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EPOXY "How to" Tips

By David N. Goodchild

SPRAYING EPOXY and "HOW to"


An old friend of mine, G.B. Fisher, is restoring a 1950 Willies Panel Delivery. He got it from a yard which specializes in Willies, and it seems that the vehicle had sat out in the field for about 40 years; it had only 43,000 miles on the clock, BUT, the body was entirely covered in surface rust! In order to stabilize the surface and prepare it for painting, he is coating the entire body with epoxy. (He's used a LOT of Raka Epoxy already). This is a fairly simple procedure, but he found that he wanted to get epoxy up into some body cavities, into which he could not reach with a brush or a roller. He developed a simple method for spraying a thin coat of epoxy up into the cavities. (Since it will never be exposed to UV, a thin coat is sufficient he feels).

He mixes the Raka Epoxy, two to one, as usual. Then he adds another part of thinner to the hardener; about 2 to 1 also. Two parts hardener to one part thinner. Then he mixes it all up as usual and puts it into a Windex spray bottle. He sprays it liberally into the body cavity. When he is finished, there is still some epoxy left in the bottle, but this is allowed to harden. Since the pickup does not reach entirely to the bottom of the bottle, the next time he uses it the hardened epoxy has elevated the contents so that it can be all used! When he is finished each time, he puts the spray nozzle into a tin of Acetone and sprays until only Acetone comes out.

Might be useful sometime to get a thin coverage coat on an inaccessible part of the boat!

Now, it's only fair to provide you with all information re. these tips, and Larry Steeves, (the owner of Raka Marine) has this to say about spraying epoxy. . . ."Concerning spraying epoxy. We do not recommend it because of the flammability and health hazards from breathing the spray or of the spray getting on your skin or eyes. If someone does spray, they are on their own and should wear the proper respirator, skin and eye protection and take all the necessary precautions. The way I read your article on spraying , it sounds like he mixed up a correct ratio batch, then added thinner with extra hardener which would give a wrong mix ratio.

Sometimes we recommend thinning the epoxy further to get a penetrating epoxy for rotten wood or as a first penetrating coat for difficult gluing wood such as oak, teak or some other hard tropical woods. We recommend laquer thinner, xylene or denatured alcohol etc. We don't recommend acetone because it is more hazardous and may interfer with the proper curing of the epoxy."

Another trick


The same freind mentioned in Spraying Epoxy on this site, G.B. Fisher, has also discovered another trick which is of help to any of us who brush or roller epoxy as a laminating or sealing coat.

He was having trouble with bubbles on the surface of the epoxy he is laying on the body of his 1950 Willies Panel Delivery, as a restorative surface prior to painting. He found that if he sprayed a thin coat of Denatured Alchohol on the surface of the newly laid down epoxy, it eliminated the bubbles! Good idea!

Larry Steeves of Raka Marine Epoxies, (the originator of the above tip) has added the following:

Concerning bubbles on a coated surface.

Many people who use our thick clear coat epoxy for bartops etc. and will get bubbles on the surface which may not break before the epoxy sets up. A couple of tricks to pop them is to pass a propane flame a few inches above the surface back and forth which will pop them. Flame is always dangerous so we recommend using your plastic spray bottle filled with denatured alcohol and set to to a fine atomization. A light mist on the epoxy surface will pop the bubbles and the alcohol will soon dry off the surface and leave no adverse effects. This will work on regular epoxies also but may cause running or sagging of the epoxy on less than horizontal surfaces.

Epoxy Tips:

WASTE-NOT, WANT-NOT

!

Epoxy costs money, and you would be surprised how much is actually left inside a jug of epoxy or hardener when it appears to be empty. Here's how I get ALL of
my epoxy for my money.

When there is not enough left in the jug to do anything with I pour it into the next jug. That's easy but there is a lot left clinging to the sides and the bottom of the jug and to stand there and hold it for the length of time it would all take to run into the new jug would be very tiresome indeed. Viscosity you know!

Here's the solution!

