Wednesday, November 22, 2017
I like being busy. When you build a boat there is no shortage of things to do. What I struggle with is focusing on one particular thing. Every time I start working on one thing my mind wanders to 10 other things associated with the process that I am currently working on. I literally need to make a list to keep things straight and focus my attention. The amount of tasks can be overwhelming which sometimes paralyzes my ability to do anything. The only strategy is to simply pick some tool up and just do something. That usually gets the ball rolling for the day. It can be stressful, still fun, but there does sometimes seem to be more tasks to do than one person can possibly complete. I have to rely on the inner voice telling me that it's been done before and if they can do it, I can do it.
My step father gave me a lead on an estate sale in town with a large assortment of tools. I made trip over and picked up a few things that will be quite useful for very little money.
This past weekend was one of the aforementioned challenging weekends.
First, We roughly cut the bow stem to shape with the chainsaw. This is a massive lamination of white oak and must weigh a couple hundred pounds. I can barely move it.
As usual we double checked our measurements from the plans and then used our patterns from the lofting to give us the shape to cut. I continue to use a wide felt tip marker to trace the patterns. It seems to provide a relatively crisp line of the final shape of the piece with a built in over sized parallel line to ensure plenty of extra material for final fitting.
It was reassuring to see the tight clean glue lines from one of the cut off's from the bow stem. This is similar to a welder cutting through his welds to verify their integrity. If you see voids, bubbles or pockets, that glue line is most likely going to fail. You can see from the picture that we are in good shape. Add to the fact that the stem will also be through bolted, we know this thing will never fail.
We are truly getting close to floor timber installation so finishing the bolt fabrication is a high priority. Threading the 1/2" rod with my simple tap and die set is no problem. However the 5/8" rod is much more of a challenge. Not only is it time consuming but it takes considerable effort. I don't know where it came from but I found a very old Toledo #11 ratcheting pipe threader in my shop. The only problem is I don't have any dies for it. I searched locally and online but could not find a 5/8" die for it. I ended up buying a Ridgid version of the wrench and a 5/8" die for $70 on Ebay. As usual, having the right tool for the job makes it exponentially easier, money well spent.
I double checked all the real world measurements on the keel versus what the plans indicate and we are in very good shape. I made a list from those measurements and went to work cutting all the rod to the correct length. The angle grinder made quick work of the cuts and then it was on to threading.
The extra leverage of the longer handle on the Ridgid wrench makes the job quite easy.
The bad news was that the galvanizer I was planning to use in Buffalo no longer has the centrifuge required to clear the threads after being hot dipped. They referred me to a shop in Cleveland which is going to add cost with shipping charges. It's the right way to do it, so it will be done, but still kind of a bummer.
Our next task was continuing on with keel component glue ups. Since I'm gluing everything and not just using bedding compound I'm fitting my joints quite precisely. It only takes a little extra time and it ensures we get the full strength of the glue without having to span any gaps in a sloppy joint. The six foot level quickly identifies any high spots along the length of the joint. I use a 2 foot level to ensure we are level athwartships. I have found that using the power planer makes quick work of roughing out the high spots. I then fine tune things with a #5 hand plane. I finish it up with 80 grit sandpaper which provides some texture for the glue to "grab" on to.
For the remaining 3 glue ups I have chosen to use epoxy. Epoxy will work in lower temperatures and requires less clamping pressure. It's easy enough to get the boat shed up to 45 or so degrees and maintain that temperature while the epoxy cures. I don't think I can guarantee that I can hold 50 degrees for the rescorcinol to work. The fast set epoxy will cure down to 40 degrees. Additionally, these glue ups in the aft end are becoming quite thick. Not only is it difficult to get high clamping pressure on such a large assembly, but I only have a couple clamps long enough to do the job. So Epoxy really is the only choice. Of course we back up every glue joint with a bolt so we know things will never come apart on us. With the help of my son we mixed up a few batches of epoxy and coated each face with un-thickened epoxy. A final batch thickened with cabosil goes on next. This provides excellent gap filling for any sins that I missed and provides strength for the epoxy bond.
