Small Epoxy Project Tip

I got the flu recently, and as a result, I plowed through about 3 bottles of cough syrup and Robitussin. I recycled the bottles, but the dosing cups I wanted to keep, knowing they’d be good for something.
Turns out, I started a small project that needed some epoxy resin, so I used a dosing cup to mix my epoxy in. It’s a mini measuring cup for the resin, and I didn’t have to use one of my big mixing cups. Just make sure to wash it out really well before use.

I’m sure this secret is well known to surfboard repair guys, but it was a revelation to me that I wanted to share.

How to Paint a Surfboard, Skimboard, or Wave Riding Vehicle…

Painting surfboards is something I really enjoy. Don’t get me too near a blank board, otherwise, it’ll be marked up like a train cargo box.
Here’s a board (I sold it long ago) I painted. It’s a CODA 7’2″ epoxy funshape:

I’ve found epoxy boards are much easier to paint after it’s glassed. Otherwise, I’ve found it’s better to transfer images onto rice paper to be laid up under the fiberglass during the glassing process.
When selecting a board to paint, choose a board that is a beater you want to have fun with, or if it’s one of your regular quiver, choose an “out-of-season” board, since this project may require weeks. The board above took me two weeks to paint just the deck, so it was out of commission for a while.
The first step in any board painting process is to clean, clean, clean the board- ALL of it. If the board has wax, scrape it all off- not just the area you’re going to paint if you’re not painting the whole board.
After scraping thoroughly, use a “pickle” (or this project) to clean the wax bits off, and use some gloves, mask, a fan and some acetone to carefully get the remainder of the wax residue off. I cannot stress this enough. Take your time and clean the board well- it will be worth it if you’re putting some serious time into this, and you will. EDIT 11/9/12: Non-acetone nail polish remover works well too if you are nervous about damaging the glass.
Once you think it’s clean, go over it again- check the rails- those always get missed, but your sealant won’t.

Cleaning and safety supplies:
Mask, gloves, acentone, pickle/foam dust ball, scraper

For this project, I picked up a skimboard/paipo (it’s a little heavy for a skim) for $3 at a garage sale. I was in good condition, and the top already has some traction all across the deck.

Deck side of the board, yellow traction
Wood bottom of the board. Says “Boogie Board” in black.

Of course, I have cleaned the bottom of the board well- the entirety- to get rid of dust and grime, no wax in this case, thankfully.
For paint, I like using Painters’ paint pens over Sharpie’s paint pens. I just find them to be more opaque and more like paint. I’m also using some spray on gloss glaze. This will help make the surface smooth as well.

Paint pens and Spray on gloss

Before I start, I get out a scrap piece of wood to start my pens flowing and I also use it as a palette during painting.

My scrap wood palette.

When I’m painting, I try to build up the layers and let them dry in between instead of trying to smear them together. Most paint pens have a true paint consistency, so if you want to blend with some precision, keep a paintbrush ready. Otherwise, other pens, like regular Sharpies, are ok, but are dry and don’t really build up opaquely, which I don’t like, since I like the art work to stand out without having to go over it again and again.
This skimboard/paipo thing had “Boogie Board” written on it. Poor board, it screamed, “but I’m so much more, don’t label me!”. If only surfboards could talk…
For this, then, I wanted to paint over the label with a motif. I thought a touch of the Echinoderms would be in order.
I did start with using the Sharpie Paint Pens for the main star shapes- I was not thoroughly impressed with the paint, like I said before, so this is why I used it as a first layer.

First layer

I let the stars dry for a few minutes so I wouldn’t smear the paint. Every layer I do this- I make sure to let the paint dry or I can drag paint where I don’t want. I also use the scrap wood to keep the paint pen flowing. If the paint pen starts to dry a bit, it can actually scrape up your last layer. Sometimes, I’ve even put sealant between each paint layer, but it depends on the project.
Here’s a series of the paint work:

The thing I have to remember is not to go overboard. It’s hard, especially when you’re critiquing your own work.
I set up a work surface on a tarp with two sawhorses with a large scrap piece of wood covered with a tarp to protect my sawhorses. I set this up in the garage so there would be minimal dust and particles kicked up to get into the sealant. You can also make a makeshift “spray booth” with a large cardboard box on it’s side.

