Friday, May 27, 2011

Keeping a Level Head

The two big acts of stitch and glue boat construction are, naturally, stitching and gluing.  Actually, there is another act, sanding, which is several times longer than the first two acts combined, but that'll be a subject for another post. 

In the last post, I reported that I had finished the stitching phase (at least on the lower hull).  Before making things permanent, I spent some making sure everything was level, aligned, and generally in the right position.  I did some test fits of various parts (e.g. the foredeck), to make sure things were taking the proper shapes.  Next up I grabbed a bunch of shims and started leveling the hull.  A bubble level on top of a stiff batten spanning the hull athwartships to get things level laterally, and get out any twist that may have been present.  The same bubble level on the bottom of the keel helped guide the longitudinal levelling.  Various diagonal measurements helped get everything square.  On and on.  And of course, it was an iterative process, but slowly things began to converge, and soon I was happy.  It took a while, but it is time well spent.  Looking at a crooked bulkhead for the rest of the life of the boat would really make you regret skimping on a few hours here.

View of the bow.  I dropped the foredeck in place for test fitting.  Here it is being propped up by a clamp.

The assembled hull. 

Test fit of the fore decks.

Yup, the hull is level!

I used this long, stiff batten to checking the alignment and heights of the floors and the cleats that'll support the cabin sole.
The next step was to mix up a batch of Jon's magic thicken epoxy blend #4 and run little beads of thickened epoxy along all the seams between the stitches.  The manual refers to them as "tack welds."  I don't really like that term, but lacking something more proper, I have found myself unable to avoid thinking of them using that term. These hold the boat together so that you can pull out all the stitches.  After that, you run big epoxy fillets over the the tack welds to provide some real structural strength.

For these steps, the epoxy has to be thickened just right.  Too thin and it'll sag and run, too thick and it gets course, grainy, and hard to apply.  For best results, I mix my epoxy, and then add thickener until it roughly doubles the volume of the epoxy.  The exact amount is a matter of judgement whilst you are mixing, but as a rough rule of thumb, my doubling the volume rule sure seems to work well.  For thickeners, I usually use a mix that is about 20% colloidal silica (cabosil) and 80% wood flour by volume.  This seems to give the right balance in terms of smoothness, strength, and sandability.
Thickened epoxy "tack welds"

With the tack welds done, the next step will be to move on to the big structural fillets.

I don't know what's wrong with me, but it seems that I have a tough time only working on one boat at a time.  When I was 80% done with my Redfish cedar strip kayak, I started work on a Pygmy Osprey Double kayak.  As I could see the light at the end of the tunnel on that one, I started work on this boat.  And now, yes, I find myself working on yet another boat (sort of).  This time it is a CLC cradle boat.  This little boat/piece of furniture more-or-less a 1/2 sized version of CLC's Eastport Pram, with some modifications to turn it into baby cradle.  I'm building this as a gift for some friends who are expecting.  And hopefully not reading this.  Thanks to John C. Harris and the guys at Chesapeake Light Craft for this unique and beautiful product.

Boat #5! (4.5?)  Cradle boat under construction.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Syttende Mai

I could write about how I spent some time today tightening wires, measuring, leveling, and aligning stuff on the boat, and how next time I get a chance (which sadly probably won't be until next week), I'll be tacking the hull together with thickened epoxy.  But, I'm not going to write about that.  On this glorious Norwegian Constitution Day, I'm going to eat one more piece of lefse, and leave you with this line from the Norwegian National Anthem:

Ja, vi elsker dette landet,
som det stiger frem,
furet, værbitt over vannet..


Yes, we love this country
as it rises forth,
rugged, weathered, above the sea...

Is it any wonder that I love hiking in the mountains and sailing the seas? 


Friday, May 13, 2011

It's Starting to Look Like a Boat!

The lower hull, stitched together.  The long batten laying athwartships is there to aid in leveling the hull.
View of the interior of the boat

Every written account detailing the construction of a stitch and glue boat will at some point have an entry titled "It's starting to look like a boat."  There is something magical about way a couple of funny shaped slices of plywood take the form of a boat's hull in just a few hours that causes the builder to involuntarily utter, "it's starting to look like a boat."  The "lookin' like a boat" feeling happens in other forms of boat building, but there it is more gradual.  In stitch 'n glue building, its abrupt, like...WOW!

So, since the last update, I've managed to get most of the lower hull stitched together.  I finished sanding the the hull side panels, and almost immediately set out to start stitching.  I started by dropping in the port bilge panel (recall that starboard panel was already in from a previous burst of enthusiasm).  Stitching well pretty well until I got up to the bow.  Up there the plywood has to make quite a bend in order to give Pocketship her relatively (for a 15' boat with a 6' beam) fine entry.  But with a bit of stubborn effort, it came together.

Next up was to stitch in the floor at station #4 (the front of the centerboard trunk).  From there, the hull sides were added, one at a time.  Again, the bow was a bit of a tussle, this time not because of the curvature, but due to interference with the bilge panels.  After a bit of prying and a few imprecations, it too came together.

Next up were the transom and bulkheads.   The edges of the transom got a nice bevel to match the angles of the hull.  Getting all the stitches in for the bulkheads and floors requires a bit of bending, stretching, gently climbing around inside the boat, and generally performing precision acts of acrobatic legerdemain.   Just a few more stitches to go.   Then after pushing, pulling, jiggering, jostling, leveling and aligning the hull, it'll be time to move onto the "glue" stage of the stitch 'n glue process.

Other projects that have been occupying my time have included 'glassing the centerboard and rudder, and constructing trophies for our monthly soup-making contest at work.   The trophies and centerboard are done, the rudder is still in work. 

The centerboard gets a layer of 'glass
The rudder progresses

The Aerodynamics Soup Contest Trophies

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tall Ship

Aside from continuing fiberglass work on the new hull panels, I didn't make too much progress over the weekend.  I ran out of peelply, so I've reverted to the old three-coats-of-epoxy method.  It takes longer, but after a couple of boat, I've got to be pretty good at it.  There'll still be a bunch of sanding in my future as a result of it, but it is what it is.

So, why didn't I make more progress over the weekend?  Because I was given a trip sailing aboard the Lady Washington for my birthday!  Actually sailing takes priority over boat building.  And sailing on a square rigger, well, enough said....

The Lady Washington brig-rigged replica of the smaller of Capt. Gray's vessels that he took on the first American expedition to the west coast.  She was built in 1989 in Aberdeen, WA, as part of Washington State's centennial celebrations.  Since then, she has roamed the waters of the west coast.  She has starred as the U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek: Generations, and as HMS Interceptor in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.  I visited her way back when she was under construction: shortly after her keel was laid, as I recall.  I been aboard several time since, but this was my first chance to sail aboard her.

The original sailed from Boston in the company of the Columbia Rediviva on a voyage of discovery to the west coast of North America in the late 1780's  Notable discoveries included the Columbia River and Grays Harbor.  From then, she served in the fur trade voyaged to China.  She foundered and was lost around 10 years after sailing from Boston.  She was originally rigged as a sloop, but was later re-rigged as a brig.  The replica was rigged as a brig, although, if I recall correctly, so was still sloop-rigged when she sailed with Columbia.

At one point, the dreamers that brought us the replica Lady Washington had also planned/imagined building a replica of the ship-rigged Columbia Rediviva, but this dream evaporated with the onset of financial realities.  These days, the Lady, sailing under the auspices of Grays Harbor Historical Seaport, sails the waters from California to Canada in the company of the square tops'l ketch, Hawaiian Chieftain.