The View Up Here

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My Favorite New Tool: West Marine Epoxy

Posted by Tom Benedict on 21/06/2012

When I started work on Smilodon, I knew I’d have to get a bunch of rigging, blocks, shackles, etc. After seeing the state of the hulls, I also knew I’d need to get epoxy, polyester, and gel-coat resins. I planned to use the epoxy as my mainstay fix-it resin, polyester as the primer layer prior to applying gel-coat, and gel-coat for the final surface coat. Rather than mess around, I splurged and picked up West Systems resin, hardener, and filler. It was expensive, and it irked me I had to buy pumps separately. But it’s proven stuff, so bought it anyway.

I wound up having to repair all manner of holes, dings, old screw holes, scratches, etc. By the time I was done I’d mixed dozens of cups of epoxy, run it neat, at ketchup consistency, at mayonnaise consistency, and I wound up mixing up one particularly stiff batch that was closer to putty. By the end, it had become my favorite new tool.

Last night I finished the work on the battens for the mainsail. For some reason the battens had been bolted into the main under far more tension than I like to run. I cut the bolts off, pulled the battens out, stuck Hobie batten tension caps on the luff end, and Tren-Tec leech caps on the leech end. Before inserting them into the sail, though. the Tren-Tec caps had to be glued on. They suggested using epoxy or silicone. Without any hesitation I went for the epoxy.

The session went something like this: Lay the battens on the table, pull the caps, wipe battens with alcohol, shoot alcohol into the caps. Dry thoroughly. Mix a cup of epoxy (one squirt off each pump – perfect ratio every time!) Wet the batten tips with neat epoxy. Mix in some colloidal silica filler to a consistency between ketchup and mayo, and load it into a syringe. Shoot the caps full of epoxy and squooge them onto the tips of the battens. Wipe excess, line up, and set aside to set.

This took me all of fifteen or twenty minutes, tops. When I checked the caps this morning, the epoxy was hard as a rock. Still, I’m giving it the full 24 hours to cure. Now my leech caps are a permanent part of the battens. Done.

Over the years I’ve used a variety of epoxies I bought from the hardware stores. Tubes go bad, resin gets compromised, and mixing ratios are always approximate. Never again! I’ve got all my West Systems stuff on one shelf in my cabinet, so using it is no more difficult than pulling a screwdriver out of a drawer.

Love it.


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