Introduction: Roof Rack Customization - Wind Deflector & End Caps
If you don’t follow along on my Instagram feed (@jackman_works) ... #alwaysbeplugging I very reluctantly had to replace my Honda Element recently and the new car is great but it lacks in character that the Element… exuded. This project was inspired by the material I created when making diamond pattern pallet wood coasters about a year ago (so go check that out if you haven’t yet). The carbon fiber sheet that I made and inlayed follows the angle of the diamonds. Then the roof and ladder rack end caps were because, well, the stocks caps just aren’t very sexy.
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Step 1: Materials & Tools
Notable Materials & Tools used on this build:
- Pallet wood diamond sheets https://youtu.be/ILdOHrkmlO0
- Wood glue https://amzn.to/2vKGTQU
- High performance epoxy resin http://bit.ly/35Rg39M
- Carbon fiber sheets http://bit.ly/2PmI7LJ
- Super glue https://amzn.to/2YbZz9D
- Blue tape http://amzn.to/2jO5Gva
- Iridescent powder http://bit.ly/33EDUbe
- Pigments http://bit.ly/2DJjDXk
- Penetrating epoxy http://bit.ly/3850a18
- Halcyon clear varnish http://bit.ly/35VPG2v
- Corian http://bit.ly/2reiapt
- Thixo adhesive http://bit.ly/2DIDlCA
- Rubber grommet https://amzn.to/2Llb3T3
- Bolt, nut, washer for roof rack https://amzn.to/2LkfnBY
- Bolt for ladder rack https://amzn.to/2Pdef4f
- Bluetooth hearing protection http://bit.ly/2RiTVkn
- Respirator (use code "PekePJ5" for 5% off!) http://bit.ly/PEKEPJ5
- Table saw http://amzn.to/2j4bvVU
- Silicone project mat http://amzn.to/2tvLbIk
- Bar clamps https://amzn.to/2PcPViG
- Bandsaw http://amzn.to/2j4auNu
- Disk sander https://youtu.be/CfTzA2FTH6A
- Belt/spindle sander http://amzn.to/2jmRXik
- Drum sander https://amzn.to/35oxOwG
- X-Carve CNC http://bit.ly/2qfJjYw
- Propane torch https://amzn.to/2PaHAMz
- Flush trim router bit http://amzn.to/2vDQsQu
- 1/8" rounder over router bit http://amzn.to/2qXGt5o
- Palm sander https://amzn.to/2qgP5ZX
- HVLP sprayer https://www.rockler.com/rockler-hvlp-finishing-sp...
Step 2: Diamond Pallet Wood?
So, the most complicated wood coasters that I've ever seen were made by me almost exactly a year ago. I accomplished this by lacking any sense of self worth while gluing together a massive 8"x2'x3' chunk of pallet wood and sawing it into sheets at a compound angle to create a diamond pattern. So I wouldn't have to do that ever again, I saved a handful of those sheets just in case I ever thought of another project to use them for and today is that day.
Step 3: Making Big Sheets Out of Little Sheets
The sheets aren't long enough for what I need, so I create an scarf joint to connect multiple sheets. I leave the miter gauge loose and use the sheet of wood against the blade to line up the angle to match the existing compound angle and lock the miter sled in place. Then I'm able to make a cut to clean up each end.
I cut the sheets from 2 different directions with a small extension piece in the middle so that each end is a mirror imagine of the other with the way the diamonds are angled.
Blue tape is applied to the underside to hold the sheets together and then I lift them up to expose the joint, apply glue, and then lay it flat and the sheets get held together with the blue tape until the glue dries. I also apply a few clamps to give some pressure vertically since it's an angled joint.
Step 4: Making a Carbon Fiber Sheet
While that dries, I work on the 2nd layer which is going to be a carbon fiber sheet. I mix up some high performance epoxy resin to laminate the carbon with. The resin is really strong but also cures super clear, so it'll make my roof rack look sexy, everyone will be so jealous of my rack...
I apply paste wax to a scrap piece of melamine that I have kicking around, epoxy won't stick to the laminate top and the wax just helps make it easier to peel off once it cures. I spread a thin layer of epoxy on the surface and then lay down the first sheet of carbon fiber.
A thin piece of PVC is used as a squeegee to on the 1st layer to make sure the epoxy is spread out evenly under the sheet and also penetrates into the carbon. I pour another layer of epoxy on top and lay down my 2nd sheet and squeegee again until the surface is perfectly even. There are 2 different weave patterns used here simply because I wasn't sure which look I liked better and figured by using both I could make that decision later.
A final, thicker layer of epoxy is spread out on top of this carbon sandwich so that it is about an 1/8" layer over the entire sheet. Pretty funny because a carbon sandwich is what my car is powered on. I use a propane torch and pass it very quickly over the surface which pops most of the bubbles and helps bring the deeper ones to the surface.
