Wetsuit Recycle Project #2: Surf Fin Sock

I have more than a few “wall-hangers” in my crib. For non-surfers: wall-hangers are boards too pretty to actually ride, but are works of art to surfers. They hold a revered spot in the apartment, condo, or house, and are massive dust collectors. But they are soooo much better than framed pictures of your family posing awkwardly at the Wal-Mart Studio.

Since I grew up in Kentucky, hundreds of miles from a beach, I guess I’m making up for lost time with the beach theme overkill. I have a 10′ Dewey Weber I bought from a friend a while back. It’s not a mega priceless surfboard, but I really love it. Problem is, it’s got a HUGE glassed-in 10″ fin that cannot be removed, and it has poked some guests on occasion…yikes. I can’t flip the fin side to the wall (it’s too big), so now I have a little safety hazard to contend with in the hallway.

My husband’s solution is just….yeah.

Not the aesthetic I’m looking for

Glassed in fin- can’t be removed in a pretty way

 

I thought this would be a good time for those squishy soft 3 mm neoprene foam leftovers from my last post.

Since the fin could not be removed, this made it a little tricky to draft a pattern for the cover. Not to mention, I didn’t want to move around the 10 foot surfboard if I didn’t have to since I’m just that lazy.

So I used a piece of card stock and put it under the fin and traced it, all the way to the base. The whole fin profile didn’t fit, so I traced the top part of the fin on a separate part of the sheet- I pieced these together later to make the whole pattern.

Tracing the fin

Tracing the end of the fin

 

For this cover, I wanted a seam allowance of 1/2″, since 1/4″ of the outer edge of each side will be adhered together with neoprene cement. But you also need to take into account the thickness of your fin. This fin has a heavy duty glass job, so it’s got a lot of meatiness. That’s why I allowed for the extra 1/4″ on each half (total of a 1/2″ ease all around). Of course, I will cut the cover flush with the base and leave it unsealed, so I can slip in over the fin.

I prepped my pattern by tracing a 1/2″ additional seam allowance around the trace I made. It’s like connect-the-dots.

Marking the seam allowance


Cutting out the two pattern pieces

Lining up the two pieces up the pattern trace and taping them together

Since this is a custom made fin sock, I go back and double check that my pattern is in the realm of reality before I cut out any fabric.

A little extra at the top, all the better

Now, you can make YOUR fin sock all black (or whatever the outer color is) by adhering the seam allowances with the “right side” out, wrong sides together. But, I wanted the bright sealed seams to show, both for safety and for the cool factor, yo.

Here’s the original scrap pieces from the last post, cut open at a side seam on each leg to maximize the amount of “open” area of fabric. Check out the wicked yellow taped seams on the inside:

The pattern for size comparison


This is a good time to use staples when cutting out your pattern piece. A large rotary cutter would be difficult to use for a couple of odd shapes like this, so I’m using the thick fabric scissors again. If I puncture a tiny hole in the neoprene foam by stapling my fabric to my pattern, who cares?? This is a fin sock, it’s no longer helping to regulate my core temperature. I’m just using the squishy property of the neoprene foam to protect the fiberglass fin. Stapling it allows me to lift it off the cutting board to get a precise cut.

I had to get creative with the layout of the pattern on the fabric! Luckily, neoprene has no nap (direction) to worry about, so I can have fun with where I want to place my pattern. Just remember to flip your pattern over when cutting the other piece!

Get a good stapler that doesn’t require much pressure- they’re not much more expensive

These staples don’t dig in far- just enough to hold it long enough for you to cut

A piece cut out


I used sealing cement in black to adhere the long curved outer edges together, wrong sides together. The sealing cement comes with a little paintbrush, which is okay. I think next time I’ll use a q-tip to paint the cement on.

This stuff comes out fast and goopy, use the plastic packaging as an inkwell

A skin develops quickly- keep stirring it

 

This stuff sets up fast out of the tube, so work quickly and don’t squeeze out too much at once (lesson learned). 

I painted the outer wrong side edge around each piece, NOT sealing the bottom. The first coat you should let cure for 5 minutes, then paint a second coat and let that cure up about 10 minutes before adhering the sides together. 

