Rubberized Contacts: 7. Final Thoughts (maybe)

August 1, 2010

When I wrote my last post on this topic, Rubberized Contacts: 6. Revised Calculations and Wrap-Up, I thought I was done with this blog series. But no, it turns out I have more to say. Here are some random things I’ve come up with recently, which may evolve into a more formal “Part 8: FAQ”.

How can I avoid the one-time expense for things like the postal scale and the trowel?

I’m glad you asked. With the blessing of The Bay Team Board, I have assembled a “Rubberizing Loaner Kit”, complete with a reference binder full of instructions and tips. As soon as we have finished up the SMART and Bay Team equipment, this will be made available on a limited basis to members. I will be the Program Administrator, and the kit will stay around until it is no longer (a) in demand or (b) usable, whichever comes first. We have not discussed any budget for sustaining this program if the equipment becomes unusable or is lost.

How much contact cement do I really need?

A lot. And as I have previously mentioned, only the Original (red label) stuff will do – stay far far away from the non-flammable (green label) crap. As an aside, Home Depot only carries small cans of the good stuff, not gallons – you have to go to True Value or OSH or Lowes to get gallons.

OK, I admit that “a lot” isn’t really a very helpful answer. So I did some rough calculations based on even rougher estimates and came up with some numbers. Your mileage may vary, but least this will give you a starting point.

  • Table (top only): 21 oz (2/3 qt)
  • A-frame: 128 oz (1 gal)
  • Dogwalk: 85 oz (2/3 gal)
  • Teeter: 28 oz (almost a quart)
  • Chute pad (small): 11 oz (1/3 qt)
  • Chute pad (large: 13 oz (not quite 1/2 qt)

If you read Part 6 (referenced above), you already know that contact cement costs over $35/gal. Based on these calculations, if you’re doing a full set of equipment, you’re looking at well over 2 gallons of cement. Now I’ll admit that I was doing my gluing in the sun, so I probably used more than I might have in cooler conditions. On the other hand, my a-frame is aluminum, which means it didn’t absorb the cement the way plywood would have. So there is probably quite a lot of variability, but at this will give you an idea so you can be prepared.

Brushes vs Rollers?

I previously posted that though the book recommends 2″ brushes, I thought they were a waste of time and suggested at least 3″ and preferably 4″ brushes. I now must confess that I didn’t fully read the supplemental material that Darlene included with the kits. Had I done that, I would have noticed that she updated her recommendation to a 6″ foam roller. Sure wish I had seen that earlier.

How many people does it take to glue the skins on the contacts?

The table can easily be done by one person if you use the technique in the book – clamping in the middle, folding half back, applying cement, roll into position. Then just do the other half the same way. There is one thing I didn’t see mentioned in the book – be sure to put a piece of plastic or paper between the two layers when it is folded back – you don’t want to accidentally get contact cement on the finished contact surface.

I used a similar technique for the blue end of the a-frame and it worked fine. However, I tried to do the yellow side / match-up by myself and that was a mistake. I think that takes two people.

I haven’t done a teeter or dogwalk yet, so I can’t yet speak to the requirements for the longer pieces.

Have any of the formulas or measurements changed since the book was published?

Yes. Darlene has changed her formula for the table mats (and I assume the chute mats). In addition, she is providing a kit for a larger chute mat than what is published in the book. Here are the corrections to the book based on these changes.

Table and Chute, page 29

This chart replaces the last two sections of the original chart and reflects two key changes:

  • New formula for the table tops
  • Additional measurements for a larger chute mat, not included in the book
Obstacle Sq Ft Rubber Granules Binder ** Acetone
Table (if you include the sides, all pieces are made from a 45” square)
Top with sides (4”x36”) 14 sq ft 18 lbs (approx 1.28 lbs/sq ft) 3 lbs 10 oz None
Top only (36”x36”) 9.5 sq ft 12.2 lbs 2 lbs 7 oz None
Chute (30” long barrel)
Barrel mat: 24” x 27” 4.5 sq ft 5 lbs 13 oz (approx 1.28 lbs/sq ft) 1 lb 3 oz None
Barrel mat: 36” x 27” 6.75 sq ft 8 lbs 12 oz 1 lb 12 oz None
Chute rim: 6” x 78” 3.3 sq ft 3 lbs 11 oz 12 oz None

Table and Chute, pages 22-23

This chart reflects two key additions to the diagrams on these pages:

  • New sizing for table top alone (no sides)
  • Additional measurements for a larger chute mat, not included in the book\

Note: I haven’t even begun to try rebuilding the nested taping job with these options – you’re on your own for that.

