Monday, August 14, 2017

The Tedious Tale of Zip Frame #2 — part six

I had been hoping to draw The Tedious Tale of Zip Frame #2 to a close this last weekend.

Almost. But, not quite.

After a seemingly unending amount of sanding, I finally got the deck beam to a point where I was ready to attach it to the rest of the frame. So, I drew, cut and sanded the pair of gussets, and laid out the parts on my construction drawing for fit & alignment.

The parts all laid out on my construction drawing.

The all-important centerline.

The all-important centerline

Making sure all the parts are arranged and aligned as accurately as possible.

With all that done, I marked one of the plywood gussets for the first set of holes to be drilled. Then, for the sake of symmetry, I aligned the gussets and drilled them both on my drill press.

With the gussets aligned and clamped back onto the vertical members of the frame, I drilled through them once again, into the mahogany.

Once the gussets were attached, I flipped the whole thing over, and realigned the whole thing once again on the drawing. Then I drilled and screwed the deck beam onto the gussets.

The last part of the process was to drill for the longer 1-3/4" screws to go through both overlapping pieces of mahogany. There isn't a lot of room on that lap joint for driving screws, so I only had space for one per side. On the starboard side, I accidentally drilled all the way through the wood.

After drilling for the #8 screws, I countersunk the holes with a 3/8" bit. I have to be very careful with this drill bit. It's quite aggressive, and when it bites into the wood, it'll go through it like butter.

Once those two last screws were driven in, the whole frame was officially dry-fit. By this time, however, it was almost 10:00 pm. So, the epoxy will have to wait for another day.

Zip Frame #2, all successfully dry-fit.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trailer Parked

My summer boating activities quickly ground to a halt with that grinding sound coming from the trailer. Sure enough, the bearings are shot. 

One of the tires is also a picture-perfect example of dry rot.

So for now, the trailer is up on cinderblocks with the wheels removed, waiting for me to install new bearings & tires.

Not that there aren't other things to do.

I've been sanding away on the deck beams for frames 2 and 4.

Sanding away on the deck beam for frame #2. Note the big freezer bag full of mahogany wood dust.

In addition to those beams, at some point I will also need secondary deck beams to form the aft sections of both cockpits. I had considered laminating a couple of big scrap pieces from my last mahogany board, so that I'd have a board wide enough for one of these additional beams.

Scraps clamped together for a (hopefully) even run across the planer.

It would probably work.

I clamped them together and ran them over my planer to make good mating surfaces. The result looks like it would work.... however, I've changed my mind. The seam would go right down the middle of the deck beam, potentially making weak points in the arcs at either end.

Think I'll just wait.
Hmmm. Yeah, maybe not.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Slow Saga of Zip Frame #4 — part seven

Finally, I bought a new 14' board of 4/4 African Mahogany to make the deck beams for frames 2 and 4. I cut the beam for frame 2 first, since it's less of a focal point than frame 4 (aka: the dashboard).

I wanted to take my time and make sure I got the dash right.

To start with, I simply traced the crown of the beam from the plans onto the remaining 7' rough-cut mahogany. The shape, as drawn on the full-size plans, would be too narrow to accommodate what I have planned for the dash layout.

On the centerline, I marked the span at 6" and 6-1/4". The dash beam needs to be tall enough to accommodate a 5 x 10" oval in the center, for the instrument panel. It also needs to be tall enough to accommodate the 5" diameter bezel for the steering wheel, at the point halfway between the centerline and the sheer.

Marking the 6" and 6-1/4" span on the centerline.
For the shape of the dash, I decided to simply trace the lower line from the deck beam of frame #2. I aligned the frame 2 deck beam onto the centerline drawn for the dash, with the bottom aligned with the 6" mark.

Aligning the #2 deck beam on the centerline for the dash.
Then I traced the lower line. However, when I measured the beam height at the location for the steering wheel bezel, it was too short. So, I moved the beam down to the 6-1/4" mark, and traced the line again.

Tracing the lower shape of the frame 2 deck beam.
This time, there was an adequate span for the steering wheel bezel.

Measuring the span for the steering wheel bezel.
Below is the layout that I have planned for the dash. I want a basic, minimalist instrument cluster mounted in an inlay at the center. The inlay will be a complimentary, contrasting wood... probably maple. The gauges will be a 4" tachometer in the middle, surrounded by a 2" depth gauge and 2" volt meter on the sides. Pull switches for the lights will be centered along the bottom, in-between the gauges. On the other side of the steering wheel will be a small panel switch for the bilge pump.

That's the plan for now, anyway.

The inspiration came from this inlaid dashboard on a Glen-L Malahini that I got to ride in at the 2012 Glen-L Boatbuilders Gathering. When I saw it, I knew that I wanted to do something similar.

