Sunday, June 10, 2007

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. :-)

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