For the last two days I have been working on the galley cabin sole. The sole has to be addressed before I can built the sink cabinet base. I have to build the cabinet base before I can install the last of the mahogany staving. The walnut sole has to be laid underneath the cabinet base, though the rest of the cabin sole will remain the temporary plywood till near the end of the rebuild. The galley sole is tricky. It has a very shallow angle cut on one side to match the slope of the hull. In the photo to the right you can see the mahogany plywood laid over what would be the exposed fiberglass hull that rises up above the level sole and to which the vertical face of the lower cabinets are glassed. I left extra room around the seacock so there is no chance the seacock will sweat onto the ply. Also, the right 1/4 of the plywood will be under the cabinet base. I spent a lot of time developing a plan to cover the exposed hull. After considering various options I decided to use 1/2" plywood glued to the hull with epoxy or 4200. I would prefer to be able to remove it but there is no good way to do it. The ply has to be cut just right for to fit under the sole. Normally it would go above. But, I want to be able to remove all the walnut to oil it, sand it, repair it, whatever. So, any drips of water that land on the sloping ply will run under the edge of the walnut and down to the bilge. The ply will be receive three coats of West Systems epoxy with 207 hardener. Then it will be covered with some kind of UV inhibitor. Maybe a two part polyurethane.
The vertical plywood to the far left is a template for the stove. The right 1/4 of the plyood laying on the hull will be under the sink cabinet.
Once I got the templates to fit it was time to start milling the walnut. I wanted to use teak but at nearly $30 BF it was not in the budget. Walnut is not normally used but it has a reputation for being very stable and somewhat rot resistant. It was also inexpensive at $5 BF. I had it cut last year to 5/4. We stacked and let it air dry for five months then we loaded it into a local kiln. It should look nice just oiled. And, it will provide good nonskid on bare feet vice the normally varnished cabin sole. Today, I only milled what I needed for the galley sole. After milling was complete I cut slot for "biscuits" and glued up the wood. I briefly considered using epoxy but it is just two messy for something like this. Also, I will not be varnishing the walnut and the excess squeeze out is difficult to clean up since it won't be able to "blend-in" under varnish. I used Titebond III.
This morning I finished the work on the walnut plank for the galley sole (I added two pictures to the gallery above). After I removed the clamps, I used a wood scraper to clean up small amount of excess glue on the bottom side of the planks. I used both a skill saw and jig saw to cut out the pattern that I traced onto the walnut from the old template. I cut the 25 degree bevel by sanding the walnut up on one edge and running it down the right side of the fence (I moved the fence to the left side of the blade). A feather board helped keep it steady. I used hand planes and spoke shave to clean up a few small places. My skills with planes and chisels remain very modest but I am getter better and more confident all the time. While trimming with the jig saw my blade wandered a little which really agitated me. It won't be visible as it will be under a cleat screwed to the bulkhead on the forward side of the sink cabinet. I was guiding the jig saw with a clamp down guide bar and I must of not had even pressure--jig saw blades are thin and flexible and can get squirrelly if you are not paying attention to what you are doing. I would have done better if I free handed it then cleaned up the edge with hand planes.
The walnut is very hard . . . and it's heavy. It will definitely add some weight to the boat. Probably not a bad thing since I removed about 1000 lbs of engine and fuel tank. The weight is low so it should make the boat a wee bit stiffer. It's probably not much but nonetheless it will not detract from stability. I could have milled it to 3/4" and saved a little weight, but I figure I am building the boat to last. If the walnut works out, at some point it will need to be resurfaced. the planks can be removed and run thorough a planer or cleaned up with a belt sander. They would look as good as new. The extra 1/8" provides for future maintenance.
I am very pleased with how the walnut sole under the galley sink cabinet turned out. It is basically a hand rubbed finish. The is a new technique to me and took a little while to figure out. The gist of it is I sanded the bare walnut to about 220 grit. I applied two coats of teak oil with a foam brush. I allowed about 30-minutes to an hour between coats to allow the oil to nearly dry to the touch. Then I applied a third coat and gave it five minutes and began to block sand it, with the grain, with 400 grit wet sandpaper. I sanded it till it got too gummy to sand. Then, I used a clean white cotton wipe rag to buff it in a circular motion. Then I repeated the process, except I sanded it with 600 grit. I was amazed at the finish . . . very smooth with a satin silky finish. Probably too smooth. I experimented on the back side by sanding with only 220 grit. I'll further experiment with some samples later to see what will work so the sole is not slippery when wet.
