Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dingy Thingy - Fixing Your Stick the Right Way!

Dingy Thingy – Fixing Your Stick the right way
by Adam Wright

If you are like me then you probably have at least attempted to repair your board at some point during your surfing lifetime. It seems so easy...just mix a little of this, a little of that, a little sanding and viola you are ready to get back in the water. Riiiiiight, things are never that easy...I don't know about you but when I was first starting to fix dings I would generally turn my board into a total cluster-f*@k of a sticky, itchy mess that has very little to do with being watertight and is more about making your board more ugly than it was before, as well as ruining your clothes at the same time.

I am not sure where the breakdown usually occurs in the process...maybe it is the sudden time crunch you feel when you drop the catalyst into the resin and everything starts to heat up...maybe it is just the fact that none of the materials seem to work well together until they bond up in the final product...maybe it is just the pure stickiness of the resin that seems to get on everything. All I know is that if there is a way for something to go wrong it probably will.

magic potion

Anyway enough about my incompetency (actually I am not too bad at ding-repairs now that I have been doing them for 15 or so years)...I figured that there a lot of you out there interested
trying it for yourself or at least learning what is the proper way to make a repair. I probably could have walked you through some sort of retarded fix myself but I figured that it we should probably talk to an expert who has done this for a living. So I went to Brad Nadell over at to see if he could help walk us through a ding-repair.

There are a lot of different places you can accidentally munch your board, some of which are pretty difficult to in the interest of everyone's sanity (and our outer layer of skin that we can potentially lose) we thought it would be best if we start with a relatively simple repair.

So here is the have been out surfing at Lowers, ripping (like you usually do), and after a long session you head to the beach to hang out with your hot swimsuit model girlfriend (or boyfriend...if you swing that way). As you belly across the inside cobbles at low tide you feel that gut-wrenching crunch as your board bottoms out on a particularly sharp rock. After doing the ankle-snap dance to the beach you see a nice big hole in your bottom deck. You being the handi-capable person that you are decide to fix the board yourself.

I actually let Brad smack a hole in the bottom deck of my board so that we could walk through the repair...though I think he got a bit of evil satisfaction taking the hammer to my thruster.

Hmm...that rock was surprisingly shaped like a hammer.

So here are the steps...they break down into three stages that sound easier than they actually are: Prep, Glassing, and Sanding

Stage 1 - Prep

1. Set up your workplace - Having a large enough area to work is important since you may need to walk around the board to get at it from different angles. Ideally your workspace will have some shade and will be well ventilated. Also remember that the resin can make a horrible mess so make sure you are either doing the repair over some sort of floor covering or an area that you don’t mind trashing. (like next to your beat up Camaro that you have on blocks in the dead grass of your front yard).

2. Plan out the repair in your head - It is good to have a battle plan thought out before you actually put the tools on the board or activate the resin. Think about the steps you need for the repair...will you need to fill the hole with q-cell? Will you need to have a couple of sheets of glass?
What sort of finish do you want the board to have when you are done? Do you need pigment for the resin? These are the sorts of questions that you need to address before starting.

3. Lay out your tools and materials - Get out everything that you will need for your repair. Make sure you have enough.

For this repair we actually were doing the repair in a glassing/painting/shaping bay at Tim Stamps factory. Below is a list of the materials that we used...(if you click the links you can actually order these products from the online store...see isn't that handy!)...actually I hope this doesn’t come off like an advertorial, Brad and the gang were super cool to donate their time, expertise, and materials for this story…and since I am a big fan of supporting surfer-labor I thought that linking up their products would be a nice way to thank them. Show 'em some love if you need a board fixed.

a. Q-Cell (hollow microspheres, you mix it with the resin to create filler)
b. Squeegee
c.Laminating Resin
d. Surfacing Agent (turns lam-resin into sanding resin)
e. UV Activated Catalyst
f. Mixing Buckets
h. Tacky Glue (for sticking sanding pads on the sander)
i. Resin Brushes
j. White Pigment
k. Sandpaper (80-100 grit for prep/repair...then 220-300+ for the final sanding)
l. Mixing Sticks
m. Rubber Gloves (please turn your head and cough)
n. Fiberglass cloth (not pictured)
o. Mask/Respirator (not pictured)

p. FlexPad sanding pad (not pictured)

