Virginia Beach Project

Al from Virginia Beach writes in and shares pictures of his project boat. (September 2012)

I'm building the boat for 3 and soon to be 4 grandkids. I sail and my 2 sons sail, so getting the little ones into it makes sense. The oldest is 8 but lives about 300 miles away, so when next summer comes and we get to our lake house hopefully the craft will be ready to use.

I'm using West System to coat and put this together but am not glassing the boat - extra weight that I don't want or need. My boat is Maranti plywood, 12mm for the transom etc and 6mm for bottom and sides. I'll make my own foils from 12mm also.  For the "solid" wood I have found some very nice and cheap spruce. I plan to use some mahogany for the rub rails - I have some nice pieces. Almost at the point of fastening things together since today I got the chine bent and straightened - that was fun and am glad I had as many clamps as I have, but one never has enough clamps!


I fished a piece of spruce out of my pond and tried again with bending a chine.  I figure that 24 hrs underwater with all the enzymes and slop in my lily pond should make it pretty bendable.

I clamped the stern and mid ship positions and placed the above type clamps to make it parallel.  Then I gently bent the end of the chine toward the forward bulkhead and did two things. First I used a long clamp around the chine and the nearer stringer. Then I hung my tool bag with saws, drills and assorted heavy items on the end of the chine. I never changed the weight but I applied the straightening clamps and gradually tightened the long clamp.

The whole process took no more than 45 minutes and I never heard a creak from the wood.  When the chine was finally in position I removed the long clamp and tool bag and attached the chine to the forward bulkhead with a clamp. Not a screw in it yet. I will let it dry for a few days before removing clamps and attaching with screws. Then I'll see how the skin fits.

Update October 2012:

Before I talk about really assembling the boat let me make a few comments that may be helpful. Before
I used any expensive plywood, I cut basically templates from panels of very cheap ¼” plywood that
Lowes and HD sell for $10-11 a sheet. Really nice stuff, even nicer than luan because it is smooth, almost sanded. I used this not only as templates but also to assemble the boat before even cutting the marine plywood to make sure that I wouldn’t be a little short here and there.

For plywood I used Maranti marine plywood. It is a fair bit heavier than osoume but about half the
price. Works pretty well. For solid wood I used spruce mainly because kiln dried spruce absorbs water
very well and allows you to bend without breaking (too often!). I also found that it was actually cheaper
than the pine you find at HD or Lowes. It is soft but since everything will be coated with epoxy I don’t
think that will matter.

Tools play an enormous role is making the job easier and better. Aren’t all of us looking for ways to add to our tool collection anyway? Well, this is a perfect excuse. I show here what I consider almost
mandatory construction tools. I leave out the measuring items that you obviously need except to say
that getting a wallboard T square that is about 4’ long really makes lofting and aligning much easier. So
here are the tools: power drill, 2 if possible so you can drill with one and screw with the other, a sabre
saw, belt sander, orbital sander, block plane, surform plane(s), safety goggles and mask, caulking gun
and West System refillable caulking cartridges that you can fill with very thick (peanut butter) epoxy and you glue application much easier and neater. Part of the fun of a new project is “having”
to buy new tools. Well in this case that includes a Japanese flat saw. Got one real cheap (<$10) at Harbor Freight and it works great. Just what you need to cut off the ends of the stringers, chines etc and
side panels. Does a slick job. Still will need some sanding but then everything will need some sanding.
I also got to use my block plane fairing the side panels with the underside of the chines. The plane was
sharp and boy did it do the job easily and neatly. Now for the bottom.

I chose to use the West System because I have used it before and it works. It is a good even if expensive product but watch for West Marine coupons and you can save about 25%. Plan on about $150 for the materials before discount.

Now to the real fun. It is assumed that everything has been “dry fitted” and will go together without
any great adjustments. If not. Do that now. Everything that is going to be glued (using West as
adhesive) needs a coat of a 1:1 mixture of resin:hardner. Follow directions and don’t mix up large
amounts. It is a waste and the stuff costs. This should probably be done before your dry fit of the
frames and transoms. Let the coating dry and then use wax paper, not plastic wrap between the coated
surfaces so that they don’t stick at this stage. Now refasten. You will find wax paper as well as vinegar
two of the cheapest but most useful things you’ll use. Important point, when you apply the epoxy to the
wood you make the wood much stiffer and more difficult to bend. Applying to both sides of a piece of
wood that will require even a little bending could make the wood so stiff that if breaks when you try to

Now for the condiment stage. You already have vinegar but you will soon discover syrup, catchup and
mayonnaise. There’s peanut butter but that isn’t a condiment (at my house) but it comes later. These
food terms refer to the thickness of the West System mixture. Syrup is the stuff right from the cans and
the others are descriptive of the thickness after you add the West adhesive mix. When you are using
this stuff as glue, do not over mix because once you add the thickener two things happen. One it starts
to set up faster and two it ends up thicker than you start out making. So a little under the thickness will
give you more working time but probably also some more clean up since it will drip more. This stuff is
messy. Gloves really help and having something beneath the project to protect your floor might be a
good idea.

