The center span between the drawers is 1 1/2". After the staving is attached and it is trimmed to match the drawer cut outs, I'll add 1/4" thick pencil bead trim which will make the center span 2" wide. My plan is to use mahogany for the rails and styles and a lighter colored wood, such as ash, for the raised panel.
I spent a lot of time hovering around the forward berth today trying to determine how I am going to cut the drawer boxes out of the front vertical panel. The short version is that I need to get the cut-out exactly right because after the staving goes on, the plywood cut-out that will then be underneath the staving will serve as the guide bar for a pattern cutting router bit to trim the staving to exactly the same edge as the plywood. Because the drawer faces will be flush mounted (in-set) drawer fronts the cut-out has to be perfect. The basic plan is to draw the drawer opening on the front panel--which I did today--then use a guide bar to cut it out. Since I can't get the router on the inside of the panel--the dividers are in the way--I need a pattern cutting bit with the bearing on the router side, which I don't have, vice the end of the bit, which I do have. Now I have a reason to buy a couple. So, it will have to wait. Part of the challenge was to determine the height of the drawer boxes which is based on the dovetail jig I use (increments of one inch + 1/4"), e.g. 4 1/2" or 5 1/4", etc. I decided on 7 1/4" depth (top to bottom) for the box. Then I had to allow for 1/4" pencil trim, 1/16" gap all around, and a little extra space above and below the drawer box, etc. Overlay drawers are about 100 times easier but I like inset (flush doors/drawers). It's what I usually make for cabinets in the house but I have always used full extension metal slides. For the boat, the drawer boxes will run on ash cleats. It's trickier and more complicate than overlay drawers/cabinets but very doable. Most boats have overlay doors for lot's of good reasons--easier to build, less issues with swelling, etc. Nothing wrong with them. But, flush doors, to my eye, are more elegant. Simple but elegant is part of our vision besides I need to find more ways to make the project more difficult . . . much too easy so far. I could use a face frame but not here. I'll do that in the galley where I think it will look better.
Some good news is that my 5/4 quartersawn walnut to be used for the cabin sole is ready. Ken Elliot cut if for me last fall at his sawmill and stacked it to air dry in his barn. It's been air drying for seven months. He has been great to work with. His saw is set up on his farm in near Winston-Salem, NC. When I talked to him today he told me he has some ash he wants me to look at too. I'll need ash for the horizontal surfaces (counters, chart-table, saloon table, etc. I've been thinking I might use ash for the the raised panel cabinet doors and drawer faces if I go that way. He has some huge ash pieces which would work well for a sculling oar or whisker pole if I decide to do that. I also have a neighbor with a kiln who will complete the drying process for the walnut but I probably won't be able to get it into the kiln for a couple more weeks. Then it will be in the kiln for about three weeks so it won't be ready till the middle of May. I won't lay the walnut down for the majority of the cabin sole for awhile but I do need it under the galley and in the head to tackle those projects.
I ran down a couple of leads for some more bronze hardware and talked to Port Townsend Foundry today regarding the gammon iron. They are ready to cast and are waiting for some materials to arrive from the supplier. As soon as the gammon iron arrives, work on the interior will stop. I'll fair the gammon iron with thickened epoxy so it fits properly on the bow/stem and then prep the boat for painting the topside, cabin sides, cockpit, etc. Not sure when I will paint the non-skid but not before I have solved the hardware placement which comes later. Still have not decided on prism lights but I am seriously considering it.
The bigger project was getting the aft divider for the anchor locker installed. This was not particularly difficult but it took longer than I would have liked due to family obligations so I spaced it out over two days. After making the template I laid it on a piece of 1/2" okume plywood. After I cut out the divider I went back and forth from the boat to the shop a few times trimming it and getting a good fit. It required a 28 degree angle cut on the sides. When I was satisfied with the fit I used my pencil compass to scribe a line 3/8" from the outer edge then took the divider back to the shop. I used the jig saw to cut this part off the divider and provide room for the 3/8" thick closed cell foam spacer. I cut the foam spacer with 45 degree angles on both sides on my table saw. For a long time I used a serrated knife to cut closed cell foam but the table saw works much better and leaves a very smooth surface.
