Category Archives: Fairing

Bandsaw beats finger

So, if you were contemplating a real world test to confirm your suspicion, I can spare you the trouble. Shoving one’s finger into a bandsaw yields a single result. And it isn’t damage to the bandsaw. Sigh…


Beyond inflicting damage to my extremities, we’ve been plugging away at interior minutiae.

The balsa filled sections are glassed and faired. Or mostly faired. It’s proving more challenging than expected to get them “right” and I keep putting more compound on them and sanding it off to an unsatisfactory result. And then repeating. But it’s more or less done. In addition – and I’m just going to rattle off a litany of things we’ve done and then add a bunch of photos – we’ve drilled the motor mount holes in the transom, drilled the thruhull holes in the transom, glassed the interior transom, glassed, faired and installed the motorwell, installed the “fillets” to the lateral sides of the motorwell-transom junctions that serve as chases for fuel and oil hose, glassed the forward bulkhead, installed the deck beam system for the aft areas, and glassed the deck. We’ve also started work on the teak cladding for the frames.

Next up, we’ll finish the cladding and get started on varnishing them “off the boat”. While that’s happening, we’ll prime the interior so it’s ready to paint once the cladding goes in. After varnishing the teak we’ll install and fillet it in, and then mask off the varnished surfaces so the paint comes straight to the varnish.

We’ll also get going on the forward deck support structure and cut the anchor locker door in the forward bulkhead.  Oh, and we can now install the thruhulls in the transom and finalize the plumbing, after which we can install the motorwell bottom.  Still slogging away, but now that the interior hull is fair it should start to go a bit faster. We’ll see!














Primer. For real!

Hello from Tuscany!

Another long delay since my last post.  A thousand apologies.  I was extremely busy trying to get to a point where I could take a week off, and then for the last few days I’ve been in Italy.

Since our last update, the focus has been on continued fairing.  Lots of sanding and filling and rubbing with hands, looking for high and low spots.  As it turns out, one of the best ways to tell if something is fair is to close your eyes and run your hands over it feeling for places where things have unexpected bumps or depressions.  Your hands are very sensitive instruments.

I’ve pretty much concluded that the fairing process could continue for as long as one wanted it to.  There’s always something that could be slightly better.  But eventually you reach a point of diminishing returns and call it done.  We have reached that point!

Interestingly, near the end of the process I discovered a rather large area that I hadn’t noticed previously because it was a macro fairing problem, not a micro one.  If you look at this photo, the starboard bow has some large patches of compound on it.  Would have been a bummer to miss that.  Under glossy paint it would have been really obvious.  Unfortunately, the thing that ultimately helped me discover the issue was that in one spot I ended up sanding through the first axis of the glass.  This is a really strong part of the boat anyway, and the issue was very near a bunch of framing on the backside, so I’m not worried about it.  But it’s one of those “doh” moments that – were you to build another boat – would be a good lesson for next time.

We also had to do a bunch more detail work to get the trim all smoothed out and faired in.  This is a tedious process, but an important one.

The sheer guard needed to be continued around the transom.  This proved to be tricky because the angles of the boat beneath change abruptly and then the profiles don’t line up anymore.  I cut some wedges from the oak and glued them to the back of the two transom trim strips to help get better alignment.  Then I bonded them to the transom leaving a 90-degree gap at the corners and filled the gap with a block of oak that was shaped to the appropriate transition profile after the epoxy cured.  The junctions to the hull were all filleted and sanded smooth.  This photo is post-fillet, pre-sand.

After all the sanding, I finally decided we were in shape to apply a first coat of primer.  The primer – gray AwlGrip 545 – was applied in a heavy coat with a roller.  After it was cured I pushed it outside to tarp it for the week while I was gone.  I didn’t take pictures inside because I figured it would be better to do so in the light, but due to a minor distraction didn’t end up taking good shots of the primed boat.  The distraction?


This strongback was never really built as a rolling dolly.  Initially it was on the ground, and then I took a set of (likely under-rated) casters and bolted them to the bottoms of the longitudinal members so I could move her a few feet back and forth around the shop.  This was fine.  When we then pushed it outside, the longitudinal members started to “fail” by rolling side to side.  To address this I re-mounted the casters on 2x4s and screwed these to the bottoms of the frames so the twisting force wouldn’t act on the strongback.  Unfortunately, it was too much for this 2×4.  It cracked when the wheel hit a bump in the road and the whole boat nearly rolled over.  It came to rest about 1″ from contacting the ground, so no major harm was done, but it was a heart-stopper.  I mounted the casters to a 4×4 and attached that with some flanking gussets to keep the 4×4 from rolling over, but clearly this is not a good long-term solution.  I’ll need to address that when I get back.  Interestingly, the boat actually moved on the strongback – if you go back and look at the early pictures you can see that the stringers just sit in slots in the MDF, and on the starboard side they’re now a few inches above the bottom of the slot.  This won’t affect us in the near term, and once she’s painted she gets turned over anyway.

