Kia ora, People of FreeSK8.
Here is my tutorial for skinning a deck.
Health & safety
Epoxy, carbon fibre and other materials you might use doing this can be nasty if you don’t treat them right. Try not to eat, drink or breathe them or rub them on your body, as you will not have a good time.
[SERIOUS - take correct PPE and H&S precautions - get the right gear and use it always - safety first.]
I’m not going to tell you what those precautions should be - if you’re doing this sort of stuff you need to be smart enough to find out about it and make your own decisions on it. Take it seriously.
Method and results
There’s plenty of ways to skin a cat, so if you have a different or better method for this, please do share it! I am not an expert at this and learnt from a bunch of other muppets on the internet, who probably don’t know what they’re doing either… But it would be great to document the knowledge we do have within the community, so here we go.
Likewise, the results from the few times I have done this are pretty good, but not perfect. It’s DIY, and learning takes time so take it easy on yourself in terms of expectations.
What you will need:
I used a Loaded Tesseract that I had previously chopped the front off, cause I liked the looked of the cantellated version.
I bought some polyester fabric from AliExpress, which had a nice bright colour and a pattern.
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Smooth fabrics, without loose fibres, seem the best. I think satin type fabrics are probably ideal.
Cotton and linen and those types of fibrous fabrics will be tough, as the fibres tend to lift in the wet epoxy and, because of that, are they are hard to get a good finish with.
Carbon fibre fabrics are pretty good to work with also and there’s a range of colours and patterns etc. Basic 200gsm twill weave can conform reasonably well to curved shapes but heavier than that (and other weaves) are harder to work with.
If you buy CF fabric from AliExpress, make sure you get it on a roll, not folded. Folds from postage will damage the fabric and not be able to be removed.
I have only used West System 105/207.
It’s not the cheapest. But it’s pretty good.
The 207 is a slow hardener and has some UV resistance (if you believe it) but is also anti blushing / suited for damp environments (my garage temperature and humidity can be all over the show, so I figure this maybe a good choice).
I’m keen to try some bar top epoxy for this, to see if it is less prone to air bubbles.
There’s a range of miscellaneous consumables which are needed.
Mixing (and measuring) containers for epoxy (if you don’t use pumps)
Brushes / spreaders
Finishing sandpaper (wet dry mixed grit range)
Plastic drop cloth
It takes lots of time; make your own estimates…?
Fabric apply and cure
Sanding for finish
Sand, clean, inlay cables, epoxy fill wire channels, adjust concave?
Sand the deck to remove all paint, 120grit or 180grit is what I used. Back to bare wood is best.
Clean the surface, because epoxy might not stick well if there is any contaminants on the deck.
On the underside of this deck, I half assed this prep. and there is a small area under the CF skin with poor adhesion, because of it. Pretty hard (nearly impossible) to fix afterwards and after all of the total time spent, it’s a shame that a bit more work at the start would have avoided that. Lesson learnt.
After sanding, I gave it a wipe with acetone on a clean rag.
I also routed a channel in the top with a dremel, installed 12ga phase wires and some extended sensor wires and then filled the holes around the wires with hot glue and carefully poured resin into the channel to lock them in place.
Covering over the wires was a bit of a mission as the channel wasn’t really deep enough. So, I used some colloidal silica to thicken more epoxy and built up a few layers over that area. After curing and lots of sanding this was fine, and also gave a little bit more w concave. Good
Undercoat deck - tint for colour
I undercoated the deck with white pigmented epoxy because I was using a bright coloured fabric. The white undercoat helps the colours in the fabric to look bright.
If you are using CF fabric, use a black pigment, to help hide any gaps in the fabric where you might otherwise see through to the deck.
I used the same 105/207 epoxy because it’s all I had. Took me a few thin coats to get good even colour coverage with sanding in between to try and get the surface back to being smooth. I spent a good amount of time sanding here, to make up for my crappy job filling the wire channels earlier. It all worked out fine but was a bit tiresome.
After the pigmented basecoat is dry, sand it a bit with 180grit paper to give a key for your clear epoxy tack coat. Dust off and wipe clean as you will be laying epoxy onto this next.
Clear epoxy tack coat
Mix and apply a coat of clear epoxy onto the deck, where you will be applying fabric.
Be careful near bolt holes, inserts and the edges. Holes can be blocked to prevent epoxy running through if needed.
