Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Inner gunwales, seat tops, and fillets

Before trying again on the inner gunwales, I spent a little time fitting the cockpit seat tops nicely, and cut out a seat top for the forward thwart. Here's both my men enjoying coffee (frothy milk in the case of our cat) aboard the boat:

Rather than have small round hatches in the bulkhead to access the space under the forward thwart, I elected to put larger rectangular hatches in the top, ala pathfinder. This will make this space a lot more useable for stowing gear that I want to stay dry. I'm already making a battery mount for this place, and will be putting all the electronics (radio, ais transponder etc) in here. The coaming will need to be trimmed a little to ensure the hatches can open, I think.

I also enlarged the centerboard pivot hole and did a test fitting of the pivot and bushes. It all fits nicely, and the centerboard turns easily on its pivot. I'll add some caps to either end of the pivot to locate it, and some o-rings to keep water out of the boat.

Much work is still needed to clean up the centerboard slot and glass it. This can wait until I've done planking and decks, and even painted the inside of the boat.

After the initial failure, putting the inner gunwale in turned out to be quite easy. I just steamed them in two halves, leaving a clamp on the scarf. One other tip I learned was to ensure none of the Tassie oak tea that collects in the tubing runs back into the kettle, as it causes the kettle to boil over. This is easily accomplished by ensuring the kettle is at the top, so the water runs down away from it into a handily placed bucket. Also there's no need to wait while steaming. I had my best success when I just started pulling the gunwale in to the frames as soon as the steam was running. I'd pull each tie in a little, then work back along the gunwale and give each tie another pull, until after ten minutes or so it was held in its notches. Then I just kept the steam up until the kettle boiled dry. Much less exciting than trying to guess when the kettle was about to run dry and rushing to get it tied in place.

After running the plane and spokeshave down the gunwales, and a little time finessing the fillets and coating much of the boat in epoxy, it's really starting to look the part. I really love the curve the deck will take, swooping down around the cockpit, coming up for the foredeck, and mostly levelling off by the time it gets to the bow.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Finished stringers, steaming and inner gunwale scarf failure

We finished the stringers today. It's really starting to come together. Here's a side view, taken from the vantage point of my bench:

It was actually pretty easy - we used 12mm x 20mm Tasmanian oak for the stringers, and there was no need for steam - they just went straight in. The bow is really rigid now.

There were a few difficult bits. A couple of the frames were not quite spot on for fair stringers. I found the lowest stringer had to come up about 3mm from plan on bulkhead 3, and the top stringer had to come down about 6mm on bulkhead 6. I'm vacillating about dropping the middle stringer on bulkhead 6 a couple of mm too. Here's the detail for the stringer join on bulkhead 6. Note the spacer that I've made that sits above the stringer.

Once the notches are adjusted, the line of the stringer is really lovely.

We experimented with steaming on a deck reinforcing piece - I added some 18mm square Tasmanian oak half way between the inner gunwale and coaming, from bulkhead 1 back to bulkhead 4. The plan has a fair bit of unsupported deck - I thought it would be useful to add something. Anyway, we used a technique I've seen on youtube for steaming the timber, where you stick it in some tubular bag material and pump steam through. After twenty minutes we just stuck it in its slots while it was still in the bag - easy peasy.

We tried to repeat the exercise with 20mm x 30mm Tasmanian oak for the inner gunwale, but had rather less success. The process was a bit of a comedy routine - the bag came off the steamer just as we were ready to put the gunwale on the boat, then George's mobile rang causing much juggling. I tried to bung it on the boat but found I couldn't tie knots with oven mitts on. Then finally the scarf join half way along the gunwale came apart, and that was the end of that. Here's the scarf join before we started. I'd have said it was a real good one.

And here's the sorry mess afterwards. It was definitely a failure of the epoxy. Both sides look much the same. I'm thinking epoxy and steaming are fundamentally incompatible. I'll either have to scarf after steaming, use timber the full length without scarf joins (not available locally) or else build the gunwale up from multiple thinner pieces that don't need steaming.

Sunday, 7 September 2014


With the transom on, there's nothing for it but to get stuck in to installing the stringers. I'm trying hard to catch up to John Florance's Navigator build. It's hard work, as he's already up to the second course of planking. To give myself a bit of an unfair advantage I've enlisted the help of my mate George, who I used to go sailing with on his Tasman 26, and who's flown all the way across the country to help out.

Here he is scarfing stringers while I supervise. Using him as slave labour like this is only reasonable. I mean he's the one who gave me the whole sailing bug anyway. I suggested today that he should sail his boat around next time so we could duck out to the Abrolhos islands. I think that's only fair.

