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Old 04-01-2013, 06:44 AM   #1
mugget

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Default Work In Progress: Custom Motorcycle (Supermoto) Bodywork

Hi folks,

I have been working on some custom bodywork for a project bike I've got going at the moment. I had planned to do a full writeup here when it was all finished, but I figure that I may as well post it up now as I'm going so that people can follow along and maybe I can get some tips as well if anyone sees a way to do things better...

First up I've got to say what a fantastic resource this forum has been... so many knowledgeable and willing people here who go out of their way to share their hard-earned experience and information. Thank you to everyone who shares their knowledge here, just browsing the forum and spending some time learning gave me a lot of confidence to take on this project for myself.

I wanted to try and give something back, so hopefully this thread can give a bit of inspiration to someone who is thinking of doing a small project themselves as well. One thing that I want to show is that you don't need very much in the way of equipment or tools to get started. This is really the very first composites project I've done (I've done one piece before which was an attempt at a pillion seat cowl for my Gixxer that was abandoned half way through.) I don't have a big budget at all, so you're going to see how far that can take you.

Now let's get to the details...

For anyone interested in the bike itself - it's a 1999 KTM 380EXC. I picked it up for a fairly good price, the idea is to build a mega-raging big bore 2 stroke supermoto. There needed to be some work converting it from a dirt bike to supermoto anyway, and for a few years I've wanted to do a composites project for one of my bikes - so this was the perfect chance.

Here's what I started with:


KTM 380 SM 001 by mugget, on Flickr

The bodywork looks a bit old fashioned (well, it is) so I knew I wanted to make something that had a sharper, more modern look. So this was the mockup that I settled on:


KTM 380 SM - Final Body Style by mugget, on Flickr

Not necessarily that colour bodywork... but you get the idea of the shape. My final plan is to have one set of bodywork with visible carbon fibre (yes, that's purely for the bling factor. Haha.) But before that I'll do one or two sets of fibreglass bodywork that will be painted (so I have some spares, and don't risk scratching up the CF panels if I ever take the bike offroad).

The next step was to get a template that I could use to mark out the same shape on both rear side panels. Then I started shaping it up with clay:


Mockup Shape by mugget, on Flickr

The clay kept alright overnight as long as I kept spraying it with a bit of water then covered it. This is basically what it looked like before I put some fibreglass down to start off the plug:


Clay Mockup by mugget, on Flickr

Cutting out CSM and peel ply:


Cutting Peel Ply by mugget, on Flickr

The first side laid up:


Start of Plug by mugget, on Flickr

And yes, that's peel ply on the top. This was actually a neat trick that someone at the local composite supply shop told me about - if you put peel ply on top it leaves a nice, evenly textured surface that is ready to take body filler etc. And it worked a treat! Just pulled off the peel ply and there was a nice smooth surface, ready to get straight on with the rest of the shaping.

Next up I got to working on the headlight. You'll notice that the card I used in the side panel mockups was just plain card... which is a bit of a mistake. It absorbs the moisture from the clay and deformed the shape a little bit. So for this I taped up the entire mockup to avoid that problem:


Headlight Mockup by mugget, on Flickr


Headlight - Clay Mockup by mugget, on Flickr
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Old 04-01-2013, 06:53 AM   #2
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Moving right along I got into the clay mockup of the rear fender. Using the stock fender as a base I just made some adjustments to create a sharper look:


Rear Fender Mockup by mugget, on Flickr

Next up I covered the clay in fibreglass, but this is a much more complex piece than the side panels, so I wanted to keep the dimensions more accurate. So the part I took off the clay mockup was really just a mould, so I had to make another part out of that to get back to the original size of the clay mockup. Parts started to multiply quickly!


Rear Fender Plug by mugget, on Flickr

A note about this stage - for the side panels I didn't bother covering the clay before I layed up the CSM, I just put it right on top. This was mostly fine because I didn't care what the rear of the plug looks like. However it seemed like the moisture stopped the job from curing properly, but it was fine after I removed the clay and brushed a bit of fresh resin over the back of the plug. But for the fender I couldn't have that, so I just covered the clay mockup (and the rest of the stock part that wasn't covered in clay) in Glad Wrap (plastic cling wrap) before putting down the fibreglass. This went mostly okay, aside from some wrinkles. It caused a bit more work when it came to finishing the plug... I would do it differently next time. Probably I would try PVA on the clay with a mix of wax & PVA on the exposed aras of the stock part. But at the time I wasn't too confident of that, and I still needed that stock part.

By this stage I purchased my first batch of carbon fibre and epoxy resin, corecell and Innegra. My previous experience only covered polyester resin and CSM, so I wanted to do a few small test pieces. Not only to see what it was like to work with those materials, but also to try and get an idea of what layup I will need to use in the final parts to get the strength and stiffness I want.

I was thinking of a quick way to make a shaped part, I figured that I wasn't making flat sheets, so there was no point in making test pieces in a flat shape. The solution I came up with was kind of funny... I went into the kitchen and made up a batch of Play Doh. Then I masked up a piece of perspex and pressed out a bunch of shapes that I could use for some test layups.


