Monday, May 23, 2016

Trailer Repairs

Last weekend, I decided to take the boat to the lake, even though the varnish work isn't complete, and most of the docking hardware is still removed.

No problem. My daughter and I improvised, and we had a great time out on the lake. One exception, (for me at least), was when we got into some rough chop with approximately 1-foot waves. That is NOT fun in a little boat like the Utility. I was very concerned about the boat getting swamped, or worse. I pushed through the waves very slowly, hoping to get through the chop to smoother water on the river. However, the further we went, the worse the chop became. The Utility is certainly not a rough-water boat.

So, I carefully turned the boat around and made my way back into a narrow channel that is protected from wind by mountains on either side. The water was much calmer, and staying in that area, we had a great time.

Unfortunately, on the drive up to the lake, one of the new amber side lights came loose from the trailer, and was dangling by its wires. I bought some electrical tape at the marina for a temporary fix.

The trailer has had other problems. For one, the winch that was on the trailer when I bought it last summer has never worked. I've had to improvise with a tie-down strap. It was overdue for a new winch, so I installed one over the weekend.

Another problem with the trailer has been the location of the winch stand. More specifically, the problem was the location of the bow stop. It was much too far forward. With the boat pushed all the way up to the boat stop, about 6 – 8 inches of the bunks extended aft, past the transom... meaning the boat hull was not being as fully supported by the bunks as possible.

It wasn't possible to move the winch stand any further back on the tongue of the trailer, due to the tilt trailer release lever blocking its way. However, due to the shape of the winch stand, I realized that I could simply turn it around backwards and have plenty of room to move the bow stop aft. 

I had to drill some new holes in the winch stand in order to reposition the bow stop arms properly. However, it all worked like a charm.

Winch stand reversed 180 degrees and repositioned. As you can see, I was also about to replace the bow roller. However, the existing roller axle was too large in diameter, so I'll need to buy another one.

New winch for the trailer.

My daughter's superb tape job on the dangling trailer light.

I also finally bought a bilge pump, but haven't installed it yet.

By turning the winch stand around, I was able to reposition the boat far back enough that the hull is now supported along the full length of the bunks.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sand. Varnish. Sand. Varnish. Repeat.

In the last post, we left off with Perseverance having her first coat of varnish on the deck.

First layer of varnish (Petit Z-Spar Captain's Varnish)
 Then, according to the instructions, I lightly sanded the surface.

Lightly sanded with 220 grit. Note the bands or stripes across the deck.

The light sanding left some very noticeable side-to-side banding. I assume this is caused by high and low spots in the surface. My best guess is that the uniform pattern of these bands is due to the bending of the plywood. In any case, in spite of the bands, I added another coat of varnish. 

The second coat of varnish looked MUCH better. However, in several places, the side-to-side bands were still quite noticeable.

Second coat of varnish.
So, I decided to give the second coat more than a "light" sanding. Again using 220 grit, I sanded it more persistently, until the side-to-side bands were all but gone.

Sanding the second layer of varnish.

Sanding the second layer of varnish.
Then, I added a third coat of varnish. 

Third coat of varnish

The third coat looks better. Next... do it all over again! This time I'll probably sand it with 400 grit.  

Friday, May 13, 2016

Utility and Zip updates: Varnish & Mahogany

— The Utility —

I sanded the deck with 220 grit sandpaper, in an effort to level off some of the ridges of epoxy that were left from squeegeeing the 2nd coat. I decided that, for the third coat, I would simply roll on the epoxy as thin as I possibly could, and leave it to cure.

Once I rolled on the third coat, the epoxy had tons of air bubbles in it... a byproduct of rolling the epoxy. Left as-is, the surface texture was likely to be rather rough. I did not want to ruin one of my good brushes by using it to "tip" the epoxy. So, what I wound up doing was  passing the roller very gently over the surface of the epoxy a few times. The effect wasn't as clean as the regular "roll and tip" method, but it worked well enough.

