Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Utility: Fiberglassing continues.

I left off at the last post discussing "feathering" the edge of the fiberglass-covered area. This is simply sanding the edge down in order to have a smooth overlapped seam when you add the next, neighboring section of fiberglass cloth.

With 70% of the boat's bottom covered, I feathered the forward edge of the fiberglassed area. I also rounded over the sharp edge on the bow. With this done, I was ready to add the next section of fiberglass cloth: covering the forward bottom on the port side of the hull.

It went very smoothly. Again, I highly recommend Ken Hankinson's book How To Fiberglass Boats, as it (and the accompanying DVD) make the process very easy to understand. 

Working alone, it's difficult to photograph the fiberglassing process because I'm mostly preoccupied with handling the epoxy (which I don't want to get all over my camera with messy, gloved hands). However, this time I've tried to better show what some of the stages look like:

Photo from the previous post, showing the partially-feathered edge at the chine transition joint.
The same area after the new section of fiberglass cloth was added. On the left, you can see the edge of the new overlapping section. This will need to be sanded as well, to make the overlapping seam smooth.
Feathering the edge that has overlapped the bow.
Feathering the edge that has overlapped the bow.

Fiberglassed transom, after a 2nd coat of epoxy (squeegied meticulously) to fill the weave of the 6oz fiberglass cloth.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fiberglassing begins.

Finally, the time came to start fiberglassing the hull of the Utility. I'd ordered some 6oz fiberglass cloth in both 50-inch and 38-inch widths from Jamestown Distributors. After reviewing the book and DVD on How to Fiberglass Boats from Glen-L, (which I consider a must-have resource on the subject), I was ready to begin.

Edges of the hull rounded-over in preparation for fiberglassing.
The first step was to round over the edges of the hull so that the fiberglass cloth will conform fully to the edges. According to the book and DVD, fiberglass cloth cannot conform to a sharp angle. So, rounding the edges allows the fiberglass cloth to remain in contact with the wood on the edges, eliminating air pockets. Air pockets would be potential trouble spots for trapping water, resulting in rot, etc. What I quickly learned in practice is that it does not require much "rounding over" to be effective... at least not with 6oz cloth.

Since the Utility's transom is only 44 inches wide, I decided to apply the full 3 yards of 50" cloth from the transom to 70% of the hull bottom as one continuous piece. Wetting the fiberglass cloth with epoxy was actually pretty easy, by simply following what I'd learned in the Glen-L book and DVD. The only "surprise" was that it took more epoxy to do the job than I'd expected. Using the thin foam rollers made the process quite simple.

Fiberglass cloth applied to the transom.
Just as I did when encapsulating the hull, I meticulously squeegied excess epoxy off of the transom. This will mean I'll have to apply more layers of epoxy to completely cover the texture of the fiberglass cloth on the transom. However, it should also result in an attractive finish.

The "rounded-over" edges after applying more epoxy and the fiberglass cloth.

Feathering the edges

After the epoxy had fully cured, the next step was to begin feathering the edges of the fiberglass cloth. This is basically just sanding down the edge so that, when the next section of cloth is added, they will overlap on the "feathered" seam. Then, after sanding the seam once again after the second layer of cloth is applied, the seam will be flush with the rest of the surface.

Here you can see the feathered edge, where the forward edge of the fiberglass cloth has been sanded. This shows in the photo as the lighter band across the bottom of the hull.

A more detailed view of the feathered (sanded) edge at the transition joint on the chine. As you see, the edge of the fiberglass on the hull side has not been sanded yet.

The next step is to round over the sharp edge of the bow, and lightly sand the epoxy surface on the forward bottom. Then I'll be able to fiberglass those areas.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Life goes on.

The end of summer brought with it a devastating personal loss. My boatbuilding work suffered in the aftermath. So did a whole lot of other things. But, as they say, life goes on. I'm finally back to working on the boats, so here is a little update:

The Utility
After sanding, filling in holes and low spots, more sanding, more filling, and yet more sanding... the hull was finally ready for encapsulation. Taking advice from more experienced builders, I applied the epoxy (System Three Silvertip) with the special thin foam rollers from Glen-L. This made application much faster and easier than trying to do it with a chip brush. And if you're thinking about using the "regular" paint rollers for this... DON'T. I made that mistake. I regretted it. So will you, in all likelihood.

Glen-L Utility hull, encapsulated with 1 layer of System Three Silvertip epoxy.

