Thursday, 25 February 2021

HOW many hours?!

The build manual is always upbeat and encouraging about each project, as indeed it should be.

I have sometimes thought, however, that some selective health warnings could be appropriate.

Such as: 'Before you start building make sure that you have a good counsellor on standby, 'cos you're gonna need therapy at some point'.

Or: 'Make sure that you have plenty of gin in the workshop, because you'll need a stiff drink after this part is done'.


I am not, of course, being serious. Or am I?

The manual casually states "PocketShip will clock in between 500 and 600 hours".

Well, I never believed that for a minute! That may be possible if you're a seasoned boatbuilder, with an enormous workshop which is fully equipped and heated.

My workshop is quite large, but it was still only ever possible to work on one large component of the hull at a time. When the hull was complete, of course, the workshop was full of boat and even less room was available.

And then there is the ambient temperature. Once the maximum daytime temperature falls below 10 or 12 degrees Centigrade it becomes difficult to make any real progress, because the epoxy takes so long to cure. I can use my space heater to warm up the air in the workshop, but that's only making it comfortable for me to work out there. The fabric of the building and everything in it is still stone cold. 

I have kept a daily log since the start of the build, listing each activity and the number of hours spent on it. I did not have the time or indeed the desire to keep a running total, knowing that I would be horrified at how long it took me to do things.

And I knew from the start that the build would take me at least two years, and probably three. And that is how it is working out.

So, during my self imposed break I have taken the opportunity of adding up the hours.

Guess what?

I have so far invested 2000 hours in my PocketShip.

Yes, really.

I am not at all surprised.

I am almost always on a learning curve of a varying gradient, and that adds a lot of time to activities.

And I have spent a lot of time on activities not even called for in the build, such as painting the interior of the lazarette or fitting support blocks inside the seatback lockers for the boom gallows poles.

So what does this mean?

Well, nothing really.

It's what I expected and I am not compromising build quality in any way to get things done quickly.

And I am doing it for my own enjoyment - not because I need a boat.

So, how much longer will I need to complete PocketShip?

That's a good question.

I have recently had time to ponder on how much has been achieved, and have slowly come to realise that the boat is substantially complete.

'All' I have to do now is:

  • Flip the boat and finish and paint the lower hull exterior.
  • Fit the centre board and flip her upright again.
  • Build and fit the tabernacle, spars, rudder and tiller.
  • Paint the upper hull and fit out the boat.

Note that I said 'substantially complete' and not 'nearly finished'.

Because there is still a lot of work to do.

Having said that I can see that we are in the final stages of the build.

I might guesstimate that the boat is, say, 80% complete.

That would mean that I need to spend another 500 hours to complete it, which probably means several more months.

I can live with that. I might actually get her in the water this year.

But it's definitely time to break out that gin.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Taking a break ...

I finally have to admit that it's now too cold to make any meaningful progress in the workshop, so I'm taking some time off from building PocketShip.

I will be back when it gets warmer and I can work outside, making the spars.

It will probably be sometime in March when I start boatbuilding again.

When I can wear shorts, and have the workshop doors open all day!


Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Bowsprit | Making The Balk

While the rudder was glued up and curing I moved on to making the bowsprit.

This looked like an interesting project, and would be the first of the boat's spars.

The bowsprit is manufactured from a solid piece of timber, made of two lengths of 2 1/2" by 1 1/2" Douglas Fir laminated together to form a 2 1/2" by 3" balk.

So the first step is to glue the two pieces together. As here, on the bench.


Having used most of my G cramps on the rudder I had to search out any other clamps I had for use on the bowsprit.

I found a pair of enormous 10" G cramps which I purchased online some time ago and had forgotten about.

They were much larger than I needed, but I kept them anyway thinking they would be useful one day.

Today was their day.


Rudder | Gluing The Cheek Pieces

The cheeks of the rudder are made from two pieces of 9mm ply on each side, glued together to make a chunky 18mm cheek.

In the build manual they are installed all at once, and then a router is used to chamfer the edges.

I could not see how I could chamfer the cheeks where they are flush against the rudder blade, so I decided to make and chamfer them before installation.

The first step is to glue the parts together, to make the two cheeks.

Here is one cheek, clamped up and curing.


  That's it for now!


Rudder | The Rebuild

The day after I discovered that the rudder was effectively scrap I devised a plan to restore it to become a functional part of the boat.

The only bits that were wrongly installed were the rear and bottom blocking pieces. Everything else was fine.

So those pieces had to be replaced.

It shouldn't be too much of an issue.

When I started researching PocketShip I read on one builder's blog that he built a curve into his keel and resolved it by cutting the keel in half along its entire length and then realigning it. Compared to that a dodgy rudder is a piece of cake!

So, the misaligned blocking had to come out.

First, the bottom blocking was removed. I drilled a hole at both ends, as here.


Then the jig saw was used to cut the blocking out, like this.


The rear blocking was removed by drilling holes at short intervals and cutting it out piece by piece with the Japanese keyhole and rip cut saws. Like this.


