Oct 21
Fiberglass Finishing Microballoons
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 10 21st, 2017 | | No Comments »

I have written blog entries in the past in which I have shared my experiences with new techniques and new products that are available for construction with composites. This is another one of those.

Whenever I am building the surface of a part that is being made of chopped mat, I end up with a fairly course surface that will need a final finishing.

I have employed various means to smooth out a fiberglass surface. Some of these finishing methods include the following:

For some applications I use veil over the final layer of chopped mat. This method hides most of the course fibers of the chopped mat without adding an excessive amount of extra weight to the final product. In fact, when I add a final veil covering I very rarely have to add any extra resin to the finish. Usually I can use a small roller to press the veil onto the surface of the still uncured mat / resin underneath it forcing the resin to seep into the veil and provide adequate saturation on the surface. The individual fibers of veil are much finer than those of chopped mat so the final surface is smoother.

For other applications I mix a putty-like consistency combination of resin and cabosil that I use to smooth over the surface. This has been one of my favorite methods for finishing a fiberglass surface. The cabosil / resin mixture can be made as thick or thin as your project requires. Once this mixture is spread over the surface and cures, it can be sanded smooth and finished.

Sometimes I will simply skin the surface with bondo. I like bondo because it sands so easily and cures so fast. You can smooth out a surface in a hurry with bondo. The drawbacks to using bondo are that it is easily chipped / damaged and it almost cures too fast. I have wasted a good amount of bondo over the years by mixing more than I could use in its working period.

The other day I went to my local fiberglass supply store and asked for a ¼ pound of cabosil. The gentleman that helped me asked if I wanted something that would sand a little easier. I said “sure” and he suggested microballoons. The microballoons mixed into a nice white paste and spread easily on the surface of my project. It also sanded easily as promised. In addition to easy sanding, it also seems durable as it passed the hammer tap test that I performed on the tip to the bow of my boat project. It didn’t hit it full force but I hit it hard enough to crack bondo and the microballoons didn’t crack. I was impressed.

In the beginning of this article I said that I was writing about a new product. Microballoons are not “new”, they are simply new to me. Once again, we tend to get comfortable with methods and materials that are known to us and close ourselves off to other products and procedures that are available.

Fiberglass Deep Vee Radio Controlled Boat

Fiberglass Deep Vee Radio Controlled Boat

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com

Oct 19
Fiberglass Mold Construction Part 9
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 10 19th, 2017 | | No Comments »

I let this mold cure on the plug for almost a week before demolding. This mold popped off its parting board with little effort. Likewise, the mold separated from the plugs with ease. The process for removing the mold from the plug is simple. I use a half dozed small plastic putty knives that I insert between the mold and the parting plane.

Once I have one putty knife between the mold and the parting plane, I simply insert another putty knife at the edge of the separation that occurred as a result of the first knife. This is repeated time and time again as I work my way around the perimeter of the mold. Once you get started, this is an easy process.

At this point the mold is inspected for any flaws, repaired and then prepped for its first part pulls.

Making parts with this mold is very similar to making the mold itself. I begin by applying five coats of mold release wax to the inside of the mold. Once the mold is waxed, I can apply a coat of PVA to the inside of the mold with my spray gun. After the PVA dries, I can do my first parts lay-up. This is part that I really enjoy – I am very close to seeing the results of my efforts and planning.

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com

Oct 18
Fiberglass Fenders Part Two
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 10 18th, 2017 | | No Comments »

Now that the foundation for my plug is laid, I can start building a fender. At this point I will just take a moment to regress.

When I was younger, I am sure that this plug would have been built from a much more difficult process than what I have outlined. I am not sure how I would have done this but it wouldn’t have been easy – I probably would have used a template of the rim, done complicated measurements of the total tire diameter and so forth. Building plugs for projects like this are much easier and more likely to provide a nice product if you can use the base object as the foundation for your plug. In this case, I used the actual rim itself. In one of my manuals, I actually used the hood of my jeep as the foundation for building a plug for the hood scoop. This method of plug building takes much of the guess work out of the building process.

Getting back to the plug, I begin building the plug by laying a layer of 1 ½ ounce mat and resin over the foam. Once this cures, I follow with a plastic spreader and bondo to smooth out the surface of the fender. Once the bondo is cured, I smooth out the surface with my electric sander with a course (100 grit) sandpaper to smooth it out. Like with any plug build, I go through many bondo applications followed by sanding to smooth out the surface.

