Saturday, August 3, 2013

Love Me Tender, Volume IV

You never know when it's coming, but you know it's coming.  It's the boat building disaster.  Every boat construction project has one: a mistake, slip, error, or accident of such  magnitude that is appears that there is no way to recover, at least not without hours upon hours of rework and substantial expenditure of additional funds.  Coping with this moment is the true test of a boat builder's skill, ingenuity and emotional resiliency.

I managed to finally get up the gumption to get out and do the sanding that I wanted to get done before stitching together the hull of my Eastport Pram.  My motivation level shot up, as I could now enjoy that single most rewarding part of stitch and glue boat building, stitching, where in just a few short hours the hull of a boat emerges from a pile of plywood. 

Indeed, I quickly stitched the first set of planked to the bottom.  It was getting a little late in the evening, but I figured I would spend a few more minutes and get the added boost of getting the second set of planks started.  That's when I noticed it.

The rabbet should have been where my finger is.
But it's not.
John C. Harris, owner of Chesapeake Light Craft, designer of the Eastport Pram, and author of the very fine set of instructions that comes with the boat, issued stern warnings about this, and I sure tried to heed those warnings.  Yet something went wrong.  You see, the Eastport Pram is what Chesapeake Light Craft markets as a "lap stitch" boat, in other words a stitch and glue boat that has the appearance of a lapstrake boat when it is done.  To accomplish this, a rabbet is cut into one edge of each plank.  However, this rabbet has to be along the right edge or the whole thing doesn't work.  And somehow, despite all the warnings in the instructions and in the plans about very carefully marking which edge gets the rabbet, I cut it wrong on the second set of planks.  Don't ask me how.
So, how did I deal with it?  Did I collapse into a piteous pile of despair?  Or, did I rise to the occasion in a solid display of boat building fortitude?

I despaired.

"Inlaying" wood in the bad rabbet.
All fixed up!
Then, I pulled myself together, and contemplated the various possible courses of action.  The first natural instinct of any boat builder is find recourse in epoxy, and indeed the very first thing that came to mind was to somehow fill the old rabbet with thickened epoxy and cut a new one.  This idea was quickly discarded however, as the practical question arose of how that much thickened epoxy would take to later being bent into a boat-like shape.  I also though about just cutting the new rabbet at leave then old one, though this got thrown out on both its aesthetic and structural implications.  Next idea...more plywood, cut new ones, increase total cost of materials some 20%.  OK, how about this one...find some 1/8" thick (the depth of the rabbet) color-contrasting wood, cut it to the right shape and inlay it in the old rabbet.  With any luck, it might even look intentional.  We have a winner.

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