After the crisis was resolved, I wrapped her in a tarp and headed to the airport.

Next week we sand this coat of primer, look it over and fill any pinholes or depressions that became evident once the primer went on, and then put on a couple of coats of white primer.  This all then gets sanded to about 320 or 400 grit and then we paint.  I’m hoping the paint is done by the end of next week, but if history is any guide it will take longer than anticipated.




Details, details, details…

Now that the trim is installed, we’re down to the brass tacks stage of prepping the hull to be painted.  All the random pinholes need filling, the sharp edges need rounding, the sharp corners need filleting, and the curves need to be triple checked to make sure they look right.

It takes a lot of time filling and sanding and filling and sanding and filling and sanding.  Fortunately, the (rather pricey) fairing compound I’m using is ready to sand 4 hours after application which means I can make pretty full use of the day.  I prep an area for fill, put the compound on, and then go work on another area for a while.  By the time I’ve got compound on that area I can often start sanding the place I faired before.

Here’s the kind of thing I’m doing.

In this photo, you can see the fairing I’ve done to blend the forward end of the spray rail into the hullside.  When this is painted, it should look like a smooth, organic bulge that gradually builds from the hull.  Here’s the aft end of the quarter guard.  Rounded over and smoothed into the hull.

Here’s the front end of that same guard.

I’ve got a couple more days of this kind of thing before it’s ready for a first coat of “real” primer.  By “real” I mean that it’s not just to help the eye find imperfections.  But I undoubtedly will find a few things I missed when that first coat goes on.  It’s the nature of the beast.

And while I am generally able to keep fully occupied through a day right now, there are times I’m waiting for things to dry.  I’ve begun building my leaning post, which allows me to fill those times.  I started off by buying a 22 gallon bait tank from Pacific Edge tackle.

This is a helpful starting point that I’ll be turning this into something that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 8.10.47 PM

To make that happen I’m first building a piece that will be bonded to the top of the baitwell, and then I’ll build extensions for the sides at the bottom.  I cut the top and bottom of the upper piece on my CNC machine and then bonded them together with some blocks of Doug Fir.  Then, to plank the curved piece that contours the opening to the bait well, I cut a bunch of 3/8″ wide strips of 1/4″ plywood left over from planking the hull and bonded them in place, holding them tight using some plugs I cut out, also on the CNC.  A picture says a thousand words.  This next image shows the part on it’s back.  In other worse, you’re looking up from the bottom.

The plug is separated from the glued assembly using plastic and clamped in place.  Tomorrow it will be removed and discarded, leaving a frame with a solid, curved panel with the same curve as the opening of the baitwell.  The frames that will be part of the final leaning post have been skeletonized to save weight.  Here’s a look from above.  You can see that the curved panel is formed of small strips butted up next to each other.  Eventually this will be faired, glassed, bonded to the baitwell and faired again.

This really just gives me something to do when I’d otherwise be twiddling my thumbs, but it’ll be nice to have gotten a head start on the interior furniture once I get to that point.  Tomorrow, it’s back to sanding and fairing and sanding and fairing and…


Adding trim.

The hull is now fair enough that it doesn’t make sense to take it any further without first putting on the exterior trim.  The “trim” is a collection of boards that guard the hull, deflect spray downward, and add to the aesthetic qualities of the boat.  It also serves to add significant effort to the overall boat construction process, right at the point you think you’re close to getting it painted and turned over.

I’ve chosen to construct these trim boards from white oak because it’s hard and strong.  As mentioned previously, the primary purpose of these boards is to protect the hull, and so they’ll be subject to significant abuse over the life of the boat.  Oak is up to the task.  My dad and I spent a couple of hours on the planer and table saw to shape a number of 4/4 planks down to the appropriate profiles.  This is actually pretty tricky woodworking.  Some of the boards are angled on three sides, and the forward sheer guard – which is angled on two sides – needs to be laminated from two layers to make the bend.  To make the two-piece boards we created two strips that are half the width of the finished plank and bonded them together with double-sided masking tape.  Then we cut the profile and pulled them apart.  The two pieces could then be bent around the boat and glued back together.