As with many plugs, just about the time that I get this thing smoothed out I see a problem with it. From a side view, it appears as though the center section of the fender, when viewed from the side, isn’t as thick as the ends of the fender. In order to check this, I drilled a hole in the end of a 1/8 inch, inch wide by 36 inch long piece of aluminum stock. The hole is just large enough to slip onto the hub of my rim. I then clamp an L bracket onto the stock aluminum and slid it down until it makes contact with the fender at what I perceive to be the highest point. As I sweep the L bracket around the top of the fender from one end to the other it becomes obvious that not only is my center section low, but I have many uneven points along the surface of the plug.

Fixing these uneven points is pretty easy. I now have a way to measure the outer diameter of the fender and I can use this tool to obtain consistency in the outer diameter.

To smooth out the surface of my fender, I lay a bead of bondo in the center along the length of the plug. While the bondo is still able to be spread, I drag the L bracket which is still attached to the hub through the aluminum stock along the surface of the plug at a level that represents the highest point of the plug. The L bracket levels the surface of the plug creating consistent thickness of the plug.

After this application of bondo cures, I can begin spreading bondo over the surface again to smooth it out. This time I am careful to use the newly laid central ridge of bondo as a guide.

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com



Oct 16
Fiberglass Model Build Part 7
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 10 16th, 2017 | | No Comments »

Preparing the plug is the next stage of this build. I begin by mounting the two halves of the plug to a piece of inch thick MDF board. I attach the plugs by using screws from the back side of the MDF. Some people glue or epoxy their plugs to the parting plane. I prefer to use screws because I can remove the plug from the MDF after the mold is finished with out destroying it.

Once I have the plugs securely attached to the parting plane, I need to go around the base of the plugs looking for gaps between the board and the plugs. Any gaps are filled with clay. This is just a matter of forcing the clay into the gaps in order to prevent resin from getting under the plug. When the gaps are filled and all excess clay is removed, I can apply mold release wax to the plugs and the MDF parting plane. I like both McGuire’s and Part-All mold release waxes. It is important to apply at least five coats to the plugs in order to ensure adequate coverage. The plugs should be polished to a shiny smooth finish.

PVA is now sprayed onto the plugs and the parting board. The PVA is an excellent barrier between the mold and the plug. I like to spray a coat, let it dry and then re-apply. Applying two coats of PVA can result in lost detail but that is not a concern for me with this project. An additional coat of PVA will ensure an easy release when I de-mold the plugs.

I apply the PVA with my spray gun at about 60 psi and a distance of 8 to 12 inches. PVA is cheap and valuable at the same time. This set of mirror image plugs is now ready for molding.

For the molding process I need my air compressor and dump gun along with: tooling gelcoat, fiberglass resin and chopped mat, MEKP, rubber gloves, disposable brushes and a respirator or fume mask.

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com

Oct 7
Fiberglass Copter Build Part 8
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 10 7th, 2017 | | No Comments »

I begin by applying black tooling gelcoat with a dump gun at about 80 psi. I make sure to keep the gun close to my work because gelcoat makes a huge mess if it gets on something other than your project. I lay down a nice thick layer of gelcoat making sure to get good coverage around the base where the plug meets the board.

Once the plug is covered with gelcoat, I let it cure to a tack. I did this project on a nice hot San Diego day so it cured to a tack in about 45 minutes.

At this step I used a different approach than I am used to. I came into possession of a large roll of veil that I decided to use in the corners and angles of the mold. In the past I have always used a combination of cabosil and resin. I found the veil easy to work with, especially when pushing it into corners with a chip brush. With the veil in place, I proceed to build the mold with three layers of 1 ½ ounce chopped mat.

I begin applying the chopped mat by brushing a nice thick layer of catalyzed resin over the area of the plug that I am working on. Then I place a piece of mat that has been pulled off of my roll and lay it on the plug. I like to keep the pieces fairly small on a project like this, no larger than 6 inches square. Pulling the mat apart will leave many loose fibers that will help the strength of my final product once it has cured. When applying the mat, I like to overlap my pieces by about 20% and build a nice flange around the base of the plug.

