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Time to start designing a body

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Neilwheels Neil M
Aurora, IL, USA   USA
Greetings all!

I just finished putting all the mechanicals on the Stevenson frame. It only took 9 months to build it! Now it's time for me to get busy on the body design. I see a lot of wood and/or aluminum bodies on the forum here, but I was wondering who has worked out a body from composite materials- and how it was to fabricate. I really like the idea of using something light yet strong. I saw a Youtube video some months ago - where a guy stretched some flannel tightly over a wire frame and brush painted on some epoxy/urethane compound to make a custom bumper cover. It looked like magic to do it, and I wonder if anybody here tried something like it for their upper body panels. The video I saw online seems to be gone now. Maybe it was magic!

I was also looking at some videos on fabricating body panels and RC boat hulls with fiberglass- and it looks to me like an expensive way to put some really dangerous chemicals onto your skin and into your lungs. But I'm willing to try it if anyone here has some insight into how to make it go.

BTW, I have worked with plywood projects for over 20 years- and I am getting pretty tired of it. There has to be a better way to go- not that I am putting down the woodworking guys- I'm just sick of covering stuff with it.

Any ideas?


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chrisenamels Avatar
chrisenamels Silver Member Chris Brown
Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, UK   GBR

This is the technique you're thinking of: I think he's mistaken when he refers to using polyester resin over polystyrene foam, as polyester dissolves polystyrene, but it gives you the technique. Rhys Nolan mentioned in another discussion on here that he'd used lycra fabric to do the same thing, I’d have thought that would use less resin.

I wouldn't worry too much about the dire warnings regarding polyester resin, as long as your workplace is well ventilated, you wear a carbon filter mask, and gloves you'll be fine. Only the MEKP catalyst is dangerous, just follow the precautions and you'll be fine, you're not using large quantities after all.


chrisenamels Avatar
chrisenamels Silver Member Chris Brown
Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, UK   GBR

The other thing I should have mentioned is the use of a glazing coat to reduce the work involved in finishing. It is available to buy, but all you need is one part laminating resin to three parts gelcoat, that gives you a non drip resin which surface cures unlike straight gel.

I've attached a photo of a rollator carrier I made for Mam's mobility scooter which id finished that way.


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Dave 46 Robert Davison
Toppenish, WA, USA   USA
There are loads of how to build your boat, plane, car or what not body out of what ever material you choose out there to check out.

Some use a male mold and some use a female mold and some don't use a mold but integrate the structure that you form the body over into the body it's self.

I'd say this is where using the skills and equipment and tools you have comes into play. Can you build either a wooden mold possibly designed so it can be taken apart inside the finished composite body and be removed or build a light weight wood frame structure to form the body over and become part of the body?

Big time an lots of extra work would be to build a buck the exact shape you wanted the body to be, use that as the plug to make a female mold as boat builders do and then use the female mold to mold your final body. That would be going to the extreme unless you planned to build more bodies with that mold. Ed Roth of wierdo airbrushed sweatshirt fame used to mold the shape of his creations out of plaster of Paris and then make a female mold off that and then make the part. \

Just as in anything one does in his/her workshop proper safety precautions for what you are working with are an absolute must.

CmdBentaxle Avatar
CmdBentaxle Dave D
Federal Way, WA, USA   USA
1950 CycleKart Italian "1950 Ferrari 166 F2"
Hi Neil.
Your choice of composite will have alot to do with your body design. Some methods will work better for big compound sections, but are not as suitable for a boxier design.
What have you chosen for your inspiration car? That would give me a good basis for a recommendation.
My car for instance, uses a quite a variety of techniques for its various sections including aluminum panel, Sintra panel, foam/glass composite, and balsa/glass composite.
What do you have in mind? We can come up with a plan.

Neilwheels Neil M
Aurora, IL, USA   USA
I was playing with some cardboard and came up with this for a basic shape. I like the flat panels, but fitting them together at those angles and still maintaining structural integrity (and minimal weight) is getting to be a challenge. I could build the entire body in plywood- or (if I had great wealth) aluminum. I toyed around with the idea of making a wire frame in this shape, stretching flannel over it and coating it with epoxy. Maybe I could stretch the flannel over the plywood.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017-09-15 01:05 PM by Neilwheels.

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