Saturday, November 26, 2011


 It's Thanksgiving weekend and I have sons at home to help flip the boat.  I was thinking about priming the deck before the flip, but didn't get that far before this weekend.  However I did finish glassing everything on the topside of the boat and I gave it a once-over with the Sureform and sander. 

 I have to again thank the previous builders who have provided tips on not only building the boat, but also advice on how to make the project easier.  The single best piece of labor saving advice was to put castors on the boat building cradle.  It was very easy to roll the boat out of the garage, up the driveway and to put it right next to the front yard.  From there we picked it up and placed it on plastic sheeting on the grass
Once the boat was on the grass, we rolled the cradle back into the garage for modifications.  The picture on the right shows the cross braces that we aded to support the boat in the upside-down position.  These cross members line up with frames 53.5 and 169.  I shaped the support for frame 53.5 so that it fit the contour of the deck and the front of the cabin.

The next step was to roll the boat up on its left gunwale.  One of my sons had the good idea to tilt the cradle over on its side as well so that it lined up with where we wanted it to meet the deck of the boat.  This was a great idea because we just rolled the whole thing (both the boat and the cradle) back onto the castors.  Very little lifting required and no injuries.

 A little bit of adjusting on the cradle came next so that the supports lined up with the frames and we were done with the flip.

On this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for having very strong and smart boys.  The three of us did all of the lifting, and with a bit of help from my wife and a neighbor that was passing by were able to flip the boat.

The photo to the left shows my two helpers.  

We moved the boat back into the garage.  I couldn't be happier with the condition of the hull.  I really think that using angled scarf joints between the panels (using a West System scarfer) gave the boat a naturally fair surface.  I highly recommend this approach to prospective boat builders.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The next day

Here are a couple of pictures of the deck with the release cloth removed.  There are a few bubbles that need to be removed and a few places where the release cloth didn't make contact with the epoxy that need to be filled, but over all the surface looks really good.  A bit of prep work and the deck will be ready for priming.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Under Glass

 I glassed the deck of the boat tonight.  The pictures to the left and below show the boat with the epoxy/glass coating.  I've used release cloth on top of the epoxy for a smooth surface.  We'll see tomorrow morning how it all turned out.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ready to Glass the Deck

 After a whole lot of fairing, smoothing, and sanding, I'm ready to glass the entire deck on the boat.  The cabin top had previously been glassed inside and out so I don't really have to put another layer on there.  However, I do need to overlap the glass from the deck onto the cabin top to strengthen the joint between them.  This joint is already glassed on the inside of the cabin, but this additional overlap should make it just that much stronger.  I measured and laid out glass for the bow first then worked backwards from there.  I started with 50" wide fabric and worked backward toward the stern of the boat.

 As mentioned below, I had already glassed in the foot bensons so as you can see in the picture on the right, I cut the deck cloth around the bensons so that I have nice smooth cloth with no wrinkles.  

Finally, I cut out similar sections of nylon release cloth which will be laid over the glass/epoxy mix.  The release cloth gives a very smooth finished surface on the epoxy coating.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Close to glassing the deck

I've been working toward glassing the deck and cockpit on the boat.  However, I was worried about how the glass cloth would form around the foot bensons on the boat.  Just in time, there was a topic on the forum at on "how big" or how much of the deck to glass at once.  Jon from Critical Twist suggested that the bensons be glassed first and to then cut holes in the large cloth pieces covering the aft deck and cockpit which go around the previously covered bensons.  I carried through on that advice and went ahead and glassed the bensons.  The photo here shows the result.  The smaller strips of glass fabric molded very nicely around the corners of the bensons, and I didn't have to worry about distorting the rest of a large piece of glass cloth.  

In the bottom right of the picture above you can see a section of the cockpit side curves that I coated with epoxy just for a test.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's getting colder here

As I mentioned in the past, I chose West System 207 hardener for my project.  I like this material because it has a low amine content (less smell, less blush), it is clear, it has some built-in UV protection, and it has a slower cure time.  Unfortunately, it also requires a higher ambient temperature in order to cure than some other hardeners.  With colder weather here, this has limited my work to sanding, filling, etc. or mixing epoxy on those few days where the temperature reaches up into the 70's.  

 So on the colder days, I've been working on small projects that don't involve epoxy.  Previously, I mentioned that I decided to leave natural the cedar stripped curved panels that join the deck with the cockpit side panels.  This decision meant that I had to remove all of the staples that I put in there to hold the strips together.  This was a pretty tough job because I had previously epoxied over these strips.  

