How It Works: AwlFair L.W.
STATS: Al’s Custom Auto Body LLC. Location: Rockford, IA. Website: http://www.awlgrip.com Cost: $45.99 per quart Uses: Digital gauge that inflates and deflates tires Training: None
Alan Christeson is the owner of Al’s Custom Auto Body LLC. Christeson started his automotive career alongside his dad who operated a gas station. Christeson raced drag cars for 37 years, he has trade school experience, is I-CAR Platinum Certified and is a judge for the International Shuttle Car Association.
Al’s Custom Auto Body LLC has been family owned and operated since 1976 in Rockford, Iowa. The shop specializes in collision repair for both foreign and domestic vehicles.
How It Works:
Caul plates are used for molding carbon fiber and providing a smooth, protective surface.
“When you are going to sand [the repair] and paint it, it makes it a lot easier when you’re making the surface,” Christeson says.
Christeson uses Awlfair L.W., an adhesive tool made by Awlgrip and AkzoNobel, which creates caul plates by mixing two liquid components together: the Epoxy Fairing and the Converter. Once combined, the substance is turned into a mold that is used during the lay-up process, or a process that places layers of composite fiber by using resin and hardener to create the right shape.
“We’re using it so we can form a flat area and we have our drill plates and where our fasteners are going to be,” Christeson says. “It’s in the tool and DIY [realm], except it’s for fiberglass.”
There are multiple ways the caul plates can be used, Christeson say, such as forming things with a mold or using it for factory mounting.
“Where I would say that its made for is making the surface contoured and it can lay right against it, but it’s more of a dye, kind of like stamping a piece of steel,” he says.
It must be done in a clean, dry, section of a shop that limits physical movement and has a constant flow of air.
Christeson met an individual at a car show who told him about his success in only using the caul plates method. He was more into the aviation side of carbon fiber, but Christeson was interested in expanding his methods at the body shop.
“That’s how we got started,” Christeson says. “He told me what to do, how to do it, where to go, and gave me some CDs on instructions.”
Christeson can’t remember when he started using AwlFair during the caul plates process, but he believes the process makes an impact on how a repair is done.
“It’s interesting,” Christeson says about the process. “I like to do it on the weekends; you have to dedicate the area and a single person to do it and stay on it.”
It’s a time-consuming process, but when it’s done correctly, the results are worth it, Christeson says.
“I think you can make just about anything with carbon fiber; you have to realize what the structure is that you’re working with and how strong it has to be,” Christeson says. “I try not to be in a real hurry.
“It’s something that just takes time, and it’s a lot stronger than fiberglass, probably three to four times stronger.”
Bringing in the caul plate method into Christeson’s shop has made a difference in the way the shop repairs vehicles. While he hasn’t advertised for it, it’s a service that is often utilized for customization in cars and often on repairs.
“People that know me or are in the truck pulling world know I can do it, so that’s the people that come to me,” Christeson says.
A variety of vehicles have entered the shop looking for specific fixes using carbon fiber, Christeson says.
“Probably in my world is probably the added lower ground effects on a corvettes because that’s what I’m seeing,” Christeson says. “I’ve had a couple of Audis in here [and] I’ve had a couple of BMWs.”
Although it requires precision, it’s a practice that is going to make an impact with any shop that utilizes it.
“In the car world, they have quite a bit of carbon fiber on the upper end cars; everyone is so weight conscious and as far as strength is concerned, carbon fiber is a lot lighter than fiberglass because it doesn’t have to be quite so thick,” Christeson says. “Carbon fiber is something that’s going to be coming into the future.”