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.