Item Tape Plastic
Table Top without sides (36” x 36”) 37” x 37” 40” x 40”
Chute Barrel Mat (36” x 27”) 36” x 27” 39” x 30”

Conclusion

If you have any other questions about this process, please let me know and I’ll develop this list into a more serious FAQ.

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Rubberized Contacts: 6. Revised Calculations and Wrap-Up

July 10, 2010

If you’ve been keeping up, you know that this is the sixth (and perhaps final) installment in my series on Rubberizing Agility Contacts. I have stuck (no pun intended) strictly with the Rubber on the Run process developed by Darlene Woz, as documented in the book “Making Rubber Skins for Agility Equipment“. The Bay Team and SMART equipment committees collaborated on this effort, since we share so much equipment at our Prunedale trials.

Tables

The joint equipment committees decided that the protective and aesthetic benefits of the table sides did not warrant the extra weight (which we calculated at 7 lbs per table). Furthermore, we learned that Darlene has changed her table formations since the book was published. Based on this information, here are the revised calculations for what is published in the book:

Description Published
(with sides)
Revised
(with sides)
Revised
(without sides)
Tape outline 45″ x 45″ 45″ x 45″ 37″ x 37″
Plastic sheet 48″ x 48″ 48″ x 48″ 40″ x 40″
Rubber pellets 22 lb 18 lb 12 lb 3 oz
Binder 4 lb 6 oz 3 lb 10 oz 2 lb 7 oz
Total Wt Add 26 lb 6 oz 21 lb 10 oz 14 lb 10 oz

Chute Rims

The committees further determined that, though the rim of the chute should be padded for protection, it should not have traction. Rather it should be “slippery” and not involve a surface that would catch the coats of larger dogs. Thus, we decided not to fabricate rubberized rims for the chute, and instead adopted what SMART had already implemented on one chute – a “pool noodle”, slit vertically with an electric carving knife, and affixed to the top half of the chute with Zip-Ties (photo to come, I promise).

Chute Mats

The kits we bought were for 36″ x 27″ chute mats (to comply with CPE standards), but the book only shows the measurements for 24″ x 27″ mats (as required by USDAA). We determined that Darlene’s revised formulations for the table mats also applied to the chute mats. Thus we had to completely recalculate the measurements for the large chute mats, and here are the results:

Description Small chute mat
(as published)
Small chute mat
(revised)
Large chute mat
(unpublished)
Tape outline 24″ x 27″ 24″ x 27″ 36″ x 27″
Plastic sheet 27″ x 30″ 27″ x 30″ 39″ x 30″”
Rubber pellets 7 lb 5 lb 13 oz 8 lb 12 oz
Binder 1 lb 7 oz 1 lb 3 oz 1 lb 12 oz
Total Wt Add 8 lb 8 oz 7 lb 10 lb 8 oz

I encourage you to print this page and insert it as Errata on pages 21-23 and 28-29 of the book, for both the tables and the chute.

Net results of our efforts

I mentioned earlier that despite purchasing only 6 chute kits and 8 table kits, we managed to produce 7 chute mats and 12 table skins because of design changes. Now you know how: we eliminated the table sides and chute rims, carefully recalculated and reweighed the rubber and binder (which was way too much fun, as Katrina and Karey demonstrate), implemented mass production tactics, and just kept forming skins until we ran out of rubber. We combined pellets at the end, which gave us a custom purple/yellow chute mat to sell (2nd up from lower left) and the coveted “confetti” table mat (mid-left), which Katrina happily claimed as her own! The two stray pieces at the bottom were custom made from scraps for Karey’s in-cabinet dog door path.

Conclusions

Northern California agility dogs are happier because of our efforts. The tables and chutes made their debut at the July 4 Bay Team trial last weekend. I wasn’t there, but as I understand the feedback, the deafening silence of the dogs jumping onto the tables speaks for itself.

The next phase of the operation, affixing pre-made skins onto the Bay Team and SMART contact equipment (A-frames, dogwalks and teeters), will take place in the South Bay over the next few weeks. The plan is to have all of the equipment upgraded in time for the August and September trials, including the Southwest USDAA Regional on Labor Day weekend.

Acknowledgments

To Karey Krauter, Kate Wheelock and Katrina Parkinson (aka “The 3 K’s”), who gave up an entire Saturday to wallow in the most unbelievably nasty concoctions of solvent and goo. I’m still worried about Karey’s brain cells, after spending way too much time cleaning chutes with lacquer-thinner-saturated rags.

