Boatbuilding Blog

February 16, 2009

Dry-Fitting the Portholes

Filed under: Building - Cabin, Hardware — tomlarkin @ 3:26 am

I fitted the new portholes yesterday. Today I’ll seal the bare plywood with epoxy. The ports have springs in the hinges so they stay open automatically.  I also fitted the stern hatch so I can pre-drill the through-mounting holes on the hinge side and seal those holes at the same time.  

Port portholes and stern hatch 

 Inside view      Starboard showing cutout


January 18, 2009

Porthole Size Comparison

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 9:35 am

Trying to decide on the porthole size and placement…

  • I’m mostly concerned with aesthetics – are they in proportion to the size of the boat and cabin? Are they the right height and location fore and aft?
  • Relative strength is not a concern – these are very heavy ports
  • Larger ones will make the cabin brighter and add more ventilation, but also make it less private, and the opening parts will be heavier and more obtrusive over the bed
  • Pictures of a bunch of tugboats with round portholes, for comparison

Five-Inch Portholes

5 Inch Portholes

Eight-Inch Portholes

I think they’re placed a little too high in this picture.

8 Inch Portholes 

8 Inch Bronze Porthole - Inside view

January 5, 2009

Working on the Pilothouse

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 6:51 am

I’ve spent the last few weekends finishing the pilothouse top and the new sliding door framework. It’s about ready to be primed and painted. At the same time, I added a new Port-side scupper because water pooled a bit when I washed the cabin. I’d hoped it would all run back to the stern scuppers, but it’s about 3/8 of an inch lower at that point.  It looks just like the Starboard scupper, only a few feet further aft.  I also cut openings for vents into the lockers fore and aft.  Other than filling and finish sanding, I’m approaching completion on the outside of the cabin.  I really want to get this finished and start working inside the cabin!

Shiny cabin top with wet epoxy   Top hatch from inside

 Stove cap on base     Heater installed temporarily

I got a Fein Multimaster for Yule, and I’ve been using it heavily, especially for sanding inside corners where nothing else worked well. It’s a great (and expensive) tool – thanks Meryll!

Another Thrilling Saturday Night

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 1:18 am

The sad thing is, I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing on a Saturday night.

November 29, 2008

Cabin Progress

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 7:04 am

Despite breaking a couple of ribs (I tripped while taking out the trash!) and the distractions of Thanksgiving and Halloween, the cabin exterior is progressing pretty well. I’m trying to finish the pilothouse top trim and the sliding door frames.  I’ve been too sore for a couple of weeks to do any productive work, and it’s driving me crazy.

Pilothouse top trim. The athwartship piece in the foreground is for mounting equipment in the future. I have an urge to install an emergency-style light bar up there. I’m not really sure why though. 🙂

Pilothouse top trim

Here’s a mocked-up sliding door in the closed position.  When the door is open, the window in the door should line up exactly with the cabin window. I’m going to order the windows soon, from Diamond Sea-Glaze. I’m concerned that the window trim for the 2 windows might interfere with each other so I want the windows in hand before constructing the doors or installing the sliding track.


The cabin is mostly glassed and faired. I’ve sanded the hull one more time since I took this picture.  It’s approaching the primer stage.  The dark lines around each joint inside the cabin roof are from thickened epoxy applied with a caulking gun and smoothed with my finger. It’s a really nice way to make a very smooth, even fillet. Fisheries Supply sells empty caulking tubes.

Pilothouse and hull

Current launch date estimate: July 4 2009 – a year beyond my initial estimate, and 2 1/2 years total construction time.  I just looked at my first blog entry, and it’s been exactly 2 years since I started building the boat shed, and just under a year since I flipped the hull and started the interior construction.

September 4, 2008

Photo Essay – Installing the plywood cabin top trim

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 10:12 am

(Or – why boatbuilding takes a long time :-))

For the last few days I’ve been adding the trim pieces to the rear cabin top. These act as reinforcements and rain gutters. All of Sam’s roofs have them. This is a short essay describing how they got installed and finished.  Here’s the cabin top before this work started:

Before the trim pieces

First, I cut out the parts out of half-inch plywood, and radiused the edges with a plane and sander. Then I epoxied and screwed them into place onto the cabin top. After the epoxy hardened a bit I smoothed a thickened epoxy fillet along all the edges so the pieces make a smooth transition to the roof. I let the epoxy cure for a couple of days, then rounded the outside edges with a power plane and a random-orbital sander, finishing with a longboard to keep the lines straight. Small sanders tend to make a wavy edge.

