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.


  1. Hi Jon,

    Hope you get alerted when a comment is left on an older post like this. I'm copying ANOTHER of your design choices. Hope you don't mind :) The grabrails on Solitude III have always caught my eye, and since I'm working on some other stuff on my pocketship at the moment, I thought I'd try my hand at them. Can you post some more details on your design? I like the size you chose with respect to the whole boat, but can't really tell the size. I guess they are 1/2 inch laminate, so 1" wide, and the feet and rail itself LOOKS to be about 1" each as well. Am I right? Thanks in advance,


    1. Hi Craig,

      I've largely neglected the blog for some time, but just stopped by to check on things. The grabrails at indeed 1/2" laminates. I recall that to get them to match the curvature of the deck, I laid a piece (well, two pieces I guess) of scrap plywood on the top of the cabin and traced the curve. I cut this out and used it as a mold to clamp the laminates to while the glue dried. I largely eyeballed the design. I think it is around 2" tall at the aft end and tapers going forward. I scaled it to look right on the boat, but if I had to do it over, I would make it 1/2" can't easily grab the forward end as it is.