Surface of the deck after lightly sanding with 220 grit.

Surface of the deck after lightly sanding with 220 grit.

Surface of the deck after 3rd coat of epoxy.

Surface of the deck after 3rd coat of epoxy. You can see a FEW air bubbles, but overall... not bad.

From some angles, you can clearly see the 8oz fiberglass tape in the center of the deck. Perhaps I didn't sand it enough? Perhaps I should have stuck to my original plan of covering the whole thing in 4oz deck cloth?

From other angles, the fiberglass tape is all but invisible.

Once the epoxy had cured for a full 24 hours, I again sanded it lightly with 22o grit. I wanted to knock down the few air bubbles that remained, before coating the deck with its first layer of varnish.

Half the deck sanded, in preparation for varnish.

Deck after its first coat of varnish.

2nd layer of varnish on the port quarter knee.

One thing I learned when I used my varnish brush for the 2nd time was that I had not cleaned it sufficiently. The bristles were extremely stiff. Fortunately, I was able to work them loose enough to use a 2nd time. 

The second time around cleaning the brush, I used more mineral spirits to fully saturate the bristles. I also worked longer at cleaning the brush. I found a good video online from Jamestown Distributors, showing how to clean varnish brushes. It's a great reference, so I'll share a link to it here:

Video on how to clean varnish brushes

— The Zip —

Another great thing I've been watching on YouTube lately is a superb video series on building a Glen-L Zip. If you're interested in building a Zip, or if you're interested in building a boat in general, I'd certainly recommend watching this video series. It's detailed, in-depth, and is currently up to 26 videos, and counting. Here's a link to the first one:

I got pretty inspired by the series, and have learned several things from watching. So the other day, while on a routine trip to the cardiologist, I stopped at a local lumber supplier and bought another board of mahogany. Since I've got the transom drawn out, and the 2 side frame members cut and shaped... I thought I'd continue working on the transom.

With an improvised fence, I'm ready to cut the Zip's motor board.

I decided to start by cutting the motor board. It's important to me that I cut the motor board and the bottom frame member from the same piece of wood, so that they will be the same thickness. If they're not the same thickness, then I will have to cut a notch in the transom knee so that it will fit properly. I'd rather not do that.

One of the thing I learned from watching the video series is that I can get a cleaner, straighter cut with my circular saw if I use some type of improvised fence. I measured the distance from my circular saw blade to the outer edge of the shoe: exactly 1–1/2 inches. 

After drawing the line across my mahogany board for the transom motor board, I drew another line exactly 1–1/2 inches away. I lined up a straight piece of 2x4 (left over from building my motor stand) on this line, and clamped it into place. Then, using that as a guide fence for my circular saw, a straight, clean and accurate cut was quick and easy.
Preparing to trim half an inch from the motor board.

The Zip motor board, as designed, is 12 inches wide x 11 inches high. My mahogany board is just over 12.5 inches wide, so I needed to trim off about half an inch. Again, I improved a fence with a small piece of pine, and the cut was clean and easy.

One last note on the Zip: After I had coated the Utility deck with a 3rd layer of epoxy, I had just enough epoxy left over to finish adding a 2nd coat to the back of frame 5-1/2.

Zip frame #5-1/2

Current Status of Zip Parts
Stem & Breasthook Assembly2 coats of epoxy
Frame 5-1/2Forward face has 3 layers of epoxy. Rear face has 2 layers.
Frame 4Side members cut, but have not been planed or notched for sheer.
Transom KneeCoated with 3 layers of epoxy
Transom FrameSide frame members cut 1/4" oversized on outer side. Motor board cut.
TransomTransom drawn onto 1/4" BS1088 Meranti plywood.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Epoxy & Varnish

Now, my garage smells like a real boat shop. I just finished up my first varnish job, on the quarter knees and the thwarts. This was my first time using varnish, and I didn't really know what to expect. I wanted to get a little practice on these pieces before taking on the transom and deck.

