Sunday, May 27, 2007

Float fairing continues #3

Another week of fairing has passed. I am very nearly done now with the outside side of my starboard float. This means I am averaging about one week per float side - but I have no idea if this is good or bad. :-) It is about as fast as I can go though; rate of progress is controlled first by the curing time of the fairing compound, and then by how your schedule fits with that. Warmer weather helps -- it's been mostly nice this week, but today is raining heavily with temps in the mid-40's deg F which sucks because the fairing putty is taking forever to cure.

This past week I managed to do one sand & fill pass every night after work, and 3 passes yesterday. At this rate, I hope to be applying primer to both floats around the middle of June.

I've been taking a lot of pictures, but I think it is hard to really tell the quality of the work from the pictures - you really need to be there to gauge how good or bad the fairing is. And I'm certainly no expert - that said, here's some more pictures and notes.

For some reason I hadn't found time to go pick up a darn notched trowel, and so last Sunday I decided to just get on with the job the same as before. So here's the float side, part-way through covering it with a thin coat of fairing compound:

This float side has very few bubble patches, and the fairing work went pretty smoothly -- but it's still hard work. The longboarding motion very much resembles an upper chest bench press workout in the gym (a place I haven't visited in too many years) -- I was getting a bit sore earlier in the week. This is a picture partway through the initial longboarding:

When longboarding the bow area, I use a tiedown strap to hold the stern down:

The first coat of glop after the initial longboarding is extensive:

Twenty-four hours later though, it's starting to look better (keel line looks pretty fair too):

This was taken Friday evening, after I had longboarded and filled more low spots:

I've also been working on the side-to-deck join radius. This job seems harder than it should be. Here's my "tool", it's just some adhesive 80 grit sandpaper stuck to a piece of PVC pipe:

And here's what it looks like in use:

I should probably glue a handle on it; still, it works okay for the most part but you have to be pretty finicky to make sure the edge looks uniform and even all the way down the float. I have a lot more work for this, on both float.

I think my starboard transom area is looking pretty good too; the longboard doesn't help much here, it takes careful hand sanding:

I've also been working on my port float deck and its inner deck-to-side radius join:
My Ronstan inspection ports finally showed up. I am not 100% happy with them. True, they do have the nice wide top that covers up the screws, but they felt relatively flimsy to me compared to the Beckson and Tempress models that I've looked at it. There's almost zero ribbing underneath the top of the hatch - some folks (especially one particularly hefty boat builder) could step on it someday and crack it. I am still pondering, but there's a good chance I'll end up returning them.

Ian sent out a F22 builder's update mail today. Lots of stuff mentioned, but the most important one IMO is that he is going to be printing and sending out updated plan books. I am happy with this -- there've been a lot of PDF updates sent out, but it's easier to keep track if everything is up-to-date in the plan book.

Oops, this post is getting a bit long. Sorry. One last bit of info: I should be on vacation from work the week of 6/4-6/8. Nine glorious days of...fairing. :) At least progress should be rapid, if I can get 3 sand\fill passes in each day. I also need to get started on my daggerboard case, for which I have the mold all ready from last winter.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Float fairing continues #2

A minor milestone yesterday -- I deemed that the inner side of my port float was faired "enough". After six days of part-time work on it, I've filled all of the low spots just about to perfection, and I'm pretty happy with the consistent sanding pattern I get when I longboard the float side. Every square inch has been longboarded with 120 grit paper. Here's what the bow looks like:

And here's a picture looking aft:

This picture was taken earlier in the day, probably my next-to-last pass on the low spots:

See the extra putty on the keel near the transom? I made a mistake while shaping the keel foam and sanded too deep in that area, so I had to build it back out with fairing putty. Wasn't too bad a job, but it sure does help when you get these things right in the first place.

Fairing seems to be one of those things where you can never quite get to 100% perfection. The imperfections definitely get smaller and smaller as you progress, but I'll be honest, I don't think I've fixed every single one. Some imperfections are very very slight, and I expect the "super build" (Alexseal's product name) primer to fill them up. At least that's my hope.

