Be a better bagger

It’s too bad they don’t teach this stuff in high school; no idea where one can get a hands-in education in vacuum lamination techniques. Things are being done safely here in the shop thanks to book and video study. But it’s all the little tricks not known that cause extra time and sometimes rework (go back a few posts to the vacuum pump saga :)
This week I think we’ve finally gotten in the groove, so in case anyone reading this stuff is just starting out, maybe these musings can help reduce some error in your trials?

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That’s the second of four stages vacuum laminating the net lashing tubes to the hull’s port side. Significant only because it’s the first success using a splitter to draw vacuum on two separate projects in one pump run. A small moral victory around here.

Stage 3 was the 15 foot section between the main beams. Here are the steps.
Took measurements between the temporary straps, and cut all materials to leave an inch and a half on both sides of the straps so epoxy wouldn’t migrate over the straps.
Built the bag down on the 8′ work table where it can be stretched snugly and the sticky goo tape applied, leaving the paper backing in place. Setting up the tape in this calm manner, before any epoxy is mixed, took me too long to realize!
Planned for add-on patches to make out-of-the-way zones in the bag for the pump fittings to sit. Leaving at least six inches between the air connection and any live epoxy work, linked by plenty of breather fabric, keeps the glue away from the pump’s tubes and fittings. (Learned after a nasty hour of scraping out glue-fouled bag fittings one night – these parts aren’t a quick Home Depot replacement).
After cutting fglass fabric to the six inch width for this job, the ‘bagging’ supplies were cut: peel ply at 7 inches because a bit of overlap makes it MUCH easier to remove later, release film at 6″ because any more would be waste, breather fluff at 5.5″ because when it goes all the way to the edges it invariably ends up adhered where you don’t want it, like on the hull!, and the bag film itself at 11″ – leaving 2-3″ past the edge of fiberglass is minimum. For this vertical work I needed the bag to help hold the wet materials in place before the pump turned on, so I cut it close and snug on purpose.
With materials all ready, it was time to apply the putty fillet around the pipe, and let it harden up a bit, but still pliable for the bag to press the fiberglass into the fillet and be able to take by-hand smoothing from the outside of the vac bag.

Here’s the bag in place, but folded down out of the way.

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Then the fglass was wetted out on the table and rolled up like little pillsbury crescent rolls (sans hot dogs, Mom) and walked over to the boat after sitting under warming lights for about 20 mins to get tacky (sticky). Here that is with peel ply to help hold it up. Note that it won’t adhere yet to the underside – gravity wins.

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The heat lamps are going because there is a putty fillet above and below the pipe, trying to time it so that is just hardening when the vacuum is applied. Too early and it will squish out; too late and there will be ugly lumps in your cream of wheat.
Next shot is after applying release film and breather fluff, some of which needed dabs of masking tape to hold in place. Bag was then brought up over the work taking care to tuck things in flatly.

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With this long, complicated bag, there were some air leaks but they were solved in a few minutes by pressing the tape all over again and adding a few inches of backup here and there. Having these separated tube attachment areas has helped quite a bit, compared to earlier work where I didn’t plan out the connection spots. Cut the bag to fit the work, and simply add a big ‘patch’ as needed.

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All in all, no drama today and it all came out with nice, uniform tubes that need only minor fairing work. In retrospect, I probably did this all backwards; someone could try small 2-3″ fiberglass strips next to the pipe straps first. Then remove the straps after the glass strips dry, and you could probably do the whole project in fewer bagging sessions. Just a thought.

And as Jeanne’s Mom always said when preparing the fruit for canning, “I found the one we’re looking for – the last one”…. Here’s beam number four escaping the oven. Don’t ask about the electric bill. This big box is REALLY in the way, but it will stay up another day or so to bake the rudder after the last fairing work. Getting excited to start on the rudder’s cassette steering assembly!

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Borrowed from the Missus

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It’s actually hard to find a remote-sensing thermometer that will read warmer than your average bad day in Death Valley. This one from Home Depot tops out at 158 degrees, which works for our 160 target. The ‘oven’ has a removable section of Sheetrock to reach the power switch and read the old fashioned meat-cooking thermo inside to make sure we don’t get a runaway thermal event past 175 degrees or so. This combination does the trick. We also had to hard-wire some temporary plugs, conduit and switches because regular power strips couldn’t take the heat or current draw. Also needed to find a replacement air circulation fan after smashing Colin’s nice little unit with a little slip – oops. The fan is a must with a box this big – think of how convection ovens have hit the home improvement market.
Too many trips to the hardware store and wasted time on various improvements, but this post-curing system is now a-ok. Beam #2 was cured on Sunday, and the other two will fire early this week.

Meanwhile, the net lashing anchors are going on the main hull, similar to how it was done on the beams. Step 1 was temporary strapping of the PVC to the boat – it makes a nice clean line all along the gunwale …

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We’ll laminate the fiberglass in sections, skipping the spots where the pipe straps sit. Once the primary bagging is done, we can hand-patch the little spots left in between. The straps are held with tiny 1/2″ screws, in just enough to bite. Those little holes will get putty filled before we proceed to seal everything up.

