Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Post

Last post for the year at least. The last month and a half has been pretty crazy and I haven't done much of anything on the boat. The holidays are always kind of a mess when it comes to working on the boat and this year was no exception.  Given that we've had some pretty good weather, I'm kicking myself a bit for not getting out there and forging ahead.  Oh well, I was getting burned out from the constant juggling of boat, family, and job so I took the time off with no regrets.

For the winter, I have 2 main projects; laminate the new toerail and sand the decks fair so once warm weather arrives I can get started with primer and paint.  Today I had some time and decided that I wasn't up for sanding so I jumped into the toerail project (building projects are always better than sanding projects).

I've agonized over how to do the toerail for some time now.  Initially I was going to scarve a bunch of 3/4x3" mahogany and bend it on to the rail, but after talking with a few folks who have done it, I was worried that I would break the rail when bending it on.  It can be done, but I'm not willing to risk several hundred dollars in exotic wood on a chance.  It has to be right the first time.

The method I came up with should look good, will run no risk of breaking, and could possibly be a cheaper solution.  I'm going to laminate 3 - 1" pieces on a form that has the same curve as the bulwark (See bad drawing below).

Anyway, to get started I had to remove the existing toerail.  I left it in place over the course of the recore to serve as a splash guard for the hull, but now that that is about done I'm comfortable removing it.  I had taken out a bunch of the screws previously, but there was still about half left and I had to use a hacksaw to remove the genoa track.  The track was fastened through the entire bulwark and into the cabin where the nuts turned into a rusty ball of nastyness over the years so there was no hope recovering the 5" drift bolts.

Once I had gotten the toerail off I laid 1'x8' pieces of plywood that I had previously cut down on the exposed bulwark and traced the curve of the hull onto them.  I brought them back to my basement shop and screwed a bunch of blocks 3" behind the curve.  Next I test fitted a piece of 1" mahogany to the curve to see how difficult it would be to bend.  To my relief, it bent on without any problem at all.

In the next few weeks or so, I'll take a trip over to Goosebay lumber in Chicester and buy up a bunch of mahogany.  To do the lamination, I'll butt 2 of the plywood forms together (of the 4 total) so I'll only have one scarf in the middle.  I haven't figured out exactly how I'll do the bow and stern because they widen out somewhat. See you next year!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Time is not on my Side

With the combination of cold weather, family nuttiness, snow, and a myriad of other things going on right now I haven't had much time to do anything on the boat, but with the warm temperatures and a reasonably light schedule today, I took the afternoon off and finished up the second coat of fairing compound on the decks surrounding the cockpit.

With about three weeks off I was a bit out of practice with my frosting technique, but the moderate temperature (around 60F) allowed me plenty of work time to get things reasonably smooth.  I'd still rate it about as the most difficult section because of all the edges, corners and troughs that I have to work around.  Nothing a bit of sanding won't take care of though.

With more holiday craziness to come, I probably won't get too much done over the next few weeks, but if I'm able to carve out some time, I'll be starting to sand everything down for primer (in the spring and after more touch ups).  The epoxy season is officially over now so after the sanding I'll be tackling the toerail and a bunch of other project to be determined over the winter.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Are You Freeking Kidding Me?

Really?  It's October.  18 inches?  Come on now.

I love skiing, but it is way too early for this.  Instead of getting the last bit of fairing compound on the aft deck, I had to scramble and split, move, and stack the cord of wood I dropped last winter.  That's usually what November is for.  Normally I get to casually split my wood over a two week period and finish up around Thanksgiving.  Since I don't own anything more than a splitting maul and a few steel wedges, I am pretty sore and my back is a mess.

On the brightside, the shed didn't even flinch at the mass of heavy wet snow that came down.  As you can see in the picture, only a little pile stays on the shed up at the top, I don't even have to knock it off.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Slathering Sidedecks

I didn't have much time over the past week to get much done but I did manage to get the second coat of fairing compound down on the port and starboard side decks from the foredeck to the aft scuppers (mid cockpit area). It's not perfect by any means, but I am starting to get a feel for the technique. For these sections I exclusively used an 11" metal drywall taping knife. It's great for pulling the compound out and spreading it evenly over the deck. Even in some of the tighter areas around the chainplates.

