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Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/14/21 11:19 a.m.

I'm looking to get into making fiberglass parts. I have a couple books on the matter, but I also happen to have a birthday coming up so therefore I have a mom who is asking what she can get me. I'm looking to build out a starter kit of sorts for fiberglass work, and then I'd have a list of supplies/materials/tools/PPE needed and I could give that to mom. 

So far, I have a set of rollers from amazon and a tin of paste wax that was on clearance at Ace the other day. And I have a giant roll of probably sub-optimal fiberglass fabric that is really thin (like 1.5 oz). What else do I need to get started? What things do you wish you had when you started? 

RoddyMac17
RoddyMac17 Reader
6/14/21 12:27 p.m.

Lots of nitrile gloves, acetone, both waxed and unwaxed polyester resin, respirator, syringes (for measuring MEKP), mixing containers, chopped strand mat, tooling gelcoat, regular gelcoat, disposable paint brushes, etc.  

Other than that, maybe a few pairs of disposable coveralls?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
6/14/21 12:33 p.m.

I'm getting itchy just reading this thread :)

Obviously, I have nothing to contribute but I will be watching with interest. 

RX Reven'
RX Reven' UltraDork
6/14/21 12:39 p.m.

Link

Also, tongue depressors for mixing.

Added later...

I've been thinking about making a custom fiberglass insert for a wicker planter as my pothos are outgrowing their current two 4" circular containers that sit inside the planter.

I believe the planter is slightly trapezoidal on both the x & y axis with a top dimension of about 4" X 6" X 15" and needs to be totally waterproof...perfect opportunity for fiberglass.

pm me if you're interested in picking up your first job...no hurry as I'd need to get some clippings growing before transferring the pothos into their new home. 

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UberDork
6/14/21 2:11 p.m.

In reply to RX Reven' :

3d print and epoxy would solve that.

buzzboy
buzzboy Dork
6/14/21 2:34 p.m.

A good pair of shears for cutting fiberglass. Our supplier grinds the original name off so we can't skip him(shakes fist) but having good scissors makes a huge difference.

Instead of buying waxed resin buy wax solution. It's styrene with paraffin. Lets you make as much or as little hot coat as you need.

Buy more mixing cups than you think you'll need. We get 1/2gal, 12oz and 2oz paper cups from a restaurant supplier. Tongue depressors for mixing.

I'm not sure what it's like to buy in smaller quantities but having a little Cabosil on hand can be very convenient for certain situations.

 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
6/14/21 3:10 p.m.

Assuming you're starting out small, most hardware stores or auto parts stores sell inexpensive fiberglass kits that have the resin, some glass mat, a little tray for mixing the resin and some gloves.  It won't get you far, but there's enough there to start playing around.  As an example I used one of those kits to duplicate the floor shift porch for my 1961 Pontiac - I wrapped the original in clear packing tape, and laid a couple layers of glass over it.  Then after the resin cured I simply pried it off.  It was of course marginally larger than the original, but it was close enough for my purposes.

 

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UberDork
6/14/21 3:12 p.m.

In my little experience, I dislike tongue depressors, paint stirring sticks are better.  

Grinding discs/flap wheels?  Lots of acetone?

The vacuum bag kit is a great idea.  I wish I had one when I started the boat stuff, you wouldn't really need a roller with them though.

Mold prep stuff, mold release stuff, etc.

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
6/14/21 3:16 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

I'm getting itchy just reading this thread :)

One summer during college I worked in a factory that made fiberglass products - fence components, slatted flooring, and various other things.  It was long enough ago that personal protection equipment or any other concerns about the safety of the workers hadn't been thought of yet.  It was the itchiest three months of my life.  smiley

frenchyd
frenchyd UltimaDork
6/14/21 5:07 p.m.

