Saturday, March 30, 2013

Companionway - Check

I'm amazed that I've kept this blog going for as long as I have, but today's post is the 100th since I started.  It's become a kind of therapy for me and makes me look forward the next task no matter how unappealing because I know I can write it up and whine about it later.  It also makes good reference when I forget about what I did 3 months ago.

So now I'm in the middle of the sort of work I like and the weather has been pretty damn nice.  I can sit up on deck in a t-shirt and socks and not freeze or die of heat stroke.  I've been picking away at the c ompanionway trim and finally finished it up today.  I still have to do the washboards and pull everything off to sand it down, but the cutting work is done.  There turned out to be a lot more crazy angles to cut than I expected and that just took time to measure, measure again, and then cut.  I also spent a ton of time with my new best friend the Shinto Rasp (see picture).  It's the perfect tool for taking material off and provided crisp accurate cuts.

I ended up making another change to the original design where I extended the border trim around the perimeter of the companionway from 1/2 inch to 1-1/2 inches.  I think it makes the overall appearance look a bit better.  So after spending time lounging in the warm cockpit this afternoon admiring my handy work, I'll pull it all off tomorrow for sanding.  Then I'll probably get a coat of varnish on before I put it all back on.  At that point I have to choose a bedding compound.  I want something that's tough and waterproof, but not 5200 tough. There are few places on a boat where 5200 has a place and bedding trim is not one of them.  I haven't done much research yet, but I'm leaning towards Sikaflex 291 but I'm open to suggestions.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Lucky Break

Glue time
In the limited time I've had this week, I've been picking away on the companionway trim and washboard track.  As with everything on this project (or any boat project for that matter), there are so many odd angles and curves to cut, trim, and fit that progress goes at a snails pace.  I'm really glad I took lots of photos and save the old trim, it would have been difficult to reproduce without reference material. It's fun work though; I'd much rather be doing this than coring decks or painting.

Still need to cut down to original size
I started by epoxying together the pieces for the right and left sides of the washboard track assembly.  I used the leftover 1 inch sapele boards from the cap rails I had cut out a few weeks earlier.  While waiting for the glue to cure,  I cut out some other trim boards that go below the threshold on the inside and outside and was able to get them fitted and temporarily screwed into place.  I'm finally making some nice wood shavings instead of a horrible toxic waste dump.

The next day the epoxy had cured so I cut the pieces down to size (removed about 1/2 inch from the sides of each) with the table saw and then began cutting out the profile of the threshold so they would fit nicely.  This seemed to take forever because I was just using my block plane, Shinto rasp, and standard rasp.  The original design called for side boards screwed to the edges of the washboard (hard to explain, see picture below).  I followed suit and cut everything out and screwed the side boards onto the washboard track assemblies.

Original design called for boards screwed to washboard assembly
Unfortunately, I stripped one of the screws and because it was just a test fit, I had to get it out.  When I attempted to drill out the screw in the drill press, the bit slipped and tore into the wood, ruining part of the washboard assembly.  I made up some really nice words to describe how I wasted expensive wood and lost time doing a stupid move.  I should have tracked down my screw extractor to to do the job, but being impatient, I figured I could just drill it out instead.  Oh well, what's done was done.  Time to move on.  As I looked at the piece I started to think why the original design was done the way it was.  It really wasn't that good an idea to begin with, trying to butt join 2 pieces together and expect them to look seamless and hold varnish well is always difficult, so I decided to cut out the front face of the original washboard assembly and laminate on a single, wider piece to extend the trim out and eliminate an unnecessary butt joint that would only look bad over time (the original certainly did).

Anyway, fast forward a few days after another round of waiting for epoxy to cure and I think I've improved the design and it will ultimately look better in the long run.  I still have to fit the top to the sliding hatch and get everything rough screwed in and sanded, but I'm pretty happy with the outcome.