Step 5: Rough Cutting the Carbon Fiber
The next day the epoxy is cured and I can peel the carbon fiber sheet off of the melamine. I just use a putty knife and run it along the perimeter and eventually it lets free after a minimal amount of fighting, which is great because that means I can save my energy to fight the war on Christmas... go team!
All of the ugly edges are removed by cutting them off on the bandsaw. Note that the epoxy is hard but not 100% cured for at least a week so it's super toxic and you want to make sure you don't breath any of the dust in. As you all know though, I laugh in the face of danger like that, laugh from behind the respirator mask that keeps my lungs cleaner than my thoughts.
Step 6: Cutting the Wind Deflector to Size
Now I can take the wood out of the clamps and use my old Yakima wind deflector to trace out the shape on the sheet of wood. It's a pretty expensive template, but you know what they say "you get what you pay fear is fear itself" - Wayne Gretzky
This wind deflector shape is then cut out on the bandsaw. I'll pretend you aren't looking at the photo and tell you that I cut a little bit outside the line, this way I can sand to the line later.
Aaaaaand it is now later and I am using my disk sander to sand down to the line on the outside curves, inside curves are handled on the spindle sander.
The sheet is then sent through the drum sander to remove any small inconsistencies that were left behind at the glue joint. I'm sure there has also been a bit of movement in the wood during the year it's been sitting on the shelf too. I also send the carbon fiber sheet through the sander for the same reason, minus the whole wood thing.
Step 7: Preparing for Inlay
Now we're ready for the inlay! Just be safe, I make a trapezoidal test piece out of plywood using my CNC, this will later be carbon fiber. I'm checking the angle to make sure it lines up with the angle of the pallet wood diamonds and also checking the depth of cut so that it matches the thickness of the carbon fiber sheet perfectly, that way it will be flush with the wood surface when inlaid. Wow that was a long sentence.
Yep, that's a trapezoid. I draw the shape in Easel. This is the fill cut, which is the material that I will remove from the wood portion of the wind deflector. I'll use the same trapezoid with an outline cut to cut out the carbon fiber sheet.
Step 8: Cutting the Trapezoidal Inlay
I clamp down the carbon fiber and let my X-Carve go to town. The feed rate is turned down pretty slow for this cut to help prevent any chip-out that might happen in the epoxy.
I do the same with the wood piece and then mate the 2 together. And what do you know, a perfect fit, I guess I haven't lost my touch after all Judith! As much as I like to boost my ego (I'm posting this publicly on the internet looking for validation and praise after all), this was actually a pretty simple inlay to do because the carbon sheet is cut over-sized and then slid into the pocket that was cut in the wood.
Step 9: Epoxying the Carbon Fiber to the Pallet Wood
Now the carbon fiber sheet can be fastened in place using some more epoxy resin. I clamped and unclamped this thing 3 times until I was finally satisfied with it, luckily I wasn't rushing because the wood glue was drying, per usual. The most important thing was getting even clamping pressure so the 2 sheets were perfectly flat and I ended up just using a thick piece of wood on either side and clamped those together.
I let that cure overnight and then have the clever thought of a cool new camera trick to remove the clamps since I'm a millennial and I have to show everyone that I'm unique and special. And it broke. Well, you probably could have seen that coming due to the long drawn out caption, but the wood glue and blue tape trick fixed it up again just like new.
Now to bring the whole epoxy, wood, carbon fiber, and wood glue mess of a sandwich down flat and even again, I use my drum sander. The excess carbon fiber sheet on either side is then cut off on the bandsaw and sanded even with the wood using the spindle sander.
Step 10: Orange Epoxy Inlay
Back to the robot?! You bet! I clamp the wind deflector down to the bed of the X-Carve again because I just don't trust the J-Carve (me) enough to do this part by hand, I know where they've been. Anyway, I cut the text part of my logo out of the carbon fiber to reveal the wood below.
After lots of debate back and forth about doing a clear epoxy so I could see the wood below, or doing an orange tinted epoxy, I settled on orange. I mix up some more epoxy resin and mix in some orange iridescent powder because it's a fun bright look and also because I was hoping for it to mimic the look of car paint. Again, the propane torch helps bring out the bubbles.
Once cured, the orange epoxy is sanded flush with the rest of the surface using the drum sander. Then I sand both faces by hand using a random orbit sander like some kind of peasant. This actually cleans up any straight scratches left behind from the drum sander.
Step 11: Penetrating Epoxy
Next is the 1st step in finishing, penetrating epoxy. I mix up some of the penetrating epoxy and spread it on both faces, let it soak in, and apply another coat before it starts to cure. This will soak into the surface and help to harden up the wood a bit when it cures. There are so many different species and the sheet is somewhat end-grain, so this really helps seal things up.
After approximately a million days the penetrating epoxy is cured and then I sand the entire surface to even out any inconsistencies in the epoxy, to scuff it up so the finish will stick, and also to sand it really smooth up to 400 grit.