The colder temperatures mean a longer cure time so we left it in clamps for a few days just to be safe.
Like I said before, there is always a million things to do. So even when I'm not in the shop, my mind is not far from the project. Since building the gantry crane to lay our keel on it's side I've been thinking of a way to use it to help set the frames on the keel. The only problem is that the crane is very heavy and not easily moved. Additionally, it's not really tall enough to hold the frames in the correct position. I began to brainstorm ways to remedy both those issues.
A rolling gantry crane seemed to be a simple way to solve the movement issue. I would only need to add one more support to each side of the base and then mount some kind of wheel or caster to it. I stumbled onto V-groove wheels and V-track that are frequently used for sliding gates and fences. Since the frames are not very heavy I don't need much load capacity which means the necessary V-groove casters are quite affordable.
The height issue was more of a challenge. Since our boat shed is a bow roof style, the width narrows as you go higher in the building. In order to get the height I need to set the frames I could not modify the current configuration to fit around the keel to roll on the V-track.
I have heard of Sketchup but I have never used it. After watching a few tutorials I had the gist and began playing around with different ideas for our rolling gantry crane. I think I have a design I like that I can build with lumber I already have on hand.
I'll just need to source the wheels and track but that will not be difficult.
The in-laws will be in town this week for the holiday so I don't know how much time I'll have for boat building. I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday. As always, we appreciate you checking out our project and offering so much support. If you have questions, comments or suggestions don't hesitate to let us know at: Contact@seadreamerproject.com
Thursday, November 9, 2017
The admiral came out for a visit and to check on our progress. Strangely, she does not yet see a "boat". I have to encourage her to use her imagination.
As I talked about in our last post, I needed a way to lay the keel down flat on the building cradle. I didn't want to just knock it over and let it slam down. I worried that 1500 pounds of wood crashing down would throw the cradle out of level and plum. In George's book he includes pictures showing farm jacks and chain positioned on wedges to achieve the goal. However I thought that looked overly complicated and a little unsafe. Not to mention I don't own any farm jacks, I brainstormed for another idea. I happily admit I am not the smartest guy in the world so it takes me quite a long time to come up with a plan I like to overcome a challenging situation. For weeks I came up with idea after idea that I thought might work. Usually as quickly as I thought of them, I dismissed them as unsafe, un-workable or not strong enough. My last, and what I hoped best, Idea was to build a gantry crane.
My plan was to use a come-a-long to pull the keel over to its tipping point then use a chainfall connected to the gantry crane to "catch" it before it slammed down. I still had several of the 6x6 yellow pine timbers that we bought last year from the train salvage company. They seemed to be a good choice to deal with the forces at work. It took me a few minutes to dig them out from the other lumber but it didn't take long to cut them to shape and size with our chainsaw. I cut support braces at 45 degrees to lay against the main vertical post. I aligned them on the same plain with a 2x4 and everything was secured together with 3" wood screws.
I needed some kind of threaded hook or eye bolt that was long enough to make it through the 6x6 to hold the chainfall. I could not find what I wanted but I did have a few 1/2" ground augers that were previously used to hold a temporary shed to the ground. They had a large eye at the end that could accommodate the large hook on the chainfall. I cut the auger to length with the angle grinder and threaded the cut end. After drilling a hole through the horizontal beam of the gantry crane I just ran the new threaded eye through and bolted it in with a couple of washers.
Once that was complete, the main beam was hoisted into place and a few diagonal supports were added. After plumbing each vertical piece the diagonals were secured with wood screws.
