Whether you are bonding, fairing or applying fabrics, the success of the application depends not only on the strength of the epoxy, but also on how well the epoxy adheres to the surface to which it is being applied. Unless you are bonding to partially cured epoxy, the strength of the bond relies on the epoxy's ability to mechanically "key" into the surface. That is why the following three steps of surface preparation are a critical part of any secondary bonding operation.
For good adhesion, bonding surfaces should be:
1. Clean Bonding surfaces must be free of any contaminants such as grease, oil, wax or mold release. Clean contaminated surfaces with lacquer thinner, acetone or other appropriate solvent. Wipe the surface with paper towels before the solvent dries. Clean surfaces before sanding to avoid sanding the contaminant into the surface. Follow all safety precautions when working with solvents. (Figure 6)
2. Dry All bonding surfaces must be as dry as possible for good adhesion. If necessary, accelerate drying by warming the bonding surface with a hot air gun, hair dryer or heat lamp. Use fans to move the air in confined or enclosed spaces. Watch for condensation when working outdoors or whenever the temperature of the work environment changes. (Figure 7)
3. Sanded Sand smooth non-porous surfaces—thoroughly abrade the surface. 80-grit aluminum oxide paper will provide a good texture for the epoxy to "key" into. Be sure the surface to be bonded is solid. Remove any flaking, chalking, blistering, or old coating before sanding. Remove all dust after sanding. (Figure 8)
Cured epoxy- Unless you're using WEST SYSTEM's blush-free 207 Special Clear Hardener, amine blush may appear as a wax-like film on cured epoxy surfaces. It is a by-product of the curing process and may be more noticeable in cool, moist conditions. Amine blush can clog sandpaper and inhibit subsequent bonding, but this inert substance can easily be removed.
To remove the blush, wash the surface with clean water (not solvent) and an abrasive pad, such as Scotch-brite(TM) 7447 General Purpose Hand Pads. Dry the surface with paper towels to remove the dissolved blush before it dries on the surface. Sand any remaining glossy areas with 80-grit sandpaper. Wet-sanding will also remove the amine blush. If a release fabric is applied over the surface of fresh epoxy, amine blush will be removed when the release fabric is peeled from the cured epoxy and no additional sanding is required.
Epoxy surfaces that have not fully cured may be bonded to or coated with epoxy without washing or sanding. Before applying coatings other than epoxy (paints, bottom paints, varnishes, gelcoats, etc.), allow epoxy surfaces to cure fully, then wash and sand.
Hardwoods-Sand with 80-grit paper.
Teak/oily woods-Wipe with acetone 15 minutes before coating. Solvent removes the oil at the surface and allows epoxy to penetrate. Be sure solvent has evaporated before coating.
Porous woods-No special preparation needed. If surface is burnished, possibly by dull planer or saw blades, sand with 80-grit paper to open pores. Remove dust.
Steel, lead-Remove contamination, sand or grind to bright metal, coat with epoxy then sand fresh epoxy into surface. Re-coat or bond after first coat gels.
Aluminum-Wet sand with 80-grit.
Polyester (fiberglass)-Clean contamination with a silicone and wax remover such as DuPont Prep-Sol(TM) 3919S. Sand with 80-grit paper to a dull finish.
Plastic-Adhesion varies. If a plastic is impervious to solvents such as acetone, epoxy generally will not bond to it. Soft, flexible plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon, Plexiglas and polycarbonate fall into this category.
Hard, rigid plastics such as PVC, ABS and styrene provide better adhesion with good surface preparation and adequate bonding area. After sanding, flame oxidizing (by quickly passing propane torch over the surface without melting the plastic) can improve bonding in some plastics. It's a good idea to conduct an adhesion test on a plastic that you are uncertain about.