Saturday, November 7, 2009

Man of the Cloth

Well, it was 70 degrees today in Madison. A little indian summer is nice!

I picked up the main and jib this week from Ryan at MadSails, and they look pretty darn good! The luff on the jib is a tad long, so we'll have to work on that, but all in all, I think they look fantastic! See for yourself:

I'm putting a few finishing touches on the boom tonight and then a few coats of paint on the keel and rudder and I will be all set to put her to bed for the winter. :(

Ah, we'll see what the weather gods say over the next few weeks...


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bit and Pieces

Lots of activity in the boatworks since the last post:

I put roughly million layers of fairing filler on the keel, and it's finally ready for primer. I also glassed up the sleeve for the rudder cassette. The same as with the keel I used the faired rudder with a layer of 1/16" foam wrapped around it as a plug. Once I had the sleeve I used that to trace out the shape onto pink insulating foam so that i could create two stiffening members for the cassette.

A layer of carbon uni and the cassette was wicked stiff. Now on to more fairing...

Yesterday, Traci and got the deck hardware fastened down. Guess who got to crawl inside the belly of the little beast to turn the wrench!
Lastly, today I got the rudder cassette partially faired and and dry-fit the tiller and fork to join the two. The tiller and fork pieces and down in the basement now marinatng in thickned epoxy (along with the cassette, which needed another coat of filler!).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bring on the heavies

So this week and weekend I did some gross tuning on the keel bulb.

I started out by drilling the holes for the cross bolts. I first drilled the recess for the bolt head using a 7/8" standard spade bit. Slow and steady is the name of the game when drilling lead. I know that other builders used loads of cutting oil, but I opted for water as I wanted to avoid extensive cleaning before trying to apply fairing filler. I also set the clutch on the drill to about half to avoid shearing off a drill bit. This worked great. After the countersink was done, I drilled a 7/32" pilot hole through the first bulb half. I then pulled out a 12" long 5/16" diameter brad point bit. With the drill on the low setting, small "bites" into the lead worked awesome. Pulling the bit out to clear it after 50 or so revolutions seemed to be the key. Once I made it through the first half, I laid the bulb over the keel foil to drill that hole, and then laid both on the second bulb half and drilled through. Finally, I drilled the counter sink on the other side.

If I had to do it again, I would have bought a long bit to drill a 1/4" pilot hole all the way through. With a 5/16" hole on the second half, it was difficult to drill the counter sink without the bit wobbling and I had to lug the 80-lb bulb half to my office to use the drill press. Incidentally, I tried a 1" Forstner bit on the second set of countersinks, and when using low RPM, it worked a treat.

OK, so the bolts are drilled and I am good to go, right? But, it turned out that the cast bulb halves contracted quite a bit as they cooled in the mold. This left the a 1/2" - 5/8" gap between the halves when I put then together. A preliminary weighing told me than I was also about 10 lbs below max weight. So I came up with a decent solution to fill the gap and add as much weight as possible. I started by folding a piece of aluminum foil into ~1" strips (probably 8-10 layers thick) and layed the Al strips onto the tacky side of regular old duct tape. I then used my homemade foil tape to create a dam to seal up the gap so that I could do a second lead pour.

My scheme worked great and the duct tape only melted a little. Best of all: no leaks! The second pour probably added about 8 lbs to the bulb weight and I am darn close to max class weight (185lbs for the bulb and keel strut).

I now have a coat of fairing filler on the bulb and fairing continues on the rudder, but it is quite close.

Stay tuned!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Melt With You

This weekend I had a go on the rudder and keel bulb.

On saturday I planed the shape of rudder from the laminated blank I made many moons ago. The keel was good practice. :) An electric planer is great when used with care. As with the keel I traced the profile on the ends of the blank and used the planer to "step" down the blank until I hit the line of the profile. I then planed those steps down until I had the foil nearly smooth. From there, I used the planer to cut a nice channel to recieve the carbon fiber lay up of stiffness. I saturated the carbon, layed it in the channel, and then smeared Microlight filled over the whole foil. Sanding to come...

I also poured the keel bulb yesterday. I have to note that Kevin and his wife gave Traci and I the best (my opinion!) wedding gift: an aluminum pot, an iron skillet, a ladel, and a bottle of champagne---all lovingly lead-tainted (maybe not the champagne). I must say, it was the only wedding gift which required hand-washing after opening.