Now came the fun part. I used some chain to secure the come-a-long to one of the posts buried in the ground that supports our building shed. I wrapped a tow strap around the keel so the slip knot was positioned at the top of the keel. I then attached the other end of the come-a-long to the tow strap. I put some tension on the entire assembly and things looked promising. I used another tow strap wrapped around the keel and attached that to the chainfall on the gantry crane. I was careful to position the slip knot on the come-a-long side of the keel. As the keel tipped I wanted the gantry strap to tighten up near the top of the keel in order to prevent the keel from kicking out. A few more cranks on the come-a-long and the keel was leaning. It took very little effort to get to this point.
With a little tension on the chainfall strap I tried to gauge how far the keel would fall before the chainfall engaged. I made it a little tighter, this was all just my best guess. There was nothing left to do but go for it. A couple more cranks on the come-a-long and the keel was falling...........
It worked! with very little drama, the keel tipped over and fell a few inches before the chainfall engaged and stopped it from crashing into the cradle.
It was then just a matter of lowering the keel down the rest of the way. Again, it required very little effort to complete this and within a few minutes all my worries were eased.
With little time to appreciate my success we got to work cutting the angle at the bow. We laid our patterns on and double checked our marks that we made on the keel last week. It's a good thing we double checked with the patterns because I discovered an error. For whatever reason, I incorrectly measured the distance between stations 4 and 2 by an inch. The patterns quickly identified the error and the correction was made. I then used a pencil to trace the angle of the bow along the pattern.
I didn't want to have to flip the keel over, back and forth for the cutting of the angle. With the other keel pieces we used our timber saw to cut our marks on both sides. This time I planned to make the cuts all from one side. I used our timber saw to cut the first 3 1/2" of depth along our marks. I then used our chainsaw to finish it up. While the cut line was not as neat and smooth, it was effective and much easier than the alternative.
This was a big step to my eye as the keel really began to look like part of a boat. With that job done I had one more task I wanted to complete. I checked the forecast and knew that this was going to be one of the last days with sustained temperatures above 50 degrees for the year. Living in upstate NY the fact that it was still this warm was a blessing in and of itself. So instead of glassing and epoxying the bottom of the keel like I intended, I decided to stand her back up and glue on two more keel pieces with resorcinol.
To stand her up was just a matter of lifting it a bit with the chainfall and then using the come-a-long to pull it up from the opposite side. A couple pieces of blocking prevent it from sliding on the cradle and with a few cranks of the come-a-long she popped right up.
I cleaned up the keel in preparation for the installation of the forefoot with a hand plane (yes I own hand tools). This was asking a lot from our clamps to pull these two massive pieces together so I wanted the joint perfect so the glue would adhere properly. Then it was just a matter of mixing up some glue and attaching the forefoot and the 17' aft section piece in place. I used a mixture of parallel clamps and the threaded rod clamps we used for the keel.
Now I have to decide if I want to lay her back down and complete the glassing I spoke of earlier or move on to other tasks. We are very close to installing the floors, cutting our bolts to length and sending them off to the galvanizer. That sounds like a lot more fun than working with epoxy in colder weather. Decisions, decisions.
It was a good weekend once again. It's always so rewarding to see real changes after so many hours of hard work. Thanks for following along and if you want to see the video of the keel falling over be sure to check out our YouTube channel. We'll have that video up by Tuesday November 14, 2017.
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Finally! The last of the major glue-ups are done. We were able to get the last sub-assembly that makes up the aft part of the keel complete. Once the clamps were removed, like all the other pieces, a little clean up with the belt sander and power planer were required.
With two clean sides we are then able to lay out our patterns that we created over this past winter when we lofted out much of the boat keel. I found that on the larger patterns it was difficult to trace out the long straight lines without the pattern deflecting. So I used the patterns to mark the ends of each piece along with the major intersections. After that I used a chalk line to connect the marks with perfectly straight lines.
Then it was just a mater of busting out our big timber saw to cut both sides to shape. We follow the cuts with a little clean up with the angle grinder with an 80 grit flap disc and a few passes with the power planer.