Speaking of the deck... a few days ago, I sanded it lightly and coated it with a second coat of epoxy.  Even though I'd just mixed a small batch of epoxy, I had enough left over to put another coat on some Zip parts.

Second coat of epoxy on the deck.

Second coat of epoxy on the deck.

Varnish drying on the port quarter knee.

Varnish drying on the forward thwart.

Varnish drying on the starboard quarter knee.

Varnish drying on the thwarts.

This photo shows some surface imperfections on the deck. These lines or ridges were left over from squeegeeing the second layer of epoxy. I need to find a way to put the 3rd coat on more smoothly.

I bought this brush spinner to help with cleaning my varnish brushes. What a great tool! After you rinse your brush in mineral spirits, you attach it to the spinner. Pump the spinner like a bike pump, and it spins the brush like a manual eggbeater. It slings the mineral spirits right off. Then you can rinse the brush.

Current Status of Zip Parts
Stem & Breasthook Assembly2 coats of epoxy
Frame 5-1/2Forward face has 3 layers of epoxy. Other surfaces have 1 layer.
Frame 4Side members cut, but have not been planed or notched for sheer.
Transom KneeCoated with 3 layers of epoxy
TransomSide frame members cut 1/4" oversized on outer side. Have not been planed. Transom drawn onto 1/4" BS1088 Meranti plywood.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Troubleshooting, repairs, and a valuable intro lesson in wood filler

Mistakes aren't tragedies. They're a valuable investment in experience.

I couldn't quit thinking about that starboard bow chock, and the way one of the screws holding it down was driven into nothing but air. How the heck did I mis-measure or mis-align it that much?

I got my T-Square, and aligned it with the centerline seam on the deck. I set the cross-piece so that it made contact with the "good" bow chock. The photo says it all.

The reason the screw was hitting nothing but air was because the bow chock was so misaligned that half the chock was behind the back of the breasthook.

My original plan to fix it was to attach a small piece of blocking under the deck, to give the 2nd screw something to bite into. However, when I saw just how badly the starboard chock was misaligned, I just couldn't bring myself to leave it there. So, I removed it, repositioned, re-drilled, etc.... and THAT part turned out fine.

But, one fix brought a new problem. I now had two holes in the deck to fill. 

I had seen in other blogs that Famowood mahogany tends to become noticeably darker than meranti when it's covered with epoxy. At the local hardware store, the one color of Famowood they had in stock was "natural," which was considerably lighter than mahogany. I thought that once it was coated in epoxy, it might darken to approximately the right shade. On a nearby shelf was another wood filler, in the same "natural" color as the Famowood, in a smaller container & for half the price. I didn't need much, so I bought the DAP Plastic Wood.

As you can see in the photos, the "natural" Plastic Wood is certainly lighter than the epoxy-coated meranti. I expected that it would darken quite a bit under epoxy. I wasn't really expecting a perfect match, but as long as it was close, I'd be happy.

As you can see, after the filler was sanded & coated with epoxy... it wasn't even close to a matching shade. It hadn't darkened much, at all.

Fortunately, the bow chock covers one of the patched holes. 

What these photos don't show is my botched attempt to "fix" that covered patch. 

I had drilled the hole back out, and mixed some mahogany sawdust with the Plastic Wood. (Hey, it definitely darkens epoxy... I figured it would do the same with this wood filler.) 

I was wrong. 

So, rather than risk screwing it up even more, I decided to quit while I was ahead and leave it as-is. I'll learn my lesson and carry that forward to the Zip.

  — The Trailer —  

One of the other problems we'd left at the last blog post was the dangling starboard bunk on the trailer. 

I wound up having to cut off the stripped bolt head with my Dremel, then drive the bolt out with a hammer & a big screwdriver. My son helped me by leveraging the bunk up into position while I put in a new bolt and washer. It worked just fine. 

