There is a finality to the epoxy stage of construction. On the one hand the sticky stuff can cover of a multitude of sins (mostly of error but also of omission). On the other hand it can’t be reversed. Working with wood one can always unscrew, plane down, splice in, cut the ties, re-cut and generally start over from the point where the mistake was made. Once the epoxy is introduced things are set, if not in stone, at least in plastic. This is the last real chance to make adjustments to the fit and leveling and squaring up.
A few last-minute tweaks were necessary. I was very pleased with myself yesterday for forcing the floor up to meet the centre thwart by using brute strength. However it ruined the flat run of the keel and introduced a hogging effect to the boat. I had to release the cable ties and live with a gap between the floor and the thwart which will be filled using skillfully inserted popsicle sticks and tongue depressors which will be buried in epoxy and invisible. There are also a couple of mis-alignments between the planks which had to be forced into place by screwing into bridging blocks. By using washers on the wood screws the offending planks were pulled into position. Once the epoxy has set then the blocks can be removed, the hole filled and the fibreglass tape laid along the seam.
Step one is to tab in the panels by epoxying the seams between the cable ties. I like to work with small batches and a half yogurt container is good for about one seam, especially if thickened to the consistency of peanut butter. With glop this thick the drip through the seams and drill holes is eliminated although I did use duct tape on a couple of the more gaping joins. For once I ended up with more epoxy on the boat than on myself.
This is just the beginning and to some extent is the easy part. The bulkheads and bow and stern have to be tabbed in. The cable ties snipped and the tabbing completed. Then the fibreglass has to be laid along the seams to give full strength. After that – turn the boat over and do it all again.
At some point the pile of wood comes together to the point when one can stand back and take comfort in the fact that this really will be a boat. There is much still to be done but at least now I have a good idea what I will be dealing with. I reached that point yesterday.
After struggling with the centre thwart support which just would not meet the floor of the boat and after snapping a number of cable ties by putting too much strain on them by trying brute strength to move what could not be moved I took my dremel tool and relieved the joint of the two bottom planks. That, coupled with using the weight of the boat itself to force the planks into place ended with a successful closure of the gap between plank and thwart.
I have had to do some extra frigging with the planks at the bow to have smooth joins at the plank edges but by using temporary blocks and screwing the planks in with washers on the screws to spread the load most of the reluctant planks are now ready to be epoxied in place.
The S-F building instructions call for cardboard templates for the bulkheads but I had charged ahead and used full plywood panels based on the plans. Luckily, although these did not fit exactly it was a matter of trimming back rather than adding on. The bow was worse than the stern and I suspect some of it could be blamed on my jury rig on the top plank when I had to replace the plank end owing to improper cutting. With two butt joins rather than one the curvature and flexibility of the plank may have been compromised. I know that some of the flatness in the curves will be taken out when the inwales and outwales are fitted on and clamped in place.
At the end of the day it does, indeed, look like a boat. And quite a splendid boat it promises to be. I have promised myself a full day of rest resisting temptation and the fates before beginning the many-part process of epoxying the plank joins then taping the seams and sanding and smoothing and sanding and smoothing and sanding…..
“No man is entirely useless – he can always serve as a horrible example.” That pretty well sums up what I am feeling this afternoon after a morning in the shop.
First I discovered that not all plastic is created equal. I was feeling pretty smug that I had remembered to put plastic under the planks being glued up so they wouldn’t get epoxied to the concrete floor. All well and good but the recycled supermarket bags didn’t have the non-stick qualities of some of the heavier (and I suspect non-recycled) bags. At any rate underneath that horrible green ooze is a pretty sound joint and after a session with chisel plane and sandpaper and fingernails I managed to get to the bare wood again. Luckily this was the worst of the six joins and a couple that had been backed with heavy-duty bags came through the exercise with little or no sticking. There was worse to come.
After nicely squaring up the matched pairs of planks and planing off the worst of the tracks of the wandering jigsaw I began lacing up the planks. The Selway Fisher instructions suggest beginning at the stern and working forward. I prefer to start at the spot about midships where the centre thwart location has been drawn on the planks and working for and aft alternatively. I find that give me better control of the increasing awkward planks. The Medway Skill has a quite a turn of the bow and the wood must be tortured to make it bend in a way that is not altogether natural. While in most of the join I can use cable ties at about 20 – 30 mm intervals where the wood must be really pulled together they get increasing closer together so there isn’t too much pressure on any one cable tie. The boat ends up looking like a hedgehog sporting a mohawk. I made liberal use of very hot water misted onto the plywood which seems to have helped ease the bending. After the desired bend has been introduced I can usually remove about half the ties, even before tabbing in the interior epoxy. The second plank went on just as easily and by mid-morning it was starting to look like a boat. This is always a nice time and I was reflecting how easily things had gone to date. I started on the top plank and that’s when the day went to hell in a handcart. Starting in the middle things were going along fine. The stern squared up nicely with the lower plank but as I looked forward my heart sank. The bloody thing was about four inches too short! Yep, I had managed to mis-measure yet again. Two useless planks! One useless builder. After a hard think I looked around the shop and had enough scrap plywood to cut an additional bow portion of the plank and then splice it into the plank from which I cut the offending mis-measured section. Instead of one butt joint I would simply have two. It wouldn’t be pretty but it could work.
It could- but it didn’t. I managed the mis-measure the replacement section and had that to do all over again. If that didn’t work then I would have to buy an entire new sheet of 4X8 plywood. As I write this the epoxy is setting and tomorrow could see the completion of the planking and the pulling together of the bow.
I am sure the stern will have its own stories.