Well with a bunch of sanding, and prying, and digging, I finally got them all out.  There are of course some divots that need to be filled in, but that shouldn't be too big of a deal.

Two other small jobs that I got around to were to line the inside of the keel box with carbon fiber, and to install and trim the keel crane well (described earlier).  I did this on a nice Fall day where the temperature reached up into the high 70's

There won't be too many more warm days this year, so rather than put off work for the Fall, I went ahead and bought a heater for the garage (I mean workshop).  The unit that I bought was just a simple radiant unit I found at Home Depot.  It would cost too much to run this unit in the Winter, but it should add a few degrees to the garage (err. . . workshop) temperature, so that I can extend the epoxy season.  I'd like to glass all of the deck/cabin top in the next couple of weeks.  My plan is to flip this thing over during Thanksgiving weekend when I'll have a bunch of people around to help.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More small jobs

 I've been working toward glueing down the last remaining portions of the deck.  The only parts that weren't permanently attached were  the deck panels above cockpit sides.

   I've been thinking for some time about adding positive floatation to the boat.  I really don't like the idea of only relying on sealed bulk-heads or air bags.  A collision can easily breach a sealed area of the boat or even multiple areas.  So I decided to try adding expanded polyurethane foam as floatation material.  Since the very aft section of the boat behind frame 169 is not accessible, the time to do this was now.  In order to create a temporary mold for the foam, I duck taped plastic to the underside of the cockpit floor and constructed sides to hold up the foam so that there would be a space between the outer hull and the foam.  I poured in the non expanded mixture and watched the foam grow.  Unfortunately the foam leaked into areas where I did not intend it to be.  What a mess!  I spent quite a bit of time cleaning up this wayward foam, resulting in bloody knuckles and scraped arms.  The picture above shows the foam after I cleaned it up.  To the left is the stern.  The foam is stuck to the underside of the cockpit side panel.  I cut a way the foam in the last nine inches of this panel since I eventually need to cut an access hole here in order to get to the spin sheet turning blocks.  

 The foam does provide significant stiffness to the cedar strip portion of the cockpit (shown in an earlier post).  Since I decided not to continue using the expanded foam anywhere else in the boat.  I added some stiffeners to the sides of the forward cockpit shown to the left.  For the rest of the boat, I'm just going to add pink insulation foam underneath the deck panels.  I'll augment this fixed floatation with some air bags as well.  

 Deck is completely sealed -  After the battle of the foam, and adding the stiffeners, I went ahead and glued down the aft deck panels.  I then cleaned up excess glue and took a router to the gunwale joints using a 3/8th in. radius router bit. 
  I hadn't used a router for something this big in quite a while so I forgot a few basics, like; make sure that the screw holding the bearing on the router bit is tight.  The picture to the right shows some filler that I had to add because of this oversight.  Once the filler dries, I'll clean it up and re-route that section of the gunwale.

The last little bit of work that I accomplished was to fabricate a piece of mahogany for the very front of the cabin.  The picture below shows the result.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cockpit side curves

We've had a small debate about the curves between the aft deck and the cockpit sides.  As described earlier, I made these out of 3/8" x 3/8" cedar strips formed around curves in the frames and a couple of curved support blocks.  These strips were glued together and held in place with staples while the epoxy set.  I really only used cedar because it was easy to work with and is rot resistant.  I had intended to glass and paint over this whole area.  

To make a long story short, my kids think that I should not paint over the curved sections and instead should just varnish this area.  They think that it would be a nice continuation of the (natural cedar) cabin top.  I agree with them, but to go with this look I have to remove a whole lot of staples (probably a couple hundred), most of which are under a layer of epoxy.    I've decided to give in on this - it will probably take several hours to get them all out, but it will probably be worth it.  Of course I need to do this soon because I'm not too far away from glassing the entire deck.

A bunch of small jobs

 Work on the boat over the Labor Day weekend consisted of a bunch of small jobs that really don't look like much to friends and family.  The most visible mini-project was reinforcing  the bow prod receiver tube with carbon fiber.  To do this, I used small bits of 1/4" plywood to "fill in the gaps" between the hull and to protruding tube, and then laid 12 oz. carbon fiber clot over the whole thing.  
The next task was to simply trim off the excess when the epoxy set.

