Now that we’ve got the dashboard ripped out (see part 1 of this series here) and we’ve constructed all of the new dashboard pieces (see part 2 here), we can now focus on what I’m calling the “bus dashboard pre-finish epoxy kerfuffle.” Some of the pieces we’ve built will be virtually impossible to access to apply finish once they’re installed. To solve this problem, we’re doing the preliminary finish work before we install. After the installation is complete there will be some additional epoxy work that will need completing, but that’s afterward.
The product we’ve chosen is called EcoPoxy. The company is out of Manitoba in the great white north (ya know, Canada) and makes a product that is really pretty amazing. Made from soybeans, EcoPoxy is a non-toxic bio-based product and doesn’t use any harmful petroleum derivatives. It is completely waterproof, chemical proof, and kid proof. The VOC content (volatile organic compounds) is very low while the product is being applied and no-VOCs once it has completely cured. Also, it will stick to just about anything, dries crystal clear and hard as a rock. It’s also comparable in price to many other epoxy systems on the market. Ecopoxy has a wide variety of products in their line. From floor coatings to resins used by boat builders to construct composite and laminated parts for their boats. You can find all about EcoPoxy and their many stellar products over at their websites, either here or here.
We’ll be using EcoPoxy’s Resin & Clear Hardener for the majority of the projects on the Wanderlust Bus, but before we get started pouring epoxy, there are a few tools you’ll need to complete the bus dashboard pre-finish epoxy. As you’ll see in the video toward the bottom of the page, I made a lot of discoveries along the way about the best way to accomplish laying down this epoxy. Here’s what I suggest:
TOOLS & SUPPLIES
I stated in the video at the bottom that the EcoPoxy is water based for cleanup. This is NOT the case. If I would have read everything before I started, I would’ve known that I needed to use denatured alcohol for the cleanup. It says so right on the back of both jugs. I would recommend picking up a bigger quantity locally because it’s not cheap online. If you have no other choice, here’s the stuff I used.
GLOVES & RAGS ( & DENATURED ALCOHOL WIPES IF YOU WANT)
I don’t think I need to tell you why you need this stuff. You can do without, but you’ll probably end up glued to your project.
Since you’re going tiny anyway (right?) you can just get rid of those old t-shirts and viola, you’ve got rags. As far as the gloves, I get these latex-free ones.
ASSORTMENT OF MEDIUM SANDPAPERS
You’ll need some lower grit paper to prep your surface before any epoxy is poured. You’ll also need a variety of sandpaper grits for prep between coats/layers. You need to make sure that you scuff the surface to promote subsequent layers adhering to the previous pour.
Here’s a pack of 36 sheets ranging from 120 to 3000. That should cover all your bases, from prep to final finish.
We need sheets of cardboard to lay down under the work pieces. We can’t use plastic drop cloths because the catalytic effect that occurs when you mix the epoxy can put off enough heat to melt the plastic. That’s why I recomend cardboard. Since you’re getting all that stuff shipped from amazon anyway, you’ll have cardboard.
We need this to get rid of the bubbles that will inevitably end up arising after the pour. Applying heat will cause the air inside the bubbles expand, rise, and pop. Don’t be tempted to use a regular hair dryer. Heat guns are designed to give a more intense heat without as much forced air. You can pick up a cheap heat gun at any home improvement store or grab the Wagner that I have from here.
With these, it is, once again, in your best interest to buy a few of these if you have a project that is of any considerable size or if you will be pouring multiple layers (which we’ll be doing with our clear LED lit counter-tops later). A little over 8 bucks a dozen and found here.
I found these to be the perfect mixing tool for the EcoPoxy. They allow you to “fold” the mixture, trapping less air in the catalyst. The spatulas have to be the ones like I’ve linked to. They are completely encapsulated, 1-piece of silicone with the reinforcement inside, which makes them easy to clean, even after the epoxy has cured. There’s also no risk of debris like there is with a paint stick. Any that are designed to separate into pieces will be trash after 1 use. They are usually also the cheapest ones out there, so it works out great.
