Updated: Dec 7, 2018
You've been there; you come up from the water after you botch a turn or have a close-call with a buddy and the panic sets in. Even more common, you're pulling a favorite board out of your car or shed and the distinct "clunk" and "crack" sound jolts you out of your pre-surf stoke. That sinking feeling you get in your stomach when your quiver takes some damage is the worst, but no more! Keep reading to learn how to repair your boards like a pro and to find out how you don't have to do it alone.
The most important step of a good repair is assessing the damage and determining the most effective approach to making it right. Unfortunately, this requires making things a little worse in order to get a better final result. Forget everything your mom ever told you about not picking scabs and get in there.
- Use a razor-knife and/or sandpaper to remove damaged fiberglass and/or foam. At this stage, try not to cause new damage to undamaged areas, but open up the ding by removing damaged material until you get to un-cracked glass and/or smooth foam.
You may just have a crack in your top smooth "hot-coat" of resin, in which case you should just sand the area down enough to remove that crack/chip and then you can skip to the "Hot-Coat" step.
If it's a noticeable ding, you probably have lamination damage, meaning the main layer of fiberglass over the foam is compromised. If, after removing the damaged fiberglass, the foam is undamaged (which isn't super-likely!) you can skip to the "Lamination Prep" step.
Most semi-serious dings include some foam damage. Remove damaged fiberglass and sand down the underlying foam until you get to nice, white, smooth, foam. Then move to the next step.
- Blow off any dust from the previous step and, if necessary, use masking tape to build up a reservoir that will form the liquid filler mixture to a shape as close to the finished shape of the board as possible.
- Mix up your filler mixture using laminating resin and Q-cell or micro-balloons (for poly boards) or epoxy part A and Q-cell or micro-balloons (for epoxy boards). This mixture should be about the consistency of Elmer's glue (if using epoxy, your mixture will be thicker than glue until you add your part B catalyst, but try to achieve that consistency before applying the mixture to the board).
- If you wish to color-match your repair to a colored board, add resin-tint or pigment to your filler mixture to achieve the desired color. Just a little goes a long way and it's fine to mix multiple colors to get the color you're after. No secrets to this, but I recommend Googling the color-wheel or calling your elementary school art-teacher if you can't get it quite right.
- Add catalyst to your mixture and mix thoroughly to ensure consistent kick.
- Pour filler into your damaged area little by little to minimize bubbles. You can use your mixing stick to poke at the filler to try and work-out any trapped air.
- Allow mixture to cure and become solid, but try to catch it before it gets totally hard.
- Remove tape and use a razor to trim obvious excess away from damaged area to reduce necessary sanding in next step.
- Allow for full cure.
- Use low-grit sand paper by hand or with sander to shape foam filler to desired shape and to remove enough thickness of “good glass” from about 1/2" surrounding the ding to make room for new cloth. You should be able to see the exposed weave of the good glass that you are sanding away.
^^This step of sanding down good glass from the surrounding area is the most commonly overlooked step and results in either a lump repair, raised above the rest of the board, or a repair that ends up being sanded away in the final steps of trying the finish-sand the board.
- Hand-sand the area to remove any hard edges left behind by the sander.
- Blow off excess dust.
- Touch-up any missing/damaged paint or pin-lines.
- Tape-off area around ding to prevent flow of excess resin onto undamaged areas in next step.
- Cut patch of fiberglass cloth to match size and shape of damaged area. You can use multiple layers of cloth if necessary depending on depth of damage.
- Mix laminating resin: Lam resin + catalyst for poly, Part A + Part B for epoxy.
- Use mixing stick to apply resin to cloth and wet-out the cloth entirely, but pay close attention to use as little resin as possible to do this to achieve strongest and smoothest lamination.
- Allow to cure.
- Mix hot-coat resin: Lam resin + surfacing agent + catalyst for poly, Part A + Part B + Additive F (if necessary) for epoxy.
- Apply to whole damaged area with mixing stick or cheap paint brush. Try to achieve a smooth layer of hot-coat resin that is thick enough to fill the texture of exposed cloth, but thin enough to not build-up or drip.
- Allow for full cure.
- Use a soft sanding pad (or hand-sand) with 120 grit to achieve a fairly smooth finish that matches the surrounding shape of the board. You're generally looking for an even cloudiness, without random low spots that will appear shiny, but if there are small low spots remaining once you've got a smooth over-all shape you can just move to your next grit and that should take care of it.
- Keep sanding with increasing grits until you've achieved a similar sheen to the rest of the board.
- If looking for gloss finish, sand to high grit and then buff with polishing compound and a wool pad.
-If you exposed the weave of your cloth in the sanding process, apply a thin layer of hot-coat resin and allow it to cure, then sanding again with a higher grit. Alternatively, you can just wipe the area with styrene-monomer after finish-sanding, which will soften the resin again briefly, allowing those exposed fibers to become re-saturated with resin.
As you can see, there's a lot to fixing a little damage. This is a pretty good guide to the general process, but every ding is a little different and may require slightly different approaches. Check out the video below to see all of these steps in action!
If you're interested in fixing your own dings, but you don't have all of the necessary tools, materials, and know-how, then I'd encourage you to consider becoming a Ding-Repair Member with us for as little as $12.50/month. Member's get 24-hour access to our shop, tools, and materials to fix dings for themselves or friends, just paying for the materials that they use. On top of that, you also have access to our staff and other members, all of whom are happy to help out if a particularly tricky repair has you scratching your head.
Don't worry, if all of this info has just helped convince you that you have no interest in taking on your own repairs, our staff can get you patched up and back in the water in no-time. Schedule a drop-off online or stop in and say hi anytime!
Our number-one priority is to make our community better, and we think the community is better when more people are enjoying the ocean's offerings. If there's anything we can do to help get you back in the water, just give us a call.