The other big(ger) task over the weekend was to reinforce the seams between the cabin and the deck, and between the cockpit floor and the sides.  In both cases, I used biax tape which I wetted out ahead of time.  All of these seams are "outside" curves (even though they are inside the boat) with gravity as the enemy.  An extra set of hands would have been nice, since it took quite a bit of time to get the tape to stick.  In any case, the reinforcements looked really smooth after they were done.  Once the tape was in place, I then filled in the gap between the cabin and the deck with thickened epoxy.

Bow Prod Extension and Retraction

Thinking a bit ahead, I'm planning on having a very simple bow prod extension mechanism, with a pulley on frame 18 and a line running straight back through the cabin bulkhead to a jam cleat.  I'm planning on having the spin tack line run right through the center of the prod and out the tip (which I still need to fabricate).  The tack line would also double-duty as the pole retraction cord.  The tack line will also run though the cabin bulkhead and will cleat right next to the prod extension line.  Of course all of this may change, but that's the plan for now.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Foot Bensons

Over the weekend I also constructed and glued down the foot bensons.  Of course, the primary purpose of the bensons are to keep the crew from sliding to the other side in a strong wind, however it turns out that they are perfectly placed to get rid of a little bit of flex in the cockpit floor.  I'd like to think that I planned it that way, but . . .

 The picture to the left and below show the results so far.  Like most everything else in the boat, these were made out of 1/4" hydrotek.  I cut 3" strips for the outside pieces and 2 3/4" strips for the inside and glued them at a 90 degree angle.
The only tricky parts were cutting the end angles and the end caps.  I cut the angles and the end pieces before committing anything to epoxy.  In retrospect, it would have been easier to just glue the side pieces together and then cut the end angles on the table saw after they were done.  In any case, the bensons came out very nice.  Finally, I rounded the edges and set them in place with thickened epoxy. I will filet the edges of the bensons prior to glassing the cockpit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bow Prod

The bow prod looks good and it was time to create the receiver sleeve for the prod.  As before, I created the receiver tube out of carbon fiber sleeves from Solar Composites.  This time however I made to significant changes in the fabrication, 1) I did not vacuum bag the item, and 2) I put the Kevlar composite sleeve on the inside rather than the outside.  Other than the look, the primary benefit of using carbon/kevlar is that the kevlar is much more resistant to long term wear and abrasion than carbon fiber.  

Of course we want the receiver tube to have a slightly larger inside diameter than the outside diameter of the prod.  So I used the prod as the mold for the receiver, and wrapped 6 mil plastic around it several times in order to insure that the receiver tube would have the necessary clearance from the prod.

As I mentioned above, I did not vacuum bag this part.  Instead I just hung the prod from the ceiling of the garage, put on the four layers of sleeving material in the same way that I created the prod previously, painting each layer with epoxy.  The layers were taped to the mold (at the top) and then I simply stretched each layer by pulling downward.  Finally, I wrapped the whole thing in release cloth.   The picture on the right shows the sleeve hanging with the release cloth still attached.
Once the epoxy hardened, I removed the release cloth and pulled the finished receiver tube off of the prod and then cut it to length on the table saw.

The picture to the left shows the fitting of the receiver tube through the starboard side of the bow.  The picture below show the tube tacked in with a bit of thickened epoxy.
The next step is to reinforce this area with some 12 oz carbon fiber cloth.  I need to add some reinforcing to frame 18 as well to hold the back end of the receiver tube more securely.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bow Prod

So I got it in my head that I could fabricate my own bow prod out of carbon fiber sleeves.   As described below, I previously built a carbon fiber tube to use as the well for a crane to lift up the keel.  This was quite a bit larger undertaking.  The "mold" for the prod was a section of 2" PVC pipe from Home Depot.  This pipe has an outside dimension of 2 3/8".  I sprayed the length of tube with plain old Lemon Pledge furniture polishing wax.  and then wrapped the pipe with polyethylene sheet prior to pulling on the carbon fiber sleeve.  I didn't have the courage to try this without the plastic sheet, but I think that it would be possible to just mold the tube over the PVC pipe directly.  Lemon Pledge actually works pretty well as a release agent.  Some time in the future I might experiment a bit with this.  

Pulling on the first layer of CF sleeve is pretty easy.    This stuff works just like the finger traps that you buy in Chinatown however and will bind if you pull too hard on it - you almost have to push it on.  I then just painted the entire length of the sleeve with epoxy. 