NOT crazy about the paintbrush applicator it came with

I used my plastic clips to hold the sides together for another 1/2 hour in the garage outside. This stuff SMELLS AWFUL, and should be used in a ventilated area, preferably with a mask.


Once it cures, DONE! It was a decent fit, with a little extra room. Much better than a tennis ball.

Safety First.


I hope this kid would give me a thumbs up too…

Wetsuit Recycle Project #1: All Around Handy Grip

This cartoon reminds me of my attitude towards trying to salvage some things, especially wetsuits:

So after trimming the legs off of my fullsuit in my last post, I was left with two lower legs, including the knees. This suit has somewhat rubberized knee pads, not as rubberized as most on the market I’ve seen. 

A little freaky…

These are not generally prime sewing pieces for me since they are so thick and rubbery, of course. Certainly a nightmare to my sewing machine’s delicate mechanisms.

However, most make awesome grips to take out fins on surfboards instead of using and abusing a hand, foot, or taking a screwdriver(!!!) to an expensive fiberglass fin. Yikes. 

This project is super easy. Take your heavy duty scissors and cut around the knee pads, up to the flat lock or seam line outside the edge. Remember, neoprene doesn’t fray, so it’s all good. 

DON’T throw away any little trimming bits. We’ll use them later for another project.

I’m cutting *right* along the seams

They didn’t give me much knee pad on this suit for real

 

Get the surfboard out of your garage. Use grippy side down towards the fin. IF there’s residual wax on the knee pad, so what? This will be used for surf gear. Now the fin edge will be protected and so will your hands as you take it out of the fin box. Hopefully, unlike me, you remembered to remove any screws. Crap.

The inside seams of the wetsuit were taped in YELLOW!


Of course, they make great grips for anything, hot pads, etc., just be sure to get the wax off and clean them throughly before bringing them into a food environment- grody. Use some clear vodka to get the grimy off, it’ll clean the knee pads right up. Give the other knee pad surf fin grip to a buddy. With a swig of your cleaning agent to be friendly, yo.

Instant gratification project, AND you just upcycled something. I think you’ve earned the right to ride around on a manatee penalty-free for 15 minutes.

Just don’t post it on the internet, duh.

Your data looks statistically horrible, but tasty

Hey Shorty, Where’d You Get Your Wetsuit?

Anyone with ankle or knee problems knows that wetsuit season blows. I’m so happy to be almost done with wetsuit season here in Florida (although an early, warm Spring may spell more problems later).

Since I’ve been nursing my torn-up ankle throughout this season, I’ll have to admit I’ve passed up some good surf days just because I didn’t want to put on a full wetsuit and torque my ankle more getting into and out of one.

Back zips all the way, baby!!!


Full body wetsuits NEVER fit me correctly. I’m short, so the legs are always too long, and the knee forms and pads in the suit never line up with my actual knees anyway. The material pools around my ankles, and I always have gapping and extra thick neoprene in the back of my knees, causing awkward pop-ups, and missed waves.

You can see where my knee actually is


Well, at least that sounds like a good excuse, ya know.

This was a project I should have done a month ago. I made sure the suit was rinsed and completely dry before bringing it to the table to cut.*

*IF I was going to put this under my machine to sew, I would HAVE to wash the neoprene suit extremely well first. No nasty ocean particulate in the expensive mechanisms of my sewing machine, thanks. This is a no-sew project, so well rinsed and dry is sufficient.

Since I want to make sure this cut is lined up where I want it, I put the suit on. Completely, all the way- I need to see where everything falls.

Look at all that loose material at the knee when everywhere else fits!


I have a chalk pencil (regular chalk works just fine) to mark where I’d like the cutoff to be. I’m not a big fan of the popular “cheeky” shorter style, I like the old type of shorty Spring Suits. This one just happens to be 4/3 mm. Hey, my core gets cold, BUT, the cold is good for the knee and ankle joints when you get to be an old lady surfer like me.

This is the original factory edge on the ankle


Note that the openings of most wrists and ankles on wetsuits aren’t hemmed. Neoprene foam won’t fray out, so you don’t even need to overlock the edge or seal it. A straight cut is nice however.

