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Discussion Starter #1
Over the past year I’ve been really into the carbon fiber (CF) look. I wrapped many parts, inside and outside on my car and I was very pleased with the result till I ordered a $20 license plate frame made of real CF and that changed my whole view on using 3M Di-Noc. So I learned how to wrap parts with real CF and I want to share with you guys my experience since (pretty much) everything I learned how to do to my car was from this site so I want to contribute, and hopefully help someone do it themselves or at least inspire some original work.

You can pretty much wrap anything with CF, it doesn’t just apply to cars or auto related stuff. You can do this to whatever, a remote control, a video game console, whatever. In most cases the process will be similar.
First let me tell you now that you can either vacuum form the pieces, in other words, use vacuum to apply the CF to the part and remove all air from it, etc., this method (I think) would yield a better overall result however it's more time consuming and costs more (more tools needed) and I won’t get into this method since I lack experience working this way. I think my method is called ‘skinning’ but whatever it’s called, I’ll describe the process but first here’s what you need or would want prior to getting started.


Tools needed to wrap your parts:

-Carbon Fiber: duh! It’s available in many sizes, different strands, different weave patters, etc. I like the 2x2 Twill Weave 3K, 6oz. I would suggest using the same CF material from the same vendor to achieve the same results if you’re doing more than one part. I don’t know if there are variances in fibers from different manufactures of the same type so to be safe I just buy all my stuff from the same seller (CJ Composites, cjcompositestechnology.com)

-Epoxy Resin and Hardener: there are many types out there, some cure fast, some slow, some are crystal clear, some are not, etc. I use the one from CJ Composites, I’m happy with it and know how it works so I never changed the brand. It does dry a little clear blue but it’s totally not noticeable on the part itself (in a light colored mixing cup, yes). Their mix ratio is 2 parts epoxy to 1 part hardener.

-Black Pigment: Some parts are made of grey plastic, too light of a color that it’ll show thru the CF fabric weave. I learned the hard way and it looks ugly when it’s done. I’m pretty meticulous about details. This black pigment will blacken your resin for the base layer so you can’t see the plastic once the part is done. P.S.: I only apply one layer of CF to keep things thin but if you want to apply more layers, this pigment shouldn't be necessary.

-Mixing Cups: you probably want something disposable or that you don’t mind throwing away. Use something that will hold enough epoxy/resin mixture for the particular part you are doing. I like these little metal cups sold at Wal-Mart for small parts and I like other ones for larger things. Of course you need to make sure your brush will go in it so think of all scenarios before mixing the epoxy cause once mixed, the time is ticking. Also, using white (or light colored materials) helps you spot impurities (i.e. dust) or any other contaminants in your mixture that should be removed prior to being applied on the part.

-Something to mix the resin: I use disposable white plastic knives.

-Brushes: I like the Wal-Mart 1” ones for $1 each. They have black bristles but light colored bristles are easier to spot if they come off the brush and stay on the part. This does happen to me and you need to watch for this. Pretty much any $1-$2 brush will do.

-Disposable Gloves: Whatever you like here. I don’t use them anymore cause I’m more careful than I was when I started.

-Wear clothes you wouldn’t mind messing up, just in case. This includes shoes.

-Vise-Grip Pliers: I have 5 and use them to hold parts.

-News Paper: use this to cover your working area. I use waxed deli paper, it's pretty good.

-Heat Gun: anyone will work. Some talk about using a hair dryer but a heat gun can be bought for $10/$15 and will definitely get the job done. This is used to remove air bubbles.

-Digital Scale: I use this to measure my 2:1 ratio for the resin and hardener but you may use mixing cups that have markings on them. Digital is accurate.

-Scissors: these have to be a good pair if not it won’t cut the CF straight and/or won’t cut all the fibers (which is worse since it’ll make everything crooked). Borrow your moms’ or grammas’ scissors or buy a good one for yourself. I use Fiskars Amplify 10” and they’re excellent for cutting and a great size.

-Masking tape: or any tape. Many uses.

Most of my tools. Don't know why I put the Loctite cans in there, they suck for this job.


Tools need to finish your wrapped parts:

-Dremel: Any Dremel or similar rotary tool will do. Cutting wheels, sanding disks, various bits all help and honestly, I wouldn’t know how to finish a part without my Dremel.



