So many tips!

If you are prone to help videos, and general boaty building information, you absolutely must watch ALL of these videos on this fab YouTube channel, Tips from a Shipwright.

Shipwright Louis Sauzedde is a wonderful personality, and incredibly skilled with his hands. I would highly recommend watching the full series on building the work skiff, 30-ish episodes from timber yard to water.

Link to the show’s website:

Prepare to get lost!

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My god months pass!

I have been doing everything. Including boat work.
Just letting you know, I’m alive and happy, the boat is looking fair and is progressing. My career as a blogger and social media magnate has waned at the expense of some focussing.

Some key points:

  1. I killed Robert’s Festo sander (gearbox).
  2. I killed my Metabo sander (bearings).
  3. I had Robert’s sander’s gearbox replaced and it’s as new, but still patina riddled.
  4. He took it away (apparently he had to use it…sheesh!)
  5. I brought a new one, he paid for it.
  6. I am buying his old one off him. Bingo.
  7. I went to the Hobart Wooden Boat Festival.
  8. I have been sailing (see below video).
  9. I also have been sanding.

Here is a video by the wonderful Paul Cleaver of our little West Lakes sail together.

Posted in Robert Ayliffe, Sailing, Tools, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lead faeries and filler

The lead fairy delivered

Forgive me friends for the pace of the posts. Better something than nothing I say!

It has been a slow six months of building, but satisfying. I decided to fair the hell out of the hull, the bottom is the bottom and I’ve called that fair, the topsides are the focus of my energy.

I cannot imagine why I thought I could ignore them earlier, I suppose the bottom was so in need, it made the sides appear better than they were. A mixture of advice from my mentors I decided to ignore, and went with what I could live with. So I’m back on the torture board. My wrists are crying for a rest, I’ve probably developed ‘carpool tunnel’ but all is looking good, according to the batten.

I was donated a big bag of light weight filler, but it was a tad lumpy, and double sifting it still produced a gritty mix, which is ok for filling big areas but not for skim coats. Winter too has been making it difficult with drytimes longer and sags more prevalent. Lots of putting it on and taking it off.

Saggy winter light weight filler

I got so jack of seeing the filler fall to the ground as I sanded it, I decided to try and use the dust in the sanding extractor as filler. Not a good idea. There was just enough detritus that it was awful to sand, and left a limestone look,  complete with tiny objects of interest embedded.

The good fairy (Robert Ayliffe) delivered two gifts to make my life better; one is a loan of his Festo large sander, what a great tool that is, below is a picture of it. It is both vicious and dainty, like all good things.

Robert's loan to me.

He also made a delivery in the night, as you can see pictured at the head of this post, a pile of lead ingots, ready for my external ballast! What a great gift. Lead is not cheap, and I’m on the scrounge. If you have lead, I am buying. Thank you Robert!

Most recently I’ve used a fresh bag of light weight filler with Boatcote epoxy to fill all of the weave of the fiberglass around the hull. Once I have sanded that, I’ll, check the fairing again. Hopefully I can move onto making the lead into attachable ballast. This will involve some backyard casting. If I go mad in the process, finish the boat for me please.

Thin coat of LWF to fill the weave

One more bit of news, I may have a trailer for this boat at a brilliant price….progress!

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New Sharpie hits the water

I was very lucky to be at the launching of Adrian Galindo’s Electra on the 26th of January.

Adrian began building Electra after I did, and is now in the water, which is a bit of a tug at my green streak. Regardless, it was a celebration, and I feel really pleased for Adrian.

My progress is satisfactory, I am very much enjoying the build, but I would like more time to spend on the boat. This blog has been a victim of priority, but I will maintain it.

My boat’s hull is being prepped for the exterior lead shoe and final heavy fibre glass coat, it looks great, and by all assessment, sweet and fair.

The below photos are by myself, my friend Greg Anastasi, and Robert Ayliffe, so enjoy these launch photos.

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More snot and disco skirts

Starboard side sheathed

Starboard side sheathed

Oh joy I am back on the fibreglass!

Wrapping the forefoot with nasty pointy stuff

Wrapping the forefoot with nasty pointy stuff

A mixed blessing fibreglass is. The unarguable protection it provides makes it a necessity, but dealing with it is not fun. The cloth is so slippery it slides out your hand like a wet fish, yet it jags on anything and distorts the weave requiring a stroking session to realign. Applying such large areas of it makes you stir crazy mixing the epoxy, and your wrist gets hammered squeegeeing it. That is all before we consider the health benefits!

The join of two sheets of fibreglass, still to be sanded

The join of two sheets of fibreglass, still to be sanded

My process is to mark out as much as I can handle by myself, which is about two to three meters of 1500mm wide cloth, drape it on the boat and position it, then mark out the area to be covered. I have two objectives in mind, making best use of the cloth and keeping straight-ish edges.