The less shaping in the wetsuit leg, the better cut you’ll get. On women’s suits, there’s usually a lot more seams to create curves in the suit that the men don’t need. Also, the higher on the leg you cut, the more you need to account for the curve in the hip and thigh, which can become daunting. For this project, I’m going right above the knee about 3/4″, at a slight angle, to account for the thigh curve. I helped establish the angle with my chalk mark while the suit was on my body, so I would have a realistic idea.

Knowing the approximate distance, so I have a point of reference on both legs


Weight the heck out of your neoprene and secure it from shifting before you cut. I use heavy books and clips, with a long steel straight edge (yard stick). Always makes a good cut with the rotary cutter.

Prepping the patient


Keep that neoprene still!


To ensure I have the angle and measurements correct on the other side, I’ll use the first cut piece, line it up with my previous chalk mark I made, and make another chalk line of the average of the two. Mine came out pretty much on the money, so I made my other cut after clamping everything down again.


I’m lovin’ it


Feelin’ free


Done! Writing this post took longer than doing the project, honestly.
No excuses, this will be much easier to get on and off now without wrenching my ankle.

Now if my feelings get hurt, there’s always this project….

The Painkiller Cocktail

There with ya, Kitty….

My Neoprene Hopes, Dreams… and Screams

Sounds like a scene from Fifty Shades Darker, but how else can I describe this roller coaster journey I’ve undertaken with this strange and wonderful fabric? Here’s some thoughts on the subject as we get into talking about neoprene…..

***

A lot of people revere neoprene as sacred (hey, it is pretty cool). But, that can be a shame when you become SO worried about altering your $350 fancy wetsuit, swimsuit, or questionable lingerie (we don’t judge here) to work for your needs, you don’t even wear it. Or you sell it and lose $200 on it since you tried to give it a few chances. Or, the worst case, you have to donate it or even ditch it in the trash. Then you have to buy yet ANOTHER one to replace it. More future waste.
For most healthy minded adults, the days of resale and purchase of used wetsuits have ended. I mean, yeah, the kids out there trying to save a few bucks might buy a used suit from you, but you just can’t expect to get even 25% of what you originally paid for it, especially if you used it for a season. Gross. If you expect more, well, that’s just being a mean grinch to the poor kid.

Still funny the millionth time I see it

That being said, a surfer should get to know a little about their neoprene, since wetsuits are usually part of a surfer’s life at some point. I’ve had to teach myself quite a bit since I’ve started surfing, and now I find my friends asking me questions about fixing and altering their own gear to what they need. Figured I’d share what I’ve discovered, tried, and certainly FAILED at, so all of us can keep some extra neoprene out of landfills!
We’ll start off the series with this intro, and go through a wetsuit modification, then make some new projects from scrap neoprene as we go along, since I’ve got a LOT of scrappage around!

About Neoprene

Neoprene is a synthetic (non-natural) material created chemically by DuPont in 1930. The original process to make the stuff was SO smelly and made the material smelly too. No one wanted to buy it for anything back then because of it. Do you blame them?

It still smells like chemicals

As the process for making neoprene was improved by DuPont, it became less stinky, and much more usable. The type of neoprene we use as surfers today is made from what’s called neoprene “foam”.

If you look closely at your wetsuit, it’s probably made from neoprene foam about 2 millimeters or 3 millimeters thick, maybe even up to 7 mm! This is neoprene rubber that has been injected with tiny nitrogen (inert gas) bubbles, helping to provide that nice insulation. Yours may even have some nylon or spandex rubber mixed into the neoprene to make it “ultra stretch.” This mix also tears ultra easy, but you may already know that. Unfortunately I do.

If you would like to follow along with this mini series drama (hey, I post on the days I can, yo) I would recommend picking up a few tools for working with neoprene on the regular:

Tools For Working With Wetsuits

60 mm Rotary Cutter

Two brands of cutters, the one on the left is a lot pricier


The handles for these aren’t expensive, but the blades ARE. And they are SHARP. But if you want a good, even, professional looking cut, this tool is a must with neoprene. The smaller diameter rotary cutters can be useful sometimes, but the 60 mm rotary seems to get the most action here in Cocoa Beach among the surfing squad.


