Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Epoxy unleashed!

Resin 'A' plus Hardener 'B' makes waterproof sealant with toxic fumes.

You read that right, True Believers. Today I poured on one of my agave stalks. Lady luck smiled on me this afternoon/evening and I left work on time, plenty of time to get home and get started on this project while I still had some daylight left.

First, I gathered some tools. The full and final list includes: Swiss Army knife, an unsharpened pencil, two large aluminum lasagna trays, yellow disposable rubber gloves, bungee cords, a saw, the measuring tape, Qwikwood brand epoxy wood putty, Bondo Marine Epoxy, an old Austin Chronicle (a free weekly newspaper like the Gambit), and my lovely assistant, Cat. Without her, it's very likely that I'd be epoxied to the agave stalk, the newspaper, the stone floor, the metal railing, and my shoes to all and the same. Huzzah for Cat!

I then examined the stalk for holes. I know that the other half of the stalk has quite a few pencil-sized holes where something got in to chomp on the pith, so I wanted to use the putty to close the larger holes. I luckily found none, though the stalk still had the makings of a split near the top, where I and Steve clamped it down with a pipe clamp.

I next tried to make noise with the bare stalk. To my surprise, I could in fact and in deed get the basic drone out of the unfinished stalk, though I could feel the wood flexing and expanding near the split. The sound was noticeably muted and a but muzzy, likely due to the remaining soft pith inside the stalk. It also had barely any backpressure and I couldn't maintain a drone while circular breathing. I've had the same sort of feeling with certain long PVC practice tubes, so I figured I'd cut off a little at the end and see what happened.

I wound up cutting perhaps three quarters of an inch or so off the bell end and tried playing again. The sound was better; still muzzy and hard to circular breathe on, but definitely a better sound overall. I figured I could pour quickly while I still had light and cut later.

I poured about half of each bottle into my lasagna tray. The stuff smelled like a combination of industrial lubricant and death. Do this outside in a well-ventilated area, kids! Interestingly, the hardener poured faster than the resin. I used the end of a pencil (next time I'll use a chopstick) to stir the stuff. It looked a bit like egg whites at first, but a little more viscous. After a minute or so of beating until fluffy, the mixture was more opaque as well.

Here we go- note my crossed fingers. I poured the epoxy mixture down the stalk a little at a time, maybe a third of a cup or so or a decent dollop down the stalk, rotating slowly as I poured. The other end of the stalk rested in the other lasagna tray, ready to catch the drip and excess. Once the mixture was inside, I kept rotating the stalk to evenly coat the insides. It took around five or ten minutes for a decent amount to collect in the pan at the other end and for epoxy to stop dripping. I reversed the process, pouring down at the bell end and catching the excess in the original pan, rotating continuously. Once that was done, I poured a final time from mouthpiece to bell for good luck. Three's the charm, they say.

Finally, Cat and I bungeed the whole affair to the balcony so it could continue to drip, cure, and dry overnight.

Patience is a virtue, as the lady says.

Exciting times- I look forward to scaring the neighbors tomorrow with low sustained booming noises.

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