Monday, August 2, 2010

Tools for Composite Building

Chapter 3 introduces the builder to a number of items that are needed to build with composites, provides an education on fiberglass techniques and the different terms and processes you will use, and walks you through some exercises to practice those techniques before you start on real parts.  First the tools and equipment.

1.  You will need a flat top workbench that is at least 11ft x 3ft.  The length is to support the lenght of a wing or canard when you perform the assembly and layups.  These are obviously parts that need to be built true, without twist or curve, so the top must be extremely flat.  I built mine to be 12 x 4 like many others.  I followed the recommendation of a few other builders and purchased I Level TJI Engineered Floor Joist to use as beams for the workbench. There happend to be a millwork place about an hour from me that carried them. They are very solid and will keep your bench from twisting. I used 4x4s for legs and installed levelers to aid in leveling the entire table. The biggest problem I had was getting the tops of the beams all lined up to make a flat top. One of the beams was not as flat at the others on top so I had to shim under it until I got the partical board I used on top nice and flat. I worked for a few hours but finally got the top within .1% of level no matter where I checked it. Then I placed masonite over the top to provide a clean surface that would be easy and cheap to replace when needed.

Epoxy pump and insulated
heated cabinet
2.  An epoxy pump will make your mixing much quicker and easier.  Like most builders, I also built a heated epoxy cabinet to keep the epoxy at a good working temperature.  I used an old shelf cabinet I already had, installed foam insulation inside, and outfitted it with a light for a heat source and a dimmer to make the temps adjustable.

3.  You also need to keep your fiberglass cloth from getting dust or any contaminant on it.  I used the same idea that other builders used and constructed a wall mounted cabinet that folds up from the bottom to protect the cloth.  It has two sections that unfold into an approx. 6ft cutting table. Although it works well, it's probably not the design I would use if I did it again as I've pinched my fingers twice now by holding it in the wrong place when I unfold it.  I've now marked the end of the table with "NO GRIP" markings to remind me to hold it on the sides when unfolding the table so the outside legs don't catch my fingers when they fall into position.

Glass cabinet closed to keep cloth clean

Glass cloth cabinet open for cutting

4. One other tool I'll need is a foam cutter.  Chapter 3 shows you how to make one but I've decided to wait on building it since I won't need it for a while anyway.

Chapter 3 gives you a full list of recommended tools, both hand tools and things like a band saw, table saw, and drill press which will make some things easier.  I purchased the tools package from Wicks Aircraft Supply as well as their special package of Cozy Girrls tools.


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