Next morning, with everything set up it was a simple task to contact cement the foam wedge spacer onto the edge of the plywood that had been sealed the day before. With the clamping system in position I test fit it one more time. I did a final acetone wipe down, wet out the hull where the 4" wide tape would lay as well as the plywood, and then wet out the biaxial tape. It only took about 10 minutes to lay the tape down--a single strip on each side port and starboard and on the front and aft sides of the divider. About two hours later I used a box cutter to trim the edges of the tape that extended past the top and bottom edge of the divider. It is a hundred times easier to trim the biaxial when it is green than went it is cured.
To get an idea of how much space 240ft of HT chain will occupy I used the old forward water tank, as a mock-up, that closely resembles the shape of the area we have to work with. I cut the top off the tank (it had a hole in it), built a simple support frame, and headed to West Marine. They kindly allowed me to pull 240 ft of 5/16" HT chain out of the barrel and load it into the mock up to see what it looks like. It was not as bad as I thought (see the top right photo).
With that info I built a doorskin template of the proposed divider this morning (see bottom right photo). The rest of the day was consumed by personal business. Tomorrow I'll cut the divider from 1/2" ply and, with some luck, epoxy tape it in position.
I spent the rest of the day sorting out how to attack the forward support for the bunk and how it will tie into the anchor locker that will be install "aft" of the forward most bulkhead. I'd like to get 240' of 5/16" chain out of the nose of the boat if possible.
When we got back it was time to epoxy tape the panel in place. It went smooth. I cut the panel out yesterday after making a doorskin template. I beveled the one end that fits against the bulkhead so it fits flush with the vertical cleat. The cleat is also beveled at 35 degrees. The curved edge of the panel is beveled 30 degrees to fit the sloping hull. I planed the edges and sealed the bottom edge with epoxy last night. So, all I had to do today was cut the foam and contact cement it to the plywood, clamp it in place, and check it for fit. I glued and screwed the bulkhead edge to the cleat I installed yesterday and then taped both sides with a single piece of 6" wide 17.8 biaxial tape and West Epoxy. It looks good and it's great to get it installed. It will need at least one, if not two, dividers. The front face will eventually be covered with mahogany staving.
I spent a little time this afternoon milling a test piece of Juniper (Atlantic White Cedar) to see if it will work for bunk boards. This is super light wood. I ran one side of the 5/4 test piece over the jointer, then planed the other side. Next I resawed it with a thin kerf blade and then ran the resawn edges back through the planer. I was hoping for 1/2" thick but the best I could do was 15/32." Close enough for bunk boards. The test piece came out nice. Too bad I need to varnish them as they smell terrific.
The Unknown Unknowns: Another Perspective
This is a website about rebuilding a sailboat, not politics. But, bear with me . . . .
Back in 2002, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld uttered his famous quote about the “known knowns.” The pundits and the comedians had a grand time with it.
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know.”
Now don’t get all worked up. As I said, this is not about politics. To the uninitiated the above statement sounds convoluted and, perhaps, even bizarre. But military planners understood exactly what he was saying and of course having spent many years as a planner in the Marine Corps I intuitively understand the difficulty of getting one’s arms around difficult operations. Though I am not suggesting the administration planned either wisely or unwisely, it was, and remains, a very valuable tool, among many others, to initiate planning for complex operations. These word categories are often used to capture all we know and don’t know about a particular situation to start forming options that serve as the basis for operational design; what we know we know; what we know we don’t know; and what we don’t know that we don’t know. Sounds crazy doesn’t it. But it works as a tool to start the planning process.
