Monday, March 19, 2018

Less Fiberglass, More Upholstery

Dateline - 03/18/2018 - I just realized I've not posted in awhile, so a quick catch up.  I've finished all the fiberglass work! Yah!  I still have to do the carbon fiber layup for the center console, but I will not do that until everything else is done.

I've moved into serious upholstery work now.  I'm about 98% completed the center console, which was a real chore.  Lots of little stitching and weird angles. I still have a few wrinkles to get out, but it's really close.

The covers for all three armrests are sewn.  All I need to do now is glue them on.

The right had door panel is getting close.  I created the center insert panel out of pressed board. It attaches to the door via four screws that mount into metal brackets.  This post ( covers how I did this for the front doors.  Same process for the back.   It will be covered with carbon fiber sprayed with clear lacquer. 

I also created the metal piece that the upholstery attaches to that keeps the correct shape for the door handle.  Because of the difficulty in trying to sew the door handle insert into the larger piece of vinyl that covers the entire door panel, I created a separate insert that is glued in, and then cut a hole in the large vinyl piece and use the metal bracket to keep the shape correct.  The insert is sewn and installed.

I've sewn the large piece that covers the door panel.  This was tricky because the upper part, which is in Burgundy color needed special attention to deal with the little raised part in the back that covers the bottom of the back quarter-light.  I made this harder on myself then I should have, but It is what it is.  I always enjoy a challenge!  I still have to say that Basting tape is a God-send!  I'm still amazed I was able to do the work I did without it and have it be as good quality as it is!

I have also completed sewing the material for the right hand door handle, but have not glued it into place yet.

So, what is left:

  • Glue the vinyl on the right hand door handle.
  • Glue the vinyl on the right hand door panel
  • Finish right hand carbon fiber insert
  • Glue the vinyl on the three arm rest pads
  • Work to fill some low spots on the left hand door handle
  • Create door handle opening bracket
  • Create left door carbon fiber insert
  • Cut, sew and attach upholstery for left door panel and door handle
  • Carve foam center console buck for carbon fiber layup
  • Layup carbon fiber
  • Lacquer clear coat the window switch holders, reading light switch holder and door inserts
  • Install everything
So, still a significant list.  But I just keep hacking away at it and soon it will be done!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Great Progress on Doors and Center Console

Dateline 2/17/2018 - Still working on the door panels, but made great progress.  I now have the mounts for both panels attached to the doors.  These are metal brackets with blind nuts welded to them.  These are used to secure the door handles, but do a good job of holding the door card on too.  On the front doors, I welded them to the door, but after taking the door cards off my 2000 Astro van to replace a window regulator, I saw the GM uses really big pop rivets, so I did the same this time.  Much easier to do and I didn't have to worry about throwing hot metal into my new interior!

Fabricated metal brackets with blind nuts riveted to door. (Note, missing two rivets because I ran out!)
To hold the door handles on, I used a piece of "L" stock as well as a metal plate that go inside of the handle.  After sandblasting and painting the parts, I test fit everything on the door and using 6 minute epoxy thinned with Acetone, I impregnated small pieces of fiberglass fabric and used them to hold adhere the metal parts to the fiberglass door handle.  I later put in a layer of 10 lb fiberglass using my regular resin/hardener firmly secure the pieces into place.
L bracket and metal plate before mounting in armrest
Metal plate after mounting

I also did some more form shaping and fiber glassing.  Last weekend I joined the two halves of the center console and fiber glassed them, making a small glove box that will be under the armrest.  This weekend I finished sanding and shaping the center console.

I also shaped and sanded the both arm rest pads and the center console armrest pad.  The center console pad has a wood inset at the base to give a place to screw the hing into. There is a corresponding wood piece into the console.

Finally, I fiber glassed one of the door arm rests.  I used my vacuum bagging tools for this.  Came out pretty well with just a little sanding needed.

