Fiberglassed Xenarc center console install - VW Jetta MK3
It's been a year since I started my xenarc center console install. I started off with the infamous ABS sludge method, and, long story short, the console is polypropylene, not ABS, so nothing bonded right and it ended up cracking and separating. Live and learn.
Thread on the original install:
This thread is mainly an overview of what I did, with a little eye candy, which will hopefully inspire some other people to try this method. Please visit the article on my website, which has much more detail and will continue to be updated:
As soon as it was apparent that the first method was just not going to work, I started thinking about fiberglass. The idea was to literally laminate a "shell" of fiberglass over that whole section of the console, thus any cracking or separation of the underlying plastic wouldn't matter. I hadn't worked with fiberglass before, so I was wary, but I finally got up the courage and dove in.
I used epoxy resin - more expensive than the usual polyester resin but without the harsh fumes and tricky mixing. Plus, I only needed a relatively small amount of resin since the workpiece is so small, that it was still affordable. With the resin, I used some very thin fiberglass cloth - 1.38oz and 2.3oz - which I got on ebay. I believe it's mainly used for R/C models and other smaller tasks. It's extremely flexible, handles compound curves easily, and since it's so thin it leaves quite a smooth surface immediately, not requiring too much sanding and/or filler if done right. As you can see, one single piece of cloth can cover the whole thing, thus avoiding any seams to sand off. I ended up with 2-3 layers of the heavier cloth, and 1 layer of the thinner cloth on top for a finer finish. In opposition to the what I've heard about large-scale fiberglassing with poly resin of sub enclosures, etc, I found this fiberglassing to be easy and enjoyable. The resin doesn't have terrible fumes, spreads easily with a small brush and isn't very messy, the cloth is thin and easy to work with, etc. I wore latex gloves, safety glasses and a dust mask, and worked on a small newspaper-covered table in my basement and had no real trouble.
What I have ended up with (so far) after the usual sanding/filling/sanding/etc is a shell around 1/16" thick, which seems to be extremely durable and flexible - flexing the entire console, the fiberglass flexes a bit, and doesn't show any signs of separating or cracking - it feels practically bulletproof. So far I am close to the end of the primer/sanding cycle and should be ready for final paint soon.
I haven't seen anyone do their fab in quite this way, probably because my situation was kind of unique, having already done the ABS/bondo/etc to get the shape right but needing fiberglass for the durability. However, this would make it feasible to just do a really quick bondo job to get the underlying shape right, and then go right to glass on top, whereas traditionally you don't want to fill large areas with bondo for durability reasons.
I've learned a lot about all this as I've progressed, so hopefully someone else finds it interesting and can learn from my mistakes and have even better luck with it!