Hand rubbed finish on the walnut sole.
Temporarily installed toe-kick.
I spent some time measuring the sole area and sorted out what the width of the planks should be. I think it will look best if the planks are a consistent width across the sole area vice random widths, however, it generates a lot more waste. Also, I think the planks will be less likely to cup if they are not to wide--somewhere between 5 1/2" and 6 1/2". My preference would have been to have quarter sawn walnut but I couldn't’t' come up with it. There is a fair amount of waste and a good number of the planks have knots and other defects that make them unsuitable for our purposes. It takes a while to sort through the planks and develop a plan that makes use of them. I'll start work on the planks that have to be worked around the saloon stanchions and hopefully get to the area at the bottom of the companionway. We are still varnishing the remaining every day, plus other chores, so there isn't as much time to work on it as one might think. We are making progress and that's what's important.
The bare walnut cabin sole. These planks are 7/8" thick X 6 3/8" wide
Tomorrow, I'll start on the area at the foot of the companionway. This is not a difficult project. It takes a little time to sort the lumber since I don't have a lot of extra walnut. The off cuts will be used to complete bulkhead trim. It will be interesting to see how well the walnut cabin sole works out. The wood is heavy but its low in the boat and below the center of gravity so it might act a little like extra ballast, though I doubt it will be noticeable. I planed it to 7/8" thick so the wood thick enough to be sanded down several times over its lifetime. The sole forward and aft under the cockpit will be 3/4" thick for two reasons: first, the thinner planks will mean a little less weight forward and aft, and second, some of the planks were a too thin to start with and I had to plane them down to 3/4" to make them smooth. I think, however, it will work out in the end. I am undecided if I'll oil or leave the walnut bare. I am leaning towards leaving it bare.
The walnut cabin sole in the saloon is complete.
Yesterday, I worked on the galley area and today the forward cabin. This afternoon I glued some short planks together to make a wide enough section for the wedge shape forward most part of the sole. Once the sole is in place, I'll go back and bevel the edges lightly to reduce the likelihood they will get jammed together when they expand with warm humid temps.
The walnut is really transforming the interior. I am interested to see how it will hold up over the long run. I should be able to start working on the area under the cockpit in the next day or so, which will complete the installation. We still have some varnish work but we are making good progress. Interior cushions and upholstery is just around the corner.
The sole for the forward cabin is 99 percent complete. I need to add a little trim around the forward starboard bulkhead at the base of the vertical walnut bulkhead trim, where it passes through the cabin sole. I also need to cut a piece of walnut to fit where the mast passes through the sole to the mast step. Once the mast is in place and positioned, I'll make a template and then cut the piece of wood to fit around the mast and split it in half so it will be in two part, that way the trim can be removed when necessary.
I ripped the last of the walnut this afternoon and tomorrow I'll start installing it in the area under the cockpit and companionway ladder. The temps are supposed to drop to a high tomorrow of 30F.
Looking forward. I still need to trim the thinner plank short of where the mast passes through the sole and make up a section to encompass the mast in that area.
The next task was to gather the remaining walnut, there was not much left, and see if it would be enough to cover the area under the companion way ladder and back up under the cockpit where I previously installed a plywood working surface. I just enough good clear wood to cover the landing for the ladder. But, I had to use a few less than stellar pieces for the area that was aft of the landing--the very aft most section. I built two small trim pieces about 3/4" wide that I scribed to fit the out-of-square fore and aft partial bulkheads that form the starboard and port sides of the landing. The original bulkhead head, on the starboard side (left side in the photo) that framed the original engine compartment and quarter berth was not square during the boats original construction. The bulkhead that I installed, on the inboard side of the stove (right side of the photo), is square to the centerline of the boat. Such is what sometimes happens when you rebuild over someone else's work. This challenge would make for an interesting post but it will have to wait for another time. Anyway, I ripped the planks about 6 1/4" wide leaving the plank on the port side a little narrower to ensure that the vertical legs of the ladder will not land on a joint. I also planed all the planks to 3/4" thick since they won't get much wear and they will then be a little lighter in the ends of the boat.