I used Kevin's excellent blog post as a guide. The unseasonably cool weather this weekend (50-55F) and the wind made the job tough and Traci wanted NO part of the Great Lead Melting. Can’t blame her. :) So I was working solo. I think the temp and the wind made the lead slow to melt, so ultimately I ended up placing Kevin's aluminum pot directly over the turkey fryer burner, rather than on top of the iron skillet as he did. This worked fine, but by the time I was done the bottom of the aluminum pot had deformed slightly to match the grates on the burner. Careful if your pot is thin walled!

The pour on the first half was only OK. I don’t think I had enough lead in the pot when I started pouring, so layers started solidifying before I got the next layer poured. I have a couple of layers of lead that don’t seem well adhered so I think I will wrap the bulb with a layer of glass tape to keep everything together. It will also be bolted crosswise to the strut, so I am not all that concerned about the integrity of the bulb.

The second half went much better. I consistently kept more lead in the pot which meant much less time to melt additional pieces and therefore less time between ladlefuls of molten sweetness.

Interestingly (but not surprisingly) the second half, which I poured in a much shorter period of time, contracted significantly when it cooled. It ended up being a ¼” lower than the top of the mold and 6lbs. lighter than the other half (80 lbs.). I think I will get the halves bolted together and then try to seal the gap with heat-resistant mica tape and fill the gap with a small scale pour. Should get me up to weight, I think.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

One more bit of carbon

Light = fast, right? Definitely my favorite piece of hardware on the boat!

Traci and I had an awesome honeymoon in Barbados following an incredible wedding.

Now it's time to get the Boatworks cranking again!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Angle of the dangle

Since my last post, I've fabricated the tiller. I started with a sheet of pink insulation foam and cut it to rough shape with the jig saw. I then (very gingerly) sanded it with a small electric sander and by hand. When I got the overall shape close to where I wanted I wrapped it with a layer of 9oz cloth to give it some strength so I didn't break it while trying to fair it with Microlight filler. After the tiller was fair I wet out slid on one fiberglass sleeve, one carbon sleeve, and one carbon/basalt hybrid sleeve (all from Soller Composites). I like the results!

I also got the non-skid applied to the cockpit and deck last weekend. I had read good things about Kiwi Grip, so i gave it a shot. The stuff is really easy to apply. Working in 2ft sections I troweled the yogurt-like stuff on with a 1/8" V-notch trowel. The roller they include is great and based on the pressure that you use you can dial in just the right amount of "tooth" to the finish.

The Boatworks will be quiet for a couple of weeks, as Traci and I are off to Lake Geneva tomorrow for our wedding this weekend. Then off to Barbados for a week!

The finishing touches will be put on the boat when we return and we WILL get out sailing before the snow flies!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Hey, if I can't sail it yet, at least I can wear the hat!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mean Machine

Since the last post, my sailmaker (Ryan Malmgren; MadSails) came over to take measurements. He and a colleague on the East Coast are currently building the sails. Should be ready in a week or so.

I've put a couple coats of clear urethane on the stick and have one more to go. I decided to try out an automotive clear coat due to price (~$40/qt.) and availability (local auto parts store). It is supposedly professional grade stuff used in body shops.

I also got all of the holes for deck hardware drilled, filled with thickened epoxy and redrilled. That was the last step before getting a coat of finish paint on the cabin top gunwales and cockpit sides.

Looks pretty bad-ass, if I do say so myself! One more coat tonight and she might be ready for the non-skid paint.

Then on to the things I have been putting off, like melting lead for the keel bulb. :)


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Last night after work, I made a few minor preparations and Traci and I stepped the mast. We steadied the rig using the jib halyard and two lines from the mast (just above the spreaders) down to the chainplates. I tied a third line above the speaders which I used as a "measuring tape" to ensure that the rig was centered in the middle of the boat.

Once I had the mast positioned where I wanted it, I cut the shrouds to length and attached the Hi-Mod studs. I started with the lowers, then the headstay, then the uppers.

Looks pretty sweet, I think. Hopefully my sailmaker can come by soon to take down some numbers.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I owe (another!) huge thanks to a bunch of my co-workers who came over after work on Friday to help flip the boat and get her on the trailer---although I think they would help me move a body for free beer. :)

All went extremely well. Only took about five minutes to roll the boat off the cradle and lift it onto the trailer.

Over the weekend I glued up the mast sections using West System G-Flex 655K, trimmed the mast length to fit within the confines of class rules, and ran the main and jib halyards to assist in the stepping of the rig. I nearly stepped the mast this evening, but ran out of gas. Traci and I will get it stepped tomorrow after work, so our sailmaker can get over here and take measurements.