Indeed George was doing such a fine job, I figured I might as well spread my sleeping bag out on the cockpit floor and have a nap. It's very comfortable there, and my boat doesn't snore at all!

We started by roughing out cockpit seat tops from 6mm ply, which hold the rear four bulkheads nice and securely. Then we started at bulkhead 8 and cut a notch in each bulkhead for the lower stringer. We did this using the tenon saw, and then knocking out the ply from the middle using a 19mm chisel, with the bulkhead supported by a length of pine clamped to it to prevent splitting.

By doing one bulkhead at a time and test fitting with a piece of timber, we were able to ensure the angle of each notch is right for the path of the stringer, with no huge gaps.

Once we were happy with the notches in the rear four on both sides, we glued the stringer in and clamped it overnight, before finessing the notches in the bow. This was mainly because we don't have enough clamps to do two stringers full length. Here's the aft port side all glued up and clamped.

Then we worked the notches in the bow to get nice fair curves in both stringers, and finally notched them into the stem. The goal for each notch is to bury the stringer deep enough that a couple of wipes with the plane on both the stringer and bulkhead will five us a decent gluing surface for the planks.

The view from forward shows things are nicely symmetrical. There's quite a bit of bracing to ensure the stringers don't pull the bulkheads out of true, especially towards the bow where the bends are more interesting.

From aft, you can see the rather interesting collection of clamps to pull the stringers in while holding everything true. I'm thinking fewer clamps will be needed as we move up, because the prior lot of stringers will hold the boat true for us.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Putting an arse end on the boat

Never one to do things the easy way, I wanted to put some nice timber on the arse end transom of my boat. I'm really liking Jarrah, for its warmth, durability, and absolute pigheadedness. Unfortunately I couldn't find Jarrah in thin planks to use as a veneer locally, so had to make do with 20mm thick stuff. Here's the first couple of planks, having been planed accurately flat on edge and glued together.

Now that I was working on the transom, Mogget lost interest in the rowing thwart, so I had an opportunity to take a photo. Cool, huh? I rounded the edges over with a 6mm round over bit, making them easy to work with and comfy to sit on.

Once the four planks for the transom veneer were joined edgewise, I planed the back flat, and mixed up an enormous batch of epoxy, which I slathered on both the Jarrah planking and some 6mm ply. While it was setting up, I put as much weight on it as I could conveniently do.

Barrett Faneuf was all fancy with her transom, and used a saw to cut the planks edgewise into thin slices. I have no saw. What I do have (thanks Dai!) is a thumping big router with a 25mm bit, a huge hand plane, and a whole lot of stupidity enthusiasm.

After a couple of days of going at it with the router, I had a really rough surface approximately 6mm thick, which I could then plane smooth. This I did with my awesome English Stanley no. 7, the smootherator.

So then I cut my veneered ply out into a transom shape, and sanded out some minor diggage from the plane. One of the things that makes Jarrah so strong is that the grain goes all over the place. So the plane tends to dig in a little, even when it's set for a really fine cut and extra sharp.

To celebrate, I applied a quick coat of epoxy. It's protective, honest. Doesn't that look nice. Actually seriously the epoxy is a barrier to ensure no grey silica gets into the grain, hopefully meaning there's less sanding needed on the transom once the planking is done.

Building the doubler out of Tasmanian Oak took longer than building the transom itself. Much work with the tenon saw and chisels. One advantage to having really sharp chisels is that when you cut yourself, they make a lovely clean cut, with no bruising or jagged edges. Said cut heals much quicker and neater than a cut from a blunt chisel.

Putting the doubler on the transom gave me another opportunity to use all my clamps at once.

Here's a test fit of the transom on the arse end of the boat. Look ma, no clamps!

And finally here's a view from the rowing thwart, all glued up. I used some rope to pull it forward towards bulkhead 8, seating it positively against the back of the cockpit seats. A couple of clamps pull it downward into the floor, and a final spreader clamp ensures the cockpit seat fronts are properly seated.

The astute will note there's nothing between the two sides of bulkhead 8. It's a deliberate deviation from plan, along with ditching most of the bits between the two sides of bulkheads 5 and 6. I worked out that if I ditch the back of the cockpit seats, there's enough space on the floor for me to lay out my sleeping bag and sleep. Not dreadfully comfortably, mind, as there's not a huge amount of space down the side of the centerboard case, but certainly doable. Here's a test fit of my sleeping bag on the floor of the boat, complete with cat (and you thought you were going to read a whole blog post without a picture of my cat). Here's a pro tip. If the cat goes deep into the sleeping bag and his eyes turn completely black, it means he's about to kill you.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Playing with paint, finishing the rowing thwart, sharpening my spokeshave, and centerboard pivot

A bit of a laundry list this week. I'm saving some money to buy Jarrah for laminating on my transom, so have been doing other bits and pieces in the meantime. Firstly I thought I'd have a thorough play with my new aquacote paint, and use it to paint my centerboard.

