Fiberglass disaster

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by rassy, Jul 27, 2012.

  1. rassy
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: Ontario

    rassy Junior Member

    Hello everyone:)

    I'm new to this forum and new to boatbuilding, as well.

    To make a long story short, I decided about a year ago that I want to build a small boat for myself. So I studied alot of aspects of what I wanted for about a year before I started my project.

    Things have gone very nicely so far, albeit very slowly, until today. Today I started the fiberglass and, right now, I'm very frustrated. I've just spent the better part of 5 hours trying to fibreglass my boat and I've had it. It's not even a fifth done! The bit that is done looks crazy, like my boat is in need of a good shave. There's fiberglass hairs all over the place on the floor, chunked up in in areas, and I ended up covered with the stuff. And where there's corners, there's air trapped. I tried cutting the corners with a boxcutter but that doesn't seem to want to work without wrecking it even more, even though the expoxy should have gelled enough by the time I got to that.

    Up until this point, I feel I've been doing very well and my boat looked pretty good. But I have given up on this fiberglassing thing. I just can't do it, I have the wrong stuff, or I'm doing it terribly wrong. I used a plastic spreader mostly, tried it with a brush and a roller (but that just gets clumps of fiber-hair stuck to them), and I've tried cutting and dipping the fiberglass itself. The only problem I didn't have was keeping it in place - that part went fine.

    My question to you is, what will happen if I skip the fiberglass part altogether? I know that fiberglass is for strength and abrasion resistance. My boat is a small thing, 8'x4', and is just to paddle around in. It's not like I'm going to stick a motor on it and go flying over the waves. I thought the epoxy is what makes the seal for water resistance so if I have no intention of being rough with the boat, is it plausible to just skip the fiberglass step?

    I'm using West System epoxy and the wood is marine grade 3/8"

    Any advice and information is greatly appreciated!
     
  2. Doug Lord
    Joined: May 2009
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    Location: Cocoa, Florida

    Doug Lord Flight Ready

    Did you use mat instead of woven cloth? Mat is random fibers and is,generally, not compatible with epoxy. Woven cloth is fairly simple to use-mat would have been a nightmare with epoxy.
    Depending on how well you did the woodwork you may be alright with just epoxy. Any pictures?
    ----

    Mat on the bottom, cloth on the top-click on image for better detail:
     

    Attached Files:

  3. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
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    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    That's an excellent disaster! It sounds like you're using mat and that can be like trying to sew buttons on a cat if you're not familiar with the stuff.
    If you aren't going to leave the boat in the water and the seams were made good enough so they don't leak, if you coated it with epoxy, you could just paint it and that would be fine.
     
  4. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Lets start with a level playing field. What design are you building? Are you building to the plans or have you made changes? What changes? What type of resin system are you using? How much research have you preformed with this system? Specifically what materials are you employing? Etc., etc., etc. Once we have a clue what you have, what you're doing and what you using, maybe some solutions can come.
     
  5. rassy
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: Ontario

    rassy Junior Member

    Thank you, both, for your informative replies.

    Err, yes, I used mat, it seems. I guess I screwed that up! LOL

    So, it does sound feasible to do without the fiberglass for now... I'm fairly sure I did the seams really well. If I do it with just epoxy, can I sand it down at a later date when I can get mt hands on the woven material? I probably won't have enough $ to get the good stuff for a while. I won't be using the boat after the end of September, this year, so I can probably add the woven cloth in the Spring/early Summer of next year before I take it out on the water again.
     
  6. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    You may not have seen PAR's questions so I'll wait to see what develops here.

    Take a deep breath and try to relax. To me building is like math. You lay things out and make the proper calculations, measurements and so forth and things fall into place. Laying up fiberglass is more like art, and as I recall the kids that were good in math usually flopped in art class and vice versa.

    Don't give up. If you can build the boat you can do the glass work.

    Before you ever lay out a piece of fiberglass on your boat you need to practice at least a couple of times on some scrap. This doesn't have to be an expensive undertaking but it needs to be done. First lay out a sheet on some flat horizontal plywood and get a feel for it. Then you would want to try going around a corner or covering a small box. You'll see what epoxy and fiberglass "likes" to do (going around rounded corners for instance) and what it doesn't like (being applied to sharp corners). You have to play around with it, which some might say is a waste of epoxy. I look at it as an investment in yourself. You're teaching yourself.

    MIA
     
  7. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    I guess the big question is how did you do the seams? Did you use mat?
     
