Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cirque du Soleil and Dancing With the Stars

What does the title of the post have to do with boat building ? Well, if you want some weight loss just like the competitors on Dancing With the Stars then try the cardiovascular workout of hand planing the more than 60 feet of edges on the side panels of the boat. As for Cirque du Soleil you can see from the photo of the garage I had to use my best contortionist and balancing act to apply the fiberglass to the side panels without falling into the boat hull which is pushed as far to the side of the garage as it will go.

The above photo shows all the bulkheads being epoxied and having their cleats glued on. The epoxied gaff is also visible on the right hand side. One more coat of epoxy to fill the fiberglass weave on the side panels and then sanding of the side panels, floorboards, and bulkheads and I will be ready for some serious boat assembly.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Emailing Pocketship Technical Support

I managed to stitch the lower hull panels together without soaking the front two feet with hot water but used halogen work lights to warm it up to get the last two stitches together. However when I went to position floorboard #4 at the front of the centerboard it didn't match the markings and stitch holes on the hull panels. The distance between floorboard 4 and bulkhead 7 on the hull was 43" but the centerboard was almost 43.75". I double checked my patterns and they were the same so I hadn't made an error in transferring the patterns or cutting. An email to Chesapeake Light Craft was answered in less than 24 hours and the designer explained that it seems the draftsperson didn't account for the thickness of the plywood; the centers of the floorboard and bulkhead ARE 43"  apart in the CAD program to match the centerboard. Solution: just put the floorboard and bulkhead at the end of the centerboard. Now I have a few extra holes in the hull to fill.

I'm redoing Floorboard #4 because I'm not satisfied with the fit to the hull bottom. I'm also not sure about Floorboard #3. I compared it to the pattern and it is identical but it just doesn't fit flat against the hull bottom. A test fit of other floorboards and bulkheads was fine except for maybe Bulkhead #1. It just seems that the front of the lower hull panels is not quite taking the shape it should.  I hope when when I actually stitch them in that they pull closer together. Some of the photos show the current gap between the floorboards and hull. I'll take a closer look tomorrow after a good night's rest.

You can see where I experimented with using cable ties as I was having difficulty achieving success with twisting the wire pieces. It took a little practice and now I have a much better feel for how tight I can twist the wires without breaking them. 

On a more positive note putting the cradle on appliance rollers has been great for moving the boat in the garage and creating more workspace when I need it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A moveable cradle

Reorganized the garage, stacked the wood in an upright pallet, and managed to create a few feet on either side of the boat. Most importantly, on the suggestion of Hendrik in Sydney who is also experiencing a shrinking garage workshop I looked at putting rollers on the boat cradle. For only $9 at the local home centre I found appliance rollers that are rated for 1200 pounds. Now the boat and cradle easily moves sideways to allow access to my tools or if I need more space while working on one side of the boat.  Caster wheels would have been harder to install, added more height, and would have cost at least $30 each for casters that would support the weight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kind of looks like a boat...

I cut out the hull panels and couldn't resist a test fit in the cradle. The keelson needed a bit of trimming on one side for a better fit but it is a lot more exciting now that there is actually a shape to the boat. When I was transferring the hull pattern I didn't mark the holes for the wire stitches; I simply drilled right through the marks on the paper. 

Meanwhile in the basement epoxy shop the floorboards are drying before they get sanded and the gaff and bowsprit have been epoxied at least once. The rudder and centerboard are also epoxied and ready for sanding. 

When I was test fitting the hull panels to the keelson I tried some temporary stitches and found out you have to get on your back under the hull to twist them tight. If someone has some secret more comfortable way of accomplishing this I'd be grateful to know.

I am going to have to reorganize the garage again or some of my tools will be impossible to get out while the boat is in the cradle. A single garage is proving to be a little crowded. I'm lucky I didn't decide on a bigger boat.

Monday, April 20, 2009


With the almost arrival of spring I am finding I can have productive boat building days. I can do some epoxy work in the morning in the basement and them move outside to the garage to scarf hull panels and do various sanding tasks.

Doesn't look like much but the photo shows the invaluable scarfing jig for the circular saw. It took only about 10 minutes to build, some screws, and part of a 2 x 4. From start to finish, in only 5 minutes I can set up the jig and cut a perfect 3 foot scarf in the 1/4 " plywood. This includes masking the scarf with packing tape to make epoxy cleanup easier. 

