Saturday, June 30, 2012

Down The Hatch

As far as Rat Pack movies go, Robin and the Seven Hoods is, well, as good of a Rat Pack movie as you have a right to expect.  At one point in the movie, the innocent Bing Crosby character is accepted into the mafia.  The runs out yelling, as only Bing Crosby can, "Oh boy! I'm a hood, I'm a hood!"  That's what was going through my head as I tackled my latest project.  As I continued to procrastinate on sanding and eventually flipping the boat, I decided to tackle constructing the sea-hood and companionway hatch.

This mini-project did not get off to an auspicious start.  The first step it to take some scrap wood and create a patteron for the forward end of the sea hood. The piece is set at 66 deg to the cabin deck s contour.  So, I grabbed a piece of scrap wood, set it up on the cabin deck at an angle of 66 degrees, and traced away.   I cut out my pattern and fit it to the hull.  Not bad.

Using my pattern, I laid out the shape on a piece of 3/4" mahogany that I'd picked up earlier in the day from Martin Lumber.  I set the table on my bandsaw to 66 deg and went to town on it.  Well, actually, due to the way the angle meter on the bandsaw reads, I set it to 90-66=34 deg.  Catch the math error?  After reseting to 24 deg, I made the cut again.  It felt a little clumsy to make that cut, and the bandsaw emitted strange R2-D2 noises, but the operation went fairly smoothly, and the finished result looked pretty good.  It look good, that is, until I held it up to the boat and realized that while I had cut the correct angle on the bottom, I cut the bevel the wrong way on the top surface.  Off to the scrap heap with that one.

The hood sides and and early iteration of the front
Fortunately, I had another piece of mahogany of the right size laying around.  So, I tried again.  This time the angles were right.  Success!  I the laid out the shape of the sea hood sides and cut them out.  A dry fit on the boat revealed the I hadn't been as successful as I had thought.  Ssomewhere in the process I had mis-measured and mond attempt at the front of the seat hood turned out a little too short.  I didn't see a good to save it, so I bit the bullet, scrapped that guy, drove down to Martin Lumber, and bought a new board.  I joked a little with the guys down there about it being a measure-once-cut-twice-scrap-it-measure-again-cut-twice-scrap-it-measure... kind of day.  They smiled.

Round three.  R2-D2 noises from the bandsaw, cut, cut, cut.  This time I'd somehow over-compensated for the shortness of the previous attempt and ended up with a board that was just a little tall.  No problem!  I laid out a new curve at the right height and returned to the bandsaw.  I was about halfway through the cut when I realized something was right.  I had the board backwards and once again was slicing through the board at the wrong angle.  I really didn't want to scrap another board, and I briefly considered filling in the kerf of my half completed cut with thickened epoxy and calling it a day.  But, the vision is to have the sea hood and companionway hatch varnished, and a line of thickened epoxy streaking across the front of the hood does not fit with the vision.  So, back to Martin I went.

If they were smiling when I left previously, they could butshake their heads upon my return.  I snatched up another suitable length of mahogany, supported my local small business some more, and headed for home, vowing as I left that I would not return that day.

My gallery of failure.  From left to right, we have "pattern", "wrong angle", "too short", "too tall+1/2 wrong angle", and finaly "good enough"

I again oh-so-carefully laid out the shape of the front of the sea hood on the board, and proceeded with the utmost caution to the bandsaw, where with infinite care, I methodically and meticulously made the required cuts, whilst the bandsaw again wailed like a distressed droid.  If this didn't work, I was done for the day. 

It worked.  A dry fit revealed no issues and I temporarily assembled the front and sides of the hood.

As evidenced by the rate at which I  was destroying mahogany earlier in the day, clearly I was not in the kind of focused-yet-zen-like state of mind that is condusive to good boatbuilding.  Nevertheless, I soldiered on, knocking out the sides and front of the companionway hatch, and the aft trim pieces for hatch 'n hood, with alarming alacricity. The manual suggests using a plane to bevel the sides and ends of the hatch and hood, but the geometry is simple enough that these bevels can be included when cutting the pieces in the first place.
Frame of the companionway hatch.

