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Old 01-14-2017, 12:40 PM   #1
stripperguy
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Carbon Copy

Some of you here may remember the thread I ran when I built my "Kite". That was a 14' 6" J Winters designed solo open canoe, for combined whitewater and flatwater use. It was cedar strip built, with glass inside and out.
While I was (and still am) very satisfied with the performance of the hull, at 39 lbs, it's just too heavy for me.



So why not use my Kite as a plug, and make a lighter weight version?

Back in October of 2015, Soller Composites put their 5.9 oz 50" carbon fiber cloth on sale, for a little less than $20/yd. That's actually less than I would spend on cedar, so I bought a bunch. Well, that stuff hung around the shop, until I had some time to put it to use recently.

The plan:
Use my Kite as a plug to build a lighter weight version
Coat the Kite with mold release
Cover the Kite with 2 full layers of carbon and 2 full layers of 6 oz fiberglass, all saturated in epoxy resin.
Add gunnels, thwarts, and a seat to the carbon copy.
Carry, paddle, repeat as necessary.
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Old 01-14-2017, 12:57 PM   #2
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The first step would be to buy some mold release, a gallon of PVA from Fiberglast Industries. Oh, and make sure the mold release will actually work the way I expect it to.

So I dug around in the boat shop and found a left over bulkhead, that had been previously stripped, sanded and glassed on both sides.
I applied 2 coats of PVA to the panel, using a brush.
A day after the PVA was dry, I prepared to make a test patch, using the same lamination schedule that I plan for the carbon copy.

Here is the test patch on the leftover bulkhead.



It had the 2 full layers of 5.9 oz carbon, and 2 full layers of 6 oz E-glass, wet out with RAKA epoxy resin. I think it measured around 3.5 inch x 6 inch.

I haven't worked with carbon much, so I was surprised that it was so difficult to see when the carbon was completely wetted out. Even so, the little test patch was done in a few minutes.

The next day, I peeled the test patch off of the leftover bulkhead, so far, so good. The test patch was tack free, but clearly the resin was not fully cured. That little test patch was very flexible, like a bendy tiger. But at least the PVA mold release did its job. Can you imagine if I got a carbon copy permanently stuck to the outside of my canoe!?

After a few more days, I noticed that the test patch really stiffened up.
So then my head starts racing...this can really work! I weighed the little test patch, determined its weight/sq in, and got even more excited! Granted, I did not fill the weave of the cloth, but if I applied a similar amount of cloth and resin to the entire carbon copy, the bare hull might weigh as little as 14.5 lbs!!
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Old 01-14-2017, 04:50 PM   #3
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Time to get real!
Here's most of the supplies required, the PVA, the carbon fiber cloth, fiberglass cloth.



I put 3 coats of PVA mold release on the kite, not wanting to take any chances of wrecking 2 boats at once.
At this point, the kite is just resting on a couple of sawhorses.
Next I draped 2 full layers of the carbon fiber cloth over the hull.



You can probably see the potential problem already.
I'm already going to have an issue with the gunnels getting in the way.
And with the Kite on sawhorses, there's no way possible to get the carbon to stay close to the gunnels.

So I decided to make a quick and dirty strongback out of some leftover 2 x 10, and use a couple of temporarily clamped forms to hold the Kite.
Other than being a little too tall, holding the Kite on forms on a strongback works much better than having the boat dance around on sawhorses.

Later, I hope, I can use those same forms to hold the carbon copy shell.

Did I mention that I plan to leave the stems open, so I can stretch the carbon copy enough over the "crease" to get it free from its parent?

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Old 01-14-2017, 11:14 PM   #4
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Did I mention that I plan to leave the stems open, so I can stretch the carbon copy enough over the "crease" to get it free from its parent?
Nice touch (on suspense), that was the first question I had when opening this thread...

Are you planning to air dry it or vacuum bag the composite mold? (assuming you plan to layup all four layers at once vs one at a time to minimize / avoid potential air bubbles / delamination problems in the future)

You certainly have (at least) one interested follower for this thread, having never attempted anything of this scale before - very interested in your technique and results.

Thanks for taking the time to share!
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Old 01-15-2017, 09:04 AM   #5
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Nice touch (on suspense), that was the first question I had when opening this thread...