Here are the hull and side panels being glued together at the scarf joints. The pail is not really part of the clamping, the joints are temporarily screwed together through wooden clamping blocks. The small electric heater and halogen light will keep the garage above freezing at night time and daytime temperatures are forecast to be at least 15 C for the next couple of days. You can see the boat cradle on the right hand side all ready to go once the hull and sides are cut from the blanks. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Now I can pretend to steer my boat...

Rudder assembly is now finished and ready for fiberglassing. The rudder has my first ever wood flour/epoxy fillets and they turned out fine except for the necessary sanding. With practice I hope my technique improves  and fillets will need less sanding in the future. The rudder cheeks are made from the same 3/4 inch ribbon striped tiama as the transom and I am going to try and leave them bright finished as in the photo since it is such nice looking wood. 

I have been fiberglassing the centerboard and rudder and have a question for anyone out there. Is it necessary to try and wrap the fiberglass around the edges or is okay to trim the fiberglass to the edge and then just epoxy the edges themselves? In the manual it appears as if the fiberglass is simply trimmed to the edge but I want to be doubly sure. 

The keelson is attached to the keel and ready to be put in the cradle. I am not going to do that quite yet as I need room in the garage to scarf and cut out the hull panels. My tentative schedule is to accomplish the hull panel job this week and then be ready for the exciting part of actually starting to stitch the boat together. 

I would still appreciate more comments on the proposed boat name. See the March 28 post for more details. The captain is sold on the name but my first mate of almost 34 years is not quite convinced yet.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Get the Lead out

Some of the bits left over after melting the wheel weights.

Lots of smoke from the charred wood.
Lead poured in the centerboard.

Poured the lead for the keel and centerboard today. Glad to say there were no mishaps and working with molten lead went smoothly. The pictures show that I wore a lot of protection based on the advise of other boat builders but thankfully it proved unnecessary (not that I wouldn't take the same precautions next time).   A 20 liter pail of wheel weights from the local tire store was more than enough to pour the 128 pounds of lead needed for the keel and centerboard. It took about 7 or 8 melts and 3 hours to melt the lead in the cast iron humidifier/kettle from the local big box home hardware store. I knew the old turkey fryer would turn out to be useful some day. In fact melting the lead was less stressful than deep frying a turkey in 10 liters of hot oil; and less chance of something catching on fire.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The tulips are up...honest

I spent 5 to 6 hours working on the mast today and yes that is snow STILL on the ground. It was slow work sanding the scarfs , cutting the tapers on the staves with a circular saw, and planing the curved edges by hand nice and smooth. Set up the router table to cut the rabbet joints on the side staves and had lots of fun handling the 16 foot staves by myself.

Dry-fitted the mast together to check the fit and have a few places where the rabbet joint needs to trimmed a bit to get a better fit but overall the mast looks true and straight.

I am hoping that with the weather supposedly returning to seasonal norms that the snow will be gone by the weekend and I can move patio furniture etc. out of what is becoming a very crowded garage/boat workshop. I definitely need to create some space so that I can scarf and cut out the hull panels.
 I am also optimistic that we can continue a birthday tradition of the last few years and have my wife's birthday dinner outside on a restaurant's patio on April 26th.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Zen of Scarfing

I tried, I really did..., sharpened up the planes, and tried some practice scarfs on plywood. I then tried some practice scarfs on the mast staves using a power planer and a belt sander. Close but no cigar. The scarfs just weren't good enough. Either the learning curve is a little too steep for this first time boat builder or my scarfing skills just aren't up to snuff. Whatever the reason I have reluctantly resigned myself to resorting to "scarfing jigs". What a godsend! I made one for the circular saw that duplicates what the $90 Gudgeon Brothers one does and made another one for the table saw to scarf the mast staves and rub rails. Pictures of both jigs are shown and a link to the instructions on how to build them.

If you are a first time boat builder looking for a way to easily create scarfs I highly recommend both these jigs, easy to build, and they consistently create scarfs much more accurately
 than I was ever going to be able to recreate manually.

One day maybe I will achieve nirvana and the zen of handcrafted scarfs but for now I will be satisfied with taking the non-traditional approach and be happy with my nice , quick, accurate jig created scarfs.