Next, I glued up two sections from the last of the walnut to make the aft most section of the sole. Three on one side and two on the other--it was absolutely the last of my walnut except for small off-cuts. This is a very oddly shaped section. There was no way to support individual planks so I glued them together into two sections--two halves if you will. I took a lot of time today to get the shape and the bevel correct--much time was spent with a spoke shave and a block plane. After I was generally satisfied with the fit, I spent a fair amount of time shaping some thick mahogany cleating stock to work as a 'thwardship beam to support the aft most ends of the two halves, and two nubs for the outboard edges of the two haves to rest on. I sanded away some of the grey Interlux Bilgekote paint and prepared the surfaces for epoxy so I can secure them in place. I ran out of time to install them tonight. Tomorrow the high is supposed to be 22 F degrees and even with a heat lamp I would not want to epoxy the supports to a hull that cold. Plus, tomorrow is family time so no boat work anyway. Saturday it is supposed to be 50 F here and with heat lamps in place I can epoxy then.
I epoxied in the supports and included a photo in the gallery below. I paint them grey when I touch up a few areas in the next month or so.
Under the landing for the companionway ladder is the spare anchor locker. A few days ago I replaced the plywood working platform with walnut planks. However, the span was a little long for 3/4"x 6 1/2" planks that had to span about 31" between supports. I needed to install a beam half way between them. I decided to use some scrap walnut--of which I have a pile. I made support brackets from walnut as well and half lapped the joints so the beam drops down into the brackets, which are secured by 1 1/2" bronze round head screws. Done in this manner, the beam is very secure yet can be grasped and quickly removed to gain access to the anchors in a hurry should the need arise. Tomorrow I'll work on a system to secure the planks in place yet allow them to be equally easy to remove.
The walnut beam is 1" thick by 2" wide.
I used a half lap joint so the beam drops into place and can be lift up to remove it.
I spent the better part of the day finishing up the cabin sole on the companionway ladder landing and the area under the cockpit. I decided to screw down the aft most section with some bronze round head 1 1/2" wood screws. Then, I milled a 5/8" thick by 1 3/4" wide strip of walnut. I cut a 1/16" relief on the underside for about 3/4" width and I laid that across the end of the aft most section of walnut. I screwed that strip to the aft most section. That created a slot for the ends of the planks to fit into to they would be held down in place along the far end.
These cleats keep the planks from sliding forward.
The 'twartship cleat is scrwed to the aft sole and creates a slot for the planks to slide into.
Next, I cut some small strips of walnut and screwed them on to the underside of the planks so they can't move forward--they are essentially locked in place. I still need a "hold-down" system to hold the planks in place should the Far Reach get a knock-down, or God forbid, a roll over. Anyway, think I will mill a small piece of ipe that I have been holding on to and use it to make a cross bar just behind the legs. It will be removable and only used offshore but it might be the simple solution. I'll think on it some. Last, I cleaned up the forward edge (which you can't see in the photo to the right) with a slight radius. Other than the hold-down system for the main and forward cabin sole, the installation is complete. Tonight I applied the last coat of varnish to the winch pads and a few other small pieces. I have a little varnish work to do tomorrow around the end of the quarter berth and the head sink area.
For the last two days I have focused my efforts on installing the key parts of the cabin sole lock down system. The simplest system is one associated with a teak and holly plywood cabin sole, as most of the sole is screwed down with access hatches cut into the plywood. That is what the Far Reach originally had. But, I wanted to install a solid cabin sole so that I could easily remove for cleaning and for access to the entire hull. Also, I think it looks great and is another modification that eliminates the "production" look associated with most boats. It also makes the boat uniquely ours. And, I just wanted to see if I could do it.
The entire cabin sole project has actually been one of the more enjoyable projects I have undertaken . . . the walnut is enjoyable to handle, to mill, to shape, and to install. But, figuring out how to keep the floor boards in place is a bit of a challenge. I looked at lots of hardware associated with cabin soles. The locking handles and pull rings are pretty expensive and they down really fit with the interior style we have created. And because I have many different planks installed they would not be practical. I found a picture of the lock down system in Taleisin which is inexpensive to make and fits with the overall design of the cabin sole. It cost me exactly nothing to make. See the photos below.