Stay tuned!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pretty Fly for a White Guy

I finally got a couple of coats of finish paint on Alchemy this weekend. I am using Interlux Brightside (Blue-Glo White), which is a one-part polyurethane paint. It's not quite as tough as the two-part offerings available, but it is a rather robust finish which my dad and I have had good success with in the past. It gets quite hard after about 30 days.

The original plan was to spray the finish paint on the boat. My dad and I have found that your run-of-mill Wagner consumer-grade HVLP power sprayer is capable of doing a fine job. Naturally, the summer weather here in the Midwest had other plans. To be able to spray (somewhat) efficiently, you need essentially no wind if you are going to be spraying outside (which is a really good idea). I say "somewhat" because spray application is not nearly as efficient as brushing. And when the paint is at least $40 per quart (more for two-part finishes), that might be serious consideration.

Given this weekend's wind and forecast for thunderstorms, I opted to roll-and-tip the finish coats. This technique involves rolling the paint onto the boat in 2-foot-wide sections and lightly dragging a fine brush over the rolled paint to remove bubbles and prevent drips and sags from forming. I have found that the biggest "secret" is that you need to use quite a bit of thinner when you are rolling-and-tipping. Interlux recommends their #333 Brushing Liquid at a maximum of 10% by volume. This, of course, varies with wind, temperature, and humidity. Sorry, no silver bullet here.

By trial-and-error, I found that 5 "cap fulls" per 8oz of paint worked well. The draw back is that you don't get really awesome coverage. The paint goes a long ways: I have put on two coats (with one quart of paint) and one more to do. But there are still a few spots where the primer was thin (or completely sanded off) where I have a dark spot. The best news is that the ratio of thinner to paint that I am using has great leveling capability and very few brush strokes can be detected in the finish. See for yourself below:

I wet-sanded with 320 between coats. This did a good job of taking care of a few sags that I got when I was fine-tuning my method.

Anyway, I am very pleased with how the paint is going on. More wet-sanding tomorrow night probably with 400 grit, and a (hopefully!) final coat on Tuesday.

Stay tuned!


P.S. For those of you that don't get the reference in the post title:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Prime Time, Part 2

After a few hours of sanding and filling tiny fish eyes in the epoxy (and then more sanding!) I got a coat of primer (Interlux Prekote plus a touch of 333 Brushing Liquid) on the hull. I rolled and tipped the primer. Unfortunately, the primer didn't flow out like I wanted it to (streaky), but it will get sanded anyway. Hull seems pretty fair, so I am happy with the result. I still need to hit a few spots with spot filler tomorrow, and then maybe finish coat.

Over the last couple days, I also faired in the spin pole tube. I cut a couple of pieces of plywood for the top and bottom and one for the front end. A little thickened epoxy, and layer of cloth, and some fairing filler end it looks pretty darn good. I've got a thin coat of epoxy on it tonight so hopefully it should be cured up and ready for paint tomorrow.

OK, that's it. I'm bushed. More tomorrow.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy Trails

Well, at least one thing is actually done: the trailer.

I wanted to be sure the trailer was ready before the boat was painted so that it could be flipped right onto the trailer. To finish off the trailer, I painted the bunks with an oil-based paint (grey to match the galvanizing) and then glued polyethylene foam to the supports that would contact the hull. A little "googling" suggested that plain old Weldwood Contact Cement would do the trick in gluing a normally tough-to-adhere polyolefin like polyethylene to the wood. At six hours in so far, so good. :) Now if the boat fits in there I'll be all set.

I also got another coat of epoxy on the hull, but that looks just like it did two days ago before I sanded so I didn't post a picture.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

To do list...

Lots of little things going on.

As you can see below the boat was flipped and a couple of weeks ago Traci and I got the entire hull covered in 6oz glass cloth. We used a 60" wide roll (from US Composites) which covered from the centerline down to the rail with a couple inches to spare. I had originally order a 25yd roll. Early we glassed the topsides, and when we got to the hull we were exactly 1ft short. Typical. :) This was not a huge problem since there was extra cloth near the bow. So we seamed in the port half of the transom. I was fairly precise when I was doing the topsides; 30yds or so would give you ample margin for error.

Since the boat is upside-down, it took the opportunity to create a couple of bunks for the trailer out of 1/4" meranti and 1/2" doug fir. If I did it again I would go with 3/4" ply for the uprights. As it is, I added a couple of vertical pieces scrap cedar to each bunk to stiffen them up a touch.

