Tech Questions - Heat-Tautening Fabric


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How much will polyester fabric actually shrink?

Polyester fabric will shrink a total of about 10-12% at 350 degrees F.

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Do all of the different weights of fabric shrink the same way?

Yes.

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Is the temperature of the iron I use to heat shrink the fabric really that important?

Absolutely! You must calibrate your iron prior to heat shrinking the fabric. You should calibrate it according to the manual for 225, 250, and 350 degrees F.

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Can I use a heat gun to shrink the fabric?

NO! Do not use a heat gun. You have no idea what temperature is being emitted and the temperature reaching the fabric is dependent upon how close you hold the gun. If you have a heat gun hide it until you are through with the fabric covering process.

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What kind of iron should I buy?

Purchase a high quality iron that is rated for at least 1100 watts. You will want the iron to reach 350 degrees F and also be capable of holding a temperature within plus or minus 10 degrees.

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What about the small hobby irons? Should I buy one of these?

These small irons are useful for certain areas. A small area that you cannot reach with a regular iron is an example. These hobby irons are also useful when you are smoothing tapes later on in the process. Be aware that controlling the temperature is much more difficult than with a household iron. The quality is not as good.

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Should I calibrate my iron prior to each time I use it?

We recommend you recalibrate your iron any time you change the length of extension cord, etc.

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Should I move the iron over each area rapidly to keep from damaging the fabric?

Leaving the iron in one place will not harm the fabric as long as the temperature is not above 350 degrees.

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I noticed smoke coming from the fabric when I ironed it at 350 degrees. Is this normal?

Yes, this is normal. What you are seeing is actually steam from the moisture found in the fabric itself. It is not smoke.

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I have been told not to place the iron over cemented seams-why is that?

If you iron over any seam that is secured using Poly-Tak cement, be sure the temperature of the iron is below 225 degrees F. Anything above that will loosen the bond.

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I made a mistake and have to undo a seam. How do I get the Poly-Tak to loosen?

Simply apply a small amount of MEK solvent to the affected area. This will loosen the Poly-Tak bond and allow you to redo the area. You can also apply heat with a calibrated iron at 225 degrees and no higher to the area to loosen the bond.

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How do I know when the fabric is tight enough?

This is a common question. Generally speaking, if you attach the fabric to the structure so it is snug and then iron the fabric as discussed using 350 degrees F as the final temperature setting, you should have the fabric tight enough. (Remember to stop at 250 degrees F if you have an ultralight or light structure). Another quick check is to push hard on an area with your thumb. You will leave an indentation in the fabric. That indentation should disappear within a few minutes if the fabric is tight enough.

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What happens if the fabric is not tight enough?

This depends upon where it is located. If it is within the prop wash the constant drumming may weaken the bond of the chemicals to the fabric resulting in cracking. If the fabric is too loose on the top side of a wing it may "balloon up" excessively during flight.

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