4. Prepping the Ding - Once you have your workstation, tools and materials in place you can finally get to work. First thing is that you want to get the ding in shape so that the repair materials will bond properly with your board. You start by sanding the area with 80-100 grit paper. You need to be a little gentle in this process so you don't end up sanding away healthy parts of your board. Ideally you are going to want to sand a slightly concave bowl around the the ding is the deepest section of the bowl and it gets progressively more level to the deck of the board as you move further away from the ding. (This will let us layer in fiberglass for the the patch will hold and we can get the bottom deck to be flush when we are done sanding.) It is best to take this part can make the mistake of sanding too much...or not sanding enough...both can be problematic.

Once the sanding is done you pull out any broken fiberglass so that you can get the filler to actually touch the foam core.

5. Cutting Fiberglass Cloth - Next you want to measure out some fiberglass so that you can properly cover the hole and the slight depression that you just sanded into the board. 4oz cloth is usually enough for a repair...particularly if you are going to be layering extra-cloth to create the patch.

We actually used three circles...each one bigger than the create the patch that we would be glassing over the filled hole.

Stage 2 - Glassing (AKA sticking to things)

A few notes on this stage of the ding-repair

For this repair we used a cool product that Brad had brought along...I don't know the specific name... but basically it is a UV activated catalyst...sort of like what you would see in other solar-ding-repair kits but you can drop this catalyst into standard laminating resin and as long as you stay out of the sunlight it won't trigger the chemical reaction that causes resin to set. This is particularly sweet because it gives you time to work with the resin...getting the ding or glass job properly set before setting off the catalyst. Naturally this might not be the best set up if you don't have a shady place to fix your board...if that is the case you will want to stick with the standard resin/catalyst that activates shortly after the two chemicals are mixed.
*** There are a few catches with the UV Catalyst; when using it with Q-Cell filler, pigmented resin, or under lams you must add a bit of regular MEKP Catalyst since the UV rays cannot adequately reach the resin to activate it entirely.

Also...Brad pointed out that you want to know the difference between Laminating Resin and
Sanding Resin. So here is a quick little definition of the two resin types.

Laminating Resin - Lam resin is the "pure" stuff you want to use when you are trying to get the resin to stick to either the surfboard foam core, ding-filler, or to other patches of rough sanded, already set, fiberglass. This stuff will eventually dry out and harden but it doesn't really lose the tacky, slightly rubbery feel. It also doesn't sand very will always see the "cross hatching" of the fiberglass cloth as you rough-sand it.

Sanding Resin - Sanding Resin is actually almost like the Lam Resin but it has a few other chemicals, including paraffin wax & Styrene Monomer, that hardens into a smoother and
more ridged surface that is much more suited to the fine sanding that you need to do in order to do the final smooth-out of the ding-repair.

Ok with that out of the way...on to the repair.

1. Filling the hole - A big deep gouge, like the one that we put in my board, required us to use a little filler to create a plug that will stick to the foam of the surfboard and at the same time provide a stable sticky platform for the fiberglass cloth that we will use to patch the hole later.

You might be able to get away with just dribbling laminate resin in a smaller ding or crack but when the ding is big enough that the patching glass can bend or dip it is a good idea to paste in some filler before starting the glass work.

To fill this ding we used Q-cell which you mix into the laminating resin.

2. Mixing the Q-Cell - Creating the resin/q-cell mix is sort of an art...there is no hard and fast mixing ratio. You start by mixing the resin and catalyst together and then adding q-cell until it gets to the thickness/tackiness that you need for it to stay in the ding (similar thickness to preschool paste). You may also want to add some pigment so that the filler plug doesn't look bright green/see-through. We added a touch of white to this repair.

The filler should be malleable enough to spread around but it shouldn't drip a ton. For a ding like the one in the flat part of the bottom deck the filler can be a little thin...but a repair on the rail or
the nose you might need the filler to be almost like super soft play-dough. Or that gummy bear that has been in my pocket all afternoon and it nice and squishy.

3. Filling the hole (didn't I have a section titled that already?)

This part is pretty easy. Take filler. Fill hole.

Smooth filler to the top of the foam.

4. Placing the Patch

Ok now that you have the filler in place you take the lovely fiberglass circles that we cut out earlier and place them on top of the filler...ideally before the filler has set.

