Pilgrim School: Ding Repair With Faktion Surfboards

Mark 'Petro' Petrocelli is the local Long Island shredder that never misses a swell. He's also a surfboard shaper and glasser (under the moniker Faktion) and Pilgrim's go-to ding repairman. While spending time in Florida after high school, Petro first dipped his toe into the surfboard industry by airbrushing boards and would pick up the slack whenever somebody didn't show up for work -- he made a few fins here, sanded a little there. He then moved back to Long Island and began working at a friend's surf shop, New School, and from there began airbrushing, sanding, and eventually glassing for Bunger and Nature Shapes. With access to their shops and materials, Petro was soon building boards for himself and for friends, thus creating the label Faktion.

Petro's varied past has molded him into a 'jack of all trades' surfboard craftsman, shaping and glassing his boards by hand in side-by-side sheds (one for shaping/sanding, one for glassing). When he first started in 2006 there was only one shed, "I was shaping, glassing, and sanding in the same 8’ x 12’ room. I would flip the room at each stage, it was a nightmare." After two years, he feels he's already outgrowing the two shed set up as he's been taking on employees, one in particular being Bob Hawkins, or Hawks, a Long Island clammer who's been shaping locally since the early '60s (pre-Bunger). He's now incorporated Hawks' original log templates into Faktion's quiver. As for Petro's personal quiver, he sticks to stubby thrusters, particularly his Frocket model, and dabbles in quads. You might catch him on a longboard in the summer. To that he says, "I build boards that suit our waves. I grew up surfing here and I’ve been surfing these waves for 25 years -- I know what works."

With all of Petro's expertise, we asked him to give us a step-by-step guide (paired with some pro-tips) on how to repair your board to perfection.

[Petro glassing the Dream Board. February, 2014.]

How To: Repair a Surfboard Ding

First, things not to do...

“If you have a ding, don’t push wax into it because you will have to cut it out with a big razor blade. The wax doesn’t even keep the water out, it’s better if you use duct tape or a vinyl sticker, something like that will help if you really have to, but water will still leak into it. If there is water in your ding, let that whole area dry first before you put any filler on it, or else it won't harden."

How to repair your surfboard properly...

1. Open the ding to the foam. "Remove any rotten or damaged areas with a razor blade. Clean out the area and use a low grit number white sandpaper (40 grit works) to leave the area rough. This will allow the repair to bond easier with the board. You want to use white sandpaper because the brown gets all over the place if the board isn’t hot coated. White sandpaper can be hard to come by -- you may not be able to find it at your local hardware store. You can order it from a shaper's supplier."

2. Mix up the Q-Cell filler. “I’m going to mix Q-Cell microballons (it’s like a powder filler) with the resin to thicken it up. This is necessary to fill in the gaps in the foam. I’m using regular polyresin, then I’m slowly adding Q-Cell and stirring. You want to mix it so that it’s about as thick as toothpaste. If it’s too watery it’s just going to run all over the board. You want to make it thick enough that if you put it in one spot it will stick there.”

“Then I’m just going to add a little bit of hardener. For a cup like this (less than 4oz), you only need about seven little drops of hardener. Also, when you add Q-Cell filler to the resin and then add hardener, the resin will always get harder quicker, rather than if it were just resin alone.”

3. Pour the Q-Cell onto the ding. “The key to doing repairs is to be neat. The neater you are, the easier everything will be. I’m spreading it around with a popsicle stick, just trying to even it out. I want to keep it so that there’s minimal sanding. I could put a big mound on there, but you’re going to have to come back and sand so much more. A lot of people who are doing small repairs like this will be hand sanding, so you want to have the least amount of sanding as possible.”

4. Mixing laminating resin. “While that’s sitting, I’m going to mix my own Suncure using regular polyresin again. I’m mixing it with a UV catalyst, so when it goes out in the sun it gets harder quicker. Most people buy this pre-mixed. This one full scoop is good for a gallon of resin, so you only want to use a little bit. If you add too much the resin turns a greenish yellow but it will still work. You want to mix this in and then let it sit for ten minutes to work into the resin. This will be my laminating resin.”

Tip: “You should wear rubber gloves if you have them, otherwise you’re going to get resin all over your hands. It's not coming off with soap and water, you'll need acetone to remove it."

5. Mixing hot coat. “Now you can mix the hot coat. This is called a wax solution, it's made up of parafin wax and it gets grinded up into little particles. You put it into a cup and then you mix it up with this other solution called styrene. You’ll then want to melt that together in a double boil. Take a big bucket of hot water, then put a second bucket with the wax solution and styrene mixed together into the hot water bucket so that it melts together. That’s your wax solution. A lot of people just buy it instead of going through this part of the process.”

