Ken Mintz Composite Information pg.5 ==
Page 1 Introduction=================================
Page 2 A Short Description of Fiber Types and Properties=====
Page 3 Advantages/Disadvantages of Composites===========
Page 4 The Matrix===================.==============
Page 6 Preparing to Layup and More Tools=.==============
Page 7 The Core and Its Preparation.====================
Page 8 Hot Box Pictures and Dimensions.======.==========
163 Home Page====================================
Composites Corner No. 5 - Setting Up the Shop
This time I will discuss and describe the kind of facility that one should have available to work with composite
materials. Here is a list of the problems that one must deal with when preparing to do composite work:
1. It should be isolated from your living areas. Seems obvious but some of you have been known to build
your planes in your living rooms. Not a good idea with composites especially if you are married. The dust
from sanding and cutting this stuff is an itching powder par excellance and a lung irritant as well. The smell
from the resins in their liquid state is strong and probably not pleasant to most people especially those of the
female persuasion (or so I have noticed). Take steps depending upon your situation to keep these materials
out of your house. (If you have worked with fiberglass insulation then take similar precautions with the composites).
2. In addition to keeping composite materials out of your living areas you need to keep them out of your body
as much as possible. Many builders have had to give up their composite projects because they and / or their
families developed allergies to the resins in particular. Some of these reactions have been severe. From
reading on the subject the secret to avoiding this is to religiously take steps to keep from ingesting it into your
body, ie. don't eat it, don't breath it, don't keep it on your skin any longer than necessary to get it off.
The first bit of equipment you need is a good filter mask of the type used by those who spray paint like the
carbon filter type or even the pressurized types available on the market. This type is best overall because
it will remove most of the vapors given off by the resins as well as the dust. When dust is the main problem
as when sanding then one can usually get away with just a dust mask.
I know that masks are cumbersome and uncomfortable, especially the carbon filter types, but breathing this
stuff in is the route to medical problems over time. You will seldom have an immediate reaction to these
materials (other than coughing and sneezing) so you may think that you are safe. And you may well not ever
have a long term or severe reaction to composite materials but you will not know that until it happens and then
it could be too late to continue with your project so do take precautions to keep it out of your system. Other
related precautions are such things as coveralls,head coverings, gloves and so on act to reduce skin contact,
the other route to medical problems.
3. Your work area (shop) should be well ventilated, well lighted and as roomy as possible. Builder experience
has shown that a huge space is not necessary to build a good project but it sure helps if it is available. The
garage works just fine in most situations however (except possibly for your wife).
4. It should have effective temperature control. As stated earlier in this series most composites are temperature
sensitive. How this is done specifically is dependent upon your circumstances. I have worked in a variety of
situations where temperature control wasn't easily achieved but it can be done. Whatever you do the main
caution here is to be constantly aware of the potential for fire. Even light bulbs can cause fires if they get too
close or contact flamable materials. A warning here concerning the use of your garage is that the pilot light in
your water heater is an often forgotten source of ignition especially when painting. Most resin gases are not
readily ignited in themselves but the solvents like MEK, tolulene, etc. are. I isolated my water heater with a
temporary wall made from a tarp with a back door opened to the outside when I was using solvents and
painting since I did not want to turn off my water heater. I consider a good fire extinguisher easily availabe
with a large capacity to be a necessity. Again be aware of fire and use common sense.
5. Tools that you will need are mostly the good old wood workers standbys like a selection of sanders, saws,
vacuum cleaner, drills, punches and chisels, clamps, measuring devices, levels, good scissors, Sharpie type
markers in various sizes for marking the composite fabrics, hammers and so on. I recommend that you get an
air compressor of the largest capacity that you can afford. It will be invaluable for painting later and for blowing
dust off your person, your parts and your equipment. Air tools have been generally cheaper than electric ones
after the purchase cost of the compressor. Drop lights and portable lighting will be necessary. You will need
one or more solid, heavy duty work benches. The work surface should be smooth enough to lay out flat panels
and it should be as level as is humanly possible to make it. Size and dimensions are dependent upon what
you are building and how much room you have. It will be difficult to do precise work without one or more of
these tables. Plans for work tables and benches are availabe from several sources.
6. Other materials that you will need are solvents suitable for cleaning up your particular resin type. Most
common are the usual ones like MEK, tolulene, ascetone, alcohol. Lots of paper and cotton towls for
wipe-down and clean-up. Storage for the above - remember fire concerns. Fine and heavy copper wire come
in handy for positioning and temporarily holding things in place. Other types of wire are useful as well. Cord and
string will be useful in many ways. Disposable gloves of the heavy duty type More expensive but they don't
tear as easily as the cheaper ones do. Get some disposable dusk masks for conditions that don't produce
vapors that these masks won't remove.
The details for your shop area will depend upon your circumstances so I have not gone into great detail here.
Lack of favorable circumstanes can be overcome with ingenuity and I have seen a lot of that in my time as a
tech counselor. If I can help with specific problems please contact me and I will do the best I can to help.
If I come up with any further good ideas or discover any significant omissions from the info above then I will
put that in later submissions to Composites Corner. All for now.
Chapter 163 Tech Counselor
Phone: (702) 567-1938