Each teacher does things differently. This is usually good. Teachers make changes to meet their particular situations. For years I have wanted to have a users group newsletter, and here is the chance. If you will send me your ideas by mail or email, I will consider posting them here, with or without your name and school, as requested. Some of these I have not tried so I have no way of recommending them.
ROUTING vs SANDING
The sides, bottoms and ends of the boxes over hang the sides. The steps of procedure have the student sand off the excess. One teacher set up a router as a shaper and used a carbide trim bit with a ball bearing to trim off the excess. Properly done this will save a lot of sanding.
There are two cautions: (1) do not have the bit too high, or the pilot bearing can go into the recess for the leather and cut into the side of the box. The bit needs to be set high enough to trim the dowels. (2) Extreme care must be used when going across the end grain of the sides, or the wood will split out.
One teacher said he used latex paint to paint the styrofoam and while it was wet applied flocking.
Another teacher sprayed light coats of paint on the styrofoam. He cautioned that it must be light coats or it will disolve the stryrofoam.
One school uses WEP, but does not add the water. This increases the cost for the finished product, but makes mixing a lot easier. They just add catalyst and stir with a stirring stick.
Some schools use stain in the mix rather than adding it to the finished casting. I did not have much luck with stains, seems the stains sanded off when I cleaned up the casting.
Vegetable shortening, either Crisco or the generic store brand, works very well in place of spinning wax for the candle. It also works reasonably well on drill bits when drilling aluminum.
At one school the students also CNC their name in reverse on the underneath side of the plastic before blowforming the cover. The only problem was getting it centered on the cover.
One teacher has a router set up as a shaper and has the students bevel all edges of the puzzle before applying the finish. I like the idea, If you do it be sure the router bit is guarded properly..