After you have used a few jugs, you should keep the caps. Usually the hardener caps are a different colour from the resin caps and you need two of each. Get a spade bit from the drill-bit collection that's just a tad smaller than the inside diameter of the cap. Carefully drill out the cap so that all that is left basically is the wall of the cap, (perhaps with a little ridge for strengthening). Do this with all four caps.

Get some electrical tape and tape the two sets of caps together as seen in the photo and the drawing here.


When it's time to drain a near-empty jug you can see from the photo how this is accomplished. Screw the two jugs together, put the full one on the bottom and the near-empty one on top and go away for a day. When you come back there will be near NOTHING left in the near-empty jug!

Remember, epoxy costs money! Don't waste it!

EASY MIXIN

For a long time I used measuring cups from 5-gallon tubs of washing detergent for measuring out epoxy and resin. I would measure out the particular components and then mix them together in empty dog-food cans. One thing to be sure of naturally, is that you have two measuring cups and that you keep them separate. I mark one with a piece of black electrical tape and use this one for hardener only.

The only problem with this technique is that the measuring cups soon get pretty grungy! The hardener and the resin residues get really sticky and nasty. I still liked the quick measuring technique but not the mess.

Here's my new solution!

I bought a whole mess 'o plastic cups at my local food price-club! I took a clean and new measuring cup from a new five-gallon tub of detergent and carefully measured out the following into one of my new plastic cups:

1/4 cup
1/2 cup
1 cup

At each point I placed a piece of black electrical tape. As it turned out, the bottom of the first piece of tape was for 1/4 cup and the top exactly fit the 1/2" cup. A separate piece made the 1 cup. These tape markings can be seen in the photo together with the detergent measuring cup used to calibrate them. I use RAKA epoxies, and these are all 2:1 mix ratio. Thus, I can mix up batches in various quantities. 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup. 1/2 cup to 1 cup, etc. And here's how it keeps all clean and nice!

I put the cup into which the mixture is going to be made INSIDE the marked cup. When I add the resin and hardener it is easy to see when it reaches the calibrated marks. The calibrating cup never receives any of the material and so stays completely clean. The resin is added directly to the hardener, the inside (mixing) cup is removed, the measuring (outside) cup set aside and then the epoxy mixed and used. Following this of course that plastic cup is thrown away.

THE ZIP-LOC SYRINGE!

Sometimes you just have to get epoxy into a cavity that's not convenient to pour (probably on a bad slant) or to hard to get at or just too difficult to use a spatula or putty knife. Here's a tip that I got from Ruell Parker's very good book "The New Cold-Molded Boat Building". When he is faced with this kind of a problem he mixes up his resin and hardener, adds his thickener and then pours the whole mess into a Zip-Loc bag. He snips off a corner of the bag and, presto! A bag syringe! And it does work, I've used it and it sometimes is just the ticket!

CORRECTING THAT RESIN/HARDENER SCREW UP!

The other day I was applying the veneers to the outside of the cabin trunk of Toad Hall. One plank went on just fine and so, I thought, did the second veneer plank. But, in the morning when I came out to check, the epoxy had not set up at all. I use Raka epoxies, and if I know one thing about these products, it's that they are VERY predictable. I had used the Very Fast Hardener since it was a realatively small area, easily and quickly applied, and so it ABSOLUTELY should have set up by the following morning. This could only mean one thing; I must have mixed two hardeners or two resins together instead of the right proportions of each. This meant I could be faced with a very messy clean-up job on the cabin side to get it off. BUT, I have, believe it or not, done this before, and what I did last time could work for me this time; and it did!


I determined that I had in face mixed two hardeners together which meant that I only had hardener on the cabin side and no resin. The solution! I painted on a coating of resin, waited for it to set up, and the next morning just sanded it down ready for application of the proper mix this time. A little more epoxy on the fiberglass can't hurt now can it?


KEEPING POWER TOOLS FREE OF EPOXY

I completely encased two good variable speed drills with epoxy before I thought of the simple alternative described below. Epoxy is wonderful stuff; dependable, strong, highly water-resistant, etc. It is also messy, sticky and pernicious. By now
we all know enough to use vinegar to clean off uncured epoxy from our tools and ourselves, but even with thorough cleaning and good discipline, epoxy does get on the tools once in a while. A prime candidate is the drill/driver. I gave up my corded power drivers in place of a really nice 9.6 volt Makita and I really did not want to get this expensive tool all covered with epoxy. (The two drill/drivers which I previously damaged were $20.00 Black and Decker's so it wasn't a terrible loss, but the Makita is too good and too expensive to gum up).