-Sand Paper: I use 100, 150, 180, 220, 320, 400, 600, 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500, 3000, 3500, and 5000 grit sand papers and would highly suggest you get all of them. The most I use are 150, 180, 400, in that order. Always wet sand. The coarser grits are easy to find at local hardware stores, the finer ones are harder and buying them online was my solution.

Tip: I found it easier to cut a strip of any particular sand paper and cut those strips into 1” squares. If you’re gonna cut different grits at the same time or not use them all right away, writing in the back of each little square its grit with a Sharpie helps knowing what’s what.


-Clear Spray: you have the option to polish the resin itself to a final shine which is hard cause resin is harder than enamel and acrylic paints so sanding it and polishing it may take longer but it’s possible or (do what I do, which is) use a spray clear coat and wet sand and polish that which is easier since it’s softer than epoxy resin. I use Mr. Hobby – Mr. Super Clear Gloss UV Cut (B-522), I like it for its super clear finish and the UV resistance.

-Compound: you can use whatever compound and finishing compound you want. Since I had it, I just used the same stuff I use on my car: Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound and Polish.

-Wax: use whatever you have or whatever you want. It’s not like you’re likely to keep waxing your parts once they are installed on the car anyways, just that one time prior to being installed. I use what I use on my car, what I already had: Pinnacle Souveran Carnauba Wax.

-Dust Mask: there will be dusty situations during this process, have a dust mask to protect yourself.

-Goggles: get something to protect yourself while cutting CF with a Dremel.

-Orbital Polisher: the final polish of your part can be done by hand but by machine it’s a whole lot quicker. I use a Meguiar’s G110v2 DA polisher which I already have.

On the left you see a brand new one Meguiar's sent me (for free) cause my old one stopped working, they even let me keep all accessories that came with the 1st one.


For those who noticed, these last things I mentions are all things one uses to detail a car/paint correction. I always suggest using the most of what you already have so you don’t spend so much money on this.


The Process:

Choose your part, remove it from the vehicle and prep it.

-Preparing the part: it means, removing any paint that may be on it, if it’s simply plastic, you want to score (scratch) the part evenly so that the resin has somewhere to ‘grab’ onto. Basically you’re prepping the part just as you would if you were painting it, the same process.

Sanded part

See how I sanded a little down the edge of the part


-Cutting the Carbon Fiber: Once your part is prepped and clean (water and soap), unroll some CF on a clean flat surface and lay the part on it, this is also the time you want to set the direction of your fibers if you choose to and I highly suggest you do it like this: grab your masking tape and outline the part with it by sticking the tape to the CF then remove the part and cut down the middle of the width of the tape, this prevents the CF from fraying on either side.

Masked the outline of the part

Cut down the middle of the tape. Now set aside your CF piece.


-Mixing Epoxy Resin and further prep work: I learned from trial and error. Sometimes I poured too little, sometimes I poured too much. Too much only hurts your wallet cause you’re wasting product, too little makes you run out of product to completely cover the part and has you rushing to mix more prior to the previous batch starts to cure. With the particular products I use and the quantity I use, the working time is about 10-20 min. The working time depends on your mixture, if you mixed the correct ratios, how well you actually mixed it, the quantity, and most importantly ambient temperature. For things like the L-shaped pieces on your door, the steering wheel trim, the shifter trim, e brake trim (pretty much most of the interior smaller trim pieces) 10g of Resin and 5g of hardener will do (this is a good starting point as the quantity you should use).

You also want to prep the surface you’ll be leaving your part to cure overnight by laying some newspaper/cardboard/something you don’t mind damaging to protect the surface it’s on. You also want to figure out how you are going to hold the part while applying the resin mixture and how you will set it on that surface. Many times I used the vise-grip pliers to accomplish this. The goal is to make it so that the largest surface of the part is level with the ground. Lots of times I have one plier holding the part itself and another holding that plier to achieve this.

