Building the Bulwarks
Building the Stanchion/Bulwark Brackets
25 Sept 11Last week I drove up to visit my best friend Steve for some welding (since he clearly does not have enough to do). I have written about him on this site before. We have been friends since college. He is a retired fighter pilot and a master of many trades: sailor, home builder, soccer coach, artist, small business owner, arborist, IT master, mechanic, godfather of my kids, etc. And, he is truly a "Thousandth Man." He is one of those guys that can fix just about anything. He is currently building an airplane in his shop. Click here to visit his site. Last year he taught himself to weld with Oxy-Acetylene, but recently upgraded to a TIG welder and has been learning its many ways. So, instead of casting the stanchion brackets that need to also support a raised bulwark, he suggested we try to weld them. Having never welded bronze before, he did some research to figure out how to approach it. I ordered a small sheet of 1/4" silicon bronze and some one inch ID silicon bronze tubing from Atlas Metals. After making some drawings, we cut out the parts for a test pattern on his metal band saw. He made a few test runs and then welded up the test pattern. Though Steve was not impressed with his first effort welding the bronze bracket, I think it came out pretty darn good. Because it will eventually go completely green, all the little imperfection and grinding marks that I failed to remove won't be noticeable. By the time we are finished I have no doubt he will be an expert welder of bronze. I would not be surprised if he starts welding bronze art work in his spare time.
In the photos below you can see how the one we made compares to the ones I had made by a local SS fabricator who welded on the brackets to a stanchion bracket that came off the boat. I didn't think they were very strong. The SS bracket to the far right is designed to provide extra support to the bulwark. The plan is to install six stanchion/bulwark support brackets on each side of the boat. Then we will add six bulwark support brackets on each side, alternating them with the stanchion support brackets, designed to provide extra support to the bulwark. They will be patterned on the SS one I designed last summer which is pictured below. The one big change is we won't build the new brackets angled to accommodate the 6 degree deck slope. Instead, I will install beveled teak wedges under the brackets. The brackets are much easier to build that way and I can cut each wedge to better align the brackets so they are exactly vertical.
While I was in Virginia visiting family, I linked up with my best friend Steve http://www.mypiet.com/ He has spent his evenings for the last couple of weeks welding up the bronze stanchion bases and support brackets for the bulwark. He is amazing. He has not been welding that long but he can do just about anything. I think they look fantastic. We worked on the design together over the phone and skype in the early fall. I ordered some bronze from Atlas Metal and had it shipped to Steve house. I was up there in Sept and we built a single prototype. Once we were satisfied he went to town cutting the remaining parts out (a tedious and boring job) and welding them up. There are 24 brackets: 12 stanchion supports and 12 support brackets. Do I need to mention I owe him big time?
The plan is to mount the stanchion supports about every six feet and in between them mount the support brackets. They are all 5" H X 3 1/2" L X 3" W. They are built out of 1/4" silicon bronze. We designed them so I can drill a hole in the horizontal half moons for the stanchion bases and in the gussets of the support bracket and fasten shackles to them for halyards, preventers, etc.
Yesterday I radiused the corners using a template and a 4 1/2" angle grinder. I spent today polishing them up with a a special cake polishing compund and buffing wheel attached to my big grinder and clamped to a portable work bench. I wasn't looking for perfection since we will let them turn green with verdigris just like the rest of the external bronze. The buffing wheels slowly shred apart as you polish so I needed to do it out side. Last time I did this in my shop and it was a mess afterwards.
I started off by drilling pilot holes in the stanchion bases at the Camp Lejeune Machine Hobby Shop. It's a great resource even though I would rather do as much work as I can in my own shop. But, they have a nice slow turning floor mount drill press and a great selection of large diameter bits. I could not complete the job there as I was unable to determine what the best size would be for the hole above the base plate . . . and I did not want to rush the decision. So, after drilling out the four pilot holes in each stanchion base and the two test holes in the half moon I returned home. After measuring and some experimentation I decided the 3" bolts would do the job. I made some phone calls and put in an order for 3" long, 5/16", bronze, roundhead, bolts. Next, I went to work cutting the teak wedges, drilling holes, and temporarily installing the stanchion bases. It went pretty smooth. I worked carefully and deliberately. The hardest part was drilling through the unique Cape Dory steel weldment that runs under the inward turning flange and to which the pad-eye chain plates are through bolted to (the weldment is about 44" long and only one stanchion base had to be installed in that area. It is important to also get the teak wedges right so the vertical plate on the stanchion bases (and the same for the bulwark brackets that I'll install next) are vertical and consistently offset from the edge of the deck. I built a small jig to help keep everything accurate. I ultimately decided on using five stanchions, per side, spaced seven feet apart. The bulwark support brackets will be positioned half way between the stanchions so the bulwark will be supported every 3.5 feet with a 1/4" silicon bronze bracket (stanchion base or support bracket) bolted through the deck and through the bulwark itself.
