Monday, December 4, 2017

Frame #2 — A year later

So, The Tedious Tale of Zip Frame #2 began when I started building it in December 2016. Now it's December 2017. Yikes! I guess this is what you call working at a snail's pace. Oh well... it is what it is, and it certainly isn't a race.

A year later, what's the status of Frame #2? It is structurally complete, encapsulated with 3 coats of epoxy (4 in a couple of spots), and now I'm working on primer coats on the gussets.

Frame #2, with the gussets in various stages of finish.

The starboard gussets have 4 layers of primer. (On the aft surface, anyway.)

Primer coat #3 sanded and ready for another coat on the port bottom gusset.

Epoxy coat #4, still curing on the port top gusset.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Denatured Alcohol

This time, I didn't use water.

I took the advice of some other, and frankly more talented, boatbuilders. After sanding the surface (again) and vacuuming the epoxy dust away (again), I wiped the surface off thoroughly (again), but this time with denatured alcohol.

WHY denatured alcohol? To tell you the truth, I'm not sure. My best guess is that it evaporates more quickly than water. All I know is, I used it based on qualified advice, and it worked.

Floor beam sanded (again) and wiped with denatured alcohol

I also sanded one of the gussets (again). Looks like I went through the epoxy.

And, I sanded this gusset. Again.

So, after sanding and cleaning, I applied a thin coat of epoxy (again) using a thin foam roller and cheap foam brush as before.

This is what the offending surface looked like before.
Same area, after sanding, cleaning, and a fourth coat.

You can even see my coffee mug reflected in the surface.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Encapsulating: Make sure it's dry first.

So, what's the great mystery about applying the third coat? Procedurally... nothing. It's the same as the first two coats:

  1. Sand it.
  2. Clean it.
  3. Epoxy it.

Let's revisit that "Clean it" step. The way I do it is to vacuum the surface thoroughly, and then wipe it off thoroughly with a moist rag. This is all to remove the epoxy dust left from sanding.

However, what happens if you sand the previous epoxy coat(s) a little too thin? Apparently, moisture can indeed get through it and into the wood. If that happens, I have learned to wait as long as necessary for the surface to dry thoroughly.

Otherwise, you get this:

So, guess who's getting sanded for a fourth coat of epoxy?

Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, and a sane Black Friday.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Repeat for second coat

With the first coat of encapsulating epoxy now cured on the frame, the next step is...

Well, the next step is to repeat the whole process. (Surprise!)

First, I lightly sanded the surface with 220 grit sandpaper. Then, I vacuumed the surface a few times. After that, I wiped it off with a rag moistened in hot water to clean away the epoxy dust. Then, of course, I let it dry completely.

First coat, before sanding.
First coat, after sanding.

Detail shot of the sanded first coat.
Then, I applied the second layer of epoxy with a thin foam roller and a foam brush.

Second coat applied to the aft face of Zip frame #2.

Detail shot of second coat.
Stay tuned, to see what mysteries await us in applying the third coat!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Surface prep for encapsulating

It occurred to me after my last post that I should probably include a little more detail about this encapsulating process. 

After all, one of the main reasons I'm writing this blog in the first place is to hopefully be of assistance to the first-time, amateur boatbuilder. I want to help those who, like me the first time around, may have little to no experience at woodworking or even with boats.

To that end, I'm happy to share the mistakes I've made and the lessons I've learned along the way. I'm certainly not a professional boatbuilder, and therefore I'm not trying to "teach" anybody anything. I'm just sharing my experience, in hopes that it will help someone else build their own boat.

In this post, we're putting the first coat of encapsulating epoxy on the aft face of Frame #2. Now, on to the pictures...

Wrong color of wood filler

With my Zip build, I am placing a much higher emphasis on the overall fit and finish than I did with the Utility. One of the lessons I rapidly learned is that the wrong color of wood filler sticks out like a sore thumb. The photo above shows DAP Plastic Wood in the "natural" color, used on Meranti plywood. As you can see, it clearly does not match. Not even close. The darker areas are where I used epoxy thickened with mahogany wood dust to fill in the screw indentations. For my purposes, this mix-match doesn't matter in this case, as the plywood gussets will be painted.

Testing the Elmer's Pro Bond in "walnut"

Here, I'm trying out Elmer's Pro Bond wood filler in the "walnut" color to see how well it matches the Meranti. Not bad, in my opinion. It's certainly not up to perfectionist standards, but not bad.

Another lesson I learned from my last build is to slightly round over the edges of the wood surfaces. This allows the epoxy to coat the edge more evenly, without building up a "bead" along the edge.

Wiping the surface with hot water

I sanded all of the surfaces to be coated with 220 grit sandpaper. Any uneven or rough surface will show all the worse in the finish coat. In addition to meticulous sanding, I also vacuumed the surface multiple times, and then wiped it off with hot water.

Wax paper is indispensable to prevent you from gluing boat parts to your work surface. Yes, I learned this one the hard way.