I found that the spring clamps had not been very effective and one side of the rudder was only partly fixed in place. So a good thing that I was rebuilding it, then!

Then the inside of the rudder sides were carefully cleaned up with a chisel and mallet.

Here is a view of the rudder interior, held open with a wedge of scrap.


Now I made new blocking pieces.

Here is the bottom blocking being planed to profile in the vice.


And here is a test fit of the new blocking pieces.


In the above photo you can see that I have fitted a cord strung between two tacks along the length of the bottom and forward blocking, so I can line it up with the pencilled-in centre line on the blocking itself.

This will make sure that the rudder is correctly aligned when glued up.

Here is a close up of the cord and the centre line.


This is what I should have done in the first place.

If you're building a PocketShip and haven't built your rudder yet - don't do what the manual says.

Fit the front and top blocking first, clamped to the bench to make sure it's straight.

Then put it in the vice and do as I did here to ensure the aerofoil profile is accurate.

Lastly, here is the rudder glued up and curing.


This time I used plenty of G cramps to make sure the joins are good and tight, with some spring clamps to provide supporting pressure.

That was a lot of work, and I'm happy to have that episode behind me.


Rudder | Eighth Cock Up!

I left the glued-up rudder to cure for a couple of days before removing the clamps and examining my handiwork.

I was immediately concerned at what I saw.

In short, the rudder blade was curved on one side, and straight on the other.

In other words, it was bent.

Here it is held upright in the vice, for appraisal.


For a split second I thought that perhaps it would not make much, if any, difference to the performance of the boat.

Then for another split second I thought that maybe it would not even be noticeable.

Then reality kicked in and I knew that I would have to remake it. It's not right and there is no way that this can be part of my boat. There is no doubt that this qualifies as a fully fledged Cock Up.

So I didn't do anything. I let it be while I considered how to correct the situation.

On reflection, I was foolish to simply glue the sides and the blocking together, and assume that they would acquire the required aerofoil profile all by themselves. Why would they?

I even made it worse by using wires to stop the blocking from sliding around.

When making the keel I had previously had a similar moment.

To make sure that the keel was straight I marked in the centre line and used a line strung between the front and rear of the keel to make sure it was exactly aligned.

That is what I should have done with the rudder.

So, more work required on the rudder ...


Companionway Hood & Slide | More Clear Coating

While the rudder was curing and the epoxy was in use, I clear coated the inside faces of the companionway hood and slide.

Here is the hood interior.


And here is the slide.


Not visually exciting, but important progress!


Rudder | Test Assembly & Gluing Up

All the pieces of the rudder were made so a dry test assembly was in order.

Here is what it looked like.


That looked good, so I went ahead with gluing it all together. As here.


The spring clamps held the sides in place except where they made the transition from a full width to a narrow trailing edge. A G cramp was required there to hold the sides down to the blocking.

As suggested in the build manual, I drilled a hole through the trailing edge and used a piece of wire to stop the blocking sliding inside the rudder. Here it is.


We are getting there!


Rudder | Making Blocking For The Cheeks

The blocking in the centre of the rudder butts up against the front blocking and makes the top section solid and very strong.

This is also where the cheeks will be fitted, giving more strength to handle the torque from the tiller and the rudder itself.

The lower, rear area of the cheeks blocking is chamfered where the side panels will curve to the trailing edge, giving the necessary aerofoil profile.

This required a bit of thought and practice on some scrap ply to make a test piece. Here it is.


You can see how the profile changes from the front to the rear of the blocking.

A dry test assembly then followed, like this.


It all seemed to fit together as intended. Here is a closer look at how the test piece fitted.


Happy with this I then marked up the blocking on the edge-glued piece of Ash, as here.


Having cut it out I then scribed in the line for the chamfer, using one of the cheek pieces as a pattern. Like this.


The chamfer was made using the rotary sander and a P40 grit to grind the blocking to shape.

This is the finished piece in a test fit with the rest of the blocking.


So far, so good! Next step is final assembly.


Sunday, 24 January 2021

Rudder | Making The Blocking Pieces

In addition to the missing pattern, the piece of Ash supplied to make the rear edge blocking is too short by about half an inch.

Rather than wait for a replacement I decided to make it from a piece of Ash which I had left over from making the hood, because it was not wide enough and had to be replaced!

So I cut a piece of the required size according to the pattern. Here it is in the vice, being marked up.


It needs to taper to 1/4" at the trailing edge, so I planed it to the required shape in the vice. Like this.


A saw rasp was also useful for shaping, as here.


It didn't take long to make the finished article.


Except it wasn't finished - I just didn't know that yet.

Next the bottom blocking was cut out and marked up in the vice using the patterns, as here.


This blocking was completed with the jack plane, like this.


At this point I realised the the rear edge blocking was way too fat to mate with the bottom blocking, and needed to be much slimmer.

So it went back into the vice for more trimming. When finished it now looked like this.


That's better!