Shears for thick material

Surprised at how well these work

I have a pair of heavy duty Fiskars I picked up that seem to work well for curves and tight places that the rotary cutter can’t do. These are mostly good in projects, or specialty modifications to wetsuits.


GOOD Cutting surface

My table, and my self healing cutting mat

It can be a self healing mat on the concrete floor of your garage, just make sure it’s clean, level, and accessible from all sides. The cutting mat will help keep you from dulling those costly rotary blades you just bought. 

If you can, wait until around until September/October when they start having sales on quilting stuff and pick up an entire cutting set from a craft store like Michael’s or Joann’s. It’ll be around the start of wetsuit season (at least in the USA), so you’ll be set! Split the cost with your surfing buddies- even better. 
Dulled Seam Ripper

Just a bit of sanding is necessary

You’ll need a seam ripper on occasion for doing any type of modification, but some of these seam rippers they make today have a stitch pick that could double for an ice pick! Since stitches on neoprene are usually not ultra fine, I’d rather use some sandpaper to dull a dedicated seam ripper to lessen the probably of poking a nice hole in the neoprene foam. I’m sure lots of others do this too!
Neoprene Foam Adhesive 

Since I have learned THE HARD WAY that my home sewing machine cannot sew more than 2 mm of neoprene thickness comfortably (even with a walking foot), I use neoprene adhesive for seams. Good for repairs AND projects, so it’s a must for all surfers.
Fire-line (fishing line) in Clear OR 

Polyester thread of a matching color, and heavy gauge repair needle

Use lightweight fishing line

This is also a must for making minor repairs to seams, or sewing recycled neoprene projects. Always important to have on hand and know how to use it case a seam rip happens. Use a sharp point needle since you do need to “poke holes” in the fabric, or follow previous stitching holes- I’ll explain later why neoprene is tricky to stitch (hint: tear factor!).

Clips, Clips, Clips (sometimes a staple or two….)

Gotta get creative!

Since using straight pins to hold neoprene together can really distort it, the best bet is to clip it. The green clips in the pic are quilters’ clips, which are ideal, since they are designed to hold thick material together while it’s being sewn.

The cheaper options are hair clips and barrettes- you probably have these, or know someone who does.

Stapling neoprene together is an option that I Save for crafting with neoprene, since it can pokes holes, obviously. It works great, though.

***

Ok, so in the next post, we’ll do a little wetsuit alteration that I’ve wanted to get around to for a while. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use it in the Fall too. 

Every Fall it’s the same thing. You macho surf guys in the lineup, EVERY time you say something about me wearing a wetsuit “too early”, all I can picture is this:

    New Life for Old Wetsuits- A Series

    The past few days have been pretty chilly with lows in the 40’s on the coast. At least that’s chilly by my standards. 

    However, the weather forecasts have been Polly Positive and saying that this will be as cold as it gets for the season. Good, we’ll be out of wetsuits soon. Bad, because more heat, more storms later. We saw that this past year unfortunately with Hurricane Matthew.

    I rarely continue using the same wetsuit anymore after 2 seasons (years) of regular use, so if I get back to surfing this next 1/2 of the season, that will equate to 1 season of total wear on my current wetsuit. Yes, I keep track. They’re expensive. I also carefully check it at the end of the season to see how much wear and tear it REALLY got. If I’ve determined it’s time for a new one, what a great time to shop for a wetsuit. It’s the End-of-Season Clearance, and I can get a jump on next year. Woo Hoo! And don’t pig out over the Summer….

    I know a lot of older surfers scoff at this, but the super stretchy neoprene that is used in suits now wears out QUICKLY. These modern wetsuits become VERY hard to resell as well, since this newer, stretchier neoprene tends to produce holes WITHIN the fabric easily, not just tearing along the seams. Trust me, my friends and I know this from personal experience, sadly.

    Because of this, I’ve just hoarded my old suits as scrap neoprene, waiting for projects, repairs, or mods. You’ll find that if people discover that you use neoprene, you’ll get loads of scraps for free, hopefully washed. 

