Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ding Repair 101 – Fixing Your Stick the right way

So here is the first post in what will probably be a series on how to repair your board.

If you are like me then you probably have at least attempted to repair your board at some point during your surfing lifetime. It seems so easy...just mix a little of this, a little of that, a little sanding and viola you are ready to get back in the water. Riiiiiight things are never that easy...I don't know about you but when I was first starting to fix dings I would generally turn my board into a total cluster-f*@k of a sticky, itchy mess that has very little to do with being watertight and is more about making your board more ugly than it was before, as well as ruining your clothes at the same time.

I am not sure where the breakdown usually occurs in the process...maybe it is the sudden time crunch you feel when you drop the catalyst into the resin and everything starts to heat up...maybe it is just the fact that none of the materials seem to work well together until they bond up in the final product...maybe it is just the pure stickiness of the resin that seems to get on everything. All I know is that if there is a way for something to go wrong it probably will.

magic potion

Anyway enough about my incompetency (actually I am not too bad at ding-repairs now that I have been doing them for 15 or so years)...I figured that there a lot of you out there interested trying it for yourself or at least learning what is the proper way to make a repair. I probably could have walked you through some sort of retarded fix myself but I figured that it we should probably talk to an expert who has done this for a living. So I went to Brad Nadell over at to see if he could help walk us through a ding-repair.

There are a lot of different places you can accidently munch your board, some of which are pretty difficult to in the interest of everyone's sanity (and our outer layer of skin that we can potentially lose) we thought it would be best if we start with a relatively simple repair.

So here is the have been out surfing at Lowers, ripping (like you usually do), and after a long session you head to the beach to hang out with your hot swimsuit model girlfriend (or boyfriend...if you swing that way). As you belly across the inside cobbles at low tide you feel that gut-wrenching crunch as your board bottoms out on a particularly sharp rock. After doing the ankle-snap dance to the beach you see a nice big hole in your bottom deck. You being the handi-capable person that you are decide to fix the board yourself.

I actually let Brad smack a hole in the bottom deck of my board so that we could walk through the repair...though I think he got a bit of evil satisfaction taking the hammer to my thruster.

Hmm...that rock was surprisingly shaped like a hammer.

So here are the steps...they break down into three stages that sound easier than they actually are: Prep, Glassing, and Sanding

Stage 1 - Prep

1. Set up your workplace - Having a large enough area to work is important since you may need to walk around the board to get at it from different angles. Ideally your workspace will have some shade and will be well ventilated. Also remember that the resin can make a horrible mess so make sure you are either doing the repair over some sort of floor covering or an area that you don’t mind trashing. (like next to your beat up camero that you have on blocks in the dead grass of your front yard).

2. Plan out the repair in your head - It is good to have a battle plan thought out before you actually put the tools on the board or activate the resin. Think about the steps you need for the repair...will you need to fill the hole with q-cell? Will you need to have a couple of sheets of glass? What sort of finish do you want the board to have when you are done? Do you need pigment for the resin? These are the sorts of questions that you need to address before starting.

3. Lay out your tools and materials - Get out everything that you will need for your repair. Make sure you have enough.

For this repair we actually were doing the repair in a glassing/painting/shaping bay at Tim Stamps factory. Below is a list of the materials that we used...(if you click the links you can actually order these products from the online store...see isn't that handy!)...actually I hope this doesn’t come off like an advertorial, Brad and the gang were super cool to donate their time, expertise, and materials for this story…and since I am a big fan of supporting surfer-labor I thought that linking up their products would be a nice way to thank them. Show 'em some love if you need a board fixed.

a. Q-Cell (a ground-up version of surfboard foam, you mix it with the resin to create filler)
b. Squeegee
c. Laminating Resin
d. Surfacing Agent (turns lam-resin into sanding resin)
e. UV Catalyst
f. Mixing Buckets
h. Tacky Glue (for sticking sanding pads on the sander)
i. Resin Brushes
j. White Pigment
k. Sandpaper (80-100 grit for prep/repair...then 220-300+ for the final sanding)
l. Mixing Sticks
m. Rubber Gloves (please turn your head and cough)
n. Fiberglass cloth (not pictured)
o. Mask/Respirator (not pictured)

4. Prepping the Ding - Once you have your workstation, tools and materials in place you can finally get to work. First thing is that you want to get the ding in shape so that the repair materials will bond properly with your board. You start by sanding the area with 80-100 grit paper. You need to be a little gentle in this process so you don't end up sanding away healthy parts of your board.

Ideally you are going to want to sand a slightly concave bowl around the the ding is the deepest section of the bowl and it gets progressively more level to the deck of the board as you move further away from the ding. (This will let us layer in fiberglass for the the patch will hold and we can get the bottom deck to be flush when we are done sanding.) It is best to take this part can make the mistake of sanding too much...or not sanding enough...both can be problematic.