Sunday afternoon was spent preparing the 186′ of six-inch wide 18oz fglass fabric needed to create these lashing anchors. That’s 31′ along the hull x three layers x port/starboard, plus all the vac bagging materials. After ten minutes of scissor-burning wrist work, it was a run back home to grab Jeanne’s fabric cutting board and rotary cutting wheel. That helped a bunch, and it was returned in time for tomorrow’s prom dress sewing.

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Rudder fairing is good – first side finished today, and we attempt to get the exact match with side two starting tomorrow. Just keeping things fair, man!

Yes, but it’s a DRY heat, dear

Well, the oven run from the last update got to about 115. So we upped the heat bulb count to 4 x 250 watt plus 5 x 125 for 1600+ watts to heat an 85 cubic foot box. Also added some R13 attic insulation around the box and a small circulation fan inside. With the afternoon sun beating down on the works, we hit and held 160 today, so beam #1 is officially post-cured. Just need three more warm sunny schedule free afternoons.

Started fairing the rudder and it looks way better quickly. Photos will come once the fairing is done and we’re in primer. Really need to get this done so the steering components can begin. For those following Fram’s build, with all Henny’s amazing engineering steps, you will see the polar opposite develop here. Simple, crude and hopefully just as effective as the great feeling of steering the F27.

Back to the windshield, the rope pass-thrus came out quite smartly. Here they are being cemented in place yesterday, and were cut off flush this morning.

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Next the center portion and the port side got 16oz glass and an awkward-shaped vacuum bag.

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The bagging is getting more proficient, but I still spend too much time chasing leaks probably because of improvising around weird shapes and surfaces once the glass is already wetted out. Two things I wish I had learned in advance: (this note is for new-to-bagging folk)
Attach all the sticky tape in advance to one side of the bag material, doing that work flat on your big table. Things like adding the sticky tape on one end after the glass application totally screwed things up.
Work a trial run with everything dry and plan out where extra baggy material is need to conform to staggered / stair step shapes. Otherwise it’s really frustrating to have a whole bagging set up but one big corner gets stretched to the point where there is no actual downward pressure on an inside curve or corner. This stuff sounds easy but it seems a real experienced art form to me. Tricky to get it right and I keep learning to make the bags bigger, although my inner tight-wad pushes back on materials (perceived) waste. Let’s see if tomorrow night’s port side windshield frame gets done more smoothly than today’s.

For Schildknecht

Yea! The rudder is complete and it’s very exciting to have this vital part of the boat here on the table instead of the plan diagrams not too many days ago. The last touch today was to wrap the leading edge in Kevlar – not in the plans but we decided that about 12 more ounces of weight to put a bullet proof vest-like protection on the front where crap hits a rudder seemed like a smart trade off. It’s the remnant fabric from the full hull length keel-line protective strip that went on the main hull 15 yrs ago.
Can you see the color scheme of the Pittsburg Steelers? (The rest of you can stare blankly while Bill S. laughs)

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And that foam blank to the left is another rudder to build – for Colin’s rehab Coronado 15 project. Figured we might as well do an airfoil shape too.

Stood the rudder up in position so you can see the difference from the similar shot of the foam cutout a couple weeks back. Makes more sense now!

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In that last shot, see that the rudder will actually drop another 8 inches or so once the floor isn’t in the way.

Writing this tonight while trying not to stare at the curing oven thermometer. Space heaters didn’t work, and like others I’m on to trying heat lamps. Got to 115F with about 600 watts of lamps. Added another 540 watts tonight and we’re passing thru 105 as I type. The Applied Poleramic folks want their ER2 to post cure at 160 for two hours. They told me by phone that I could substitute some time for heat, like maybe 140 for four hours or so. If we don’t get far enough the shop neighbor has a friend at the car painter – we could haul all the beams, the rudder and other structural stuff over there for an evening bake off. Guessing he’d charge a few hundred and it’s a big pain in the rear to transport this stuff. Tonight’s red lamps should look quite familiar to Mom – remember keeping all your dogs warm in the shed on the freezing Sonoma nights?

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107 and still rising. Time to go cut out glass fabric for the windshield frame.

Baked Beams, anyone?

It got warm in Santa Rosa and my thoughts turned to summer BBQ – hot dogs, baked beans, cobs of corn…
But really we need to post-cure the epoxy in the beams and steering parts, so we need a big oven to reach and hold 160 degrees (F) for 2-3 hours per session. Made this from Sheetrock and ripped 2x4s, just big enough to house one forward beam resting on its furniture dolly.

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Pulled the top on, and it started working right away, but the fan-aided space heater hit a safety kill setting at about 95 degrees. So tomorrow we’ll follow Gordie Nash’s advice and find a cheap baseboard wall heater at Home Depot. And perhaps have to take some license pulling out any safety settings if it has a brain.

