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  1. #1
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    Default "Bondo" as a sculptural material

    A student asked me about the long-term indoor stability of Bondo, a commercial auto-body dent filler, when it's used to make small sculptures.
    The AMIEN Staff

  2. #2
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    Default Bondo

    The first thing I did was "Google" Bondo.
    Keep this in mind: Bondo did not make this material for artists to use.
    Anyway, I went to the site and downloaded the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). An MSDS will give you health information and a limited amount of technical information about contents.

    The MSDS for Bondo includes, among much else, the following: "Emergency Overview
    "Signs of Overexposure: Nausea, cough, dizziness, weakness, headache, chest pain, lack of coordination, shortness of breath, dermatitis, redness and/or pain in eyes." And, "For working, wear solvent resistant gloves and safety eye protection designed to guard against liquid splashes. Close all containers tightly after use. Do not eat, drink or smoke in work areas.
    "Material Physical Appearance: Putty.
    "Other Precautions: Vapors are heavier than air and may travel along floors. Material has an offensive odor. Prolonged exposure may reduce the user's sensitivity to the odor, thus reducing the effectiveness of odor as a warning against exposure."

    And, most alarmingly: "Primary Routes of Entry: Inhalation, skin contact, ingestion, eyes.
    "Exposure Effects Acute and Chronic:
    "Inhalation: Acute: Nasal and respiratory irritation, nausea, cough, shortness of breath, dehydration, allergic respiratory reaction, tiredness, dizziness, weakness, headache, anesthesia, drowsiness, fatigue, chest pain, vomiting, central nervous system effects, narcosis. Liquid can be fatal if aspirated into the lungs.
    "Skin contact: Acute: Extraction of natural oils with resulting dry skin, irritation, allergic skin reactions, redness and dermatitis. May be absorbed through the skin. Eye contact: Acute: Irritation, redness, pain, tearing, blurred vision, sensation of seeing halos around lights and reversible damage.
    "Ingestion: Acute: Gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, lack of coordination, central nervous system effects, depression.
    "Chronic: Repeated overexposure to this product may cause: central nervous system damage, hearing damage, kidney damage, liver abnormalities, lung damage, cardiac abnormalities, reproductive organ damage, blood effects, eye damage.
    "Other Health Effects: Intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents may be harmful or fatal. Reports have associated repeated and prolonged occupational overexposure to solvents with permanent brain and nervous system damage."

    So. Scary, no?

    Unless the student is prepared to use personal protection -- an organic vapor respirator (fit-tested, no facial hair allowed), impermeable gloves (see Bondo's website), and goggles -- I can not recommend the use this product.

    Then, I consulted an objects conservator for a take on the long-term stability of this polyester-based material. Polyester is ordinarily thought of as fairly stable but not, apparently, in this form: it can shrink over time, and may crack.

    In my opinion then, and mainly considering the health warnings about the use of Bondo, the student should probably find a different material to work with.

    I wonder also if the student's teachers are aware of Bondo's MSDS?
    The AMIEN Staff

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    1

    Default Bondo stuff

    Bondo and other plastic fillers

    When asking how long "bondo" will last it is important to talk a little about what bondo is used for and designed to do. Bondo is used in the auto body repair industry as filler for small shallow dents. It is to be applied to clean moisture-free sanded metal.

    It is NOT designed as a sculpting material for building form, as you would use clay. It is NOT designed to fill holes or span gaps. It is NOT an adhesive.

    Bondo may have a shorter life if it is not mixed properly with the hardener or if it is applied in the wrong temperature. The correct amount of hardener is 1 1/2 to 3%. It needs to be at 64 degrees Fahrenheit minimum to cure, and the best is between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Also as with other materials there are questions of quality of the manufacturing. Not all plastic fillers are created equal. There are also many kinds of plastic fillers using polyester, nylon, or other materials as a base. Each has different properties, uses, and durability.

    As for the true archival properties of bondo I am not sure in terms of years but I can say that most times I've seen it fail as a material (both in art and car repair) it was used in an improper way.

    SB

  4. #4
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    Default SB's comments on auto body fillers

    Thanks, SB.

    My own experiences with this stuff confirm your warnings.

    When I was restoring/modifying Cennino Cennini, my 1957 IH Metro van that I drove around the US in 1988-89, I used several gallons of it repairing many dings and dents on his poor old body. Now, only five years later, it's popped away from the steel in several places-- in spite of my best efforts at drilling anchor holes, and in spite of 5 coats of an acrylic lacquer over it.
    The AMIEN Staff

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
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    15

    Default toxicity of Bondo

    When I had my studio in NH, it was located in a basement that was fairly well-ventilated (I had designed the space, etc.) In addition to an exhaust fan, I had a Nederman portable ventilator as well as my own, personal fitted respirator. Primary, secondary and tertiary sources of ventilation, and all that sort of thing.

    During some construction of the basement "English" windows in the spring, the construction crew was using Bondo to fill in areas of loss in the wooden windows. One can, with the lid on, minimal use, just fill in cracks and the ENTIRE building (including the basement of course) was uninhabitable. I remember walking in the first day, being 6 months pregnant, and turning around and walking out. I complained and the complaints were heard. Then, one day I was working in my studio and I smelled the slightest whiff of it. I went out and one of the workers thought they would have a go at it again for a small area of loss (a quick job). Seriously, only 5 minutes and the basement reeked. Well, I went out wearing a respirator and read the back of the can to them. One of them thought I was silly to wear a respirator. I responded that I was sure they were violating an OSHA standard and they had better think about that. They quieted; OSHA can do that people.

    The stuff is toxic beyond belief. I am glad you addressed it on AMIEN. I mean, as a conservator, I have always been careful about the solvents I worked with but no substance has left an impression on me the way Bondo did.
    Last edited by markg; 01-25-2007 at 03:29 PM.
    Erica James
    Assistant Conservator, Paintings
    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TX

  6. #6
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    Default Labels; OSHA

    Thanks Erica.

    Isn't amazing what information labels can provide? If only people would read them, and then follow the directions.

    As for OSHA and its rules, individual artists have no need to worry about them. But as soon as you put together a class, or a workshop, or begin teaching at a school, watch out. Not only does OSHA enter the picture but so does, increasingly, the EPA.
    The AMIEN Staff

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