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Author Topic: Micarta Make-a-long
Dazzad
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Hi all - in response to Monterey's suggestion, i'm going to throw together a series of images and explanations here on how I make a version of cotton/resin micarta to use on my future bow builds. Times being a little tight at the moment, I'm still waiting to be able to afford my glass and lams - little projects like this help to fill the imposed down-time in a useful way!

[IMG]  - [/IMG]
So - here is the 'guts' of it- 100% cotton fabric. I like this stuff because it's quite a fine weave, is inexpensive, and is sold by the 'half square meter' in every colour of the rainbow. In this example I'm going to make a 'billet' of micarta consisting of three separate layers of different colour. On this front alone, the scope for variation and experimentation is almost infinite.

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I'm going to make our micarta in a strip 10"x1.5"x approximately 5mm thick. This slightly confusing mixture of imperial and metric measurements is the product of an Australian who spends much time on American bow making forums!! I'm estimating that this may require 24 strips of fabric, so I've prepared 8 layers of each colour. The length and width I'm making to here seems like a handy size - I should get a set of bow tips and perhaps a riser-back overlay from it. The thickness should be suitable also. Of course, these variables can be adjusted to suit your own requirements.

Well guys, the hour here groweth late! I'd thought just to roll the whole process of stages out here in the one post, but my bed is calling!! I'll pick up this thread and keep running with it very soon - thanks for looking and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Darren

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Each day the devil whispered in my ear -"you will not withstand the storm."
Today I whispered in the devil's ear - " I am the storm..."

Posts: 35 | From: Australia | Registered: Aug 2017  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mad Max
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keep it comming. [thumbsup]

try to copy a different way to get the pictures showing.

--------------------
"nothing ventured ,nothing gained"

Posts: 1863 | From: Mississippi | Registered: Oct 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
monterey
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Looking forward to the next steps.

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Monterey

Posts: 2977 | From: Colorado | Registered: Feb 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Dazzad
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Hi again guys, so - lets pick up where I left off.

 -

I could have begun with this image I guess, but here are most of the important things you need for making some micarta.

The pre-cut fabric strips are visible in the photo, but I'd take a moment to talk about getting them to this stage. In the name of PPO (preparation pays off), I find that it is a great move to grab the old electric iron and iron any creases and crumples out of your fabric.

Once the fabric is flat and smooth, yes you can use a pair of scissors or even a scalpel+ steel ruler to cut your strips. OR - you can choose the best method by far, and get ahold of one of these rotary cutters (the green thing with the circular blade). These are specially for cutting fabric with no dragging or tearing. Great investment.

Used in concert with a calibrated cutting matt (the green thing with markings on it [Wink] ) and you'll easily and quickly cut your strips to identical size. This initial time spent on preparing your strips will pay you back again and again as we progress!

Most of the other items here are connected to the mixing and application of the glue/resin, and the bow builders among you will recognize these. The one item that needs further explanation is the clamping press (two wooden parts on the right). It consists of a 'male' and 'female' part that together with some clamps, will compress the wet, glued billet of resin/fabric micarta until it has hardened.

You can devise your own method of clamping the drying micarta, but the important thing is that you can exert considerable, even pressure across the surface of the resin impregnated, drying fabric. I've shown here with my version, that a very modest outlay of time and materials will do the job.


[IMG]  - [/IMG]

Now we're about to get right into it. Here is my epoxy ready for mixing and applying to the fabric cotton strips.

Most tutorials regarding the making of micarta suggest the use of fibreglass resin for this part of the job. Following this direction, I purchased and mixed some fibreglass resin to make my first piece of micarta. I proceeded to not add enough hardener due to not having a set of scales to weigh it out, and of course it never cured! [Roll Eyes] I also wasn't crazy about the industrial greeny-hue of the resin either.....If you are comfortable with the use of fibreglass resin (and actually know how to prepare it!) it is definitely the most inexpensive option.

Myself however, I just didn't want to risk a second potential resin-fail, and so went straight to my bow-glueing epoxy. Techniglue is maybe the second-most used epoxy for bows here in Australia and is great stuff. It has a far shorter pot-life than the all-time heavyweight champion Smooth On, so I just make sure I don't try to perform a lengthy glue-up in really hot weather!

But anyway - the bow epoxy is probably the more expensive 'resin' to use, but I like it for it's familiarity and it's bond strength is above reproach. And it dries clear. Here are my portions ready to go. You need to be wearing rubber gloves by now, and have everything you'll need at hand and prepared.


[IMG]  - [/IMG]

Ok, so this isn't a great image! I have glue all over my gloved hands and am holding my phone in a piece of news paper to take this photo!