Are you planning to air dry it or vacuum bag the composite mold? (assuming you plan to layup all four layers at once vs one at a time to minimize / avoid potential air bubbles / delamination problems in the future)

You certainly have (at least) one interested follower for this thread, having never attempted anything of this scale before - very interested in your technique and results.

Thanks for taking the time to share!
My initial thought was to wet out all 4 layers at once, but after doing the little test patch, I think I will wet out the carbon first, then do the glass.

I must confess, I am controlling history here, much more has been done than I have exposed so far. So return to yours seats and buckle up, there's a bumpy ride ahead!!


As far as air bubbles and future delamination, I'm not concerned in the least.
After wetting out with a roller, I squeegee all of the cloth to remove excess resin and eliminate any entrained air. The epoxy I'm using is reputed to cross link between successive layers as long as the time between layers is not more than 3 days. In my experience with this particular resin (over 15 years now) I have never had a delamination issue. Even when repairing damaged sections after years of abuse and subsequent abuse, nothing has ever refused to stay bonded.

Now a quick (or maybe not) word about the potential removal of the shell from the Kite, henceforth called the plug.
This particular hull has a pronounced "crease" where the hull flare transitions to an abrupt tumblehome. This crease allows easier paddling, and also add considerable stiffness to the hull. So much so, that it barely needs any thwarts. While I love the performance and aesthetic aspects of this crease, I can see where it will cause quite a challenge in making the carbon copy. The gunnel width is roughly 8 inches less than the maximum beam...the carbon copy will need to be stretched considerably to free it from the plug.
To help, or actually to enable, this stretch, I'll leave the stems open, only sealing them up after removing the copy from the plug.
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Old 01-15-2017, 09:13 AM   #6
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So here's the plug mounted on the forms on the quick and dirty strongback.
You can see I've draped the 2 layers of carbon cloth, but not trimmed the excess yet. Under that cloth, and on top of the plug, is 3 coats of PVA. I hope it's enough!



Next, here's a view of the open stem. I've cut back the carbon to where it starts to deviate from the keel line, and slid a couple layers of wax paper in there to keep the sides separated.



The carbon cloth is quite stiff, and I'm really concerned if it will conform to the entire profile of the plug.
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Old 01-15-2017, 11:57 AM   #7
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I'll be very interested to see how the process works. I think it's a little more technical complexity than I would dare to undertake, but it seems like a really good idea for someone brave enough to try it. I have a few questions whose answers probably should be obvious but I haven't been able to figure them out. Will both fiberglass layers be on the outside or will there be one in and one out like on a strip canoe, and how will you keep the shell from sagging once you get it off the mold and before it gets fully cured and hardens?
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Old 01-15-2017, 01:09 PM   #8
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Zach,
I've been expecting you!!
Yes, both layers of the 6 oz fiberglass will be on the outside, mainly for 2 reasons.
The glass is much more abrasion resistant than the carbon...think of the carbon as pencil lead, it is almost that easily abraded.
Secondly, most of the loads the hull will see will come from the outside. This puts the outer skin in compression, and the inner skin into tension. Carbon fiber has excellent strength in tension. This 3K carbon fiber cloth is rated at a tensile yield strength of 640 Kpsi, compare that to mild steel at about 30 Kpsi. Some high strength steel alloys reach 200 Kpsi. Also, the carbon fiber has a modulus in excess of 30 million psi, roughly the same as any steel or steel alloy. The modulus is the relation of stress to strain, most folks interpret it as "stiffness".

As far as preventing sagging, I plan to place the nubile shell on a handful of the original forms, once I remove it from the plug. How many forms will I need? Dunno yet, but I have a full complement if need be. That little test patch was pretty springy, but it did maintain its shape, even when flexed nearly into a U shape, it still sprung back flat!
So I'm not too concerned about maintaining the below the waterline profiles, but I do have concerns about replicating the profiles in the crease and sheer line.

Lastly, I don't know if I would consider myself "brave". Blissfully ignorant, I would say. I don't know enough to be frightened!
But then, I have always been a "go big or go home!" kind of guy.
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Old 01-15-2017, 06:28 PM   #9
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Let's see, where was I? Oh yeah, time to wet out the carbon fiber.
I initially mixed 12 oz of RAKA epoxy, using their 127 thin resin and the 608 medium hardener. I'm using a 4 inch foam roller and a fresh plastic roller tray liner.
I'm working alone in my basement, which is fairly cool. So, hopefully, I'll have plenty of time to work without needing to rush.