I decided a while back that I would eliminate the stern pulpit and the bow pulpit. With the windvane, boom gallows, and perhaps a sculling oar the stern pulpit cluttered up the stern of the boat. We will run a safety line across the stern from one stanchion to the other. With the Cape Horn Windvane there is very little room to squeeze through anyway. The rest of the week will be spent working on a mock up bulwark to insure the proper placement of the bulwark support brackets.
So, now I am back where I started. Countersinking the holes in the stanchion bases and support brackets. I’ll place the order for the much easier to find flat head fasteners which are available in many more lengths than the round head fasteners.
Lessons learned. Some of the mistakes were probably unavoidable. I had no reasonable way of knowing that I would need 3 ½” long bolts until I had the all the backing plates in position (over half the bolts worked fine). Also, I had no way of knowing that they don’t make 3 ½” long round head bolts until I needed them . . . who knew? But, the real learning point was I bailed out on the countersinking without really running to ground why the countersink would not cut. I had a good plan that I had researched. A little more time investigating the cutting problem and I could have avoided all this ridiculousness. Sloppy analysis of the cutting issue created a chain of problems that were not necessary. Lesson learned (again) “work the problem” until you are sure you understand what the issue is. I failed to turn known unkowns into known knows.
I spread some plastic sheeting where the joint will straddle the saw horse. I check the fit of the scarf and align the two parts. I use a pencil to make three alignment marks to ensure they are clamped together with a proper fit. Next, I mix up some Aerodux 185 resorcinol glue: five parts resin to one part powered hardener . . . by weight. I have a little digital scale I bought at Walmart. Next, I use an acid brush and apply the glue to both surfaces. Stir it well. Then I clamp the joint tight with numerous clamps. Let it sit over night. I had enough mahogany for the bottom bulwark planks for both the port and starboard sides and for one of the four planks for the top bulwark. Tomorrow, I will router the tenon for the tongue and groove edge to ensure the planks are aligned when installed. The top planks will have the mortise. I'll need a little more mahogany to finish of the bulwarks. But, I have enough to keep me busy for the next few days.
I wanted the cap rail to be one continuous piece of wood which meant it needed to be about 37 feet long? That required several scarfs which were completed without fanfare. I cut the scarfs same as the other using my scarfing jig and I glued them up with resorcinol adhesive after laying them out in my garage from the side that contains the cars, through the double door, and into my wood shop. After the scarfs were cured we needed to mill them to the correct dimension which was a challenge. I had never milled anything 37 feet long which meant I need 37 feet for the in-feed and the same for the out-feed. My sister proved to be a big help as it required some finesse to keep from breaking them as they were feed through and then out the planer. After we milled them to ¾” by 1 1/16” I applied two coats of Kirby’s red lead pain to what would be the underside of the cap rail. A couple of days later we clamped them in place and cut and radiused the ends to match the end pieces that we previously cut and fit to the strakes.
We clamped the cap rails in place and drilled holes and counter such the screws every eight inches. We then removed the cap rails and applied Dolphinite to the top of the bulwark. I gooped the Dolphinite into a big syringe and used that as a caulking gun. It worked great. We gently lowered the cap rail in place and drove the #10 1 ½” long SS screws home. We cleaned up the Dolphinite and used the squeeze out for the cap rail on the other side of the boat. Next, I installed about 50 wood plugs per side then trimmed them and sanded them flush. Next, I took the trim router with a 3/8" round over bit and guide bearing and radiused the top edges.
I reclamped the backing block in place and drilled the holes for the outboard side meeting the previously drilled holes on the inboard side in the middle of the bulwark. I used a little wooden block that I held next to the drill bit while drilling to ensure I was drilling square and plumb. It sounds complicated but it was a very straightforward and easy to accomplish task. The bolts that I tapered with a file worked perfectly. Once I had installed all six hawse pipes I removed them and prepared the bulwarks for painting. To help get a good seal for the bedding compound I used a laminate router with a cove bit to cut a calking grove around each hole. The caulking grove will be under the flange of the hawse pipe (one on each side) and will ensure that when I tighten the flanges down I can’t squeeze out all the bedding compound. Once the painting is accomplished I will apply bedding compound and install the hawse pipes.