On the transom, after rolling on the epoxy, I squeegied it meticulously to remove all excess epoxy. This gives the transom a very attractive "stained" look, accenting the grain that I want to show.

I was very happy with how the transom turned out.

The hull is now ready to be fiberglassed.

Yes, I am enjoying building the Utility. I even got to drive one recently, and it's a neat little boat. However, I want that Zip in the water. There's a long, long way to go before that can happen. So, I built frame 5-1/2 over the weekend. I built it out of 4/4 African Mahogany, lapped with 1/4" Douglas Fir gussets and 3/4" Douglas Fir floor member. It is ready to be disassembled and epoxied. Hopefully, I can get that done sometime this week. 

Glen-L Zip frame # 5-1/2

Monday, August 4, 2014


When we last left off at the previous blog post, it was time for a lot of sanding on the Utility's hull. That is exactly what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks. I’ve done enough sanding, in fact, that I’ve come to a new realization: 

Up to this point in my life, I did not fully grasp the true definition of the word “dust.”

Sanding this boat hull in preparation for fiberglassing it has generated a colossal amount of fine red dust that has covered absolutely everything in my garage. My poor shop vac is trying valiantly to keep up.

In any case, there is still more sanding to be done.

Since it’s now August, I thought I’d post a couple of updated progress photos. All the sanding has revealed a spot on the forward port side where the bottom of a frame did not get adequately faired, resulting in a little “bump” in the plywood. I obviously didn't see this before... perhaps due to the amount of extraneous plywood that was overhanging the side. It’s really best to avoid this type of thing, but there’s not much I can do about it now.

Current state of the hull. Soon it will be time for a little fairing compound.

Frame #2, which is about an inch aft of this bump, apparently had a high spot that I did not catch, resulting in this bump in the planking. Fortunately, it does not feel to the hand as bad as it looks to the eye. I'll fill in these spaces with fairing compound. After fiberglass and paint, I don't believe it will be very noticeable.

This is the shimmed area at the port aft, where I had accidentally gouged the side planking. I think it will look fine once the hull is painted.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Planking completed.

The planking is now completed. In a manner of speaking, the structural work on the hull is basically done. However, there is a lot of work still to be done before the fiberglass goes on.

I had just barely enough epoxy left to finish the job. I used System Three Silvertip, which I thickened with #2 silica, as the last of my mahogany sawdust was gone. I was also running low on 1” silicon bronze screws. However, I did have plenty of 1-1/4” screws. So, I snipped the ends off of enough of them to finish the job, and they worked just fine.

Now it's time for a lot of sanding.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Butt blocks on the port bottom

Not a lot of visible progress since the last post... mostly sanding throughout the last week. However, I did get the backing blocks attached for the last butt joint, where the two bottom panels on the port side will meet. Here are a few photos:

Deep-reach C-clamps are ideal for attaching butt blocks.

Monday, July 7, 2014

4th of July in the boat shop

It was a busy 4th of July weekend in my cramped little boat shop. I set out my U.S. Yacht Ensign flag, and got right to work.

After a week of shaping that mahogany shim on the port chine, I finally got it to a point I was satisfied with. So, without any more delays, I epoxied on the forward bottom planking.

The shim on the port chine

Glen-L Utility hull planking
3/4 of the bottom planking is now attached.
This time around, I used System Three Silvertip epoxy, thickened with the remainder of my collected mahogany sawdust. I learned a valuable lesson about using thickened epoxy versus Gel Magic.

Although I used the remainder of my mahogany sawdust, the mixture was still not as viscous as Gel Magic. However, it sure seemed thick enough to do the job. In the end, I used perhaps 2/3 as much epoxy for the port side as I'd used of GelMagic when I did the starboard. Not only that, but it was easier and faster to apply. This saved me time, stress, and money.... some pretty good selling points. 

I still had plenty... PLENTY... of squeeze-out to fill the gaps I was concerned about, too.

I also used 4” spacing on the screws for this side, compared to the 3” spacing I used on the starboard side. The planking contact seemed just as good, and I used 3/4 as many screws (73 this time, compared to 97 before). Again, this saved me time, stress and money.

And yes, this time I did remember to scrape away excess epoxy from the areas where I’ll need to fit the butt blocks.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Shimmin' O' The Chines

It sounds like it could be the title of an Irish folk ballad... "Shimmin' O' The Chines." As many ballads go, the actual work has so far been a mixture of hope and tragedy.

