Making lightweight interior panels

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Making lightweight interior panels

Postby hospadar » Mon Apr 10, 2017 9:01 pm

Have been working on my trailer (this one: https://luxurylandyacht.wordpress.com/) and it's coming along GREAT. Now that it's warmer out I'm getting back in the swing of things and starting to thing about interior finishings.

The general plan is that there will be a pair of benches up against the sidewalls in the rear of the trailer, and one bench/cabinet containing a pull-out kitchen drawer thing in the front of the trailer. All of these need to be covered with some kind of removable panels. In addition, there are going to be removable panels between everything to convert the whole thing into a bed. All the benches (the frames) are going to be welded out of aluminum angle and square tube.

Have been thinking about how to make all these panels and hopefully keep everything lightweight - trying to keep the final product under 1000# hopefully for towing with my little car.

My first thought was just to use nice 1/2" plywood, but I'm worried on the wider spans (~26") that it might get kinda bendy without lots of (weight) reinforcement. That would work fine, but if I can save 20 or 30 lbs by using something lighter I'd rather do that.

Second thought was to try making some plywood-foam-plywood composite panels and see if those are strong enough. I was thinking maybe 3/4" foam & 1/8 plywood skins. Has anyone ever made anything like that or anything to solve a similar problem? I have all the equipment I need to make it happen (a nice vacuum bagging system namely), and I'll probably go ahead and do some experiments, but if anyone has already done the science I'd be happy to ride their coat tails.

There are a bunch of similar commerical products, but most of them are too thick/heavy/hard-to-source to be of practical use to me.
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Re: Making lightweight interior panels

Postby les45 » Tue Apr 11, 2017 4:21 am

I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to do, but I have made composite panels for a different kind of project. You can see what I've done on my journal at the following link: http://tnttt.com/viewtopic.php?f=50&t=64782&start=90

These panels are very sturdy. While their primary purpose is to support the roof of my pop-up in a columar effect, they have a lot of strength laterally also. While I haven't done any testing to see how much load they will take laterally, I have seen on this Forum where people have used similar construction for their outer shells and they are strong enough to sit on the roof without damage.
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Re: Making lightweight interior panels

Postby GPW » Tue Apr 11, 2017 6:00 am

Hos’, try in the Foamie section ...
There’s no place like Foam !
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Re: Making lightweight interior panels

Postby John61CT » Tue Apr 11, 2017 6:22 am

[url]​http://intothemystery13.com/ultra-light-weight-foam-construction-technique/[/url]

Aluminum screen over XPS foam using Glidden Gripper primer as glue
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Re: Making lightweight interior panels

Postby noseoil » Tue Apr 11, 2017 7:39 am

I think you're on the right track with a hollow panel. Just think hollow core door & it should be fine.
Build log: viewtopic.php?f=50&t=60248
The time you spend planning is more important than the time you spend building.........

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Re: Making lightweight interior panels

Postby hospadar » Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:06 pm

Late followup in case anyone is curious:

Ended up making foam-filled wood panels that worked great. Forgot to take any pictures of the build process, but it looks something like this:
  • Made frames out of 1x2. I used the expensive stuff without any knots. I rebated the ends and made overlapping joins for extra strength, but mitered corners would probably be fine.
  • Cut pieces of 3/4" insulation XPS foam (the pink or blue stuff) to fit inside the frames.
  • Cut pieces of 1/8" birch plywood to be slightly larger than the frames. I used a saw to trim of glue squeeze-out and square the edges, so the oversize plywood meant a perfect panel after glueing
  • Made a plywood-glue-frame&foam-glue-plywood sandwich. I used titebond II for some panels and gorilla glue for others. Both seemed to work fine, but it's important not to apply too much glue, especially with the titebond. Some of my early attempts came out screwed up because the titebond got put on too thick and didn't dry fast enough. The titebond has no problem sticking to the foam, but it has to dry to harden and water can only move through the plywood. The gorilla glue seemed a little more forgiving because (i presume) it doesn't need to dry, just needs some water (misted the plywood and foam) to cure.
  • Put the sandwich in a vacuum bag. I have a vacuum pump & bagging film I use for fiberglass stuff. The vacuum bag provides nice even pressure across the surface and makes for a well-glued panel (usually). Again, be careful about using too much titebond, it will dry in the bag as water moves into the wood, but some of the panels with too much glue still came out messed up. A flat surface and some sandbags or something could probably stand in for the vacuum bag in a pinch.
  • Trimmed off the plywood overhang & glue squeeze out mess with a saw. I should note, I masked the surface of the plywood panels with masking tape and craft paper to prevent them from picking up glue in the bag.

End result is really nice and very lightweight 1" thick panels that are beautiful after polyurethane. They're strong enough to support me (230#) sitting in the middle of a 30" span. I was paranoid and put a layer of fiberglass on the bottom which stiffened them up a little, but I don't think it was really necessary.
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