I'm finding that it still works better than the 6 or 4 inch putty knives because it covers a larger area and lays down a smooth swath. It seems that the edges of a putty knife are my enemy, leaving little ridges in the previously spread compound, so the wider knife has fewer edges that I have to try and feather out for a given area. The smaller plastic knives that I have also seem to have a tendency to bow up in the middle slightly as I pull the compound across the deck. This leaves humps that will have to be sanded out later. So I still have to contend with a few ridges with the big knife, but it doesn't bow and lays down a nice flat spread. Unfortunately, the remaining aft section has some really tight spots that I will probably have to use a smaller knife on, but we'll see when I get there.

I think that I will have just enough time to get the second coat on the aft deck and maybe a few spot fills before the cold weather keeps me from doing anymore epoxy work for the season.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fairing Round Two

I just finished applying the second round of fairing compound on the foredeck.  Once it cures up I should be reasonably close to a nice looking deck that's ready for primer.  Of course I'll have to go along the edges to clean up any ragged spots, but overall I think I've taken care of any low spots.

In any event, the non-skid I'll be applying (Kiwigrip) should hide any major sins.  I'll be working round two on the side decks over the next few days.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chainplate Islands

For those that don't know what a chainplate island is (some call them housekeeping pads), they are nothing more than little raised areas where chainplates and other through deck hardware mount.  The idea is that since the pads raise the through deck opening up above the deck, there is less possibility of water intrusion.  Of course you still need to properly bed and seal the fittings but it seems reasonable to me and I think they look nice when made to look integral to the deck.

Originally I was going to do clay molds right on deck like what Don Casey did in Good Old Boat magazine (Issue 65 March/April 2009), but since Magic is not in the water and I know the boat is not level, I didn't want to cast pads that would be all out of level.  I also have a healthy respect/fear of my jackstands and feel no need to mess around with them unless it's absolutely necessary.  

I decided to build a mold for casting all the pads at once and came up with a design that would satisfy my requirements.   I decided on a 2"x2-3/4" pad with 15 degree bevels on 2 sides (the 2" fore and aft side). Using the miter saw I cut a bunch of beveled blocks 2-3/4" long out of 1/2" birch plywood and then cut 2 straight pieces to run the length of the mold from the same material.

Next I cut out a base plate that would serve as the bottom of the mold and be the interface where the chainplates slide through.  This whole mold building task was due in part to me wanting to put my new to me bandsaw to good use.  The bandsaw didn't disappoint.  I found it on Craigslist and paid $75 dollars for it.  The previous owner had bought a new one because he never had much luck getting this one to track straight without drift.  It was an old Reliant 14" that was just under 200 pounds and I knew I could get it working better than he did.  I replaced the top and bottom guide blocks, got a new Timberwolf blade and trued the wheels.  Now this thing is amazing.  I can cut a perfect line or curve in 5/4 rock maple without it even flinching.  Quite a bargain.  

Anyway, I used the bandsaw to cut out the slots for the chainplates in the bottom plate and a guide plate that would serve as part of the base of the mold.  I put clear packing tape on all the surfaces of the blocks and side rails and then laid down a piece of plastic sheet for the bottom and cut holes for the chainplate openings.  Then I cut out the base pieces with some old pine stock I had and assembled everything together.

I taped up all of the chainplates with masking tape and a layer of packing tape.  The combination gave me a little more than 1/16" on all sides of each chainplate so the fit would be too tight and I would be able to fit sealant into the pad when I rebedded the chainplates.  When I fitted the chainplates into the mold I pressed a little modeling clay around the edges where it goes through so no epoxy would drain out of the mold when I cast everything up.

Once I was satisfied with the setup I mixed up the epoxy, added enough Aerosil to thicken the mixture up to runny mayo consistency and then poured/slopped it in.  I filled each mold roughly 3/16" deep and called it a night.  When I came back the next morning everything appeared to have hardened up nicely so I took apart the mold, but when I tried to extract the first chainplate from the center of the pad, it cracked.  Damn it!