What is happening here is that I'm working the epoxy into one strip of fabric at a time, placing a fresh strip neatly on top of it, and working more epoxy into that piece. The progression is this: first fresh fabric strip down. USING YOUR FINGER - working the epoxy into every part of the upturned fabric strip. Place the second fabric strip on directly on top of this one, and press it down flat, with no bunches or creases. USING YOUR FINGER - work more epoxy into the upturned surface of strip number two. Take fabric strip #3 and place it on top of the first two epoxy soaked strips. Work epoxy into the top surface of strip #3. Repeat until you have a neatly stacked, glue/ resin - soaked stack of cotton fabric strips.

I used caps for the use of our (gloved) fingers to apply the epoxy because we want every fibre of the fabric to be wet and soaked with glue. Rather than thinking of this process as 'gluing the fabric strips together' we really want to be trying to combine our 'ingredients' into one homogenous 'mass'. The fabric fibres are epoxy, and the epoxy is fabric fibres.


[IMG]  - [/IMG]

So here we have worked our resin/epoxy into each and every part of each and every fabric strip in the stack (24 in this case).

The preparation of pressing and accurately cutting the strips is paying off, as we have a neat, square stack that drops snugly into the clamping jig. I've lined the jig with plastic wrap (waxed baking paper would also work). lift one side of the wrap over and now cover the top of the wet resin/fabric stack. You can remove your latex gloves now to proceed.


[IMG]  - [/IMG]

....Now the 'male' half of the jig is dropped in on top of the wrapped stack and it clamped shut with a suitable number of clamps. A wood vice would perform the same job, as would the platens of a hydraulic press. Whatever your system, the important part is that the pressure is even aross the surface area of the micarta. It won't be the end of the world at all if your finished micarta strip has a thick end and a thin end, but at the same time, a bit of vigilance here will deliver a beautiful, flat billet of even thickness. I tighten the clamps down progressively, one by one and repeat for a few minutes until it seems that most of the 'squeezeout' has occurred and the clamps resist further tightening. Now depending on the resin you have used, the clamped billet can be placed into a bow-oven, in the sun, left at room temperature etc etc to cure.


[IMG]  - [/IMG]

...and fast forward to the next day! Unclamp the jig and carefully remove the cured piece of micarta. If you've used your bow epoxy, there is the inevitable excess to remove. I've used my diy 'table-saw' to remove the squeezeout at each end. An advantage of a snug-fitting clamping jig like mine is that the squeezeout is channeled to the two short sides of the cured strip. Less cleanup is ok with me!!!


[IMG]  - [/IMG]

Basically, at the end of the last step - we finished the project! A cured, hard and tough (yet flexible to a point) material with which to reinforce limbtips and make riser accents/overlays.

For the sake of the make-along though, (and my own childish curiosity) we just have to rip some of this back and have a look at the layered effect of the different coloured levels. Now we can start to visualise some of the effects we'll be able to create on our bows with this gear....The spindle sander strikes again!! I love this thing. A friend sponsored me recently to purchase it, and my payback is one of the first two bows off my D/R form!


[IMG]  - [/IMG]

If you've used a well mixed resin/epoxy, and waited for it to fully cure (I struggle with this), you can work down through your emery grades to bring the finished micarta to a smooth, glassy, almost translucent lustre. I've gone down to 1200 grit paper, followed by some jeweller's tripoli compound on a leather buff-stick. The image here shows the cream/back/white billet we've just made, along with two other 'tricolour' examples. Hopefully very soon, some of this micarta will be part of a couple of finished Kenny-D/R's!!!

I hope some of this has been interesting for you guys, and that it may help and inform others in the future too. A bit of care and attention during prep, and this is easy and pretty fun to do!

Darren

--------------------
Each day the devil whispered in my ear -"you will not withstand the storm."
Today I whispered in the devil's ear - " I am the storm..."

Posts: 35 | From: Australia | Registered: Aug 2017  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Krasus
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Cool! I need to try this
Posts: 379 | From: Canada - Vancouver | Registered: Jan 2015  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Shredd
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Great Job... I use 6oz. fiberglass and pigmented resin to make tip blocks... It is probably similar to G-10 but I have not tried putting mine under pressure...
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monterey
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Thanks for taking us along on this. [thumbsup]

I really don't need another project going on, but it is intriguing and allows for some creativity. Guess I'll go dig around the scrap pile and see if it produces a press!

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Monterey

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Mad Max
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nice

--------------------
"nothing ventured ,nothing gained"

Posts: 1863 | From: Mississippi | Registered: Oct 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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