Once you figured out how you’re going to do what you just read, you’re ready to mix and apply. Make sure you have about 3h to 4h to dedicate yourself to this without major interruptions. Again, start with 10g resin and 5g hardener and a few drops (5 or so and see what happens but you don’t need much) of black pigment and see what that yields and then you go from there when it comes to future parts you will do and the subsequent coats you will give to this first part you are working on. Get your scale (or measuring cup), mixing cup, mixing stick, brush, resin, hardener, and pigment ready (your heat gun too). If you want to use gloves, put them on now. Turn on your scale, set the mixing cup on it, zero the scale, add 10g of resin and 5g of hardener, the scale should read 15g total THEN add about 5 drops of pigment. Set the scale aside, grab your mixing stick and mix the mixture for about a minute. Slow but steady is better because fast mixing creates too many air bubbles in the mixture. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR TIME. TIME IS TICKING NOW.

Here you see the liquids poured (not yet mixed). It’s 8g which is actually too much for this part but oh well. The container is black on the bottom cause I’ve used that container before.


Tip: I prefer to mix my resin and hardener first so I can tell it’s well mixed then add the pigment afterwards. This way you can check that both clear liquids are uniform then just add the pigment and make sure the whole thing turns black.


-Applying resin: you want to apply an even, fairly thin layer. You DON’T want to apply so much that the resin will run. If you notice it runs once the part is set to cure, just take that runoff off with your finger. You have now applied a base layer of resin to adhere the CF on. Perfection isn’t necessary but even, level coverage is. Using a heat gun helps ‘wetten’ or soften the resin, it makes it more ‘liquidy’ so it settles evenly but don’t apply to much heat or for too long. When you do this, you’ll see bubbles coming to the surface and disappearing.

Here the resin has been applied to the whole part, even a tiny bit down the sides. This particular part is a little trickier than a trim piece that’s flat. This part has a recessed area where your finger goes in to push the button so additional steps are necessary and I’ll talk about them. First, on this part, the areas around the buttons have to be widened to account for the thickness you’re about to add so that the final result doesn’t result in the buttons rubbing (or sticking) against the trim. Flat parts are way simpler but this is the part I’m doing at the moment so this will be what I’ll describe specifically for this DIY. You can also see the deli paper and the vise grip pliers holding my part.


So you applied your resin, sat the part down on a flat surface being held level. What’s next? Nothing! Just wait. Again, temperature is very important on how long this takes. I would suggest you wait 1h, time yourself. Wait an hour after applying the resin then go check it. Put the tip of your finger on it to determine how dry it is. If resin comes off on your finger, it’s not ready! Wait another 30min and check again. The thickness of the layer you applied also plays a role on time, that’s why I said “fairly thin” layer. You want to get to a point where you can touch the resin and it’s sticky but it DOESN’T come off on your finger, that’s when you’re ready to apply the CF. DO NOT attempt to lay CF if the resin is still coming off on your finger, it won’t hold, will probably make a mess from you trying to make it stay and possibly damage (for good) that piece of CF you cut earlier.

Once you determine the resin doesn’t come off on your finger and you feel it sticky, lay the CF on it. Pay attention to the direction of the pattern if you have a particular look you’re trying to achieve. If the part is mainly a flat surface (like the L-shaped door handle part) then it’s pretty easy to wrap that part. Work your fingers from the center of the part to the outer edge. Pressing firmly down but NOT dragging your fingers. Take your time to unsure it lays down evenly throughout the part and that nothing lifts. Earlier I said to make sure you had about 3h to 4h to dedicate yourself to this, this is the most crucial time, making sure the CF lays (and stays) evenly on the part. Many times I would check the part for a few hours (at 5-10 minutes intervals) after I layed the CF to make sure it’s stuck to the part and where I want it to be. Once you are confident the CF wont lift, set it aside overnight, preferably in a way that when you lay it down, the weight of the part itself doesn’t cause the CF to lift on the corners that are touching the surface it's on. On many occasions I simply laid the part upside down (laid on the CF) over a wax deli paper, this prevents the excess CF from bending and lifting the CF that I want to stay on the part. What’s next? Let it sit overnight, try to be patient and give it 24h to cure, more time wouldn’t hurt.

Here's the part with CF layed. Tape is used to secure the CF where I want it to be while the resin is hardening. The holes for the window and door lock have been cut and the CF pressed down.





