So, a week or so ago, I attended the Carbon Copies Mould Making Course, and I thought I’d put in a write-up because I was so impressed. I decided to go on the course because I was soon going beyond the flat-panel CF work I was doing on this fury and thought … £180 of tuition will take me way further than multiple days of bumbling around in the workshop and getting it wrong.
The course is organised by Warren (owner and self-admitted carbon-fibre and composite addict). You get there at 9 and brace yourself for a full-on day of mould-making, part-taking, tooling, techniques, tips of the trade and general how-to-do-it, gaining advantage of all of his ex-aerospace years of carbon-fibre work.
The workshop is in an old cloth mill in Crescent St, Todmorden which caries a certain irony. The training room upstairs is massive, and on the walls are lots of parts Warren’s made, and lots of moulds on benches for you to see just how (for instance) you would make a cycle wing. You get a tour of the techniques when you want. Lunch and infinite cups of tea and coffee are included and not skimped on. This is an important point because Warren was willing to go on as long as I was and I needed to leave at 7pm 🙂 On the way you have a right giggle and plenty of time for reflection and questions. In fact, Warren encourages interruptions and wants you to be totally sure you’ve got something before he moves on and also sure that alternative approaches (which he encourages) are discussed.
The plan for the day is to make a mould and take it home to use it. As such he asks you to bring a pattern (or for our US cousins: a buck) that you want to make a mould from and you can do that during the day. You actually get something concrete in your hands at the finish.
The course doesn’t just go into this though, because you’d not get the mould made and set in the time for the course, so he does it a little backwards to squeeze the most out. After a general discussion, much cooing at the lovely things hanging on the wall and another cup of tea, you make a mould from one of Warren’s existing NACA ducts. This means you can do the “how to finish the mould” bit on an existing pattern before you then spend more time making your pattern.
We used the Easy Composites epoxy mould making kit for this because it’s quick and Warren reckons it’s the best for the job. I should point out that neither he nor I are associated with these guys. They just supply good stuff to their own formulas. Warren also goes into how to make moulds using polyester as well, and that crops up later when you’re starting out making yours.
Warren took us through the mould-release process, and then guided us as we mixed, kneaded, painted and dabbed the stuff on in the right order (and you’re encouraged to use plenty-lots) and let it set. Out it pops and there you have it, a mould. We went through the issues we may get, and the slight imperfections we may create, and lots of time was spent discussing mould-repair and maintenance and how to put the imperfections right. This was a good morning spent.
Here is the mould from which I made a negative mould.
Afternoon was spent discussing the polyester resin system, barriers and finish, etc so that you can make a mould with the cheap stuff and still take an epoxy part from it. He also discussed the merits of using kingspan bonded together with bog for forming because it’s lots cheaper than the modelling board that is used for cnc machining. Barriers discussed were high-build primer, 2k clear coat and gel-coat.
I bonded my bits together, and Warren had a lot to say about my mixing technique but I got there in the end. After bonding multiple layers (I was making a dash-pod for the new dash I need to make), I carved them into rough shape with a knife, and then we got to sanding the right shape in place. Once done, layers of “whatever cloth scraps you have lying around” are used to cover the shape, which is set with polyester resin before bog is applied and sanded smooth. Even with bog application there was advice about how to apply for the least sanding effort. I will not be a good cake icing person.
By the time the part is sanded to the right shape, the day is about over, but that’s the point where you can apply the techniques from the morning at home yourself to finish off.
All in, a great day, a good long course, value for money and a great laugh. It’s a treat to see just how much Warren knows, and that he shares it all and really wants you to leave with a mould and pattern in your hands that will be genuinely useful for you.
Definitely worth it.