I used about 3 pumps of each West part for the volume I needed to glue the entire frame and transoms.
This does not include any skin. As to the amount of thickener, that is a play it by ear and add until it
seems about what you want to use. You should be approaching mayo. As you apply and then either
clamp or screw the pieces together you should get some ooze. If not, you probably didn’t use enough.
The best way to deal with this mess is a rag with white vinegar ($3.00 for 2 gal at Sam’s). Cleans things
including your hands beautifully. If you don’t do this, you will add to the already laborious sanding
ahead of you. Now you sit and wait for the glue to dry. This will vary depending upon the ambient
temp, the thickness of the mixture and probably other chemistry and physics I don’t know or care about.

OK, now we have a skeleton more or less. We also see where some places are too “high” and
others need a fill in. The high places can often be seen easily BUT, here is where having the cheap
plywood “skin” helps. Put a side with clamps or even screws to check the fit. If you have a bump, use
your sanders or planes to fair this out. You will also note where you may have cut a bit too deeply for
your chines or inwales. These will need to be filled with a peanut butter epoxy. Anything thinker than
this will run and be a mess to clean up.

I put both a side panel and a bottom piece on together to really check the fit. The plans call for both of
these to be a bit “proud”, oversized, so it won’t be a perfect fit but it will tell you if you are close and can cut out the real thing.

Ok, now for the real sides to be cut. If you have fit the plywood template to the frame and it fits on
BOTH sides I would use this as a template rather than re lofting even though lofting this boat is pretty
easy. As I said earlier I am using Maranti plywood, 6mm for the sides and bottom. This stuff is heavy
(compared to okume) , stiff and thicker than the template material. This may make a difference when
you go to attach the bottom so make sure that you refit after the sides are fastened. Remember to
epoxy only one side, the inside, of each side panel and let this get good and dry. At the same time coat
the chine, inwale, stringers and keelson with the 1:1 and no thickener epoxy. Can’t wait to put the
sides on but I can see that I will probably need help bending and holding the panels while screwing and
clamping to the frame.

Well, I got brave. After coating the inside of both side panels and all surfaces that would come in
contact with the epoxy glue when attaching, I let the whole thing dry for two days. Probably didn’t have to but I just wanted to make sure I thought everything out. Next was the dry fit. This is really the key to the whole process. Get the panels fitted perfectly without glue and things are easy. Have a misfit and the project is a mess.

I expected the panels to be stiffer than they ended up being with the one side epoxied. I was able to
use clamps to get the panel so that there were no gaps top, bottom, front or back. It took a while but
the panels fits with some overlap. I will be doing a bit of fairing but that’s OK, the planes are sharp and I have lots of sand paper.

This is how I attached the panels. First as I said I clamped them in place. Next I predrilled holes.
ALWAYS PREDRILL. Into the transoms I ran #8 3” deck screws. Two into each seems adequate. Then I used #8 ¾” pan head screws about every 10’ along the chine and inwale. The reason I used what I did is thus. I plan on removing all screws after the expoxy glue is dry so the pan heads were fine. I thought #8 was a goose but your choice. ¾’ also seemed about the right length. Now the deck screws are really what made the panel application go well. These need to be at least 3” long. 3 ½ would probably be better. You need something that you can loosen but not remove.

The glue went better and worse than expected. Better in the sense that I mixed up 3 parts resin to 3
parts hardener and added thickener to about a peanut butter consistency. I took the West System
reusable caulking cartridge apart and put the mixer in it. Cut off the tip and started applying glue
to all the frame surfaces only where the panel would attach. I was generous in the amount I used.
The gun worked pretty well. Some dripping but not bad. But then I ran out of glue needed more.

Mixed up a 1:1 part small batch and tried to get the cartridge apart to refill. No deal. Could not get it
without breaking the piston part. Doubt I will use it again since I used a small putty knife and was able
to apply the remainder of the glue without a problem. All this was done while at least some of the deck
screws were still in their hole although loose. Once the area had glue of it, I tightened down the deck screws and reinserted the pan heads. Still there seemed to be areas where the glue wasn’t oozing out so to me that meant it wasn’t tight enough. In those places I put additional clamps and lots of them. Remember that with “C” clamps you will get indentations if you don’t use a small piece of wood as a pad beneath the pressure points. Better to deal with that now than to have to go back and repair.