Here, in preparation for mixing and applying the epoxy, I've gathered all the items I'll need. The little italian ice cups from Luigi's or Lindy's make great mixing containers for small batches of epoxy. A kitchen scale is invaluable for quickly and accurately mixing epoxy. I learned to keep it in a freezer bag to protect it from epoxy drips. Thin foam rollers are ideal for spreading epoxy, and they do a MUCH better job than brushes — especially cheap chip brushes, which leave bristles stuck everywhere in the epoxy. Foam brushes are perfect for getting epoxy into corners. Latex gloves are essential for protecting your skin from epoxy, and I learned to keep a rag handy for wiping up spills, etc. It's not fun to go looking for one in the midst of working.

First coat of epoxy

And here, we have the first coat out of three for encapsulating the aft face of Frame #2. As you can see, the mismatched color of wood filler I used on the frame gussets sticks out like a sore thumb.

Elmer's Pro Bond wood filler in "walnut," used on Meranti marine-grade plywood.

The Elmer's Pro Bond in "walnut" is certainly a better match. It's not perfect, but not too bad.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


There's really not a whole lot I can say about this part of the process. 

The term "encapsulation," as it relates to boat building, refers to coating the wood with multiple layers of epoxy. The purpose is to seal the wood against moisture in an effort to prevent rot. 

The book, Boatbuilding with Plywood by Glen L. Witt, recommends that you apply at least two coats of epoxy — preferably three.

Lately, I have been encapsulating Frame #2... at a rather leisurely pace. I have been applying the epoxy with a thin foam roller, as well as a foam brush to get into the corners.

Second coat of epoxy on the forward face of Frame #2.

Second coat, sanded in preparation for third coat.

Third coat, on the forward face of Frame #2. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Primer and coffee

Most days for the last week have started early... about 4:30 am, with me holding a cup of coffee in one hand while stirring a can of primer with the other. Somehow, it has become a relaxing and familiar ritual.

I suppose I should back up a little. Because, before the multiple coats of primer came multiple coats of epoxy. Encapsulation, you know: coating the wood with 2 or 3 layers of epoxy to water-seal it.

In this case, I've been working on the stem.

I'd roll on a thin layer of System 3 Silvertip epoxy, using a thin foam roller. Once that layer cured, I'd sand it lightly, clean it off, and roll on another coat. Originally, I had planned to just do two coats. However, I went ahead and applied a third layer, just to be thorough.

Glen-L Zip Stem
Encapsulating the stem with epoxy. Here, you can see where I've also started "pre-fairing" the stem at the bow.

Glen-L Zip Stem
I have tried to fill in low spots, etc, in order to have a smooth surface. Here, you can see where I've filled in the screw head indentations with plastic wood. Also, on the back of the stem, you can see darker areas where I have filled in low spots with thickened epoxy. One other thing I did was to slightly round-over the edges to allow for better epoxy and paint coverage... as well as a generally more attractive look on the edges.

Glen-L Zip Stem

After the epoxy, came the Aquaguard 190 primer. I'd brush on a layer & let it dry, then flip the piece and brush the other side. Then I'd sand it all lightly, and repeat... slowly leveling the surface. I lost count, but I think I've put 5 coats of primer on it so far.

Glen-L Zip Stem

I may put on a 6th coat, just to get the surface as smooth as possible. Or, I may just leave it. It's only the stem, after all, and no one will see it. 

We'll see what the coffee tells me to do tomorrow.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The new prop. Hmmm.... we're getting there.

Bear with me as I wax sentimental for a moment.

The photo may be nothing remarkable, but it's a view I worked and waited a long, long time to have:

Idling past the floating cabins at Hales Bar Marina in my Glen-L Utility.

Yes, I know I've had my boat in the water for two years now. Still, the value of keeping this kind of thing in perspective helps a person appreciate where they've come from in more ways than one. Six years ago, I took my very first ride in a handmade boat... a Glen-L Zip, at the fifth annual Glen-L Boatbuilder's Gathering. My dream of building a boat of my own was born.

This was the view when I took my very first ride in a hand-made boat 6 years ago... taxiing past a variety of docked hand-made boats and floating cabins in the shadow of the old Hales Bar Dam.

Last year, at the 10th annual gathering, I was giving rides in my own fully-completed boat, humble though it may be. I was giving rides to other people who were working toward their dream of building their own boat.

Last weekend was the 11th annual gathering, and last year's dreamers were now giving me rides in their boats. What a great experience.

Hey... if you're dreaming about building your own boat, quit procrastinating, and just do it. Get started, and no matter how long it takes, (or how little)... don't give up. Inboard, outboard, sailboat, rowboat, canoe, whatever.... you can do it. If I can build a boat, anybody can. Trust me. Quit procrastinating, and just do it.

Moving on....

G11 was a beekeeper's dream. Bees, bees, bees everywhere. In your face, investigating your coffee, following you halfway across the river. Everywhere.

