Thursday, May 24, 2012

Happy Rails to You, Un-Tiller We Meet Again

I've heard that miners used to carry canaries with them into the mines to ascertain whether the air was safe to breathe.  If the canary didn't die, then the air was OK.  The idea of using a very sensitive indicator to test for imminent danger is a good one.

In boatbuilding, the danger is that you get wrapped up in it, choosing to dedicate time to the build rather than things like doing the laundry, cooking, keeping up on house maintenance, and spending quality time with your (circle all that apply) friends/family/girlfriend/wife/dog/bartender.  The net results is an imbalance in your life that will carry unfortunate consequences of one form or another.  Clearly this must be avoided.  And it can be, if you look for the warning signs, if you keep an eye on your canary. 

My "canary" is my violin instructor.  My ability to produce an acceptable sound on the fiddle is proportional to the amount of time I spend practicing in a week.  Practice time is the first thing that suffers when  boatbuilding activities start consuming too much of my time.  A painful sound generated during the violin lesson is a warning klaxon telling me to moderate on the time in the shop.  I've really been on a roll on the boat in the past few weeks, and there have been a couple times that I've heard the alarm.  So far, though, I've heeded the warning, kept my life in balance, and kept the canary alive.  I'm actually kinda proud of that. 

Anyway, most of the boat-related work of late has involved me being hooked up to a sander, slowly reducing the bright, shiny, epoxy-coated surfaces of my hull to a smooth, dull gray.  It has actually been going faster than I expected, but still, there is just a lot of area to cover.  I don't want to think about how many hours it has taken so far, or how many hours are ahead.

With all the sanding, my dust collector has been getting full. 

To break up the sanding monotony, I have been indulging in what PocketShip builder Sean called Procrastination Projects.  The first project was installing the rubrails.  The rubrails consist of three layers of 3/4" thick timber, milled to a trapezoidal shape that tapers from 1 1/4" to 3/4" in width.  These lay right along the sheer, and, for the sake of good looks, it is essential that they run nice and fair.   Ensuring that they're nice and fair involves temporarily installing the first layer and standing back from the boat and looking at it from different angles, making any adjustments required to remove any waviness.  Unfortunately, my garage is too small to fully enable the "stand back" part of that process. 

Installing the rubrails.
While trying to figure out how best to check the fairness of the rails without the use of an interphasing cloaking device, I suddenly remembered back to a random piece of knowledge I picked up back in grad school..a fair curve is defined as a curve that has a continuous second derivative.  Of course!  That made it so clear, so easy. 

In case it isn't already painfully obvious to you, let me explain the  mathrmatics of the procedure.  What I needed to do was grab a rubrail, install it with a couple of temporary screws, whip out a pencil and paper, sit down....and write the Romulans to seek if I could borrow an interphasing cloaking device. that was a dead end.  In the end, I settled for sighting down the rails at as many angles as I could and convincing myself that everything would be all right.  It sure looks OK now, but I guess the final determination will come when the boat leaves the shop!

The rails really add definition to the sheerline.   It transforms
the boat from a big kayak into a proper sailboat.  You can see the cowl vents on for a trial fit too.

 Installing the rubrails was the perfect diversion...I could only install one layer on one side of the boat at a time.  Installing a layer didn't eat a huge chunk of time, and after the epoxy was applied the the rail secured with temporary screws, I could devote the rest of my time to some sanding.  It really helped break the sanding up into more manageable chunks.

A rare photo of a tiller hangin' out, lookin' casual. 

Another side project to help procrastinate on sanding...the tiller.  I also bought a nice piece of ash last time I was at Martin Lumber.   From this, I fashioned my tiller.  I had considered building a laminated tiller, as is the current fashion.  They look nice, but just a little too trendy for me.  Solid ash just seem like a hearty, traditional, no-nonsense approach.

Procrastinating further, I took a trip to Fisheries Supply and picked up a couple of goodies, including the cowl vents for the dorade boxes and two Tempress hatches for access to the lazarette.  I've since cut the holes for the vents.  The holes for the hatches will come soon.
Test fit of the tabernacle
Enjoying the act of procrastination to its fullest, I've also mostly constructed the tabernacle for the mast.  One by one, all the pieces that will make up the finished boat are coming together. 
I just realized that basically the hull is ready to flip any time!  Of course, just because we CAN do a thing, it does not necessarily follow that we MUST do that thing.  There are a number of projects that I'd like to tick off the list before rolling the boat.  There is still a fair bit of sanding left to do in the cockpit.  And I have to install a tricky bit of trim on the transom skirt.  And I might start fiddling with the companionway hatch.    Still, I guess I need to think through the logistics of the flip and get my cadre of happy helpers together. 

P.S. Dave Curtis, there are three Star Trek references in this post.  Can you find them all?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Recently, I was walking down the street, carrying a 16ft long mahogany board, and I thought to myself,  wouldn't it be interesting to start a blog entry with 'recently, I was walking down the street, carrying a 16ft long mahogany board'....

It was a sunny-ish, Friday afternoon.  I had just stopped at Martin Lumber (one of the best lumber stores out there!)  to pick up some timber to get started my PocketShip's companionway and tabernacle.  Poking through the lumber yard, I saw it...a beautiful, long 1"x8" hunk of mahogany.  The color was deep and uniform.  I measured it...16'.  Perfect of PocketShip's rubrails.  I couldn't let this one go, so I bought it.  Now, how to get it home?