The solution was dead simple. Each time I use the Makita now I simply grab a gallon-size Zip-Loc bag and shove the drill, bit holder and all into the bag. I stick the bit and holder through one corner and then fold the bag down over the tool. This way, the rubber gloves which I wear and which get real slimy with the epoxy, DO NOT transfer all the mess to the tool. The cordless tools don't require too much ventilation and so being enclosed in the bag doesn't seem to bother them. Anyway, they are not run continuously so they get plenty of time to cool off. Also, the bag is open at the bottom so there is some air transfer through that and out through the hole in the corner. The bag is flexible enough so that it doesn't interfere with the operation of the
trigger or the general handling of the tool. Works terrific! If you try this, be sure to push the bag back around the chuck so that is close to the body of the tool. Otherwise, you will wind the whole bag up in the chuck teeth.

EPOXY SOLDERING

I have all copper piping on board Toad Hall. I have outlined its' vertues in another tip on this page and I won't repeat them here. The problem with soldering copper in very confined (and wooden) spaces is the heat from the torch flame. I know, there are shields that you can buy to protect the surroundings, or even better, make one up from a bit of flashing, but sometimes, it is just darned difficult to solder in the very confined spaces on board a boat.

I decided to try epoxy.


I epoxied a copper end cap to a piece of 1/2" copper tubing and let it cure. I did not thicken the epoxy; just used it right out of the mix. When I painted it on to the end of the tubing and applied the cap I rotated the cap a quarter turn to make sure that the epoxy was well spread. (This is also good soldering practice).

The next day (I used a fast setting epoxy) I hose-clamped the piece of tubing and epoxied-on cap into a garden hose, attached the hose to a hose bib and turned it on. House pressure in Philadelphia is about 55 psi. The epoxied cap held perfectly with NO

LEAKS!

I subsequently used this technique in a couple of places on Toad. Since my water pressures are mostly gravity feed I don't think there will be any problem.

Most water pressures on a boat are not anywhere near house pressure so I think this is a good technique for use when you can't risk a flame.

A CUP OF THIS AND A PINCH OF THAT

I distrust those pumps that they sell to measure out your resin and hardener. I just cannot bring myself to believe that the accuracy is all that great. A little air, a little too weak or too exuberant pumping!; I'm sorry, I just don't trust them.

I like to be able to see the ratios and measure them that way. Some people measure by weight but the epoxy that I use is a 2:1 volume type. I use those little polyethylene cups that come packaged with laundry detergent. They are marked in "cup" and "fractions of a cup" measures. Using these little cups I can see exactly what I am measuring out and get it right every time.

If you do this, put a piece of black friction tape, or some other kind of marker, on one or the other of the two cups so that you do not inadvertently mix resin and hardener in the same cup. They can be used for a long time; especially if you keep them clean between uses.

VINEGAR

By now, I am sure that everyone knows that the best solvent for cleaning up uncured epoxy is plain, old, white vinegar. The cheaper the better! It is non-toxic and readily available. But, you can also use vinegar to extend the life of your epoxy brushes. I can get several uses out of a brush if I store it standing in a tin of vinegar.

If you have ever tried storing a used brush in a can of acetone you know it just won't work. The brush still hardens up. The acetone doesn't inhibit the reaction just slows it down a lot.

After I use a brush to apply epoxy, I wash it out in the dog-food can of vinegar and then leave it standing in there until next time. Before the next use, I clean it as best I can, squeezing out the excess with a paper towl and getting it as dry as I can. Someone asked me once if I wasn't afraid of contamination of the epoxy with the vinegar, but I can get the brush dry enough that I don't think there's much danger; at least it has never given me any trouble.

If you do this, you will need to change the vinegar after every couple of uses as it seems to lose its strength.