So what does this have to do with boat building? I submit it captures perfectly the essence of boat building (or rebuilding) especially when it is being undertaken by an inexperienced builder. The first two categories are kind of common sense and easy to get your arms around—what do we know we know and what do we know we don’t know. I deal with this every day on the Far Reach. Projects that fall into these two categories are generally easy to sort out—review and assess your previous experience, conduct research, ask questions, make a plan, and execute. But, the last category, we don’t know what we don’t know (the unknown unknowns), is the real danger, the 800 lb gorilla if you will. I always hated this phrase as a military planner and would tell my action officers that when we say “we don’t know what we don’t know” it essentially means we haven’t done our homework, we aren’t professional or competent enough to understand what we are doing, that we are stumbling forward blindly, and it’s unacceptable. We can accept known unknowns (you never have perfect information) but not unkown unkowns. We simply must know all the essential questions that must be considered, even if we can’t determine all the answers. As the historian Jay Luvas once said, “You can’t do anything about your 50 year old body, but there is no excuse for not having a 5000 year old mind.”
Well, a few days ago during a morning workout I was musing about where I was with the rebuild of the Far Reach. I found myself lamenting some of the difficulties I was having at the moment and how much there was still left to do. It then occurred to me how much I had accomplished so far. As I thought back over some of the projects I began to wonder if I would do it again. I was forced to admit that it has been more work than I had anticipated (sometimes it seems as though it will never end). For the inexperienced, ripping out the fiberglass headliner, glassing in the propeller aperture, tearing off the toe-rail and glassing the hull deck joint together, and gutting the interior and designing and installing a new interior sound simple when you say them. But actually completing them is anything but simple. It occurred to me that when I first picked up that wrecking bar and we began gutting the boat I simply did not really understand how big a project this was (my 50 year old mind was on vacation and a 5000 year old mind was nowhere to be found). And, for those without the resolve of a junk-yard dog, running into obstacles like these could be a show stopper. It is a well know fact that there are countless half-completed boat projects laying abandoned in back yards across the country because the owners underestimated the amount of resources and time required, got overwhelmed, and gave up. God bless ‘em for trying.
But, my thinking about the unkown unkowns has changed a little since my days as a military planner. Maybe, just maybe, if one is truly determined, not knowing how difficult and time consuming a project really is, might just be a blessing in disguise. In other words, if we knew how hard it would be, we would never start. But then, of course, if it was never started, it could not be completed. And where would we be then? Maybe we would consider ourselves fortunate . . . but then again, maybe we would be just another forlorn sailor dreaming about what could have been . . . watching our dreams slip away with the passing of time like so much sand running through our fingers. And so I have reconsidered. Maybe a few unknown unknowns are essential to picking up that wrecking bar . . . .
I used foam wedges under the edge of the settee backs, not so much to prevent "hard spots, but because it would elevate the edge-grain of the ply and create a more uniform bend to the biaxial tape. To allowed for a few drain holes along the bottom edge of the settee backs, I cut the foam out in a few places so water (condensation when running the heater in cold climates) would have a place to go. Before the epoxy tape was fully cured I cut the tape were the gaps in the foam were and filled the space under the edge and between the tape on the two sides with thickened epoxy leaving little rectangular holes and smoothed them out so water could drain from behind the lockers into the holes I cut last summer in the outer edges of locker bottoms. The holes will allow any condensation that forms along the hull to make its way into the bilge. After I epoxied the settee backs in place I checked the fit of the dividers. Satisfied with the lower ones I scribed the top panels to fit against the not very plumb forward bulkheads--I don't think anything Cape Dory installed was level, square, or plumb . . . though maybe it does not matter on a boat. The upper panels serve as a divider between the pilot berth and a book shelf to be built over the sideboard on the portside and between the pilot berth foot and the heater compartment on the starboard side (see the drawings in the photo section of the 28 Feb 11 entry below). The starboard divider is a safety issue to prevent bedding from being kicked off onto a hot heater and catching fire.