What a view!

At the moment, my dash looks like this:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Tedious Tale of Zip Frame #2 — part five

It was a quiet Saturday morning in late July. My boy was asleep, enjoying the peace of his sister being away at a friend's house. It was, after all, one of the last weekends of summer, before starting a new year of school. 

The sunrise was slowly filling his room with a luminescent yellow glow. All was quiet and still.

It's a perfect set-up for the tranquility to be shattered by the sound of a lawnmower, or a neighbor's weed-eater, right?

Not exactly.

The tranquility was shattered when I started the saw. Its blade caught the dense grain of the heavy mahogany board, kicking the saw back and slamming the board down onto the slab of plywood it was clamped to. The plywood was clamped to a pair of sawhorses, several feet above the concrete floor. Concrete floor. Cinderblock walls...

The acoustics were perfect.

I pressed the saw back into the board with more determination, and the fight between me and the mahogany was on. The sound was like a booming symphony of drums at a rock concert... only less rhythmic. And for a sleeping teenage boy, far less pleasant.

What did I care? I had ear protection.

I was determined. After all, within this expensive chunk of wood lay the deck beam for frame #2, which hadn't been touched since February.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Grey Area

I almost titled this post "Fifty Coats of Grey," due to all the sanding and re-coating I've been doing. But, I decided not to. Maybe next time.

Work continues, slowly, on the Zip. I have been applying Aquagard 190 primer to the transom knee and frame #5-1/2.

Frame #5-1/2 with notches cut, poster board template, and my modified 2"-wide transom knee.

When I originally constructed frame #5-1/2, I had intentionally left the notches for the sheer and chines uncut. Some builders prefer to only notch the frames once they are all mounted on the construction form, and the longitudinals are sprung.

I decided that those people are better woodworkers than I am. I also decided that, since the Zip has been a popular boat to build ever since it was introduced 63 years ago, in 1954, that the notch locations shown on the plans are probably accurate enough. In all that time, there don't seem to be many well-documented complaints. Good enough for me.

I have already cut these notches in the other frames and the transom. To "retro-fit" them into frame 5-1/2, I drew a template from the plans onto a piece of poster board. Then I simply placed the template on the frame, marked, and cut.

The floor batten notches remain uncut on all frames, however. I still have not decided if I will use 3 per side, or only 2.

Tucked away on one of the plan sheets is this statement where Glen mentions the option of using 3 floor battens on each side of the keel.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Revisiting the stem

Work has slowed considerably on the Zip. There are a couple of reasons for that:

The first and best reason is that I finally have a completed boat to play with. Now that the weather is warmer, I'd simply rather spend my time out on the lake in the Utility than cooped up in the garage working on the Zip.

The other reason basically comes down to planning. Every little piece and component is interconnected on a boat. For example, the shape of the dash beam depends on the layout of the gauges and switches. The layout depends on what gauges and switches I want to use.

Then, comes the question of a motor. 

If I get a 40 or 50 horsepower motor for this boat, my budget will basically demand a used 2-stroke motor. Here's the problem with that: I'd prefer not to use an old 2-stroke motor. Call it my inner tree-hugger. I'd rather have a cleaner-operating Evinrude E-TEC or a 4-stroke motor. And, you guessed it... those are just too expensive.

If I get a new motor, then my budget basically limits me to 20 or 25 hp. So, it's a matter of compromising either emissions, or power. For a lot of people, that's a no-brainer. Prioritize power. I get that. I do. 

However, power and speed isn't all that important to me. On the other hand, I don't want to invest all this time and work to wind up with an under-performing boat, either. So, if I opt for a 20–25hp motor, that decision will affect the length of the boat. The shorter "version" of the Glen-L Zip is called the "Flying Saucer." It's designed at 12' 3" and has a maximum horsepower rating of 25. 

And so there you have it: progress has been stalled by having to make decisions (and/or purchases) regarding instrumentation and power. What to do in the meantime?

Why not work on the stem?

If you read much about either the Zip or the Flying Saucer, you'll find a lot of comments about the boats' tendency to be light in the bow. Most builders look for ways to shift some weight forward, in order to keep the bow down. A popular choice is to mount the fuel tank up front, and I'll probably do that.

But, I decided to also add some bulk to the stem. 

As-designed, the stem is 1-1/2" wide (2 laminations of 3/4" plywood). I added additional 1/4" pieces to the sides, increasing the width to 2 inches (which is also what I did with the transom knee). I had to leave a 1-1/2" channel for frame 5-1/2 to fit into, because I did not want to widen the notch in the frame.