  8. Herman
    Joined: Oct 2004
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    Location: The Netherlands

    Herman Senior Member

    I strongly suggest getting some woven cloth, and do a small practice run with that. Even if it is just to restore your confidence in the materials used. (and perhaps your self confidence)

    The basic principle:

    -round off all corners, glass does not like sharp angles.
    -coat the boat with a layer of epoxy. Use those West System rollers, they leave a nice surface and are easy to work with.
    -sand the surface, as the wood fibers have gone upwards.
    -use a light cloth, and position it on the boat.
    -apply epoxy over the cloth, in the middle. A light cloth will go transparent almost immediately. With a squeegee, spread the epoxy outwards (apply only light pressure). Add more epoxy if needed. The surface should not be shiny, the texture of the cloth should be visible.
    On the verticals use a roller to apply the epoxy, always working your way outwards. You might need to cut the cloth at some places. Make sure the cuts are at least 2" away from corners.
    After a part is done, check your work for white patches (too little resin) or shiny patches, and adjust.
    After a moderate cure (still rubbery) check if the surface is greasy. If not, you can apply another coat of resin to get rid of the fabric structure. (use the West Rollers again). If greasy, allow to cure completely, and wash with a scotchbrite and water with ammonia.
    Also check this book, it has a wealth of info:
    http://www.westsystem.com/ss/assets/HowTo-Publications/GougeonBook 061205.pdf
    And these guides:
    http://www.westsystem.com/ss/use-guides/
     
  9. rassy
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: Ontario

    rassy Junior Member

    Thanks, everyone, for all the great advice!

    Yes, it seems I did miss Pars questions. I don't have boat plans - I made my own. I had help with those! My boat most resembles a dorry, or so I'm told. I have not deviated from the plans. I'm using the West System epoxy and marine grade wood 3/8". It seems I have been using matt fiberglass. Never again!

    After calming down and mulling it over, and reading all your comments, I've decided I will wait and give the woven fiberglass a go. Herman, thanks for that great post. I have books and that's basically the instructions in them, as well.

    Does anybody know how to get that mess I made off my boat. Or do I just sand it off? Good thing I enjoy sanding! I know alot of people hate it, but I find it relaxing.

    And yes, most of my corners are rounded. I'll round the rest once I fix my mess up.
     
  10. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    Hopefully the mess isn't too large. I'd consider renting or buying a variable temperature heat gun if you don't own one. The technique is to warm up the epoxy and then work a sturdy scraper underneath the mat. This process will get most of the mess off. After that you can sand off any resin thats left on the surface. You'll probably have some gouges or scratches in the wood that you'll be able to fill with some epoxy (mix up some microballoons or quart spheres with your epoxy to make a little faring compound) and finish off.

    PAR and some of the other guys have forgotten more about this than I'll ever know. That said I have a question. Since this is a dory and not too large a boat wouldn't you want to consider some relatively light weight fiberglass cloth? Herman's post mentions this. Something like 6 oz. per sq yard cloth would be appropriate I believe. The idea being to add some protection against dings and abrasion and keep the weight down.

    One other thing, please wear a dust mask when you're cleaning this up!

    http://www.mertons.com/Reinforcements/cloth.html

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0..._m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0MA070J336K009W82JZW

    MIA
     
  11. rassy
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: Ontario

    rassy Junior Member

    I've read that one can use a hair dryer on low setting to warm up the epoxy. I'll look more into this and see what's best that I have available to me. This sounds alot easier than sanding. It's a bit hard as I'm stuck in a small town until September. However, if I must wait all summer, it's not that big of a deal. I want to do this properly.

    I have loads of dust masks, no worries there. And yes, I'll be looking for a light weight cloth.

    This brings me right around to one of my original questions. If the idea of fiberglass is for strength and abrasion resistace, then what if one opts out of using it? I've never been very clear on why it's so important to have it since nothing is ever mentioned about whether or not it helps with water resistance. I thought the epoxy was for that. I'm just curious. I would rather use fiberglass, regardless, since I want my boat to last a long time.
     
  12. PAR
    Joined: Nov 2003
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    Location: Eustis, FL

    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    You'll make a career out of the job with a hair drier. You'll want a heat gun. Harbor Freight has a cheap one that should last long enough to get it done. On sale, less than $20. Use the high setting at first to quickly warm the goo, then switch to the low setting once you've got it moving.

    If it's a taped seam build, then you need the goo and tape, which is what provides all the joint stiffness. On a small dory, you can use cloth, not roving, which is much easier to work with.

