It was only a year ago that I thought up this crazy project. Somehow, I had got it into my mind that I was going to completely customize the exterior of my Toyota Mr2 Turbo.
I had big plans! I wanted to build a custom fiberglass front bumper, complete with an aero-splitter and flush mount headlights. Along with that I would build side skirts and a rear bumper.
The task was daunting, and I would surely need specialized tools and machinery that I had no access to.
Boy was I wrong! All I needed to know, was some basic fiberglass techniques and I would be on my way.
So, after scouring the web and going to every book store in an attempt to find a manual on how to fiberglass, I took to the garage to create my masterpiece, learning the hard way. The techniques were fairly simple, the execution was the tricky part. The steps boiled down to four basic steps:
1. Create a plug – A plug is the original part or design that you wish to replicate. You can build a plug from a variety of materials including foam, MDF, drywall mud, body filler, fiberglass, etc. The important part about the plug is that it be exactly what you want your finished product to look like. This means that it needs to be sanded perfectly smooth and finished to the best of your abilities. When you are finished with your plug, it is imperative that you wax the surface to make it mirror smooth.
2. Build a mold – A mold is a negative version of your plug. Essentially it is an inverted version of your final product. A mold can be a simple one piece, or multi-piece production and is usually built from fiberglass. It should have a thickness of four times that of your finished product. This prevents warping while your products are curing.
3. Prepare the mold – After you’ve created a mold and detached it from the plug, there are some precautions that you need to take in order to ensure that you will get the best “pull”. Just as you did with the plug, you need to wax the inside of the mold to a glossy finish. The better the finish is, the easier your final part will detach from the mold, and the better it will look!
4. Lay your part – Using a wet layup technique is the best bet for home based fiberglass fabricators. First, apply a gelcoat to the entire mold. This acts as a thick top layer and prevents glass fibers from showing through. Then, lay down some fiberglass cloth. Thoroughly wet out the glass with resin (which you mixed according to manufacturer specs), and dab with a paintbrush to remove any air bubbles.
Once your part dries, remove it from the mold and finish sand it. If you took care to wax the plug and mold along the way, there should be very little finish work to do. Simply sand, paint and install your new part. With these basic techniques almost anyone can build anything they can put their mind to, from their very own garage. Fiberglass isn’t limited to car parts either. Many companies use custom fiberglass fabrication to build products such as tubs, sinks, furniture, RC cars, even taxidermy!