Working area setup

Now, it’s time for sealant. I used a Krylon “Triple Thick” clear glaze gloss sealant. I like this stuff, and it makes a nice looking finish. On the 7’2″, I used SEVEN layers of sealant, and didn’t lose any paint even after surfing it and waxing it, leaving it out in the sun, etc. The weight difference is negligible.
Remember to find a place that won’t kick up dust and particles, and WEAR a MASK!

Sexy and I know it….

I spray in very light layers- this is important, since you don’t want to bubble up and mess up your paint job. I spray the WHOLE bottom so there’s an even coat. I’ll spray from one direction, then after waiting 5 minutes or more, I’ll put another coat from a different direction. Since this art is on the bottom, I’m going to put a lot of layers so it can scrape sand without the paint job coming off.
I did about 4 light layers with around 20-30 minutes, and let it dry for several hours. I lightly wiped down the board again to get rid of dust, then I did this again with 3 more layers. After about 24 hours, if I’m happy with the coverage, I’ll wipe off any dust and spray again. Yes, it seems like overkill, but I’ve seen a lot of boards with great artwork that is tragically chipping off since they were not sealed enough for real use.
Here’s the finished product:

I’m not a skimboarder- I tried 10 years ago and I was the afternoon comic entertainment for the tourists of Cocoa Beach.
If someone needs a starfished paipo/skimboard- here locally- let me know. I always enjoy a good barter involving Diet Coke…… 😉

Handplane. Just Handplane.

If you’re going to do this project READ all safety instructions on your tools and wear safety gear!!
Ok, so I wanted to go ahead and get this done start to finish on the new one instead of boring you with my lengthy glass-and-wait, glass-and-wait. I’m glad I did- and I’ve got some things I’ve learned I’d thought I’d share.
Of course, in Part III, I decided to change to wood for making this handplane instead of foam since the foam scrap was just way too coarse.
Turns out, poplar is very interesting to work with when putting resin on it directly. I did put a coat of West System ultra slow cure epoxy resin on, and found crazy dry patches plus parts where the wood grain stood up like little hairs even after having sanded it thoroughly before the resin. At this point, I wanted to put some changes in the shape anyway, so I got out the belt sander and the edge sander and put more prominent rounded rails on the front top edge, and put a much more pronounced concave out of the bottom, in the hope of giving it more lift.
I decided to re-coat the top side first. I put the board up on little wood blocks to allow the resin the drip over the sides.

Top Side Coated
Board on blocks

Ok, so the first coat did have some dry spots again, plus an unfortunate mosquito that landed in the resin. I did sand out bumps lightly with some 60 grit (plus the resin drippings on the bottom side), and sanded the rest with 120/220 to smooth out some of those “hairs” that popped up. The resin took 24 hours to dry (extra slow cure).

For the second coat, I thought I would be clever and put painter’s tape on the underside edge so I didn’t have to sand off all those bumps again.

Bottom side taped- resin bumps around the edge

It worked ok- but unfortunately, I did end up catching some tape into the resin, so I had to sand anyway. Duh.

Not as planned….

I did the bottom next just the same, two coats, sanding in between.

Bottom coated

For a final finish, I sanded out some of the bumps again lightly with 60 grit, then sanded all over with 120, 220, 320, and 400. The 320 and 400 I used water when I sanded (the sheets were wet/dry).
Once I finished sanding, I was ready to figure out how I was going to attach the hand strap. At first, I had wanted to drill holes, epoxy them, then drill in the epoxy to set screws into some webbing with an adjustable clip. I didn’t like the idea of drilling and epoxying since the poplar was a bit of a trouble to get the resin right.
Many of the handplanes I’ve seen have your hand slip onto the board flat. This seems a bit strange to me- I thought it might be better controlled by gripping the handle and allowing my forearm to steer the board. Ok, maybe that makes it a forearm plane. Either way, it’s an experiment, so we’ll see.
I picked up some 1″ brown flat nylon webbing to use for the handle. To make a more comfortable grip, my husband found some scrap 5/8″ braided hose tubing from our vacuum chamber project. I also gathered up a lighter (to singe the ends of the webbing so it won’t fray), and my E6000 glue, plus a threader to run the webbing through the tubing. I cut the tubing down a bit to the length I thought would be a good location on the board.