Well, It's a good thing the epoxy is slow, as I needed about 1 1/2 hours to wet out the hull. Remember, this is just the 2 layers of carbon fiber cloth. It's darn near impossible to see when the carbon is fully wetted, and it doesn't like to be rushed. Once I had most of the shell wetted out (I think), I wrapped around underneath to do the crease, and sheer line. The plug (my Kite canoe) has the carbon fiber over foam gunnels, so these are in the way as it is.
Yup, it was just the nightmare I was fearing that it would be!!The carbon really didn't like that sharp crease, and it refused to adhere to the hull until it was thoroughly wetted for a long distance along the sheer line. My roller had trouble to tuck the cloth into the crease/sheer joint. Also, the roller constantly peeled the cloth up as I tried to stick the carbon along the crease and sheer. Eventually, I realized that I needed to roll up and down, very gently, rather than along the length of the hull.
Giving up hope of using the roller, I switched to a squeegee. I needed to squeegee the entire hull anyway, to remove any entrained air from the epoxy and to get the cloth to better conform to the plug. When I got around to the crease while using the squeegee, it actually worked much better than the roller.
Phew, it was a long 1 1/2 hours, and I likely stained my basement floor with all the palm sweat! I used a total of 40 ounces of epoxy when all was said and done.

Hopefully, I'll end up with a very lightweight, durable hull...hopefully.

Here's a look at the fully wetted out hull.




And here's a look at that troublesome crease/sheer line.


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Old 01-15-2017, 09:28 PM   #10
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That tumblehome looks like tough sledding but I'm glad it worked out in the end. I've experienced the problem of the roller bringing the cloth up with it as it rolls away, but that was with fiberglass on wood so it was just due to my bad technique and it didn't happen too much. It must be scary when it happens frequently and you're doing the whole hull at once. Will you have to wet out the two layers of fiberglass separately or can you do them both at once? Is that the basement of the new house you were going to build? I'll be interested to see what happens next.
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Old 01-16-2017, 08:19 AM   #11
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That tumblehome looks like tough sledding but I'm glad it worked out in the end. I've experienced the problem of the roller bringing the cloth up with it as it rolls away, but that was with fiberglass on wood so it was just due to my bad technique and it didn't happen too much. It must be scary when it happens frequently and you're doing the whole hull at once. Will you have to wet out the two layers of fiberglass separately or can you do them both at once? Is that the basement of the new house you were going to build? I'll be interested to see what happens next.
Zach
Zach,
No, that's the basement beneath the addition for my dearly departed FIL. We're still here, prepping our house for sale in between apartment rehabs and side projects. We need to sell this house before we build the new one.
There are drawbacks to showing little income on a tax return...

So you ask about the next 2 layers of fiberglass cloth.
Here goes.
As I had mentioned upthread, the RAKA epoxy is able to crosslink successive layers as long as the time between them is not excessive. Also, the clock is ticking on the carbon wet out, I don't want a full cure before I attempt to pry the shell off of the plug.

I draped both layers of 6 oz cloth, and wetted out both at once. I was expecting a cake walk, after all, I've been working glass and epoxy for a long time. Well, I still need to learn to manage my expectations!! Once again, I was surprised at how long it took to wet through both layers of cloth. But at least the glass conforms more readily to the carbon. This took another 40 or so ounces of epoxy and 2 hours to finish.

Here is the draped and partially trimmed glass.



And here it is part way through the wet out.



Lastly, here's a look at that pesky crease/sheer line. You can see that most of the crease has been replicated, but the sheer line (and site of the future gunnels) doesn't look so nice. I'll need to figure a way to make lemonade from the sheer line. Also, the crease is more fully replicated near the center of the hull, and less so as you approach the stems. My hope is that when I trim it all out, it will look as if that's part of the design.
Sooner than later, I need to pry the shell off of the plug. I hope!