The tabbing was pretty straight forward. I screwed a temporary strong-back in place to make sure the upper panels stayed plumb after I taped them in place. All tabbing was done with a single layer of 17.7oz layer of biaxial: 6" wide on the inside of the settee back; 4" wide on the outside; 4" wide inside and outside where the panels join the settee back; and 3" wide biaxial where the top of the panels are tabbed to the underside of the deck.
I can't install the settee fronts until I add more staving on the aft end of the two dividers as the cleats will be fastened to the staving. All in all, a good week.
I began by installing cleats on both sides of the settee back dividers. I test fit the settee backs again. I temporarily screwed in the starboard side settee back. I measured and built templates for the bulkheads that separates the heater compartment from the settee on the starboard side and the sideboard from the settee on the portside. I cut out the patterns and test fit them in place. I let both of them run wild. The one on the starboard side will be cut down quite a bit (see the drawing below) but I don't want to do that till I have decided how they will be attached.
I was unable to decide how to attach these two small bulkheads. Do I dado the settee backs for them to fit into or use cleats or both? If I use cleats how will I hide them or blend them in to the mahogany staving, yet to be installed, so as not to draw attention to them. I'll muse on that this evening. Maybe the answer will come to me.
After that I used a pice of 1/8" doorskin plywood to make a pattern for the settee back. I cut it to basically fit between the cleants but not reach the hull. This would be the foundation for the pattern. I used 1/2" stips of plywood between the cleats and the doorskin to offset the face of the doorskin to the same place the real 1/2" ply will be position. Otherwise the doorskin pattern would not be in the same spot as the inboard edge of the 1/2 ply sette back would be. Make sense? Then I used a hot glue gun to attach little strips of doorskin ply to the doorskin foundation to just touch the hull (I don't have a picture of this but will post one later). When I was satisfied I removed the pattern and laid it out on 4x8 sheet of 1/2" BS 1088 Okume ply. I made tick marks with a pencil where the pointers were and connected the dots. I checked the angle of the hull from vertical with a bevel guage and dialed that in on my jigsaw. Then carefully reviewing which way the pattern was laid and which way the angle needed to be beveled on the 1/2" plywood I cut the pattern out. I smothed the edges with a block plane and clamped it in place, made sure it was level and plumb, and checked for fit.
It dawned on me pretty quick that I needed to install the support piece for the back of the settee before I could go any further.
As I said, I have never built a pattern for a bronze casting . . . and this one was complicated for a beginner. It was slow going. Pete Langley, founder and owner of PTF, was wonderfully generous with his time patiently walking me through the many steps and monitoring my work through pictures I emailed to him. The type of casting that will be used to make the gammon iron is called the "loose sand, method. This type of pattern is called a "split pattern." One side is called the drag while the other side is called the cope. A very brief overview of the steps are explained in the text associated with the below photos. For more information about pattern-making and metal casting click on the pdf file to the right. The document was produced by Port Townsend Foundry.
In between work on the gammon iron I applied a couple of more coats of varnish to the cabin sides. One of the coats came out poorly and I had to sand, and sand, and sand to fix it. It was quite a bit of fun. The most current coat developed very tiny bubbles shortly after it was laid on. This is only on the cabin sides and not the staving. Not sure what is causing this. I have done some research and there are lot of different views. It's not the wood. It started with the fourth coat. It is definitely not the brush or roller. I don't think it is the temp. I vacuumed the night before, did an alcohol wipe down that night and again the next morning. I led the application with a good quality tack rag. Hmmmmm . . . . this is a mystery. Epifanes says it sounds like dust. I am not so sure but I have some time to sort it out. I changed mineral spirits though (I add a capful to 10 oz of varnish. So maybe I should go back to the other mineral spirits.
I would like to try some of the Jenn-Mar foam brushes just to gain some experience so I can decide for myself which works best for me, though it occurred to be while I was brushing on the varnish today that I will likely require a bristle brush to apply varnish to the "V" groove.