Here she is after the bulk of the trim is installed.

Note that the wood will eventually be faired into the hull, primed and painted, so it won’t contrast as much as it does in these pictures.  But everything except the spray rail gets covered in ($25/ft) stainless trim, so there will be a strong visual component to these pieces.

This is one of the first parts of the project where I’m somewhat dissatisfied with the result.  The line formed by the aft sheer guard and extending forward into the hullside rubrail isn’t as straight as I’d like it.  It’s just really tough to get a board attached to a surface that twists as much as this hull does to lie straight.  I think if I had this to do over I would have come out at night when the light was low and used a laser level to scribe a straight line on the hull.  Live and learn.  You can see in this photo the less-than-straight line.

I doubt anyone will notice it but me – and devoted readers of this blog – but I hate visible mistakes and it bothers me.

Anyway, the next step is fairing all these boards in so the transitions are smooth, and then doing the final fairing before priming and painting.  It’s so close I can taste it.



Outside and primer!

Fairing is hard.  It’s hard work, and it’s hard to get right.  Since the glass went on the work has focused entirely on fairing, and it’s slow going.

First, we sanded everything smooth with a Festool dual action, and then went to work with the linear sander and sanding blocks to try to knock things into shape such that it was “locally fair.”  These tools will knock down high spots in a 10″ (ish) range making things pretty good. As we went, we’d fill depressions and sand things fair again, occasionally misting the boat with hardware store spray paint as a guide coat.

In our case there are some larger scale “whoopdie doos” that needed to be addressed that short fairing tools won’t find. So we started using long fairing battens to screed filling compound and begin making things good at a macro level.

Part way through this process, we realized that we really needed to see the boat from further away than we could get in my little shop, and under better lighting and so, in a departure from “the plan,” we wheeled the boat into the great outdoors.

This helped a lot and we were able to better address some of the bigger issues in the aft portions of the hull.

At this point, the fact that the hull is so mottled was beginning to be an issue.  All the various color blotches bear a striking similarity to the camouflage paint jobs they use to hide the lines of cars when testing cars them in secret on city streets.

And so, after consulting with the paint guys at Svendsens, I rolled on a coat of gray AwlGrip epoxy primer to even out the color so we can see imperfections better.  It doesn’t really count as “primer” yet, given there’s still a lot of fairing to do, but it looks really cool with an even coat of color on it.

Tomorrow is an off day, but Monday we’ll be back at it.  Hopefully by the end of Tuesday the hull will be fair enough to call “done,” and we’ll move on to installing the spray rails and guard strips.  I’m ready to get to painting!

Oh, and I took Monday and Tuesday off to do some fishing in the big boat.  Went pretty well!




Well, after all the previously mentioned sanding, we got to the point that the boat was looking pretty fair.  There remain low spots that need filling, but the high spots were down.  That means it’s time to glass!

Today we glassed the sides.  I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to be at this point.  It’s really starting to feel like we’ve got a BOAT on our hands.

Anyway, I need to back up a bit before getting into the glassing.  Glass doesn’t tend to contour particularly well to sharp breaks in the underlying shape.  This boat has a number of sharp breaks: the stem, the keel, the chines, the transitions to the transom, etc.  Many of these are desirable in the final form, but we can’t have them during glassing.  We’ve got to round them off, and then after the glass goes on we’ll build them back up from thickened epoxy.  Here’re some shots of rounded edges:

Next up, we cut the glass and started applying resin.  Here’s my dad mixing the first batch of resin to be rolled into the glass.  We’d already rolled a thick layer of resin onto the hull beneath:

After a whole lotta rolling, squeegeing, and futzing about we had a glassed hull:

I’m pretty happy with the quality of the wetout.  This is HEAVY glass, which makes it tough to get the resin to fully saturate and tougher to get the bubbles worked out, but we ended up with a good product:

After this had a chance to gell a bit, we begin applying coats of resin thickened with fairing filler to fill the weave.  It’s a good idea to do this before the resin used to lay up the glass has cured because it allows you to get a chemical (cross-linked) bond.  Here’s a shot after the starboard side had been filled, prior to filling the port side.  You can see that it’s a bit more opaque.  You can also see in this photo that I’ve added a layer of glass tape along the stem of the boat to seal things up.

After three coats of filler, it was looking pretty good.  The weave was mostly filled and I think we’re ready to begin sanding without getting into the glass:

Tomorrow we’ll sand the areas where the bottom glass laps the sides, do a sanity check on other details, and then glass the bottom.  Then it’s off to the races on final fairing.  It’s gonna be awesome.