Monday, January 20, 2014

Starting the Final Mile on Body Work

Dateline – 01/18/2014 – Even though I haven’t posted in a while, I have been doing little things on the car, most of which are around the center console.  As you can see from my post “Art to Part,” I’ve figured out a good processes for getting that carbon fiber look.  So over the last month, I’ve been working on getting the center console ready for carbon fiber.  Two weeks ago I applied the carbon fiber and laid the surface up with epoxy.  This weekend I started wet sanding to get it to the point of being able to apply the lacquer.  I’ve still got more sanding to do, which I expect to finish this week.

On Saturday I started back with body work, trying to get ready to have the car painted.  All the rough work is done.  Now I have to focus on the details.  In the back, I needed re-tap all the bold captured nuts that hold the bottom fender valences on.  I also needed to drill out bolt holes that I had covered in the body filler process, including the holes for the tail lights, side makers, backup lights, bumpers and rear valences.  This is fiddly work because you have to determine where to drill, etc.  But it all worked out fine.  I also have a bit more rust control to do around where the valences mount on the body, so I sanded the areas down so that they are ready for an application of rust inhibiter.   I’ve also decided to paint the insides of the valences with undercoating, which I have on order from Eastwood.

Finally, I spent some time sanding and finishing.  The truck lid had not been sanded and filled yet, so I spent quite a bit of time sanding the old finish, spot filling holes and low spots and priming the surface.  It still needs to be sanded down again, but It’s looking pretty good now:

To end the day, I spent a couple of hours sanding the roof of the car and finish sanding round the doors. On the driver’s side.  Last year I had sanded all the areas around the passenger side, so now I just need to get the driver’s done.

So, what’s left on the body?
-          Pull the front fenders off one more time and undercoat and seal any areas that may need it.
-          A little bit of filler work on the front chin piece
-          Refitting all the doors, fenders, boot lid and hood
-          Interior sound proofing
-          Engine bay degreasing and cleanup
-          Taking it to the paint shop!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

From Art to Part

Creating parts for my custom interior has been a very interesting challenge at time.  Having the correct tools really helps.  3D graphic software, a 3D Printer and experience doing fiberglass has really helped in creating parts that are unique to my car.  The following are steps I took to create the front passenger door power window switch holder.

First:  Create the part in my 3D software.  I use the open source tool to create my 3d Models.  I’ve been using this tool for years and am very familiar with it.  Other tools, like Maya, 3DStudioMax or Google Sketchup will work too.  I’m just very comfortable with this too.

So, I created the model as seen here:

Then I export the model as a .stl file.  This file is then put through a “slicing” software (Slic3r) that uses the parameters of my 3D printer (print head size, type of plastic, etc.) and literally creates slices of the part along the Z axis that the printer can then print out.  This software creates a .gcode file.  This file is then put into another open source software package called Pronterface.  Pronterface actually drives the 3D printer based upon the slices defined in the .gcode file.  When the printer is done,  You get the following:

It took about 10 attempts to get the model to the right size and shape.  There is a bit of black magic involved here, but once you know what you are doing, it gets easier.

Once I got the finished print, I sanded it down so that the surface was pretty smooth.  I plan to cover it in carbon fiber, so it didn’t need to be perfect.  I just wanted to make sure I got the surface to a point that the adhesive would stick. This is the next step.

Step 2:  Applying the Carbon Fiber.  Because I was working with a pretty small piece that had some tight bends, I knew that I could not just lay the carbon fiber on the part and epoxy it down without using a vacuum bag technique.  So I opted to glue the carbon fiber down to the part using 3M 77 glue.  This glue is extremely strong and relatively easy to work with.  Here is a picture of the part and carbon fiber after spaying with glue:

Once the glue got tacky, I laid the carbon fiber over the part and made sure that it had set into all the nooks and crannies.

After the glue dried, I then put on the epoxy, in three thin coats.  I let each coat set up until tacky before putting the next on.  The key is to not put on so much epoxy that it runs and pools.  Otherwise you have a lot of sanding to do.  Here is a picture of the piece after the last coat of epoxy.

I let the piece set up for 48 hours before I started to wet sand the epoxy to get all the air bubbles and wavy surface out.  You don’t want to sand too much, otherwise yet get down to the fiber.  Here is the sanded piece:

Step 3: Lacquer and Final Sanding.  The final step is to spray the piece with lacquer and do the final finish.  I put on three coats of Lacquer from a spray can, letting each coat set up for an hour before the next.  I let the final coat set up for 24 hours then I started wet sanding with increasingly fine wet papers.  I started at 600, than went to 1200 and finally 1600.  Once I got the surface smooth, I using a polishing compound and finally a good automobile wax.  And voila, this is the final result:

I plan to use this same technique on my center console.  That will be in a subsequent blog post.