Friday, May 28, 2010
While I finish up the work at the drafting table and the tiresome math associated with the next post, here is a quick update to show current status.
Everything is in "first coat." I had to re-stain the sheer plank. As soon as I touched it with 180 grit, it got way too blotchy to do anything but go backward as far as I needed to. I rolled on two coats of Epifanes Wood Finish Gloss (no sanding required if re-coated within 72 hours) to get enough thickness to sand for further build-up. Note that the stem heads are not stained, nor are the rails. I will stain and seal these parts when the inwales are complete.
Batten keel is pretty much wrapped up, ballast is going on next. I'll build a cradle and lower her for fitting of inwale, sole (thanks Crocker's Boat Yard for the white cedar), and thwarts.
The only other update I can think of is that I placed an ad in the upcoming (June 15th) issue of WoodenBoat magazine.
We are going to Maine this weekend. I will assist in the launching of my father-in-law's boat and then I will be blissfully boat-free for the rest of the long weekend. Just kidding. I'll be chomping at the bit by noon on Sunday to get back to the project.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
I was dreading casting the ballast keel. It wasn't that bad. I set up the turkey fryer (we bought it from Northern Tools, or Harbor Freight, I can't remember which) and the stew pot that comes with it. It melted 120 lbs. of lead in about 30 minutes. It was important to me to be able to melt and pour the whole shebang in one shot.
Use the proper filter for your respirator, and wear long pants and boots.
This casting is about the upper limit for what I would pour myself. Anything bigger would have been worth the expense to sub out.
The process was pretty straight-forward: build the form (I allowed a bit of extra height so that I can cut off the "slag" that forms on the top of the pour), gather your safety equipment (including a fire extinguisher) fire up the cooker, and babysit the fire. When the whole deal is melted, scoop out as much of the junk that floats to the surface as you can, and have a buddy help you dump it in the form. I did not cover the plywood sides of the form with anything. They smoldered and got pretty charred, but I didn't think that they would go up. I hung out near the fresh pour until it stopped smoking (just to be sure that the form did not ignite) and that was that.
After about a half hour, the temp had dropped to around 170 degrees (as measured by our IR pyrometer), so I moved the form inside and stripped the sides. I was amazed at how quickly the casting cooled.
The plan is to fit, fair, and bore the casting while the boat is inverted, and attach it when she is righted.
Body work and prep continues on the topsides and bottom.
Next posting will be pretty math-intensive. Be warned.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
There. It's done. I made the decision, committed to it, and moved forward. I feel twenty pounds lighter. The keel has been milled, fitted, relieved for the ballast casting, and dry hung on the boat. The photos show it before it got tapered and relieved.
For all of my bluff and bluster in previous posts, one would think that it would have been easier for me to actually do it. It wasn't. I take very seriously any significant change made to somebody else's work. I know as much about the finer points of yacht design as I do about Santeria. I did not make any of my decisions regarding these changes willy-nilly, particularly the keel profile. They are all the result of careful math, long hours of research, and tapping the expertise of many respected marine professionals. Special thanks to Messrs. Taylor, Crocker, Ford, and Prescott for the advice and encouragement to move out of analysis paralysis.
Forward rang is laminated and dry-fit to the boat. This part is a much tighter bend than any of the others. It is about the absolute limit to what 1/8" laminates will do without breaking. As a matter of fact, during the dry run, there were a couple of ominous cracking and popping noises as I sucked the last of the curve into the stack. Note the ridiculous number of clamps near the center of the part. I let the stack sit in the form overnight. When I removed it, there were three laminates with short grain that had begun to spilt. I pulled them out of the stack and replaced them with straighter-grained pieces. The lamination went without a hitch. It was a wrestling match, though.
I fitted the part this morning. All went well, but one of the laminates blew out while radiusing the edge. It is getting a localized repair and will be installed tonight. I'll glue the outer keel in place, too.
I have re-thought the installation method for the outer keel. I am gluing it the same way the rest of the boat is assembled. I will still run a line of centerline pinch bolts, but epoxy here makes me feel that much more secure. I'm committed, anyway, and removal of the outer keel will involve a sawz-all no matter how it is hung.