COVER FOR THE WORK TABLE


Cut a piece of polyethylene sheet with which to cover your epoxy table. This will prevent any spilled activated resin from welding itself in inconvenient lumps to the surface and make it possible to easily remove any work, the epoxy for which has bled onto the surface.

UPENDING THE CAN


When you are sheathing flat surfaces, upend the container of epoxy on the work surface while you are spreading out the remainder of the material. This is especially desirable if you are sheathing and coating a number of small parts. You will be amazed at just how much material remains in the can, clinging to the sides and to the bottom, and just how much deposits itself on the work surface if you upend the can. Epoxy costs too much to waste it!

A CONVENIENT LITTLE SPREADER


The foam brushes which are useful (especially for varnishing) are often attached to a wooden handle. Once the foam tip has come to the end of its usefulness, toss it but hold on to that handle. Attached to the end of the handle is a thin plastic shape which makes a very handy spreader for thickened epoxy. This little spreader can get into tight places and is especially useful when spreading thickened epoxy onto strips when strip planking. It is also easily cut to make a specific shape (such as fitting into a curved fillet). Thanks to Gary Clements of G.F.C. Boats, builders of the beautiful updated Sam Rable "Titmouse".

REALLY TACKY


There are many opinions on the best way to actually apply the fiberglass to the material when sheathing, but I believe there is only one best way, and that is as follows.

Apply a coat of FAST curing resin to the material. Once this has tacked up (the resin I use gets quite tacky in just one hour) carefully apply the fabric to the surface, smoothing it out thoroughly. Then, you can put on the first fill coat and any additional coats at your leisure. No air bubbles this way!

POT LIFE


If you are working with a fast acting resin/catalyst combination, don't brush the material onto the work surface from the can but pour it out in whorls onto the surface of the work. If you keep it in the can, fast-acting resin will soon go off from the volume effect. If you pour it out over the work, this will extend the pot life of the material.

SCRAP FIBERGLASS


Hang on to those little odd-shaped scraps which result when you trim fiberglass to fit a specific shape. If you keep these in one place you will without question come upon a time when you need one, several or even all of them at one time. This conserves the glass and you will undoubtedly find that some of those little scraps are the exact size and shape for stand-by projects.

THE BED OF NAILS


When you have to support a piece of work which is epoxy coated on one side and the edges, drive some nails or dry-wall screws through a piece of wood and lay the piece on the points. This will keep it suspended from any surface to which it might adhere itself and prevent any unwanted bonding!

Don't try coating two sides at a time however. I have done this to save time but what you end up with is one side with a lot of little round stalagmites hanging down. These can be sanded off and if this is not a problem then go ahead. If the bottom side is expected to end up finished however, then do one side at a time.

HULL FAIRING


For fairing the hull when using fillers or putties use a wallpaper applicator. This long thin panel is very flexible and is also made of plastic and the epoxy will not firmly adhere. Its flexibility makes it both easy to fair the surface and to crack off the cured epoxy.

STANDBY PROJECTS


When you have a lot of fiberglassing work to do (such as building a boat) always keep a bunch of small jobs lined up in the shop. Don't attempt to do them by themselves, or even as a group, but keep them for the time when you finish one job and have resin left over. This will happen a lot! When it does, you can pick up just the right little job and use up the resin expeditiously.

LEAVE AN EDGE


When sheathing and glassing a flat piece (like a tank top) which will subsequently be glued in to another structure (like the boat) don't apply any epoxy to the edge which is to be glued. By leaving this bare, the thickened epoxy glue will be able to achieve the molecular bond which epoxy likes and not just the mechanical bond which is the result if the wood is already coated with the epoxy.

THE UBIQUITOUS BUCKET


In laying out a large number of pieces to be coated, sheathed and recoated, the space in the workshop becomes prime. It is not always possible to lay everything out on the bench or on the epoxy table since space is simply not available. A useful substitute are the ubiquitous 5 gallon plastic buckets in which everything from joint compound to laundry detergent can now be purchased.

