I’m Anne, a homesteader, blacksmith and woodworker living in Seattle. I run the YouTube channel and Instagram page, Anne of All Trades, and I’ve partnered up with 3M on my current project to renovate and restore the blacksmithing shop on my farm. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting here with updates on my project and how it’s coming along.
When we bought this property 4 years ago, I just knew this space would make such an amazing place to work on my blacksmithing projects. A few farm emergencies later, it became a chicken coop for a short while. The building fell further into disrepair and I’ve not had the chance to tackle fixing it until now.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been using the 3M Industrial Community as a way to find information and tips on how to restore this workshop. I’ve also been chatting with 3M engineers, who suggested I use 3MTM VHBTM Tape to “fabricate” some no-weld window frames. It’s a fantastic way to attach the acrylic window panes to the metal frames, and a great way to attach the steel-to-steel components with a bond as strong, if not stronger than, welding.
Before I get started, I have a few questions about the application of the tape:
- I have made some window frames by notching out 45-degree angles in steel with an angle grinder and cutoff disc. I then bent the steel into a square frame shape. See picture below. How best should I prepare the steel for tape lamination? Should I sand it at all or just wash it?
- What is the best way to apply the tape to the steel to ensure proper adhesion?
- Once the tape is applied, are there any final steps or considerations before using the windows?
I’m glad to hear that 3M™ VHB™ Tape is making your job easier. As your questions point out, surface preparation and application techniques are critical steps to getting a strong bond. Fortunately, doing it right is easy if you follow a few simple guidelines.
- 3M™ VHB™ Tape sticks really well to bare steel, but when you purchase steel, the surface you get is not steel. The combination of oils and oxidation (rust) form a barrier for the tape making contact with the bare steel underneath. The best way to get these layers off is with a fine abrasive in the range of 180 – 320 grit. After abrading, use isopropyl alcohol to clean any remaining dust or oil.
- 3M™ VHB™ Tape is a Pressure Sensitive Adhesive (PSA) which means that pressure is needed to form the bond. You can use a simple J-roller to apply the pressure after you lay the tape on the steel angle. The tape will be ready for the acrylic panel immediately after applying pressure – just peel the liner and place the panel.
- The window is ready to be handled immediately after you apply pressure to the acrylic and the tape will even continue to build bond strength over the next few days. However, since you are using a clear substrate where the bond line may be visible, you can optionally attempt to remove entrapped air bubbles by applying localized pressure to force them out. This is typically not required on opaque substrates, but it is common on clear materials and would be a nice finishing touch to your project.
Thanks for the great questions. I’ll be interested to hear how your project turns out!
Thanks John! As suggested, I prepped the surface with 320 grit sandpaper and cleaned it with isopropyl alcohol.
Then, I applied the tape and rolled it with a J roller to assure proper adhesion to the steel. The next step was peeling the opposing side of the tape away, then sticking the acrylic window to the tape on the steel frame.
Finally, I used a little clamp to get out any air bubbles.
The biggest benefit for me of using the tape is that it’s easier than welding because it requires no welding equipment, no grinding, is very quick and very clean.
Without the tape, I would have had to weld and grind the frames and keep them perfectly square through the process. But with the tape, I could cut the acrylic perfectly square and fit the metal frame squarely to the piece as I taped it in. I was also able to avoid drilling and screwing the acrylic into the frames, which would have been extremely time-consuming because I’d also have to drill and tap the metal frames. Acrylic is very brittle and is highly prone to scratches, so I wanted to use a method that involved a quick, easy installation. I’m so glad I had 3M’s engineers suggest such a simple solution.
Using the tape allowed me to transform a dilapidated structure on our property that’s gone unused for the last 4 years into an inspiring and useful creative space where I can continue to learn about tool-making and blacksmithing. If you want to follow the progress of this project, I’ll be posting updates here on the page over the next 3 weeks, so stay tuned!