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Old 01-16-2017, 03:16 PM   #12
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Neat!
Any chance of some video?
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Old 01-16-2017, 06:35 PM   #13
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OK, time to pop the shell off of the plug...drum roll please!
I expected that the poorly replicated sheer line and crease would peel away from the plug effortlessly. Ha! It barely moved when I tugged on it. Alright, I'll admit that my grip strength hasn't fully rebounded since the carpal tunnel surgeries a month ago, but c'mon. I eventually discovered that the areas nearest the open stems were easiest to begin with. I accidentally peeled too far and started to delaminate some of the glass. Duly noted, I proceeded with more caution. I gradually managed to get most of the sheer line free, but the thought of the entire shell getting stuck was moving from nightmare to reality.

Uhmmm, I then decided to use something soft, that I could wedge in between the shell and the plug. So I went out to the boat shop, and retrieved an ever present left over cedar strip. A quick minute on the belt sander gave me a suitable soft chisel.



I spent the next 40 minutes alternately hammering in the soft chisel and prying it free. I now had the shell loose up to the bilge. Next, I very carefully used my gloved, aching hand and a wonder bar to loosen the shell all the way to the waterline. By now, I could creep both gloved hands up into the space between.

I do have a short video, let's see if I can link it.

Click here for video

My buddy hickoryskier dropped by, and helped me to lift the shell off of the plug, lift the plug off of the forms, then place the shell on the forms to keep it from sagging.

Oh, I also weighed the shell. Remember way back in the beginning of this thread, I had hopes of the shell weighing 14.5 lbs at this point? Well, it doesn't. It weighs 16.6 lbs. At least I don't have to throw it away. And even though it was pretty tough to get it to pop free, it did come off without any damage to the shell or plug.

Phew!

The rest will be relatively easy...trim back the stems, add carbon and glass to close up the stems. Add some epoxy fill coats to the outside, flip it over and add gunnels, thwarts and a seat. Maybe, maybe add some sort of bulkheads, but no decks. The shell right now is still a little flexible, but the crease is the crease, there's no altering it now. It's that stiff. If the shell proves too flexible once I can test paddle it, it will be a simple matter to add some reinforcement to the inside.

I have about 6 hours invested so far. All of the hard stuff is out of the way. Once I seal up the stems, I'll drag the carbon copy out to the boat shop to trim the sheer line. I don't want to make too much of a mess in the basement.
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Old 01-16-2017, 07:17 PM   #14
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Cool video!
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Old 01-17-2017, 01:02 PM   #15
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Thanks for the updates. The video was very suspenseful with all of the scary noises as the hulls separated, I'm glad it all came off in one piece and I hope that all that work didn't set back your surgery recovery. It's amazing how fast it took shape, I've been used to strip canoe builds where the process is so much slower.
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Old 01-17-2017, 04:42 PM   #16
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Brave soul wetting out two layers at once.
How long did you let the carbon cure before releasing from the plug? (~48 hrs? a day for carbon and a day for glass)

Looking really good from the pics, and 17 lbs sounds pretty good for the full hull with sealed stems.

Hindsight being 20/20, do you think it's possible to glass the plug first then lay the carbon from inside once glass hull is off the plug and fully cured? Would the glass even be stiff enough to release before fully cured? I'm thinking it'd be easier to conform the glass to the hard edges/contours (but probably wouldn't be any less work/time)

I admire you skill set of working with composites!
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Old 01-17-2017, 08:25 PM   #17
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Thanks for the updates. The video was very suspenseful with all of the scary noises as the hulls separated, I'm glad it all came off in one piece and I hope that all that work didn't set back your surgery recovery. It's amazing how fast it took shape, I've been used to strip canoe builds where the process is so much slower.
Zach
Zach,
The hands are recovering well, but I have yet to get all of my grip strength back. Also, there are certain finger/palm/wrist orientations that are not yet possible.
My son Josh stopped by, and when he studied my results, and heard the total time invested, he asked when can we build a carbon version of his favorite hull, my 17 footer. He's been around all sorts of builds for all of his life, and this method really impressed him!
And the scary noises? The ones on the video were nothing compared to earlier in the release. I stopped a few times and peered in the gap with a flashlight, convinced that something must be wrong.

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Brave soul wetting out two layers at once.
How long did you let the carbon cure before releasing from the plug? (~48 hrs? a day for carbon and a day for glass)

Looking really good from the pics, and 17 lbs sounds pretty good for the full hull with sealed stems.