If I had a few more people who could keep my odd and un-planned hours, I would attempt the entire side at once. But by myself, I am leaving gaps between the cloth panels and filling with epoxy mixed with light weight filler.

With the cloth off the boat and the area marked out, I then roll on a coat of epoxy to fill the area, then approach it gingerly with the cloth and drape carefully to my marks, paying attention to straight edges. Then it is into the squegeeing in more epoxy, pushing the cloth into the epoxy against the hull.

It takes two to six mixes of epoxy to fill the cloth sections and any extra goes towards rolling on the adjacent cured area, filling the weave.

Wet 'glass on the bow

Wet ‘glass on the bow

The result is a lean fit with no lifting of the cloth, but the weave will need more epoxy, and this can be achieved whilst it is still tacky, (but not too green), or later after a light sand.

Sanding fibreglass is my big hatred. I desperately dislike the glass fibres that it produces. To combat these nasty, itchy, glassy, sticky-inny shards, I invested in a decent sander that works well with my extractor, and I upgraded the extractor with a Dust Deputy thingo to improve the suck.

The Festo extractor with Dust Devil on top

The Festo extractor with Dust Devil on top, ungainly but it sucks!

The Dust Deputy adds a cyclonic action to any extractor, or regular vacuum cleaner, much like Dyson has built into their celebrated vacuum cleaners. With my Festool extracter, I have done away with the bag, and just let the Deputy’s bin fill up. With the small amount of sanding I have done since installing the Deputy, I have filled the tub twice, indicating it is catching more than the bag did!

Kate gave me a Festool extractor four years ago, and it was the best thing she could have purchased me. Minimising dust is so critical with these modern materials, I don’t want anything to get in the way of enjoying this boat.

The Festool Rotex sander I purchased is amazing, it has two settings, a random orbit and a direct drive. So with the same 120 grit paper, I can remove material very quickly with the direct drive, and finish off with the random orbital setting. All with the twist of a setting on the head. To add to this, they are very quiet, almost not needing hearing protection.

The 90mm Festo Rotex sander

The 90mm Festo Rotex sander

I chose the small Rotex (90mm) because I wanted it for detail sanding, but now I really want the big 125mm unit. Now I want both. But at $900 each this will not happen soon.

Off to the glass fibre work I go, I’m itching just thinking about it!

Posted in Epoxy, Fibreglass, Tools, wooden boat | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Laser beam vs desk chair

That is a ‘link bait’ title, because I never got a chance to test the chair, but Ayliffe assures me it is the way to go.

So I need to mark the “waterline”, a key and mostly critical line on the boat, certainly equal to the sheer line in criticalness (criticality?). Nothing worse than an unfair line on a boat.

There are three challenges with marking the waterline:

  1. Is my boat still level?
  2. Where do I mark the water line?
  3. How do I mark the waterline?

Let us tackle the “is my boat level” question; I honestly cannot remember levelling the building jig… A major worry set in when I was posed this question. Surely I did, this is the first thing you do when setting up to build. Surely? 😦

So I climbed underneath with my best spirit level (yes I have a worst one, which I have since thrown out). I checked the beam level, which showed itself to be spot on. The fore an aft level was more difficult to ascertain, I could only rely on the centreboard case, and even with this could be out a bee’s whisker the way it is set in the boat and not matter. So my worry progressed to amber stage.

The centreboard case was not exactly level, over 1.6meters, it was out 3mm. So the whole boat could be 10-20mm out….. I rang Robert to share the worry, he guffawed and said “we haven’t had an earthquake!”. I neglected to share my doubts about my initial levelling of the jig back four years ago and replied, “yes indeed we had had an earthquake”. We had.

I decided to ignore the boat may not be level.

I then asked Robert on the phone what is the measure from the Reference Waterline (RWL) to the Design Waterline (DWL). He verbally shrugged and asked if I had the sail plan handy. I had. I blabbered about measurements and projected lines and worry, and he talked up and said.

“Look at the sail plan. See where the bow is just our of the water? See where the stern is just out of the water?” I replied in the affirmative. “Look at your boat” he said, “pick a similar spot at each end and mark it on the boat!”. “Oh” I uttered.

Turns out this is one of those science-meets-art moments. And because we add a “boot strap” of 75mm above the waterline, there is room to move.

Then I asked Robert about marking the waterline. I tell him I have been trying to transfer the RWL using a long tube filled with water and have been struggling. He spoke about friction when I complained I thought the air pressure was different by the door of my shed. I am sure I could have used the tube, I am sure the laws of physics still apply in Beulah Park. Robert suggested a much more clever idea.