After instructing the kids that sailors have to talk funny and to not tell mom about my funny words,  I spent the next 30 minutes pulling out all but one of the chainplates with the same results.

Epic Fail....

2nd try = Much Better
After consulting the Plastic Classic Forum I came to the conclusion that I had probably mix up a hardener rich batch of epoxy that overheated and caused the brittleness.  I had eyeballed the mix because I did this in my shop and not in the boatshed where I have the proper volumetric measuring cups.  So I cleaned up the mold and coated everything with a paste wax to further aide in release (the chainplates were stubborn when pulling them out of the pads on the first round).  I also added some 'milled' fibers (1/8" fibers cut from 1708 fabric).  I'm going to leave the mold to set for at least 2 days to ensure a proper cure this time and hope I have better results.  I spent way too much time on this project and I hope I don't have to scrap the whole thing.

Update: I couldn't wait any longer.  I unscrewed the blocks from the mold just to get a feel for how things are setting up and I'm happy to report that all the pads popped out of the mold this time with no trouble.  I'll chalk it up to lesson learned: ALWAYS MEASURE YOUR EPOXY RATIOS....

Friday, September 30, 2011

Round One Complete

With the exception of the cabin top I just finished round one of longboarding the decks.  I'm pretty pleased with the result but will need to do a bunch of spot filling in areas that are a bit low.  On the next round I have to address the chainplates since they are a bit raw right now.  I really like the idea of doing little islands that will raise the chainplate/deck interface to prevent water intrusion, but I'm not sure the extra work is worth the trouble.

One area that I was pleasantly surprised was the aft deck.  That was where I started with the fairing compound and there are a lot of tight areas to 'spackle' around. But with a little elbow grease and a bunch of corner sanding it turned out ok.  Still need to spot fill but I think it's all good.

In the meantime I'll have to re-install the chainplates so they are ready for either just cleaning up the interface or raising it up to make little islands.  I hope to carve out some time this weekend to spot fill the low areas and keep moving forward.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Let the Torture Boarding Begin

I made myself fairly scarce at work this week and spent 2 afternoons finishing up adding the fairing compound to all the decks.  Now the first coat is on the entire boat.  I used just a tad less than a gallon of epoxy mixed to a 2:1 ratio of Q-cells to Aerosil.  Some spots are better than others but overall I'm pretty pleased with the results.

I certainly will need more in some spots (particularly the cabin top which seems low), but it will be a lot less than the first pass.  No surprise but the hard parts were around the chainplates and rear deck scuppers.  For a final pass I will re-install the chainplates with a layer of tape around them and fair with them in place. But that's a ways off.

I have to say that I'm not sure what people are complaining about.  Long (torture) boarding isn't that bad.  I find it somewhat soothing.  Sure it's slow going, but it sure as hell beats grinding bevels in the decks with the angle grinder.  I will not miss that one bit.  I may build another longboard that has a little more flex to it to conform to the curved areas on the deck, but the two that I made so far seem to be working well (17" & 11" for tighter areas).   I spent about 2 hours this morning long boarding the foredeck and as expected, there were a few low spots but nothing major and a small amount of additional compound should make it right.  Once I make it around the whole boat with the longboard (maybe another week or so), I'll pull all the ports and start sanding and prepping the cabin trunk sides.  Then a final (hopefully) coat of fairing compound to fill out the low spots and another round of longboarding.  At that point things ought to be ready for primer, but depending on weather (temp and humidity), that may have to wait until spring.

Woohoo, decks!  

Hard to see, but the foredeck up to the forward part of the cabin trunk has been longboarded.  The darker areas are low spots that will need to be filled again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Getting Better All The Time

After a bit of a rocky start trying to lay down fairing compound so I won't have to spend weeks and weeks sanding I think I've finally figured out a technique that works for me.  It's not so much technique and comes down to practice to be able to lay out a decent layer of delicious white frosting on the decks.  Part of the issue was getting a batch mixed up to the right ratios before it starts to kick without panicking.