To Katrina Parkinson (yes, she came back the next day) and Celeste Thomas, who showed up Sunday to glue, glue, glue. This time, it was Celeste who got to burn a few brain cells inside the chutes, breathing the heady fumes of DAP Weldwood Original Contact Cement.

To my husband, Rich, who organized and cleaned out the garage to give us room for this preposterous effort, and stepped up as “day-of” errand-boy when we needed supplies because we were all too gooey to drive.

Next up (yes, there’s more): Final thoughts


Rubberized Contacts: 5. Hidden Costs

July 10, 2010

I recently collaborated with several friends to make and glue an assortment of table and chute skins for ourselves and our agility clubs – Bay Team and SMART. We used the Rubber on the Run technique, as documented in the book “Making Rubber Skins for Agility Equipment“. This is the fifth installment in a series of articles documenting our lessons learned so that others may benefit from our experience (and mistakes).

During this process, we learned that rubberizing contacts is not cheap. As mentioned above, my only experience is with the Rubber On The Run skins, so I have nothing to compare to. But to give you an idea, here are the costs of the raw materials (from the ROTR Pricing Guide):

Item Kit Pre-Made
A-frame $195 $395
Dogwalk $135 $375
Teeter $55 $120
Table $75 $125
Chute Mat/Rim $50 $95

Not included in these costs is shipping, which is not trivial (over $50 for some of the larger items), but the shipping cost is the same whether you buy the kit or the pre-made skin so that’s not really a consideration. The point of this article is to expose the hidden costs of making skins yourself (in the form of additional tools and supplies) so you can make a good decision when you decide which to purchase.

I have provided a shopping list (including sources and prices) for your consideration.

Making Skins

One-time purchases

Item Source Cost (approx)
Postal Scale Office Depot 35
Spray Bottle Lowes 2
4″ and 2″ plastic putty knives Lowes 2
Pool trowel Lowes 14
Plastic measuring cup set Walmart 4
Assorted plastic bins Target/Walmart 15
Materials for jig (in lieu of wood) Tap Plastic / Friedmans 30
Total $102

Consumables

Item Source Cost (approx)
Nitrile gloves (box of 40) Lowes 10
Duct tape (low residue) Lowes 10
Painters tape Lowes 5
Low Odor Mineral Spirits Lowes 15
Plastic Sheeting Lowes 22
Lacquer Thinner Lowes 18
Total (minimum) $80

As you can see, we spent over $200 on the supplies needed to make the skins after we bought the kits. I haven’t included acetone because it wasn’t required for the tables or chutes, but it would have been for any of the other kits. The math is clear: if all I had been building were the table and chute mats for myself, the kits would not have been a good investment and I’d have been better off buying the pre-made skins.

Attaching skins

One-time purchases

Item Source Cost (approx)
Clamp set Home Depot 28
Total $28

Consumables

Item Source Cost (approx)
Any old gloves (box of 40) Lowes 10
Contact Cement True Value 38
4″ disposable brushes (2) Lowes 5
Total (minimum) $43

We also spent nearly $75 on supplies to attach the skins we made. I didn’t include the cost of a utility knife and blades, because I didn’t use one (as you learned in Rubberized Contacts: Gluing and Trimming).

Fortunately, we were building much much more than one table and one chute. Collectively, we had purchased 6 chute kits and 8 table kits: as it turned out, we actually ended up constructing 7 chute mats and 12 table skins because of design changes (which will be discussed in a later post). Obviously, we had to buy more of a few of the consumables: specifically, gloves and contact cement. But by combining our efforts, we were able to take advantage of the concepts known as . . .

Economy of Scale / Mass Production

Yes, there is some Economy of Scale when rubberizing equipment. Had we bought pre-made skins instead of kits (for the 6 chutes and 8 tables), we would have spent $700 more than we did for the kits. We more than compensated for both the one-time costs and the cost of the consumables within that margin.

And, there are efficiencies gained from Mass Production tactics as well. When we were molding our skins, we all took turns doing each task to get the experience. But we quickly specialized: specific tasks of measuring, mixing, pouring, troweling, and dragging/replacing the plastic were assigned to individuals, based on desire and aptitude.

