Effects of Clear Gelcoat

One of the really cool effects that fiberglass parts can use clear gelcoat.  The basic process starts with a properly prepared mold that is waxed and ready for production.  The part build begins with a layer of clear gelcoat.  Several manufacturers have this product available, and it is sprayed on the same as pigmented gelcoat.

Once the clear gelcoat is tacky, the visible effect is placed down.  This can be a wide range of materials and patterns, depending upon the desired outcome.  I have a table that has ground granite rock specks.

Granite Table Top

Granite Table Top

These granite specks are placed down uniformly and consistently to give an acceptable finish.  Then some opaque gelcoat is used to finish off the look and help bind it together.  After this is cured, the fiberglass buildup is added to the desired strength and structure to give the desired finished part.

This clearcoat can be sanded and buffed much the same way as the opaque gelcoat, though sanding though to the underlying effects would be disastrous.

One of the drawbacks to this style of part comes when an unknown mistake occurs with the detail layer.  If contamination or uneven materials have visual problems, the whole part is built before the part is removed from the mold to find these problems.  The shape and structure are complete, but surface defects that cannot be repaired relegate these parts to the trash heap.  Extreme care must be taken in the detail application stage to prevent this action.  Practice and experience with test panels can help minimize these sorts of problems.

Clear gelcoat can provide a very unique and interesting surface medium.  A whole new look can be accomplished using existing fiberglass molds, gelcoat spraying equipment, and lamination schedules.
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