Center Console, armrest and left & right door armrests. The left one is fiber glassed
Bottom of center armrest showing wood insert for hing mounting
Center console with armrest on top
At this point, the center console is ready for upholstery.  The door panels are almost ready.  I still have to made the carbon fiber inset attachments and shape the carbon fiber panels.  This will probably take a weekend to complete, but once done, I will be ready to move into upholstery work.

To be honest, I'm getting pretty anxious to be done with these doors and center console.  It was one thing when I was doing this the first time for the front doors because there was so much to do on the car that it was just another thing to get done.  Now that the car drive-able and practically complete, and I've done a set of door panels already, I'm getting to the point that it just needs to be done! I can see why so many driving projects never get done.  I need to focus!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Door Panels are a Lot of Work!

Dateline - 02/10/2018 - I think I forgot how much work it was creating door panels!  I'm making progress, but everything is a one-off and just takes a lot of time!

This weekend I joined the two sides of the center console and fiber glassed them together.  I have a bit more sanding to do, but it should be ready for upholstery soon.

I also worked on mounting the passenger side rear door panel.  I had to create the mounting brackets out of mild steel, which required making templates, cutting, bending, weld blind nuts, sandblasting, painting and mounting to the doors.  I got as far as welding the blind nuts. 

The other half of this is the door handle which requires a metal stiffener that is epoxied into the handle.  This stiffener is what the bolts go through to fasten the handle to the door.  It requires a lot of fitting and things have to line up perfect.  So I can't finish those until I get the mounts fastened to the doors.

Once I get the door panels to mount correctly, I have to work on the framework that holds the center carbon fiber piece.  After that, I can do the upholstery work.

There is still more fiberglass work to do with the armrests for the center console and both door panels.  I also have the do the carbon fiber top for the center console. I'm trying to get all of this done so that I can take the car to the paint shop, get the color corrected, then drive the car!  Must keep focused.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Up to my A.. in Fiberglass

Dateline 01/27/2018 - Still working in fiberglass!  Last weekend I glassed the center console pieces and sanded out the bubbles in one of the door panels.  This weekend, I sanded out the bubbles in the other door panel and the center console pieces, then I patched all the holes with more fiberglass. 

I also sanded the three switch holders and put a new coat of resin over them to fill in all the holes. 

Here are pictures of all the panels and switches:

Door panels, arm rests, and center console sides with patches, awaiting final sanding
Switch holders with fresh layer of resin

I still have more fiberglass work to do!  I have to create the two arm rests for the door panels and the one for the center console.  I also have the top of the center console, which will be done in carbon.  I will not do that one until I have the center console upholstered and mounted.  I found out with the front center console that I'm not good at predicting how much extra space I need to account for with glass, foam and vinyl. So I'm going to do that one last so that it fits.

Monday, January 15, 2018

More fiberglass work

Dateline 01/13/2018 - Worked on more fiberglass this weekend.  Focused on the other door panel.  Pretty much the same routine as last weekend. The difference though is that I didn't wrap the panel as tightly with Saran Wrap as I did the other one and that caused some problems after the epoxy set!  I've got some lumps, air bubbles and bridging that I'm going to need to sand or cut out and repair.  Lesson learned, wrap it tight!

I also did the carbon fiber layup on the reading light switch using the vacuum bagging technique.  I had the same challenges as I had before, but the results turned out okay.  Will still need some finishing work and coats of lacquer, but it should be fine.

Finally, I got the car running.  I had to put some gas in it, but I did get it started pretty easily.  I've called the paint guy to look at the differences between the doors and the body but I need to drive the car over to the shop.  Maybe this weekend.