Setup for test layups by mugget, on Flickr

I also tested a bunch of different release treatments - regular release wax, wax + PVA, and also wax + hair spray. Yep, you read it right - hair spray! I read about that somewhere while I was looking into different composites techniques, and apparently it worked fairly well for someone else, so why not give it a try. This is why testing is so important, you get a chance to try all these different ideas and get a real good understanding of what is going to work with the exact materials you have.

Here's part way through the test layups:


Corecell Test by mugget, on Flickr

And the final pieces:


First Carbon Fibre by mugget, on Flickr

Not a bad result at all for a first time working with CF and a visible surface layer! No pinhole bubbles in a wet layup... very pleased with that. The Play Doh leaves a certain texture, but that doesn't matter - the important thing was to learn about the inherent strength in a shaped part, and how different CF/fibreglass layups work. (My plan is for just one surface layer of CF, the rest will be fibreglass with one layer of Innegra.) The pieces with corecell are amazing... I had no idea you could get that kind of strength just by adding a simple piece of foam...! This is good, because my plan is to use the corecell in the rear fender, since it has to support tail lights and a license plate.
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Old 04-01-2013, 09:08 AM   #3
archimedes

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Mugget,
very,very sweet do.
jumped into the forum for a quick look & BAM!
excellent creative process.
look forward to the entire story as you move along.
thanks for posting
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Old 04-01-2013, 09:18 AM   #4
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Looks good.. You gave me a couple ideas for making a plug of a car spoiler.
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Old 04-01-2013, 02:30 PM   #5
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Cheers archimedes. I have a bit of posting to catch up to my current progress... I started on this back at the start of December last year. This post covers progress up to 6th December.

Very glad to hear you got a couple of ideas Extreme!

Moving back to the rear side panels the Play Doh came in handy again. I cut away too much and had to add some back in. I shaped a simple mould using the Play Doh and mixed up a runny batch of body filler so It would just flow in a bit easier.


Body Filling by mugget, on Flickr

So far I've been making my own body filler for this whole project. All body filler is made from is basically cheap polyester resin and talc, so I just used the poly resin I had, got my hands on a bit of talc and mixed it up just how I wanted.

I tried baby powder (supermarket talc) but that kind of didn't work as well... made the whole place smell better though! Haha. (Polyester resin stinks bad - careful where/how/when you use it, neighbours can complain to the council. "Nuisance smell" is the technical term.) I managed to find somewhere I could buy 500g of plain talc. Then I went through that and found another place I could buy a 1kg lot (I didn't quite need the 20kg bags that my local composite supply stocked!) It's much cheaper than buying body filler, and I like that it can be mixed to the consistency you want.

The strips you can see in the panel are just bits of cardboard box that I cut up and laminated in to give some reinforcement - extremely cheap core material. There's no rules in plug making - anything goes! Although this turned out to be a bit overkill... but there's bound to be a lot of learning when you start out on a project like this. There's also some air voids around the card edges, but no big deal on these parts.

The card made the panel too bulky in some areas so I had to cut it out in places, but that's no problem. A Dremel is an amazingly handy tool!

I was wondering how to keep the panels positioned while I am working on them, so I thought I would make some positioning lugs. These sit where the seat bolts would normally be and give a reliable position so the plugs are in the same spot every time I put them on the bike to check shape and fitment.


Creating Positioning Lugs by mugget, on Flickr

With the Play Doh removed this was easily sanded and filed to shape.


Positioning Lug by mugget, on Flickr

This is how the rear side panels were starting to shape up:


Right Side Progress by mugget, on Flickr


Left Side Progress by mugget, on Flickr
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Old 04-01-2013, 03:03 PM   #6
mugget

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I had a bit of a break from this project in the new year... I got a bit overwhelmed when I started to think of everything that I had just got myself into. I've got to be honest that it was a bit daunting to take this on as a first project.

By the start of February this year I got myself motivated again, no reason to sit around thinking about all the work I've still got to do! The only thing to do is just keep working away at it one task at a time!

I wanted to get the plugs for all the bodywork started (just so I could reach that milestone and start to see a bit of progress). So next up was the radiator shrouds (front side panels). I just cleaned up the plastics a bit, then put two coats of mould release wax. Then seeing as I just wanted to get things moving along quickly I decided to give the hair spray a try on an actual part. I think I prefer the smell of poly resin to hair spray. Made my messy, dirty man-cave smell like a hair salon! Yuk!



Next up I mixed a small batch of filler so I could get all the mounting tabs and recessed areas in the mould. Mixing this myself came in handy again because I made it runny and it just flowed in nicely with no voids. I just taped up the back of the mounting holes so it wouldn't run right through.



By this stage I had used the 4kg poly resin that I had left over from my initial failed attempt at composite work and had picked up another 4kg tin. Bonus with this one was that it didn't smell half as bad as what I was using before! That ought to keep the neighbours happy a bit...

But I was worried after filling the mounting tabs because it still hadn't set after some hours. I thought the catalyst ratio might not have been the same as I was used to. Lesson there is you should always do a test on new materials you're not familiar with... but thankfully it did eventually cure, just took a while!

