carbon fibre

easycomposites.co.uk: Carbon Fibre Cloth Fabric 12k 2/2 Twill 450gsm. This roll is 1m (39") wide. £20/linear metre. Use in conjunction with a 3k 200g surface layer then 1 or more layers of 12k 450g cloth to produce larger parts or thicker laminates. 'Also commonly used as the reinforcement/bulking layers for carbon fibre moulds. In some circumstances this 12k 450g cloth can even be used as the surface layer on cosmetic parts where a larger weave pattern is desireable although care will need to be taken to ensure that the greater texture of this heavy weight carbon fibre cloth does not 'print through' making the surface of the part uneven.'

It did occur to me I have no idea what carbon fibre is.  It is carbon atoms arranged longitudinally as very thin strands which are spun to make thread, which is woven to make fabric. The fabric is woven, for some reason, as a twill, giving it its recognisable appearance (above) The fabric is then combined with a resin and moulded, rather like fibreglas, to make a material five times the strength of steel at one-third the weight.  Magic.  

The resins can be thermoset polymers – epoxy, or thermoplastic polymers: polyester, vinyl ester and nylon.  Kevlar, the bullet proof fabric, uses carbon fibre and aramid, a polyamide whose molecules are also directionally oriented.  Silica and rubber can also be added to the binding polymer for different kinds of performance.  

If moulded, as the Carbon Black wheelchair, sheets of carbon fibre cloth are layered in a mould which is then filled with epoxy.  There are various ways it is all set: air, heat, vacuum.  Arcane? no, there are YouTube videos on how to use carbon fibre kits to mould all sorts of things.  And the image above from easycomposites will sell you everything you would ever need to make things.  

Besides the vaunted Formula 1 cars which use it, so does BMW for some body panels: while steel is less than $1/lb, carbon fibre is $10, which is why it isn't used everywhere in large quantities. Plus it isn't really recyclable.  The first I ever heard of it, a long time ago, was as graphite golf clubs: very whippy and light.  I'll stick with my persimmons.  But every music store these days has carbon fibre guitars looking extremely sexy: black and gleaming, with that characteristic twill catching the light. 

Blackbird Rider Nylon guitar, reviewed in Wired, where Charlie Sorrel said it resembled a 'medieval stealth lute'.