In reply to Robbie (Forum Supporter) :

Thin Matt is wonderful to start with for making molds. Make sure you don't have any reverse drafts or the mold will be trapped on the part. 
    Just make sure you cut the pieces and lay them out so you can grab them one at a time with sticky gloves on. 
 Mix  your resin first.    Brush a layer of resin over your gel coat. Then pick up the first pre-cut layer and set it in place. Now roller the air pockets out.  Pick up your next piece and repeat. If you are making a splash mold for one or two pieces, 3 layers is plenty.  Production molds Need  more depending on the volume of parts.  
   If you are working with carbon fiber or Kevlar use sharp pinking shears. I like Fiskers brand and I avoid the Chinese ones.  
      Once you are done laying the fiberglass out keep touching the edges. Once it gets leathery use a new blade on a utility knife and cut along the edge. That avoids all the fiberglass dust ( and itching ) that waiting until it hardens and then cutting the edge.  Now let it dry / harden completely.  A splash mold is ready in 8 hours. A production mold can take many times that. 

jgrewe
jgrewe HalfDork
6/14/21 5:07 p.m.

Instead of syringes for MEK invest in one of the squeeze bottles with a cup on top, not sure what else to call it. I also 2nd paint stir sticks to stay away from the resin as much as you can. I roll out resin with a 3" wide paint roller, the green ones from the Depot. I have a 3" roller frame and buy 9" roller covers and cut them in thirds on my band saw, a hack saw will work too. Dunk the thing in your mixing cup and roll it on.  

Plastic mixing cups can be used a few times if you don't leave so much in them that they melt as the resin cures. I usually coat the sides so there is more to peal out and leave less than 1/2" in the bottom.

1 1/2oz will be hard to get into any sharp inside corners, get some 3/4 oz for the first layer after gel coat. Not sure if you have chopped matte or fabric. You need to put chopped matte after your gel coat or you can get print through.

I won't say it is absolute but you need mold release wax, not just paste wax. I think it is better for the temps the resin will reach.

 

frenchyd
frenchyd UltimaDork
6/14/21 5:20 p.m.

Once you have a mold check it for air pockets, bad edges etc. then spray a coat of PVA on the mold.  Let that dry for 4 hours or more.  And wax like crazy.  I put 4 coats of wax on 

  Decide if you're going to use cloth, Matt , chopper gun, Kevlar or carbon fiber.  Or some combination. Don't forget you can use foam to make a part thicker ( stiffer and stronger) without adding much weight.   
       Boats use blocks of balsa wood. For decks etc. where localized pressure can exceed the strength of of the fiberglass.  
vacuum bags are an expensive complex way to get the last few ounces of resin from a part.  You can get nearly the same results with a fresh squeegee. Remember resin doesn't add strength it only holds things together. 
  Chopper gun is the weakest but the fastest way to make parts . Followed by Matt, Cloth,  Kevlar and carbon Fiber.    

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UberDork
6/14/21 5:31 p.m.
jgrewe said:

Instead of syringes for MEK invest in one of the squeeze bottles with a cup on top, not sure what else to call it.

On the MEK-P, this E36 M3 is pretty nasty if you're not careful with it.  It absorbs through skin contact and breathing it in.

I'd be tempted to recommend a dedicated MEK-P safety kit that is kept in its own little toolbox or something.  Elbow-length gloves, the squeeze bottle noted above, potentially even a dedicated half-face respirator.  If you have a beard, some vaseline jelly to seal the respirator to your face through the beard (or just shave whenever you work with this stuff)

Its a nasty oxidizer and will burn you if its on you, even in the concentrations found in the gelcoat. 

jgrewe said:

Plastic mixing cups can be used a few times if you don't leave so much in them that they melt as the resin cures. I usually coat the sides so there is more to peal out and leave less than 1/2" in the bottom.

Sidenote: I've started to pour my excess resin on the cardboard box I use to lay out my fiberglass when I'm wetting it out prior to application.  Its open on one side and thus far I've got 3.5 of the 5 exterior sides coated and 2.5 sides of the interior 5 sides coated. 

I'm hoping that when I'm done I have a Permanent Cardboard Box ™ at some point for random storage of boat stuff.

buzzboy
buzzboy Dork
6/14/21 5:42 p.m.