So the most important lesson here is this: if you plan to rubberize your contacts, you need to do one of two things (or preferably, both) to maximize your return on investment:

  • Plan to do ALL of your contacts (economy of scale). You don’t even need to do them at the same time, you just need to know that you are going to do them all eventually so that the sting of the one-time expense is mitigated.
  • Gather your friends or your club and do them all together (mass production). Do what we did – plan a weekend to build a large quantity of one or two things. This only requires one taping job on the floor, and requires a lot less space than trying to do all of the different equipment types at once.
  • All of the above!!! This is actually easier than doing all of your own, because you can set aside different weekends for different pieces and only tape the floor once for each “set”. This way, you combine economy of scale with mass production and benefit in two ways.

Is It Worth The Effort?

This is really a two part question:

  • Is it worth making your own skins? That’s a somewhat more subjective question, which I’ll answer as follows:
  • IF you can take advantage of the economy of scale, either by doing all of your own equipment or getting your friends/clubs involved, AND
  • IF you have enough space to properly lay out the forms and house the skins while they cure, AND
  • IF you have more time than money, THEN
  • YES – it is definitely worth the effort (compared to paying for the pre-made skins).
  • BUT IF any of those caveats don’t fit your circumstances, you may be better off buying pre-made skins and gluing them on yourself.

Next up: Revised calculations and wrap-up


Rubberized Contacts: 4. Gluing and Trimming

July 10, 2010

Recently, some friends and I gathered at my house to make and mount Rubber on the Run skins on all of the chutes and tables belonging to our agility clubs – Bay Team and SMART. We leveraged some of the lessons I learned while making my own the previous weekend. But this was the first time we dealt with the final phase of the operation – gluing the skins on the equipment and trimming it. Here are the lessons we learned during this phase. This is the fourth installment in my saga. I’m assuming that you have a copy of the book (“Making Rubber Skins for Agility Equipment“) or it won’t make much sense.

Most Important Lesson #1

The process of gluing and trimming was actually pretty straightforward, once we learned Most Important Lesson #1: The book recommends using DAP Weldwood Original Contact Cement (red label). It also mentions that the Nonflammable version (green label) would probably work too. Don’t believe it. It doesn’t. Period. Don’t waste $35 (and your dog’s safety) trying to be “green” – we already did that for you.

We had actually finished all of the tables and were hoping for the best when we started on the chutes (with their curved surfaces) and realized the stuff was hopeless. Once we converted to the good stuff and saw how well it worked, we decided to redo the tables. Here’s how ineffective the other stuff is: despite having cured on the tables for a couple of hours, the skins still peeled off with the resistance of a post-it note. In contrast, when you set the mats with the good stuff, you had better get it right the first time because it isn’t coming off, ever.

Most Important Lesson #2

The book suggests trimming the skins after mounting with a utility knife, and also suggests swapping blades often. I hate utility knives – I’m scared to death of them. And I just had a sense that the effort required to cut something that was going to dull the blades so quickly had real potential to turn into a bloodbath for me. So I tried something else – a tool that I’ve often used for trimming foam rubber and memory foam – my mother’s old electric carving knife from the ’70s. SUCCESS!!! It cut the rubber like butter and left a perfect edge. No fuss, no muss, no blood. It was so impressive that I made a video.

You can still get these knives, but be sure to get a two-blade model – that is the secret ingredient. I’m pretty sure a single-blade one would just bind up on the rubber. If you’re not as lucky as I was and don’t still have the one that thrashed many a holiday turkey in your youth, I think you can still get them. For instance, the Cuisinart CEK-40 appears to come with the right blades.

Other Notes

  • As suggested in the book, we used clamps and glued half of each table at a time. This way, the mat is already positioned correctly, which is extremely important because you really can’t reposition when you use the good contact cement.
  • Don’t waste your time with a 2″ brush. The cement is goopy and sets up quickly. So the more space you can cover, the better. We used a cheap 4″ brush (as modeled here by Celeste Thomas, master gluer).
  • The other important thing that isn’t mentioned in the book (but is visible in the last photo) is to protect the other half of the skin when you are applying the contact cement. You can see that we have inserted plastic sheeting between the two layers to avoid getting cement on the wrong piece and having them get stuck together.

Coming up next – hidden costs


Rubberized Contacts: 3. Lessons Learned in Phase 1

June 13, 2010

Last weekend, I made my first skins using Rubber on the Run kits for the table, chute mat, and chute rim. Here are some of the things I learned during this phase. This is the third installment in my saga. I’m assuming that you have a copy of the book (“Making Rubber Skins for Agility Equipment“) or it won’t make much sense.