So a day or so later what you want to do is apply more resin, another even thin layer. Remember your previous mixing steps and adjust the quantity accordingly; if you made too much and wasted product, use a little less this time, if you mixed too little and needed more, make more this time by. Go back and follow the mixing instructions if you forgot them and apply this layer (first layer OVER the CF). Apply resin about a quarter of an inch beyond the area of the part itself, this makes it easier to cut the excess and makes less of a mess. Again, you want to set the part aside for a day or two on an even flat surface.
Now you’re ready to cut the excess CF, trim it down. You’re ready to make a dusty mess.

First layer OVER the CF applied. Notice the ondulation on the surface of the part, looks bad but eventual layers and sanding will make this surface smoothe like glass (well, that's the goal). Don't be worried about perfection at this stage, lots can be fixed still. Keep in mind CF parts aren't perfect (unless a F1 team is making them) so don't be so hard on yourself. Don't give up now that you started.


Fraying of the CF. Usuallly doesn't happen on the more flat/easy pieces.


This is what I mean to put resin a little over the necessary area to make it easier to trim later.




Apply a SECOND thin layer.



-Trimming the part: First find a place where you can make a dusty mess. Get your Dremel, dust mask, goggles, and wear a long sleeve shirt. For some reason the CF/resin dust makes my arms itch so cover yourself if you want.
A thin cutting wheel on your Dremel is best for this job but on some parts and some areas of a particular part a sanding disk (either the thick one or the thinner one depending on the amount of space you have to work with) would be best. Your goal is to cut the excess CF as close to the edge of the part as possible but be aware that getting so close increases the risk of you cutting where you don’t want to and possibly damaging the part. The reason I say to cut as close to the part as you safely can is because that means you will have less CF to sand once the part is trimmed.

This is the result after going down one side with a thin cutting wheel on the Dremel.


Other side.


Here's what I'm left with.





So you trimmed your part… Now sand the outline of the part, in other words, further remove all the CF you don’t want or don’t need to achieve the final result. When I trim my parts with the cutting wheel I leave at most 1-2mm extra that needs to be sanded down with a sanding disk and/or sand paper. Sand the excess off, take your time, if you’re gonna do the final sanding by hand with sand paper, try not to go anything coarser than a 150 grit cause it’ll suck if you take too much off so be careful. Once you’re satisfied with your trimming job, wash the part really good with soap and water, remove all dust, you don’t want contaminants stuck on the part then apply more resin and only notice later when it’ll be harder and more time consuming to sand thru the layers to remove that mistake.

Further trimming with a sanding disk and Dremel.




-Applying additional layers of resin and building up thickness: after you trimmed your part, wet sand that last layer over the CF (2nd layer in this case) with 200 or 220grit sand paper, wash it and dry it. You want to score the surface so the next layer has something to grab on to.

And here's the result after about 1.5h of wet sanding using 150grit.




Here you see an extra step I had to take on this part. Adding CF to the hole where your finger goes in to put the window up.


And after the Dremel...


And after wet sanding...


Apply the third layer over the CF using the same methods as before. A thinner layer is better, use a heat gun, bubbles are your enemy!

3rd layer applied.


Same 3rd layer, photo taken with flash on.



Wait a day or so then wet sand the third layer. It’s our third layer, by now there should be some thickness to it and your goal now should be aimed at making the surface level, not baby smooth. When wet sanding resin, a white paste (which is the mixture of miniscule particles of hardened resin plus water) will be seen, this is ok and what you actually want to see. If you see a grey paste (or anything dark, not white paste) this means you sanded down too much and are now actually sanding the CF. It’s hard to notice when the part is wet if you went down too much so using light colored sand paper is great for all situations here. Now if you do sand too much, no big deal, simply stop working on the area and move on to elsewhere on the part. You may not accomplish it in this step but work towards achieving an even level surface. If you went down to the CF in any area, remember that area, apply the next layer of resin as usual but the next time you sand, be careful in that area.

3rd layer sanded. (the hole for the window button has 2 layers so, in this case, don't sand too much.)


Here you can see a few little white dots. They are bubbles from a previous layer of resin. Imagine the bubble as a perfect sphere, as you sand the surface of the part the top of that sphere is 'cut' open leaving a hole, this hole then gets filled with the white paste (I talked about before) from wet sanding and stays white... You need to keep sanding to completely eliminate the bubble or at least open the sphere half way (cause then the next layer of resin will fill it.)