I put the template that I had made for the bottom on the chines and transoms to see how it fit. Well.
It was close and I suppose with a bit of filling with epoxy the size would have been ok. I chose to trace
the template and add about ¼”( in my situation) to the drawing. This was for most of the bottom way
more than what was needed but it seemed like the easy thing to do. You need to do what I did and see
how things fit and then adjust. You may not need any adjustment. I then cut out the bottom piece and
coated it with about 12 pumps of 1:1 un=thickened epoxy. You can brush or roll on the epoxy. Rolling
is faster but I think you waste less if you brush. By tomorrow it will be ready to flip over and do a dry
fitting. Can’t wait. This thing is really beginning to look like a boat!

I got up the nerve or maybe I just wouldn’t wait any lomger. I attached the bottom. As you can see
a few screws were involved. Probably 150+. You can see that I spaced them about 3-4” apart. In the
transoms and midboat form I used 1” but the rest are all ¾” You can see that once I had dry fit I left
the screws in the panel when I removed prior to gluing. Worked very slick. One thing that just doesn’t
work for me is the refillable caulking gun cartridge from West. Really not well thought out and it just
produced a big mess. I used a small putty knife and got the glue on pretty well.

After tightening all these screws my arm was a tired. I would hate to do this manually. The really not
fun part came next. Getting under the boat still attached to the frame and cleaning off the excess
epoxy. As I said before you want a little ooze but not too much because working upside down, scraping with a putty knife and wiping with a rag soaked in vinegar is just not my idea of recreation. We got it pretty well cleaned up but I can tell that there will be some sanding done after the boat is flipped. Once the cleanup is done you can start fairing the bottom sides and ends with a sharp plane and then an orbital sander. Be careful not to use too cpard3e paper. I know that 60 grit gets the job done faster but you can remove a ply before you know it if you are not careful. I would use 200 max and 150 is probably better.

November 23, 2012
Epoxying the hull:





After letting the last coat of epoxy on the hull dry for several days I did minimal touch up sanding of high spots. As I look back I should have done a lot more from an appearance standpoint but it certainly has a passable appearance. I again wiped the hull down well after having vacuumed the garage so that I was in as dust free as possible. I then used masking tape around the gunwale line feeling that the glue would probably adhere better to the epoxy directly than to a coat of paint. I used Rustoleum Marine primer, one coat applying it with a foam roller. It was difficult paint to stir and get well mixed but it went on very well and the roller gave it a good smooth even appearance. I again let it dry well for a couple of days and then used Rusteolem Marine Topsides paint for a finish coat. It too was rolled on and was easy to use. It will take a second coat to achieve a really nice look. It should be noted that this is Topsides paint not designed as “bottom” paint so if you plan on leaving a boat in the water for any long periods of time this is not the paint to use.

One final comment on the paint. Compared to the usual marine paints Rustoleum is much cheaper but also offers a more limited choice of colors and it would appear that it is not designed to be used as a mixing base to make your own color.

I let her get good and dry and then flipped her over onto a nice soft cloth pad to protect the paint. The frames were still attached and were the way I supported the boat while painting. Now for the first time I got a good look at the inside of the boat. WOW! I had a lot of finishing to do. This included filling screw holes but mainly if was filling in and making filets were the chines, keelson etc. did not seal as tightly as I would have liked. From a functional standpoint the boat was sealed. From and esthetic one I had a lot of work ahead of me. Since the epoxy is pricey I mixed up just enough so I knew that there would be no waste. This was your peanut butter consistency and applied with a tongue depressor went on easily and gave a nice effect. I would give a piece of advice when doing this. Wipe off the excess with a vinegar soaked cloth as soon as you are finished with an area. It is a heck of a lot easier than sanding this rock hard stuff once it dries.

I still had the frame “legs” uncut. The center ones in particular were a real nuisance to work around so I cut them off almost to where they will be finally but since I still have work to do on the sheer as far as trimming off the plywood I left a few inches that will come off later. Now I at least wasn’t catching myself on this stick that was serving no purpose. The bow and stern legs weren’t nearly the problem and I still haven’t touched them. I went off the CABBS plans for the mast step and thwart. I saw in someone’s plans that they had enclosed this part and made a buoyancy box out of it. I used ¼” maranti for the top which I fitted up tight to the underside of the inwales. Put a few cleats along the sides and fore piece to hold it tight. I then scribed a pattern on cheap plywood for the vertical piece. For this I used ½” maranti figuring that this would be extra cross bracing since I am using ½” plywood instead of the ¾” per plans. I will cut a 2 3/8” hole at the point 11” back from the bow and into this will go a piece of 2” PVC. When finished it will be sealed with epoxy.