Start with the smallest circle of cloth (the size of the hole)...then follow with the next biggest size until all of them are placed.

5. Apply the Lam Resin (without the q-cell filler)

Now you apply the lam resin...we already had ours mixed with the UV filler...but if you are working without the UV component you will mix a separate cup of Lam Resin and drop in the catalyst to set it off.

Once mixed pour a fairly liberal amount onto the cloth patches.

And then take your squeegee and smooth the resin over the cloth...making sure that it saturates all of the cloth, and that you smooth out any air bubbles that might have formed.

6. Let the resin set (drink a beer, take a nap, or something)

For our repair we actually took the board out into the sun and let the UV light set off the catalyst. This UV technique actually really sped up the hardening process and the board was ready to be rough sanded in just a few minutes.

The hardened laminating resin will look something like this.

Stage 3 - Sanding (and some more glassing, then more sanding...damn are we done yet?)

1. Sanding the Lam Resin - Ok we are in the home stretch now. We start the sanding process by rough sanding the laminate resin and our patch.

Ideally you should use something like 100-150 grit paper to do this part. Don't get trigger happy though...just sand enough to take some of the rough parts off the lam resin. If you sand too much you might end up having to do some another patch job (I am speaking from my own
dumb-ass experience here).

2. Applying Sanding Resin - once you have the lam resin sanded then you mix up a batch of sanding resin to paint on over the repair. For our repair we used the same laminating resin that we had been using (the stuff with UV catalyst). We added a touch more catalyst and some surfacing agent which is basically the chemical cocktail that is mixed into Lam Resin to turn
it into Sanding Resin.

Using a brush, put on a thin coat that covers all of the repair area and laminating resin. Then let it harden (or in our case take it back out into the sun to cure).

3. Final Sanding - Once the sanding resin has set...bust out the sander again but this time use
increasing finer grit until you achieve the smoothness that your board originally had.

You should probably move up into the 220-320 grit paper fairly fast...andif you are looking for a super smooth finish...try and hit up some wet-sanding paper (generally above 800-grit) and hand sand it for the final polish.

Final Stage - Go Surf

Once the board is sanded, and water-tight, it is ready...though it is always good to give the patch a couple of extra days out of the water so that it can cure properly. Have fun shredding on your newly healed stick.
Adam Wright


  1. Anonymous8:22 PM

    Hey guys, I run a surf shop down in Point Loma, I do custom surfboards, glassing, and a butt-load of ding repair. I read your "Dingy" article, and while informative it lacked a few key elements in the process. The most important one being that you should wait for the filler to set, then sand, then re-glass and hot coat. If you put your glass circles on top of unkicked cabosil you're asking for air bubbles and problems when the filler finally kicks. That "kicking" process will create biproducts, such as air, that get trapped under that glass. So no bueno!

    AJ Doggart, 858-740-0086
    Wrell Surf/Savage Patch Surfboard Repairs

  2. Hi AJ,
    Thanks for the input but this is the way I learned from Rich Harbour (Harbour Surfboards) about 25 years ago. The idea is to save time and steps, that's why it's done this way. I've never had an issue with air being caught underneath since the Q-Cell mixture goes off before the cloth does. The Q-Cell should always go off first since it's thicker and this makes the catalyst react faster. This way of doing the repair is slightly on the advanced side since your mixtures have to be good to go. I used to be one of the ding repair guys at the shop so I do have quite a bit of experience. As you know there is always many ways to skin a cat!!!
    Thanks for your input.


  3. AJ Doggart11:51 PM

    Hey Brad,
    This is AJ, I posted a comment a while back about ding repair. I've got a good way to skip an extra step and have repairs done in a fraction of the time. If you're interested I'll help you skin a cat yet another way. Thanks, you guys have your business wired tight.

  4. Anonymous5:10 PM

    aloha..i agree let the q-cell harden then sand,another reason for doing the repair this way is you can sand the q-cell a bit bellow the surface of the exsisting fiberglass,because you are putting 2,or 3 glass patches on the repair as well as a hot coat and possible gloss coat THIS ENSURES YOUR REPAIR WILL BE FLUSH, YOU WONT FEEL A RISE ..I PERSONALLY HAVE NEVER heard of doing the repair the way you describe..but to each his own..any way cool shop good web site....peace


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