Here it’s all sanded, ready for glassing. Note how solid this is – with the trim piece, this is 1 1/2 inches of solid marine plywood:

Sanded and ready for glass

I draped the glass cloth over the top and smoothed it out:

Dry glass cloth ready for epoxy

Then I wetted out the cloth by pouring a quart of epoxy on top and spreading it around with a plastic spreader, rolled it smooth, and squeegeed the surface to remove any raised areas or bumps. I made sure to add wet epoxy to the edges because the plywood edge-grain really absorbs a lot of epoxy.  I let it cure for a few hours:

Epoxy & glass curing

I trimmed the glass off the bottom edge with a razor knife and rolled on a layer of gray-tinted epoxy. This is to start filling the weave of the cloth:

First filler coat

After the first filler coat set up I rolled on another. The glass weave is mostly filled now, so I can sand it later and not sand into the cloth.

Second filler coat

Now I will leave it alone for a few days to cure. Then I’ll sand the whole surface, fill any indents with fairing compound, sand the fairing compound, and coat it with epoxy again. When the whole cabin is done, the epoxy gets sanded one last time, and the surface gets a couple of coats of epoxy primer. When this is sanded smooth, I’ll apply the finish paint. Then I can install the handrails that mount along the edge of the roof.

These steps have to happen to almost every part that makes up the boat. It takes a long time!

August 25, 2008

Cabin Tops

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 12:21 pm

I laminated on the aft cabin top this weekend – the pilothouse roof went on last weekend.  These were the last major structural parts to install – the form of the boat is complete!

I mounted the first piece temporarily, traced the contact outlines, and raised half at a time to paint thick epoxy on both surfaces. This way I didn’t have to worry about lining everything up again with wet epoxy all over the place. I finished this side, screwed it down, and then did the same on the other side.  After the second layer was laminated on I fastened it down with screws every 10 inches or so. The top layer encapsulated all the screw heads.

Pilothouse roof

Gluing the top 

 Port side

A couple hundred pounds of dirt provided the clamping pressure. There’s a temporary beam underneath to keep the surface from bowing down. I’m working on a design for a dinghy/bicycle/handrail rack, so I tried out my bike for size. Looks like it will work OK. We like the idea of showing up in Leschi or Olympia and riding around town.

Organic clamps 
  Test-fit bicycle

The aft roof has four layers of 1/4 inch plywood. Devlin suggested the additional layer if we plan on walking on the roof occasionally. Also, this roof has no supporting beams. The hole in the back of the cabin is for a Lewmar Ocean hatch. There’s also a small hatch on the pilothouse top, to act as a wind scoop.

Now I need to get the outside finished and painted before the weather gets too cold (the gray hull is just tinted epoxy). I’ll spend the winter finishing the interior and installing the electrical, plumbing, electronics, and steering systems.

August 11, 2008

Windows and Doors and Cabin Tops!

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 11:36 am

A long, busy weekend. I took Friday off and got a lot done.

I marked and cut the windows and doors. Here’s the last window ready to be cut out. Note the notches for the cabin top beams. I mounted the heater to confirm the fit, and that I can see the flame while lying in bed.

Cutting out the windows    Propane heater

Friday night I pre-coated the underside of the first layer of the top, so I won’t have to do that work overhead. It rained lightly overnight, and the uncured epoxy got all bumpy and gooey. I asked the WoodenBoat guys what to do, with mixed reaction. Most said wait and see, which I’ve done, and it’s starting to set up now. I was hoping to attach the piece this weekend, but in the meanwhile, it’s on top, held on with screws. I still need to remove it and sand and recoat before attaching it for good.

The tops are made of 1/4 inch Okoume, in 5 x 10 foot sheets. Five feet is wide enough that I could make each layer as a single piece. I didn’t need to splice or join anything.

After cutting out the windows, there didn’t seem to be much structure forward, so I added a layer of biax and 6 oz cloth inside and out to all the uprights. I glued in the roof beams and temporarily added the first layer of the cabin top.  It finally looks like a boat!

