Fiberglass Finishing

When I first started working with fiberglass, I found it a fascinating yet frustrating material. While I enjoyed the fact that it was water proof and could be formed into any shape, I was often frustrated by my attempts to finish it in a way that would make my final product look presentable. Over the years I have come to the realization that a nice fiberglass finish requires a little preparation and a little improvising.

Obtaining a nice smooth finish can be obtained on a consistent basis when using a mold to produce your parts. Even so, thought and preparation are still necessary. A nice thick gelcoat layer that is covered with a layer of veil that is then covered with a layer of chopped mat will create an end product with a nice finish and no pattern transfer to the final product. The gelcoat layer should be thick enough to allow light sanding without getting into the mat.

When repairing a broken piece of fiberglass, getting a smooth finish takes a little more work. On painted surfaces, I like to remove the paint around the damaged area with sandpaper. Depending on the size of the damaged area, I like to remove enough paint around the damaged area to give me a couple inches of working room. I will then tape over the finished side of the damaged area and apply my repair to the backside of the repair.

Once the resin has cured, I remove the tape and access the exterior of my repair. If the repair is flush or depressed, I will smooth over the surface with either bondo, finishing putty or a thick mixture of resin and cabosil. Once this has cured, I will sand it smooth, primer it, inspect it and go from there. If there are defects in the surface, I will refill them with the medium that I find appropriate and repeat the sanding, inspecting and primering that I had done before. This process continues until the finish is right.

You should not be afraid to sand fiberglass. If you happen to sand it to the point that you expose glass fibers, clip the long ones off and brush more catalyzed resin on. Let the resin cure and re-sand. You may have to repeat this process several times to get your repair right. If your sanding continues to expose fibers, you may want to cut the surface down an 1/8 of an inch or so and fill over the surface with either gelcoat, resin mixed with cabosil or even bondo. Once this has cured you will have plenty of room to shape and sand without exposing fibers.

The bottom line is that many people feel as though the final outer surface of a fiberglass repair must be fiberglass. This is nice if possible, but there is nothing wrong with smoothing over the outer skin of a fiberglass repair with gelcoat, bondo, resin mixed with cabosil or body putty.

Fiberglass Shooting Star Body (Speed Racer) For RC Car

Happy Glassing


Steve

www.fiberglassmoldmanual.com

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