I installed three turn knobs: one for the galley area, one in the saloon, and one for the head/fwd cabin. To be sure, this is only the lock down for a single plank in each of the three areas (and I still need to install a bronze "tongue" on the other end). The adjacent planks still need to be secured too. I have am considering using shock cord system for the adjacent planks that I read about in Bill Seifert's book Offshore Sailing. As most of the space under the saloon sole is filled with water tanks that floor system does not have to retain heavy objects. It just needs to keep the planks in place during a knock down. The planks with the locking turn knob are above the tank shut off valves so wanted to be able to have easy access to them.
It was finally time to trim in the cabin sole around the base of the mast. The walnut, in the photo to the right, fits flush with the cabin sole but I had to leave enough space around the mast that we can move the mast fore and aft as required to tune the rig. I will make a cover plate out of teak that will sit on top of the sole but more precisely fit around the mast of the mast. Also, the bare aluminum mast in the photo is not the actual mast. That's a seven foot section that I used to get the heel of the mast positioned and to build the trim. The real mast is white and I may paint the bottom seven feet of it (the part in the boat) a wood color and or box it in with wood I will worry about it later.
Major trim around the mast test section is complete. I still need to make a cover plate to fit more precisely.
Cabin Sole Lock Down System
I completed phase two of the walnut cabin sole lock down system. The first part dealt with installing the locking knobs. Phase two was making and installing the bronze tongues that fit into slots I cut into the cabin sole floor beams. I made the tongues out of some scrap 3/16" bronze--they are about 2 1/2" long and 3/4" wide. I used walnut spacers to allow a 1/4" offset for the slot I cut into the floor beam. I made a little jig out of some 1/4" ply that I clamped to the floor beam. I used a drill bit and portable drill to drill the slot and then carefully cleaned it out. I used a Bosch jig saw to cut the bronze tongues and then filed them smooth and gently tapered them to more easily fit into the slots. I installed the tongues only in the planks that are held in place by the turn knobs. The rest of the planks will be held in place by some shock cord (unless I come up with another method. I think the custom built turn knobs and the bronze tongues are pretty neat and of course they cost almost nothing to make. Probably only $4-$5 in materials.
The bronze tongue fits into the slot in the foor beam.
Building and Installing the Companionway ladder
Today, more varnish on the bead cove and started the varnishing on the ash sink counter top in the head. This afternoon, I started on the companionway ladder. I looked at some old photos I have been savings and some sketches I made a few years ago. I had a piece of 5/4 mahogany I have been saving for this project. I edged jointed it on both edges a few months ago so all I had to do was chop it to length (46") and then rip it in half (4 3/16" wide). I ran it over the jointer to smooth one side, then ran it through the planer which took it to 15/16" thick. I had to rip before I could joint because the plank was 8 1/2" wide but my jointer is only 6" wide so sometimes one has to modify the ideal sequence of milling to what one can do with the equipment on hand. Tomorrow, I'll start shaping the rails to fit under the companionway in the desired manner and I'll pick up some teak off-cuts for treads. I'll also need to order the hardware to fasten the ladder to the underside of the bridge-deck.
I have spent the last few days working on the companionway ladder. Finally, I was able to replace the old 2x4 ladder I have had for way too long. The rails are african mahogany and the treads are teak. There were a few constrictions that were at odds with each other requiring some compromises. In order to reduce the apparent steepness I made the steps wider at the bottom than at the top--the lower tread is 5 1/2", the middle 5 1/4", and the top 5" wide. If you look at the photos you can see it. It changed the angle by nearly 2 degrees. It looks quite natural and feels even and consistent. I will varnish the rails and leave the treads bare.
The old 2x4 ladder. It performed yeoman's service for me--it never failed.
The new ladder. I'll varnish the rails but leave the teak treads bare.
I made a tempate for the rails from a pice of 1/4" ply. Once I was statisfied I used it to make two 15/16" thick rails from african mahogany. They are are about 43' long and 4 1/4" wide. It took some fussing to come up with the right angels for the rake of the ladder and then the angle, relative to the rails for the treads. Once I determined the angle I spent a while marking where the treads would be located. The key tools were a sliding bevel guage, my starett protractor, and a sharp pencile. I milled th teak for the treads to 3/4" thick. I thought about making them a little thicker but I did not see any advantage. It seeemed to only add unnecessary weight to the ladder. It also made setting the dado stack up much simpler. The ladder was a little steeper than I wanted--but I had to contend with the lower platform that I built two years ago and I wanted room for the watch seat. To "buy back" some of the shallower angle I wanted I decreased the width of the steps from bottom to top which decreased the steepness of the angle by two degrees. It was noticable when climbing and decending. With the dado in place and set to 1/4" depth I ran a test piece with a scrap piece of wood. The slot was a snug fit for the tread. Then, carefully I cut all the slots. In less than 10 minutes it was complete. Next I router the edges of the rails creating flairs above and below the treads to add some visual interest and make it look a more elegant. I cut bevels on the back of the treads to align with the ranked edge of the rails. I test fit it together and then screwed the treads in place. I clamped it in place in the boat for a day or so and decided to make it a little narrower buying a small amount of additional room for the watch seat. Once statisfied, I glued the treads n place with Tightbond III and clamped it over night.
