Fiberglass cloth alternatives that don't need Vacuum Bagging

A lot of great information on here about alternative fabrics that work well when vaccum bagged. Looking for fabric that can be done by hand. I’ve dug through all the modern laminates threads. Has anyone discovered a cloth that works well hand laminating that isnt fiberglass? I have recently discovered I have a pretty gnarly alergy (beyond just the normal itch) to fiberglass cloth, so looking to explore other options that dont require a bagging setup. 

One of our regulars was working with nyon 6,6 in his layups with pretty good results.   He’ll probably comment here.   

You can do vacuum bagging pretty cheap if it comes to that.  It doesn’t take a big complicated rig to do it.


Nylon or Hemp are a couple.

with nylon, is there a certain strategy for hand lam? Should it be fully wet out prior to being laid down?

Most “cheap” plastic fibers like nylon, diolen etc… Have low stiffness modulus and high elongation to break, should be use with elastic resin that have also lower stiffness. Ended with a flexible, stretchable stiffless skin, tough but soft so you need something to give some stiffness to skin to prevent buckling and over denting. A strategy could be to make a thicker multilayer skin with those fibers to gain flexural stiffness by thickness, each time you double thickness you increase stiffness by 8, but ended on heavier side.

Plastic fibers are light so they want to float over resin and they have lower adhesion to resin, easier to work them in vaccum bag.

Hemp, flax, cellulose fiber, basalt are more “like fiberglass”. 

…a point to consider is that with Nylon and similar sheets you will not obtain a perfect fade when you are doing a repair.

I agree with Lemat you need to stiffen the board with some of the alternative cloths. I also saw a video where someone on youtube did a “poorman’s” vacuum where you just use release ply taped tightly over the finished laminate to squeeze out excess and hold down the cloth.

I would like to see that video.  Can you link it or steer me in a direction to find it?

It’s video of Jimmy lewis that make a custom sup. He lam tightly a thin plastic at the end of fiberglass lam. When cured he pull of the plastic so fiberglass lam is flatter, need less finish. 

Gary Young (Hawaii) was doing bamboo veneers with (if I recall correctly) a plastic shrink-wrap type exterior shell over them.


The pics below are from his Insta. He apparently hasn’t added any new pics in the last 3 years.    This board was apparently snapped in heavy conditions in the Bay area.   It looks like a wood veneer over XPS.




I tried it and got a big mess. The type of plastic film is crutial. I couldn’t find the video but I think Lemat is right about Jimmy Lewis and SUP construction. I would go the extra cost and use release ply, lam as usual and then put on the ply with a lot of tape underneath to hold it tightly to the board while curing. When I have vacuum bagged boards I put it on and you can see the resin come out. Many times I thought I shouldn’t even bother with the other steps in the bagging process.

I have wetbagged before and that works.  If you run the lamination slightly wet and just use a raw bag with no wrinkles in it you can get a no-sand finish.   No peel ply or breather on the wet side so the only consumable is the bag itself.    


The way I did it was run the breather and the vacuum fitting on the dry side and pull the bag tight over the wet side, including wrapping the rails.   I used masking tape to tape the corners down so those came out perfectly, too.   The trick is to pull the board out of the bag after the resin has gotten to the B stage but before it fully hardens.    Then pull the tape off the corners, cut the cutlaps if that’s what you’re doing and allow the resin to completely harden.   


But as I understand it the OP was trying to get away from fiberglass altogether.   

The release ply will hold down lighter “floating” alternative cloth and remove some excess resin. If you don’t have a vacuum setup it will work to get a slightly lighter laminate.

These are great methods that I’m eager to try, can anyone link to the sorts of bags used OR the plastic film used to get the wrap tight?

Item# M05-2881

Ohhhhkaaay, a few things-

First off, nylon, hemp, recycled silk undies, whatever, what you want to be thinking about is how much these materials will elongate under a given tension. As was mentioned, you would need a helluva flexible resin to make it work, otherwise the resin fails while the fiber is still stretching to it’s ultimate strength. 

Carbon fiber, glass fiber, aramids ( Kevlar and friends) tend to initially resist elongation, more than the resin will. Which makes them the fibers usually chosen for laminates that need to be fairly stiff, not deform a lot and come back after forces act on them, such as surfboards, fishing rods, airplane wings and what have you. 

Now, vacuum tech. There’s a lot of it. See Fibeglass Supply on that subject and go from there. Vacuum infusion, vacuum lamination, it’s cool stuff. It’s the method of choice for a lamination/composite structure that more or less reliably has the most strength for the least weight. The best resin/reinforcement ratios, and you can meter it precisely.And they can turn out a helluva nice surface finish.

If I remember right, the strongest fiberglass/polyester resin lamination is around 40-50% resin to 50-60% glass by weight, which probably varies with the cloth weave and other factors. The best hand laminations are more along the lines of 55-60% resin to  40-45% glass. 

Neato. The thing is, do you need to go buying the whole vac setup, and you can easily drop several hundred bucks on a basic rig and multiples of that for higher end? You’re not, for instance, building wings for Airbus. With those, a few percentage points on weight translate into a lot of  fuel use, engine wear, structural fatigue, performance and so forth.  If you were building thousands of surfboards to a fixed shape, modern popouts let’s say, with very unskilled cheap labor at Pacific Rim Laminates Ltd. ( 206 Jungle Clearing, West Nowhere, Malaysia) it would be worth it for the nice surface even with labor by  some poor devil that’s being paid 67 1/2 cents a day. It’s worth it to them. 

A buddy of mine was building very high tech RC gliders that way too. But he was fascinated by it all and something of a mad genius. As well as being one of the finest craftsmen I have known in my long and checkered career. He was willing to go to that extent to get the best possible results. Aneurysm got him a couple years back, he’s missed, he is. Crazy bastard.  

You’re building hand shaped surfboards one at a time. For fun. There’s a learning curve to vacuum tech too, somewhat steeper than hand lamination. Some guys here have been willing to go through all that, spend the money, deal with the failed attempts, to get the best they can possibly get. If you are too, by all means, keep us posted on your progress. The world needs more crazy bastards like my mad genius buddy, if it wasn’t for them we’d still be living in caves chasing our lunch with stone-tipped  spears and crude wooden clubs. 

hope that’s of use


FYI. There is a guy in my area of Northern CA, who is building very legit eco-friendly boards under the “Iconoclast” label, using an algae based foam, natural plant resins and a flax/basalt fabric.

Check out this link:

Most likely Arctic’s Bio Foam, Super Sap or RR’s Bio Resin and Basalt.

Just wanted to mention biomid fiber,

I have no experience with this material, but read about it here in the forum some years back.

It still exists and seems to be a sandable alternative to glass.

I am pretty sure that your problem with glass is in the sizing, not the glass itself. So you could  probably try another brand.