Test fit of the assembly.  I may have been on a roll, but that doesn't mean I  was quite thinking straight.  I naturally decided that the forward face of the hatch should face aft, into the cockpit when I snapped this picture.  No, no, no, forward is alway forward
I had built up a ton of momentum (no, the units are wrong...maybe a ton*ft/sec of momentum), so despite the hour getting late, and a rumbling in my tummy, I decided to fit the decks.  The plans yielded two oversized pieces of ply that I temporarily fit up, marked, removed, and trimmed.  Easy as pie.
Trial fit of the deck on the hood.

Go-go-gadget adjustable hole saw!
I've been working steadily to check of tasks from the pre-boat-flipping checklist.  I had ordered some Vetus  portlights from Fisheries Supply, and was waiting for those to come in before cutting the holes for them (just to make sure I cut the right size hole!).  It took a while, but they finally arrived.  I opened the box, dug out the directions, and found the size of the required hole.  It specified a hole diameter of 0.125.  No units.  Bad technical writing.  Well, since Vetus is a Dutch company, I could only assume this was in metric units, and given the magnitude, it had to be meters.  Refraining from using Google's unit conversion features, I instead demonstrated my keen mathmatical prowess by converting this to inches by hand.  A smidge less than 5".  So, I set my adjustable hole saw to a smidge less than 5", and started cutting holes in my boat.
I have seeeeen the light!

The PocketShip plans show pretty trapezoidal toerails running along the sides of the deck. I like the design of these...they really look nice. Trouble is, at some point I made the mistake of envisioning grabrails there instead.  After walking the docks at the marina looking at grabrail designs, and playing around with a cardboard mockup on the boat, I decided that it would be too much trouble to make grabrails.  The big stumbling. block was that they'd have to be curved to follow the curvature of the sides of the deck.   I decided to definitely go with the toerails as specified instead.

But thoughts of the grab rails kept dogging me.  Finally, I gave in.  I could at least have a go at grab rails, and if they turned out to be rubbish, I could revert to the attractive trapazoidal toerails. 

I traced the curve of deck onto a piece of scrap plywood, cut it out and fashioned a jig on which I laminated together two pieces of 1/2 mahogany.  I laid out a couple of lines indicating the horizontal lines of the rails, and mesaured and marked the locations of the feet.  I freehanded the curves.  A quick trip through the bandsaw, and I had a pair of rails that I was glad to see looked pleasing to the eye.  A dry fit on the boat validated my initial reaction. 

Finally, after all of this, I could procrastinate no longer.  I hooked up the sander, donned my favorite sanding gear (long sleeved shirt, ancient jeans, respirator, safety goggles, hearing protection) and finished the last (for now) of the sanding of the topsides.  The boat is ready to flip.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Two Years Before the Mast

Growing up, I had a copy of Dana's Two Years Before the Mast sitting on my bookshelf.  I never was really interested in it.  To my under-informed mind, the term "before the mast," conjured images of boring history of some dark, dusty semi-medieval era, strangely resembling Disney's The Sword in the Stone, before they invented sailing.  Didn't sound like a good read.  I am a somewhat vociferous reader, though, and eventually I felt compelled to pick up the book and read it.  I forget when...maybe in high school.  It definitely wasn't what I'd imagined.  It opened my eyes to the world of tall ships and sailing  (and I learned what "before the mast" really means).  I can't say that I've yet recovered from the impact that book had on me, which is a good thing in my opinion.

As I mentioned previously, it was while I was on a wind tunnel test in Switzerland in May 2010 that I became infatuated with PocketShip.  When I got home from that trip, I ordered that manual, just to stoke the imagination and assess how big of a project it would be.  The manual arrived a few days later, and I spent the last few nights of May reading it cover to cover.  On thing I remember is reading the chapter on building the spars.  I don't know why, but just seemed like a lot of fun.  It's been something I've looked forward to since the beginning.

Now, two years, almost to the day, after first reading the manual, I found myself slicing up some beautiful pieces of spruce...I was building my mast.  This was completely unplanned, but I guess it really did turn out to be two years before the mast!