Aside from that, there were some amazing, beautiful boats there. There was a group of great people who built them... people who have become friends, and who are becoming new ones.

But, I'm sure you're just dying to know how my new propeller worked. 

Well... not bad, but still not enough to accomplish the desired goal of planing with two adults aboard. 

Let me say that, if you're going to build a Glen-L Utility, and you're going to use a 4-stroke motor... get a 9.9hp. "Eight is great," or perhaps I should say "Eight is Enough" if you'll be the only person in the boat. Two people? Get the 9.9.

With just me in the boat, I found that the 6" pitch prop got the boat on plane at lower rpms than the 7" pitch. I did not attach a Tiny Tach to the motor this time. However, when I finally dared to run the motor at full-throttle, it did not seem to over-rev. Not a rocket. But, stable, safe.. and on-plane.

With myself and either of my kids aboard, the 6" pitch just didn't do the trick. Tohatsu makes a couple of 5" pitch props for this motor, so next I will try one of those... probably the 4-blade. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

New prop

At the G10 boatbuilders gathering last year, I got to learn a little about prop pitch from a more experienced boater. 

We came to the conclusion that a propeller with a lower pitch might help my boat perform better with two adults aboard. The lower pitch should allow higher rpms and more thrust, hopefully getting the boat to plane with a heavier load.

Last spring, during maintenance on the motor, I more-or-less deduced that the "F7" marking on the prop probably indicated the 7" pitch original prop that comes as standard equipment on Tohatsu-Nissan 8hp motors.

So, not long ago, I ordered a 3-blade, 6" pitch propeller from Tohatsu. Today, after a trip to the lake, I put it on the motor. It fit like a charm. Next weekend, weather permitting, I should be able to test it at G11.

Original prop, with its glossy black finish

"F7" marking on the original prop

New-in-the-box Tohatsu 6" prop

The new prop has a matte finish, and flattened tips on the blades

Unlike the original prop, this one is clearly marked with diameter and pitch

New prop attached to the motor. The matte finish contrasts with the glossy finish of the motor.

Monday, September 4, 2017

On the road again...

Replacing the axle turned out to be incredibly easy.

I ordered a Karavan axle that had specs very similar to my old axle. The old one was round, mounted underneath the leaf springs, and was 56 inches long end-to-end with 42-inch spring centers. The new axle is 1 inch longer, with 42-1/4" spring centers.

Luckily for me, it was an easy drop-in fit.

New axle, mounted on top of the leaf springs.

New wheels attached.

The new axle came with 5-bolt hubs attached. Academy Sports was great about letting me return the 4-bolt hub kit and wheel I'd bought, and exchange them for a pair of 5-hole wheels / tires and a couple sets of lug nuts. The whole thing went on very easily. 

I mounted the new axle on top of the leaf springs, since this is how I'd seen it done in numerous YouTube videos. It was also the easiest way, being a one-man operation. I used new mounting hardware for the axle, tightened everything up, lowered the trailer, and tightened the lug nuts some more. Done.

A little repair to the hull

The last time I was at the lake, I got the boat askew as it floated back onto the trailer. The bow came alongside the front roller of the trailer, and the cotter pin at the end of the roller axle scratched through the paint in the hull. The damage was minimal, but still noticeable, leaving a scar at the bow, just under the chine. Thankfully, it didn't seem to go through the layers of epoxy and fiberglass, though a little wood was visible.

To repair it, I simply sanded the area around the blemish, applied two coats of primer, and 3 coats of paint. 

Now, barring any unforeseen problems, trailer is roadworthy and the boat is ready for G11.

Primer, applied over the sanded blemish.

The first coat of paint, drying.

With the first coat of paint dry, the primer underneath was still visible.

Third coat of paint.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Routine trailer repair keeps getting more expensive

As I was cleaning the grease off of the first spindle, I began to get the feeling that something was not quite right. Now, I'm no expert on trailers... but it would seem to me that a spindle should be round.

First hub off the axle
Cleaning grease off the spindle
This one wasn't. It had a substantial gouge cut into the underside surface. Actually, it had a couple.

I briefly considered just attaching the new hub and wheel anyway, and hoping for the best. I'd already bought them, after all.

Damaged spindle

Additional damage to the axle
However, I decided not to. I spent too much time building this boat to risk it. So, after some online searching, I finally found an axle that would fit the dimensions of my old trailer. I ordered it yesterday, along with new mounting hardware. There goes another $185. Better safe than sorry, I suppose. 

I'll also have to see about returning the hub and wheel I bought, and exchanging them for new wheels. These have a 4-hole pattern, and the new axle comes with pre-attached 5-bolt hubs. Hopefully I can get all this wrapped up in time for the G11 boatbuilders gathering in 3 weeks.

In other news, I got the first encapsulation layer of epoxy on the newly-widened stem for the Zip. I had enough epoxy left over that I also encapsulated the aft face of Frame #2.