Adding the Aerosil after all the Q-cells
When I did the aft deck I thought I'd plan ahead and mix up the Aerosil and Q-cells together in the proper ratio, but for some reason when I did it that way, the mixture didn't thicken up as it should given how much Aerosil I was adding.  I can't be sure, but I think when you mixed the Aerosil with the Q-cells before adding to the epoxy, the Q-cells 'smother' the Aerosil and cause it to lose its thixotropic properties.  Whatever the reason, I ended up adding way to much to the epoxy and nearly ruined the batch.  So I've gone back to the standard method where I add the Q-cells first to get a creamy texture, followed by the Aerosil to stiffen up the batch so it won't run. I know it's ready to apply when my mouth starts watering because it looks so much like yummy white frosting.  I haven't tried it yet, but I'll bet it tastes delicious.

I spent about 3 hours yesterday getting the first coat of fairing compound on the foredeck.  Over half the time was spent with the DeWalt random orbit sander and a pile of 60 grit paper.  I went over the entire area to knock off any major high spots and to provide a good substrate for the epoxy to adhere to.  I also found a few air bubbles along the way that I had to sand/grind out.  They were only about the size of a quarter and didn't extend beyond the top layer of glass (of 3 total).  Once sanded, I vacuumed and wiped everything down with acetone before mixing up my first batch.

Small areas on forward cabin top were easy.
I had to plan ahead a little because of the large area and ended up doing it in 3 batches of 18 oz.  I had enough of the third batch left over to put a second (and possibly final) coat on a few of the small sections of the forward cabin top.  I am really enjoying this part of the process; it's a nice feeling when you lay down a nice smooth trowel of compound with no ridges or ripples;  there isn't a huge pile of grinding dust to make you itch for days; and knowing that each swipe brings me that much closer to finishing this sucka.

I stopped back after dinner to check on the layup and spent about 20 minutes longboarding the cabin top that I had done a few days back.  The good news is that the 2:1 Q-cell to Aerosil ratio is nice for sanding; the 60 grit paper cuts right through it and is very satisfying.  The bad news is that I didn't get the cabintop fair with the first coat of compound.  I'll have to do at least one more coat before I'll be happy, but from what I've read, the big areas typically will need several passes before they could be considered fair enough.  I'll post some photos of that next time.

It's starting to look like a boat again.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fairly Difficult

So it looks like I need some practice with this whole fairing thing.  I took advantage of the still green epoxy on the aft deck and decided to get a head start on laying down the fairing compound.  I wish I could just spread it all nice and perfect, but it just doesn't seem that easy.  I kept dragging an edge or putting too much pressure on the spreader and as a result I couldn't get it perfect.  The main tool I was using was a 12" steel edge drywall knife for the open areas and 4" and 1" plastic spreaders for the tight spots.  The aft deck was actually not a great place to start because there are lots of complicated edges and corners, but all in all it came out ok for a first pass.

Ok for first pass
To build the long boards I used a few pieces of plastic wood cut into 2-3/4 inch strips; one 17 inches and one 11 inches.  I countersunk screws through the bottom and mounted 2 cheap kitchen drawer handles to the top for a good handhold.  I ordered a few 25 yard rolls of pressure sensitive adhesive (psa) long board sandpaper and it showed up on Saturday.

The next day I came back and attempted to try out my newly built long boards.  Unfortunately, the cold weather the night before had slowed up the cure and I found myself gumming up the board quickly.  I was a bit worried because I thought that I may have improperly mixed the last batch and wondered weather or not I would need to grind it all off.   Fortunately, when I stopped in this morning I could tell that things had hardened up much better overnight.   I decided I would let everything harden up for a few days because the cold is expected to continue throughout the weekend.  Not much time left; ideally I'd like to be able to get a coat of primer down before winter, but I don't know if I'll make it before it gets too cold.