 For subsequent layers, it is best if you roll up the ends axially (like you would a sock) and then push them together to form a very wide pipe.  It is pretty easy to slide this wider "pipe" over the previous layers, and then expand it outward from the middle.  For each layer, I then painted on the epoxy.  

I used three layers of heavy 3" carbon fiber sleeves and (more for aesthetics than anything else) an outside layer of a Kevlar Carbon fiber weave.  I then vacuum bagged the whole thing.  

I hadn't done a vacuum bag on something this large.  It came out pretty well.  The surface under the top of the bag is absolutely beautiful.  The bottom collected some excess epoxy which I had to remove with a Stanley Sureform and some sand paper.  If I had it to do over again, I think that I definitely would have used release cloth between the bag and the tube.  
In any case the tube came out pretty well.  The whole thing weighs less than four pounds  and it is incredibly rigid.  The tube is very round except for the last few inches near the ends.  I'll just trim both ends.  This will leave the tube a bit short, but I'm going to put a tapered tip on the outside end anyway, so I'll just make this tip a couple inches longer than I was going to.

If I had it to do over again I would not have used the Kevlar composite on the outside layer.  Carbon fiber sands very easily whereas Kevlar does not.  Also, Kevlar is less UV resistant.  I don't view that as a big deal however since the pole will be retracted most of the time.  Finally, in retrospect, I think that I could have gotten a very nice tube without the bagging by bunching the four sleeves together at one end and then tying a string to them, hanging the whole thing from the ceiling, then tying a weight to the other end, and then wrapping the whole thing in release fabric.  I say this because the tube looked really nice before I even put it in the bag.  

Next up is to fabricate the receiver tube.  Of course I'm going to use the prod as the mold for the receiver.  I don't think that I'll vacuum bag the receiver.

Finally, I don't have an exact cost on the tube since I bought more sleeve material than I needed.  But roughly the prod and receiver are going to end up costing me about  $300.  This would have been a bit less if I had just used carbon fiber.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Forward Deck Glued Down

 I decided to go ahead and glue down the forward deck rather than wait for the completion of a few things that I have to do in the cabin of the boat.  Most notable is fabricating installing the bow prod.  I'm still debating the merits of having an internal assembly for this, or to put it on top of the deck.  I've more or less decided against having an articulating prod (ability to move side to side).  So I decided to commit the deck to epoxy, and then crawl around inside if necessary.
 You may see in some of the pictures, small holes along the edges of the deck.  In addition to using weights to hold down the deck while the epoxy cured, I used 1 1/4 screws to make sure that I got a good seal along the gunwales.  The screws were removed after the glue set. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cockpit floor and sides are in.

 I cut the cockpit floor for the boat quite a while ago but it turned out that I did not make it wide enough at the front end of the cockpit.   Also with all of the other work going on in the center and aft end of the boat, I did not glue down the floor.  I removed the floor and scarfed on a couple of side pieces and re-cut the floor to match the cockpit side pieces.  Once that was done, I "flow coated" the bottom of the floor,  then mixed up a whole bunch of epoxy goop using West system 403 filler, coated the tops of all of the support members and then glued the whole thing down. 
Of course it's important to get good contact between the floor and the underlying supports while the glue dries, so I used weights and some of the lead ingots that I bought for the keel bulb to hold everything down.  

After the floor set up a bit, I then filleted the cockpit sides and floor joints.    My plan is to reinforce the outside of these joints (inside the boat) with glass biax tape.

Keel Crane Well

 We are planning on sailing this boat in lakes where we need to get in and out of fairly shallow water.  Because of this, I've wanted to have an arrangement where I can easily retract the keel while still sailing.  I decided to build a keel crane but need a place to secure the crane while it's in use.  So borrowing a bit from a Melges 24, I decided to create a well just aft of the keel.  So i could have made the well out of almost any material including wood, but since I'm planning on constructing my own bow prod and sprit out of carbon fiber sleeves, this presented an opportunity to practice vacuum bagging a tube.   I bought carbon fiber sleeve material from Solar Composites and went at it.  I was extremely pleased with the result.  Three layers of heavy carbon fiber sleeves resulted in an extremely stiff tube. 

