Sunday, July 26, 2009

Frame construction still in progress

I'm still working on the frames. After a lot of sawing, measuring, hammering, and one big sticky epoxy mess, the frames are starting to come together. The plywood gussets have been cut out and all of the frames have been glued and nailed together. I'm quickly learning how to use epoxy. Using straight epoxy doesn't work well for bonding pieces of wood together. It's too thin, so the wood soaks it up or it drips out of the joint, resulting in a glue starved joint. So I'm learning the correct ratios of wood flour (fine saw dust) and silica additives to give it a nice consistency that won't drip or sag. Instructions say to get the epoxy the consistency of mayonnaise or peanut butter for glue. A good rule of thumb that I learned: if the epoxy can't keep its shape in the pot, then it won't keep its shape later and won't stay in the joint.

So far, I'm reasonably satisfied with the frames. No matter how many times I measure and check symmetry before I put them together ... the frames keep turning out not nearly as perfect as I would like. How frustrating. Maybe I should just stop measuring things that are already glued together. Oh well, we'll see if my frames result in something usable. Everyone talks about how nothing on a boat is square or symmetric ... I can see why. But how far off can it be before it starts looking fugly?

Stay tuned folks. I'll have something vaguely in the shape of an upside-down boat soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Centerboard Plate Obtained

So I got a centerboard plate for the boat this week. The centerboard is a large fin at the center of the boat that acts as a ballast and also keeps the boat tracking straight. It can be pivoted up into the hull (into the center case/trunk) for trailering or beaching the boat. The centerboard on this boat is 5/16" steel plate that weighs about 80 lbs. No other ballast is used on the TS14. Raising the center plate requires a small pulley tackle or winch.

The people in the shop at my job actually made the center plate for me. They only charged me scrap metal prices and time to use the plasma burning table ... VERY cheap compared to buying the steel retail and trying to cut it myself.

The only problem ... when I got home, I noticed that the steel was bowed slightly (about 5/8"). They must have ran it over with a fork lift or something. When I put a straight board on it, you can see the slight bend in it. The steel plate has to be straightened so it will fit in the trunk and pivot without jamming in the slot.

I tried jumping on it ... that didn't work. I drove over it with my small car ... that didn't bend it either. A professional would probably heat it with a torch, but I don't have one and don't want to pay someone to do something seemingly so simple. So I devised a silly (and potentially unsafe) way to bend the plate involving a large scissor jack, some chain and some 4X4's. Now that's some crappy engineering.

I straightened the plate, but it was more work than I planned. I did rough calculations and I figure that it took well over 2000 lbs to bend the plate. I had to bend the plate about 2" past flat to get it to permanently deform and spring back to a flat position. The plate is still kinked by about 1/8", but its much straighter now and should work.

I like the idea of a strong steel centerboard, but I have to find a way to keep it from rusting. Galvanizing it is one option, but the galvanizers in my area have a $200 minimum charge. I'll worry about it after I get the hull built.

Wood Purchased and Frame Construction Started

I bought some wood this week ... about 70% of what I need. I got mostly clear vertical grain Doug-Fir (CVG DF) for the frames and almost everything inside the boat. Marine grade plywood is going to be used for the hull. I got Aquatek and Hydrotek brand name meranti (mahongony-like) plywood. It looks like pretty nice stuff. No voids in the plys. Hydrotek looks a little nicer and has a BS 1088 stamp on it. (Although I hear this specification isn't regulated, so the stamp is pretty meaningless.) I also got white oak for some pieces that will take more of a beating.

I cut out the frames from 1X4, 1X6 and 1X8 CVG DF. It was pretty easy ... just tracing the patterns and lots of cutting with a jig saw. Although, cutting with a jig saw requires some practice to make a clean cut. (Reading the instruction manual and holding it with two hands helps a lot.) The frame pieces will be glued and nailed together with plywood gussets.