Anyway, I spent a few hours today sanding and prepping the cabin top with the 5" deWalt (the big Rigid is STILL in the shop... grrrrr) and got a first coat of fairing compound down.  It was a lot easier on the cabin top because there aren't many quirky corners and edges.  For the fairing compound I mixed up 48 oz (in 3 batches) and added roughly a 2:1 mix of glass Q-cells to Aerosil.  I probably won't even try any long boarding for a few days because my schedule is pretty busy this week, but it's just as well because the cold will slow the cure down anyway.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Long Time Coming

It was late January 2010 when I first plunged the circular saw into my squishy old decks on Magic, and as of 8pm last night I can finally say that I have finished recoring the decks.  Of course the project started long before that first cut, and will continue long after today, but this is a milestone I hope to never achieve again (at least not with Magic).  Given the ridiculous schedule our family is on right now with a myriad of school related activities and shuttling all over New Hampshire, I pretty amazed that I've gotten this far without throwing in the towel. 

Early on in this project I found myself getting overwhelmed with everything that needed (and still needs) to be done, but I found that by just focusing on the task at hand and working that to completion, I could manage and move forward without wanting to cry (at least during the day).  A few months back I found a quote from Mark Twain that absolutely floored me and literally gave the project a new lease on life.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

Simple and obvious, but it has become my mantra.  I have thrown away my big list because it's too big, and now just focus on the immediate task and those right after.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the aft deck that I completed last night.  I may jump right into the fairing this afternoon while the aft deck is still green and I can avoid sanding, but that will depend on whether the edges of the glass are flat enough and don't need any cleanup.  After that, the boat and shed are in dire need of a top to bottom cleaning before I start the bulk of the fairing.

Aft deck pre-faired and ready for glass.

Glass cut and ready for lamination.
Aft deck laminated, bagged, and tucked in for the night.
Looks like the first picture above but now has 3 layers of glass.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Over the last week I was able to tackle the port sidedeck and the areas adjacent to the cockpit but I found myself rushing just to get it done and as a result, I was a bit sloppy.  For the port sidedeck I used my standard technique of pre-fairing followed by sanding and then lamination of the third layer on top of the pre-faired area, but this time I decided to do 3 adjacent laminations together instead of one at a time.

So the process goes like this:
1. Cut and fit all the biaxial glass for each section to be laminated (50" sections).  Remove and set aside.
2. Mix up 16 oz of epoxy and spread a thin coating on the deck where one of the 50" sections of glass will be laminated.
3. Set the glass in place and wet it out.
4. Cover section with plastic sheeting and then put sandbags on top.
5. Move to next section and repeat steps 2-4.

It all seems reasonable, but when your rushing you make mistakes.  The mistake I made was on step #4 of the first lamination.  Nothing huge, but enough to be annoyed with myself for rushing.  I laid down the plastic but failed to see that I overlapped about an inch of the plastic into the next lamination area.  So when I moved onto the next step I set the glass in place but didn't see that there was plastic on the deck and as a result, I laminated about an inch of glass on top of sheet plastic.  Ooops.  I'll have to cut out that seam and redo before I fair the decks.  Oh well, one more thing to do...On the bright side, the rest of the lamination looks good.

Add caption
Over the weekend I tackled the forward part of the decks adjacent to the cockpit and changed my technique a bit.  Normally I have been pre-fairing and letting it cure before sanding it down in preparation for the top layer of glass, but I decided it mostly at the same time.  First I prepped the decks by sanding and wiping down with acetone, then I cut all the glass to fit the areas to laminate.  Next I mixed up 24 oz of epoxy (thickened to mayo) and pre-faired both sides of the decks adjacent to the cockpit.  I leveled it out as best I could and then let it sit for about 2 hours.  That gave it enough time to harden up but it was still somewhat malleable if you worked it. 

After I was convinced it was hard enough to proceed, I mixed up another 24 oz of un-thickened epoxy and spread it out over the still tacky pre-faired layer.  Then I laid down the cloth and wetted it out.  I finished up by covering with plastic and weighting down with sandbags (I was much more careful this time).
I'll post a few more pictures when I pull the sandbags off today.  I hope this new (for me) technique works out; I have no desire to do any more sanding than I have to and if I can eliminate any along the way, I won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Leetle Bit

Well, weekend madness got in the way of a perfectly good work period, but I did manage to get the third layer laminated all the way back to the cockpit on the starboard side.  Not much, but I'll take what I can get.  It came out pretty well and final fairing should be minimal.