Well, that all to report!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Continued work on Door Panels

Dateline - 01/07/2018 - Continued work on the door panels and center console this weekend.  Sunday was a very wet day, which makes for a good day to work in the garage.  The morning started with getting set up for epoxy work, which means clearing an area, putting down cardboard, and prepping and staging everything so that it is ready to go, which included cutting three layers of 10lb fiber glass mat to fit the buck and one layer of peel ply.  This was the layup "schedule" for the part.  Here are pictures of the buck and the layup schedule:

Right back door-card buck

Fiber Glass layup schedule - three plies of  10lb fiber glass

I then started the actual layup by putting the first layer on top of the buck and started spreading epoxy.  It takes quite a bit of epoxy to do an entire door panel.  Fortunately I had gone to West Marine on Saturday to pick up more (105 Resin, 206 Hardener) because I emptied the container I had and made good dent in the new one.  I didn't keep count, but I probably used 15 pumps (the pumps are calibrated to deliver the correct amount of resin to hardener (1:5)) of resin to do the entire panel.

After the first layer was applied, I put on the second and continued to work epoxy into it to make sure it was completely "wet."  Once that was done, the third layer was applied.  As more layers are applied, less epoxy is needed because there is always extra from the layers below.  The key is to add epoxy where the fabric isn't wetting and making sure to squeegee the resin to bring as much to the surface as possible.  I use my hands (gloved of course) to move the epoxy around, as well as the stirring stick and a plastic squeegee. 

Once all the layers where done, I put the layer of peel ply over the top and then started wrapping the piece in Saran Wrap.  I could have used the Shrink Stretch material I got from Fibre Glast, but I knew that the Saran Wrap process works well and the peel ply will make it easy to remove.

Door panel epoxied and covered in Saran Wrap
Once the epoxy set (Monday) I was able to easily peel the Saran wrap and peel ply off to get the panel.  All it needs now is to cut off the waist and sand a few areas.

Door Panel with Saran Wrap and Peel Ply removed
I spent about three hours working the door panel and by the time I was done, I didn't feel like working on the other door.  So I did some work on the center console.  I stated last week that I was trying an idea to put the reading light switches in the center console.  Looking at it after a week, I really didn't like it.  So I filled in the hole I had cut with a block of foam and drywall plaster and looked for a new location for the switches.  I found it!  The switches will go on the back of the front center console, ahead of the cup holders.  This was the location of the rear air vent in the original car which I am no longer using. I didn't know what I was going to do with that area, so this seemed like a good solution.  I could put the switches there, in a holder similar in shape and size to what I used for the power window switches, and even use carbon fiber to keep the theme.

Open area above cup holders to be used for light switches
To prove that this idea would would, I cut a piece of foam to hold the switches and fit in the spot. It was perfect.

Foam prototype for light switches
Because I know the foam would not work well in the vacuum bag, I went ahead and modeled the part in Blender and printed out a couple of test parts on my 3D printer.  (Note:  The pink abs plastic is a leftover from printing a bunch of Lego "Pussy Hats" for a friend.  I have three lbs of pink plastic, and prototypes are just about the only use I can find for it!)

Light Switch Holder Blender Model

Light Switch Holder Blender Model
3D printed prototype for light switch holder in situ

Prototype light switch holder with light switch frames and center USB adapter in place
So now I just need to do a final print of part and carbon fiber cover it using the vacuum bagging tools.  I'm pretty stoked!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Happy New Year!

Dateline - 12/31/2017 - Had a long weekend with the New Years holiday so I got a couple of days to work on the car.  It was all consumed by door panels and fiberglass work.  I completed the left and right hand rear door panel bucks.  This required a lot of foam cutting, gluing, sanding and fitting!  What I learn on one side I can apply to the second, but since everything is a one-off, they are all a little different.  Too bad I'm not building these for a full production run!  I'd have everything ready to go! 

I also did the layup on the other armrest as explained in the last post.  I now need to cut openings into the rests, fabricate the metal reinforcements and glue them into place.  Once I have that done, I can fabricate the mounting points that will go on the doors, which will require pulling out the MIG welder.  Oh the fun never ends!

I also worked a bit on the center console in the back. I bought two switches for the back reading lights as well as a duel USB adapter that looks like one of the switches.  I cut open the center console to mount the switches, but I'm not sure I really like the results.  Still thinking this through. The nice thing is that the only thing I lose is foam and time.  Better to prototype to see if I like it before I expend fiberglass and carbon fiber to the effort!