I've used epoxy paints before, I've used water based paints, and I've used polyurethanes. This stuff is a bit of a mix of all of the above. The undercoat is a two part waterbased epoxy. No isocyanates as far as I can tell (yay!), and simplified clean up because you can flush most of the mess out with water. There's a brush-clogging residue left though that has to be removed with epoxy thinners.

This stuff is extremely thick. It builds quicker than any paint I've used before, and refuses to level. I used a 5mm nap roller to put the first layer on, then tried a brush for the second coat. I think I'll try thinning it out rather more than the recommended 10% next time, to save myself quite a bit of sanding.

Based on my experience with the undercoat, I tried spraying the top coats, a polyurethane with a cross-linker that you bung in just before going to work. Again, 10% thinning as recommended is nowhere near enough. It sets up in mere minutes. I can see a path to gloss without buffing, but I've got a ways to go before I reach that. Anyway, here's the centerboard. From two feet it looks fantastic. Just don't look too closely!

I finished the rowing thwart and Mogget immediately decided it was the perfect perch. He's been sitting there all day, and I haven't the heart to move him to take a photo.

I also installed inspection hatches in the cockpit seat fronts, plus lots of bits of Tassie Oak reinforcing for the cockpit seats, and lots of epoxy fillets. I'm hoping that if I'm really methodical in filleting everything that's supposed to be watertight, then they will be. Watertight, that is.

All this work left my new spokeshave rather blunt. The blade is very short and won't fit in my honing guide. I fashioned a little adapter from some scrap aluminium so I can fit it in, with an indexing thingy to ensure it's held at the right angle:

With it securely held in the guide, my new Japanese waterstones do a sterling job of honing the blade. This Veritas spokeshave is just such an amazing jewel of a tool. I can see myself buying more in the future.

Last but not least, I turned up a pivot pin and bushings for my centerboard out of phosphor bronze. The pivot is 19mm diameter, and the OD of the bushings is 25mm. Should be plenty strong. Alas nobody I know has a 5/8" UNC die I can blag to make the threads, so I'm going to have to buy one. This is a much closer view of the centerboard, and you can see the imperfections in the paint. To be honest I'm not sure how perfect a boat has to be. I'm used to painting really over the top stuff (bicycles and motorbikes, which get people looking from a few inches). The boats I've sailed have been rather rough and ready, and worked fine. This centerboard is going to be under the boat, and is likely going to be smacked against rocks and sand. I think I'm just going to have to shove my OCD in a box and get on with it. I can let my OCD back out for stuff that's really visible.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Yay, the last of the bulkheads.

Installation of bulkhead 8 prompted a moment of contemplation by me with the project supervisor, Mogget. I'm glad to say he's happy with the progress being made on his newest cat toy, and is enthusiastic about the upcoming installation of fishy smells and places to hide.

We celebrated by cutting out the cockpit seat fronts and installing those, along with more 19x19 bracing. John's offsets were spot on for the cockpit sides. I just drew them, cut them out, took a couple of light cuts with the plane, then epoxied them in place. One change I made from plan is to do the seats as a single piece extending all the way forward to bulkhead 5. This is because I'm doing the rowing thwart differently, so there's no cross brace at bulkhead 6. For that matter, there's no cross brace on bulkhead 8 either. I've elected to maximise the cockpit floor space, with the hope that at some point It'll make a semi-comfortable place to sleep while afloat.

Here's my latest weapon of choice for cleaning up these subtle boat-like concave curves. It's a Canadian Veritas spokeshave. A truly wondrous bit of kit. Beautifully made. Here I've just used it to trim the cockpit seat fronts flush with the bracing. I wouldn't have been able to do that with my normal planes, as it's an inside curve.

I used some clamps back to front to hold the end of the cockpit seat front against bulkhead 5. I haven't been much of a fan of these clamps up until now, because they're a bit flimsy. The ability to do this has given me new respect for them.

Another project that I knocked over while avoiding cutting out the rest of the bulkheads was a bit more work on my bench. I added a plank, taking the width from 750mm to 825mm, and added some 30x40 Jarrah lips to the front and back, which allow me to clamp things to the face of the bench. Then I went at it with my wonderful Stanley number 7 plane until it was perfectly flat, and finished it with a simple mix of gum terpentine and boiled linseed oil. I also bought a Dawn Wilton woodworking vice, which I've attached under the left side.

