If you have ever wondered if you could shorten Beach Rollers, you can. Read below for what glues and methods I used.
Beach Rollers are great. More than once I have bought a pair. They are extremely tough, and are primarily designed to help you move a small boat up a rocky or even muddy beach. But they can also be strapped into your boat for reserve buoyancy, and be used as big fenders. Below my friend Simeon demonstrates how he uses them on his SCAMP.
I personally have used them as reserve buoyancy on a Shellback dinghy, and when my Skerry was an open boat I also strapped some in for buoyancy.
But they are a bit heavy, and longer than necessary for smaller boats at five feet. In my Skerry I had to bend them over to get them to fit, which I was not fond of. So I put a lot of effort into figuring out what they are actually made of, and what glues are correct for the material. Beach Rollers are not really that cheap, so I wanted to make sure I was not ruining one before cutting it up. After getting some unclear answers, I finally ended up talking to the main engineer at Aere’, who manufacturers them, and got the real scoop. The products below were recommended by them.
The Glue & Cleaner You Need
Beach Rollers are made out of vinyl, so you need HH-66 Vinyl Cement. It’s nasty stuff, so have good ventilation or a respirator when working with it. It is also highly recommend to use C65 Cleaner, which cleans and primes the surface.
There is also an HH-66 Thinner, that can be used for prep, and surface cleanup after. But I did not use it.
By the way, I assume if you are reading this you already own Beach Rollers, but if not you can get them at Duckworks here.
HH-66 Cement Is Tricky To Use
HH-66 Vinyl Cement is odd stuff to use. Yes, it is technically a contact cement. So you coat both surfaces, and let them set up for 2-5 minutes before sticking them together. But here is the trick. Unlike most contact cements, where those two surfaces immediately bond and you can barely move them after, this stuff does not immediately stick together when pressed together. In fact it does not appear to stick together at all. I was so confused by this I had to call the glue company. Turns out, you just need to keep the parts held together for a good long time before they start to bond, and 24 hours for a complete bond.
It is recommend you put the two pieces together after they have first dried for 2-5 minutes, and then apply pressure, and roll or rub the surface in multiple directions to get a good bond.
If the glue gets a little too dry before you stick them together, you can rub the surface quickly with the cleaner to reactivate it, and then stick the two pieces together.
I personally found that I got a better bond if I did not let them dry as long as suggested, so they were still a little wet when bonding.
Steps To Shortening Beach Rollers
Here are the steps I took. It is all pretty easy, if you have read above about how this stuff bonds. The most difficult place to get a good seal is at the existing central seam that runs the length of the tubes.
I wanted to take a full foot of length off the rollers, which I cut out of the center.
Next, take that piece you cut out, cut out the central seam, open it up, and then cut off the piece you will use to join the tubes back together. I think I used about a 3″ piece for the joint.
Then, just like contact cement, you need to coat both surfaces that you are going to bond. Because this stuff does not bond instantly, and because I was dealing with a tube, I decided to do it in two steps, front and back. I think I first scratched up the surface a bit with a scotch bright pad, and cleaned it all with the C-65 cleaner. Then I spread cement on one side of the tube, and an equal length of the patch cover piece. Then wait a couple of minutes.
Next you need to position the two sides of the tube close together, and aligned, and then press the patch over the top. Rub it hard, and apply a weight. Then wait 24 hours. To keep the outer and inner parts of the tube from gluing together at this first stage you can put a piece of masking tape between. Just remember to take it out before the next step so it is not inside the tube.
I discovered that it is important to start and end your cover piece exactly butting up to the edge of the seam that runs the length of the tubes. Don’t try to patch up over the top of the seam. Just get your piece right up tight against it. Next you will put another piece over the top of the seam, to complete the process.
That is pretty much it. You can actually take it apart if you make a mistake with a hot air gun, if you don’t wait too long. And where I had a leak I injected some of the cement into a hole with a dental syringe.
Adding Another Tie Point
One end of the Beach Rollers has a loop, the other end has the valve in it. If you would like to use the rollers as a long horizontal fender it would be nice to have another loop to tie to. Some folks just put a webbing strap around the fenders in two spots like Simeon does above. But a loop would be pretty easy to add with the above glue products.
Before you start look at how the company made their loop. It is tucked under another circular cover piece. This spreads the load nicely so that the loop does not tear anything out. Something similar could be done above the valve on the other end, or just on the side of the tube.
The question is, where do you get the material for building that loop? What you need is vinyl coated nylon reinforced fabric. And if you start looking for that you will find PVC vinyl fabric. Is PVC the same as vinyl? Yes, PVC is a type of vinyl. So it will probably work. But I would test the glue first on a piece of what you find.
It might be easiest to buy some PVC D-Ring patches made for inflatable boats. I think they will glue well to these rollers. But I have not tested it.
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