Execution Of Simplicity

22 Nov, 2009

Project 10: Composites


The Project:

There is always a grand plan. Inspite of last week's massive overshoot, I thought it might be cool to build a light-weight ladder. I also wanted to stay within the class materials which meant no epoxy. Would the Smooth-On compounds be strong enough to support human weight with a reasonable amount of material? To test this, I thought it smart to make a test box. And that is what I made. Or it could be a basket, a drum, or my favorite, a light. Simple and complete.

Materials Choice:

Despite being interested in working with the shellacs, I was more interested in using them as varnish or stain. They clearly are not suitable for a weight bearing ladder. Not having anything I wanted to varnish, stain, or make, I am passing for now. Talking and helping a little bit with people investigating the shellacs they also seem hard to work with.

I opted for the Smooth-On 310. I wanted something with a longer cure time than a few minutes. I can't imagine making things fast. The Smooth-On 310 was also rated as one of the stronger synthetics.

Making the Box:

I made a fairly simple design for a box skeleton in Adobe Illustrator and cut out cardboard on the laser cutter.

Keeping Clean:

Oh, before I go further, I took a moment to clean up the space and put tin-foil down so that I could easily contain and clean up my mess. It worked great!

Back to construction: having assembled my cardboard frame, I started out trying the bamboo four-way stretch fabric. It does indeed stretch nicely making a good contour. I used paperclips to keep it in place. I mixed up some 310 per the directions on the box and applied using a foam brush. The resin would spill through and didn't spread so much. I switched to using linen strips. These were painted and then applied. I liked this technique better. True it didn't hug the frame the same way but seemed a better way to apply the resin. I did try strips of the bamboo fabric. It really does much better stretched somewhat which was hard to do after it had been impregnated with resin. It worked alright though.

I covered 5 of the box's 6 sides, usually with two layers, so that it could cure not sticking to anything and having a reasonable finish. By this time I was also very skeptical of it being strong enough to support weight and there was insufficient resin left to make something particularly large. I'd rather have an open box than a closed one. It stayed at 5 sides covered.

End Results and Thoughts!:

I have a firm box. It worked! It doesn't support my weight. I liked the technique of impregnating linen and applying best and putting down tin-foil to cover my work space made clean-up thorough and effective. That's it. Something simple fully executed.