Getting the materials together
Threaded the nylon webbing through the tubing

Next, I cut the ends of the nylon webbing off to about 1/2″- 3/4″ past each end of the tubing and singed the ends. From there, I glued down each end with the E6000, gluing down not only on the bottom, but I also but glue on the top side, sort of sealing in the ends. E6000 takes about 24 hours to fully cure.

Handle glued down
How I’m planning on holding it

So anyway, here’s some more pics at different angles:

Back edge (pretty towel, huh??)
Bottom side
Top of board towards nose

Ok, so now’s the test. We’ve got some semi-windy mushy chop happening for today, so I may try it out this afternoon, since that’s the kind of typical local conditions I made it for. Will let you know if it works- and I come back WITH the board, hopefully.
Noon update:
So I went to South Cocoa Beach to try out the board, hoping to find not only a little bigger waves, but a good spot that may have a little more push. Took the trusty Churchill’s for my surf fins. The surf was messy and mushy, but I went anyway just as an experiment.
The board floated on it’s own, but was not floaty like a surfboard or bodyboard, where you can rely on it for some support. Essentially, it IS just an arm extension, but you’ve got to swim on your own. What’s great about this is, it’s the ONLY board I can duckdive! Getting under waves with the handplane is just like ducking under waves when ocean swimming, instead of wrestling the cooler lid I’m used to with the bodyboard. The handle on the board allowed me to hold on with both hands and just kick, but an adult man would probably just use one arm.

I came in a little to try some of the sand bombs that happened occasionally, and that was fun! The handplane allowed me to angle and added a lot of speed than when I just try to bodysurf alone. This does seem like a fun board for shorepound, without having to worry about popping up to get the 1/4 second ride.
I did use my forearms to keep the back of the board angled downwards in the water, with the nose barely out of the water, if at all. I did feel a lift from the board, but I don’t know if that was more the wave or board, so I’ll take it out in some different conditions, especially when my legs aren’t so weak.
So, the handle held fast, and I didn’t lose it. I’m happy. 🙂

Handplane or Handboard? Part III

Ok, when something just isn’t working, it isn’t working. I was NOT happy with the way the foam handplane shape was coming out- I think the 1.5 pound was way too coarse, and I was trying to do something with it that just wasn’t going to happen.
So, let’s start over again. This time, I picked up a scrap of poplar from Home Depot for a buck. It’s 1/2″, about 16″ by 12″.

Poplar piece

Once again, I made a template, but more in line with pictures I had seen of wood handplanes (thanks Wavegeek!). So here’s the next attempt at an outline, and the result I cut out on a scroll saw:

Outline for handplane
Piece cut out

I did sand a little concave into the bottom with a rotary sander, but nothing extraordinary. I curved the rails by hand sanding, but for the most part they’re straight, so we’ll see how that goes. I used 60 grit mostly, then 80 and 100, proceeding up to 220 to finish.
I decided to glass this board with some of my slow cure epoxy:

Preparing to glass
First side glassed, not cured yet

So, it’ll take a couple of days to get this glassed and cured. I did mount the board on a couple of scrap pieces of wood to let the epoxy drip without sticking.
For the handslip, I’m going to drill shallow holes into the deck, fill them with epoxy, redrill and screw the strap down on either end- but I’m going to put in one of my adjustable plastic buckles so more than one person can use it. I’m also going to use on of the fin heel guards I made from a past project to overlay the strap so it doesn’t tear up my hand.
Something I haven’t seen is grip on the deck for your hand…..hmmm…still got some SeaDek around here somewhere…..

Handplane or Handboard? Part II

So, after hacking away at my handplane shape in Part I, I’m ready to start putting a little shape into this foam.