I ended up filling some low spots 4-5 times. The reason that happened, is that I would be nervous about slopping on too much putty, so I'd carefully squeegee the extra putty to be even as much as possible with the surrounding area. The squeegee (plastic putty knife, actually) has a pulling effect, that causes it to pull a small amount of material away from the center of the low spot, as you drag the squeegee over the new putty. So you start with a low spot, then add some putty, then end up frustrated when you later longboard that area, because a new (but smaller!) low spot appears in the middle of the old low spot. I'm a bit slow, so it took me awhile to catch on to this. I need to remember to pile the new putty a bit higher next time.

When I first thought about fairing, I somewhat had the idea that all of the "standard" ways to do it were laborious, time-consuming, and generally not necessary for anyone with 20/20 vision. In other words, why bother with guide coats, batten checks, etc, when you can just use your eyes and sight down the surface to identify the imperfections? I no longer feel that way. Your eyes can lie to you, at least mine can, especially when viewing a non-shiny surface. But the longboard doesn't lie; if you're sanding an area, and there's a spot in the middle without any sanding scratches, then you've got a low spot. The batten doesn't lie either; if you are pushing a flexible batten over the surface, and suddenly some daylight appears underneath it, then you've got a low spot. After awhile I began to rely on a lot on these techniques. However I did not use the guide coat technique. I'm thinking that that would be the acid test for creating a perfect surface, and I hope I don't regret not doing it; however I'm trying to keep in mind that this is a boat, not a piano (heard that somewhere).

I have learned to detest the bubble patches I had to add. I started out with all of them covered pretty well, but as I slowly sanded down and evened out the putty layers, some patches started to appear. Near the transom was the worst area. In this picture you can clearly see the outline of the patches:

I'm not overly worried that I sanded the patches too much, since they were oversized to begin with. At least I hope they'll be okay. At any rate, I know I'm not about to redo the fairing job, that's for sure!

Here's the port float back in the cradles, with the starboard float up in the frames ready to go:

Well, that was the state of things last night when I got done. Time for me to get out there and get started on the starboard float.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fairing continues; disaster averted

I wanted to post some more fairing pictures, as a followup from yesterday. Today was a fantastic sunny day in the Pacific NW - generally over 80deg F everywhere, and easily over 85 at my house. I knew I'd be looking at a warm evening in the boat tent, but went out there anyway after work to get started.

But then, as I sighted down the float side that I'm currently working on, I couldn't believe my eyes. There were some humongous bulges and low spots that I just didn't remember seeing before. I'm telling you, this was a serious "What the fudge?!?!" kind of moment; I was panic-stricken for a bit, thinking that the warm weather had melted and deformed my precious float.

I had been delaying the cutting out of my hatch openings, since 1) I don't have the small inspection hatches yet anyway, and 2) this allowed me to sand and fair the decks more easily without the holes getting in the way. It took me about two minutes of frantic thinking before I realized that this was a bad idea since I had neglected to open up any other holes in the float to relieve the pressure. Which explained the bulges in the float. Then I sprinted (okay, walked quickly) for my drill gun. After drilling a nice big 1/2" hole in the middle of the large access hatch areas, both floats hissed and spewed forth hot air for well over a minute. The deformed high & low areas all quickly returned to their original shapes. I hope there's no lasting damage! (And, I have to wonder if this had anything to do with the bubble problem I was experiencing when I was laminating the float exteriors?) Sorry, I did not take a picture of the floats in this condition - it simply wasn't a priority at that moment.

On the bright side, if the floats can hold air under pressure, then I'm pretty sure that they are already water-proof. :) Maybe I'll patent the idea: "Trimaran Float Hull Overpressure Leak Test Methodology using Environmental Friendly Heat Sources". Heh.

After the excitement was over, I got started longboarding again. Here's a couple pictures after an hour or so of sanding:


(The comealong strap is there to hold the aft end of the float down while I was sanding the bow area - the aft end is very light and can easily be levered up into the air.)

It might be hard to tell from the above pictures, but they show significant improvement from yesterday! I am feeling better about the fairing work; it's not easy, but it's not impossible either. Just keep longboarding, fill low spots, repeat. :)

After going as far as I dared with the longboard, I filled the low spots again:

Then I worked on my starboard float deck, using the level to identify the high spots. Same as before, the high spots were over the beam bulkheads, and a slight one over the extra glass for the main access hatch. However I think I'm actually close to being done for this deck -- as another F22 builder mentioned some time back, it's all gonna be covered with anti-skid anyway. I got things to a reasonable level, and then filled the low spots that were still there:

We'll see how it looks tomorrow after I longboard it again. Also, you might notice that I'm not paying much attention to the rounded deck corners -- it's a lot of work to shape those so I figure I will do them last.