My dad and I have traded cars for a couple of weeks, so instead of the Monster, with its cavernous interior and practical roof rack, I've been scooting around in a little roadster.  And while the other pieces of timber that I bought that day could be transported with one end shoved into the passenger footwell and the other end shooting off into the sky, transporting a board that's 4' longer than the car in this fashion just wasn't practical. 

More pondering.  One of the greatest benefits to where I live is that it is only about a mile from Martin Lumber.  Why not just carry it home?  So, I drove home, offloaded my other purchases, walked back to Martin, grabbed my board, and set off.  A couple of notes, in case you ever decide to walk a 16' piece of lumber home...   The weight of the board wasn't too much of an issue as I meandered the streets.  But, wow, the moment of inertia...I'd turn a corner and the board wouldn't.   RRRRaaaaaargh, ok, now we're going the right way.   There was also a light wind, and the darn thing would want to weathercock any time a gust caught it.  Whooooops...RRRRaaaaaargh, ok, now we're going the right way.  And then there's the length.  You'd have to be careful approaching intersections, or else you'd have several feet of mahogany hanging into the street while waiting at the crosswalk.  Watch that window!  It took constant effort to keep the whole business from devolving into a Laurel and Hardy-type affair.

The 16' mahogany plank, finally at home
Back in the shop, I finally got everything rounded over, faired, and sanded to the point that I was happy.  Time for 'glass.  I had to do this in stages for a number of reasons.  The first was time.  There's a lot of surface area that needs to be covered, and it just takes a long time to wet it all out, so that pushed it into a multiday project by itself.  Also, this is a big little boat, and some places, like the footwell, can't be reached without stepping on other places, like the cockpit.  Trying to do this all in one go would have been a disaster.  Finally, my desire to achieve as many neat seams as possible using the tape 'n trim method also caused my to break up some of the work.  Working in sections, it took about a week to get the topsides 'glassed.

Ready to 'glass the cabin
I started with the cabin, and fiberglassed down the topsides in the region of the cabin.  Then the footwell, and then the starboard side of the cockpit.  The cabin went really well and the result was pretty clean.  The footwell and the cockpit were more trouble.  The footwell has some tricky corners, and frayed edges and loose 'glass ensued.  Also, I didn't round over the corners of the deck-footwell corners as much as I probably should have, so it was a battle to get the 'glass to lay down smoothly around that corner.  Anyway, it was a bit messier that I would have liked.

View of the fiberglass from the front
of the cabin, showing it draping down onto bulkhead #2.
First coat of epoxy on the cabin

Starboard cockpit 'glass

Fiberglass in the footwell
At about that point, I ran out of 'glass.  Nothing a quick trip to Fiberglass Mart wouldn't fix, right?  So, that Thursday, during lunch, I drove the 5 minutes from work to Fiberglass Mart.  And they were gone!  Closed!  THE place to get fibreglass and supplies at extraordinary prices, no more!  I was so sad. 

I drove back to the office and started looking for another supplier.  The marine supply stores cost upwards of four times what Fiberglass Mart charged.  I found another place up north, but they'd only sell me a full 150 yd roll.  Finally, after much hunting, I found some guys down in N. Seattle who had some fiberglass at a reasonable price.  I drove down there after work.  Turns out that they knew Luis, the owner of Fiberglass Mart, and had bought out his inventory.  They also told me that Fiberglass Mart had closed because Luis had retired...I was so was such a great store and he was such a hardworking, knowledgeable guy that I hated to imagine him having gone out of business.  Now, though I'm still saddened by the loss of my favorite fiberglass supplier, I'm happy to think of him enjoying his well-earned retirement.

The rough stuff, forward
Back to the 'glass.  I bought five yards, enough to get down with the topsides.  I got home, laid out the 'glass on the port-side of the cockpit and on the topsides forward of hte cabin, and wet it out.  I was a little disappointed because instead of the 50" wide fiberglass that I thought I was buying, this stuff was only maybe 38".  But it worked.  The next day, though, I went out to start applying the fill coats of epoxy and I noticed that the texture of my newly 'glassed areas was significantly rougher that the rest of the boat.  On further investigation, I found that the fiberglass I bought from "the other guys" was actually 7oz cloth instead of 6oz. 

Maybe the 7oz stuff is stronger, and maybe that's good, but this is just not-so-nice to work with

Bright, shiny, and fully fiberglassed!
Anyway, I proceeded to do the fill coats.  The areas sheathed in 6 z cloth took the usual three coats of epoxy (wet out + 2 fill coats) to get smooth.  The 7oz stuff took an additional coat (2 more coats in some places).  I guess there's nothing wrong with that, but it was just another little, annoying reminder that I didn't get the material that I really wanted.  I have to be down at Boeing Field for work next week, which is near  the world-renown composites emporium, Fiberlay.  So, I'm planning to pick up the rest of the fiberglass I need for this project while I'm down there.

Getting started on the slow business of sanding all the bright, shininess to a dull grey.

In the end, I got the 'glassing done. 

The weather has been getting warmer, but I've never seen anything like this.  In the morning I put a new liner in the trash can.  I then spent several hours sanding and fiberglassing.  I turned around and found this....