It’s best if this coat is thin, because runs and pooling might be visible through the fabric and mess up your finish, so take it easy and be careful when you’re applying it. On the Tesseract, the concave made some of the earlier pigment coats (which I applied too heavily) run - so be aware of that. Remove any stray bristles that might fall out. Don’t apply too much epoxy, and try to spread it thinly. I used a brush. Heat can help to make the epoxy flow on better and also burst air bubbles, so a heat gun can be useful here.
After this clear coat is on, leave it for a few hours until it is tacky to the touch. Test with a gloved finger. Should stick to the glove but leave no residue on it. You want it to be like tacky glue, but not soaking into the fabric. Onto this surface you will apply the fabric, so try to keep it clean and free of dust etc.
Time until tacky will vary depending on your resin system and ambient temperature. For this board, I think it was about 4 hours or 5 hours until it was tacky - time is critical though, so keep an eye on it so it doesn’t go too far.
When the epoxy tack is just right, carefully lay out the fabric onto the deck, and press it onto the tacky epoxy surface.
With clean gloves, I started from the middle and carefully placed the fabric onto the deck lining it up and pressing it onto the tacky surface. The epoxy did soak into the fabric on this a bit, and I wasn’t sure if that would be an issue, because it looked kinda uneven but it didn’t end up being an issue.
Work from the middle outwards. Avoid wrinkles. You kinda get one shot at this, so don’t mess it up.
Fabric is maybe a little bit easier to learn with than loose weave CF twill, which can distort easily and needs a little more care. That flexibility and distortion also allows it to be stretched to curved shapes (which fabric may not do so well) but once CF twill hits the tacky deck my experience is that it can’t really be moved.
Once it is all on, and in place, I pressed the fabric down a bit and then put it in a clean vac bag, sealed it up and let it cure under vacuum overnight.
You don’t have to vac bag it, but I have the setup there and thought it might help make sure the fabric is well adhered.
Epoxy top coats
After the tack coat is cured and fabric locked onto the deck surface, I covered the fabric with two of three coats of epoxy resin, applied by brush.
Avoiding air bubbles, paint brush bristles and dust in the finish is the hardest part here, and I am no expert in any of those. The more that I have done, the better I am getting at it, so any great ideas please let me know.
- Clean dust free work area
- Stir epoxy slowly
- Let bubbles rise in pot before brushing
- Pour epoxy to another pot to remove some bubbles, through hole in base of cup.
- Heat gun to pop bubbles (while curing)
- Lock wife out of garage so the she doesn’t go in and stir everything up, dropping dust onto your half cured epoxy.
Removing excess fabric
On this deck, I used a sharp blade to cut a smooth line around the edge of the deck when the last epoxy top coat was almost cured.
At that stage, the epoxy has stiffened up the fabric a bit, so it was super easy to slice through and then carefully remove. But not fully cured where it would be too tough to cut through.
Other options here are waiting until it’s fully cured and hitting it with a file (like you may for grip tape) but you will then need to do some finishing (sanding/painting?) on the edges of the deck (and I had previously carbon wrapped this one and didn’t want to mess that up).
Clear coat finish
If you just want a smooth finish, you can leave it at that (if it’s good enough). Or keep going - you have come this far…
You can wet sand your epoxy finish to your hearts content so it’s as smooth and glossy as you like.
When you wet sand, suggest to add some dishwashing liquid in the water. When you change up to the next grit, change the water also.
Then either buff or polish it to finish, or buy a can of clear coat spray paint and follow the instructions.
If you clear spray, you can get 2 pack cans (Dulux 2k clear) which is good and tough finish but expensive. The 2 pack paint is pretty nasty so wear ALL of the gear and do it outside.
Different deck, but this is a Dulux 2k spray on finish on CF skin
I used medium clear glass frit, and then more epoxy to lock it in place.
After Cutting off the excess fabric, I think I did another layer of epoxy and then applied frit, with my high tech fritshaker (paper cup with in paper top and holes poked in it) , then did three(?) more topcoats of epoxy.
I applied each coat onto the previous one as it gelled. To speed up this process, I had the garage heater cranked and the board in a rack above a heater also, so that the epoxy kicked faster and I had less waiting time. I had my usual issues with air bubbles in the epoxy here. Slow stirring, careful brushing. Thinner is better. As it’s curing, hit bubbles with a heat gun but keep it moving - just want bubbles to burst rather than cook it.
Wow, what a long post.
If anyone has read all of this I’ll be amazed.
I hope it is helpful for someone.
Time for a beer