Hence, the lucky break.  Just because that's the way the original design was pieced together, doesn't mean it was good to begin with.  I should know better by now than to trust things on face value.  Question why; always.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Too Cold for Glue

As much as I want to move forward with the caprail, the weather has not been cooperating and the cold is keeping me from epoxying the scarf joints (12 degrees F is not optimal if you want epoxy to cure). So I'm out of luck until things warm up.  Fortunately, I have plenty of other, smaller things to do so I moved to my basement shop where the weather is much better.

The companionway has been one of the sections I haven't done anything with since I took it apart 3 years ago, so I figured it was time to get crackin.  I started by sanding down the hatch and filled the many gouges and dings with epoxy and set it aside to cure in the shop.  Once I sand and fair the hatch, I'll prime and paint with PrimeKote and Perfection, followed by Kiwigrip for the non-skid.  I'll need to do the same for the 2 lazarette hatches and the icebox lid, but decided to move on to more appealing projects that involve wood (if given a choice, I always choose wood projects over frozen snot).

I decided to get started on the companionway woodwork that is in need of total replacement because the old wood is pretty much a rotten mess.  I saved every piece regardless of its state so I could copy the pieces when the time came; that time is now.  I also took a bunch of photos when dismantling because there are a lot of strangely shaped parts and piecing them back together without a photo guide would prove difficult. I chose to start with the companionway threshold because everything is built off of it.  I epoxied 2 pieces of sapele up to get the required rough dimensions, clamped it and let it cure overnight.

The next day, I took closer measurements and cut the piece to proper size.  There were several odd bevel angles and an inset rabbet cut that I partially completed with a blind cut on the table saw and finished up with a chisel in the corners.  I was pretty happy when I took it over to the boat for a test fit and found that it fit like a glove and looked nice.

There is alot more to do on the companionway, but I'm chipping away.  Most of the other pieces will be reasonably simple and don't have the angles and odd cuts that this piece did.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rough Fit for the Caprail Complete

Time has never been on my side and this weekend was no different.  March is my favorite time of year for many reasons, but there is never enough time to fit it all in.  The warm sun brings everyone out to enjoy the last days of winter instead of simply trying to survive without losing fingers and toes to frostbite.  The sugaring parties are in full swing and are usually accompanied by strong homebrewed concoctions; the downhill skiing is as good as it's been all year, and I feel obligated to get out with the family for what may be the last cross country skiing of the year.

Sadly, Magic is most often the brunt of my time constraints, but I'm out of epoxy and need to get more before I begin the next step, so I didn't feel too guilty straying from the job at hand.  With that said, I was able to finish cutting the caprail (except for the transom) and got all the scarf joints fitted and tight.  I'm really happy with the result so far, I'm amazed what pretty wood does to the look; it makes Magic start to look downright 'yachty' again.  I'm also pleased to report that I had exactly zero 'oh shit' moments and made no expensive kindling for the woodstove (except for the pieces that I actually planned for).

I have to get another 1.5 gallon epoxy kit this week and I swear this will be the last (I have told myself this many times before).  Once I pick that up, I'm going to glue up the scarfs and then begin tapping the caprail to fix it to the bulkwarks.  Then I'll start fitting the rubrail using method A (see last post).  I decided on this method because I think it will have a better look overall and there will be no vertical seams.  My reasoning that I could replace the rubrail should I bump into something hard if I installed it using the original method (method B in last post) just didn't hold up.  I'm pretty sure that the rubrail on the boat was original and there is no reason to think that this new installation won't hold up for a long time to come.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I Haven't Screwed up the Caprail Yet!

I keep reminding myself that I am just one errant cut away from a very expensive mistake so I have been taking it very slowly.  So far, I've successfully rough cut 5 of the 6 pieces to cover the port and starboard bulkwarks (the stern is another piece, but I'm not counting that one yet).  I haven't had much time this week to do much else, but I didn't manage to carefully whittle and fit the stem section to a good fit.  Now I just need to cut the final scarf to get the starboard side completely roughed in.