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com

Oct 4
Fiberglassing for Profit: Part 1
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 10 4th, 2017 | | No Comments »

I have made many things out of fiberglass over the years.  Typically, my projects involve building a plug, making a mold from that plug and finally using that mold to make pieces. 

 

One project that I have wanted to do for a while was inspired by a ceiling fan that I first saw years ago.  I am sure that you have seen the fans that look like the nose of a WW II fighter plane.  From the moment that I saw that fan, I thought that it would be cool to have a helicopter body that would hang from the underside of the ceiling fan making the fan blades look like rotor blades.  Of course the helicopter would have to be a classic – I chose the UH-1 from the Vietnam era.

 

Thus the project begins.  The first thing I like to do when I am building something like this is to go to the hobby store and pick up a model of the helicopter that I want to build.  I use this model as a three dimensional reference.  While 3D references are not always available, I do like to use them when possible.  For this project, I selected a 1/35 scale UH-1.  Using this model, I can get a good idea of the size that the fuselage has to be relative to the diameter of the fan blades in order to maintain a scale appearance. 

 

I begin to build the fuselage of the model and to analyze the proportions, angles and curves of the copter.  

 

At this point, I can begin to produce profile drawings of the copter.  I definitely need to start with a view from the top and a view from the side. 

Some of this is accomplished through artistic ability and some of it is cheating.  The model that I bought had these views in the painting instructions.  Based on the diameter of the fan blades, I figured that the fuselage should be about 40 inches from nose to tail.  I simply used my copier to blow these views up to the size that I need.  Then I drew in some details that were lost in the enlarging process. 

 

                          

 

 

Sep 29
Fiberglass and Foam Plug Building
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 09 29th, 2017 | | 1 Comment »

Its funny how we do things that we think are not only the right way but the only way only to find out later that there are better ways. Years ago, when I first discovered the use of dry foam as a medium for plug construction, I thought that I had found the perfect plug building material. I easily carved out complex structures in a fraction of the time that it used to take when I used plaster and wood.

Then my bubble burst. I finished carving the foam for my new plug, covered it with resin and sea glass from the hobby store and let it cure. To my surprise, when I was applying bondo and glazing putty to level the surface of my plug, the plastic putty knife that I used easily went through the surface of my plug. It was then that I realized that the outer skin of this plug was too weak and needed re-enforcement. I fixed this problem by removing the thin layer of glass that I used to cover the foam and applying a 1/8 inch layer of bondo over the entire surface of my now less than pretty plug. Since this episode, I have always used foam in my plug construction but I always took that extra step with shaving down the foam and covering it with a layer of bondo before I start the final finish.

Recently, I began to evaluate my plug building procedures. While my tried and true method described above never failed me, I wanted to try something new. I recently was building a plug that I wanted to move quickly with. After carving the foam, I went ahead and decided to cover it as it was with 1 ½ ounce chopped mat and resin. I remembered when I had my bad experience with this method I had used very light material from my hobby shop. The 1 ½ ounce mat worked perfectly. It provided a very solid surface to work with without adding excessive size to the plug that I had carved from the foam.

I basically did two things differently with the foam. The first thing that I did was thoroughly saturate the surface with resin. The second thing that I did was use a much heavier chopped mat to cover the plug.

I always read and research fiberglassing techniques. I had not really researched or evaluated my plug construction techniques for years. This “new to me method” saved me a TON of time and materials (bondo). I don’t believe that this way of plug building affected the quality of my final product at all.

I would recommend trying this method for your next project.

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com

Sep 24
Joining Fiberglass Halves
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 09 24th, 2017 | | No Comments »

There are several ways to join fiberglass halves. Fuselages, boat hulls and car bodies usually require joining of at least two pieces in order for the project to reach a point of completion.

With some applications, a sleeve can be built into the plug with will allow the second part to slip into which will result in a nice joint that can be epoxied together. An application that comes to mind in this circumstance would be the deck of a model boat to the hull. This technique needs to be planned well in advance since it requires integration into your plug. This technique also is only applicable to those projects that won’t be visually hampered by a visible seem or joint on the final product.

Most of the time, in order to obtain a clean joint that can be filled, sanded and finished in a way that produces no visible joint on the final product, you will need access to the inside of the joined pieces in order to produce a clean union. The best way to do this is to align the halves and use masking tape to hold the pieces together. I like to use thin strips of resin saturated fiberglass mat that I can lay across the inside of the seem. Depending on the strength of the bond that my project requires, I like to have about ½ inch of mat overlapping each side of the seem. Once this cures, your joint is complete. The only thing left to do at this point is finish the exterior.