Over the weekend I had applied fairing compound to the port deck (the one up on the frames) and did some preliminary sanding, but have now decided to defer further work until that float is in the cradles again -- it's just easier to sand when pressing down, instead of side-ways.

Here's a nice picture (IMO) of my boat tent as seen from the other end:

Now that I'm into some serious sanding, I am very glad that my project is outside -- this much dust would just destroy the garage as well as end up being tracked all over into the house .

Finally, I won't be doing daily fairing updates since so much of the content will be repetitive. I should be doing nothing but float fairing for the next couple weeks at least.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Fairing begins

Executive update: I've decided to go with Alexseal products on my F22. (Pronunciation guide: "uh-lex-sea-ul", accent on the second syllable.) After reading Alexseal's online product guides, I still had some questions. Fortunately, I was able to get the cell phone # of the local Alexseal sales rep ("Alex") from another local boat builder. So I called him Friday afternoon around 5:30pm, wondering what kind of reception I would get (obviously I'm not a large account poised to order thousands of gallons of product). As luck would have it, I caught Alex waiting in his car for a ferry, and he turned out to be a really nice guy - so I was able to talk with him for over half an hour. Great customer service! -- so nice to find that these days. Alex answered all of my questions, was very encouraging, and told me to feel free to call him back any time. So it turned out to be an easy decision in the end to go with Alexseal.

Family stuff caused me to be busier than expected this weekend, but I did get started on my fairing chores. Saturday I headed down to Fisheries Supply, and picked up some of Alexseal's fairing compound:

Then we put the port float up on the frames, and I got started. I had originally planned to use the candy-bag approach to lay down the initial beads of fairing. Unfortunately I was working by myself and getting some gloppy fairing putty into a little bag proved to be beyond my abilities and patience that day. (And no I didn't have a notched trowel -- duh on me.) So instead, and I am regretting this somewhat now, I just started troweling the stuff onto the float. I was working in small batches... it took me awhile, but I ended up with one port float side troweled, and both decks. Unfortunately I was lax about taking pictures, but here's a shot of the starboard float deck the next day, prior to sanding:

I've used System Three's QuikFair before, and I definitely liked it and would use it again. I'm using Alexseal's stuff this time mainly because I feel more comfortable staying within a single product system. The Alexseal stuff seems similar to QuikFair, except that it takes longer to cure even when using their Fast hardener (or "converter" as they call it), is purple instead of tan, and doesn't smell like grape (that's what QuikFair always reminded me of anyway). Both products spread about the same IMO (both are excellent).

Anyway, on Sunday I was faced with the tough job of sanding down the troweled-on mess I had created for myself. This picture should give you an idea:

Ah, the joy of sanding. I won't belabor the point here, but yesterday wasn't much fun, even with 36-grit paper. But I made reasonable progress.

Here's a picture from when I was done sanding and getting ready to fill in the low spots with more fairing compound:

By the way, the interior side of the port float (what you see above) bears the most scars from the bubble-hell wars. I chose this one to start with since I figured it will be the most difficult to fair, and I might as well learn fast. I was concerned about how well I was covering the patches up, but it seemed to turn out okay. I did end up with a couple of hard spots back near the transom, that I need to be careful with:

And another after I started putting the second coat of glop on the low areas:

Truth be told, I was feeling a bit nervous at this point. There seemed to be an astronomical number of low areas, even if they're weren't very deep, and I'm pretty sure this is because I didn't follow the standard fairing procedures (but dammit - it was fun covering the whole thing with glop! :).

Anyway, after work today I got back out there and started longboarding again - the fun never stops around here. Here's how the port float looked after a couple hours of longboarding:

It's hard to tell in these pictures, but there are slightly fewer low areas than yesterday, and better yet, the low areas I have now are shallower than yesterday. Hopefully this is a sign of progress. I ended up the day by troweling on some more glop to fill up the low spots:

Virtually every swipe of glop you see in the picture above, is actually quite thin. I am looking forward to tomorrow's longboarding -- hopefully it will begin to sand out evenly. The decks have not yet gotten as far as the float side above -- I'll catch up on those next, as time allows.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Both floats about ready for fairing

Fairly mild progress this week. Most of it has been spent finishing up all of the sanding down of the rough glass edges, especially around the bubble patches (which are all 100% patched, on both floats now). The bubble patches look like hell when viewed head-on, but when I sight along the long (side) view, they're barely visible. Maybe the fairing work won't be so bad.

