History

WEST SYSTEM® EPOXY

The Gougeon Brothers have been pioneers in epoxy formulation and epoxy composite boat construction for over twenty-five years. Since the introduction of WEST SYSTEM  Epoxy in the early 1970s, they have been known worldwide for their consistent high quality epoxy products. Skill and knowledge gained through years of racing, boatbuilding and scientific research have kept Gougeon Brothers and WEST SYSTEM products at the forefront of epoxy composite technology. Leading boatbuilders rely on WEST SYSTEM epoxy and PRO-SET® laminating epoxies for epoxy composite construction.

About Gougeon Brothers, Inc.

In 1958, Meade Gougeon and his younger brother Jan were first introduced to epoxy resins by Vic Carpenter of Superior Sailboats in Montrose, Michigan. Vic was one of the earliest users of epoxy as a structural adhesive for wooden boats. He'd learned about epoxy from a pattern maker. At that time, epoxy had just entered the pattern-making industry for bonding patterns together. Boat builders who wanted to experiment with epoxy resins would go to a pattern shop and decant a bucket of resin and a bucket of hardener to take back to their shop. The Gougeons were quite intrigued with the possibilities of epoxy resins for boat building.

In 1960, Meade built two boats using an epoxy as the adhesive while stationed with a large corporation in Kansas City. A few years later he was transferred to Erie, Pennsylvania, where he and Jan built their first trimarans using epoxy from a nearby chemical company. Up to this time they'd had mixed results with different epoxies but were impressed that epoxy could bond to many different kinds of wood, metal, and fiber reinforcement, and that it appeared to be very moisture resistant as well. The commercially available epoxies of that time had many advantages over other adhesives but they still had some limitations, mainly, that they didn't work well for coating.

After returning to their hometown of Bay City, Michigan in the later 1960s, Jan and Meade bought the building of the former Ben Huskins Boatworks on the Saginaw River and established Gougeon Brothers Boatworks to build iceboats. Epoxy was a natural choice to use in crafting these lightweight, sail-powered vessels. With the help of friends who worked at Dow Chemical in nearby Midland, Michigan, the Gougeons formulated an epoxy system ideally suited to their boat building needs. 

Their major breakthrough was modifying the epoxy to make it suitable as a coating. It had long been known that the epoxies had excellent moisture resistance, but they were so difficult to apply that they weren't used as a moisture barrier coating. With their new formulation, the Gougeon brothers found they could easily apply epoxy as a moisture barrier over wood or fiberglass surfaces.

Many people who saw the iceboats were interested in using Gougeon Brothers' epoxy system for their own projects. By 1971, Gougeon Brothers was selling West System® epoxy to other boat builders and to individuals who wanted to use the epoxy for building and repairing their own boats. Brother Joel Gougeon joined the company in 1971 and helped develop the epoxy business during his years with the company. By 1973, Gougeon Brothers Boatworks was the largest builder of iceboats in the country. The company rapidly expanded its business into other boat building projects.

In 1975, the Gougeon sold their iceboat business to Joe Norton of Norton Boatworks in Green Lake, Wisconsin. This allowed them to concentrate on selling epoxy and building larger custom boats. Today, their epoxy systems are sold across the United States and in a dozen foreign countries.

Much of the early success of West System epoxy was due to its compatibility with wood. The epoxy is still used today for the construction of new wooden boats and repair of old, and because of the nostalgic value and beauty of wooden boats, that market remains intact today. But by the early 1970s, mass-produced fiberglass boats had largely replaced traditionally built wooden boats. With the aging of the fiberglass fleet came the need for a dependable repair resin. West System epoxy's superior moisture resistance and ability to bond to a wide variety of substrates made it a popular choice for fiberglass repairs.

The Gougeon brothers built several high profile racing sailboats using the construction technique they'd developed for building iceboats: laminating wood veneers together with epoxy. The first complete boat built incorporating West System epoxy and composite construction techniques was Adagio, a 35-foot offshore trimaran the Gougeons designed. Launched in 1970, Adagio is a testament to the longevity of wood/epoxy composite construction; despite decades of exposure to innumerable fatigue load cycles in choppy Great Lakes conditions she’s still in top competitive form today. 

Another notable boat they built in this manner was the Holland-designed Golden Dazy, which won the Canada's Cup Regatta in 1975. The success of these wood/epoxy composite boats led to a "mini-revolution" amongst builders and designers. They realized that they could build stiffer and stronger hulls with wood and epoxy than they could with fiberglass, and do so without increasing the weight. Many custom builders continue to choose wood and epoxy as their construction materials today.

Other important boats built by Gougeon Brothers include Accolade, a Bruce Kirby-designed 30' half-ton monohull in 1974; a production version of the Olympic Class Tornado catamarans they built during 1975 and 1976 -- one of which earned a Silver Medal in the 1976 Olympics; Hotflash, a Gary Mull-designed 32' half-ton monohull in 1976; Phil Weld's Rogue Wave, a Dick Newick-designed 60' Trimaran, in 1977; Patient Lady, a C-Class catamaran they built, won the 1977 Little America's Cup; and Slingshot, a Georg Thomas-designed 60-foot proa in 1978. Slingshot recorded the second fastest time at the World Speed Trials in 1979. Adrenalin, a Formula 40 Trimaran, they built for Bill Piper of Ossineke, Michigan in 1987, amazed the sailboat racing world by taking an extremely close second place during her first regatta in the Formula 40 Grand Prix circuit in Brest, France, in April of 1988.

The manufacturing experience and research and development associated with the use of wood/epoxy composites in the construction of wind-turbine blades has also largely influenced our company. In 1979, the Gougeons' reputation for excellence and innovation in wood/epoxy composite construction captured the attention of NASA researchers who contacted the company to build experimental wind turbine blades for use on wind energy machines. The success of the wood/epoxy blades led to multi-million dollar contracts with General Electric, Westinghouse, and Bendix. Gougeon manufactured 4,300 blades, from 10 to 70 feet long between 1979 and 1993. The wind turbine business allowed the company to fund an extensive research program, the results of which have been instrumental to developing extremely light weight structures, both on and off the water. Data collected was also used to improve the performance of West System epoxy and to test new construction methods.

Today, we still sell primarily into the marine market but our epoxy formulations find their way into a wide variety of markets. This diverse customer base requires a large customer service effort. Our technical staff fields more than 10,000 phone calls annually, in addition to the inquiries which arrive by letter, fax, email, or through the door. Gougeon Brothers works closely with its customers and has built its business as an epoxy formulator based on interactive customer service, extensive research and development, and manufacturing experience. Gougeon Brothers strives to support its customers by sharing its knowledge and experience through books, instructional manuals and other publications, videos, seminars and workshops.

nullGougeon Brothers, Inc. has always been a privately-held company but in 1983, set the ground work to become an employee-owned company. In effect, any Gougeon employee you speak with is a part-owner of the company and has a vested interest in keeping you as a satisfied customer.  In 1992, Gougeon Brothers developed a mission statement affirming our purpose. That is to provide safe, high-quality, cost-effective products and comprehensive technical information supported by continual research and development.

 

 

 

Gougeon Historical Videos
Length
Windows In Time - 1983   3:20
The G-32 Catamaran (Promo) - 1990 16:27
Meade's Sailing Canoe - 1999
  3:06

 

Gougeon Boats
Meade's Sailing Canoe - 2011
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