In other news, my standing rigging arrived today from Rigging Only. Looks good! I am going with stainless rigging, rather than the fancy ($$) poly stuff. I had rigging only swage the t-balls on the upper ends and they left the lower end raw for attachment to a Hi-Mod stud which will go into the turn buckle body.

On the immediate to do list is getting a second coat of epoxy on the port side of the hull, getting a few small spots along the centerline faired, and then shooting some primer.

God, I want to go sailing...

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Well, yesterday was the big day and everything went off without a hitch. I invited a few of my work colleagues and my sailmaker over for a little light manual labor and a BBQ. We started by lifting the boat off of the cradle and setting it on a couple of pieces of styrofoam. I then quickly mounted a couple of crosspieces on the cradle. With a couple of lines tied to the chainplates, we vey easily got her up on her side and then lifted finished rolling her.

As easy as it was to roll the boat, I have a hard time imagining she will weigh in at 800lbs when all is said and done. Time will tell! Next up, you guessed it: more fairing and sanding. :)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Prime Time

Wow. It's really starting to come together now. Today I got a coat of primer (Interlux Pre-Kote) on the decks. A while back I thought it would be cool to keep a portion of the boat bright finished---that's varnished wood rather than painted wood for you boatbuilding neophytes :) . So before I primed the decks I masked off the cabin sides. Due to the presence of fiberglass tape and filler at the corners I had to leave 2" on the top and 4" on the bottom edge painted.

I'm still not sure I'm sold on it. What say you? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think---bright cabin sides or painted?

Well enough about paint. Tomorrow we flip to boat! First thing in the morning I'll need to get the chainplates installed (to secure lines to) and screw together a few 2x4s to attach to the cradle before the gang arrives to flip this little sucker.

Stay tuned!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Meet my maker

Sailmaker, that is.

I met up with Ryan Malmgren at MadSails this afternoon to have a look at the draft sailplan for the boat. Ryan has a ton of experience building small boat sails and we (Kevin and I) are really stoked to have him working on our project. Truth be told, I think Ryan is pretty stoked to be involved as well.

The main is going to be square-topper with about 160sqft of area. That should give us ample horsepower in the light stuff, and the sqaure top should auto-depower nicely in the puffs.
OK, time to go finish fairing the decks so I can flip the little beast on Sunday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dead Sexy

Things are really starting to get cooking now. Over the last two weekends Traci and I got the glass laid on the decks. Unfortuately time did not permait us to do the whole job in one go so their was a bot of sanding and fairing required between glassing sessions. I think it looks pretty good though. Of course, the longboard will tell me the truth...

Going to try to get everything sanded this week and maybe get a coat of primer on the deck before we flip it next weekend.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hit the deck!

Sorry for the barage of posts---I've been trying to focus time on working on the boat rather than blogging about it. Unfair to my "devoted readers"? Sure. Send me a check and I'll be better about updating the blog.

This long holiday weekend was a tremendously productive one. Three solid days in "The Boatworks" show solid results. Saturday saw the side and forward decks getting glued down. In addition to gluing the deck edge, this required filleting and taping of the edges and bulkheads from the underside. Not the most pleasent work, but not unreasonable. I got about 80% of it done on Saturday by myself---I would have done more but ran short on biaxial tape. Decks are solid, though. Will get more biaxial tape this week week and finish 'er off.

I spent Sunday trimming the deck edges and giving them a nice round-over for hiking. The ½” radius ease to the deck edge looks really good. I first used a straight laminate cutter to trim up the deck edge even with the hull. Then ran my sander down the edge to make sure there weren’t any little epoxy bumps. Then used the ½” round over bit with my "custom" fence attached (below). I used the fence to prevent the router bit from taking too deep a “bite”, particularly in the aft sections of the hull. I ran the router over everything twice. I plan to smear some Microlight in a few spots and will finish with the longboard.

Today I spread a mess a of West System Microlight filler (No. 410) on the rail and cockpit floor. There were a few spots that needed a bit of "help". More sanding and filling tomorrow, but tonight we celebrate an actual boat! :)

Carbon Footprint

NOTE: This should have been posted on 5/15/09.

Yeah, my carbon footprint just got a bit bigger. And I couldn't be happier...

At long last, our carbon fiber rigs, booms, and spinnaker poles arrive from C-Tech, Ltd. in New Zealand. They are truly masterpieces. Kudos to Alex and coworkers at C-Tech. Below are a couple of samples of their caftsmanship.