4th Layer applied.


4th layer sanded down.


Here you can see areas I sanded down too much, no problem, the clear coat layers will make it all even again. I'd like to mention that from the 3rd layer and on I like to use a sanding block (150grit) to make the surfaces smooth.


Just a comment: It’s happened to me where I sanded down to the plastic in one small area. This blows. If you catch it quick, you can stop and not further damage the part. If it’s too big then you decide if you can live with the imperfection where it is and how it’ll be visible once the part is installed, live with the imperfection simply knowing it’s there, or start over. Starting over means you have to take off everything you already added by using a sharp object and trying to lift the CF from a corner and working towards the center to remove the whole thing. I’ve done this before, it’s not a big deal but obviously adds a lot more time to the project plus going back to the initial prep work, well the initial prep work this second time might take you a little longer cause you’ll have some resin to sand down and sanding resin is what takes a long time.

Build as many layers as you want or need to achieve an even level surface. I tell you this (from experience), it’s quicker and easier to even the resin surface then add thickness with several clear coat layers of spray paint Vs. trying to add the thickness with resin itself. By now you should know how hard and how long it takes to wet sand resin but do as you wish. Again, add layers and always adjust your mixing quantities if needed, and follow the same instructions: mix, apply, heat gun, let dry, wait a day or so, and wet sand… then do it all over again.

After the above step I sanded down a little more with 400grit to get rid of the deep scratches, I also sanded the sides of this part to make everything look neat, checked one last time to make sure the buttons don't bind or rub on this trim piece, then prepped for clear coats.

And here's the part with 5 coats of clear. There's orange peel and you can also see some scratches but those will be gone once I sand this down with 400grit. I chose to wait 3 days prior to wet sanding and 4 more days prior to giving it the final wet coats.


Sanded down with 400grit. Ready for the final coats of clear. 2 light coats followed by 3 wet coats.


Here are the clear coats applied.


-Final prep work: So you achieved your desired thickness of resin (or clear). Depending on the thickness you may want to add one more super/very thin layer of resin (or at least 2 layers of clear) and sand them down using this technique:

Wet sand with 400 or 600grit to start off with, if you choose 400 then do 600 afterwards, if you choose to begin with 600 then go to the next highest grit you have. Keep in mind that what you are doing is removing layers of whatever you last applied to the part. The goal is to let’s say use 600grit to remove all scratches the 400 grit sand paper left, use a 1000grit to remove the scratches that the 600grit left, so forth and so on, you're going through the grits.

When you’re working with 2000 and finer/higher grits the work you do is less and less noticeable, especially when the part is wet but do it nonetheless. A thought: if your sanding job with 3000grit to remove 2500grit marks was crappy, when you use 5000grit (to remove 3000grit marks) it will show more of those 2500grit deeper scratches. If you can think very small, by using a finer and finer grit sand paper to remove the scratches of the previously used coarser grit sand paper, you are removing an entire layer (super thin layer but a layer nonetheless). This whole process (using all the grits you have till the finest one) could significantly thin the layer you built up so think about what you’re doing and how much you’re doing in between coats, you still need to compound it (another layer removed).

This is what I got after sanding with 600grit.


After 2000grit.


After 3000grit.


After 5000grit.


So you’re done wet sanding. Your part should look nice by now but look phaded. Get your DA polisher (or do it by hand, even with a machine you most likely will have to do some by hand because certain areas just don't allow for a machine to be used) and your compound and rub it in. Once you’re happy with your compounding job, use a finer polishing compound (in my case this is called the Meguiar’s Ultimate Polish). Wipe the part clean in between buffing sessions then use your favorite wax and wax on. Admire your part for a while, install it, and forget about it. Move on to the next project or do a different part.

And finally after compound and polish (no wax yet on this pic) this is what I'm left with.







I’d like to let you know that doing multiple parts at the same time saves on mixing cups, mixing sticks, and brushes, it saves sometime on your overall timeframe to finish the job but keep in mind, if it’s just you working on it and you have no help: remember that process of laying the CF and making sure it stays down? You only have two hands and that part is the most crucial in my opinion. Keep that in mind.

Feel free to comment and ask whatever you want.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your CF parts.

