Well people, after many trials and tribulations, I have finally constructed my first set of kick panels. Before I began this project, I was a complete newbie; I had never tried to fiberglass once in my life. But during the process I learned a lot of things, and I figured I'd share them with the forum. Hopefully this tutorial can help some people who are in the same boat I used to be in. So without any further ado, here goes nothin'
These are the materials you will need; you can get just about everything at Home Depot:
- A gallon of fiberglass resin
- A coupe extra tubes of hardener
- 2 or 3 packages of fiberglass mat
- A big box of disposable gloves
- Lots and lots of cheap brushes (use bristle brushes, not foam)
- A dropcloth, painters tarp, or garbage bags
- A Dremel with a fiberglass cutting bit (#542)
- Painter's tape
- Spray adhesive/liquid nails/epoxy/hot glue gun
- Wood dowels
- Body filler
- A mold release agent (WD-40, vaseline, a non-stick cooking spray, astroglide, petroleum jelly, etc)
- Carpet or vinyl or paint and primer
- Coarse thread drywall screws
First things first - before we do any work on the kicks, run all your wires and clear the area out. If you're mounting the crossovers in the trunk and need to run 2 sets of wires per kick, be sure to put some tape on both ends of one wire so you don't get them confused. Once you get the area cleared, it's time to begin taping it off with painters or masking tape; be sure to use the widest tape you can find. It's a good thing to be generous here; go at least a few inches bigger than you plan on making the actual panel. Make sure the tape is flush with the actual base, as the tape will form the shape of your mold. To avoid any resin leaking through and onto your carpet, use two layers of tape, criss-crossing the layers. If you have a newer car and want to be absolutely positive nothing gets on the interior, put some aluminum foil between the two layers of tape. Once resin gets on your interior, it is not coming off.
Now hold your baffle(s) up to where the panel is going to be, and draw a rough outline of the size of the panel. The only purpose this will serve is so you know where to lay the mat, so you aren't stuck with an extra foot of fiberglass and wasted mat/resin. When laying the mat down, remember to go about an inch or two past this line, to ensure that the panel will have uniform thickness. Then, apply a mold release agent onto the tape to aide in removing the mold from it later on.
Now comes the tricky part.....the actual fiberglassing. I'm going to do my best in trying to explain it.
First and foremost, get your workstation set up properly. An organized workspace will ensure a faster worktime, less headaches, and it will help you get into a seamless routine. This is what mine looks like:
^ On the outside of the car, I have a good amount of dixie cups pre-filled halfway with resin (2 oz), a big box of disposable gloves, a few tubes of hardener, and some brushes.
^ On the inside, I have a plastic tarp covering up the area that is not taped off, and I have a package of fiberglass mat cut up into pieces that are roughly five inches square.
Now, onto the fiberglassing! First, put on some gloves; believe me, you will need them. Mix up a batch of resin/hardener, following the manufacturers ratio. Before doing anything, brush a light coat of the mixture onto the tape itself. Take a piece of the mat and stick it onto one of the corners, remembering to go at least an inch over your line. With just your hands, try to smooth it out so you can (hopefully) avoid air bubbles. Dip the tip of your brush into the mixture, and poke it onto and through the mat, working from one edge to the other. Continue with this process until the entire piece is flush with the base and is transparent. Grab another piece, stick it next to the previous one, making sure to overlap a little bit, and repeat. Continue like this until you've worked your way around the entire panel.
Once you get used to the process, you'll be able to get into a routine (which is why an organized workspace is vital). This is how mine went:
1) Grab a dixie cup halfway full with resin.
2) Mix in the proper amount of hardener.
3) Put on gloves and grab a brush.
4) Start putting the mat on until the mixture is gone.
5) Throw the brush and gloves away and grab new ones.
6) Mix up another batch of resin/hardener.
7) Continue fiberglassing.
Now after doing this on three separate occasions, I have learned a few secrets, so read these and (hopefully) you won't make the mistakes I did.
1) Work in small batches. Don't mix up six ounces of resin/hardener, because chances are the working time of the mixture will be over before you're even halfway through with the batch. I found it easiest to work in two ounce batches, which is exactly one half of a dixie cup. But if you're only comfortable working with an ounce at a time, then by all means go for it. There's no need to sacrifice the quality for the sake of time.
2) Take your time. This is fiberglass, not Nascar, so there's no need to rush anything. Work very slowly, making sure the mat is laid down perfectly flush with the base. If you see an air bubble, squish it out by squeezing the bristles of the brush into it and outwards to the edge. Air bubbles are not good for fiberglass.
3) Don't use gobs and gobs of resin. Dip the tip of your brush lightly into your mixture, and work just enough of it into the mat so it becomes transparent. If you load the brush up with the resin/hardener and slop it onto the mat haphazardly, it will just drip down and create little "resin bubbles."
4) Don't use a painting stroke when applying the resin/hardener to the mat. As aforementioned, dip just the tip of your brush into the mixture, and sort of poke/jab it into the mat so it penetrates through.
5) And last, but not least, contruct a small "test subject" first. Just work on fiberglassing a few pieces so you can get used to the process and try to get yourself into a routine. Don't just go right at the project unprepared. The more comfortable you are with the process, the faster and better the final product will turn out.
Once you get this all done, it should look something like this:
Let this mold cure for at least 3 or 4 hours, I let mine cure over-night just to be on the safe side.