Way back, I had weighed to cost and benefits of fir versus spruce, and decided the lower cost of fir outweighed the benefit of spruce.  As I've invested more time and money into this project, though, I reevaluated my decision.  I decided I really wanted the lighter weight aloft, and the cost differential wasn't that much.   Long ago, I had purchase fir for my bowsprit and boom (and even cut out the bowsprit), and fir they shall remain.  The booms of a gaffer should be heavy anyway for best sailing qualities.  And as for the bowsprit, well...whatever.  The mast and gaff, however, will be sitka spruce. This should make a sizable reduction in weight aloft. 

My "radar reflector."  I have no way of knowing if this will work.
The mast is hollow, of a square cross section, fashioned from four 3/4" staves.  The mast tapers from a 3"x3" box in the lower three-ish feet to a about a 2"x2" at the tippy-top.  Each end has a filler block, making the mast solid at the ends to support the loads of the mast pivot, gooseneck, the various hardware at the masthead.  Taking advantage of the hollow section, I cut a number of strips of aluminum foil, 2"-3" long, to stuff into the top of the mast to serve as a radar reflector.  Those 2"-3" should be right around the wavelength of a ship's radar, and hopefully will light it up like a Christmas tree.  With the Naval station so near by, it seems sensible.  Not that the Nimitz would be able to maneuver out of my little boat's way, but it's the thought that counts.
Todd at Martin Lumber was able to procure some nice, clear, vertical-grain 16'+ sitka spruce planks for me.  As before, my plan was to carry each plank home.  Fortunately, when I explained my plan (prefacing it with "you're gonna look at me like I'm crazy when I tell you how I'm getting these home") to Willie, one of the guys in the yard there, he offered to drop them off for me free of charge.  Another example of how Martin Lumber takes care of their customers.  Thanks, Willie!

The planks were 5/4 (dimensional) rough cut, so I had to spend about an hour running them through the surface planer to get the 3/4" (actual) required thickness.  I wish I had a picture...I nearly filled up a 32 gallon garbage can with spruce shavings!
Staves getting the epoxy-sealing treatment
I carefully laid out the tapers and cut them out with my trusty circular saw.  Then, the part I was dreading...cutting 3/8" deep rabbets in the sides for the fore and aft faces to slot into.  I could just picture wrestling with a 16' plank, trying to keep it up against the fence on the table saw.  I contemplated doing some fancy router work instead, but I finally took a deep breath and fired up the table saw.  It was actually a surprisingly smooth operation.  The rabbets were cut in no time!

From there, the operation was pretty straightforward: cut the blocks for each end of the mast; seal up the insides with a couple coats of epoxy; lather up the mating surfaces with thickened epoxy; clamp the thing together (stuffing my foil strips inside); and wait for the glue to dry.  Actually, there was on more step before I put the final stave in place. 

Blurry camera mode has been are the staves ready for the glue-up
I did the big glue-up fairly early in the day, and I used fast hardener, so by the evening, I was able to take the clamps off, sand down the squeezeout and use the router to put a nice 1/2" roundover on the corners.  It looks great.

Still blurry.  I did the glue-up outside so that I'd still have room to work inside the shop.  Note the proximity to the blooming rhody.  Only one bee managed to get distracted from the pink flowers and entomb its rear legs in the squeeze-out.

Blurry mode disabled.  Still a bad picture, though.  Here the mast has been cleaned up and the roundovers applied.

Speaking of bees, I saw one fly into a hole in the garage.  I wondered where the hole lead.  It lead into the garage...and the growing wasps' nest!  I dealt with this quickly.

Test fit of the lazarette hatches
Yes...I'm still sanding and getting getting distracted by a bunch of tasks that I want to get done before flipping the boat.  I managed to get the fiddly trim strips onto the transom skirt.  I made the cutouts for my lazarette hatches.  I cut the hole in the transom for the tiller and the hole in the bow for the bowsprit.  I filled the screw holes in the rubrails and got the dropboard retainer/companionway coaming thingies installed.  Okay, so I haven't actually spent more than a half-hour sanding since last update, but it I will, I promise.