Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mud Season

So here in Northern New England we have a dreaded 5th season known as mud season.  It's the time just after the snow melts and just before the black flies start biting.  Mud season is a sub-season of spring and in my case it means that I can't go near the boat until things dry out and the ground stabilizes. Of course there is a lot to do, but mud season gives me an excuse to find other things to do.

I have been picking away at finishing the forward hatch though, and I decided to get all artsy and see if I could do an inlay.  I've never really done inlays before so I cracked open the interwebs one night and found some good youtube videos by 'The Apprentice and The Journeyman'.  Seemed easy enough so I gave it a shot.  I didn't take any photos of the process because I never thought it would come out as nice as it did, but you can see the whole process on the link above.

In any event, I decided on a compass rose with an alternating wood pattern, and I had some leftover teak from the top deck and a chunk of ash from the firewood pile. The ash is significant because it was a beautiful tree next to our house and my wife and daughter's favorite tree.  Unfortunately, it came down during one of the snowstorms this winter and I had to cut it up.  I saved a few pieces and cut them up on the bandsaw for use later on.   The ash will live on.

So with the help of the youtube videos I did some basic math and cut out a bunch of 22.5 degree wedges with a little jig I made for the bandsaw and glued them all up.  The result was surprisingly good, so I took then next step and traced the pattern on a piece of sapele and chiseled out the relief before dropping the glued up compass rose.

I sanded it all down and then embedded it along with a bunch of mahogany strips that I had left over on the underside of the hatch with epoxy.  After a good sanding, I applied the first of several coats of varnish.   Next, once the ground hardens up and I can get on the boat again, I'll get the hardware mounted and adjusted and then it's just a matter of more varnish and I'll be done.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hatching the Hatch

Getting close now, I almost have a finished hatch on my hands.  This was my first foray into Teak Decking Systems SIS 440 (or any teak seam sealer for that matter) and other than the long cure time, it was easy enough to use.

I started by taping off the teak planks between the seams to minimize cleanup.  I don't think it's needed because everything needs to be sanded down anyway, but I'm sure it didn't hurt.  Once everything was taped off pretty well, I clipped the end of the tube and popped it into a mechanical caulking gun.  I squeezed out the black goo into each of the seams, letting it mound up behind the nozzle (as instructed).  My cheapo mechanical caulking gun doesn't really have the leverage to easily get the caulking to flow and my hand quickly began to cramp.  Fortunately, I have large gorilla hands, but someone with small hands or little hand strength would likely have some difficulty.

I literally had just enough caulking to get all the seams filled, but once complete I took a 1 inch piece of scrap wood and smeared each of the seams to make sure everything was filled and there were no bubbles.  At that point I set it aside for 48 hours and let it cure up.

This afternoon I tested out the caulking with my fingernail and decided it was cured enough to sand, so I took my random orbit sander and 60 grit discs and sanded everything flat.  It cleaned up really easily and didn't take long to get nice crisp seams and that teak deck look.

I finished up by putting a quick coat of varnish on the rails around the deck to get a feel for how the contrasting woods will look.  Pretty sharp!  So, now there is lots more varnish to do and I will also epoxy in 1/8" mahogany strips to the underside of the deck to cover up the plywood and to provide a final layer for additional strength.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Shaping Up

Progress has been pretty decent with the hatch over the past few days.  I epoxied in the 1/4" plywood subdeck to the rabbets running the perimeter of the hatch and then coated it with a layer of un-thickened epoxy.  Originally, I was planning on laminating in a layer of 6oz cloth, but I was a little worried that the additional thickness would cause the teak planks to sit proud of the perimeter of the hatch.

Basically, the rabbet I cut was 1/2" deep and the 1/4" plywood plus 1/4" teak decking fills that rabbet up with no room for anything else.  It probably would have been fine, but I decided that instead I would laminate a piece of 1706 biaxial fabric to the underside of the hatch before putting on a wood facia.  That would probably be overkill so I may end up just doing a 6oz layer, but I want to get a feel for how stiff the center of the hatch is with both teak and plywood laminated.

Anyway, after I epoxied over the plywood deck, I noticed that the center of the hatch had a slight depression in it.  A straight edge revealed that I had an 1/8" depression.  I want the teak to sit as flat as possible so I mixed up a batch of Quick Fair and troweled it over the depressed section.  I didn't totally eliminate it, but took care of most of it.

Next, I did some shaping at the corners and cut a 6 degree sloping angle from the bottom up on the sides to give it a 'sporty' look.  Not really, but one of the things I didn't like about my last hatch was that even though it was curved to fit the camber of the deck it looked a bit boxy.  I think this should help.

With that complete, it was time to measure and cut the teak strips.  The fore and aft length was easy, just measure total distance between the rabbets and subtract 1/2" (1/4 gap for black caulking on either end), but the side to side proved to be more challenging.  It felt like I was back in grade school and was faced with a word problem that went like this:
You have 10 pieces of wood, each 3 inches wide and they need to be evenly spaced over 21.125 inches.  Each piece needs to have a .25 inch gap between the next board.  How wide does each board need to be?
 The answer: 2.065 inches.

