Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More high-build primer

In my last post I said that the starboard float was ready for finish primer, and the port float nearly so. I was being honest (honest) but in reality it all depends on the definition of "ready" (sounding like a politician here). As I looked both floats over again yesterday afternoon, I noticed a lot more pinholes, tiny non-fair areas, etc, that still needed fixing. Some I noticed by sight, others by touch -- with the primer coats sanded down, I've noticed that it's much easier to feel defects than it is to see them ("...use the Force, Jay...er, Luke..."). Anyway, I almost talked myself into throwing on the first coats of finish primer, but a nagging voice in my head talked me right back out of it. So with a great sigh of resignation, I decided to do two more coats of high-build primer on each float, and sand them back down again by hand. Guess I just love sanding or something. Actually, I have a suspicion that the finish primer wouldn't have done all that great a job of filling in the remaining defects. And I don't want to even think about staring at these defects for the next ten years, not when I have the chance to fix them right now with a little more work.

My wife thought I was crazy to do this. Example, after looking at a small defect I pointed out to her: "That?!? No-one's ever going to notice that tiny thing!!!" I told her that that's exactly the type of thing other folks will notice. Especially my male in-laws, when they come over to critique my work (Larry, you listening?).

Anyway, after all of that long-winded pontificating, preserved here for nobody but myself (no-one else will care :), here's a few pictures of my floats after re-applying two coats each of high-build primer. I won't be posting for the next few days - but rest assured I'll be out there sanding away. Let's hope the extra work pays off.

Here's the port float, yesterday evening (notice the two big high-spots on the starboard float to the right):

Port float again (I'm also re-using the large access hatch cutout scraps, as test pieces for the paint, you can see part of them on top of the starboard float to the left):

And one more of the port float:

Now, here's a few of the starboard float after tonight's work:



I am getting better about using the Alexseal high-build primer. From experimentation, it takes me ~38oz of mixed (base+converter) high-build primer to do one coat on one float, and it only needs reducing by ~8% (3oz reducer). The primer rolls out very nicely. Alexseal does make an accelerator for their primer (and for their topcoat) - but the local Fisheries Supply seems to only keep a minimal amount of product in stock, i.e. they run out a lot, i.e. I've so far been unable to buy any. To compensate for this I've been pre-mixing my batches, so they have at least 30 minutes of "induction time". This seems to help them cure a bit faster.

I'll note that many bugs have given their lives during this process, flailing futilely as they festoon the floats with festive flourishes. (I'll need to rig up some sort of plastic tent, when I get to the topcoat.)

One last thing: after almost going blind staring at the paint chips on the color card, and driving my wife nuts with "which one do you think is better" questions, I've finally settled on "Matterhorn White" as the boat's color. It's a basic off-white color, nothing fancy, and shouldn't be too glaring on the eyes. (The runner-up choice was "Snow White", in case you're wondering.) I'll save the Farrier Yellow for my next boat, if I ever build one -- though that sure is one pretty yellow, that Ian likes for his boats.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sanding the high-build primer coats

Last Wednesday evening, I applied three coats of primer to my port float. Note that Alexseal has a two-stage primer system, the "super build" primer followed by the "finish" primer. So far I've only worked with the super-build stuff. I decided to sand the super-build primer the old-fashioned way, with longboard and sanding blocks, down to 150 grit, just to make sure I had a good smooth\fair base for the finish primer. When I get to that stage, I'm planning on sanding the finish primer with my electric sander.

On Thursday evening, I sanded down the primer on the starboard float. This was a lot of fun - not. You really should enjoy working in the middle of billowing clouds of dust, if you want to build a boat. I started with the deck first:

Then did each side:

This made for a very, very long evening. After sanding down the starboard float, I could tell that there were still several minor imperfections left. Some could be taken care of by an additional coat of primer, others needed a dab or so of fairing compound. I added the fairing compound that evening right before quitting time:
On Friday evening, I sanded down the spots where I had added fairing compound. Then my wife and son helped me hang the float back up from the chains, and then I applied an additional coat of primer.