Supplemental list – things you need that I didn’t see mentioned in the book

  • Big T- or L-square. This makes it much easier to lay out the tape patterns.
  • Long straight-edge. Ditto
  • Scissors. Easier than a utility knife for cutting the plastic. Actually, if you have a cutting board/wheel in your sewing room, that works even better.
  • Sharpie. Required for marking corners on the floor and marking the plastic for cutting.
  • Regular plastic spoons. I didn’t buy the suggested ice tea spoons because they are for mixing binder with acetone and the pieces I was making didn’t require that. I didn’t think about the scraping I’d be doing to transfer the binder into the rubber. I grabbed some plastic spoons out of my trailer – worked perfectly.

Preparation

  • Despite your best efforts, rubber will get everywhere. Have a shop-vac standing by. It also helps when leaves and other debris blow in the garage door – stuff is attracted to the binder, much like a moth to light.
  • Binder will also get everywhere and it’s sticky and nasty. Wear old clothes, protect everything you can with plastic, and remember that rags full of mineral spirits are your friend.
  • Don’t underestimate the number of gloves you will need. Each piece requires at least four. I used six or eight on the table top.

Lessons I learned the hard way

  • The book reminds you to put the tape on the outside of your lines. Seems obvious, right? Double- or even triple-check your measurements after the tape is down. I just barely missed learning this one the hard way and had to reset some tape at the last minute.
  • I thought a narrower and deeper 27-qt bin would be easier than a wider shallower bin for mixing the big batches (like the table). I was wrong. The deep bin has two problems: the depth of the mixture is greater than the length of the glove, and the deeper mixture also makes it more difficult to track down all of the dry pieces.
  • The more pieces you plan to make in one session, the more room you will need to clear in your workspace for storing the pieces being cured. Misjudging this led directly to the next lesson…
  • If you inadvertently screw up another skin that is curing nearby (by sitting on it like an idiot), you can “borrow” some goop from the skin you are working on to repair the damage.

Tips I learned along the way

  • If you’re using a gallon can of binder, don’t try to pour it – use a 1-cup plastic container to transfer it to your weighing container.
  • Do the best you can, but accept that you will lose a little rubber and binder on each transfer. No need to get compulsive, there is plenty of goop and you don’t want to lose valuable time. In fact, I learned the next day that it’s easier to clean up if you don’t try to scrape the bin completely clean.
  • The pellets get significantly darker when they are coated with the binder. This makes it easy to tell when you are done mixing – when you no longer see any lighter pellets.
  • You really need to scrape every nook and cranny of the bin when you are mixing up the goop to be sure that you don’t leave any dry pellets or pockets of binder behind.
  • The book suggests a 1-1/2″ or 2″ putty knife. I also suggest a 4″ one for the big pieces. I found both 2″ and 4″ disposable plastic putty knives for $0.84 at Lowes.

Clean-up

  • I was skeptical about the claim that the binder would peel off of plastic. It actually does, but you have to wait the full 24 hours, and even more if it is thick like the goo at the bottom of the measuring container.
  • On the flip side, the binder sticks to everything else. If you don’t promptly clean up everything that is non-plastic (metal, concrete, paint, wood) with mineral spirits, you’ll be needing that metal putty knife after all.
  • I woke up Monday morning with a thin sheen of binder on my hands. I hadn’t noticed it over the weekend, but when I washed my hair, it felt like my hands were coated with silicone. Now it’s peeling and looks like a horrible disease. I’ll try some more mineral spirits, but that has its own side effects on the skin. Just be ready for that.

Things I’m still trying to figure out

  • I’m not at all sure how to tell if the mixture is evenly distributed and uniformly thick. I’m guessing it involves one person lying on their side eyeballing the sheet and guiding the troweler to the hot spots.
  • My first effort was with a two-toned blue/yellow mix. If I had it to do over, I would start with a solid color. I think it will be easier to gauge thickness and even distribution with a solid color because the floor showing through will give a much clearer contrast.
  • I found that the 1″x10″ boards got in the way. I’m thinking about alternatives, including shorter pieces, weights or some other way to secure them, and maybe even 1″x2″ half-frames instead (with just two sides and a corner). That idea might actually have merit because it could double as the straight-edge and corner angle for laying out the tape. Hmmm, maybe I could make a jig out of two 48″ pieces of 1/2″x2″ nylon from TAP Plastic, mitered on the corner, and connected with a hinge on the outside of the joint…I’ll get back to you on that.

Keep in mind that these tips only got us through making the raw skins – I still have to trim them and glue them to the equipment. I’m sure that will generate another installment.

