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Old 12-19-2019, 04:59 AM
TASEsq TASEsq is offline
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 240
Default Micro Consistency


I am almost ready to make the "seam" along the edge of my elevator tip fairings.

Steps so far:
- bonded alu strips inside for the rivets to bear against
- a gross shaping to help make it look right
- the "joggle" edges have been sanded back
- the edge of the elevators have been taped up with packing tape, then a single layer of electrical tape (to help achieve a consistent gap), and finally
- the whole gel coat has been sanded with 80 grit.

I am ready to mix some micro to spread over the whole thing in order to both finish the edge to a consistent gap, and also fill any exposed weave and pinholes that have shown up from sanding.

Q: what sort of consistency am i looking for in the micro to achieve this? I assume it needs to be kind of loose so that it flows into the holes? Or do i make it thicker to help make the edge against the elevator skin, and push it with a card (hotel card etc) into the holes in the fibres?

Do you think i need to use flox or a couple layers of cloth at the front to make the large gap where the counterbalance skin is curved and the tip is not?

I appreciate any advice that is available - this is my absolute first go at fibreglassing! (actually enjoying it so far - it seems mistakes are easy to fix).

Here are some overview photos of the left tip:

and here is one showing the sanded back edge ready to take some micro to help make a nice edge:
Trent Stewart
Melbourne, Australia
May 2020

Last edited by TASEsq : 12-19-2019 at 05:07 AM.
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Old 12-19-2019, 06:07 AM
DanH's Avatar
DanH DanH is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: 08A
Posts: 9,075

Trent, I'm not sure sure what you're trying to do here, so this is general in nature...

Microballoons can be combined with mixed epoxy in any proportion. There is no right or wrong, only a consistency which gets the job done.

Generally, we use the maximum possible proportion of microballoons ("dry micro") when correcting surface profile. As a practical matter, it's the stiffest mix which will still spread smoothly. There are two primary reasons to use a stiff, dry mix; the finished product will be lighter, and it will be easier to sand.

I might use a medium mix if I was wiping micro into small holes, divots, and or scratches in a foam form. The key here is that it wipes in easily.

The best known use for wet micro is filling the pores in foam prior to adding an overlying fabric, wet-on-wet. The high proportion of epoxy allows the mix to flow into the voids in the foam.

As the mix proportion tips toward more epoxy and less microballoon, the cured product will be heavier and harder to sand, but somewhat tougher.

Micro is not a pinhole filler. Holes, divots and scratches, yes. Developing a surface profile , yes. But not pinholes. In fact, when sanded, micro is a collection of very tiny pinholes; sanding cuts open all the hollow bubbles on the surface. They are nowhere near as large as the typical pinholes in fabric layup surfaces, but they are there. Spray a coat of primer, and unsealed micro will be immediately obvious.

Many builders use polyester resin based commercial body fillers on emp tips. It's not quite as tough, nor as adhesive, but it works. In addition to, or replacing microballoons, commercial body fillers may contain talc, ground styrene plastic, and a variety of other fillers, each mix tailored to a desired consistency and sanding density. Less hollow micro and more solid powder results in a more closed surface after sanding.
Dan Horton
Barrett IO-390
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Old 12-19-2019, 06:32 AM
BillL BillL is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Central IL
Posts: 5,234

Good big picture from Dan as usual.

A few specifics for judging the cup mix, when mixing with a popsicle stick, the mix will stick to the stick, as the stick is withdrawn from the mix it will:

1. Stretch a little then bead on the tip and begin to slowly smooth and drip off the stick in 10-15 seconds.
2. Stretch a little more, then slowly bead on the cup side and likely not move on the stick. May smooth out, but won't creep off vertical surfaces.
3. Stretch and leave a relatively sharp point on the cup and stick, there is no movement of either.
4. the stick stays inclined in the cup mix. or can pick up the cup with the stick and it won't drop off.

These are 4 points on an infinite scale. Temperature will affect them vs ratios. I like something with a little smoothing action but not a fluid so it will support shear on the vertical. A tiny bit of cabosil goes a long way to shifting to stiffer near the end of a mix.

Get some dixie water cups and mix 5 grams of resin at a time to experiment a little. Some black pigment can be added (sparingly) to create a gray color that is easy (er) to see when sanding.

As in any body work, be sure to put on enough material so no original surface is left after sanding.

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Last edited by BillL : 12-19-2019 at 06:35 AM.
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Old 12-19-2019, 07:31 AM
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Bob Martin Bob Martin is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Posts: 1,202

I know this sounds confusing but.

I was taught to apply raw epoxy to the fiberglass part before adding/applying micro. The "dry" micro isn't wet enough to soak into the glass structure by itself. Wet micro will be wet enough. The key here is you want bonding to occur.
I will sometimes drill small holes like 1/16" to help with bonding as it is getting covered/filled anyway.
Once you get close, I switch to fine/finishing automotive bondo, because it is easier to sand in very thin layers and feathers out smoother than micro.
Bob Martin
RV-6, 0-360 Hartzell C/S, Tip up, 1200+TT
James extended cowl/plenum, induction, -8VS and Rudder. TSFlightline hoses. Oregon Aero leather seats.
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Louisa, Virginia KLKU N94TB
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Old 12-19-2019, 08:23 AM
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Larry DeCamp Larry DeCamp is offline
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Clinton, Indiana
Posts: 918
Default +1 for Bob's Epoxy priming comment