Saturday morning, I woke up motivated to do some sanding. I wanted to work on the starboard float again, but the extra primer coat hadn't quite cured enough, so it turned out to be the port float's turn. The port float sanded down very nicely, IMO -- it took about eight hours of sanding to get it all done. Here's one view of the deck-side join:

I've been very worried about how my deck-to-side join radiuses would turn out. Even using the PVC-pipe-sandpaper trick, I still had a lot of waviness (highs & lows) and non-uniformity. (Made me wish I hd a giant router, with a giant 1.5" round-over bit. :) Part of the problem is caused by the float sides not being perfectly uniform and straight, the rest is caused by me I think. However as I've done more sanding on the the fairing and primer coats, I think the radiuses are getting better:

Builder tip: my sandpaper has been clogging pretty badly, and at first I was replacing it quite often. Then I discovered that a dust brush will easily swish off most of the clogged material, allowing you to continue using the sandpaper. Sandpaper is expensive, so best to conserve it where possible.

Another builder tip: sweatbands are an important piece of equipment for a boat builder. I suggest having plenty on hand. :)

Today I spent sanding down the extra primer coat on the starboard float. It wasn't as bad as the initial sanding, but still took about five hours. The extra primer coat helped fill in a lot of tiny holes. I'm now wishing, that I had applied four coats of primer on each float to begin with - it would have helped to fill more imperfections and made it easier to sand them down to a smooth coat. Even better I guess, would have been to make sure the rough-fairing was closer to perfect than I made it. I have a lot of respect for folks who can quickly and efficiently produce nicely faired and painted boats -- it is not easy work.

The starboard float is now ready for finish primer, and the port float is ready either for finish primer, or perhaps one more super-build coat. The weather is on the rainy\chilly side today, or I would have considered doing that before quitting for the day.

Last thing I did today, was hang up the port float to get it ready for either one more coat of super-build primer, or for the initial coats of finish primer:

And another from underneath:

That's it for now. I didn't make any progress on anything else, having spent all of my spare time sanding.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Some primer, finally

I have been waiting for a nice warm day to allow me to apply multiple coats of primer in succession -- if you wait too long, you have to sand between coats. This past weekend was quite unproductive due to more crappy weather. The PNW is like this every year -- just when you think you've made it to summer, it goes and rains for weeks on end.

I have made a little bit of progress on the daggerboard case. Here's the foam side pieces, with the HD foam cutouts done; you can see the HD pieces stacked off to the left as well:

Here's something that is kinda cool. Obviously the tops and bottoms of the case sides are angled - but they're not the same. And the plans only give the side length dimensions, not the angles. How to cut this accurately and straight? After some thought, I remembered I could use a little high-school trig (inverse tangent) to calculate the angles, then just use them to configure the angle guide on the table saw:

I'm not claiming any brilliance here; what's cool about it is that this is the first time in my memory that I've ever been able to use high school trig for a practical application. Maybe I need to get out more. :-)

My method of edge-gluing foam, is to slather some putty on one edge with a popsicle stick, clean off the gross excess from top and bottom, join and position the pieces on a piece of plastic, scrape off any excess that squeezes out the top, lay more plastic on top, then set something heavy on top of that to keep both foam pieces flat. You do get some squeezeout on the bottom, but the top is usually in pretty good shape as far as not needing much sanding. Sometimes there will be some gaps in the joints on the bottom, but that's easy enough to fix on a second pass. Here's the case sides after gluing in the HD foam:

On Sunday I set up some chains, so I could hang my floats for priming\painting:

I am not worried about the tent frame being able to support it -- 100+ pounds (I haven't weighed the floats yet - will do so after final paint) isn't that much. The attachment is just a threaded hook bolted to a 2x4, then hung from the chains with a s-hook:

Today was a beautiful day, 75 deg F after work, and I decided it was my chance to finally get going on some primer. First thing to do was open up the cans of primer and converter, and mix them up. The material in both cans had settled to an extreme degree; at first it looked like I had bought two cans of sludge (bottom 6-8 inches was solid material):

The can of white primer above is shown post-mixing; I've just gotten started on the converter on the right. By the way, those yellow clip-on can spouts in the picture above are awesome -- what a awesome mess-saver.