The Dawn vice, while very nicely made, was disappointingly not made in Australia, as I was led to believe from their website. Instead it's Taiwanese. It's also actually a Wilton, branded Dawn. I like the vice, but I'm a bit miffed at being mislead about its origins.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Nearly done with bulkheads and the beginnings of the rowing thwart

I've got to admit I'm over cutting out bulkheads. Cutting ply with the jigsaw just isn't terribly enjoyable. There's really no way to keep it from splitting and I go through blades quite quickly.

That said, I'm close to done with bulkheads. I installed six and seven this weekend. They're quite floppy for now, being secured only by their corners.

It's got some serious volume now. Just one more bulkhead and I'll be set to put in cockpit seat fronts and stringers.

Speaking of seats - I installed the first of four slats for the rowing thwart. These are Jarrah, a native WA timber. It's one of the toughest timbers I know of. I'm told young Endeavour was built exclusively from Jarrah under the waterline. It's dense and incredibly tough. The plan is to use Jarrah for the thwart, the outer gunwale and rubbing strip, and for the bowsprit.

As planned, the centerboard case comes up level with the rowing thwart, so it's a comfortable seat. I sat on it today and sang "row row row your boat", much to Perry's bemusement.

The forward slat is structural - It braces the centerboard case. The jarrah runs right across to the sides of the boat. I pinned the slat to the centerboard case with dowels, so it should be plenty strong.

While I was working today, I had my new marine VHF radio on, listening to the comings and goings at the port. The radio is one of my tax return splurges - a cool little Icom one with inbuilt GPS and the ability to send an automated distress call at the press of a button.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Buying expensive tools and bling, getting on top of sharpening, and gradual progress.

One regret I have is not cutting the notches for the stringers and bulkheads in the bulkheads while they were still flat on the bench. When they're mounted to the spine and floor they're really very floppy, and it's quite difficult to get them to stay still to cut them. Luckily, my frustration at this job coincided with getting a huge pile of money back from the tax man (one of the few perks I get from living half the year in the middle of nowhere is that I can claim a "remote area tax rebate" come tax time, which is quite generous). So I bought things that would help in boat building with my windfall.

First one is a lovely little Veritas crosscut saw, which cuts through the ply very easily and makes a lovely cut. Here it is having just cut the inner gunwale notch on bulkhead 4.

I also bought supplies (only half of which have arrived thus far) for sharpening my tools. I figured a 300 grit, 1200 grit and 6000 grit Japanese waterstone would do the job, along with a flat steel plate for dressing. Alas only the 300 grit stone and plate showed up, so after some thought I dug out some aluminium oxide and cerium oxide grit I had left over from making a telescope mirror (long story) and had a play.

I find that if I'm patient and methodical, and work tools with the 300 grit stone, then the 25um, 15um, 9um aluminium oxide on the plate, then strop with an old belt loaded up with cerium oxide, I get a blade that I can see my own reflection in and that's sharp enough to do surgery with. When that blade meets a bit of timber, it just cuts through it like it's butter.

A few wipes on the 300 grit stone then five minutes with 25um and 15um aluminium oxide gets me most of the way there in a tiny fraction of the time. No reflection, alas, but I can still make lovely cuts easily. It'll be interesting to see how the 1200 and 6000 grit waterstones compare.

While blowing money, I also splurged on some bronze. I bought rowlocks and some cleats, just because they were shiny. I may have stuffed up a bit with the rowlocks though. These are ones that fold over so they're below the gunwale. I had it in mind that they go on the outer gunwale and fold onto the outside of the boat, but all the pictures I've seen since buying them show them mounted to the inner gunwale of a boat without a deck and folding down inside. Hmmm. I figure I can either just stick them on the outside and be damned (it is after all my boat), put them on the inside of the coaming, or just build a whole extra boat around them with no deck, and buy some more conventional (not to mention cheaper) deck mount ones for this boat. Anyway, they're plenty shiny, but I can see how to make them much shinier.

Meanwhile I continue to cut pieces of wood up and glue them to other pieces. I've epoxied the floor ply to the keel plank (making the whole thing now too heavy to lift) and added the lower cockpit seat stringers, plus both sides of bulkhead 5. I've also started cutting notches in all the bulkheads for the inner gunwale. I figure once all the bulkheads are mounted I'll put the inner gunwale in next, which will give everything much needed stiffness and make the job of cutting notches a lot easier.