This weekend I plan on getting the port side roughed in as well and then things get tricky.  I still haven't decided exactly how I am going to attach the trim piece that covers the hull/deck joint.  The original method was to have the trim piece flush with the top of the cap rail (labeled 'B' in diagram).  The problem with this is that there is a vertical seam that opens up over time.  The advantage is that if you bang into something hard enough you can replace the trim piece instead of the whole caprail (or part of it).

Method A was implemented nicely by the owner of A-35 Quickbeam out on the west coast.  I think it's a better design overall but there are 2 things keeping me from pulling the trigger on this method.  1 - if/when I bump into things hard, the repair cost/effort will be more difficult, and 2 - The angles up toward the bow section make for some pretty tricky cuts.  I've gone back and forth over the past few days, and I need to spend some quality time on the boat doing some test pieces before I make a final decision.  In any event, things are progressing and I hope to have a solution in the next few days.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Back to Work Slacker, it's Caprail Time!

Ok, my winter time track record for boat work is pretty dismal, but the cold weather, snow, and dark at 4:30 just do nothing for motivation.  So I deal with it by pretending I don't have a half finished boat in my yard.  The only thing that New Hampshire is suitable for during the winter is skiing, snowshoeing, loading the wood stove to keep warm, and sleep.  Anyway, now that spring is approaching, I figured it was about time to get back at it.

I have been wrestling with the method to build the new caprail for months and finally came to the conclusion that I would take the easy (relatively speaking) way out.  Initially, I had planned on cutting the rail to it's final dimension (~3" wide) scarfing the entire length (~36') and bending the entire piece on.  I had seen it done on a friends boat and didn't think it would be an issue.  Unfortunately, the more I read, the more I realized that there was a good chance that doing it this way would result in very expensive kindling.  I just couldn't afford to do it twice, so I looked into other methods.  The first was to laminate it in place with 2 or 3 strips and wrote about it a while back here.  After much debate on this method I decided against it for several reasons:

  1. I can't do layups at this time of year because of the cold and I need to get this done before I can proceed with other projects (well, not really, but the fun projects at least).
  2. I spoke with a lot of people who thought it wouldn't look good with a seam down the middle, even though I think it looks better to have the grain follow the curve rather that having runout all over from a cut to curve board.
I still think it may be the best way to go (certainly the cheapest), but there was enough fear instilled in me to go with the tried and true method of cutting the board to the shape of the curve.

A few weeks ago, I did the deed and went over to Goosebay Lumber and spent ~$500 on pretty wood.  I went with Sapelle because it is close to half the cost of Honduras Mahogany right now ($6.50 compared to $11.50) and the Mahogany available right now seemed to vary widely in color and grain characteristics.  Sapelle has a similar reddish brown color to Mahogany and has a beautiful ribbon grain that I think will look great under varnish.  

Unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), we've had a lot of snow over the past 3 weeks which makes the skiing good and boat work bad, so I opted for winter play until this weekend.  I finally got around to starting this project yesterday and wasn't exactly sure how I was going to get the boards cut.  My original plan was to use my bandsaw, but wasn't sure if I would have the room in the shop to get the curved cut done.  My backup plan was a jigsaw (not appealing).  Fortunately I was able to wrestle the 14" bandsaw into a position in the middle of my shop and feed the board in through an open door.  I transferred the hull curve onto the board simply by laying it on the caprail, positioning it to minimize wood loss, and scribing a pencil line onto the board.  Then I get to carry the board 600' to my shop.

Can you spot my retarded mistake?
For the cuts, I positioned my son on one end of the board to hold up the end while I fed it through the bandsaw.  I had my wife on the outfeed side to keep the cut end stable.  I left plenty of extra wood on the cut board just in case my measurements were wrong (I will be doing lots of block planing once the boards are in place).  I was able to get 2 cut pieces out of one 12" x 12' board with plenty of leftover for other smaller projects (companionway trim/hatches/etc...).  I only managed to cut out 4 of the 6 pieces required in the time I had and it is snowing heavily today so I probably won't get to the rest until later this week or next, but I'm happy to be back to work (all the skiing and playing in the snow was starting to wear me out).

Beginning to actually look like a boat again!