The basic shape I started with

I started off with 50 grit sandpaper and sanded the edges smooth. Except they didn’t come out as smooth as I thought they would. The foam was rather coarse, so one side would sand well, but the other seemed the slough off easily, which made for a real challenge shaping, especially on this scale (approximately 1 foot square).
I used a sanding block to scrape the bottom, then smooth out where I didn’t quite hit the lines with my initial cut. I went up to 60 grit and really found no difference in the sanding quality, so I stayed with the 60 grit.
Honestly, I eyeballed much of this project. I don’t have shaper’s calipers, just my “calibrated” eyeball. I tried to put some even curves on the rails, and prevent them from being too squared off. I didn’t think too much “hold” was necessary, in fact, I thought the ability to turn would be much more handy.
I also thought that when I block sanded the top and nose, I could sand better by using double stick tape to secure the foam to my working table. Wrong. Although I was happy with the way the nose was coming out, when I carefully lifted the foam off of the table, two little chunks of foam stayed with the tape. Whoops. Luckily, they make a fix for that. Spackle.
Anyway, as I was shaping I decided to make a little well on the deck of the board on the fly that my hand (actually, for me, hands) could rest in below the rails. Here’s some rough shaping I did on the deck:

Rough handwell on the deck

I tried not to get into over shaping, which I can really appreciate now with working with foam.
I did shape my channels into the bottom, as well as putting a little curve into the bottom outline. Here’s the final rough shape- I think:

Top of handplane
Bottom of handplane

Now, I need to apply some spackle to even things out before I glass it. This process feels like icing a cake, but I’m no Pastry Chef. The result was messy, but I was hoping it would even out with some sanding. And maybe a little paint later on. Ok, maybe a lot.
After letting the spackle dry, I tried to sand it smooth, but it just wasn’t happening. I thought that I was hoping for too much out of this coarse foam on this small scale. After I sanded, I put some spackle on little places where it still seemed a bit imperfect.
I think I’m going to have to hand lay up the glass job instead of vaccum bagging it. I’m afraid of the fiberglass wrinkling too much with the channels, and I’d like the control for such a little project.
I’ve got to wait on the additional spackle to dry, then I’m trying the glassing by hand. Fingers crossed.

Handplane or Handboard? Part I

Sometimes, it’s just fun to ditch the surfboard and go for a swim in the ocean. Well, not so much this time of year, but bodyboarding and bodysurfing can still be fun if you’ve got a good wetsuit. Around here, we can get some big waves that are nearly impossible to get a board out into- at least in one piece.
Something I saw recently was this thing called a handplane (or handboard). This has become popular- although quite controversial in the bodysurfing world- from what I’ve seen on the internet. Bodysurfers claim that true bodysurfing is only to be done with fins, while handplane and handboard proponents claim if you can use fins, why can’t you use a little help on the other end?
Either way, handplanes/handboards seem like a fascinating ocean toy to add to the quiver. I’ve never seen one in person, only on the internet, so I thought it would be a neat project to make one, and make one that may work around here with our mushy, whitewatery waves. I know, I know, not the best time to do this project (would be more fun in the Summer), but there’s no time like the present.
A while back, I visited the local fiberglass store to pick up some things, and I asked if they had a scrap piece of foam around I could buy for cheap. They gave me a 1 foot square piece for free, at about 2 inches thick. I was going to use this to make a fin core, but then I thought it would be good for shaping a handplane.

My free piece of foam
C-Bead must mean “cooler lid” consistency

To start, I made a template from paper folded in half and I drew an outline and cut it out. I tweaked it a little here and there while it was folded in half.

Half of the template
Template cut out

After finishing cutting out the paper template, I taped it to the foam block to draw the outline of it in pencil on the foam. I did this on both sides of the foam to make sure I was going to make a straight cut.

Drawing the outline onto the foam

Ok, so here’s the fun part. I needed to cut out the shape but I didn’t have a hot wire, didn’t want to use a big saw, so I actually used a serrated bread knife. Hey, whatever works, right? I started by cutting off the corners, and then I began to fine tune the actual outline.

Hacking away at the corners
It’s taking a while, but I’m getting there….

After wrestling a bit with the foam (which was quite coarse, in my opinion) I finally had the general outline cut.

General outline of handplane

The backend I made pretty wide on purpose since I thought it could use some “push” in these waves….like I even know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I knew some of the handplanes I saw online had fins, or even channels on the bottom shaped out to give the board some lift. Since I wanted to try this, I drew an arc on the half pattern, cut them out while folded so they’d be symmetric, and drew the outline of them in pencil on the foam so I knew where to sand the foam away.