After much mixing, I finally had transformed the sludge in both cans back into a homogenous mixture (I wonder if a paint or hardware store would let me borrow\use their mechanical agitators?). I then used a high-quality 7", 1/4" nap roller to start applying primer to the starboard float:

This is Alexseal's "high build" primer; they say it is comprised of 57% solids (after seeing the sludge, I believe it) and getting the fairing compound covered up was pretty easy. I applied three coats on before it got dark. Here's a couple pictures of how it looked right after I got done:

And from the rear:

Applying primer while having the float hung up like this wasn't as easy as I thought it would be -- the float wanted to swing all over the place. Spraying would not have such an issue, but I'm not willing to spray this poisonous stuff in my backyard.

There are only a few imperfections that the primer didn't fill in. Next step will be to mount the float horizontally in the frames again, fix the imperfections with fairing compound as needed, sand this primer coat down, and get it ready for the "finish" primer coats.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Memory lane: second boat project (part 2/finito)

I finished attaching the rowboat hardware as of Tuesday evening. Here is a picture of the main seat, it is hinged in the middle to give access to the "storage compartment":

My name, "Bothell, WA", and the (very) approximate completion date ("12/2006"), are burned into the bottom of the seat as well, for posterity.

I'm proud of the hinge mortising you see there (sorry, it's not a very close-up shot). I traced the outline of the hinges onto the seats, then cut-out the hinge mortises free-hand with a router. A bit painstaking - I won't say it's perfect, but it looks pretty darn good to me. The seat opens quite easily too, considering I aligned the hinges by hand.

Here's the whole boat from a front-angle:

And from the back:

(The painter is a genuine halyard line, from Fisheries Supply. Nothing but the best for this baby!)

Even though everything was attached on Tuesday I wanted to give it one more day to cure just in case. What I mean is, every single screw hole was pre-screwed, then coated\washed out with raw epoxy before the fitting was attached for the final time. The brass handles on the transom also had their bolt holes epoxied, and the bolts themselves have a lock-washer, a flat-washer, and a small dab of Loctite. I am confident that my fittings won't be falling off anytime soon. The fittings themselves are mostly brass, but the screws\bolts are all silicon bronze.

When Wednesday evening rolled around, I was all excited to get this thing in the water. Turned out we had one small problem. The darn thing doesn't fit in the back of my wife's SUV! Arghh! (yep, in two years I never bothered to actually measure it.) And I wasn't in the mood to attempt tying it on top of the car. This kinda killed the excitement, and I ended up working on the F22 instead. Later that evening, my wife had the idea that we could rent a U-haul pickup to get the boat to the water (isn't she great?). I figured that would work and made plans to do it the next day.

Thursday rolls around, and we get a U-haul pickup. Can't beat the $20 per day rate. After driving it home, we load up the boat:

I did not feel like building my own oars, so instead I bought them from Shaw & Tenney - they are simple basic flat-blade oars, made from Spruce. I don't think my boat really needs such nicely made oars given how much I will probably be using the boat, but hey, you only live once!

Then we drove the boat over to Martha Lake. I was all into watching the other drivers, seeing if they were checking out my cool looking rowboat. Quite a few folks seemed interested. And finally, the moment I was waiting for: she floats!


I've never rowed before in my life, and it's definitely not a natural skill for me. But I had a lot of fun, rowing across the lake a couple of times; here I'm coming back from the second trip:

The boat seemed to row pretty good to me. Keeping it in a straight line seems to be dependent on having an equal strength pull from each arm which takes some careful concentration (though I bet it becomes second nature to folks who row a lot). The boat felt very stable out on the water. The boat did seem to hobby-horse up and down a bit on the long axis, this might be because of my (excess) weight unbalancing it. Here's the happy boat builder right before we took the boat out of the water:

Right after I got out, some waterfowl came by to visit as well:

Then we loaded the boat back into the truck and headed for home. To avoid the need for the U-haul in future, I think I will get a trailer hitch on my wife's car and a small trailer to go along with it. I'd need the hitch anyway eventually, for my F22.

I still haven't got a name for this boat. "Jay's Folly", perhaps? :-) One of my neighbors has been calling it the "Bonhomme Richard" almost since the first day I started the project (my apologies to John Paul Jones). Whatever its name is, this has been a fun project and I am glad I did it.

