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aerospace my tractor - "huh?" you ask.

My dad was visiting one week; he wanted to know why my mower was hoodless....After I told him, he gave me the look of "why???" So I told him:  It all started when I was 8; that's when I first started mowing with this particular tractor.  It was "just my speed" as an 8-year old - meaning it's not very, I mean it's SLOW.

Anyway, to make a long story short,  when I finally had enough of a lawn to justify having a riding mower, my dad gave my first mower to me as a house-warming gift; it has a great new engine in it but it is still the same old drive train.....and still slow.  LOL.  Meanwhile, my neighbors all have great mowers that were not available when I was a young lad - and compared to them, my mower was seriously bringing down the overall mower-quality for the neighborhood.

Ok, a little backstory, here....the previous owners of the house were, well, not up to par in terms of yard maintenance.  In fact, in those first few days, when I planted some new (well, really OLD) roses, my new neighbor, Bill, remarked that "It's so good to see that someone who likes to keep a nice yard moved in."....Hmmm......Yes, in fact there were many instances where doing some routine maintenance was met with general enthusiasm by the neighbors.  (Keep in mind that in Patterson Park, where the old house was, it was assumed that you would keep your house and lawn looking pristine.  In fact, if you didn't, you would, most likely, receive an anonymous letter in your doorway reminding you of how "we take pride in the upkeep and appearance of our homes"...In case you are wondering - I've only seen copies - I was never an offender. :)  )

So, what better way to show pride in my lawnmower than, well, really making it look cool.



The original tractor.  rockin.  not.
After grit-blasting the hood
Stripping Action
The hood is stripped, sanded, scuffed and ready!
We ended up using a kluged-together poplar stand to hold the hood at a decent angle.  Why poplar you ask?  Because that's what we had.  :)  The angle was the one that we needed to get the first layer of carbon down and still be able to wrap and treat the flange areas.  Yes, I one will ever see the flanges. 
To make sure that the carbon would hang well and also to ensure a good bond to the original hood, a primer coat of epoxy resin was applied to the bare sheet metal.  I need to say, Ronda was a huge help in all of this - she stayed after work with me and helped prep and apply materials.  She has much more experience in wet layup (and molding in general) than I do, and without her input and help, this project would have not been as successful as it has been.  In fact, I would have wound up with nasty, buggery-looking carbon rat-hair-nests all over the entire hood and it would have looked like crap.  But, through repeated "Shep!  why are you dragging all the resin out of that?!" my techniques have improved.  Thanks Ronda! 


Cutting and kitting the first carbon layer.  In hindsight, since the fabric is on the heavier side (for carbon, anyway), it could have been a single layer.  The material is a 2x2 basket-weave carbon applied on a 45˚ bias relative to the hood.
We're Gellin' ! - I told Ronda that I was going to quote her on that.  For those of you that really want to know - I used a US Composites epoxy system for the hood.
We fired up the space heater, let the resin on the part gel and cleaned up the area.
After the resin stiffened, I trimmed back to the metal with a knife and let the part cure overnight.  The next day, after inspecting the hood, we noticed "a pooched area" (the exact quote).  Well, we can't have a pooched hood, now can we?  (the correct answer is "no", in case you were wondering)  So, that spot was sanded and we got ready for round two.
Oh, the drama of night two.  Ronda and I thought, hey, let's just do this in the oven, that way it will go better and we won't need the space heater. it turns out that a little heat is ok for this resin....but if you really need to extend your gel time, you just make it fairly warm.  We took the oven to problems....fairly low temperature for working inside the oven.  All was well.  Ronda went home, I was babysitting my hood, dabbing some resin, tucking the sides and generally waiting for it to gel so that I could trim the part.  I waited.  And waited.  I waited more.  Finally I call Ronda: "hey, did you catalyze the resin?" Of course she had.  She and I were stumped.  Same resin as the night before...Heck, same resin that we've used any number of times (for actual *work*) without issue.  So, after some extra consultation, we decide that too much heat is a bad thing and pull the part.  Like magic, the resin started to gel within 10 minutes of pulling the part to cool air. 


So, like I said...if you are using 635 Epoxy from US Composites and blow a molding and/or need a longer open time on your molding, just add lots of heat.  Sure it's counter-intuitive, but you'll have great viscosity for hours.  Not the 20 minutes that you are supposed to get at room temperature but HOURS I tell you!


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