Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Not just a disaster.  A big disaster.  A big, unmitigated disaster.  I was just getting back into the groove, and then, bam! 

What happened?

Well, I have been doing what were to be the final preparations before starting to assemble the hull.  The bulk of the work has been sanding.  And sanding.  And sanding.  I started with sanding the bulkheads and floors. 

Sanding Bulkhead #1

I can only take about 2 hours of sanding at a time, so I changed things up and laid out, cut out, and assembled the building cradle. 

Assembling the building cradle

The completed cradle

Then I sanded some more, but having the completed cradle sitting in the shop was too much of a temptation.  So, I lugged the keel into position and dropped it into the cradle. 

At this point, you are probably wondering "what about the disaster?"  We'll get there, but first, a philosophical interlude.  I've done a little thinking about it (and a little research to back up my thinking), and I have concluded that, for Pocketship, the act of dropping the keel into the cradle officially constitutes laying the keel.  Quite a moment for pondering existential thoughts.  At one moment, there was nothing...just a collect of boat-related parts that I'd been working on.  Just hunks of wood, really.  But, by a simple act of bringing two of those parts together, like the moment of conception, something new was created.  In that moment, there was no physical change to hunks of wood that make up the keel assembly, yet it was transubtantiated; the essence of those hunks of wood were forever changed.  It won't float yet, but given time it will grow, change, take on a character all its own and eventually take to the seas.  As of April 10th, 2011, I officially have a boat in the shop.

The keel, in place, the boat, under construction.

This all was pretty exciting, and after trying to sand a few more minutes, I caved in, and dropped the starboard-side bilge panel into place, and started stitching it to the hull.  Stitching is a pretty simple process.  There are matching hole in the keelson and bilge panel.  Into each hole, a wire stitched (mentioned in the previous post) is inserted.   The panels get aligned and the loose ends of the stitch are twisted around each other, thus holding the parts together so that later, the seams can get glued together.  Stitch and glue. 

At this point, I really would have liked drop in the port side bilge panel and stitch it up too, but doing so wouldn't leave and room in the shop for sanding.  So, I resumed sanding.  As the week went on, I managed to get all the bulkheads and floors sanded.  This just left the side panels.  And these would only require light sanding thanks to my use of peel ply.  The hour was getting late, but I figured that I would at least set on of the side panels up on sawhorses before calling it quits for the day.  That's when the disaster struck. 

I laid hands on the middle of one of my side panels, hoisted it over my head, heard a snap, and felt my heart sink to my shoes as the scarf joint parted.   I really hadn't been happy with the quality of my scarf joints, in terms of appearence, but didn't really suspect any structural problems.  After all, I used a ton of thickened epoxy, which should be stronger than the surrounding wood.  What happened? 

On inspecting the scene of the crime, I found that a large percent of area the joint had plastic wrap in it.  I had used plastic wrap while the glue in the joint was drying to keep the squeeze-out from sticking to anything that it shouldn't. Apparently, in jiggering the pieces around to get them aligned, the plastic wrap had worked its way into the joint.  Epoxy doesn't stick to plastic wrap, so my scarf joint on that board had almost no strength.  It is a miracle (of sorts) that I didn't break sooner.

It is also a miracle that it broke when it did.  Had it held a few more days, it would have become a permanent part of the boat.  I can just imagine spending months and months building the boat, only to have it break in half when I roll it over to fiberglass the outside of the hull.

I'm considering recovery options.  At this point, the only thing I can think to do is buy some more plywood, and start over on the side panels.  This time, I'll cut the scarfs the right way, with a hand plane.  I also need to inspect the other long hull panels and see it they have to be redone too!

In the meantime, I'm going to spend a few days moping.

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