And to everyone who comes to this blog for F22 info: thanks for being patient while I finished off this little project. Perhaps this rowboat can be my yacht tender, when I build IanF's F-52 SuperSuperCruiser Catamaran in ten years?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Float fairing done, and other stuff

I had hoped to have at least one of my floats in primer by now, but it didn't work out that way. The weather over the last three days was crap and it didn't stop raining until today so I decided to hold off.

So what's been done otherwise? Well, the big news is that both floats are done with fairing (at least until the primer is on and I can see how bad things look). The port float hatch holes have been cut out and had their edges epoxy-filled:

I decided with most of the fairing done, that it was high time to do a clean up job on the tent floor, especially underneath the strongback where all of the dust settles:

The above picture is post-cleanup. It may not look great until you realize that the dust was 2-3 inches high under there, so it's a big improvement.

I also worked on the chainplate slots. (If you're wondering after reading this, yes I basically followed the procedure that Henny used on his F39 float chainplates.) First I measured and marked where the cuts should go, and then got out the hacksaw:

After sawing down to close to the right mark, I used a router with a long straight bit to chop through all of the excess wastage:

And once the depth was close to where it needed to be, I used a file to take it down the rest of the way:

Quite frankly, working around a laminated-in-place chainplate with saws, routers, and files is nerve-wracking. I don't remember why I let this job wait until this point, but I highly recommend to other builders that they do this work before the chainplate is laminated in place. What if you slip while cutting and do irreparable damage to the chainplate? It's a lot of work to remove and replace it at this point!

In case it is not obvious, Ian's current (tentative) choice of Precourt deadeye for the F22 is the SBDI model and as far as I can tell, his slot measurement specifications in the plans are spot-on for that model.

I wavered between using the "washer" insulation method, or trying to mold in an epoxy-layer for insulation. Eventually I decided on the latter, and Henny with his Most Awesome Blog came to the rescue again to show me how to do it. One of my neighbors was kind enough to plane down some maple wood blocks to the specified slot thickness (17mm) and drill a 3/8" hole at the right spot; this then locates the block precisely using a temporary steel pin:

(You only need two blocks to do both chainplates simultaneously; my neighbor prepped an extra for me just in case.)

Next I wrapped the blocks in masking tape, and cut away the tape from the pin hole. I tried to wrap the pins in tape as well, but the clearances were tight enough that this didn't work; thankfully it turned out to be not necessary anyway, the epoxy doesn't stick to the steel very well. I mixed up a batch up of high-density putty, stuffed some in a cake-icing bag, and did my best to squirt as much into the cracks on either side of the blocks as I could:

I was worried how well things would release after curing, but it turned out to be easy. A sharp rap with a screwdriver and hammer knocked the pins out, and the blocks themselves only needed one or two small hammer hits to release as well. Here's what it looked like right after removing the block:

I didn't get around to cleaning up the wastage yet, but that should be the easy part after all this. I'm glad I've got this job mostly done, so when I prime the floats, the interior of the chainplate slots can get primered too.

The other thing I worked on today, was making a new daggerboard case mold. I had already made a mold late last year, using the method outlined in the plans. Unfortunately, I used 1/4" plywood for the main surface and the more I thought about it, the more I felt that this would bow under the vacuum pressure. So I decided to scrap that one, and do a new one in a more solid design style.

After getting some particle board from the hardware store, my neighbor (same one - thanks Sean!) ripped three pieces to the right width for me, since my table saw is not quite wide enough for the job:

Next I screwed them all together, sanded the edges, and did my best to produce the "slight taper" that the plans call for:

Last thing I did for the night, was carefully cover the whole thing in masking tape:

That's all folks. Tune in next time to see if Jay can actually get some primer out of the can...or not. :-)

Memory lane: second boat project (part 1)

(This post is titled "memory lane", but the second half of it could really be considered "current events". )

Sometime during the winter of 2004-2005, I started to get the boat building bug again. I was looking at plans, dreaming of starting (and finishing) another boat project, etc. The first hurdle to get past was my wife - eventually I wore her down though and was able to get "permission" to start a new project. This time around, I decided to build a plywood stitch-and-glue design -- no more fussy cedar strips for me!

