I’ve spent a ton of time thinking about carbon fiber, and a lot of time thinking about the blog as well. As a matter of fact, as I was driving to work this morning it dawned on me that a lot of the ideas I have regarding the Playground go back nearly two decades. And in the last week, one thing has been stuck on a permanent loop in my head:
All this thinking hasn’t actually achieved anything.
Sure, I have a list of projects and processes that I want to tackle a mile long, but without action the items on it will only remain figments of my imagination. Nothing is ever accomplished without taking some action.
As such, I have set forth on what I am calling (for lack of a better term) my Action Plan. There are several steps involved, and they build on each other. Each should be a small, simple move forward, and each should be easily attainable. I may amend these as I go, but the important thing is that I move forward on these post-haste. I believe that these steps are very specific to what I want to accomplish, but also that they can be translated to virtually any other project I want to tackle.
Step 1: Research
In some ways, this step has been going on for a while. I think that all my daydreaming and poking around the web has been the groundwork that this is all based on. The difference now is that the research is more focused. I am not so much interested in everything that exists about carbon fiber at this point as I am learning the first thing I need to know about actually building something using carbon fiber.
This step is, most importantly, finite. It is incredibly easy to get caught up in the research trap. To think that you just need to learn that one more thing. To think that if you were just to come up with the perfect system, it would all be sooo easy.
Perfection is the enemy of action.
I don’t mean that one shouldn’t try to achieve perfection. What I mean is that seeking perfection often precludes one from taking action in the first place. Far better to just do something, no matter the results than to not do anything in an attempt to perfect everything before moving forward.
In this instance, my research covers what I need to safely execute my first project in carbon fiber. Once I know just enough to safely pull the trigger, I have to go ahead and do it. Which brings me to:
Step 2: Test project
Now I make my first piece…out of fiberglass.
I realize that I just said that finished research would carry me into a carbon fiber project (and it will) but a key principle of this work is that I want to move forward with the least amount of expense to achieve my goal. With that in mind, it’s time for me to apply the principles involved in carbon fiber fabrication on a material that acts very similarly, and at a fraction of the cost.
I have no real intention of taking this intermediary step at every stage along the way, but I feel that as a first project it is important to lay an effective groundwork for what comes later. I have worked with fiberglass in the past, but I think that I can improve on my process, given the research I have done even to this point.
My goal for this step, and the follow-up that I will do in carbon fiber, is to make…a flat panel. Exciting, I know. But this is where everything starts from. When learning to sew, you make swatches. With welding, you weld beads on a flat plate first. It would stand to reason that the simplest form is the best starting point in the learning process for carbon fiber, as well.
I am not concerning myself with producing a finished or useable product at this phase of things. The purpose of this step is to familiarize myself with the ins ands outs of cloth and epoxy. There are other types of resin that I could use with fiberglass, but as my goal is to work with carbon fiber, none of those are viable options. I should be getting used to the properties of epoxy as early as possible.
As I am building this project in both fiberglass and carbon fiber, technically this step could be broken down into step 2 and step 2a, but the idea is the same: Get my hands dirty and have an actual FRP panel (or two) at the end of the step.
Step 3: Mold making
This is where the rubber meets the road. As an intermediary step in the process, I again will likely not be working with carbon fiber directly. The mold is most likely going to be made of fiberglass, but it is an important step toward achieving an actual, useable thing made of carbon fiber.
There are a number of sub-steps in this step and I hope to provide information on each of these as I progress. I can’t, in all honesty, catalogue them all right now, as I haven’t yet gotten that detailed in my research. I have a general idea of what’s in store for me, but there are any number of things that I can’t predict happening or needing to know from where I currently stand.
Then again, that is the whole point of doing what I’m doing, in the way that I am doing it. None of us can truly predict the knowledge we will have or need tomorrow. Expanding my knowledge base is a critical benefit of my writing this blog. I have a thing that I think I can do, and I want to test myself to see if I actually can.
Suffice to say, this step will involve coming up with a shape for something, and taking steps to make that shape a reality executed in carbon fiber.
Step 4: An actual Thing
This step gets me something I can hold in my hand and use. I have some ideas on what this first thing is going to be, but I suppose it will really come down to what strikes my fancy most when I get to the mold-making process.
To be fair, this step is just the natural next progression from the last, as the mold will be in place and established. It doesn’t mean, however, that this step is a forgone conclusion. There are a number of things that I will need to learn between making the mold and using the mold to build something. I will certainly be building on the knowledge I will have gained in the first several steps of the process, but will also be adding to my knowledge base as I move ahead.
Honestly, I’m pretty excited for this stage of the game.
I will have something I can touch and recognize as something by the end of this step. All the study, practice, and preparation will culminate in something tangible. Something that sprang forth from my mind, created with my own hands. There is something pretty satisfying to that thought. And if I have laid the groundwork correctly, that process will be repeatable. If I’ve really done it correctly, it will be reproducible.
Step 5: One Step Beyond
This step could just have easily been called “…and Another Thing” or “oh, By The Way.” That’s because this step involves everything else beyond the basics. It also encompasses the first four steps over and over again, in a sense.
The final step is really about expanding my knowledge base even further. Learn some, build some, become proficient, learn some more, ad infinitum. It’s really about pushing into new areas, learning new processes, coming up with new stuff I want to build. And there are so many different levels to what is possible within the world of carbon fiber. So many different processes and avenues to explore that I can keep going for quite a while. Which is what attracted me to it in the first place.
The beauty of carbon fiber is that, for the most part, if I can think it I can build it.
I just have to take action to get there.
What action do you have to take to move your projects forward? Leave a comment and let me know your next step.