Category Archives: Carbon Fiber

creativity drum

Drumming In Circles

By Tom Pawlak — GBI Technical Advisor

Epoxyworks 39

Cover Photo: A variety of drums made by Technical Advisor Tom Pawlak.

In 1991, during testimony before the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart stated:

”Typically, people gather to drum in drum ‘circles’ with others from the surrounding community. The drum circle offers equality because there is no head or tail. It includes people of all ages. The main objective is to share rhythm and get in tune with each other and themselves. To form a group consciousness. To entrain and resonate. By entrainment, I mean that a new voice, a collective voice, emerges from the group as they drum together.” Continue reading

Simple, Effective Home Repairs and Projects

Including interior and exterior door repairs

By Bruce Niederer — GBI Technical Advisor

I often get calls from a customer asking if his leftover epoxy can be used for some small project around the house. The answer is yes, of course! Here are three projects, including a couple of different door repairs, that are perfect examples of what you can do with those partial cans of WEST SYSTEM® resin and hardener.

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Light as a Feather

How I made a composite fender for my bike

By Tom Pawlak — GBI Technical Advisor

Last Father’s Day I received a new light and sleek bicycle from my family. It is by far the nicest bike I’ve ever owned. I enjoy riding it to work in the spring, summer, and fall. Because it is so nice, I decided I didn’t want to bolt on the aluminum bracket used previously over the back wheel on my old bike. The bracket had served multiple purposes. It supported my travel bag and it acted as a fender to keep road water off my back while riding. I decided I would ride with a backpack instead to reduce bulkiness and thought it would be nice to make a lightweight composite fender that I could snap on for those rainy days. That would allow me to remove it for longer trips and on nice weather days. Continue reading

Goshen students

588 Miles Per Gallon

Student-designed high-mileage prototype vehicles

By The Students of Goshen High School’s Engineering Design & Development Class

We are a group of students from Goshen High School in northern Indiana and for the past six years we’ve had the opportunity to design, build and test high-mileage prototype vehicles in a class called Engineering Design and Development. Year to year, this program serves about 30 students aged 15 to 18. We begin with little to no background in an automotive or engineering technology background, and through the course of this program learn many new skills. Continue reading

completed skim board

Vacuum Bagging a Skimboard at MITES Competition

By Ben Gougeon and Don Gutzmer

For the past couple of years, Gougeon Brothers Inc. has been involved with the Michigan Industrial and Technology Education Society (MITES). This non-profit organization consists of over 600 members involving both high school teachers and students who believe in the power of hands-on learning. The students build a project throughout the year and compete in the MITES annual regional, state, and national competition.

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composites merit badge project

Composites Merit Badge

By Mike Barnard

In 2006, Boy Scouts of America created a merit badge for composite materials, and I am now a merit badge counselor for this. Scouts who are interested learning about composites to earn this will badge contact. As an Eagle Scout, I understand the work ethic and dedication each Boy Scout must have in order to achieve the Eagle Scout rank.  Continue reading

Building the Dream

By Laura and Philip Harvey

We started building our dream boat, a DH550 55′ catamaran we christened Wild Vanilla. Our catamaran was built on a piece of land just behind Budget Marine in Trinidad, during a break in our long-term family cruise. Before we began, we had sold our boat building company, Harvey yachts in Cape Town South Africa, and set off on our 38-foot cruising cat. Onboard were our nine-month-old son and our cat, Velcro. Continue reading

he nearly finished masthead fitting with a duplicate of the foam mold. After the inside was cleaned out, additional fabric was applied to achieve the final exterior shape. The outside was faired and shaped before the topping lift and sheave were installed.

Building a Masthead Fitting

Using the Lost Foam Method

By Captain James R. Watson

Creating a masthead fitting is another use of the lost foam method to produce a custom part with a molded interior cavity. In this case, the part was a masthead fitting to hold an internal sheave and provide a route for the halyard to pass. This method can be adapted to a variety of other applications, as demonstrated in Fabricating an Air Scoop.

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Bubble-Free Epoxy Coating

By Mike BarnardDon Gutzmer

WEST SYSTEM® Epoxy has long been a popular choice for clear coating tabletops, and for these applications, you’ll want a bubble-free epoxy coating. Epoxy works great as a buildup coat and a moisture barrier. It also showcases the beauty of wood grain and fiber weaves. Formulated with boat building in mind, WEST SYSTEM Epoxy is not intended as a final finish coating. You may find it a bit more difficult to achieve a perfect surface with epoxy than with a coating formulated specifically for final finishing, such as varnish. Here’s how to make sure your epoxy coating is bubble-free.

However, WEST SYSTEM offers some distinct advantages. It builds up quickly: a single coat of 105 Epoxy Resin® with 207 Special Clear Hardener® offers about four times the thickness of a typical coat of polyurethane varnish. WEST SYSTEM epoxy is also an excellent moisture barrier, stabilizing the surface so your final finish coat will look beautiful longer.

When coating a surface that will be used outdoors, it’s important to put a UV-resistant clear coating over the epoxy. While 207 Special Clear Hardener contains a good UV inhibitor, it will still need additional UV-resistant coats to withstand the degrading effects of sunlight on epoxy.