Port, facing forward   Starboard, facing aft   Sunset through the new windows  Night shot

Aft Cabin

This afternoon I started the aft cabin top by laminating a lip to the bottom of the rear of the pilothouse. This will be the forward support for the aft cabin roof. I cut all four layers of plywood for the top, and pre-coated the first one like the pilothouse top. I think I’ll store it inside tonight, just in case  ;-).  This top won’t have beams because I think we’ll whack our heads on them, so it will be made of four layers of 1/4 inch ply instead of three like the pilothouse top.  I’ll add some temporary beams to laminate on top of.

Laminating the support lip   View from the stern

So, next step is to finish the tops, and complete the exterior glassing. I want to do this while the weather holds so I can paint the exterior. I’ll spend the rainy fall and winter finishing the interior.

July 12, 2008

Starting the Cabin

Filed under: Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 12:33 pm

I’m really happy to be building the cabin. It’s finally starting to look like the boat I’ve been imagining all these months.  I started assembling it last weekend and should finish by the end of this weekend (not including the roofs of course).  It’s a really interesting exercise in non-square angles and subtle oddities, while trying to keep everything symmetrical and esthetically pleasing. The main change to the plans is that the pilothouse is lengthened by 8 inches (see the mockup entry). To reduce the blank space at the aft end, I’m thinking of making the side windows 1 1/2 inches wider than the plan.  Building the mockup a couple of weeks ago really helped me. I have a fairly clear mental image of what I want it to look like.

It’s all 3/4 inch Oukoume, fastened to the deck structure with 3″ stainless screws on 4″ centers, as well as the full 4-layer glassing and fillet schedule I used on the bulkheads. Corners are fastened with 2 1/2 inch stainless screws 4 inches apart. The corners will be rounded and glassed. All edge joined panels are fastened with biscuits on 6 inch centers.

I’ve left off this one panel so I can climb in and out easily for a while.

View from the Port stern

I’ll post more pictures at the end of the weekend when there’s more progress.

Meanwhile I’m making a laminating jig for the cabin tops. They will be 3 layers of 1/4 inch ply. I’d really like to completely finish the inside before installing. Finishing overhead just doesn’t seem like it would be much fun.  There’s just some scrap in the jig picture below to see how it bends. I’m concerned about springback. I added 3/4 inch shims to the outsides so the laminated pieces will be curved more than they need to be on the assumption they will flatten out when removed from the mold. If they get flatter than the needed arch, I would have a very hard time getting them bent again. It should be easier to over-curve the pieces and ‘unbend’ them in place if necessary.  It’s going to have to be a trial and error process, with expensive materiel 🙂

Roof formin jig

July 5, 2008

Miscellaneous Progress

Filed under: Building - After Flipping, Building - Cabin — tomlarkin @ 10:38 am

I’ve been busy the past few weeks,on various projects to get the boat ready to build the cabin.  I’ve faired and coated the inside of the hull and decks. It’s a lot easier now then after the cabin is on. If I use every weekend and all my vacation days, I’ll be able go get in about 30 work days before the end of September. That should be enough to finish the exterior, including paint. I’ll spend the winter wiring and fitting out, for a launch in the spring.

Dry-fitting the rubrails. The hull is shiny from a new coat of epoxy that needs to be sanded before the primer is applied. I fitted the rubrails now so I could patch any incorrect holes without messing up the final coat.
Port side rubrail   The bow is looking nice  Stern 

I’m thinking of making the cabin tops from 1/4-inch tongue-and-groove boards inside, with 2 layers of 1/4-inch ply laminated on the outside. Here’s a double-sided jig to build the cabin tops.  First, epoxy the boards together on the female side of the mold. After they set up, remove them and flip the mold over. Lay the boards on the male side, finished side down, and laminate the plywood on. Cut the top to fit, finish it completely, and drop it on the cabin, either with epoxy or Sikaflex  and screws.
One-inch MDF forms  Finished mold with a sample glued together  Tongue-and-groove overhead sample

I added the arched piece to finish the aft end of the aft cabin. It’s my first cabin part.  I used my new biscuit joiner. It worked as well as I hoped.  I’m not worried about the strength of this joint – the piece is supported on all sides. 
Biscuits!  Biscuit joiner  Aft of the cabin from the stern  Rain explores the chain locker

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