The only photo I have to show was taken with my cell phone... and it was extremely dark. When I lightened it substantially in Photoshop, it became extremely grainy. Let's convert it to black & white so we can call it "art," and move on...

Starboard bunk, fixed.

 — Epoxy Coating the Deck —  

I spent some more time sanding down the fiberglass tape in the center of the deck. I wanted to feather the edge down as much as possible, without sanding through the top veneer of the plywood alongside it.

After vacuuming, washing and drying the deck, it was time to roll on another layer of epoxy. Just as I'd done with the transom, I rolled on System Three Silvertip with a foam roller, and squeegied it meticulously. The fiberglass tape all but disappeared, and I was quite happy with the result.

These photos show where the fiberglass tape overlaps the plywood. It might seem strange, but I intentionally left the pencil line on the deck panels as a visual souvenir of the process.

I used the leftover epoxy to add another encapsulation layer to the stem & breasthook assembly for the Zip.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Attaching the deck hardware brings new problems

After I attached the rub rail on the port side, I decided to go ahead and attach the deck hardware. Naturally, this involved drilling holes in the deck. I wasn't real keen on that idea. However, I had confidence in my measurements. A little too much confidence, as it turned out.

One thing I really liked about the Perko bow chocks I got is that they're marked underneath for the port and starboard sides, with a simple "P" and "S." Nice touch. 

I measured & positioned the one for the port side, based on my measurement & marking of the breasthook a few posts back. I marked the first hole with a center punch, drilled, and drove the first screw. With the chock positioned, I marked & punched the hole for the second screw, then rotated the chock away & drilled the second hole. So far, so good. No problems.

Perko bow chocks marked for Port and Starboard.
I repeated the process for the starboard side. However, when I drilled the second hole (aft), I clearly missed hitting any wood below the plywood deck. Apparently, I mis-measured or mis-aligned something in the process. I briefly considered simply rotating the chocks and positioning them further forward. However, there are a couple of problems with that:

One, I simply don't want to move them forward. Aesthetically, I like them where they are (even if they are slightly misaligned). 

Two, that would leave a couple of holes in the deck that I'd have to fill & try to hide.... and I'd rather not take that on if I don't have to.

When I attached the rub rail on the starboard side, I was much more careful to work in short sections. Again, I used the same mechanical pencil as a guide for my spacing from the gunwale. It paid off, and the appearance of the starboard rub rail was much better. Live and learn, right?

When I pulled the trailer out of the garage so I could sweep and clean, I found another problem. This time, it was with the trailer. The port bunk is hanging down at the front, so that the bunk is not fully supporting the boat. When I tried to adjust the bolt that holds the forward bunk bracket, the old bolt head stripped. The bracket is so loose you can move it up and down with your hand. Obviously, I need to fix that. Sometime soon, I'm also planning to build much longer bunks to support the boat.

I'll be glad when my latest order of epoxy gets here so I can re-coat the deck and hide these sanded areas.

View of the inside of the boat... with a bunch of crap in it.

This is the port side bow chock. The screw on the left is not contacting anything below the plywood. I'll have to fix that.
I marked and drilled the holes for the deck cleat in the same manner as the bow chocks. The deck cleat is positioned so that it straddles the deck beam, and is screwed directly into the strongback that runs under the centerline of the deck.

Everything was going just fine, until I drilled the forward hole on the port side. Once the drill bit got through the 1/4" plywood, it dropped before making contact with the pine strongback. That means there's more of a fitting problem at that spot. I will probably look for, and fill, that gap and any others I can whenever I deal with the gap between the deck beam and the underside of the deck. At the very least, I will replace the 1" #8 screw there with a longer one.

This is the Herreshoff deck cleat. The screw at front left is not making adequate contact with the strongback below the deck. At the very least, I will replace it with a longer screw. 

Here's a view of the inside of the boat, with all the junk removed. In spite of a few hiccups along the way, (which are ultimately unavoidable), I am very excited about this boat. I can't wait to get it back to the lake.