    Not many companies do neoprene recycling. It’s really a shame, and there’s a LOT of wetsuits out there. 

    Places that do Wetsuit Recycling:

    Surfers, divers, kiteboarders, etc. all use wetsuits. Shame to not find something more to do with it. Maybe even kinda….surfy.

    So I thought doing a few new recycled wetsuit projects in a little “series” to celebrate the coming of Summer would be in order!

    Not judging whoever digs this, but this is not gonna happen on my watch, just letting you know:

    It’s like your own neoprene diving bell

    DIY Save-A-Surf Kit

    I’ll admit it- I’m always a fool for lovely new surfing accessories and innovations. Other “hard core” surfers won’t readily admit it being dazzled by the next new thing, but I love looking at the advancements and creativity in the field of surfing. I just think it’s fun, and it makes it more fun for everyone, hopefully.

    Ventana Surf Box

    Recently, I saw this really nice, fancy pants Save a Surf Box from Ventana Surfboards recently. It’s super classy, unlike me. I thought it had a lot of smart features in it I could emulate in a DIY version. Hey, mine’s not made from the finest Vineyard Caskets in Napa Valley, but it just MIGHT get stolen from the CB Pier Drunk, so there’s that.

    I wanted to make one even smaller, with the contained items more suited to me. Here’s the parts:

    Leash Loop

    Make a paracord leash loop using the tutorial here.

    Leash loop from 550 paracord

    The Container 

    I used a fairly small prescription bottle for the container, with a locking lid. Drill or punch a hole in the top of the plastic lid to accommodate the leash loop through the top, without allowing the double knot to pass through the top.

    Standard Rx bottle with a safety latch

    You can either cover the bottle by using stickers, or paint the bottle with paint pens. You don’t have to do this if your bottle is tinted, though. Just remember that you’ll have money, wax and duct tape in this, so you may want to keep direct sun and prying eyes off of it (plus, it just looks less script bottle, kinda). If you paint the plastic, give it a light sanding before painting to help it stick better. Use a sealant coat over your paint job when you finish.

    Sanding off the logo and the surface a bit with some 320 grit

    I did put a sticker on the outside of the bottle, but I still wanted to cover it better. Here’s my crocheted cover, artfully crafted while slurping Diet Coke on the patio. It’s made from the finest procured nylon cording Hobby Lobby had on sale….whatevah.

    It’s like a tiny “Le Sac”. Remember those?!?

    Screws

    I didn’t want to just dump screws in here without encasing them in something, so I used a bit of clear packing tape and cut a notch to make an easy tear of each pouch. I put 3 FCS, and 1 single fin screw (thumbscrew head,no screwdriver needed).

    Lay the screws on the sticky side of the tape, then fold over onto it’s self

    Cut notches in the tape to allow the pouches to be torn open easily



    Allen Wrench or Fin Key

    Self explanatory. You can also use a fin key if it fits.

    Wax

    I took a small piece of my hardest Tropical wax and wrapped it in a hint of cling wrap. The reason I use the hardest wax is that for modern formulations, I’ve read that harder wax covers more temperature ranges. So, I guess I don’t need to worry about changing it out in the Emergency Kit as often then. We’ll see.

    I only could fit a small nugget of wax in the kit, so I warmed it up a bit with my hands to make a small cylinder, like with modeling clay.

    Wrapping the wax just in case the car gets too hot!



    Duct Tape

    The duct tape I have comes in a little different form. Some smaller hardware stores sell it this way, larger craft stores sell it like this. It’s a “sticker sheet” of duct tape. Quite handy.

    You can get this in many prints now.


    Using these sheets, I cut a small rectangle in case I get a ding on the surfboard and need to seal it in a pinch. Nice bright color too, it’ll remind me to take care of the boo-boo.

    Alcohol Wipes

    If I do get that aforementioned surfboard ding, I’ll need to clean off the board before putting duct tape on it. Alcohol wipes are really handy for that.

    Always handy to have


    They’re also handy if you need to clean a ding on YOUR body. Which brings us to…

    Band-Aid

    Just one, like in the movie Endless Summer.