Well, perhaps "tragedy" might be a bit of an overstatement. But, what was that I said in the last post? "Two steps forward, one step back?"

In any case, I'd made the shims by cutting a 14-inch piece of mahogany in half with a hand saw. Then I planed each half down to approximately 3/16" with a planer/jointer. I epoxied these into position along the low point in the port chine.

When I was planing down the overhanging edge, however, I wasn't paying enough attention to the angle at which I was holding my larger hand plane. Before I knew it, I'd inadvertently gouged the side planking. There's not much I can do about that now, other than fill the gouge in with epoxy. I guess it's a good thing I wasn't planning on a bright finish for the sides.
Mahogany shims for filling in that low spot along the port chine.

The overhanging edge faired away quickly, but you've gotta watch the angle on those larger hand planes.

A close-up of the gouge in the plywood.

Monday, June 23, 2014

All the bottom planking is fitted. However...

All the bottom planking is finally fitted.
Two steps forward and one step back. Technically, that is still progress. That’s also the current situation with the Utility as I try to finish up the bottom planking.

In a nutshell, the panels are all fitted, but there is a little more fairing work to be done. Back in March, I mentioned in a post that there appeared to be a low spot on the port chine. With the planking on, I can see that this problem is compounded by a second one: there is also a high point on frame #1.

These two photos show the "hook," or low spot in the planking caused by a high point on frame #1 and a low spot in the chine.

So, what needs to be done now?

I’ll have to remove the panels, and sand down that high point on the frame. I’ll also have to add some more wood to the chine to build up the low area. Then the panels can go back on to re-check the fitting.

Aside from that issue, there has been other progress. I cut away part of the sole support on the transom to make room for a drain tube. I have not decided yet for certain if I will add a drain tube or not. However, if I do, part of the sole support would need to be removed. That is much more easily done before the bottom planking is attached permanently. I cut away a section 1-3/4" wide, next to the port transom knee. That should allow enough room to install a 1" drain tube. A coping saw and a couple of chisels handled the job nicely.

1-3/4" of the sole support on the transom cut away to make room for a drain tube.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Bottom port forward is dry-fit.

On Father's Day, I finally completed dry-fitting the bottom planking on the forward port side of the boat. I'm very happy about that.

Port bottom planking, dry-fit with screws and washers.
The fitting started off wonderfully at the aft end, where the planking joins along the centerline of the keel. By the time I finished at the bow, however, there were some spots where the fitting was not as good as I'd hoped. These spots can be filled with thickened epoxy, of course. Still, I wish the fitting had been better.

About midway along the keel, there is an open seam approximately 18 inches long, and about 5/32" at its widest point. There was also supposed to have been a transition joint just forward of the end of the keel. I did not pre-plan for this, and as a result, I kind of messed it up a little bit. 

5/32" gap along the centerline of the keel.

The missed transition joint.

In retrospect, I think both of these mistakes could have been avoided if I had overlapped the planking along the centerline of the keel, and trimmed the whole length to fit as I went.

There is another small gap between the bottom planking and the side planking at the stem. 

Another small gap up forward.
My plan is to use epoxy thickened with mahogany sawdust (ie: Wood Flour) when I glue this panel on. From what I've encountered so far, this mixture seems to absorb impact better than epoxy thickened with #2 silica (which seems more brittle). The thickened mixture will fill in these gaps, and I believe that in the end it will all be just fine.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Completion of starboard bottom.

June is upon us once again. I have now been working on my Glen-L Utility for just over two years. A good two years it’s been, too. The little boat and I have both come a long way, in many regards.

I’ve just completed planking the full length of the starboard bottom. It’s neat to think that a year ago, I was installing the sheers.

I should be able to start dry-fitting the forward port bottom this week. My goal is to have the boat fully-planked by the end of the month.

As always, time will tell...

This is what the boat looked like 1 year ago. The sheers had just been installed, and fairing had not yet begun.

Butt blocks for plywood butt joint
Initial fitting of the butt blocks.

Butt blocks dry-fit with screws.

Butt blocks for plywood butt joint
Butt blocks epoxied, screwed & clamped into place. Putty knife at the ready.

Epoxy squeeze-out like this will create a fitting nightmare if you let it cure this way.

That's what the putty knife is for. Scrape it away before it cures.

Aft section battens & butt blocks drilled & ready-to-go.

Aft panel drilled & ready-to-go.

Starboard bottom, fully planked.