Here, you can see the 2 additional layers of 1/4" plywood attached to sides of the stem, forward of frame #5-1/2.
This photo shows how frame #5-1/2 fits onto the stem.

Here, I have clamped a scrap piece of 1/4" plywood onto the side of the stem, aft of frame #5-1/2. This allowed me to simply trace the shape of the stem onto the new parts, making sure to leave enough of a "channel" for frame #5-1/2 to fit into, without widening its' notch (and weakening the frame unnecessarily).

As I worked on the stem, I noticed that the breasthook was not accurately perpendicular to the stem. So, I also added a tapered piece to the top of the breasthook to correct it. This should help when the frames are all on the building form, and it's time to mount the stem into place.

Something just didn't seem right about the breasthook. So, I put the whole assembly in my vice and made sure it was level laterally.

Then, I made sure the breasthook was level, linearly.

The moment of truth. Checking the breasthook laterally, it was clearly nowhere close to perpendicular to the stem.

I found that the breasthook "dropped" almost 5/8" from tip-to-tip.
To resolve the issue, I made a shim by laminating 3 pieces of 1/4" plywood together: One full-width piece, one half-width piece, and one quarter-width piece. I faired it with a belt sander and a finish sander.

The shim worked within reason, so I epoxied it into place.

Monday, May 29, 2017

So, how does it row?

The Glen-L Utility is actually quite easy to row, and I'm definitely happy that I put the oarlocks on it. 

Now, a little caveat: Although it is fairly easy to row, it is not what you'd call a "rowboat". Rowboats tend to be proportionately narrower, with a rocker in the hull, and glide through the water smoothly and easily. This is a planing-hull boat designed for outboard power. It is first, and foremost, a power boat.

That being said, you can raise the motor, put the oars out, and row with relative ease. You won't be the fastest rower on the water. Someone in a canoe will be able to run circles around you. And, if you have to row for a long distance, you're in for a workout.

But, if you like to motor your boat to your favorite little secluded cove on the lake, turn off the motor, and row around in the peace and stillness... this boat fits that role beautifully. In fact, I've done that very thing with my daughter aboard, and still dragging the outboard motor through the water, without it being much of a chore to row. On a large pond, or a small lake, you may not even need a motor at all.

Being a fairly wide boat, you'll need long oars. I bought 6-1/2' oars, for two reasons: That is the longest length that I can easily stow onboard, and that was the longest length available locally (at Bass Pro Shops.) They work pretty well. If you're expecting to row your Glen-L Utility frequently, you'd probably be happier with 7 or 8 foot oars.

Happy Memorial Day!

Monday, May 22, 2017

A simple remedy to the rowing issue

Simple things usually work best. That's what I believe, anyway.

So, when I was trying to decide how to remedy the problem of the oars hitting the side of the boat and getting knocked out of the oarlocks, I looked for the simplest possible solution.

The goal was to raise the oarlocks enough to give the oar adequate clearance over the sheer... without having to move the oarlock sockets and drill more holes in the sheer clamps.

This is what I came up with:

Half-inch spacers that I made from scrap mahogany. These raise the oarlocks about as high as possible, while still leaving enough of the shaft in the oarlock socket for the whole thing to function well.

It's not a perfect solution, as the oars do still rub against the side of the boat slightly — that is, if you're rowing from the rear thwart. From the forward thwart, (which is a better rowing position, anyway) the oars clear the side of the boat just fine. For as little as I expect to be rowing this boat, I believe this arrangement will work just fine.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Lessons learned from rowing

Earlier this month, I had the Utility at the lake, and was bringing it back to the dock. Just for fun, I shut the motor off and used a canoe paddle. I found the boat surprisingly easy to maneuver this way.

Of course, the water was calm and there was no wind that day. 

Nonetheless, I was intrigued. A few days later, I decided to finally buy a set of oars & try my hand at actually rowing. 

The Glen-L Utility has a fairly wide beam for it's length, so in theory it would benefit from rather long oars (like 8 feet or longer). I bought a set of 6-1/2' wooden oars, because that is the longest oar that can be easily stowed onboard. Yesterday, I got to try them out.

So, "How does it row?"

Unfortunately, I can't give a fair answer to that question... not yet, anyway. I need to change a couple of things before I can give it a fair assessment. 

I will say that you can indeed move a Glen-L Utility through the water with a set of oars with relative ease. It is not, however, what you would call a "rowboat." Someone in a canoe could easily run circles around it.

That's okay. I wanted a power boat that I could also row occasionally. This boat fits that description quite well. 

But, I ran into a problem. 