I love vacuum bagging. Probably a little over the top for Robbie but it can be fun. In my work we use it often. Allows for better resin distribution, removes ALL excess resin and ends up with a lighter stronger part. It's really not terribly expensive to get into. I think our last vacuum pump was less than $100 and then a few lines and a bag.

Don't overthink MEKP9 safety. It'll give you a little chemical burn so you don't want it on your skin. It's a good reason to not get any mixed resin on your skin too. But you don't need a respirator or anything for it. You DO want a respirator though for curing polyester resin. The little measuring bottles are invaluable. I don't really measure unless I'm doing large quantities of resin but eyeballing with the little measuring cup is super easy. Even doing little batches where you're counting drops of MEK is easy.

Pour out your excess resin from the cup. It'll get really hot in the cup and can actually melt. If you pour it out(I have drip trays for this reason) it doesn't have enough thermal mass to truly get hot and you can save the cup for another use. I can use one 2oz cup 5+ times for laminations. A 12oz cup will last me weeks of laminations/hot coats.

TVR Scott
TVR Scott SuperDork
6/14/21 7:45 p.m.

I've done quite a bit of composite work in the past, and I really prefer epoxy systems.  They're not as smelly.  Much stronger.  No MEK-P.  I like West System epoxy, and I like the little metering-pump kit they sell.

I agree with buzzboy about vacuum-bagging - it's a super cool process and the finished parts end up really nice.  I picked up an HVAC vacuum pump, and it works great.  I actually use a Christmas tree timer, and set it up to run for 6 hours or so.  It's definitely more materials though, and there's a bit of a technique to it.

I use the big "craft sticks" for mixing, and old yogurt containers for mix cups.  Works great and the cured epoxy just pops right out.

If you don't have "Fiberglass and Composite Materials" by Forbes Aird, I highly recommend it.  It's a really good overview.

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UberDork
6/14/21 7:58 p.m.
buzzboy said:

Don't overthink MEKP9 safety. It'll give you a little chemical burn so you don't want it on your skin. It's a good reason to not get any mixed resin on your skin too. But you don't need a respirator or anything for it.

This reminds me of when I worked as a glazier and the old farts would handle glass with a raw edge with no gloves.  It worked for them, right up until it didn't.

Since those days I tend to look at safety advice from people in the industry (any industry) with a healthy dose of skepticism.  

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/15/21 9:59 a.m.

thanks for all the advice so far!! 

I did a little digging in my books (the Aird book mentioned happens to be right in front of me as we speak). Other things I'm looking at not already mentioned here:

  • hot wire foam cutter (stainless steel wire and an adjustable transformer)
  • natural bristle brushes
  • rubber spatula with wooden handle
  • cotton glove liners
  • nylon wedges
  • modeling clay

and a few questions:

  1. I have a couple different half-face respirators, but thinking I might spring for a full face so I get the integrated eye coverage. Eye protection seems to not wear well with half face jobs. Any feedback there?
  2. Can you wash fiberglass clothes in your family washing machine? Or will that make the whole family itchy?
  3. I'm thinking of practicing initially with some flat sheets. Can I do this on a glass surface for easy 'mold release'?
TVR Scott
TVR Scott SuperDork
6/15/21 1:05 p.m.

In reply to Robbie (Forum Supporter) :

1. I've never used a full face mask except for painting auto-paint, and I have a forced fresh-air unit for that.  Some of the guys I used to work with in composites would wear them when doing big dirty trim jobs.

2. You can wash your dirty clothes with the family load.  No big deal.  When you shower afterwards, make it cold to start with.  If you just jump in a hot shower your pores will open up and the fibers will tend to stay there.

When trimming and sanding, I tend to hold the die grinder or sander in one hand and the shop-vac nozzle in the other hand.  Try and cut down on the particles as much as possible in the first place.  Wear long-sleeves and long pants.  If you really want to go crazy, tape your gloves to your sleeves with masking tape.

3.  Just cover a piece of metal with clear packaging tape.  The epoxy won't stick, and you can use that for practicing.  You definitely can use a sheet of glass, though it will need careful application of mold-release.  Another choice for practice parts would be a large cheap polyethylene cutting board.  PE will hardly stick to anything.