These are plentiful and can be had for the asking from users or found in dumps and along the road. They make excellent supports. The material can be positioned on their lips (discard the lid) with no danger of the epoxied material adhering to the bucket (they are polyethylene) and they can be positioned around the floor, on tables, or wherever it is convenient to work.

NAKED SHEATHING


DO NOT coat fir plywood with epoxy only and expect the treatment to last, especially if the plywood is exposed to the elements. It will soon check. If you want to coat plywood and expose it always put on a layer of fiberglass. This provides a much stronger bond to counteract the propensity of fir plywood to check the moment your back is turned - epoxied or not!

STRETCHING EXERCISES


One great value of the tack coat is that when it comes time to apply the cloth (and the tack coat should be distinctly sticky and tacky) you can actually stretch the cloth over the surface by smoothing it down with your hands in the x and y directions.

The stickiness of the resin holds the glass in this position very effectively and this flattens the material and eliminates the chance of air bubbles. With the tack-coat method, air bubbles are almost completely eliminated and you get a very smooth and close-fitting coat of fiberglass over the work. This works even better when applying fiberglass overhead or on the vertical. This is where the air bubbles are especially troubling, but the tack coat eliminates these almost entirely.

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Epoxy

Epoxy Fillers


A prior article looked at how resin and hardener are mixed and chemically react to form epoxy. The epoxy formed is useful, but can't do all jobs. Typically unfilled epoxy is too thin to fill gaps or serve for fairing and filleting.
To enhance the epoxy there are a number of fillers. These include thixtropic fillers, bulking fillers, fiborous fillers and pigments.

Thixotropic substances are those that will flow when under stress. When not under stress, they do not flow. This makes them easy to spread, i.e. flowing under stress. When spread they then retain shape.

Bulking fillers are putty like and include microballoons.

Items such as chopped glass fibers and plastic mini fibers can be added to epoxy to increase strength.

Pigment fillers can be used to alter the epoxy's hardness, tint the color, or as exterior coatings.

Michigan produced West System epoxy has a number of fillers which show how the general categories above are applied.

If you are using epoxy to laminate they make their 403 microfibers filler, which helps the epoxy, fill gaps.

If you are bonding hardware with epoxy the correct filler is the 404 High Density filler. This is well suited for bonding differing materials.

If your project calls for filleting, which is adding epoxy to concave or angled corners, use product 405 Filleting blend. This thickens the epoxy for use on the non level surfaces.

Filler 407 Low Density is best suited when you will be fairing or sanding the epoxy.

Other fillers include 406 Colloidal Silica, which can be used to stop epoxy from sagging and 410 Microlight which is smooth and good for applications where detailed sanding will occur.

Techniques:

Epoxy Techniques


Mixing

Mixing begins with dispensing. Most epoxy makers provide pump systems that disgorge the correct amount of epoxy. Although both pumps are used, they are calibrated differently so the correct amount of resin and hardener is dispensed.

Dispense the materials into a plastic, metal or non wax paper container.

You then need to mix the ingredients for at least a minute. The cooler the temperature the longer the mixing period.

Ensure that your mixing stick moves beyond the main part of the epoxy. Scrape the stick along the sides and bottoms of the container to esnure a thorough mixing.

Wetting Out

This is the epoxy user's term for covering your working surface with epoxy. When you wet out you use only epoxy/resin, no fillers etc.

You can begin wetting out by using a foam roller. Then even out the coverage with a plastic spreader. You can use a disposable brush for smaller/harder to reach areas.

Epoxy fillers & Underwater repairs How to Use Epoxy to Fill In Holes, Sealing Holes.

Bonding

This is a two step process of which wetting out is the 1st part. Once you have completed wetting out you can then begin adding fillers. The filler should make the mixture thick enough to fill the gap. By having a thicker epoxy you ensure that epoxy is in contact with all surfaces.

Once this is done move onto clamping. Moderately clamp the surfaces together so a small amount of epoxy is squeezed out. Too much pressure and you remove nescessary epoxy. Then remove any excess epoxy and wait for the chemical cure to occur.

Note: If you you are new to epoxy it's a good-idea to use epoxy on a test area before completinga full scale project. This will allow you to learn without the consequences of a full scale repair job.


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