids rejected toys, and assembling with the hardware I had on hand. The heat of the battery really alarmed me. It might be dangerous….better to buy something an electrician built.

As I put away the hot-glue gun I noticed that my soldering iron came with an Exacto-knife blade attachment. I thought that might be exactly what I needed, assuming it would cut through the foam like a hot spoon through ice cream. I was pleased at first, but after just a few minutes the wide and short blade accumulated so much melted plastic it constantly smoked/off-gassed. It was not a pleasant smell and probably not great for me to breath. An actual blade creates too much ‘drag’ which is totally unnecessary and becomes a sticky surface. So I went back to the web and tried new search terms and discovered these things that let you not only cut Styrofoam into little packing peanuts…you can carve all sorts of artistic things with them! I never knew! It seems a much safer option than my 9 volt battery DIY version that I was afraid would blow up in my hand.

The above close-up shows how a hot knife sealed the edges of the foam, whereas breaking it creates a cascade of static-charged dots. After the Styrofoam phase of this project I spent at least 45 minutes cleaning up the only way you can: a pet hair attachment for a vacuum. I don’t know any other way you can get 200 tiny charged dots of foam off the carpet, bean bag, clothes…. At this point I was mad at myself and swearing I wouldn’t do this again.

Sewing the bag together was easy using a long stich on the sewing machine though. This stich is made as near the opening as possible, with the ends folded over to match the store-sewn bottom. A second pass using the ‘tape’ that comes off when you open the bag was added about 1/2 inch in from the first stitch. Using a long stitch and adding the second stitch in a different location is important because a stitch can become a “perforation” if the tiny holes are too close together and the plastic is compromised too much.

The frustration from cleaning up Styrofoam last night is all forgotten now that I have this huge hot seat! It has been so cold in the greenhouse this winter that it’s hard to stay more than a few hours. It can take a few hours to just look over the next project and try out some ideas. If I happen to get wet during a project it’s impossible to get warm enough to continue the project. This should keep my knees and backside dry and hopefully be what I need to finish up the flashing I am experimenting with while sitting in the snow.

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