Regardless of the coarseness of the surface (raw glass or not) I prime with epoxy then stir micro in the balance of the resin. This is especially relevant to "dry micro" application when there is not a surplus of mobile resin in the mix.
PS, I also find dry mico does not spread well ( re Dan's comments), so I lay a piece of poly film over the rough deposit and shape it nicely with my hand, credit card, roller or what evever works. Leave it til cured and it looks pretty good for minimal sanding.
Larry DeCamp
RV-3B flying w/7:1 0320 / carb / Pmags / Catto 3b / Steam
RV-4 fastback w/ Superior roller 360/AFP/G3X/CPI/Catto3b
Clinton, IN

Last edited by Larry DeCamp : 12-19-2019 at 08:36 AM.
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Old 12-19-2019, 08:47 AM
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DanH DanH is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: 08A
Posts: 9,075

IF priming the sanded surface with neat mixed epoxy, use a small piece of cotton rag and rub it on to the surface, so there is no wet liquid, just damp. Wet epoxy guarantees dry micro won't spread well, and worse, when sanded after cure, the neat epoxy will form a hard ring around the micro due to being harder to cut.
Dan Horton
Barrett IO-390
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Old 12-19-2019, 08:48 AM
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MarkW MarkW is offline
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Edgewater, FL. KSFB
Posts: 1,105

If I may give you some insight from my poor choice of micro balloon use.
I used fiberglass tape and then some mb for this same area to fill that same gap between the fiberglass and elevator. Since I have been flying for six years now I have paint chips in that area. When I fly through heavy rain I get new chips there. My though is that the mb are too soft. This is not a great area for MB. Yes they make sanding much much easier but you need more strength there.
I will be using chopped fiberglass and some Cabosil in that spot.
Filling pinholes is a different matter.
RV9 - N14MW - Flying
G3X - ECI Titan I0-320
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Old 12-19-2019, 09:03 AM
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snopercod snopercod is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 2,009

What DanH said. The only thing I would add is that on the leading edge, the micro is going to want to drain out. I would cover the micro on the leading edge with peel ply to keep that from happening. If you choose to do that, put the micro on a little thick so that there are no low spots in the micro which would have to be filled later. You will find that any low spots in the micro will leave a ring of pure epoxy around the perimeter like a coral reef around an island. When you fill and sand that area, the left over ring of epoxy is harder and you can never sand it flat.

So my advice in general is to put the micro on too thick and plan on sanding it back down flush.
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Old 12-19-2019, 11:03 AM
krwalsh krwalsh is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 329
Default Flox, Duct Tape, and the Cory Bird Method

Having built an entire airplane using this method, I have a few points that may help:

If you have an edge you care about staying sharp despite being impacted, use flox (flocked cotton mixed with epoxy) to fill it, not micro. If I was doing this, I'd put a small gap between the fiberglass tip and the aluminum, maybe 1/16-1/8". Then when you are ready, mix up flox pretty wet and squeeze it into the gap with an old credit card (don't turn in your hotel keys, they make great epoxy squeegees.) The gap makes it so the flox will conform and stick in there. Be aware that flox and micro sand VERY differently, so you may want to make that flox edge first, let it cure, sand it, then proceed with micro for everything else.

Using electrical tape like you have will create a nice even line, but actually duct tape is better at breaking free from the part after the epoxy cures. Cheap duct tape works ok, but I generally buy my duct tape by weight. The best I have found is the Gorilla brand.

Brushing raw or neat epoxy on the surface before dry micro is a good idea to get it to adhere, especially if you are using very dry micro, but follow DanH's advice and do it VERY lightly. I typically put it on with a cheap bristle brush that I trim down so the bristles are only ~1" long so they are stiffer. This will force the epoxy into the weave better. Then wipe as much off as you possibly can. Use the credit card followed by a dry brush. It should just be shiny when you're done, with no epoy pooling anywhere.

Finally, when you have micro'ed, sanded to fair, guide coated, sanded it actually fair, and think you are done, then follow the Cory Bird Method. Fellow EZ builder Wayne Hicks has a great explanation of it on his website here:

and Quickie builder Sam Hoskins has a great video of the technique here:

Good luck. It isn't hard, it just takes some practice. And sanding. Lots and lots of sanding.
Kevin R. Walsh
Cozy Mk-IV
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Old 12-19-2019, 12:13 PM
DanH's Avatar
DanH DanH is offline
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: 08A
Posts: 9,075

Originally Posted by MarkW View Post
If I may give you some insight from my poor choice of micro balloon use.
I used fiberglass tape and then some mb for this same area to fill that same gap between the fiberglass and elevator. Since I have been flying for six years now I have paint chips in that area. When I fly through heavy rain I get new chips there. My though is that the mb are too soft.
I dunno Mark. Whole lot of airplanes out there with micro in various leading edge surfaces, including mine.

Here's an exercise I often invite new users to try. Mix some epoxy, and split it up among 4 small cups. Mix dry micro in one, wet micro in the next, flox in the third, and enough cabo to thicken the neat epoxy in the fourth. After mixing, just dump them out in four separate piles on plastic sheet, and allow then to cure a week at 70F.

When cured, attack the samples with pliers, cutters, whatever you wish. For sure, put on safety glasses, place the samples on concrete, and whack them with a hammer.
Dan Horton
Barrett IO-390
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