Then I got to laying some 'glass down. Hard to get good drapability over sharp angles, but holding a tricky piece while it cures will do the job. This required more improvisation as I went... clothes pegs to the rescue!



I was excited to demould the first somewhat complex part, and it was a success!! It separated very easily thanks to the hair spray. I give it a 10/10 rating for ease of use. It leaves a fairly good surface finish as well.



I tried out some woven fibreglass on these parts. This worked much better than the more solid CSM construction of the rear side panels. Having a bit of flex is good, and it keeps the weight down so it's much easier to work with.

The stock fork sliders look really ratty, so I'm planning to make a new set of those as well. Not sure how I will attach them exactly, but I have some ideas... anyway I can worry about that later! One thing I will try is a low-friction graphite surface coat on the final sliders. I did a couple of my CF test pieces with a graphite surface coat, haven't tried any friction tests on them yet, but I can get a good surface finish at least, so it looks promising.



These have just been sitting around since they were made, it's a low priority part.

For some reason I don't seem to have pictures of laying up the splash mould for the front fender, but this piece has some fairly sharp angles in it. After seeing how difficult it can be to get CSM to conform to sharp edges I wanted to play it safe here. So I mixed a batch of body filler and covered in all the sharp edges to make sure I moulded the entire shape without voids. To try and get an even better finish the first layers I put down over the filler were woven fibreglass, then just CSM for the rest. I laid this part in a couple of steps to try and avoid shrinkage/exotherm which would probably happen if I just slapped it all down in one session.



Parts started to multiply quickly again... Next I could lay up the actual plug. I used the same method of covering the sharp edges with body filler, then woven and CSM.



I didn't layup right to the front edge because this is going to be much shorter than the original anyway.

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Old 04-01-2013, 06:57 PM   #7
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That's interesting about the hairspray. I had read about it being used to hold fabric in place but not as a release.
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Old 04-02-2013, 01:57 PM   #8
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For the 2nd rad shroud I used more woven glass (200g) for the first layer of the plug, then a layer of 300g CSM and some 450g CSM for extra reinforcement around the recessed areas and edges/curves. This one turned out better than the first one which used much less woven glass.





Progress for one of the rad shrouds. From left to right: stock panel, splash mould, plug.



I got some holes around the the recessed areas, but no problem - I just re-waxed and put some more hair spray on the mould and put the piece back on, patched these up with filler.



For the final part I'll have to do this really carefully... at least it's not a highly visible area, I know I can always put it back on the mould and patch it with filler if I get holes like this.

And the rear fender trimmed down and test fitted.



The original front fender must have been from another bike because it had been rubbing on the frame downtube. Easy solution though, just cut it & shut it:



After spending a bit of time looking at the part against the bike, I made a guess of how much I'd have to remove to make the rear of the fender sit at the proper angle (the cross hatch marked area) and it turned out pretty good.

All joined up, just needed to smooth it over and fill the gaps:





To the front edge of the front fender - I drew a curve I was happy with (right side in the below picture) and used a rough template to transfer it to the other side.



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Old 04-02-2013, 02:17 PM   #9
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The stock rear fender was quite complex, on the left side it had an area that completely slid over the subframe tube to help keep it positioned on the bike (it's only attached by a few screws otherwise). It also has a part that attaches to the end of the airbox, and without that I'd effectively be reducing the airbox size (not something that I wanted to mess with).

So I decided to go ahead and add that part to the plug. I taped up the airbox join area with electrical tape and used some trimmed down plastic bags to protect the rest of the bodywork (poly resin won't stick to either of those kinds of plastic which is very handy!) I put down filler along the masked airbox edge, then just let some CSM/woven glass hang down from the plug to meet the filler.





I am thinking that I will just close off the area between the side panel and the area below the subframe with some foam. Or I could attach a flange to the back side of the final side panel that will seal off the rear end of this new airbox attachment. But I think it's safe to say that I can't add much more to the plug without making something that is going to be too complicated when I come to create the final mould and parts.

I rushed a bit on the rad shroud that I used mostly CSM on, ended up with some voids on the surface. Lesson - don't rush, and also using a first layer of woven glass is good insurance.



I had been trying to fix it with filler, but that didn't seem to be going so well, it's like the holes were too small and pressure would kind of force the filler out of the hole on one side. So I thought I'd try just filling the holes directly with resin to try and get it to flow into the holes better.



It seemed to go okay, just that the resin is much harder to sand than the filler.

This is all work completed up to 19 March. The week after I finally decided to buy an orbital sander, don't know what it took me this long! Best $58 I have spent on the entire project! (Everything posted so far had been worked by hand, either plain sanding paper, or a sanding block + paper, or a hand file.) Progress has been much more rapid after I got that orbital sander involved...

I just need to take some current progress photos and that will bring this thread right up to date. Stay tuned!
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Old 04-05-2013, 02:02 PM   #10
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Great work so far! I've really enjoyed reading this thread and can't wait for more. I'm curious, what kind of clay did you use for your plugs?
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