Steve Nelson's R2D2 Build History, Documentation and Archive

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HOME PAGE Mock Legs Glass Skirt Foot Work R2LA 10 Dome Work Sand Drive

Fabricating a Fiberglass Skirt

I had to pick the hardest part to fabricate as my first jump back into pattern making, tooling, and pulling a fiberglass part. (Sarcasm.) In retrospect I wish I had chosen an easier part to refresh my memory. I found out I've forgotten more than I thought. First I needed a bigger work space so I cut a piece of plywood I had and clamped it to my old rollaway toolbox.
R2

R2

Fortunately, the bottom piece I had put in R2 was a piece of formica table top cut in a circle. I took the screws out and broke the thirty-year-old wood glue bond and popped the bottom out. I found the specs for the skirt in the club Yahoo group and went down to Harbor Freight and bought some cheap calipers, squares, compass and scribes etc. I discovered the diameter of my unit was .2" smaller than the blueprints showed that I had gotten from the club, so did the best I could to make things fit.
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I bought Bondo and hardner, and a cheap bandsaw, clamped the bandsaw to a plastic card table, cut the middle out of the bottom piece and fixed it at the proper height. Took bondo and bits of wood to rough out the shape, and then swept bondo at the correct angle and began to shape out the skirt.
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After getting the shape and angles right, I fabbed the 12 pieces and set them in position. I eyeballed a 2 degree draft on all pieces to be able to pull the tool off the pattern without destroying it.
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Next I take all available cash except what I'll need for rent and buy resin, glass, wax, poly vinyl alcohol, MEKP, wet/dry sandpaper, magnifying glasses, brushes, gellcoat, pigment, tongue depressors, acetone and a bunch of other crap that I absolutely can't do without and prepair to make tooling for the first time in 14 years. Here's a shot of the pattern with a coat of gellcoat. I made it blue to be different from the part which will be white.
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Cutting fiberglass matt.
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The tool laid up.
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After bracing the tooling I carefully removed it from the pattern. I was amazed! It felt as though the pattern was as rough as tree bark and I expected a few of the small pieces which were tacked on with bondo to come off in the tool, but the pattern popped out in tact! I had waxed, coated with PVA, waxed again and then brushed another coat of PVA on so evidentially that was enough shear planes to make it work. The next week and a half was spent sanding the tooling with 220, 320, and 400 grit sandpaper, and filling pinholes and voids.
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The tooling is still a bit rough but I wanted something to bring to the R2LA Build Day, Saturday, May 5, so went and bought the last thing I hope I need for a while - a small spray gun. I'm now into this project for about $675 since starting April 14. So I wax up the tool and blow on a coat of PVA, gellcoat the tool and lay up the part.
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The next day I carefully pull the part off the tool. Not perfect, but looks good none the less. I'm excited to compare it to some of the skirt pieces on other droids to see if my quality is up to snuff. I now have a pattern, tooling, and a part to bring tomorrow.
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I couldn't resist fitting the skirt to the body and snapping a few pics.
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Now R2 needs some FEET!

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