Once I had checked and rechecked my calculations, I went ahead and ripped them on the table saw. Fortunately, I was correct, and they all fit nicely.   At that point it was time to glue them in, so using a tube of Jamestown Distributors Total Boat Thixo (the epoxy that is in a caulking tube and mixes when squeezed through a nozzle), I globbed on a bunch on the back of each strip and squished it in place.  Once I had them all on the hatch, I used rubber tile spacers to keep 1/4 inch between each board.
I stacked a bunch of weight on top and let it cure up overnight.  I'm really pleased with how it turned out; I had never worked with teak decking to any degree before, hopefully the black caulking that comes next will work out too.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rabbets and Glue

It's been hectic around here lately, my inner ski bum is battling with my inner boat bum and it's been a really even match even though April starts tomorrow.  The snow is still really deep in the woods and the spring corn snow is prime right now.

Anyway, before epoxying the hatch up, I did manage to cut out a perimeter rabbet 1/2" x 1/2" on the new hatch partly with my router and a sharp chisel in the corners.  It always takes me longer than I expect, but I always do a few test cuts when using the router because it sure can make a mess of things when it gets out of hand. Fortunately it behaved nicely, but I played it safe and stayed away from the ends of the boards which slowed things down more because I needed to carefully chisel out just enough to make a nice 90 degree corner once the boards were joined.   All went well and I'm happy with the way they turned out.

Next I mixed up a small batch of un-thickened epoxy and brushed it into the joints on all the boards, then I added enough Aerosil to thicken up the remaining epoxy along with some fine sapele sawdust to color up the mix for the joints.  Then I just slathered it in all the joints nice and thick so any gaps in the joints would be filled.  I assembled all four rails together and inserted a piece of 1/4" plywood into the rabbet (I had previously measured so it would fit perfectly).  For now the plywood is just there to make sure the hatch is square, but I will eventually laminate it in to provide the substrate for teak decking strips.  Finally I clamped it all up and let it cure.

Next, I'll start working on laminating up the hatch deck.  Right now, my thoughts are to use the 1/4" plywood along with 6oz cloth on the top and bottom.  On the bottom side I will laminate sapele strips to the underside so the plywood will not be visible, and on top will be the teak decking.  The original hatch I did was built in a similar fashion, but I used mahogany strips in place of the plywood.  At the time I was literally swimming in mahogany cutoffs from a friend who was replanking his NY32.

Test fit of plywood sub-deck just before gluing up rails.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I'm Back

Wow, what a winter!  This may be a record for most days I've skied in a year.  I lost count at some point, but I suspect it even beat out the days when I was an unofficial ski bum in college and got a job as a lift operator just so I could get a season's pass.  Unfortunately, most of the ski areas are going to close just as the really nice spring skiing gets going; I was at Waterville Valley today with my son and by mid afternoon the temps were approaching 40 degrees; just warm enough to soften things up a bit, but not so warm that your trying to turn in thick mash potatoes.

Whats left of old hatch
Anyway, this is a boat blog, and even though I did zero boat work over the winter, I got started on my must-do projects for the year.  First and foremost was a new fore hatch which unfortunately wasn't secured well when the boat was hauled this fall and flew off the boat on the highway and was pretty much destroyed.  Damn shame because I built that hatch myself about 10 years ago before the restoration and I was really proud of it.  Although I had other boat projects planned for this spring, this needs to be done and since I always like doing these sort of projects, it should be fun.

The old hatch was a varnished mahogany affair that was really pretty, but it was slippery when standing on it, and it didn't match the sapele coamings and rails that well.  So this one will have a teak deck top and the side rails will be made of sapele.

Late last week I stopped by Goosebay Lumber and picked out a nice 5' length of 6/4 sapele and got started on the hatch.  Fortunately, I was able to get the measurements I needed off the old hatch, so the initial setup was fairly straight forward.  I was going to do hand cut dovetails, but I ended up doing box joints because I just don't have time to do the dovetails.

The box joints still look nice but are easy because most of the work can be done on the tablesaw with a mortise and tenon jib.  Its just a matter of setting each offset and then running the four sides through the saw.  Then move onto the next offset and do the same; repeat until done and the use a fret saw to cut out the waste (Awesome fret saw).

A little filing here and there gave me a really good rough fit that will come together nicely with a little more tweaking.  From there I transferred the deck camber curve to the front and back sides of the hatch and cut them out on the band saw.  Some more filing to smooth out the curves and I did a quick test fit over on the boat to make sure I hadn't totally screwed it up (I hadn't) before I called it a day.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


The boat work has come to a complete halt and I'll be on a boat hiatus until the fluffiness melts away. Until then, I'll be skiing out in the woods of New Hampshire.  See you in the spring!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Close Call

I haven't been doing much on the boat over the past 2 weeks, but I have just about finished up the port bulkhead and just need to install the final trim pieces and re-install the chainplate.  I'm going to try and get to it this week, but the holidays have thrown everything off (the cold doesn't help either).

Speaking of cold, we had some really cold weather the past week and finished off with a day before Thanksgiving snowstorm that dropped about a foot of really heavy snow that made for a big mess. Awfully pretty, but I'm not ready for winter yet. The heavy snow knocked down hundreds of trees in the area and we were one of 300,000 customers without power over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Fortunately we have a big wood stove to keep us warm and the in-laws were only about an hour away and didn't lose power, so we went there for the feast.

The boat and shed narrowly missed getting clobbered during the storm by an old maple that decided to attempt a kamikaze run but fortunately missed. Just barely.  It took me about an hour to cut and pile the attacker and will use it for the woodstove next year.