I also laminated the remaining transom this evening:

The other thing I've been trying to get done, is the last layer of cloth over the chainplates. This has been a bugger of a job -- the angles just don't seem to work for a single piece of cloth to lay down evenly around all sides. I've tried a couple times and always aborted the effort. My next effort, I'll give up on the single piece strategy and go with overlapping pieces of cloth. In the meantime, I decided to build up a putty fillet around the base of the chainplates:

...which I will sand and smooth over of course, before placing the cloth.

Here's the floats side by side:

So basically, I am very very close to starting the fairing. This brings me to my next looming decision: which paint system to go with. I rolled-n-tipped an an earlier project (plywood dinghy) with all System Three products: primer, fairing putty, and paint. It all worked ok except I got runs and visible brush-strokes in my paint job, which I'm still sanding out (in-between working on the F22) -- but this could have been my fault, for painting in weather that was too cold. Regardless, for the F22 I had determined to use a non-waterborne LPU paint and I had just about convinced myself to go with Sterling products, mostly based on this tutorial. Then someone recently mentioned Alexseal products on the F-boat forum, and I've been looking into that the last few days. There are some good testimonials to the quality of Alexseal products on the 'net; also, it is apparently a brand-new, super-modern formulation. So maybe it's better? Not sure. Would I notice the difference on my little F22 even if it is? Decisions, decisions. :)

Last but not least, yesterday afternoon Andrew from Ballard stopped by with his brother to see my project. It was a fun couple of hours -- we chatted about boats, looked over the F22 plans, checked out my float progress and my collection of bulkheads, etc, etc. Andrew is seriously considering starting an F22 project. It will be great to have some additional Pacific NW F22 builders. Over the past six months I've had several queries from folks in the area asking about F22 stuff, but Andrew was the first to actually come by. Thanks Andrew!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Some bubbles; port transom laminate; a sturdy float

Unfortunately I did not baby-sit my float laminate long enough yesterday, and ended up with some bubbles - sigh. Well, what can you do. It was not as bad as last weekend though, only about eight or nine bubbles all told. I sanded them out and patched them all:

The port float transom was laminated as well:

(yeah I did pull the laminate a bit tighter there at the bottom)

Otherwise, I spent the rest of the evening grinding down the rough edges on both floats. It was a very warm day (80+ deg F) so both floats had a decent cure going on inside the tent (it has a mild sauna effect). I am pleased with how "tough" the floats sound when I rap on the side of them. And I could not resist making the following test:

I'll be swapping the floats tomorrow and will continue sanding down the rough edges on both, to get ready for fairing. (Is this what folks mean when they mention "grinding the glass"? I can't imagine using a real grinder - it would cut fast into even cured glass and quickly do some damage, I would think.)

My "boat building shoes" are getting absolutely gross. I had hoped that they would make it through the entire project, but as soon as you step in some epoxy they start picking up all kinds of crap, and they are getting slippery:

My current "lawn mowing shoes" may have to graduate to the boat project soon. :-)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Both floats (nearly) laminated

Saturday morning I got up early, determined to laminate a float side so I could test the temperature theory with respect to laminate bubbles. I had the port float ready to go from the night before, so I started with the glass:

I then wet-out the cloth as fast as I could, wanting to beat the heat in case it turned out to be a warm day ("warm" is relative of course - I'd probably melt in Texas or other warmer climes :).

I baby-sat the new laminate the rest of the morning. A few bubbles tried to popup (but nothing like the disaster from last weekend) and were quickly removed. My wife also helped me a bit, watching it for me while I was working on other stuff. Long story short, this time I only got one bubble in the laminate, and that appeared to be caused by poor pre-fairing of the foam in that area. I am so glad things turned out this time:

The secret of success seems to be: 1) try to laminate in a stable temperature; and 2) don't walk away from the laminate until you're sure it's well into the curing stage, and keep checking for bubbles until you get to that point. I suspect that's what I did wrong last weekend (walked away too fast); plus it was much warmer last weekend, so I probably wouldn't have had much time to work the bubbles out.

