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Old 05-01-2012
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Making fiberglass panels

For purposes of making shelves and bulkheads out of solid glass, what is the recommended most cost effective method of fabricating glass panels, say 1/4 inch thick?

A friend of mine told me he uses a few layers of thick fiberglass mat with thin epoxy resin, sandwiched in between two pieces of plywood with some cinder blocks on top to get even pressure and some squeeze out. He uses wax paper as a "mold release" between the ply and the glass.

How good is this for making panels? Should some roving or else woven glass layers be incorporated between or on the outside of the mat? Can a mat only layup work with, say, polyester resin?

I'm just looking for the most time and cost effective method of fabricating stiff fiberglass panels. I may use them for structural support, or also to make a dockbox for my slip.

Google isn't being much help...
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Re: Making fiberglass panels

it's labor intensive given the fact you can buy .. possibly even cheaper then making them yourself. But if you insist, Vacuum bagging would be the best way, plywood encapsulated is best, there's foam core too. Thickness is more important then the covering. imho, I just feel the cost is and the benefit is low. Marine plywood alone is pretty reliable stuff by the way!
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Re: Making fiberglass panels

How big do you want your panels to be?
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Re: Making fiberglass panels

For quarter bulkheads, and for a dock box, so 4X4 will work
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Re: Making fiberglass panels

What Denise said.

Simply laying up thick masses of fiberglass is a bit crude. Wastes materials, adds dead weight, might be easy but there are so many better ways to do it.
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Re: Making fiberglass panels

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
What Denise said.

Simply laying up thick masses of fiberglass is a bit crude. Wastes materials, adds dead weight, might be easy but there are so many better ways to do it.
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vacuum is difficult to do on flat panels, and requires me to take apart an old refrigerator and figure out how to turn it into a vacuum... a simple how-to, or a link to a how-to would be so helpful as I've never laminated a non-cored glass panel before
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Re: Making fiberglass panels

"and requires me to take apart an old refrigerator and "
Ah, no, you can simply buy a vacuum pump. Either electric or manual, such as used to bleed brakes. Or a vacuum cleaner. There are plenty of web pages about DIY vacuum bagging.
You might start by checking the FAQs or calling support at West Systems and asking them the best way to go about those projects.
But if I needed a shelf...I'd either buy a shelf, or buy honeycomb or corrugated cardboard and skin it over, to keep down the dead weight.
Why use 1940's technology in 2012? Resin hasn't been cheap in decades.
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Re: Making fiberglass panels

Well, plywood is already a laminate, so just a covering of cloth (6oz) is most common would work. additional layers of glass really add weight and the plywood does most of the work. this link for building tanks is about the same as building a box. EPOXYWORKS Don't forget epoxy degrades in sun very quickly. so it will need protection on the outside.
This is about the same as building a dock box How to Build a Truck Tool Box | eHow.com
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Re: Making fiberglass panels

I've done this job several times for different purposes. IMO, ther are better ways to make a panel and solid glass ones should only be done for very specific reasons (e.g., constant immersion, high stress). A solid glass or epoxy panel is probably the most expensive, heavy way to go. As others have said, a marine ply panel that's epoxy encapsulated is faster, cheaper and easier to fabricate.

If you insist on a solid panel, the easiest way is to:
1. get a sheet of ply and cover w/ wax paper
2. Lay out a sheet of heavy roving 1" larger than needed on all edges
3. Wet the roving with epoxy enough to wet it, avoiding puddles, squeegee off the excess. less is better
4. let dry until tacky or hard. Full cure is not necessary.
5. repeat #2, #3, #4 until the desired thickness is attained
6. Pull the panel off the plywood and sand both sides until smooth
7. Mix epoxy with colloidal silica or other filler to form a paste and spread over indentations
8. Sand smooth
9. Trim the panel to size

Congratulations. The panel took forever to make, but will hold up. I made one (12" x 18") with this process for my anchor well because it's constantly wet in there.
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Re: Making fiberglass panels

My first question is why epoxy? In the situations described it would seem to be a needless expense. Blisters aren't likely to be a problem and secondary bonds aren't involved so why not use plain old polyester resin - it's a LOT cheaper.

Another choice for a "mould" is to use ply or particleboard that has a smooth arborite facing. If you wax it heavily to ensure separation of the moulded piece it will give you a nicely finished panel with one "perfect" side. You could even put gelcoat down first and end up with a pre-finished panel when the laminating is complete.

If a flat panel is all you want though, Denise is correct - why bother? Just buy some appropriately sized pre-made panel - I think it's called G10 down there.
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