I need an office chair, with a stick tied vertically to it, then to that stick I attach a perpendicular stick, and on the end of that I stick I stick a marker. I then get the chair height right and push it around the boat scribing the line. Elegant.

However, I do not have an office chair that I trust to stay inflated.

I recalled an offer by a friend/mentor/fellow sharpie builder to borrow his laser level for this very task. Chris Dearden even delivers. Within a day the laser was on my door step, with a smiling Chris, ten minutes of training and a hearty “good luck with that” and I was ready.

Dud spirit levelFirst job was to test the laser level was level. This is when I found out I had a bad spirit level. Chris’ recently minted laser level matched two of my three spirit levels. So I threw the offending thing out in disgust. How many times had I trusted this mid 1990’s stick with bubble? I certainly would have used it to set the building jig up (if I could remember setting it up!).

Interestingly, the spirit level that I now trust is a mid 1950’s Stanley that weighs too much for single handed work.

Checking the boat levelChris and I had discussed the limitation of his laser level beyond 45 degrees of operation, so the setting of the line will require many repositions down the starboard side of the boat, but the port side could be struck in one.

I set the laser up on the far side of the room and initially tested the level of the boat by aligning the transom-hull bottom intersection with the turn of the bow knuckle. This was perfect. Impressively so.

I then placed a piece of wood on each end on the bottom of the boat and raised the laser to hit my estimated water line. The pieces of wood at each end on the bottom are there to see the laser line projecting beyond the hull. Looking at the sail plan and back to the boat made the estimation quite easy, it made sense visually.

Then it was a matter of dropping the laser 75mm for the boot strap and get scribing with a 600mm ruler and  pencil. I found sometimes, the 600mm ruler was too long to cope with the curve of the hull and projected line. I had to make short straight lines to keep inside the laser line. Perhaps I should have used a fairing batton.

Transferring the line to the starboard sideAt the bow I transferred the line with a small trustworthy spirit level across to the starboard side and proceeded to move the laser step by step down the squeezy side of the boat marking as I went. The laser has a magnetic bracket which allowed it to clamp onto the steel walls of the shed.

At the transom, I drew a deep breath worrying about my process, and carefully checked if the line met the starting point. It was 2mm out. Wow.

Chris' most excellent laser
Next is to sort out the bow and stern lift. This is where the boot strap line is raised (lowered when the boat is upside down) at each end a squidgy just to hide any nose-diving or tail-dragging that may come from a badly ladened boat.

This is done by eye, so another task for me to drink tea with and contemplate for several hours.

Off by a laser beam's width

Posted in Robert Ayliffe, Tools, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Happy almost new year!

What an amazing few months of non-boatbuilding activity! Im not being facetious, they have been amazing. Kate and I reworked the face and many systems within our family business (, and it has taken every ounce of our energy and patience, (and adrenalin).

Regardless, I did slip into my overalls to keep the sharpie live (and my sanity).

Rounded chines from transomThe chines have been rounded, the bow knuckle shaped, the centreboard slot cut and the lip routed for the “zap flap”. I have also done some minor filling of screw holes and scratches.

I thought there needed to be some careful consideration for the chine rounding, some hydrodynamically critical radius that, like Brigadoon, I never properly found. I went with feel.

Slot cut and routed for zap flapThe centreboard slot was a dream, thanks to a router with a fresh guide bit. It romped around the radius like I had imagined it would. And the offcut… is like a core sample from the Arctic! You can see the bad years and the good years all layered up. Great fat layers of fairing between neat parallel ply layers. I shall keep one of these as a geological museum would..

The wackily named “zap flap” is a conjuring of Robert’s that prevents water jetting up the centreboard case. It requires a 25mm wide by 4mm deep ledge to be set around the case slot. Onto this is fixed a pair of flaps made from sailcloth and mylar, and this all sits in the ledge, flush with the hull. So this ledge requires some serious water proofing.

Slot detailsFor sealing this region, I intend to use thinned epoxy that will creep into the endgrain and build up a tough barrier. I have been trying to identify my container of TPRDA (epoxy thinner), I have several misty old bottles that are without labels, I have been testing their contents epoxy and have made some odd concoctions. None of which are trustworthy. I will have to buy another tube of it.

Laminating the centreboardDuring all of this I have been laminating up the centreboard. I initially worried about clamping such a big beast, particularly clamping it flat! Robert suggested I use Purbond for the lamination, because it does well filling small voids as might occur when you cannot clamp such a big item. The clamping went well with a nice flat bench and my pair of aluminium painter’s boards that I normally stand on to work on the hull.

Now to scribing the waterline….After that I will be in world of congealed snot, aka Fibreglassing.

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