Monday, April 28, 2014

Incremental progress on the first bottom plank

So, cautiously and methodically, I have continued fastening down the first panel for the bottom planking.

Using a 4-foot ruler as a straight edge, I drew reference lines on the plywood to show placement of the floor battens. That made it much easier to mark the places to drill holes & drive screws. Marking the chines for screw placement has not been so easy. I’ve had to cut away enough overhanging material so that I can use my marking gauge — the same spring clip & duct tape arrangement I used on the side planking. I used the Porter Cable multi-tool saw to cut away plywood as I worked my way forward... cutting new plywood washers as I went.

Bottom panel, before much extraneous material was removed.

Looking forward, you can see the panel begin to curve and twist.

Reference lines for the battens helped greatly with screw placement.
Near the forward frame, the plywood begins to curve and twist considerably. At times, it seemed like I just couldn’t bend it any more without breaking it. I followed the technique outlined in Boatbuilding With Plywood, and cut away as much extraneous material as I could, while still leaving myself adequate material to work with. It is amazing how much easier plywood will bend when excess material is cut away.

Here, a good bit of material has been removed from the panel. It became much easier to bend.

For now, my progress has stopped at the forward frame. I’m just inches away from the transition joint. To mark the approximate cut line up forward, I coated the corner of the side planking with a lumber crayon & bumped the bottom planking panel against it to transfer the mark. It worked reasonably well. Soon, I’ll remove the bottom panel, cut near this line, and re-attach the panel for further fitting.

The transferred line on the inside of the panel should help greatly when I remove the panel & trim it down further.
 Once this panel is cut to shape, I’ll be able to use it as a template for the other panel.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Utility: No sudden moves

Yes, progress is slow on the Utility. I like to think I’m being cautious and methodical.

Beginning to fasten the bottom planking panel (fwd, starboard) to the keel.
With the panels for the bottom planking cut, the next step of course was to fit one into position and begin fastening it into place. The 8-foot panel is long enough that I decided to position it 4 inches aft of frame #1. That’s just far back enough to fit a butt block to join this panel with a much shorter aft panel later on. (Just how much the butt block in the floor will interfere with water movement through the limbers, time will tell.)

First, I marked the centerline down the full length of the keel. Then, I measured and marked a perpendicular line across the keel, 4” aft of frame #1. That gave me a clearly marked “corner” in which to fit the panel.

I clamped the panel into position & adjusted it until I was satisfied that it was accurately fit into position. The next step was to begin fastening the panel to the keel.

I wasn’t real keen on drilling holes into the keel, but it had to be done. I carefully marked positions for the holes... 5/8” starboard of the keel’s centerline, and spaced 6” apart. (When the panel is fastened down permanently, the screws will be spaced 3” apart. For now, I’m just roughly fitting the panel into position so that I can trim it and twist it into position.)

Next, I began drilling the holes and driving the screws — cautiously and methodically. I used plywood washers over the planking panel. The washers are to help hold the planking down, and prevent any screw heads from pulling through when tension is put on the plywood to bend and twist it into place.

So far, I’ve only gotten about two feet done along the keel. Like I said, though... “cautious and methodical.”

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Utility: New motor; First bottom panel cut

This first half of April has seen some progress on the Utility project, although not much that is visible on the actual boat itself. I ordered a new Nissan 8hp motor from The motor arrived very promptly... and I promptly realized I’d never operated a tiller-controlled boat before.

New 8hp Nissan Marine outboard
So, the kids and I fixed that by taking a weekend getaway at a nearby lake. I rented a 14 ft Jon boat fitted with a 9.9 hp Yamaha, and we ventured out on the water. There really is a lot to be said for the simple Jon boat. They may not be the prettiest things on the water, but it’s hard to imagine a more versatile boat in that size.

In any case, our little aluminum Jon boat was by no means a rocket on the water, but it did what it was supposed to. The Utility will have a shorter, and more streamlined hull, although somewhat heavier. I imagine performance with its 8hp motor will be similar to the 14’ Jon boat with the 9.9 Yamaha. Time will tell.

Over Easter weekend, I began the break-in period for the Nissan motor. The first two phases were to let it run at idle for 10 minutes, then to run at <50% throttle for two hours. That’s done. The next phase is to let it run at <75% throttle.

On the boat framework, I have faired down the side planking on the starboard side. I have not yet tried to fill in any of the low spots, or “hollows”, along the chine. Instead, I decided to go ahead and cut the panels for the bottom planking by cutting one sheet of Meranti in half lengthwise.

My plan is to begin dry-fitting the bottom panel into place, and to use that as a gauge to determine just how much I’ll need to fill in along the chine. It is possible that any gaps will be minor enough that thickened epoxy will do the job adequately.

Rough placement of the first bottom panel