 Next up, I needed to construct a platform to hold the well-tube. I built a platform out of three pieces of 3/4" hydrotek (left over from previous laminations).  One was used as a base, the other as the top of the platform, and with the third I cut a hole slightly larger than the OD of the well tube.  The platform is supported by two pieces of 1/4" plywood, and the whole thing is reinforced with 12 oz. carbon fiber cloth.
The picture to the right shows the completed well.  The carbon fiber tube will be trimmed to the height of the deck after the cockpit floor is glued on.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chainplates are in

 I'm getting to the point where I want to glue down the deck and I wanted to install the chainplates before that event.  A few builders installed the chain plates after their decks were installed.  Needless to say they were working in very cramped quarters trying to get those things in.  In any case, I looked around trying to buy chain plates and finally I asked where people get these things.  Jon from Critical Twist sent me drawings done by Kevin from Pipe Dream.  When I saw the drawings I figured that I could build these things myself.  Of course this kind of thing would be pretty easy to build with a nice milling machine, but my drill press with a crummy cross vice would have to do.  To start off I ordered some 316 stainless.  I thought that I pressed the button for 1/8th inch mirror finished plate, but I received 3/16th in mill finished (dark).  In any case after cutting the metal to size with a Porter Cable Tiger Saw (I tried a cutting disk, but a couple of those broke apart) I used the cross vice to get the holes aligned and spaced evenly.  I then built the backing plates using the same methods.  The backing plates were smaller than the ones in Kevin's drawings in order to save a bit of weight.  I figured with the thicker material that this would be OK.  Finally, it took a whole lot of work to clean up the 316 to a nice shiny finish.

 As everyone recommends in their blogs, I over-drilled the size of the holes in the chain plate gussets, filled them with epoxy/filler mix and then re-drilled the holes to the appropriate size.  The picture to the right shows one of the chainplates installed on the gusset.  
 The picture to the left shows the backing plate.  As you can see, this is quite a bit smaller than the chainplate itself.  
Finally, the picture on the right shows the chainplate protruding through the deck.  The slot that I built on this side of the boat was perfect.  The one on the other side was not so great, however I'll fill the gap in when I glass the deck.

Next up, I'm going to remove the chainplates, finish fitting the deck together and glue everything down.  I'm still thinking about how to add flotation to the boat.  I'm thinking about adding foam under the entire length of the deck.  I might do this with normal pink foam from Home Depot, or use expanded polyurethane foam.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New sticks for the i550

 I took a week off of building the i550 for vacation in Maine.  We took along our e-scow.    For those who haven't sailed one of these they are a real hoot, however in a good blow they are a handful (and more) and you really need some beef on board, just to hold it down.  They also, have dual bilge-boards (you retract the one not in use), running back-stays, and a whole lot of strings to pull.  In fact when we decided to build the i550, I was looking for a high performance boat that two of us could sail alone.  It is definitely simpler - we'll see if it is easier. . .

On the way back from Maine we took the opportunity to stop by at Dwyer Mast to pick up a couple of sticks for the boat.  The e-scow worked out pretty well as a shipping vehicle.  We just duct taped the new spar to the mast from the scow.  We bought a 29' 6" DM4 mast and decided to go with the DM5 section for the boom.  Jay at Dwyer suggested keel stepping the mast, so we won't cut the spar until I make the decision on cabin top vs. keel mounting.  I also did not buy any accompanying hardware yet because I'm still deciding how to rig this thing.  I'm thinking about creating the spreaders out of carbon fiber.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Deck fitting

 The forward half of the deck has been fitted to the boat.  I'm extremely pleased with how well this came out.  The deck fits perfectly with the cabin top.  I used the West System scarfer to angle the edges of the three plywood panels that make up the front 2/3's of the deck or so.  These joints were very well aligned and will take only very minimal amounts of fairing in order to be perfectly smooth.  
 The boat made its first trip outside of the garage this morning.  I moved it out in order to get better pictures.  However, I took the opportunity to clean the garage floor that was under the boat.  The  following pictures show the deck trimmed to match the hull.  

The last panels to be fitted will be the sides of the cockpit.  Hopefully these will be finished this evening.  After these panels are fitted, there are a handful of items internal to the boat that need to be managed before everything is glued in place.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fitting the deck

Creating and fitting deck panels took quite a bit of time.  The picture to the left shows the back deck panels, the cockpit floor and the curved sections on the inside of the cockpit

There have been quite a few broken rudder attachments on i550's, so while reinforcing the rudder tab on the transom I added an extra inch of hight.
I also cut out the companionway.  The top hatch is going to fit flush similar to the hatch on Critical Twist.