Once the sanding is done you pull out any broken fiberglass so that you can get the filler to actually touch the foam core.

5. Cutting Fiberglass Cloth - Next you want to measure out some fiberglass so that you can properly cover the hole and the slight depression that you just sanded into the board. 4oz cloth is usually enough for a repair...particularly if you are going to be layering extra-cloth to create the patch.

We actually used three circles...each one bigger than the create the patch that we would be glassing over the filled hole.

Stage 2 - Glassing (AKA sticking to things)

A few notes on this stage of the ding-repair

For this repair we used a cool product that Brad had brought along...I don't know the specific name... but basically it is a UV triggered catalyst...sort of like what you would see in other solar-ding-repair kits but you can drop this catalyst into standard laminating resin and as long as you stay out of the sunlight it won't trigger the chemical reaction that causes resin to set. This is particularly sweet because it gives you time to work with the resin...getting the ding or glass job properly set before setting off the catalyst. Naturally this might not be the best set up if you don't have a shady place to fix your board...if that is the case you will want to stick with the standard resin/catalyst that activates immediately when the two chemicals are mixed.

Also...Brad pointed out that you want to know the difference between Laminating Resin and Sanding Resin. So here is a quick little definition of the two resin types.

Laminating Resin - Lam resin is the "pure" stuff you want to use when you are trying to get the resin to stick to either the surfboard foam core, ding-filler, or to other patches of rough sanded, already set, fiberglass. This stuff will eventually dry out and harden but it doesn't really lose the tacky, slightly rubbery feel. It also doesn't sand very will always see the "cross hatching" of the fiberglass cloth as you rough-sand it.

Sanding Resin - Sanding Resin is actually almost like the Lam Resin but it has a few other chemicals, including paraffin wax, that hardens into a smoother and more ridged surface that is much more suited to the fine sanding that you need to do in order to do the final smooth-out of the ding-repair.

Ok with that out of the way...on to the repair.

1. Filling the hole - A big deep gouge, like the one that we put in my board, required us to use a little filler to create a plug that will stick to the foam of the surfboard and at the same time provide a stable sticky platform for the fiberglass cloth that we will use to patch the hole later.

You might be able to get away with just dribbling laminate resin in a smaller ding or crack but when the ding is big enough that the patching glass can bend or dip it is a good idea to paste in some filler before starting the glass work.

To fill this ding we used a substance called Q-cell which is basically finely ground up surfboard foam that you mix into laminating resin.

2. Mixing the Q-Cell - Creating the resin/q-cell mix is sort of an art...there is no hard and fast mixing ratio. You start by mixing the resin and catalyst together and then adding q-cell until it gets to the thickness/tackiness that you need for it to stay in the ding. You may also want to add some pigment so that the filler plug doesn't look bright green/see-through. We added a touch of white to this repair.

The filler should be malleable enough to spread around but it shouldn't drip a ton. For a ding like the one in the flat part of the bottom deck the filler can be a little thin...but a repair on the rail or the nose you might need the filler to be almost like super soft play-dough. Or that gummy bear that has been in my pocket all afternoon and it nice and squishy.

3. Filling the hole (didn't I have a section titled that already?)

This part is pretty easy. Take filler. Fill hole.

Smooth filler to the top of the foam.

4. Placing the Patch

Ok now that you have the filler in place you take the lovely fiberglass circles that we cut out earlier and place them on top of the filler...ideally before the filler has set.

Start with the smallest circle of cloth (the size of the hole)...then follow with the next biggest size until all of them are placed.

5. Apply the Lam Resin (without the q-cell filler)

Now you apply the lam resin...we already had ours mixed with the UV filler...but if you are working without the UV component you will mix a separate cup of Lam Resin and drop in the catalyst to set it off.

Once mixed pour a fairly liberal amount onto the cloth patches.

And then take your squeegee and smooth the resin over the cloth...making sure that it saturates all of the cloth, and that you smooth out any air bubbles that might have formed.

6. Let the resin set (drink a beer, take a nap, or something)

For our repair we actually took the board out into the sun and let the UV light set off the catalyst. This UV technique actually really sped up the hardening process and the board was ready to be rough sanded in just a few minutes.

The hardened laminating resin will look something like this.

Stage 3 - Sanding (and some more glassing, then more sanding...damn are we done yet?)

1. Sanding the Lam Resin - Ok we are in the home stretch now. We start the sanding process by rough sanding the laminate resin and our patch.

Ideally you should use something like 100-150 grit paper to do this part. Don't get trigger happy though...just sand enough to take some of the rough parts off the lam resin. If you sand too much you might end up having to do some another patch job (I am speaking from my own dumb-ass experience here).

