Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dave's Disposable Glove Corollary

I have now fiberglassed most of the inner hull and have discovered a corollary to the boat building you can never have too many clamps theorem. When fiberglassing you can never have too many disposable gloves. I have now so far literally used more than a hundred pairs of disposable gloves for all of the epoxy and fiberglass work on the boat. I tend to change gloves frequently because I always seem to be sticking to something. You know the warnings on super glue packages not to get the glue on your skin; they are directed at people like me. 
My fiberglassing technique is slowly improving but I still have fiberglass threads interfering on the cut edges of the fabric and I am finding that Mr. Gravity can create some very large drips and runs of low viscosity epoxy. In the first picture you can see where I have sanded off the rough spots on the second coat before I apply a third coat of epoxy.
The spring evening weather is still unseasonably cool and I am leaving a heater on in the garage overnight to maintain a more consistent temperature for curing the epoxy.

I removed part of bulkhead 7  even though the Pocketship manual instructs you to remove most of it after all the hull fiberglassing is done. It seemed the only way to overlap the fiberglass easily and plus there is one little section where there is a gap in the side  panel/ hull fillet that needed to be filled in.

This is the inside of the bow watertight compartment. It is fiberglassed 5 or 6 inches above the side panel/hull joint and also has 9 oz. fiberglass tape running up the stem and reinforcing the side panel hull joint. This was the nastiest compartment to fiberglass. There is no easy access and standing on a step stool I almost felt like I was going to tumble inside trying to stretch and reach the bottom.  The piece of wood on the left is just a temporary spacer for the lower breasthook which would have made accessing the compartment for fiberglass even more difficult. Soon this compartment will be filled up with flotation foam and sealed up hopefully for all time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Diminishing Returns...

Boat construction hasn't stopped, I've just been stalled on sanding all the fillets in the hull and getting rid of the bad epoxy coat on the side panels (see last post). I think my sanding has reached the the point where the Law of Diminishing Returns applies. I could keep on sanding to achieve  absolutely perfect fillets but the amount of time required probably just isn't worth it for the difference achieved. I'm a pragmatist and have decided that the fillets are smooth enough to apply the fiberglass especially since the majority of the fillets are never going to see the light of day again once the boat is finished. I am still going to touch up some of the fillets that will be visible in the cabin. 

 Just out of curiosity I put a site meter on this blog a few weeks ago to see how many visits it gets per day. It appears that there are actually people besides my son in Australia who read my drivel. I won't mention that from the IP addresses it appears some people are reading this blog while at work :-)
 Since there are people who take this serious I guess I should try to be helpful for other first time boat builders. 

Official tip #1 is you cannot be too careful doing neat fillets. Trust me you will save yourself a lot of unpleasant sanding. I have had some really nice fillets that required basically no sanding and I have some fillets from hell created in the early stages of my fillet making learning curve. But then I am also the kid who was always gluing his fingers together when making model airplanes.

This last photo shows the brass deadlights (they are not portholes because they do not open) I just received from It is one of the little customizing details I am doing. I thought it would be a nice feature instead of the plain acrylic ones in the plans. One of the deadlights arrived with a crack, but within an hour the company had responded to my email and is simply sending me a new one. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My bad...

I have spent a few hours scraping off the layer of epoxy that was peeling from the side panels. Once I have scraped as much as possible I will do a sanding. The probable cause of the defective last coat was suggested to be one of two possibilities. John C. Harris, the Pocketship designer, explained it was either a bad mix of epoxy where the resin/hardener ratio was off or a result of surface contamination. Quoting him: "Surface contamination can result from wiping down with a rag that has fabric softener or grease in it, a microscopic rain of silicone lubricant from an overhead garage door; a heavy falling dew just before the last coat; or use of a solvent other than denatured alcohol or lacquer thinner". 
I don't think it was a bad mix because I would have had to do a bad mix 3 or 4 times. But it was drizzling out and the air was very damp. It was somewhat reassuring that I am not the first person it has happened to and these little setbacks are all part of the boatbuilding adventure.
It is ironic that the problem last coat was from me being extra careful and doing 4 coats instead of the normal 3. Once this mess is finished I have some fillets left to do and then I can move on to fiberglassing the inside of the hull. But NOT if there is even a hint of rain!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do these fillets make me look fat?

I completed about half the fillets today and it turns out my possibly too big of tack welds were not as big as I thought. Most of the fillets look like the ones in the photos. I am NOT posting any of the not so nice ones where I have some awkward sanding and chiseling to do. 
However I did come across a problem that I have posted on the Pocketship forum.
Here is my problem as posted on the forum.