    Epoxy and 'glass fabrics are the only reason this type of building method exists. No other adhesive works in this fashion. Epoxy is used as both a water proofer and adhesive, which is what makes it unique.

    You be well advise to download the user's guides from systemthree.com and westsystem.com, plus the WestSystem book on boat building, which covers the techniques and products in much more detail than the user's guides.

    For a taped seam dory, you have to tape the seams, but you don't have to skin the whole boat in cloth, though it does help with waterproofing and abrasion resistance if you do.

    If it was me, I'd skip the heat gun and just pull out a big rotary sander (7", 10" etc.) with some serious grit, like 16, 24 or 36 and be done with the mat in no time. Of course this is messy and itchy, but it's fast. Once you've cleaned up the mess, brush up on taped seam techniques and maybe a practice run or two.

    Lastly, 'glass work is all about prep and procedures. Do dry runs with fabrics, so you know where things will need to live, when the goo hits the fan. Have all the tools you need ready and protected with plastic bags or tape, so your goo covered hands will not make a mess of them. Once you establish a procedure that works, stick to it.

    Now the real question: is this a taped seam build? Can you post images of the plans so we can see how it goes together? It may not be a taped seam build. It could be a glued seam build, in which case you might not have to tape anything. It could also be a plank on frame build and the same could be true with this. There's more to plans than the shapes. There's materials and methods to consider, so what type of build is it?
     
  13. tunnels

    tunnels Previous Member

    welcome !!

    Hi !
    Big mess or small what ever you have ,can you post some pictures dont need close ups we are all here to help you not to poke fun at you just a little visual stimulation would help every one no end .

    Sounds like you are skinning plywood with glass !!
    Back to the begining , cutting glass you just need to us a good pair of house hold scissors and they will cut gently . glass is easy to cut with a sharp knife on a flat surface on tip of plywood . hold the knife down not up , even if it has resin its still possible to cut and finished laying with scissors and gently push the glass back in place again ,then wash the resin off ths scissors with acetone . acetone loves plasitc and will instantly disolve so no plasic handles of any sort everything needs ti be wood or metal if possible .
    After we see what you are covering then will be able to step by step each phase of what you can do and help you with the next step
    Another step back . The resin you are using has a set time at which you can work with it safely before it starts to gell , become unworkable and eventually harden . You need to know what that time period is and use a egg timer if need be and set it 5 minutes less so you have time before the resin gels to clean out brushs and rollers etc etc and sit and look at your handy work and smile !! i can do it !! yes its not that hard after all !!
    What ever you are covering gently lay the glass out dry and smooth it with you hands to get out any wrinkles and gentll over edges etc etc if you want to cut the glass use the scissors and cut the glass slowly , dont push the scissors into the glass !! Instaed as you close the blades of the scissors slightly draw back and cut at the same time !! the blades ususally want to force the glass fibres away as its cutting so draw back as you cut !! takes a little prictice but you will get the hang of it !!. Always cut the glass slightly over sized even up to 30mm all round so it can be resin-ed and rolled over an edge or resin-ed and pushed into a corner gently and left sticking up in the air to be sanded off later !!.
    Joining layers of glass is best done on corners one layer going over the corner one way and the next coming up and over the corner from the other direction so you get a double up ! the amount of over lap can be about 30 mm or so . You let the resin and glass harden and it can be sanded flat later when all is hard !!.
    Wetting the glass i find easyer to use a small ( 50mm or 10mm wide )mediaum or short haired paint roller . Use a paint tray and pour your mixed resin into it , Do one roll of resin rigth along the middle going one way only !! then with that wet strip to hold the glass in place slowly work away from it in all dirrections !!! remembering the glass will want to move in the direction you are rolling in . so roll one way then dip the roller in the resintray and roll in the opposite dirrection so it will have the tendancy to draw the glass back to where it was when you started . dont be tempted to try and get heaps of resin on all at once you are just wetting the surface below and wetting the glass only so they both look completely wet out but not dripping or shiney and wet !!,if you get to much resin on the glass will float away from the surface below and you couls get a bump !!! its better to take your time get the feel of what you are doing and gain some confidance and then move a little quicker as you see and understand whats happening . Wetting is lightly rolling over the glass not trying to force the roller hard down onto the glass !! be gental you will get the feel after a short time i am sure . always keep a eye on what you have already done and roll to the edge then gently over the edge and pin the glass down as you go do one side and do the opposite side remember the wet glass is only sitting on the surface and wants to slide in the dirrection you are rolling . it is possible to use masking tape in strips to hold the dry glass temperarly in place then gently remove the tape and wet out . Take extra care not to run the roller over the surface when its been wet out for a while or the roller will pickup and even wrap the glass round the roller !!!.
    Pictures if you can would be a big help to helping you even more .When the first skin has hardened then you can roll another coat if just resin over the top and fill the glass weave after you have done you next wetou and glass lay down !!. take you time !! use the egg timer so you know and have time before the resin goes hard ! give yourself time to scrape the resin out of your roller or drop the sleeve outside on the ground outside away fron everything , remember resin when it goes hard gets hot !! the more resin the hotter its gets . It will melt plasitc containers and get hot enough to smoke and it stinks !!. in rare cases even to the point of igniting and catching fire if you have used acetone or thinners any where :eek:!!. take care and welcome to glassing!!:p
    Some points to remember, resin ratio needs to be accurate every time without fail and the hardener and the resin need to be well mixed .
    Air temprature plays a big part in the gel time of your resin . A warm dry day the resin will go off quickly !! but a warm day when the humidity is high the resin gel time could be much longer!! Its the amount of moisture in the air slows the reaction time .The moisture will be in the glass in the surface of the wood etc etc !!! .So temprature and humidity play a big part in the gel time and also the cure time of the resin. !! keep the glass dry and in a warm place, keep the resin up off the floor on a work bench where is a little warmer also . all these things help to solve problems before there are problems to be solved . !!:D
     