2. Applying Sanding Resin - once you have the lam resin sanded then you mix up a batch of sanding resin to paint on over the repair. For our repair we used the same laminating resin that we had been using (the stuff with UV catalyst). We added a touch more catalyst and some surfacing agent which is basically the chemical cocktail that is mixed into Lam Resin to turn it into Sanding Resin.

Using a brush, put on a thin coat that covers all of the repair area and laminating resin. Then let it harden (or in our case take it back out into the sun to cure).

3. Final Sanding - Once the sanding resin has set...bust out the sander again but this time use increasing finer grit until you achieve the smoothness that your board originally had.

You should probably move up into the 220-320 grit paper fairly fast...and if you are looking for a super smooth finish...try and hit up some wet-sanding paper (generally above 800-grit) and hand sand it for the final polish.

Final Stage - Go Surf

Once the board is sanded, and water-tight, it is ready...though it is always good to give the patch a couple of extra days out of the water so that it can cure properly.

Have fun shredding on your newly healed stick.

A big Thanks...

I would really like to thank Brad and the Gang at If you are around North Orange County and need ding-repair gear (or even shaping gear for you ambitious guys out there) drop by their shop...they will load you up with the right stuff. If you aren't in the area but still need repair materials or blanks check them out online...they ship all over the world! (Make sure to tell them that you read about the shop on the blog...they will give me free stuff)

Also I would like to thank Tim Stamps at Stamps Surfboards for letting us use one of his shaping bays to make the repairs in style. Make sure to check out his design line-up. He has a lot of groovy shapes (so groovy in fact that I just ordered one myself!) Make sure to tell him that you saw him on the blog...and say hi to his dog Cowboy!


Anonymous said...

other option: put a sh--load of solarez on it. ha-ha!
for real though, thanks for the info. i'll print it out and use it for when the ding requires it.

er said...

Adam that was a great DIY post! Rails/edge ding repairs aren't as fun...

Adam Wright said...

Thanks guys!

I have actually gone for the solarez technique when I am will keep you in the water for a little while but then you need to redo it later.

ER, Yeah those curves can be a bitch for sure.

I think the next ding-repair post will cover those. I imagine that eventually we will fix delams, broken boards, fins.

Ian said...

Great writeup and pictures!!

Here's just a few comments I have that might be found useful to some.

1) For the at-homer, using strictly sanding resin for all ding repairs is sufficient. Lam resin isn't really needed.

2) I usually let the filler cure (or at least till its a hard gel) before laying the glass. This is so I can sand it flat before applying the glass, and ensure the filler won't have any bubbles.

3) For the hot coat (or final sanding resin coat) I would stress the importance of making it thin and to do "butter" brush-strokes to get any brush lines out. Let it sit for 5 mins to flow flat before putting in the UV box/UV light. This will make it way easier to sand with 300-600 grit and get a killer finish.

4) Acetone is great for cleaning everything. Make sure you pick some up.

5) The importance of having different sized layers of fiberglass is huge. Glad you put that in there. It creates a gradient of strength, rather than having a "step" of different glasses, where a stress fracture will inevitably form.

Anonymous said...

i had a rail ding fixed by a good shop, and it soon split open. i cleaned the crack and resined it--eventually it split again, and by now i had a good deal of foam rot. so i dremmeled around the whole coffee stain (3" x 5") & removed the glass. chunks of good foam came up w/the rotted stuff. i patched the missing foam with fast-dry drywall spackle (Dap brand, $3, big-box store). i cut a piece of 8-ounce cloth (Western Auto, $9/half-yard) bigger than the patch area. (this is important because cloth where the patch meets the original glass helps prevent stress fractures.) Mixed up some polyester resin (clear, $15/pint, crafts store) and poured two layers. Wax paper taped over the patch area helped shape the 2nd layer. after rough, medium, and then wet/dry sanding, the patch was undetectable to the touch and has held for six months. (surf was up and i wanted to be back in the water manana. found all necessary stuff w/in a few miles of my house.

FOAM E-Z said...

maybe we should do a rail ding next to show how easy it is? what do you think?

KB said...

What happened to the NORCAL forecast?

Stephen said...

A small section of my board, right under my back heel, has formed a bubble where the glass is no longer sticking to the foam. How would I go about fixing this? I am fairly proficient with ding repairs. I have fixed most of my own dings for the last 8 years including several fins for me and my friends.

Mark said...

thank you Adam and friends! Very helpfull

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I couldn't read the rest of this garbage. Everybody knows if you use solar catalyst on a filled ding you have to put some regular catalyst in it or it will never harden because the sun can't get to it. Same with the pigment pigment will block the sun especially if it is under a fin box. Nice way to lead them down the wrong path guys. Grant shopuld have written this article he would have done it right. GearheadHB

alex said...

how do i buy(make) the Sanding Resin???

Adam Wright said...

Alex...almost all surf shops have some small ding repair kits with Sanding or Laminating resign written right on the pack.

the guys at are great if you are too far away from a shop and need to order some