When I was removing the masking tape that I used to help in fillet cleanup there are places where the tape pulled up a thin layer of epoxy from the side panels that have been fiberglassed and sanded. You can peel it off much like peeling off the thin layers of an onionskin. The remaining fiberglass appears structurally sound. I searched on the web but couldn't find any help on the subject. The side panels were done outside in the garage. Is it possible the last coat of epoxy did not cure enough in cooler weather before I sanded? Other fiberglassing that I did indoors (rudder, centerboard trunk, centerboard) are fine. Being a novice fiberglasser I am anxious to find a solution and to make sure it does not happen again. I am assuming it is not something I should ignore in order to make sure additional layers of fiberglass and paint adhere properly.

I answered the question I queried on my May 6th post. After an hour and half I had removed approximately 183 wire stitches (I lost count a few times). The good news; I only entombed one stitch in epoxy that had to be removed by  heating it with a propane torch. That explains the one matchstick in the pile of assorted stitches. The cable ties work quickly but do not pull as tight as the wire stitches. There are a few oversized wire stitches in the pile that I used in a few stubborn areas where the 18 gauge wire kept breaking.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Beginner's Mistakes

I did the epoxy tack welds and made a lot of them probably a little too big. I guess it was a beginner boat builder's unconscious fear of the boat falling apart when I take out all the wire stitches. I have some ugly ones I will need to clean up before applying the fillets. The photo shows all the joints masked off to hopefully help create neater fillets than my tack welds. I had trouble reaching the very inside joints for the tack welds but I am now more confident about standing inside the hull to do the fillets as the boat seems to be held very well together with the tack welds. I can no longer hear any stitches creaking or groaning when I reach inside or stand on the keelson.

I plan to practice my first fillets in the compartments that will never see the light of day and then do what I hope will be my best ones in the cabin last.
I caught another mistake fortunately before doing the tack welds and fillets. For fun I put the forward deck in position and found out I had accidently stitched in bulkhead 2 about 3/4 of inch aft of where it should be and the deck did not reach the cleat on the bulkhead. Much easier removing some stitches rather than ripping epoxy apart.

I ordered the sails from CLC today hedging my bets on the value of the Canadian dollar. Originally, my wife was going to sew the sails using a kit from Sailrite but after viewing the construction videos decided our home sewing machine probably isn't large enough to handle the size of the sails. The sail kit from CLC also comes with the hardware shown below.

Mainsail and Jib - White Dacron

PocketShip main and jib built exactly to our specifications by a small-boat specialist sailmaker, in the highest-quality white Dacron available.  Mainsail has one set of reef points and cringles in the main, roped foot, luff, and head, and 5/8" stainless track cars.  Jib is fitted with a sturdy wire luff, ready for roller-furling.  Tell-tales are included on both main and jib.  Ready to bend on!  Sail, furthest right below, is white Dacron.

Cream - Tanbark - White

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Don't have one of those newfangled drill presses to bore the one inch holes in the boom gallows for the stainless steel posts that attach to the deck?  Make a drilling guide out of the stanchion fitting that will hold the posts to the deck. The photo show my amateur looking jig that tries to keep everything in place. Make sure you screw things in place or if you just clamp it like my first attempt it may just spin out of control once you start drilling. Two hints from the voice of experience; don't touch the stanchion immediately after drilling (it can be very hot) and take out the set screws from the stanchion before drilling unless you want to be searching for them on your shop floor. I think I got the holes drilled straight and positioned correctly but I guess I won't be certain until I actually try to install the boom gallows on the boat.

This episode: "How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?"

Or "How Many Wire Stitches Does It Take to Build a Boat?"

Apologies to the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show...

The hull, sides, floorboards, and bulkheads are now stitched to my satisfaction. The gap at floorboards 3 and 4 was solved by gently jacking up the hull with a car jack with a length of 2 x4 positioned between the hull and top of the jack. 

I still find it amazing that flat pieces of plywood can be cut in shapes that when put together form such a nice 3-dimensional curved v-hull.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Maybe I should go on Sesame Street!

One floorboard...

Two floorboards...

Three floorboards...

Four floorboards...

And a bunch of bulkheads.

The boat is stitching together well but certainly not quite as easily as is let on in the manual. Once the side panels are on you must go inside the boat and do a balancing act along the keelson and centerboard to stitch in the floorboards and bulkheads. The alternatives would be hiring an orangutan to reach the inner stitches or hang from the ceiling Mission Impossible style. Pulling the hull together at the bow and forcing some of the stubborn floorboards to conform to the hull is certainly easier with a second person for the last few stitches.

Here is the transom being positioned to measure the bevel required on the side edges to match the curve of the hull panels.

This is what is left when almost all the full size patterns have been used. The only parts I still need to cut out are the companionway ( which is best done further in assembly to make sure it fits the curves of the top decking) and the topside panels.

A few more stitches, check everything for trueness, and it will be time to tack weld all the seams with epoxy and wood flour. Then on to the huge job of applying all the fillets (large rounded joints of epoxy and wood flour), fiberglassing the inner hull, and sanding in preparation for painting. I am hoping my fillets can be at least as half as good as the works of art created by Jeff who has already finished the inner hull of his Pocketship.