In addition I glued in the beam locating dowels on both floats, and laminated the starboard float deck. First, my marine plywood inserts got a final thick coating of epoxy:

Then I glued in the dowels, and laid down the extra deck reinforcements:

(Late-breaking tip: the plans would seem to suggest that you can drill the holes for the locating dowels as soon as you have the fwd and aft beam bulkheads laminated and cut out. I would advise against this, just in case you get some minor movement of the bulkheads while joining the floats, e.g. from trimming. Instead, my approach was to not drill the holes for the locating dowels until I had the float halves joined. Then I located the dowel holes by stretching a string from the tip of the bow to the middle of the transom. It would be tragic to end up with a boat whose floats had excessive toe-in or toe-out.)

Here's a view of the extra deck glass after wet-out:

Then I laid out the deck glass:

And trimmed it up:

(Not sure who that guy is in the above pic, but it's not me - I know I don't have a bald spot, let alone one as big as that one).

After that, wet-out was pretty simple. I don't seem to have a good post-wet-out picture other than this one, taken from afar:

I would advise laying down the extra deck reinforcements last instead of first -- although I made it work, it would have been easier that way.

The only other thing I'm working on at the moment is the final lamination for my bow web. I've been lax on getting these small projects done -- gotta stop that. Here's the bow web as of Saturday evening:

This morning (Sunday) my son helped me swap the floats. Then I laminated the deck of the port float, and also laminated the last side of the starboard float. I don't want to go into excessive detail, since it's the same procedure for both floats. Here's the port float after deck lamination:

And a view of the starboard float's (so far) bubble-free side-laminate:

That's my nephew Daniel who's all fuzzy in the background. He was out there watching today's progress, and even cut some glass for me.

All that is left to do on the floats for exterior lamination is the transoms, which I plan on doing tomorrow night. I supposed I could have done these as part of the deck laminate, but for some reason I did not. Not a big deal though -- I am feeling pretty good about the progress I made this weekend.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Bits, pieces, notes

Welcome back. I spent Mon-Thu in some very long, very intensive training at work, spending nights in a hotel because the days ran so long. Was feeling the need to recharge the batteries, so I took my wife to lunch down on the Seattle waterfront. It was a nice day today, we had a good meal, and I enjoyed a nice local brew while watching the water. Here's another boat-related goal: finish the boat, then sail it down to the Seattle waterfront, get a good view of the city, and have someone on shore take a picture of my boat. This is not really my idea; while visiting him I saw a cool picture of Rod Tharp's F9A sailing in that area, side-by-side with another F-boat (I think), with the Space Needle in the background. It makes a nice goal to shoot for.

But enough -- I'm not the Chamber of Commerce. :)

Bubble trouble update: I sent email queries off to a few folks, plus Ian, plus System Three, and also got a couple of helpful comments to my last post. The general consensus was that laminating in a rising temperature and/or humidity variations may cause outgassing which can cause bubbles. The solution is to avoid doing that. I think this means that I do my laminations early as possible in the morning, when it's still cool out, or late in the evening when temperatures are falling. System Three's response was that the surface of sheets of CoreCell contain lots of cut bubbles (from when the sheet was cut), and that screeding the surface of the CoreCell with a light epoxy\micro mixture (and letting it cure before laminating) would fill those imperfections and maybe help avoid the problems I'm seeing. Sounds plausible, I guess -- but I'm going to try changing the timing first. Pre-coating all foam surfaces would be a lot of time and work.

Big news (especially for my wallet): I ordered my beam mounts today! Really looking forward to seeing those.

A week or so ago, I received the Tempress hatches I ordered. Here's what they look like:

I haven't gotten the Ronstan 6" inspection hatches yet -- I need to call the supplier on Monday to see what's taking so long.

I've also cut and rolled up all the glass needed for the remainder of the float exterior laminations (two sides, two decks):

I roll the glass up on tubes, then carry it out to the tent. Here's how much 12oz and 18oz glass I have left; 12oz on top, 18oz on bottom (this is my second roll of 12oz - pretty sure I've wasted quite a bit though):

This afternoon I flipped my #5 and #9 form frames around, and the port float is all prepared for me to laminate its second side.