Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fixing My Favorite Board

In 2010, I got a white Fanatic Skate 110, and it has been my favorite board ever since. But last year, I discovered that the deck near the front foot straps was getting soft. My favorite board repair guy, Donnie in Hatteras, did not want to repair it, so I figured I'd use it to learn board repairs on. The first installment was a big nose job last fall. A while later, bubbles started to come out near the soft area, so it was time to learn new stuff - soft deck and sandwich repair! Most of the things I did are based on the excellent instructions on "The Board Lady" web site.

The first step was to take the padding under the front foot steps of:
That took a while. I started to understand why Donnie did not want to do the repair.

A small exploratory cut was next:
You can see the sandwich construction: a few layers of glass fiber on top, then a thin (~4 mm) layer of high density foam, a single layer of glass, and the EPS foam core. The sandwich looks good, but there's a big air gap that should not be there. It seems the EPS foam got compressed just too many times and eventually tore apart.

I enlarged the cut-out area, but the soft area was quite large, so I decided to treat most of the affected area with expanding polyurethane foam, introduced through many little holes that are covered with blue tape in the next picture:

You can see the foam expanding all the way into the cut-out area. In the cut-out area, I removed some of the damaged EPS foam, so I had to build the area back up, also with marine polyurethane foam:
I just love playing with the pour foam. You mix together a couple of liquids, and then you have about a minute to inject it before it expands about 50-fold. Fun!

After sanding down the PU foam, the next step was to rebuild the sandwich layer. I used one layer of glass and two layers of thin divinycell. To press everything together, a vacuum setup is needed, as shown in the next picture:
Once you have the stuff and know how to use it, this is easy. The PVC foam must be covered with three layers of different plastics: perforated release film, then "breather" material, and finally vacuum bagging film. This was the first time I did this, so I made one small mistake: I put the sticky stuff that connects the vacuum bagging film to the board to close to the treated area. That made it a pain to take off later!

I also had to close all the little holes I had drilled to get the PU foam into the board to fill the air spaces. That required some sanding first, and then some epoxy and lots of small little glass fiber discs:
Once the epoxy had hardened, each of the little holes needed to be sanded again to smooth things out and to get a good feathering connection between the new and the old glass.

The divinycell also needed to be sanded down and glassed over. I used two layers of glass, but no carbon. The original construction appears to have a layer of carbon cloth on top, but it's very thin; you can see in the next image that I accidentally sanded through it at a few spots.

The board came with two sets of foot strap positions, inner and outer. I never used the outer positions, so I simply filled the holes in the outer plugs with some epoxy mixed with low density filler (the brown stuff). The next step will be to add one more layer of glass over the entire center area; some sanding and filling; putting new padding down; and painting over all the little holes (more to protect the epoxy from UV than for cosmetic purposes).

This repair has already taken quite a few hours, and still needs more work. Someone who repairs boards professionally would have to charge at least $400-500 for such a job, and even that assumes he'd be a lot faster than I was, and that he'd charge an hourly rate much lower than what I have to pay a local car repair shop. How long the repair will last is an open question, so I can definitely see why Donnie did not want to do this.

For me, however, this was fun, and a useful learning experience. The Skate in the pictures above is not the "Team Edition" model, but this repair clearly shows that it still contained quite a bit of carbon - it looks like at least one thing layer of carbon cloth over most or all of the top. In contrast, the 2015 Fanatic Skate that I got as a replacement did not seem to have carbon reinforcements, at least not at the places I looked so far; instead, the 5 years newer models appears to use wood for reinforcing (more about that in a future post). I always had the impression that my blue 2015 Skate was not quite as lively as my white 2010 model - but the newer models seemed a bit easier to sail in very choppy conditions. I now think that this is because only the older model has the extra layer of carbon, which gives it a bit more stiffness. So I'll be very glad when I can sail my white Skate again on the lighter wind days!

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