Hot, right?

After recieving the carbon kit, the first order of business was getting the spinnaker pole receiver tube glassed in so I could get the deck put down. I calculated some rough numbers so that the pole would be centered when fully extended and then got to sawing. Sawing holes in a perfectly sound hull. Nice, eh?

Once I had rough-cut holes for the recieving tube in frame-018 and -110, I used a flashlight to project the profile of the required oblate hole onto the bow section.

After a bit of fine tuning of the bow hole, shocklingly, the math worked out and the pole was dead-center when fully extended!

On to the decking...


NOTE: This should have been posted on 4/26/09.

Companionway turned out nice, I think. For the boating neophites, the "companionway" is the door to "downstairs". :) I used a length of aluminum U-channel from McMaster with a 1/4" internal width and depth. At that size, the piece I cut out for the companion way slides right into the two slots. I framed the inside of the companionway with my trusty poplar stock that I cut down a bit. Along the bottom, I laminated two 1"x2" pieces of poplar together and cut it on the table saw so that it would shed water. All told, I think it looks pretty good and should work well.

I also slotted the side decks for the chainplates. If you lay the side decks in place and scribe a pencil line from underneath, you can carefully use your circular saw to plunge cut the slot. A little triming at the ends will let the 1/8" stainless chainplates slide into place nicely.

With business travel and a short trip for Traci and I to London for 5 days for a wedding, the Boatworks will be quiet for a bit. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Plaster of Disaster

EDIT: I started but never finished this post until 5/25/09.

Had a very busy, but productive, weekend. The title to this post alludes to the fact that I created the mold for the keel bulb. Eventually...

All told, I went through 75lbs of plaster and two 5-gallon buckets. One batch of plaster kicked-off in the bucket before I got into the trough. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Back to the beginning: I started out by creating a plug for the bulb out of lightweight green floral foam. It's super easy to carve and shape. A detail palm sander w/ 220 grit paper works well---not too aggressive, but takes the material down reasonably well.

From there I wrapped the plug in saran and started to mix the plaster. It cures wicked quick, especially when you are working with 5 gallons (25lbs) worth of material. The lesson is: get everything ready an don't even think about pausing until your mold is done. You will definitely need a paddle mixer to attach to your drill (my first batch kicked off while I tried to fabricate one) and you will need a plan to weigh down the foam plugs while the plaster cures.

After a fair amount of spitting and swearing, the mold turned our reasonably well. I still need to add a dab of plaster here and there and try to fair the plug just a touch. But not bad overall.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


It's been a while since the last entry and much progress has been made. The foot bensons for the cockpit floor were fab'ed up and glued down. They were really simple to make:

I cut one 3" x 8' strip and one 2.75" x 8' strip from a sheet of plywood for each benson. I clamped them even along the edge that would touch the cockpit floor and drilled holes for zip ties along the opposite, "uneven" edge.

After I laced them together, I ran them through the table saw at a 45 degree angle.

I then "unfolded" the two sides to make a 90 degree angle.

I traced end end pieces onto scraps of ply and spread a few filets to finish them off.

I also got the aft side decks glued down.

On to the chain plates, forward side decks and the keel bulb.

Stay tuned!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More on storage boxes

Here are a few more detailed pics of the storage boxes in the cockpit:

The boxes are about 8" deep (inboard-to- outboard). I built the first one at 18" long and then decided I want the other one a bit bigger so I made that one 20" long. The longer one got glass in on the port side since there will be few feet more spin sheet in there while gonig up wind.

The bottom of the box is parallel to the cockpit floor so water should drain aft. As you can see in the second pic, the top and bottom are not parallel---the bottom is slanted slightly inboard to facilitate draining to the rear inboard corner.

The opening is 5" x 11". I doubled up the edge with some 1"-wide scrap to provide a little added stiffness.

The other benefit I hope to get from these is added support under the cockpit sides where the crew will be sitting.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hurts so good

Tonight Traci and I got the cockpit sides planed even and fileted in the stow boxes in the cockpit sides.

The picture says it all. There is only ONE way out from the aft bunk with the stow boxes installed (foreground).

The bottom of the boxes are angled toward centerline and in the fore-aft direction are parallel with the cockpit floor, so water should pool in the after inboard corner where I will drill a hole to allow it to drain into the cockpit. The boxes are about 20" in length.

We're close to putting the deck down now. Just a little more finetuning of the bulkhead heights...

Stay tuned!

Jeff and Traci