Next up: Gluing and Trimming


Rubberized Contacts: 2. My First Attempt

June 13, 2010

For background on the evolution of rubberized contacts and the development of the process, please refer to the first entry in this series, Rubberized Contacts: What Does That Even Mean.

Several weeks ago, the Bay Team and SMART equipment committees decided to dip their toes into rubberized contacts by making the simplest ones – table top/sides and chute pads/rims. I thought that was a reasonable place for me to start too, so I piggy-backed my order. I also offered to host the fabrication effort so the whole order (including a few more piggy-backers) got shipped to my house – kits for 8 tables and 6 chutes.

I thought it would be wise for me to make my own set before we start on the club equipment for two reasons: (1) I could learn my lessons on ones that will only be used in my backyard and not in competition, and (2) I could get a feel for the effort involved and better determine how to get the rest of them done.

I went through the book and prepared a shopping list of required tools and supplies. I ended up at Lowes, Office Depot, Target and Wal-Mart before I finally got home. Here is the full array of supplemental stuff.

The next task was to lay out the tape pattern on the floor. Since I’m not making a whole set of skins, I didn’t need to use the master plan from the book. Instead, I made up my own scheme based on the specs in the book. I overlapped pieces to minimize the space required. The large box on the left is the table (including sides, which get cut out later), the one on the right is the chute mat, and the long skinny one at the top is the chute rim.

I then prepared the grid for the next step by taping down a sheet of plastic and setting the boards in place. Then it was time to change my clothes, put on the gloves, and start pouring.

And finally, here are pictures of the mixed goop ready to spread, and then the final product as it begins its 12-hour cure.

I repeated the process two more times for the chute rim and the table. It took my most of the day and into the evening for these three pieces. I was obviously not as efficient as I might have been, for several reasons:

  1. I didn’t know what I was doing so I was extra careful. No question I got faster as I gained confidence.
  2. I was stopping frequently to take pictures and notes.
  3. I rested between each piece because it’s not that easy, and because I was posting the pictures to Facebook.
  4. I was distracted by my computer because Rich was on a motorcycle rally and I was following his progress.

Wrapping up the day at 8:00pm, I had three rubber skins curing in the garage, lots of notes to draft for this blog, and quite a bit of pondering to figure out what kind of efficiencies and economies of scale might be realized by adding more people and space to the process. Because somehow, we have to get 5 more sets ready for gluing by the end of next weekend.

Next up, lessons learned during the prep and wet-pour process.


Rubberized Contacts: 1. What Does That Even Mean?

June 12, 2010

For years, agility contact obstacles have relied on slats and texture (usually sand-filled paint) to provide the dogs with the necessary traction to perform the obstacles safely. Now, however, thanks mostly to European innovation, we are gradually making a switch to rubberized equipment. This offers two significant improvements: safer equipment for the dogs, and longer-lasting equipment for the humans.

After considerable experimentation on both sides of the pond, most agility clubs have settled on a rubber pellet coating, similar to that found on athletic tracks. Early efforts involved slathering the equipment with binder or contact cement, and then pressing the pellets directly onto the surface. This method is difficult, messy, and most importantly, has not withstood the test of time. Because the pellets are not evenly coated with goop, they tend to shed, resulting in uneven coverage and bare spots.

Fortunately, Darlene Woz, an enthusiastic competitor and former judge, decided to investigate a better way. She learned about the wet-pour method that is used for the athletic tracks, and adapted it for agility equipment through an extensive process of trial-and-error and testing. This method involves mixing the rubber with the binder, then pressing it into shape on a flat surface and letting it cure into a skin. The skin is then affixed to the equipment with contact cement. Because the rubber pellets are evenly coated with binder, there is no shedding and the resulting skin is very consistent.

Darlene then took it one step farther and made her process completely accessible to the average person. First, she wrote “Making Rubber Skins for Agility Equipment“, an amazing booklet that directs the Do-It-Yourselfer through the process with extraordinary detail. And when she makes an improvement or adjustment, she publishes updates. Next, she began packaging the pellets and binder in pre-measured kits for each piece of equipment. This takes away the burden of buying too many pellets or too much binder, which are both only available in bulk. And finally, for those who have more money than time or space, she sells completed skins (slatted or slatless), ready for installation on a properly-prepared piece of equipment.

More details are available at her website, Rubber on the Run, where you can purchase the books, kits and skins. Her products are also sold by Clean Run, who will send free samples on request. The rubber is available in a spectacular array of colors – something for every backyard decor.

Coming up next – my first attempt at making some skins in the garage.