I am pleased with how it looks as of this evening. I did not see any obvious sags or holidays. It is much more glossy looking than after the second coat. Tomorrow I will sort out whether I will apply a fourth coat now or start working on the interior and apply the rest of the coats later on.
Today, I sanded the staving and the cabin sides in preparation for the third coat of varnish. I started off with a rubber sanding block, same as I used last time, on the cabin sides. But, when I started sanding the staving I decided to switch to a narrower wood block that seemed to do a better job as the rubber block is wider than any single piece of staving and I seem to get more even coverage with the narrower block. I used 220 grit abrasive as before. It took nearly four hours to sand, vacuum, and do a thorough wipe down with denatured alcohol. If the weather is good tomorrow, I'll apply the third coat of varnish.
Below are a few more pictures after the second coat of varnish was applied. I think it looks great. As I mentioned before, the wavier grained staving, installed on the outboard side of the bulkheads, will mostly be concealed behind book shelves and other furniture. All the rest of the mahogany set aside for the remaining staving is straight quarter sawn A. Mahogany, the same as I installed on the inboard edges of the bulkheads. I am pleased with the color and finish. I have enjoyed this phase of the rebuild and I continue to learn a lot. My next boat will be much easier . . . ha! Not. I'll be too busy sailing!!
On Wednesday, 26 Jan it rained again but it did not matter since we took the day off for some family time.
Today, the sun was out and the SRF warmed up. I removed the covers from the port holes to improve ventilation. I was able to work in a T-shirt. I started off by doing another wipe down with denatured alcohol and then applied the second coat of varnish. This time, I cut the varnish 25 percent with mineral spirits. It went on easily. No need to be fussy since there are many more coats to go before the final coat is applied. It looks very nice though the third coat will make it start to look much more glossy. It was great to get the second coat of varnish applied. The wood grain really pops. I went back up into the boat tonight and was very please with the colors of the wood and the warm glow of the work light reflecting off the varnish. If the varnish is dry enough I will sand it tomorrow in preparation for the third coat. My plan is to get three good coats on now to protect the wood then go back to work installing the interior. The final additional 3-4 coats (6-7 total) will be applied later. I also applied the first coat of varnish to the laminated oak tiller today.
The saloon staving is now installed, minus the trim. I have some personal business to attend to tomorrow but I hope to get started on sanding. I'll sand the forward cabin staving, the staving in the saloon, and the cabin sides. Then, I'll apply three coats of thinned varnish. In between the work on the varnish I'll start milling more mahogany for additional staving. I'll also start work on building the pattern for casting the gammon iron for the bowsprit.
Tomorrow I'll only be able to get a few hours in on the boat. I'd like to go through the remaining staving to see how much more I need. If the weather holds, I'll go to World Timber Friday and pick up some more mahogany. I'd like to get enough set aside to finish up. Then I'll tackle the head and forward bulkhead so I can start on the furniture.
I will go to work on the starboard bulkhead next and when that is finished I'll probably install staving in the head. Once that is complete I'll apply the first three coats of thinned varnish. Then, I should be able to start installing furniture in the saloon, fwd cabin, and head.
Today was pretty simple. Select the stavings ( I usual do about 8-10 at a time). Test fit. Cut to length. Fit again. Wipe the bulkhead thoroughly with acetone. While the air is clearing in the boat, sand the back of the stavings with 60 grit. Vacuum and wipe with acetone. Mix the epoxy. Apply the epoxy to the staving and bulkhead and spread with glue spreader. Fit saving. Mark for screw block clamps, drill, and install screw block clamp. Then, do it over again for the next piece.
Though I sometimes fell like I am moving like pond water, it is definitely getting easier and it's kind of fun doing some work without a lot of stress and drama or sweating three gallons of water in a paper suit while wearing a respirator and wielding a high-speed grinder. I am very happy to have that behind me.