Determining how to attach the ladder took some time. I have been thinking about it for months while working on other projects. I knew the ladder was going to attach at the top under the lip just below the threshold. There was really no other way to make it work. I looked a various hardware options on line and in my old books. I looked at the original stainless hardware. I wanted something simple to operate, strong, and yet not to distracting. Many boats use sliding bolts but they can come loose. Then, doing an internet search for "take apart hinges" I found these snap-apart bronze hinges. They come with two parts and, for a companionway ladder, would normally be mounted vertically, but I did not have enough room on that 'twartship plank of of mahogany for it to fit. So, I decided to mount them horizontally and make my own receptacle from some ipe wood I had on hand. Ipe is often classified in the "ironwood family." It is very hard--the hardest wood I have every used. It is also extremely rot resistant. I found a design I liked on a boat I have long admired and incroprated a similar design. I think it adds visual interest without drawing too much attention. It took a little while cutting the pieces to the correct thickens, getting the shape so, and then using files to smooth the edges. I mounted them to the ladder with #10, one inch, oval head, bronze wood screws. The ladder fits between the snap apart hinges which "pop" into the holes in the ipe. But, I still had to address the bottom of the ladder . . . .
The ladder had to be secured at the bottom. Mostly, on the boats I have owned or been on, the bottom of the ladder is held in place with a "U" shaped piece of wood mounted on the sole on the forward side of each of the rails. They keep the ladder from kicking-out and crashing to the ground. And, even though the top of my ladder was held in place with the snap apart hinges there needed to be a strong fool proof way to keep the bottom of the ladder in place. But, I wanted to avoid the "U" blocks if possible as they trap dirt and water and, though very functional, add a little visual clutter. I looked at pictures of boats I admired and I found a few boats that did not have the "U" blocks . . . but how were they held in place? So, I contacted someone that has mentored me from time to time and they told me how me how they did it on their boat. So simple . . . . screw a # 12 bronze screw into the bottom of the rails, leave the shoulder proud, cut off the head, drill a matching hole in the platform, and "Bob's your uncle." So, I measured, drilled, screwed, sawed, filed, and when I went to put the ladder in place it literally jumped in the hole while at the same time the top popped in place. It is very secure and is exactly what I had imagined when I started the project.
18 May 14
To the right and below are some photos of the latest round of varnish work. I used the same protocol as before: 1st coat cut 50-50 with mineral spirits, 2nd coat cut 25 percent with mineral spirits, 3rd coat cut 1- percent. After that the coats are laid on unthinned. Some trim needed to be taped. We apply a maximum of three coats then we pull the tape and apply new tape and apply another three coats. I usually, retape before the final coat. We applied between six and seven coats. To have a completly glass like surface will take about about nine coats which is more time than I am willing to invest. To my eye, six to seven coats looks great.
The ladder had a lot of inside edges and somewhat complicated taping but I think it turned out well. I am pleased. We only varnished one side of the shelving opting to leave the underside bare to keep the aroma of the bare juniper. It's not as pungent as western red cedar but it is nice nonetheless.
I have never owned a boat, or probably even sailed on a boat, that had a dedicated convenient location to stow the companionway drop boards. So, for the Far Reach, I decided on the as yet unused space behind the companionway ladder and under the bridge deck. There is still plenty of room there for additional storage--drawers, work bench top, tool storage, etc. But, this seemed like a good spot for the drop boards. It is out of the way, it runs 'thwartship, it is wide enough, and it's right next to the companionway. I fastened a couple of cleats from some scrap teak. We will need to push a soft sponge in there to keep them from sliding back and forth when sailing offshore but we will have to do that for all the things that rattle.
drop board storage behind the companionway ladder.