You can grab a 3 pack here for less than 4 bucks. This will give you a variety of sizes for bigger batches. You can also pick the small ones up anywhere for around a buck.
ASSORTED FOAM BRUSHES
I am using these to work the EcoPoxy into any corners so that I have complete coverage all the way around. I’m using the roller for the majority of the surfaces, though. That has a lot to do with the fact that the dash is made up of large flat panels. This is the same reason that, even though I bought a wide variety of sizes, I only needed the 1″ (found here). Depending on your project you might need a size up or down.
4″ or 6″ HIGH-DENSITY FOAM ROLLER & COVERS
These things are great for applying the epoxy. Since they have zero-nap you won’t end up with little fuzzy things embedded like a mosquito in the end of a cane (yes, i just used a Jurrasic Park reference…what of it.) The covers should be considered disposable for this application, so buy accordingly.
HIGH GRIT SANDPAPERS
For the final finish work, you’ll need to use a grit that is fairly high before you get to the polishing. I used the wet sanding method with 1600 & 2000 grit on any areas that still had some imperfections.
The pack I mentioned earlier (here) will have all you need, well grit wise.
BUFFING & POLISHING WHEELS
The final step in the process is using some polishing compound along with some of these cotton mops after you wet sand any imperfections. You can pick up this set of 4 to get to 99% of the nooks and crannies.
Step 1: Level your work pieces. The key to a good finish is true level. The EcoPoxy is a liquid, so it will travel to the lowest point on the surface you’re working on. If you’re just doing the first coat, especially on wood, you can get away with some vertical application.
Step 2: The EcoPoxy is mixed in a 1:1 ratio which means the amount of both parts A & B will be the same. Once you’ve got them together, use the silicone spatula to mix. While mixing, try to avoid bringing air bubbles in. Less air in the initial mix means less air to evacuate once it’s on the work. Also, make sure the supplies you’re using aren’t covered in dirt or old epoxy since it will end up on your work.
Step 3: Now pour, all over, go crazy. Epoxy is thick and will be easier to move around if you have good coverage. It will also settle better with fewer high spots (you leveled it right?).
Consider the material you’re coating, in our case natural birch ply. Since wood is a sponge when it comes to moisture, it’s going to take a good amount of epoxy into its grain on the first coat. Just remember that some materials are more porous than others and you may need to compensate accordingly.
Step 4: Spread the sunshine…er, epoxy. The high-density foam rollers get the surface coated quickly and the cheap foam brushes can help get things into the corners and over the edges.
Be aware of your pot time, start a timer and make sure that once the clock hits 20 minutes, you need to be doing final detail work. Be patient, if you go off all willy-nilly, things will go sideways with your finish.
Step 5: Grab your heat gun, the real kind, not a hair dryer. Heat guns are designed to create a big amount of heat without all the wind. I don’t like the torch that a lot of folks have recommended cause I think it’s just too much heat.
Run the heat gun over everywhere that you’ve laid epoxy. As you do so, you’ll see the bubbles popping on the surface of the epoxy. It’s kind of mesmerizing to watch, but don’t get lost in it. This EcoPoxy is not easy to scorch but the workpiece of dried birch underneath can.
Step 6: Wait. Grab some organic coffee or tea, and read a book for 4 to 8 hours if you’re planning to add more coats. If you’re just doing a single pour, let it cure for 48 hours. Be aware, the rate your epoxy cures is dependent on the temperature, humidity, mix ratio, etc. The colder it is, the longer it’s going to take for things to harden up.
Step 7: Sand stuff. Use a light and different perspectives to examine each piece of the project. If you see any imperfections grab some fine grit sandpaper and work it down until it’s smooth. Wipe any sanded pieces down with a clean rag and denatured alcohol.
Step 8: Repeat the “prep – mix – pour – spread – wait” process for any subsequent coats.
When you first look at the process, it looks daunting but it’s really not too hard to accomplish some amazing looking final products with just a few simple precautions and methods. Check out the video of the process and let us know if you’ve got any epoxy stories to share. Feel free to comment with your epoxy based triumphs as well. Thanks for stopping by!