I wanted to keep this new project simple, to maximize the chances of success. A local Pacific NW designer, Sam Devlin, had a small dinghy design, called the Polliwog, that required no scarfing -- sounded good to me! I bought the plans (and Sam's stitch-and-glue how-to video), picked up some 1/4" marine plywood, got some more epoxy (my previous small stock had crystallized badly in the garage over the winters), and got started in May 2005.

Unfortunately, I don't have any good pictures to show the "stitching" phase of construction -- however, I remember it going very fast and easy. (My wife came out to the garage after a few hours, and was like "wow, it looks like a boat already".)

This picture was taken after the stitching and inside taping was done; I'm puttying all of the wire holes from the exterior:

(Yes she's a short and stubby craft -- a design constraint of only 4'x8' panels with no scarfing has that effect.)

Here it is with the basic "interior" nearly complete:

I admit, my fillets are sloppy and oversized -- but I can guarantee that the boat is never going to fall apart.

See the rails in the picture above? Each rail (inner, outer) is made of 3/4" mahogony. I was able to clamp, glue, and screw the inside rails reasonably okay, but when I tried to do the outside ones, I ended up cracking both rails in half (the hull curve looks deceptively mild). After making up a new set of outside rails, I soaked them in water for a few days, then clamped them to the boat soaking wet. After drying in place, they fit the outside curve of the boat pretty good and I had no problems getting them attached.

Here I'm getting ready to glass the outside:

Think I have a big enough piece of glass there? :) Here's the lamination in progress:

(What's that, you ask? Did I try to optimize the glass-to-resin ratio? Um, no, not much. :)

Here I'm filling the flotation compartments with foam; that stuff is amazing. It gets really hot as it cures - I could feel heat waves coming through the hull.

The interior is coated with epoxy, but it is not glassed other than at the join seams. Here's another picture of it:

Shortly after this, I got my first taste of fairing (this is where I was using S3's QuikFair stuff). This picture was around the time I was putting up the tent for the F22:

Yes - you should definitely wear a suit while fairing. I somehow got fairing dust down my pants and ended up with a small rash that took weeks to go away. Also, I agree with those folks who say that building with plywood doesn't make the fairing job easy -- covering and blending the tape seams was quite a chore.

Here I'm priming the interior; this was in late November 2006 and I was really pushing the limits temperature-wise, even in the garage with a small electric oil-filled radiator going:

I painted the interior with three coats of S3's LPU paint (their "Bainbridge White" color), and it turned out reasonably well (for an interior), especially considering the outside temperatures. I think the contrast between the boat and the snowy car in this picture is great:

I then tried to paint the exterior the following weekend -- unfortunately, I was still trying to master the right thinning ratio or application technique for S3's paint, and the paint job had a ton of runs. This was depressing after all of that hard fairing work - I was expecting a super glossy result. I blamed myself for trying to paint in cold weather. By this time I had also started on my F22, so I decided to leave the dinghy alone until summer.

Earlier this month, I sanded the exterior down and got rid of all of the runs:

Then I repainted it a day later (the color is S3's "Lopez Blue"):

It looks pretty good in the above picture, but I'm still not 100% satisfied with the results. I ended up with what is called a "workboat" finish, instead of the Ferrari-look I was going for. However, I've decided that for this boat this is as good as it gets -- I really need to focus on the F22, and I want to be able to say that the dinghy is DONE, just for my own sense of self-worth. (Well, for a little self-worth anyway...taking two years to build an 8' dinghy is not much to be proud of. :)

With the paint done, next up was varnishing all of the clear-finished wood pieces. Having so many pieces of clear-finished wood means that just masking the boat off is almost a two hour chore in itself. Here's the masking job:

And here's some of the wet varnish (I think it is looking pretty good):

And here it is with the masking off:

All that is left now, is to attach the fittings, throw it in the car, and take it to a lake and see if it floats. I will cover those events in another post in a week or so; the blog will then return to 100% pure unadulterated F22 coverage. :-)