Back when I installed the oarlocks, I used a set of Perko edge mount oarlock sockets. Due to the sharp inward angle of the hull along the sheer line, I installed the sockets on the inner surface of the sheer. I did this for two reasons:
  1. I didn't want to risk driving the vertical screws through the side of the hull.
  2. The 90° angle of the mount would not make contact with the hull if mounted on the outside.
Installing the Perko edge mount oarlock sockets.

The 90° angle of the base seemed better suited to the inwale.

The unfortunate result of this, as I found, is that the oar must be used at a rather shallow angle when rowing. Otherwise, it will easily hit the side of the boat. This becomes a real problem when you need to get the oar deeper in the water, because the sharper angle causes the oar to get knocked right out of the oarlock. This happened multiple times, and was extremely frustrating.

This is why you don't want to install an oarlock socket on the inside of the sheer.

That's not the boat's, fault. It's mine, for installing the oarlock socket on the inside of the sheer. So, until I decide on a way to fix the problem, I don't think I can give a fair assessment of rowing a Utility. But otherwise... so far, so good.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spring maintenance on the outboard motor

A few years ago, I was at a big retail store to buy yet another lawn mower. I was complaining to the sales guy that lawn mowers these days are such junk, and that I hadn't gotten more than two or maybe three seasons out of the last 4 mowers I'd owned.

He asked me: "How often did you perform regular maintenance on these mowers that kept falling apart?"

I let the words sink in slowly, as I tried to grasp the concept.

"Never," I replied.

He smiled and said, "I think we may be on to something, here."

From that day forward, I have become a believer in regular maintenance for small engines. You can bet I've made a point to take good care of that expensive outboard motor I bought a few years ago. 

Last weekend, I did the annual spring maintenance on the outboard to get her ready for this year's boating season. 

Here's a quick overview on basic maintenance for a Nissan Marine NSF8A3 8hp motor. (It is a re-branded Tohatsu MSF8A3 8hp 4-stroke.)

Draining the oil and the gear lube:
This step was actually a little easier this year, since the motor is bolted to the boat and is up a little higher. It was particularly helpful in draining the gear lube from the lower unit, because the fill and vent screws were easier to access.

The transom saver was a big help in holding the motor in position while the gear lube drained.
Last of the gear lube, trickling from the lower unit.

Refilling the gear lube:
The procedure for this still seems a little odd to me. It's messy, but it works. For those of you who haven't done this before, basically you pump the gear lube into the lower (fill) hole until it starts coming out the upper (vent) hole. Then you replace the vent screw first, followed by the fill screw.

Re-greasing the prop shaft:
I had actually been looking forward to this part since last spring, when I learned a little about propeller pitch. I wanted to see what markings might be on my prop to indicate what its pitch actually is.

Cotter pin, prop shaft nut, and washer all removed from the prop shaft.
The propeller easily slid right off.
The only marking I found on the prop was "F7." This probably indicates the 8.9" diameter, 7" pitch prop that comes as standard equipment on Tohatsu-manufactured 8hp 4-stroke motors.
Old grease on the prop shaft.

Prop shaft wiped clean.

Several websites recommended this Quicksilver 2-4-C for re-greasing the prop shaft.

The re-greased prop shaft.

Refill the oil and replace the plugs:
I didn't bother taking any photos of this part. Basically, you re-fill the oil incrementally until it reaches the desired level on the oil dipstick. You have to be careful, because it's easy to over-fill. (Then you have to drain the oil & waste it, and start all over. Best to just take your time.) Changing the spark plugs is simple & straightforward.

Other things:
As this is still a very new motor that has seen minimal use, I have not yet replaced the water pump impeller. These should be replaced as part of regular maintenance, and I plan to start doing so next spring.

Also, this motor has a very simple in-line fuel filter that can be removed and rinsed. I haven't actually done that, yet, simply because there haven't been any symptoms of problems in the fuel line. I will probably remove and wash it next spring as well.

Here's to a happy and safe boating season, everyone!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Tedious Tale of Zip Frame #2 — part four

After installing the shims, it was time to shape the floor member of Frame #2 to its proper dimensions. 

This took a while. I used a Stanley Surform plane and a sanding block, working a little at a time. I frequently checked my progress against the construction drawings. I also used a straight edge to ensure that the surface was straight.

Shaping the floor beam

Once that was done, I drew out the gussets on scrap pieces of 1/4" Meranti plywood.

Drawing out the gussets

Once the gussets were cut and sanded, it did not take long to have the frame 3/4 assembled. I still need to epoxy all these parts together. Then, as with Frame #4, this frame will have to wait until I buy another mahogany board or two for the deck beam.

Lap joint with single gusset, just like Frame #4

Chine notch cut with a saw. (Note that I may need to add a shim to the end of the floor beam.)