Step 12: Varnish and Assembly
The deflector is cleaned of any dust first by spraying it with compressed air and then wiping it with a paint thinner soaked rag. The paint thinner evaporates quickly and then the wood is ready to be pampered. I spray on Halcyon clear varnish, it's a boat varnish so it's super tough in the weather, which this will need since it's going to be exposed to the weather at all times. In total, I spray on 8 coats and expect to touch it up every year.
Then I just use the same attachment hardware as before and fasten it in place. The original actually uses plastic clips, so I replace that with stainless steel cap head bolts and nuts to hold on the big plastic clips. Sorry, I'm a liar.
Step 13: Rough Cutting the Corian
But wait, there's more. While all that glue, epoxy adhesive, epoxy resin, tears, and varnish was drying and curing, this is what I've been working on between steps. Never say I don't use my time wisely, ok boomer? While I'm at it, I also want to make some end caps to go on the roof rack bars. The stock caps broke a while ago and the ladder rack needs some too because the existing ones are just meh. I decide to use Corian for this and start by cutting the sheet down on the table saw.
Corian is an awesome solid surface composite material that is typically used for countertops, so it's really tough and will be weatherproof and perfect for my purposes. Despite my accolades for the material, this is my first time working with it, so you know I'm not in the pockets of Big Corian. I hear it machines great on the CNC, so let's make it happen. The sheets are only 1/2" though, so first I want to adhere 2 layers together.
Step 14: Adhering Corian Sheets Together
Now what on earth could I possibly use to adhere these 2 materials together? An adhesive you say? Genius, I should listen to you more often voices in my head. This Thixo adhesive is actually really cool, it's a 2 part epoxy and the nozzle that screws onto the tube has a kind of maze inside of it that mixes the 2 parts for you.
I dispense a healthy mountain of adhesive onto a piece of scrap wood. The adhesive dries white, but I want it to match the Corian, so I add a bit of black pigment and mix it up. Mr. Ross would be proud.
Then the adhesive gets spread on the surface of one sheet like some weird goth mayonnaise and I clamp it in place with just enough pressure to hold everything together, but not squeeze all of the adhesive out. Note that Corian has a smooth and rough side, I made sure to have the rough side on the inside for both sheets so that the adhesive can get the best grab.
Step 15: Cutting the End Caps Out on the CNC
Once cured overnight, I remove the excess of the epoxy adhesive with a chisel and mount the sheet to the X-Carve. There I cut out the larger profile of the ladder rack bars so it will fit around the outside of those aluminum extrusions. I also cut out some circular end caps for the roof rack bars.
To hold the pieces in place while cutting, the CNC just leaves behind these little tabs which can simply be removed by separating the pieces on the bandsaw and then using a flush trim bit in the router to bring them flush to the surface.
I also use the router to add a small round-over to the inside and outside corners of each end cap. The CNC really does machine this stuff beautifully, it cuts like butter because there is no wood grain to worry about so that means the material is consistent.
Step 16: Cutting the Rubber Grommets
So, the ladder rack has some threaded holes on the ends of the bars which makes it super easy to attach things to them, the roof rack bars however, that's a little different. I came up with this super clever solution though so, glass half full, I get to show off my really large, uh, brain. It starts with a larger rubber grommet and I trace out a 7/8" circle which matches the inner diameter of the bar.
This grommet was the closest size I could find for what I needed, so I just decided to cut it down to size. If you're following along, please take out the giant utility knife blade that you have kicking around one of those tool drawers and cut most of the excess off using that.
Whatever is left, I take off with the belt sander until I get down to the line. I then use the 7/8" fender washer on a bolt with the cut down grommet to test the fit. The perfect fit is when it fits inside with just a little bit of resistance, don't quote me on that.
Step 17: Assembling the Round Bar End Caps
Now here's where the magic happens, the stainless steel bolt fits through a hole on the outside of the cap that was cut by my robot slave (CNC). On that bolt goes the rubber grommet, fender washer, and a nut. For now I finger tighten the nut, then we're finally ready for install!
Step 18: Installing the End Caps and Wind Deflector
The cap slips onto the roof rack bar with the rubber grommet on the inside. Then I tighten the bolt using an allen key from the outside, which pulls the washer in and squeezes the rubber grommet out against the inside of the bar, holding it in place. It actually holds so well that my car rocks back and forth when I pull on it and I can't remove it without loosening the bolt.
Similar deal for the ladder rack caps, but not really that similar since these just bolt straight into the aluminum extrusion. 2 stainless cap head bolts this time, and guess what... that rocks the car back and forth too.
Now the wind deflector can be carefully snapped into place. This thing is a bit more delicate then the flexible plastic one that comes stock, but once in place the wood one is rock solid. I add in the bolts and nuts on either side to lock it in place and now it's ready to do whatever mini-van trucks do (spoiler alert: it's the same thing that other trucks do, not much).
Step 19: Glamour Shots
That's a lot of work just to add some little custom pieces to your roof rack... Yeah, stick around kiddo, check out my portfolio, you have a lot to learn. Thanks for reading all the way through this garbage. As always, watch the full build video linked in the 1st photo for the full Jackman experience and more garbage. Please go away now, gosh.
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