Arc for channel- sort of

Now, I’ll get ready to actually shape my handplane. Luckily, the foam was free. 🙂
In the next entry I’ll show my shaping job- let’s hope it’s worth showing….
On to Part II

Learning Fin Construction Part IV: Sand, Sandin’ Away

In case you missed the last bit, it’s here: Part III: Hey! Cut it Out!
So we’re back at finishing up our first fin. At this point, we had added a bit of fiberglass to build the base up some to make sure we would have it a little thicker than the fin box so it could be “whittled” down to spec.
We hand sanded the surface of the fin somewhat, but my husband wanted to put a little vertical angle in the base part that goes into the fin box so the fit would mimic the dimensions we had taken of the professionally made fin. For this, we used the wet tile saw again.
I cut across the bottom horizontally to remove excess fiberglass overhang so there would be a level bottom for the vertical pass.
For the record…I thought the angle was so minimal I wanted to hand sand it down, but my precise better half wanted to try this…..
The jig my husband created was from factory cut wood and a couple of wall brackets. The angle was created by inserting two washers under each screw to “kick out” the wood surface the fin would lay upon.

Let’s give it a go!

Ok, so it worked alright, but there was some bounce in the fin off the wood even with clamping it down, so the diamond blade chopped a little into the base, but nothing that was a big deal. It was worth it in the name of science!
The front and back fin box holes to hold in the fin had been drilled, and the pin and bolt and screw fit these drill holes successfully.
After that, we were back to sanding again. From before, we had some low spots and slight bubbling in the epoxy that I wanted to sand out. I used sandpaper from 50-120 grit to fine out the surface imperfections as much as possible, plus fine tune the fin base to make sure it would fit correctly into the box. I did do some of the sanding on the base with a power sander with an 80 grit band just to make that go a bit faster.

Imperfections needing sanding out

More sanding! Not done yet!

After much hand sanding and eyeballing (I’m not as precise) I was happy with the fit, so we got ready to throw another layer of epoxy on.
This time, I was going to paint another layer on, but I did switch resin and hardener brands. I used an “extra slow” hardener that claimed a working time of 3-4 hours, but we still wanted to resolve the issue of bubbles in the epoxy. To remedy this, we dediced to create a vacuum chamber to put the epoxy mix into to draw out bubbles.
This chamber was made from PVC plumbing fittings (with a clean out top as a lid, and a toilet flange as a base!) and two ports were drilled into the PVC for the vacuum pump, and one for a relief valve so the mix could be removed quickly without waiting on the vacuum to decay.

PVC Chamber
Chamber hooked up under vacuum
Inside the chamber (small mix cup shown inside for reference)

This time, we mixed the extra slow cure and immediately placed it into the vaccum chamber under vacuum for 3 minutes at 25 mmHg. I removed the cup to check it after this time and it was still very cloudy with numerous very microscopic bubbles, but still not warm, so it was returned to the chamber for 5 minutes and 30 seconds. It was then removed, and here’s what it looked like:

Side view- slight layer of foam
View from top- bubbles are only on surface

At this point, the cup felt a little warm, so I left it out sitting for 1 more minute. I then proceeded to paint the fin with a coat. The mix went on without bubbling evident, so I was happy. we also fixed a little notch that was over cut from some some time ago with some fiberglass chop (cut up bits of fiberglass mixed into the remainder of the epoxy). The fin was then hung up to dry on a line from the ceiling. The full cure time reported is 24 hours. Here is a picture from about 16 hours into the dry time- the black tape is electrical tape to prevent the epoxy from dripping onto the base part. Other than the evident line that was left from the original attempt at infusion bagging with epoxy that kicked too fast, I’m happy with the result:


Now, after it dries, we will throw on a gloss coat and hopefully take it for a ride (well, the husband will have to- I’m still on the injury list). Too bad the good waves already happened this weekend, but we’re not into zoos anyway!
So for the next infusion bagging attempt, we’re going to use the vacuum chamber to eliminate some of the bubbling in the epoxy. More to come, I’m sure…..