Tip: “Styrene is really bad for you, it’s probably the worst chemical you could use. Be careful.”

“Since we are outside and there are strong UV rays today, it will take about thirty seconds to dry. If we had just used a regular catalyst, and if the temperature outside is anything under 70 degrees, it can take forever to get hard. I’ve been out here in the snow and the UV catalyst will still make it harden quickly.”

Tip: “In the kits it usually comes with one bottle of resin. Usually that resin is already pre-mixed with wax, which really isn’t the best thing. You really shouldn’t laminate with wax in the resin, but they do that because they’re not going to add another separate bottle of wax for people to add in. The problem is that you don’t get as strong of a bond."

6. Sand it down. “This is still a little bit gummy, so I’m going to use a sandpaper that’s a little more aggressive, this is a white 40 grit sandpaper. If it wasn’t so gummy, I’d probably use a 100 grit. You want to keep it somewhat rough and coarse for the resin to bond to and it won’t really bond well to anything over 220 grit.”

7. Fiberglass. “Now I’m going to put a fiberglass patch on top. Some people stop before this step because it’s filled and hard, but you have to remember that it’s not sealed. You need to put a patch over the ding to guarantee that it’s sealed. Anything you patch should be two layers, mostly because it’s easier that way to blend the patch. I cut circles for everything: a small one that goes just over the ding, then one with the edges just a little bit bigger than the actual repair.”

Tip: “For small patches I use a small brush, for a bigger patch I’ll use a bigger brush. These are just those fifty cent brushes, so the bristles come out. When I first get them I’ll take tape and put it upside down on on my fingers and pull any loose bristles out. When I’m not using the brushes I keep the brushes in acetone, that’s the only way to get the resin off if you want to keep reusing them.”

“You really don’t need much resin to do this little area, I’m just dabbing it so it’s not moving around. In fact, at this stage you want to keep it as thin as possible. You want to check to make sure you’ve saturated all of the fiberglass cloth, you may see areas where there might be air bubbles or places where it’s not saturated. A little area like this is pretty easy, but when you start dealing with bigger areas it’s a little bit harder to wet all the cloth out. After this we’ll stick it in the sun for thirty seconds. Here, you can actually see I used a little too much powder because the resin has a slightly greenish tint.”

8. Hot coat stage. “So now that it’s hard, I’ll start what's called the 'hot coat' stage. This is the wax solution in the polyresin that you’ll brush on top of the repair. With this step, without having the wax in the resin, you wouldn’t be able to sand it. You would go to sand it and it would just gum up the paper.”

Tip: “One of the biggest mistakes that I see is when people glass the patch on with the regular polyresin, and before doing this step they’re trying to sand that whole thing flat to the board. The only way the get it flat to the board is when they sand the entire patch off. You just want a thin layer. If you were to sand this patch right now you would probably see a burn through.”

Tip: “When I have a batch of boards, I fill them all at the same time, sand them all at the same time, glass them all at the same time. Each stage will be together.”

9. Sanding. “Now, I’m just going to rough sand all of this with white 100 grit. I’m using a block, it makes it a little bit easier, like a flat surface. A palm sander would be fine for something like this as well. You want to get all the shininess out from the hot coat so you can see the weave of the cloth.”

Tip: “It’s sealed, it’s not going to leak, but if you want it to look perfect, you’ll then take it to the next step and gloss this area and come back with a really fine thin paper, like 220 grit.”

10. Gloss. “This step is pretty much the same step as doing the hot coat. Everything’s sanded flat already so you’re not seeing any bumps from the cloth, you’re just going to go over and do another thin coat. I’m spreading this out more because it needs to cover everywhere I sanded. You’re going to want to re-hot coat anywhere that was roughed up. Usually, I’ll want to go in the direction of which I’m going to be sanding -- usually rail to rail, then tail to nose. When you’re sanding, it’s easier to go same way as the brush strokes.”

11. Wet sand. “I’m using fine sandpaper, it’s 220 and 320 grit, and I’m using a wet sandpaper because when you use paper with water on it, it doesn’t gum up the paper as much as a regular dry paper would. It will sand a lot better, but you have to keep it wet. After you’re done sanding, that’s that. You’re done!”

Faktion surfboards are available through Pilgrim Surf + Supply, click here to view. Mark also is our repairman for those dings that are a little too daunting to do on your own. Call the Brooklyn shop at 718-218-7456 with any inquiries. 

- Photos by Joseph Falcone, words by Chelsea Burcz