  14. rassy
    Joined: Jul 2012
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    Location: Ontario

    rassy Junior Member

    With all due respect (and I DO gratefully mean that!), I started this thread about my disaster putting on the fiberglass. Turns out I used the wrong type of fiberglass, and being a complete novice, totally screwed that up. It's not like I don't know how to do it - I simply got the cheaper crap rather than a decent woven type.

    ALL your advice is been great, honestly, and I've gathered a few tips I don't see in the material I've studied. I might not know the proper terminology and I'm new to many things. First time ever using power tools, for instance. I'm definitely a newbie! However, I have studied ALOT in the past year and I do have manuals that I consult regularly. I don't take this lightly as I want to make myself something that I'm proud of and will last. I did make my own plans, but I consulted an expert in my city that runs courses on boatbuilding, and he helped me make sure I ended up with a good solid plan.
    I've had alot of drawbacks which has gotten me into an attitude where I don't want to talk about the specifics of my boat. I've been laughed at and scorned in certain hardware stores (where I will never go again!) and the same with certain family and friends. "I" know I can do it, but it still doesn't help matters much when certain professional staff refuse to help properly because they can't take one seriously. In the end, I have long since stopped talking to anyone about my boat and when I do need some help in the stores, I just say what I want while refusing to tell them what it's for (which also doesn't help sometimes, but have gotten me better results overall).

    So I hope you all do understand that I have a hard time talking about specifics that don't seem to be relevent to fiberglassing. Not that I don't appreciate all the advice I have been given, because I really do! But does it really matter what type of boat I'm building, etc? It's really simple to me - I was at the stage of fiberglassing, and screwed up royally because I got mat instead of woven. I need to get that off and do it properly.

    I do use an egg timer! Great idea! I thought it was ingenious when I thought of it, too! LOL Also, I do have a big rotary sander with some serious grit, which I used to round the edges of my boat.

    I use the West Sytem epoxy and have one of their guides, plus the free one. They also have a nice web site I can consult. I also use their pumps, which measures the epoxy out properly. I have plastic spreaders, alot of brushes and a few rollers.

    I always use my dust mask when needed. Always.

    I've been going very slow with this project, simply because I'm such a noob and want to make sure I'm doing it right and don't miss anything.

    To answer Par's question, it's a glued seam build. I bonded directly with glue and also made fillets.

    I'm sorry, I haven't a camera or cell phone in order to take pics of anything. Also, I'm stuck at the cottage near a small town until September. I have no vehicle. However, on a good note, the hardware store here can order me the fiberglass I want. I will go in on Monday and consult with them on what exactly I need. I hate to do it over the phone, just to make sure I DO get what I need. Thanks to you and your great advice, I have alot more insight and have also picked up some great tips.

    Thank you! I am very grateful for your help, even though my post might sound kind of standoff-ish.
     

  15. Herman
    Joined: Oct 2004
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    Location: The Netherlands

    Herman Senior Member

    I can imagine your reluctance. Boaters are seldomly understood in the non-boating world. Especially when building your own.

    Luckily over here you are among same-minded.
     
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