FURTHER EDITING and ADDING PICTURES will now begin.
 

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wow looks awesome something i wouldnt do personally just cause i dont have the patience nor skill. but my hat off to you good sir. great job
 

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Discussion Starter #6
This is one of the things I wanted to avoid, which also led me to take the plunge into doing this. The thickness that overlays with double-sided tape add is too ugly imo.



Lack of coverage is ugly.





And by far, the nicest piece, if done right and not an overlay. One day I'll get to this. I don't like that bubbly-look and look how the holes around the a/c controls are, ugly. One day...




I'm currently working on many other parts but I'm only gonna post up pics of my interior once it's done cause right now it looks really bad all tore up. I'm glad you guys liked it. You're welcome.
 

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Wow this is a great DIY! The one part you have posted so far looks great as well. Id really like to try this on the rear chrome garnish (09-11 Civic) above our license plates. I had it color matched by Honda, but they did zero prep work on it and the paint chipped off within a few days and they refused to repaint it for me. As of now I have plasti-dip on it (temporary) and am looking for a permanent fix. I have thought about carbon fiber vinyl, but I hate how cheap it looks, so now I thought my only option was buying factory paint (or a close match) and doing it myself but this DIY just may have given me another option! Starting with a part that big seems a little daunting, but I may just have to give this a go!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
^^^

I know what piece you're talking... Don't know why Honda made it chrome, besides the emblems, nothing else is chrome... Anyways, yes that part is big but not bigger than a front lip. It's actually an 'easy' part to do because its mostly flat. The largest surface is the easiest, then you have the top and bottom portions that are, well, you just have to be a little more careful when you're sanding those areas down so you don't sand too much. The sides are barely visible once the part is installed so you just have to go slightly down those edges. I would definitely use a sanding block to make sure it's all flat.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Triangle Trim Pieces

During my recent audio upgrade I attempted to install my new tweeters in the little triangle pieces that go on the doors, by the side mirrors... I didn't like how it came out + wrapping the trim piece with CF, now with the tweeter in place, was gonna be a PITA. I should have used the mounting hardware for the tweeter but I just didn't know better, now I do. So I crapped the idea, installed the tweeters in the OEM location but had to buy new trim pieces from a junkyard and do it over, this time I took pics.

New ones on the sides, the older one in the middle. It looks like that cause it was wrapped in CF but I took it off to drill that big hole in my attempt to....


Prepped.


Measured CF and cut.


Pigmented resin applied.


CF applied.




CF trimmed.


More trimming.




Started flattening the resin.


Skipped a buncha steps (I didn't really skip them, just didn't take pics of them). Here there are 5 coats of clear.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
License Plate Frame

This is the license plate frame I bought for $20 that changed my whole view about 3M's Di-Noc Vinyl... I bought a sticker for it, stuck it to the license plate frame, sanded it, and put resin all over it so that it looks like it was painted... Needless to say, it's a permanent sticker (unless I sanded it all the way down to the CF to replace it but I'm happy with it).





 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Drivers Side Switch Trim

I didn't want to spend much time with taking pics of each step I did for every part I'm doing so this is where I'm at with this part...

I did all the leveling steps, clear coated (forgot how many coats) then some holes were visible. I covered these holes with clear (by spraying some in a soda bottle cap then using a toothpick to apply it) and this is what I'm left with.



After a few wet sanding sessions + filling the holes here's what I have so far... Honestly, I don't even know if the holes will be gone once I wet sand again but I hope they are.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
B-Pillar Trim

These are almost done. They were actually some of the first things I started months ago (because they were mostly flat and 'easy'). The one on the right is done. The one the left has been clear coated, you can see the orange peel on it.

 

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Discussion Starter #17
I thought about doing my rear roof spoiler but I have too much on my hands to start on outside pieces...
 

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I've been looking at the garnish I was telling you about and the holes underneath it where the license plate lights seem like they are going to be tricky... Any suggestions on how to cut the carbon so that it folds into the holes? If you ever think about doing outside pieces sign me up haha I would for sure be interested in getting some stuff done!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Canuck, I don't know how that piece looks like once removed since I have a coupe... you can take pics and post then I can see but without looking I can tell you this, CF bends really well. If your prep work is good, the CF should adhere well.
 
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