BTW, what are cotton glove liners?

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UberDork
6/15/21 1:15 p.m.
TVR Scott said:

BTW, what are cotton glove liners?

Literally what it sounds like.  Thin cotton material, like a t-shirt, made into gloves.  Helps keep your hands dry, helps get the gloves off, etc.

Good if you have latex or rubber allergies

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
6/15/21 1:29 p.m.

Not much to add, but I prefer to pony up the extra $$ for epoxy over polyester because it's so much less awful to breathe. Sure you can gown up, charcoal masks, et cetera, but the workspace will still smell like E36 M3 for days with the poly. It's also not as strong.    

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
6/15/21 1:32 p.m.

In reply to TVR Scott :

glove liners go under your rubber gloves to soak up the sweat. I just learned about em myself. 

https://www.amazon.com/INTEGRITY-Reusable-Protective-Half-Finger-Nylon/dp/B08XGYYR4G/ref=zg_bs_393305011_15?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=CBF4DT9JB01VAGRRPQRW

 

frenchyd
frenchyd UltimaDork
6/15/21 2:11 p.m.
TVR Scott said:

In reply to Robbie (Forum Supporter) :

1. I've never used a full face mask except for painting auto-paint, and I have a forced fresh-air unit for that.  Some of the guys I used to work with in composites would wear them when doing big dirty trim jobs.

2. You can wash your dirty clothes with the family load.  No big deal.  When you shower afterwards, make it cold to start with.  If you just jump in a hot shower your pores will open up and the fibers will tend to stay there.

When trimming and sanding, I tend to hold the die grinder or sander in one hand and the shop-vac nozzle in the other hand.  Try and cut down on the particles as much as possible in the first place.  Wear long-sleeves and long pants.  If you really want to go crazy, tape your gloves to your sleeves with masking tape.

3.  Just cover a piece of metal with clear packaging tape.  The epoxy won't stick, and you can use that for practicing.  You definitely can use a sheet of glass, though it will need careful application of mold-release.  Another choice for practice parts would be a large cheap polyethylene cutting board.  PE will hardly stick to anything.

BTW, what are cotton glove liners?

Don't trim with a grinder etc. feel the overhang and when it's leathery feeling use a utility knife with a fresh blade. Cutting on the down stroke.  no dust, no mess!
 Grab the cut offs and stuff them in a paper bag .  Massively less waste to dispose of.  

TVR Scott
TVR Scott SuperDork
6/15/21 2:16 p.m.

In reply to Robbie (Forum Supporter) :

There you go!  I wear nitrile gloves all the time, and I've never hear of those.  I'll probably just remain sweaty.

Another point on scissors - you can get regular Fiskars shears and they last pretty well for occasional use.  If you were doing lots of this then the super fancy ones might be worth it.  For the cheap scissors, though, only use them for cutting carbon and fiberglass.  Set them aside only for that task.  If you want to use Kevlar, then buy a second pair, and only use those for the Kevlar.  Mark them so you know which is which.  The way the fabrics cut wear scissors differently.  If you use them for both Kevlar and carbon they'll wear out super fast.

buzzboy
buzzboy Dork
6/15/21 2:20 p.m.

Pick a resin that matches the foam you plan on using. If you're using a hotwire than means styrofoam which will melt under polyester resin. With epoxy you don't have to worry about VOCs but you need to be careful getting it on your skin. You can become sensitized to it and have a bad time. That also means don't use acetone to clean up epoxy or you'll have poluted acetone that you can't get on your skin. You also want to make sure epoxy is fully cured before sanding. Guys have gotten sensitized to it by trying to sand it too early and getting a fine mist of epoxy all over themselves.

jgrewe
jgrewe HalfDork
6/15/21 4:13 p.m.

If you are going to play with styrofoam you can paint it with exterior house paint to protect it from the resin. There is something in exterior paint that isn't in interior that does the trick. Hit it with a few coats.

As for laying up on glass. I do it all the time, it works great. I bought a sliding glass door that is 3' wide for a few bucks from a salvage place. It makes it easy to store because it is well protected with the frame.

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