Hindsight being 20/20, do you think it's possible to glass the plug first then lay the carbon from inside once glass hull is off the plug and fully cured? Would the glass even be stiff enough to release before fully cured? I'm thinking it'd be easier to conform the glass to the hard edges/contours (but probably wouldn't be any less work/time)

I admire you skill set of working with composites!
timberghost,
I've wetted out multiple layers many, many times. But it's been quite a while since I've used 6 oz E-glass. And of course, I've barely worked with carbon before, maybe a different weave would be easier to handle. I did use some bias woven carbon tape, and it was supple and very easy to wrap into tight corners.
I'm very happy with the weight, I should be able to keep the complete boat down around 25 lbs!

I hadn't considered any partial layup on the plug, with additional layers applied after removal. The glass would certainly have conformed fully to the crease/sheer.
And wetting out the carbon from the inside would have the advantage of being able to definitely leave the weave exposed for better footing/traction.
I tried to use some clothespins to hold the carbon in place at the sheer, but the gunnels on my plug prevented that, and I don't have the required army of spring clamps. Had I done the layup as you asked, I could have used those clothespins to force the carbon to conform to the glass. I'll have to keep that in mind for the next composite build.
I may end up using a variation of that method anyway, depending on whether or not I'll need any additional layers to stiffen sections of the hull.
The only negative I could foresee is that it's much, much easier to work on the outside of the hull, rather than armpit deep on the inside.

How long did everything cure before I popped the shell off of the plug? Let's see, I wet out the carbon on Thursday evening, finishing around 7:30 PM. I draped the glass the next morning, and finished that wet out by noon on Friday. I popped the shell free Saturday morning when hickoryskier stopped by around 11:00 AM. I would not have wanted to wait much longer. If my basement were warmer, the time schedule that I used would have been too long. This particular hull, while surprisingly easy to strip, is assuredly not the best choice for this sort of shell/plug effort.

I suppose if I had looked far enough ahead, I would have built the cedar strip Kite up to the point of glassing the outside only. And I would have allowed some extra height on the sheer. That way, I would not have any gunnels to get in the way, and the extra sheer height might help the carbon remain stuck in the crease sections. But I guess that hindsight would have been 20/10!

And I must mention, I'm posting this build not for any sort of recognition.
I specifically detail these efforts to help others that may consider the same sort of build. And, as it happens in this case, I have gained some insight as well, so that my next build (and maybe someone else's first build) will be better than this one.
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Old 01-25-2017, 08:44 AM   #18
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I've been wondering what happened next and if the hull stayed in shape after being placed on the forms. It looks very exciting so far.
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Old 01-25-2017, 03:45 PM   #19
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I've been wondering what happened next and if the hull stayed in shape after being placed on the forms. It looks very exciting so far.
Zach
Zach,
Thanks for asking. There was a delay in my efforts as I was away in Virginia Beach delivering a Harley that I rebuilt.
But the hull has maintained its shape nicely on just 3 forms, no sagging at all!!



Just before I left, I managed to get one stem partially closed with carbon fiber. It will need some foam epoxied in place to better shape it, same for the bow, carbon, foam, more carbon. And then I can add some glass and Dynel to the stems, and apply a couple of fill coats. I have about 3 months before I plan to use the carbon copy, and the challenging part, IMHO, is behind me, so I'll relax as I continue to finish up.
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Old 01-26-2017, 05:05 PM   #20
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OK,
I made a little progress on the carbon copy.
Just before I left for Va, I had trimmed the stems back, and closed the one stem using some carbon scraps cut on a 45 degree bias.

Here's a look at that stem



I wasn't at all pleased with the results...the stem on this hull is designed to be rather blunt, but this was looking like an anvil!!
So I decided to epoxy on some foam to provide some material to form a better profile. Had to shave and hollow some parts of a foam filler piece to fit the changing (erratic is more like it) cross sectional profile.

I toyed with the idea of treating the other stem the same, carbon fiber closure first, then foam, but thought better of it. I added some foam to the other stem too.
After the epoxy (with added Cabosil) cures, I'll shape both ends to a pleasing profile and add more carbon fiber, and glass. The one stem will have a carbon sandwich, the other end I'll need to add a layer of carbon on the inside, to also have a carbon sandwich.

Here's how the stems look now, ugly for the moment, but easily shaped later.





Other end




And an overall view


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