I also cut out the pieces for the stem, which will be three layers of wood glued and screwed.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Setting Up Shop

Here is a picture of my garage today. I got it all cleaned out and organized. I built the strongback during the July 4th weekend. The strongback is basically a flat and level frame on which to build the hull. The hull will be built upside-down and then later flipped over. I built the strongback out of scrap 2X3 that I got from the free scrapwood pile at my job.

I aquired a free (though cheap) table saw from my coworker/friend. (Thanks Mike!) So far I have spent about $150 on saw blades, small tools and other supplies from a discount tool store. One item most homeowners don't have enough of for boat building is CLAMPS ... I bought lots of them!

For the last few weeks I've been reading online forums and a few books about building small boats. I've learned of a few necessary jigs I need to make. I made a scarfing jig today.

It's basically just an angled aluminum plate attached to wedges on a piece of plywood. This allows me to use my belt sander to scarf lumber. The photo shows the jig with short test scrap pieces. Scarfing is used to make a long piece of lumber out of two shorter pieces. I roughly angle cut both pieces on the table saw (8:1 slope), precisely finish them using the jig and belt sander, then glue them together with epoxy. If done correctly the joint produced is much stronger than the wood itself. I hear this is done quite often in boat building. I already know I need to scarf pieces together to make the mast, since I can't find lumber that long! Books I've read say to use a large hand plane or some other tool that is either expensive or time consuming. Since I already have a cheap belt sander, I'm going to try to scarf with it. The photo below shows my two pieces ready for gluing. Looks like my jig works good enough.

Also, a few weeks ago, I made a cross-cut sled for my little table saw, based on some plans online I found. The sled has oak strips on the bottom that fit into the guides on the saw. It'll increase my chances of finishing the boat with all my digits intact! I've already used this handy little jig lots of times.

So the next step is to buy wood, epoxy, and fasteners. I'm going to do that next week, except I'm still trying to figure out what kind of wood and how much to buy. Then I can start building!

The Selected Design

After weeks of thinking, I chose to build a Hartley Trailer Sailer (TS) 14. It's a 14 feet long wooden sailboat with a cuddy (or small cabin). (Supposedly two adults can sleep in the cuddy ... we'll see). It has a main sail and a jib sail (the small sail in the front). It can also be rigged with a spinnaker, which I understand to be a parachute-like sail only for sailing with the wind.

This design was selected because the finished boat and trailer should fit in my small garage and be under 1000 lbs, so I can haul it with my compact car. And it should be an ideal micro-cruiser for two for trips along the Columbia river and the occasional trips to Puget Sound or the Oregon coast.

There are many different sizes of the Hartley TS. The most popular is the Hartley TS 16, but there are also the 12, 18 ... and larger. The boat was designed in New Zealand and is a very popular boat in Australia. The design dates back to the 1950's, claiming to be the first "trailer sailer" and starting the movement toward trailerable small boats.

I ordered the plans on the internet and they took over a month to arrive from New Zealand. The plans simply show different views of the boat, but don't have any step-by-step instructions. They do have full size patterns for the frames, so that's nice. The plans are fairly detailed, but still seemingly lacking for the first-time boat builder like myself. Umm ... where do I start? I decided to just stare at the plans for a few days and maybe figure it out.


Hello everyone. In this blog, I'm going to describe the construction of a small sailboat in my small two car garage. This blog will allow family and friends to keep up-to-date on my progress (construction progress and money spent are shown to the right). The boat will take me a year or two to build, (actually, I have no idea.)

I also hope this blog will help others dreaming of building a boat. Going into this project, I have no knowledge of sailing or building a sailboat. I have limited woodworking and building experience of just a few projects around the house (a patio roof, patio furniture, a tool bench, etc.) I am going to attempt to build this boat using hand and power tools that most homeowners probably have, primary to keep costs down, but also to prove to others that you don't need to be a woodworker with a shop full of tools to make a boat!