Now it’s time to play with fibreglass! I have never done this before so it’s very much a learning experience for me.
Fibreglass at its most simple consists of three items – chop strand mat (CSM or mat), resin and catalyst (also referred to as activator or hardener). There are a number of safety warnings that come with fibreglass and resin – ignore them at your peril!
- Be very careful when you are handling the mat. It’s glass. Wear gloves or, like loft insulation, it will get under the skin on your fingers and itch for weeks. No, really. Wear gloves.
- Work in a very well ventilated area. Even then you should wear a mask to help stop you breathing in the nasty vapours from the resin. It stinks!
- Cover anywhere that you do not want the resin to go. It will splat when you are applying it and is a complete bitch to remove from carpet.
Tools you’re gonna need:
- Fibreglass mat, resin and catalyst (obviously!)
- Paint brushes. I went to The Range and picked up 10 brushes, 5 one inch and 5 1.5 inch for £3.40. As they are going to be single use do not spend a fortune on them!
- Two inch masking tape.
- Gloves and face mask.
- Mixing pot for the resin.
Right. This part was to create the fibreglass backing on the front wheel arches to get exactly the profile of the arch. The first step? Obviously it was to remove all the carpet and underseal from the area I wanted to fibreglass (see point 3 above!)
To allow reasonably easy removal of the hardened fibreglass I used masking tape over the area. This was two inch masking tape with generous amounts of overlap to stop the resin hitting the bare metal or paint. This was done on both sides at the same time.
Next was to prepare the mat (CSM) to approximately the right size. I used Tissue mat which cost me £1.70 + 99p P&P for 1 square metrefrom Composite Supplies UK on eBay. I cut 4 sheets per side each measuring approximately 11 inches across and 15 inches high. Creating the wheel arch backs I have run out of mat so will have to order more.
The resin and catalyst also came from CSUK although I can’t find a link for that at the moment. Unfortunately my house sitter used all the catalyst creating his own speaker pods for the rear shelf. He assured me that using ordinary car body filler (left) would do the job just the same. More on that in a minute.
We poured out approximately the amount of resin we would require into a tub (this was a recycled Chinese food container) and added the hardener. Mixing the two up well (so all the yellow hardener disappeared) Scott reckoned this would give us about 20 minutes working time with the resin before it was too hard to apply. You can see under the pot the tissue mat that we used. Not exactly the best place to mix the resin eh! Also note (despite repeated reminders) the lack of gloves! These were not my hands, I was operating the camera at this point!
Actually applying the resin and mat was the fun bit. I didn’t take photos during the application as I was worried about running out of working time. The process went like this:
- Apply a generous coat of resin to the masking tape. This allows the mat to stick. Use a stippling motion rather than a brushing motion throughout the resin application process. Once you are putting resin on mat if you use a brushing motion the mat will move and crinkle giving a crappy finish. Stippling just gets the resin on and pushes the mat in without moving it.
- Place the first layer of mat to the resin, dabbing it down in a couple of places to help it stick.
- Apply another generous coat of resin using the same stippling motion. Try to ensure that there are no dry bits of the top layer of mat and there are no air bubbles in between layers. This is more difficult than it sounds but getting rid of the air bubbles will give a much harder and nicer final finish.
We repeated step two and three for the second, third and fourth layers of mat, stippling the resin in generous quantities. Once that was done it was just clearing up and leaving it to dry. We threw out the gloves, mask, paint brush and mixing pot as they would be no good to re-use.
The final result should be something like the image on the left. Mine (passenger side) got very “fluffy” with strands of mat that had lifted at the edges. It’s not a great problem as they can be cut off and tidied when the mat is dry and removed from the car.
Scott’s effort, on the driver’s side came out much neater. Just experience I think! So, the voice of experience (Scott) said just leave them to dry. Easy to leave them, but when you’re impatient like me you want them to dry NOW so that you can carry on playing!
We did this on Monday night. Tuesday afternoon arrived and Scott was leaving to move to Cornwall. With the car. And my fibreglass. That still wasn’t dry. Bugger! I spoke to him yesterday (Saturday) and the damned things STILL weren’t dry. I can’t say whether this is just because we didn’t use enough hardener or because it was the Plastic Padding stuff rather than proper resin catalyst. I think I will be using the proper stuff from now on though!
I am assured that it will dry eventually and Scott will post them to me. Until then though the project is on hold. So much so that I gave the Inifinity Reference speakers to my Mum for her car. My god do they sound good, even just running from the head unit! Read about it on my personal blog.