Another method that I really like for joining fiberglass halves that don’t have to be water tight or incredibly strong is by using what I like to call “chemical applesauce”. “Chemical Applesauce” is a mixture of resin and cabosil that has been catalyzed with MEKP that has the consistency of applesauce. I use this mixture by taping the entire outer surface of the seem, making sure that the pieces have proper alignment. I then use a gloved finger to apply this mixture to the seem line from the inside. I use my finger to push and work the mixture into the joint. This makes an excellent filler as well. Once the mixture has cured, I can remove the masking tape and I am left with a strong, clean joint that requires only minimal sanding and finishing.

These are some of my favorite ways to join two halves of a fiberglass project. I do have a challenging project on the table now that will require special consideration when joining. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Fiberglass AH-1G Cobra

Fiberglass AH-1G Cobra

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com

Sep 18
Fiberglass Mold Release – PVA Pros and Cons
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 09 18th, 2017 | | No Comments »

I have received many questions from those who purchased my manual set regarding mold releases. Especially when preparing the plug. The bulk of the questions seem to come from the use of PVA as a mold release.

Let me start by saying that I like and prefer to use PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) mold release at all stages of my projects – both to release the plug and my parts. I like the security it provides. I have never had a part or a plug get stuck in mold when I have used PVA.

The problem that some people have with PVA is the orange peel appearance that is left on the inner surface of the mold after you have separated the plug from the mold. More often than not this orange peel is visible but can’t be detected by touch. Unfortunately, sometimes the orange peel appearance can transfer to the parts that you will make with your mold.

For me, this orange peel appearance has never been a problem because of the type of projects that I like to build. If you are planning on painting your finished pieces, as I do, the orange peel look of the gelcoat is of no concern. You will be at the least priming and painting the parts so you will never see the gelcoat. Even with R/C boat hulls that I have made I always plan on painting them for the final finish.

If you want to produce finished parts that have that glowing perfect gelcoat surface you will need to take a different approach with the plug. You will have to rely on mold release wax alone to allow for the separation of the plug from the mold. With this approach, you will want to follow the waxing procedures outlined in my manual. Use great care with applying and polishing the plug.

Another consideration with an approach that doesn’t involve the use of PVA is that more than likely you will damage (if not destroy) your plug when you de-mold. This is another reason why I like using PVA – I work hard on the plugs that I build and I like to save them.

I hope that this helps with your PVA questions

1/10 Scale Radio Controlled Fiberglass Mach 5

1/10 Scale Radio Controlled Fiberglass Mach 5

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com

Sep 15
Fiberglass Mold Release Agents
posted by: Steve Jones in Uncategorized on 09 15th, 2017 | | 1 Comment »

I have received many questions from those who purchased my manual set regarding mold releases. Especially when preparing the plug. The bulk of the questions seem to come from the use of PVA as a mold release.

Let me start by saying that I like and prefer to use PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) mold release at all stages of my projects – both to release the plug and my parts. I like the security it provides. I have never had a part or a plug get stuck in mold when I have used PVA.

The problem that some people have with PVA is the orange peel appearance that is left on the inner surface of the mold after you have separated the plug from the mold. More often than not this orange peel is visible but can’t be detected by touch. Unfortunately, sometimes the orange peel appearance can transfer to the parts that you will make with your mold.

For me, this orange peel appearance has never been a problem because of the type of projects that I like to build. If you are planning on painting your finished pieces, as I do, the orange peel look of the gelcoat is of no concern. You will be at the least priming and painting the parts so you will never see the gelcoat. Even with R/C boat hulls that I have made I always plan on painting them for the final finish.

If you want to produce finished parts that have that glowing perfect gelcoat surface you will need to take a different approach with the plug. You will have to rely on mold release wax alone to allow for the separation of the plug from the mold. With this approach, you will want to follow the waxing procedures outlined in my manual. Use great care with applying and polishing the plug.

Another consideration with an approach that doesn’t involve the use of PVA is that more than likely you will damage (if not destroy) your plug when you de-mold. This is another reason why I like using PVA – I work hard on the plugs that I build and I like to save them.

I hope that this helps with your PVA questions

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com

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