Once that was complete I just couldn't wait any longer so I dry fit all the various pieces just to see what the keel looked like.
There is still quite a bit of fine tuning to complete. We need to ensure all the pieces fit smoothly together and are plumb and level. It was quite rewarding to see things in position.
We have to come up with a plan to softly lay the keel on it's side. It will be much easier to cut the angle at the bow in a horizontal position. Additionally I want apply a preservative, like copper naphtha, to all sides. Finally, I want to apply fiberglass and epoxy to the bottom of the keel. I think doing it before we add any frames or floors will be considerably easier.
It was one thing to see pictures of the keel in George's book or online from other builds, but it was quite a difference to see it in real life. It's just massive! It really inspires confidence with regards to the durability of the vessel.
I have been dreading the task of cleaning up all of the glue squeeze out from the keel glue up. Since we used resorcinol, a formaldehyde based adhesive, I knew that I would need take precautions so I didn't ingest any of the dust. Add to that I would have to work in uncomfortable positions, I put off the job as long as I could. I quickly found that the glue is so hard that when a power plane goes over the larger pieces it literally shatters the planer blades.
So before it could be planed even and plumb, I had to sand the big chunks off first. I donned a respirator, safety glasses, hearing protection, gloves and a long sleeve shirt in preparation for all the dust. I turned to our angle grinder equipped with an 80 girt flap disk. This made quick work of the job but the grinder eats batteries very quickly. Luckily I have four 9amh batteries, so I had enough power for one side. After the batteries were spent, I let them cool and then put them in the charger so they were ready for the next pass with the planer.
It took several hours to sand and plane each side, so I could only do one side a day.
Like George talks about in his book, with a CAD rendering of a vessel, you really don't need to loft. The CAD rendering is very accurate and there is no need to double check the naval architects work. You can pull all of your measurements, without lofting, right off the CAD rendering very easily and everything is very accurate. However George doesn't recommend, and neither do I, that you skip the lofting phase. I think its a great way to really understand the design and how things should fit together. For novices like me, this was a very valuable step. Plus, creating patterns ensures a very easy way to lay out all of the necessary info to build the boat.
Since I've never lofted a boat, I think its very possible that I might have made a mistake or two. I figured a great way to double check for accuracy would be to lay out all the stations on the keel from the CAD drawing. The first step in the process was to jack up the keel so that it was the appropriate height above the baseline. Drawn out, the keel slopes upward as you move from the transom forward. If you attempted to draw out each station with the keel laying flat on the cradle/strongback, all of your marks would be out of plumb once the boat got in the water!
I used a bottle jack and some cribbing to get the keel to the proper height. I then laid out a surveyors tape measure on top of the keel. With all of that set, it's just a matter of using the measuring tools included with the CAD reading software to get the measurements I needed. I used a level to plumb the marks at each station and the work progressed very quickly. I used my 6' level to lay out the angle at the bow between stations 8 and 2. It's just a straight line so it's a simple matter of connecting the dots.
With everything laid out, all the marks were transferred to the opposite side and the process begins again. Now I can have a fail safe when we go to assemble our keel to the final shape and begin adding our frames. Like I said, this step is not mandatory, but I think it's worth the effort. Not to mention it was fun to do and cool to see everything laid out.
It was hard weekend but we made good progress and I'm happy with where we are. It's been about a year since we broke ground on the boat shed and there are not really any benchmarks to evaluate our progress besides my desire to complete the project. As I look at all the lumber in the boat shed I see all of the keel pieces ready for assembly and 19 frames ready for install. The lumber for the floor timbers are ready to go as well as all of the white oak for the stringers, chine, deck beams and carlins.
We certainly don't have a boat yet, but everyday we get closer and closer. The response to our YouTube channel has been great. We've had great support on our Facebook and Instagram pages and we've connected with people from all around the world. Not to mention how much fun we've had this year working to make our dream come true. We feel very blessed and I'm confident we'll have so much more to show in another year.
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