Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Going 3-dimensional

First set done, second set of planks on deck...
Finally the hull is beginning to take shape. How gratifying after hours of applying epoxy and sanding, front, back, once, twice, touch up for good measure...

Let's say that I was ready for some 3-dimensional progress. So here is how things look now.

I was surprised at the sounds the hull made as I stitched on the planks. The promising crackle of the copper wires and wood. You could literally hear progress being made.

Even after the hull strakes are all stitched in place, the boat is still as flexible as a tree sapling. I had been surprised how much time was required to prepare the upper three sets of strakes. So, I expected the copper wire business to be much more time consuming than it actually was... or else, time flew by more quickly as progress could be observed... and - without having to wear a respirator.

Prickly Planks
But then came trouble.. with a capital "T" the stands for Transoms. Oh boy, the front and end pieces of the boat had to literally be wrestled into alignment with the strakes,.. and there POP goes another copper wire. I became a virtual copper wire snapper. The sight was not exactly pretty but eventually I got a sufficiently tight fit to make the next step reasonable.

Note to self - No loosey-goosey - next time watch out for a snugger fit of the planks. That would have made things a bit easier.

By comparison to the wire job, the preliminary gluing of the transom, called "tack welding", was a piece of cake.

For now there is a definite wood warp in the hull. This is better than a time warp which - as my wife can readily attest - can also happen to the unsuspecting builder of boats... getting caught up in the moment of undivided attention to interesting details.

Finally it is starting to look like a boat - or an over-sized walnut shell

So here is hoping that the warp in the hull will eventually straighten itself as the "furniture" gets installed and that in the meantime, future boat-building time warps may be ephemeral and go undetected by those who depend on us being available in the present.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Planks and Bulkhead Prep

First layer - before and after sanding
Week Two was dominated by Pages 36 and 37. Pre-coating the planks and bulkheads -  mixing epoxy, laying on thin coats, waiting to cure, sanding - then repeat. No question about it: it's an arduous task but the process is straight-forward.

The first layer seems to be more of an impregnation of the wood. Especially after having sanded down the first layer "until there are no shiny spots left" (according to manual), it really gets you very close to the bare wood again. 

At this point, dust control is the biggest challenge. Obviously, you have to wear all the protective gear, most importantly a good respirator. I had ordered the 3M 6000 with HEPA Filters from the CLC and they are comfortable to wear and appear to work very well. Of course, wearing the mask is only one part of the issue concerning the dust. Keeping it out of the rest of the house is a major task.

Preparing the work platform for the second coat of epoxy

Fortunately, our sun room is not tied into the house with a cold air return. The trick is to get air flow from the dining room door through the sun room and out the door onto the deck. I need a larger ventilator to get a stronger flow.

I manage my limited work space by clamping a few stringers in between the strakes so that once the planks are coated, I can then place the bulk heads and seats on top to coat them as well. It works quite well.

The stringers enable me to apply epoxy to two layers
 As I am starting to bear down on the second coat of epoxy with 220 grid disks on my orbital sander, I  am eagerly anticipating the next phase of construction: the stitching together of the planks.

Almost 40 hours of preparation so far!

Are we having fun yet?
You bet!

When your day-job involves writing, communicating and managing, working with wood and constructing something tangible provides a great counter-point.

Second coat of epoxy waiting to cure
I have no idea whether my hours are on target but it really does not matter much when the process of building is as enjoyable as it will be to sail or row the this little craft.

With my next entry I fully expect to show the emerging hull shape.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One Week Down

Wow, it has been a productive week beginning with the unpacking of all the wood components, supplies and implements as well as accounting for everything to match the packing list.

And then of course, I had to find places to put everything in my micro-workshop. It reminded me of the days when we went on camping trips with our boys and all the gear and luggage had to be stowed and fit in the trunk like a puzzle. Ha! - having fun before the official start of fun.

I had ordered the manual prior to determining that I would, in fact, be prepared to build the PMD. A fact which awaits to be proven. Having read the manual twice and having mentally gone through the process in advance was really helpful and I recommend it to any other would-be shipwright. As I was unpacking and devising a game plan to work within my confined space, I recognized all of the pieces and how they will eventually fit together.

So, briefly, here is what I accomplished in the first week:
  • Glue the rub rails
  • Glue the yard, boom, and mast
These long pieces can then be stored safely out of the way.
  • Glue and sand the 4 pairs of strakes (planks)
  • Glue and sand the bottom piece
  • Apply epoxy on three sets of strakes on both sides (await sanding prior to a second coat
  • Apply epoxy coat on one side of seats and bulkheads
  • Glue, round and sand the two transom pieces and doublers

That's pretty much it.

Including the initial unpacking and storing, I am 25 hours into the project so far. CLC Boats really does a fabulous job on all counts: the directions in the manual, the incredible packaging, fabulous designs and their attentive service. 

Having arrived on Page 36, it looked quite innocent at first but - gosh, it is demanding! It'll take me a few days just to complete the two coats of epoxy and sanding in between cured coats.

Okay, gotta go and do some more sanding...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thinking about building a boat

Broad-reaching with Asymmetrical Chute
So why would anyone want to build a boat and more to the point, why would I want to build a boat?

Heck, I did not even know that I was a sailor until well past a reasonable age to learn a new trick. But that's another story.

Anyway, so here I am - 18 years later - usually sailing in the fast lane, finding myself smitten with the idea of building a small nutshell of a sailing dinghy. I know next to nothing about building a wooden boat and other than a couple of years of shop in school - eons ago - I don't really know much about working with wood.

Encounter with Goldberry
Over the past many years of sailing my high-tech 18' racing dinghy, a Johnson 18, I became friends with Garth, a true wood-working artist and artisan who built Goldberry, an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous wooden boat designed by Iain Oughtred. From time to time, our boats would cross paths on Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park. On one occasion I had an opportunity to sail on his boat and like a flash, I remembered the smell, the sound, the feel of my father's wooden 15' dinghy, a Pirat. From time to time I'd wistfully think about building a small little vessel but then would dismiss the thought before it had a chance to become a plan.

As my wife Iris and I perused around the Annapolis Sailboat Show this past season on a perfect fall day, we came across the Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC Boats) booth where they were in the middle of putting together a small pram. I picked up a catalog and... well, put all these things together and I arrived at the conclusion that building my own little boat would be a great winter project after all... I looked at many other companies offering kit boats but in the end came to the conclusion that CLC Boats would be my best choice. After studying the various mouth-watering designs offered, I decided on the lovely lines of the Passagemaker Dinghy, a Norwegian-inspired pram.

This 11'7" lap-strake craft offers a wonderful combination of sailing and rowing and I was definitely attracted by the traditional lug rig option which I chose over the originally designed gunter rig.

Finally, on Dec 13, the kit arrived after many weeks of not-so-patient waiting.

I am hoping to launch the boat in the spring... at any rate, I promised Iris that my 10' x 20' workshop will be converted back to the Bristol-clean sun room it previously was.

This log will chronicle my progress.

According to the manual, it will take 100 work hours to complete construction. I suspect it'll take me a bit longer simply because of my space constraints. Not to worry though, the doorway is large enough for the hull to exit unharmed upon completion.

I'll keep you updated...