What I haven’t got straight (so to speak) yet is the rake of the mast and exactly how the step will be angled. The mast will be reinforced 1 ½” PVC. From what I can tell, and Kyle Leonard has said, the mast should be perpendicular to the sheer line That is what I finally did. I took a piece of 1x4 sprude, used a 2 3/8’ hole saw an cut completely though it and attached it to the keelson in just the right position so that the 2” pPVC would be perpendicular to the sheer line. Not as difficult as it may sound. Used epoxy to fasten it. I put in a 4” water tight inspection port in the vertical piece a little off center so that the area may be used to store a towel etc. I will have pictures of all this. The port cover is frm West Marine and cost less than $10. Really happy with it. As looked at the inside of the bow transom it just looked unfinished so I took a piece of 1x4 spruce, as clear as I could find, and scribed a piece to fit on the inside of the bow on top of the mast thwart. I think it looks pretty good. I am doing the same on the stern with the exception that there will be a perpendicular piece running down to the keelson. Since the gugeons will attach here the added strength makes sense. BUT all this trim work adds weight to the boat so for those wanting the lightest craft possible all this is not for you.
This is where Al was on his project back on March 1st of 2103:

It's been a while since I've done any major work on my craft.  Been away enjoying the sunshine.  I have done some stuff like cut off the "legs".  Another tool buying opportunity, this time a saddle square.  neat little gadget but way over priced.  Also got to use the new flush cut saw that I love.  Have found Harbor Freight to be a treasure trove for all sorts of tools at great prices and most have held up well.  Clamps are one thing that they have at great prices if you watch the sales.  Never have enough clamps!

I have also fitted out bow and stern with some embellishments that i feel are more than decorative.  Feel they will strengthen both ends.  Presently they are still clamped since the temp here is still fortyish and I'm in no hurry to sand or plane partially hardened epoxy.  Speaking of planing a couple of comments.  I have two really small planes maybe 2" long and 1' wide.  Really useful little items that can quickly place down areas where a normal box plane won't fit and do a great job.  Had them for years and haven't seen any in stores lately.  Also discovered with the help of my expert woodworker son "Scary Sharp".  This is a fantastically simple, cheap ,fast and effective way to sharpen tools such as chisels and plane irons. Uses varying grits of sandpaper glued to a thick sheet of glass.  Lots on the web about it.  Also found a Robert Larson honing guide on Amazon for less than $11 that does the trick and is much cheap than most.  A solid well built device.

I've also been playing with the rub rails.  Got some nice mahogany fairly cheaply and had it ripped 1 1/2' wide.  Have had it clamped to the sides where it will be attached for weeks trying to give it some bend.  Too lazy to make a steam box.  Have used a household clothing steamer held up to the clamped on wood.  When I have loosened clamps the wood has assumed a gentle curve that is far better than nothing.  Will keep clamped and steam  a few more times.

Update from Al's project at the end of April, 2013:

Well, I really have been working on this baby but being retired takes up a lot of time.  For the last month I have been trying to get her finally ready for the water.  What this in essence means is that i have sanded, and sanded and sanded some more.  I have used every type of sanding device that i know of including wrapping a piece of sand paper around a 3/8" drill bit and sanding along some of the rough fillets.  What I have definitely learned is that neatness is worth a lot and I was not as neat with the epoxy as I could and should have been.  This left a lot of high spots and some really sharp edges that could do a job on little knees.  They are all gone now and another thin coat of epoxy has been rolled over all the unpainted areas, mainly the inside of the boat but also the spruce part of the gunwales.  I plan on attaching strips of mahogany as the outer rub rail and just vanrishing these.  No epoxy.  They are almost ready to attach.

I have made my mast and gooseneck from PVC..  The mast 1 1/2" pipe cut to length and then reinforced with treated wood and the goose neck is from a 1 1/2 x 1 1/4" tee.  My boom was supposed to be a 1 1/4" hardwood dowel but HD and Lowes both have ceased carrying that size (where i live) so the closest I could come was a poplar dowel 1 3/8" in diameter that I sanded down and have a nice fit into the 1 1/4" side of the tee.

I also found that my back couldn't take much more bending over to work on the inside so I made some 24' high saw horses that bring the boat to a perfect (for me) height to save my back.  Cute little things.

Today I attached to rudder.  Put the pintles & gudgeons on and took a lot of time to make sure I got it right. I think I did.  The rudder and tiller look really nice.  Hope they work as well as they look.

Now I am at the stage of what next? It appears that a dinghy dolly will be that project.  I haven't found actual plans for one but have seen photos and  figure that I can make something close to what I've seen that will fit the bill.

There is one more go round with epoxy filling some dings and gouges and no doubt some sanding after that.  Then it will be a clean up and Helmsman for the inside.  Really can't wait to do that finishing.

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