Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fitting the Utility’s port side planking — and a little more progress on the Zip

Having previously used the starboard side planking as a template to draw and cut the port side, fitting the port side planking was relatively quick and simple. Busy days full of other obligations have meant that I’ve had to work on the boat incrementally... 20 minutes here, 45 minutes there... but, it's getting done.

Thanks to a little help from my daughter, I’m now most of the way through driving the screws to hold the planking down. The new DeWalt titanium drill bits I bought have been a real pleasure to work with, particularly since my older ones had become almost too dull to use.

Dry-fitting the forward port side planking.

February brought with it an unusual amount of snow this year. In addition to school cancellations, there were a few days when I got snowed-in at home. I took advantage of these days to draw out the construction drawings for my Zip on a big sheet of eucaboard.  I drew the frames out as they would overlap one another, based on their shared x,y axis & set-up level. This will be a great reference for checking  the frame parts for accurate shape & for assembling the frames. It is also a very useful tool for checking the relative dimensions of various aspects of the hull.

My Zip construction drawing on a big sheet of eucaboard.

Last Christmas, I received a copy of How to Fiberglass Boats, by Ken Hankinson, along with the accompanying DVD. I finished reading it recently, and I’ve enjoyed watching the DVD. It’s useful information for those, like me, with minimal experience at working with fiberglass. It takes a lot of the mystery out of the process, and it's very helpful to watch someone else actually doing it. 

Additionally, the book is very enlightening about precautions to take when working with epoxy.

With any luck, I'll be able to fiberglass the Utility’s hull before summer.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A kitchen scale saves the day.

I took another boatbuilder’s suggestion, and bought a kitchen scale to use in measuring my epoxy mixtures. This simple device I bought for about $30 at K-Mart has made a huge difference. I can now precisely measure any given amount of epoxy, with no guesswork. It’s such an obviously superior method that I wish I’d done it this way all along.

Not surprisingly, the last 2 layers of epoxy went on easily, with no problems whatsoever in curing time. With the stem & related parts now encapsulated, I could move on to finishing the side planking.

On February 15, the 1-year anniversary of my heart surgery, I got the forward starboard planking attached.

Again, the kitchen scale was an indispensable part of the process, and really saved my tail at one point. With weight-based measuring, the Silvertip Gel Magic is mixed at a 1:0.41 ratio, (rather than the 2:1 ratio by volume.) I had mixed a little over 150 mL, because I had a considerable amount of area to cover: both surfaces of the butt joint, the forward 7 feet of chine and sheer, the side of frame #2, the upper part of the stem, and all the same mating surfaces on the planking itself.

I ran into trouble about 3/4 of the way through this batch of epoxy. Enough time had elapsed that the mixture had become so viscous that it was unworkable. At that point, I had coated everything on the boat framing, and had only just coated the mating surface for the butt block on the planking. I had all the rest of the planking left to go.

Luckily, I had 1 extra mixing cup and 1 extra chip brush on hand. Going quickly back to the kitchen scale, I mixed a small batch of approximately 75 mL, allowing me to finish the job. The epoxy cured solidly by the end of the afternoon.

The next day, I faired off the front of the starboard planking at the stem, and started fitting the port side.

Starboard side planking, finally attached!
Now to fit the port side.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Utility: Finally a little progress

After being held up by various delays, including a week of unusually harsh winter weather, I've finally made a little progress. I've added the first coat of epoxy to encapsulate the stem, as well as the undersides of the breasthook, sheer, and chine at the forward end of the boat.

These surfaces will need 2 additional coats before I'm ready to resume planking.

It is possible that my epoxy mixture was not entirely accurate; or that the curing process was slowed by exposure to cold temperatures; or a combination of the two. Whatever the cause, it is taking a considerable amount of time to cure. It is, however, progressively curing. 

This happened to me once before, early-on in my Squirt build. Some epoxy that I applied during rather cold weather remained pliable for a couple of days. It did eventually harden, however. I will know in a couple more days if this batch is going to fully cure or not. I think it will.

The forward end of the boat, all taped up for encapsulation. This is so I won't get epoxy on the surfaces where the planking will attach later.
UPDATE: The epoxy did eventually cure, although it took 2 days. I had mixed and applied the epoxy in low temperatures on the borderline of the 50 degree F limit of the Silvertip slow hardener.