Since you will need to sand down the epoxied surface and coat the epoxy with varnish, getting a perfect coating isn’t strictly necessary. But the better shape it’s in, the more easily you will achieve a beautiful, bubble-free finish. The key is creating the smoothest, flattest epoxy surface possible. This will save you a lot of sanding later.

Last summer here at the Gougeon shop, we laminated a 35-year-old conference table with carbon fiber and WEST SYSTEM 105/207. We experimented with different methods of achieving a smooth, even, bubble-free epoxy coat to reduce the need for sanding prior to the final finish coating. (Editor’s note: 10 years after this article was written, that carbon-fiber conference table still looks terrific.)

Prepare the surface

Proper surface preparation is one of the most important steps in using epoxy. Make sure the surface is clean of contaminants such as wax and paint. Sand the surface smooth. Avoid using solvents immediately before applying the epoxy.

Eliminate dust

Getting a perfectly smooth surface starts with clearing the air of small particles. These particles may seem harmless, but once they are on a glossy surface it will not look nearly as good as it could. Avoid using tack rags. Vacuum the surface before coating.

Understand outgassing

Before coating bare wood, heat the wood and apply the epoxy while the wood is cooling. During cooling, the air in the wood contracts, drawing the epoxy in for a bubble-free epoxy coating. The opposite happens if you coat wood as it’s warming (such as in the morning, in the sunlight, near a heater or anytime ambient temperature is rising). The air in the wood will expand and “outgas” while the wood’s temperature is rising, resulting in bubbles in the curing epoxy coating.

Applying over stains

Be careful when using WEST SYSTEM Epoxy over commercial stains. Some stains prevent epoxy from penetrating into the wood. The result can be epoxy that fisheyes or peels off after final cure. Always perform a test before using epoxy over a stain.

Avoiding blush

It’s easy to avoid the inert, waxy residue that is sometimes a byproduct of the curing process and is commonly called “blush.” Simply use WEST SYSTEM 207 Special Clear Hardener. It cures blush-free. It’s also formulated for excellent wet out and self-leveling. It cures extremely clear and without color.

If you are using WEST SYSTEM 205 Fast, 206 Slow, or 209 Extra Slow Hardener, blush might develop on the surface, depending on working conditions. It’s easily removed after the epoxy cures with plain water and a light scrubbing with a Scotch-Brite™ pad. These hardeners are not normally recommended for clear coating.

Rolling and tipping

The only recommended way to coat vertical surfaces with epoxy is the roll and tip method. Roll the epoxy on with a foam roller, then “tip” by dragging another roller across the surface to smooth the epoxy layer.

Tip off wet epoxy with a roller cover brush using long, even overlapping strokes. This will leave a bubble-free epoxy coating.

Tip off wet epoxy with a roller cover brush using long, even overlapping strokes. This will leave a bubble-free epoxy coating.

Flow coating

This is the best method for encapsulating items in a bubble-free epoxy coating. The fewest bubbles result if epoxy is poured from the bottom of a container. A word of caution: Never pour a single layer of epoxy thicker than ¼”. Thicker amounts can quickly overheat or “exotherm” during cure, resulting in quite a mess on your lovely surface. If you want a final thickness greater than ¼”, wait until the first layer is cured to the point where it’s firm and about as “tacky” as masking tape then apply the next coat on top of that.

If encapsulating items such as coins, medals, bottle caps and photos on a flat surface, affix them in place with decoupage glue such as Mod Podge® (readily available at craft stores). It’s compatible with epoxy and will prevent your items from floating around. Use it to pre-seal photos and other paper items.

Propane torch

This method of achieving a bubble-free epoxy finish has been used for years by technical advisors at Gougeon Brothers. Not only is it effective for removing air bubbles from the surface, it also lowers the viscosity of the surface and flattens it out a bit. Be very careful when using this technique because leaving the flame over one spot for too long could cause bubbles to appear. We don’t recommend using a propane torch over epoxy-coated bare wood. Doing so may cause outgassing into the epoxy layer.

A thick coating of epoxy with bubbles in the coating.

A thick coating of epoxy with bubbles in the coating.

Pass a torch flame quickly over wet epoxy to warm the surface, reduce the surface tension, reduce viscosity slightly and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy finish.

Pass a torch flame quickly over wet epoxy to warm the surface, reduce the surface tension, reduce viscosity slightly and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy finish.

After a quick pass with a torch, the bubbles are released and the coating begins to flow out.

After a quick pass with a torch, the bubbles are released and the coating begins to flow out.

Denatured Alcohol

Spraying a fine mist of denatured alcohol over the surface will pop air bubbles as well as lower the viscosity of the surface and flatten it out. There is little risk in this method because denatured alcohol evaporates fairly quickly and does not cause air bubbles to propagate. A fine mist is critical. To get the fine mist we purchased a bottle of hair spray with a push button pump (a Windex™ sprayer is not fine enough) and replaced the hair spray with denatured alcohol.

A fine mist of denatured alcohol will reduce surface tension and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy coating.

A fine mist of denatured alcohol will reduce surface tension and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy coating.