Canvas over Aluminum?

Finishes, paints and coatings

Canvas over Aluminum?

Postby schreibers » Wed Nov 05, 2014 7:46 am

Greetings!

We purchased an all aluminum teardrop shell awhile back we've been playing with in our spare time. The previous owner who started the project just lost interest so his loss was our gain and we got it for cheap (especially considering the price of materials). Custom steel frame, aluminum channel frame and 0.125 solid aluminum sheet for the floor/sides/roof.

It's been a fun tho frustrating project at times converting his initial vision to ours. First off I took it off the 4.5 x 10 frame,I welded in some new supports etc, powder coated it, ran conduit for 12v/120v wiring, and then put the aluminum shell back on. The guy who started it had good intentions but the aluminum welds were done with a mig welder so I had a friend teach and me how to tig and off we went shoring everything up.

As we're getting to the end of this journey my better half really wants to use canvas for the exterior. I feel this is could be a good idea because it'll hide imperfections of the aluminum and look nice (love the texture!). Originally I was thinking vinyl wrap but the amount of work to massage the exterior so as to not look bad and highlight imperfections plus the cost from local venders seemed prohibitive. I've done loads of work with fiberglass in my previous car audio days so that was an option but again depending on the quality of matt/resin can be expensive plus the cost of paint/clear coat. However after the wife saw some of the amazing canvas builds on this forum she was sold!

My thought was to sand/clean/prep the aluminum, perhaps use a self etching primer immediately after to prohibit oxidation? Then contact cement to adhere the canvas to the aluminum. Latex paint to soak up the canvas, Interlux primer and topside paint to finish as others have done with great success here. It's going to be garage kept (FL) and I feel like we'll be okay. I guess I just worry about long term adhesion of the canvas shell to the aluminum without breaking the bank.

Thanks!

Jason
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Re: Canvas over Aluminum?

Postby tony.latham » Wed Nov 05, 2014 11:24 am

I would think it would be a huge challenge to get the canvass on where you want it using a contact cement. You could easily create more cosmetic problems than you already have. If you sanded it and then used epoxy, you'd at least have a working window to make sure you don't end up with bubbles or folds.

Without seeing your cosmetic issues, wouldn't it be best to deal with those dings (there has to be some type of filler that sticks to aluminum) and paint it with a standard aluminum process? I'd consult an autobody firm to find out what product they'd recommend to fix the imperfections and whether to use it before or after priming.

T
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Re: Canvas over Aluminum?

Postby desertmoose » Wed Nov 05, 2014 2:00 pm

I'm a big supporter of the painted canvas exterior, but I'd be a bit wary of gluing canvas to aluminum. :thinking:

Only way I'd try it would be to glue a thin luan skin to the aluminum with contact adhesive, then glue the canvas to the wood skin with Titebond and paint, etc.

It would add a bit of weight with the thin ply, but I think it would hold up longer. Luan ply or even door skins are pretty thin and fairly light.

Sam
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Re: Canvas over Aluminum?

Postby schreibers » Wed Nov 05, 2014 3:56 pm

Thanks for your suggestions guys!

In doing some research this afternoon I stumbled upon some aluminum boat forums and think GOOP Coat-It Epoxy may fit the bill. It will bond with the aluminum and can used with cloth/mat for reinforcement. Quality fiberglass resin/epoxy is similar in cost per gallon and I think the Goop would probably win out looking at the specifications. Great suggestion about the 3mm or 0.25" Luan/Baltic Birch. I hate to add the weight but i'll have to crunch some numbers. Perhaps even a thin one layer veneer might suffice?
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Re: Canvas over Aluminum?

Postby coquitlamglenn » Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:12 pm

I too love canvas and paint. It is pretty cheap, it's durable and non-toxic, great for sealing seams - etc.

But, it will not hide imperfections. You need a good smooth substrate, anything on the surface will telescope through. It is also very nice to have as much working time as possible. This is why PVA is so great, lots of time to work the wrinkles out, and even reposition at times.

Why don't you try a few tests on scrap aluminum? Perhaps you can add some "tooth" to the aluminum with a coarse grit sander that the PVA could mechanically grab on to. It is a great way to get used to the process of applying the fabric, and you are sailing uncharted waters with this idea.
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