The rudder took shape nicely and has now gone thru the carbon lamination steps. Each side got a staggered 14 layers staring from the top down. There’s some extra wraps over the upper edges, and the outer skin of the second side went in the vac bag this evening.

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The last step will be adding a bit of Kevlar tomorrow to the leading edge, just to provide some impact resistance.

While the rudder was in a bagging step, we free handed an idea for strengthening the slot where halyards will pass thru the windshield back to the winches. Simply take 24″ of PVC pipe and tape it to some foam:

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After waxing the mold, we made three trips around with wet fiberglass and let dry overnight. Cut it in half the next day and pop out the molds from each 12″ piece (that’s the step in the photo). I need to take a winch to the shop and mock up all the exact positions for these line guides, then we can cut the windshield frame openings to match and glass these tunnels in.

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And here you can see the decision on how to affix the removable windshield to its base. Bolts will go in horizontally along this grey wedge that has been set at the proper angles desired for each window pane going around the frame.

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This windshield base is now ready for glassing this weekend. After a bike ride. :)

Building the rudder

Seems there are lots of ways to unlock the shape of your rudder hidden in a big block of foam. After receiving many tips from the Farrier boat forum, we followed Andrew’s advice on his Trivita F22 build blog. Create contour lines from the shapes indicated by the plans at seven spots along the length, and use the router to ‘terrace’ the rudder.

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On the first side I used a narrow bit and cut depth grooves on the lines, intending to hit the troughs with spray paint to use later as sanding guides. That turned out to be overkill, and on the other side a wider bit worked just fine, taking all of the material for that depth, before adjusting the router depth for the next contour line level.

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Here’s a huge thanks to Andrew / Trivita for his detailed writing about adding an epoxy-fill to serve as a solid holding ground for the centerline all along the rudder’s edges. See the dark green stripe here:

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This was cut with a quarter-inch wide x half inch deep roller bearing bit, simply set to the 1 1/8″ centerline before any shaping, but after the high density inserts were added. This hard edge is massively helpful in shaping, and if Farrier was still selling plans, I’d bug him to make this a standard practice.

After the first side was shaped, it went in to the bag for the first carbon layer. The idea is to have that solid surface pushing back and holding the rudder level when shaping side two. And since the bottom side was still untouched, it made the vacuum process easy.

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This came out looking fantastic, EXCEPT a nasty little mistake of not supporting the underside (empty) area behind the HD insert that will sit at the back of the rudder where it meets the cassette. So of course the vacuum pressure deflected the trailing edge in this spot. See the curve in the section that had to be cut out. And the yellow replacement piece bonded in place.

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That will get its “side 1” carbon patch next and we can get back to finish shaping side two. All of those router cuts are done, and the rudder sits on the table nicely in its 7 contour shapes up against the carbon side. Here’s the trailing edge currently, with one side in carbon skin and the other still raw foam.

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See what I mean about that first centerline back-fill of epoxy putty? Makes a great straight edge!
Tomorrow we’ll finish shaping and get that second skin done. The 14 layers of carbon stiffeners will come next time.

-posted from the road home, a 450 mile round trip today for Griffin’s Tigers win in 14 innings at Eureka. Long way for a good game :)

Not quite full time

Being a relatively productive Type A, I departed Epsilon with the game plan of hitting the boat shop full time. It’s been six weeks since the Jan 20 start, so that should be at least 6×40=240 hours, right? But the figures penciled on the calendar each shop session added up to 198 thru Feb. It’s been great to spend time reconnecting at home, cycling with friends, visiting with Allie and score keeping for the Analy Tigers. And it’s much easier to say Yes to good marine tasks like helping Stephen Marcoe ‘salvage’ the Formula 40 cat Tuki from her 2013 dismasting insurance settlement. We were quite a scene at the ramp pulling that big race cat without a real trailer or crane. Tuki is an amazing big boat in need of an adventurous new owner.

Build tasks are taking longer than my estimates. For ex, the hard dodger mockup was a guess of 25 hours, but there’s already 21 in just the windshield base. I figured the beams needed 50 hours for fairing, but it’s been 127 hours of learning to do fairing well, plus lots of details around the wing net lashing points, lifeline stanchion bases and a boarding ladder mount. Jeanne has the best perspective – she said this week it’s important to let the boat take the time it needs to get finished properly and not cause burn out. If there are trips in 2014 where we should charter a finished boat, so be it. That’s a healthy comment from Mrs Carter – but we’re still going to push like crazy to get launched this summer :)
We’ll post hours totals each month as these might be useful for other builders, and it will help with my amnesia in some lovely lagoon some day when another cruiser asks if it was any big deal to build vs buy… And we’ll smile with way more boat than could have been reasonably purchased.
All the pitching-in along the way is so fantastic. Dad took the numbing task of fairing out 75 or so openings in the net lashing tubes – a dusty operation for sure. But my favorite point in the day was realizing that after 3/4 of a century he hadn’t yet played with a big air compressor blow gun.

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(Yes, those are brand new harbor freight car engine hoists about to be dunked in salt water – a whole new definition for disposable tools!)