Tomorrow, I have to re-locate the project so that final coats can go on the boats surrounding Dark Secret. I will take the opportunity to flip her, prep and prime the bottom, and carry the topsides work to a first coat of black paint. Come to think of it, if I melt, pour, and hang the lead, paint the bottom, and finish the topsides, then there's no reason to have to invert her again. Unless she's in the way of paying work...
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I decided to switch gears for a couple of days. As I said in an earlier post, the middle third of a project like this involves quite a bit of work and the boat basically looks the same at the end of the day as it did in the beginning.
I elected to do a first go-around on "body work" to prep for a coat of primer. I filled all of the screw holes (I thought), and tended to a bunch of miscellaneous dings, clamp marks, and the like. I knew that a first coat would expose more blemishes, and it did.
The meranti plywood I used for planking really drank up the primer. It will take at least three coats to fill the grain enough for paint, particularly if I go with a black topsides paint. No matter the color choice, I recommend a grey primer for the first coat. Think of it as a guide coat. When you sand it, the sanded areas will show lighter, thus highlighting missed screw holes, scratches, and tear-outs that will show up as dark spots. Fill them, sand them, and re-prime. Sand this coat of primer (the first real, full coat) to be sure that you got everything, and you can switch to a white primer from here out if you are painting a light color. Prime as many times as you need to for grain filling and uniformity. It pays off in the topcoat application. We'll cover that in a week or so (I hope).
I'm going back to slinging goo for the next few days. Forward rang is ready to laminate, and the inwale is a multi-piece part. The change of pace was a welcome respite.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
Ahh, springtime in the boatyard. Every day is Monday. You can't even look forward to Friday because that is the day that everything hits the fan for weekend deliveries. It has been tough to keep momentum going for the past couple of weeks. It seems like the last thing I want to do after the whistle blows is climb on another boat; even my own.
Somehow, I have managed to brush the chip off my shoulder and get quite a bit done on Dark Secret. Both outer stems are on, sheer is finalized, port and starboard rubrails are on, and the aft rang is in. This afternoon, I rolled her in between a couple of the big girls at the yard and took her back off the trailer. She is pretty much on her lines, but I still need to tweak her fore and aft a bit.
In the absence of an owner other than myself, I have procured the stock for the outer keel. It is going to be as described previously. See the link in my previous posting for info on that. I don't want to re-hash the keel argument again. Templating for that timber begins this week, as well as the lamination of the forward rang.
The outer keel will be installed with an adhesive bedding compound, not epoxy. If somebody steps forward and wants to own her with the Valgerda keel, I can more easily remove the part to install the extended skeg. This is the only "structural" part that will be assembled that way. Obviously, the lead ballast will be bedded with something out of a tube, too.
This brings up an interesting aside. I realized this morning that there are very few fasteners in Dark Secret. All of the plank fasteners were temporary. Other than the #8 x 5/8" screws holding the rails on, the entire boat so far relies solely on glue joints. The screws affixing the outer stems were left in place, but they are basically redundant. They functioned as clamps until the glue cured. All of the joints in the boat's assembly are bare mahogany to bare mahogany. This is one of the best scenarios for epoxy to perform to its best possible characteristics. There will be a half-dozen or so 5/16" bronze bolts to affix the outer keel and ballast. That's about it for fasteners in the structure, other than affixing hardware.
I am truly, madly, deeply, ass-over-tea kettle in love with this boat. I will not be inconsolable if she remains my concern for the foreseeable future. I will exhibit her at some regional shows with the hope of building another boat for someone else (I'd love to do Bill Garden's Eel with a laminated frame at each station and epoxied lapstrake planking. That stern would be a knockout). As long as I don't lose sight of why I started this in the first place, I'll be OK. It's not about having another boat; there are too many on my plate as it is. It's not about selling it; money is relatively easy to earn. This is about being the guy who does what he says he will do. And the process.
This has been one of those extremely rare instances in life when the reality far exceeds the fantasy. It doesn't happen often. That thing you are thinking about doing - building a boat, or asking a wonderful woman to marry you, or raising a child, or making a sundae - I urge all of you; invest yourself fully into it. Whatever it is.