    Cash for a Big Gulp

    I know the classy Save a Surf Box has a beer bottle opener, but if I am without my 64 ounces of heavenly diet soda fountain refreshment at all times, things can get ugly. This is for the safety of the beachgoing public.

    I put $1.25 inside, enough for a Diet Coke mug refill, and if I need it, I can use the quarter as a screwdriver for my Beater Board to remove the twin fins if I want.

    The quarter is folded inside the dollar- kinda Origami

    Done!

    That’s a lot of stuff!


    So this Save a Surf Kit contains:

    • Leash loop
    • Allen wrench 
    • FCS screws
    • Single fin screw and nut
    • Piece of duct tape for dings
    • 2 Alcohol swabs
    • Cash/Quarter coin (Softboard fin screw remover)
    • Band Aid
    • Wax Nug

    Tryin’ to go for the nautical look


    Here ya go, ready to stash in da car or da bike. Its a little Martha Stewart, with a little West Coast Rollin’ baby….

    Stewart’s ridin’ dirty

    Manly Surf Wax Recipe

    I’m always interested in surf history, especially since I really get into surf trivia. I was researching a bit about wax and stumbled across an article that I thought was great.

    This surfer was on a quest for Gulf Wax, a pure paraffin wax used primarily in sealing jars for home canning jams and jellies. He used it in his youth (1960’s), and romanticized it as being superior to current surf wax:

    smelling like a flower and nipples so sore they feel like they are going to burst into flames.

    -Marion Stratford, surfinghandbook.com

     I found this to be the ultimate in Surfer Dudeness. It’s like Ron Swanson came to surf.

    Move aside, I came to craft

    So, in this spirit, I’m making MANLY Surf Wax! No color, no smell, no frills.

    Just like the article stated, the Gulf Wax could be found at the local Publix grocery store. One pound was a little under 4 dollars, and contained 4 one-quarter pound individual bars.

    At Publix- ask for it

    4 bars of pure paraffin

    Look at Number 6- they’re onto the surfers

     

    Since paraffin is made with petroleum (never said this recipe was Eco-Friendly, y’all), make sure you use cooking accessories that won’t be used for food prep. Kinda gross. My double boiler in the pic was 6 bucks from Ikea, and I ONLY use it for making wax. Worth it. 

    Supplies


    We need to make this stuff a bit easier to melt onto the board by just rubbing it on through friction heat. Unlike modern surf wax, we’re not necessarily creating “sticky” bumps, we’re just using it to break the surface tension of the water across the board, and we’ll still need a comb to finish roughing up the wax once it’s applied. To help spread it better, though, I’m going to use a touch of REFINED coconut oil. Since we don’t want any obnoxious smell, the refined is the best option. Unfortunately, I only had hippie “organic.” Sorry, Mr. Swanson.

    I also used jumbo muffin cups to pour the wax into. I can’t wait until this “Orange Peel” thing comes out, and I’ll use it instead to make wax.

    So I melted down 2 bars of the Gulf Wax (1/2 pound) in the double boiler over a pot of boiling water. DON’T mix any water into the wax or vice-versa!

    Two bars of wax to melt (1/2 pound)

    Once the Gulf Wax had melted, I added a heaping teaspoon of the refined coconut oil.

    Large heaping teaspoon of coconut oil

    Once I stirred everything well with my dedicated wax chopstick, I continued stirring and heating for a few minutes to make sure everything had homogenized well.

    Stirring constantly


    When it was ready, I poured the wax into the muffin foils immediately. This amount used four jumbo sized muffin foils.

    Pouring wax into the molds

    Freshly poured wax


    I allowed the bars to harden at room temperature. If you stick them in the freezer, voids can form, so I just let them harden and cool for an hour or two on the counter.

    It goes on the board well, but this recipe is probably well suited for cool or cold water, especially if sap resin or even a bit of molasses was added. Make sure you use a wax comb to rough up the wax since this wax doesn’t mound up, per se.

    No color, no smell, no fancy pants.

    Done! Ron would be proud


    Personally, I like the more modern formulations (even with the pretty smell!), but there may be a Manly Surfer Dude in need of a Manly Surf Wax.

    You’re welcome, Your Bro-ness.

    That’s a lot of yikes right there