|Dry fitting a 12 foot long piece of fiberglass cloth.|
We were once again working mostly at night because of timing and temperature issues for the first piece. We did a process similar to our first large piece of fabric. My wife would make up 16 ounce batches of resin, I would roll part of it out on the top, then roll the fabric over the wet area and finally use the remaining resin to wet out the top of the fabric. We would then roll and work the fabric to make sure the resin was penetrating the thick fabric. When the next batch of resin was mixed, we would roll the fabric back a bit so I could wet the bottom of the next section and continue the process.
Trying to do the best work we can, it takes us about 4 hours to apply, wet out, and roll a 12 foot long swath of this fabric. I think things would go faster with a 3rd person so one would mix up resin, another could apply the resin and wet out the fabric, and the third would work the fabric with the fiberglass roller and squeegee. I tried getting the dogs to help out, but they keep objecting due to the lack of opposable thumbs. I think they are just smart enough to know better.
|Doesn't it look pretty at night.|
As you might guess, the problem with working at night is the light. We have a couple work lights (a 500 watt construction work light and a clip-on LED light that we can attach to the canopy right above the top) but, as it turns out, this just isn't enough light. By having only one or two point sources of light, it is nearly impossible to see bubbles and dry spots inside the fabric layer. We did the best we could and everything looked great as best we could tell when we were done (do I know how to spend a Friday night or not...heh). It wasn't until the next morning that we discovered some issues in the layup.
The first issue was that there were dry spots in the layup. The dry spots seemed to occur in a line, and I believe it was caused by the dry roll of fiberglass. When we would roll the fiberglass back so I could apply more resin to the top, the roll would soak up some resin while sitting on the wet edge. Then once we rolled it on, we didn't see that some resin was sucked out the area. The second issue were a few bubbles that we both swore weren't there the night before. Fortunately, repairing fiberglass isn't difficult.
When we did the second long sheet of fiberglass, we started a bit earlier and so we had the advantage of daylight for much of the process. I paid particular attention to the spots where we stopped the roll, making sure to use the fiberglass roller to rebed the glass in those areas. The result was much better that time.
|Grinding down bad spots in the second layer layup.|
After things cured some, I went back to the first piece and ground down the bad spots with a die grinder fitted with an abrasive sanding wheel. After smoothing the edges of the ground down spots, I cut patches of cloth that overlapped the ground down areas and applied them to the spots. As of this morning, they are looking much better. Unfortunately, it does make a bit more work to smooth out the top surface.
|Cut out repair patches.|
So, the top now has a minimum of two layers of fiberglass across the top side, with three layers along the back edge and the mounting flange, and up to four layers where the sheets of fiberglass overlap. The next task is to smooth things out as best we can on the top side. Since we will be applying nonskid across most of this surface and the thickened gel coat we will use will easily hide most of the minor smoothness imperfections (like wall texture does in a house), it shouldn't be too difficult. The hardest part will be reaching the center of the top (until we get a layer or two of fiberglass on the other side of the foam as it still can't support a lot of weight the way it is now) to smooth things out. I'm thinking a drywall pole sander may be my best bet. I might use a thin layer of resin to help smooth things out as well.
|Top side patched and ready to be smoothed out.|
I am not looking forward to sanding this stuff down as fiberglass dust is the equivalent of itching powder. Then I need to come up with a plan to disassemble the canopy and tarps and figure out how to remove the top from the mold and flip it over so we can start applying glass to the other side. There is always something new to figure out with this project. But it is starting to really look like a bimini top for the boat and even gets compliments from those who stop by to see the project. Hopefully that will be the case when this project is done.