Next the top blocking was cut and finished. Here it is in the vice being shaped with a saw rasp.


Blocking for the cheeks is made from two pieces edge-glued together. This is how I clamped them up on the bench.


Work on the blocking will resume when the cheek blocking is fully cured.



Rudder | Making Sense Of The Patterns!

The online PocketShip Forum is hosted by Chesapeake Light Craft, and is an excellent source of advice, information and inspiration.

A builder posted a question about the rudder blocking in August 2019. He could not figure out what was what.

John Harris (PocketShip's designer) replied the following day with the answer. The blocking patterns in the kit had been incorrect since 2009!

He posted an invaluable diagram showing what the blocking patterns should look like. This is it.


Blocking is required for the front, bottom and rear edges, and for the cheeks and the top of the rudder.

The pattern for the front edge was missing, and the pattern for the bottom edge was duplicated.

The corrective posting gave all the information needed to fix this, shown in full here.


I knew that I would have the same problem so I printed the posting and filed it in my build manual, so I would know what to do when I got to that point.

So I made the missing pattern and laid them out to see how things fit together. Here they are on the bench.


It all makes sense now! Next step is to make the blocking pieces.


Companionway Hood & Slide | Second Clear Coat

When I was clear coating the rudder sides I applied a second coat to the companionway hood and slide, after sanding them smooth.

This is the hood.


And this is the slide.


They look good, but I still don't like the idea of finishing them bright. They will look really nice painted!

Rudder | Clear Coating The Sides

Work on the rudder began by finding the side panels.

I set them against the wall in the workshop two years ago and over time they became part of the landscape to the extent that I forgot they were there. It took several minutes to remember!

The rudder is hollow so the interior will require plenty of clear resin to protect it.

So the first task was to clear coat both inside faces. Here they are in the workshop, curing.


I can't believe that I am starting the rudder!

Progress is illusory though, because finishing the bottom of the hull will be huge task when it eventually happens.


A Flipping Dilemma!

In theory I should be planning to flip the hull quite soon.

The rails are done and that takes us to the the end of 'Chapter 3: Upper Hull Assembly' in the build manual.

And we are well advanced into 'Chapter 4: The Companionway'.

When this chapter is complete the manual moves on to turn the boat upside down and finish the bottom of the hull.

However, events conspire against this happening any time soon.

First, we are in lockdown due to the corona virus and forbidden to do anything sociable outdoors except exercise with one other person. I will need more than that to move and flip the boat!

Second, it's cold and wet and miserable and really not the time to be doing this.

So the flip will have to wait.

Luckily there is plenty to be getting on with in the meantime.

Rudder, tabernacle, and spars all need to be made. I will be making my tabernacle detachable so that the boat can get out of the garage, which will add to the workload.

I will start on the rudder next.

Onwards and upwards!

Making Plugs & Plugging Holes

When the rails were all sanded I decided to plug the temporary screw holes.

The holes are all 4mm, so 6mm plugs would be ideal after drilling the holes out to this diameter.

I used a plug cutter made by Fisk specifically for use in cordless drills. Here it is in the big De Walt drill.


I tried the smaller Bosch cordless drill but it doesn't have sufficient power for this task.

Luckily I had plenty of scrap Sapele so I cut a big batch of plugs in one session.

Then all holes were drilled out to 6mm to a depth of about 3/4" and plugs were glued in.

A dab of epoxy glue and a tap with a hammer did the trick.

Here are the starboard rub and toe tails, fully plugged.


When cured the plugs were trimmed with a saw and pared flush to the rail with a good chisel, as here.


Finally the plugs were lightly sanded to clean them up. This is the port rub rail.


You can see that the Sapele at the front of the outer laminate is paler than the rest of the rail.

That's because it is recently purchased timber, used to replace a broken section. I am not sure if it will darken to the same shade as the rest of the Sapele, which is now over two years old.

Anyway, the plugs show up more in the paler wood, but I don't think it matters.

Here is a finished plug in the toe rail.


You have to look closely to find them all. I'm happy with that!


Rub Rails | Cleaning Up & Trimming Ends

It's pretty cold here now, in the middle of the UK winter. So I left the rub rails to cure for several days before carefully pulling the temporary screws.

Then it was time to clean them up.

I used my Rotex sander in rotary mode with a P40 grit to grind the top surfaces flat.

I then switched to orbital mode and a P60 grit to smooth them out, and finally a P80 grit to sand tops and sides clean.

Here is the port rub rail, looking towards the stern.


I was worried that the scarf joints might be a bit too visible, but they turned out OK. Here is a set of scarfs on the port rail.


You have to look quite hard to see the joints in the three laminates which make the rail.

This a view of the starboard rail. The newest piece of Sapele is still held in place with screws, to allow it cure fully before receiving the same treatment a few days later.


The toe rails were also cleaned up. Here is the starboard rail.


Time to cut the rail ends to their final shape!

I covered the ends with masking tape to mark in varying curves until I was satisfied with the aesthetics.

This is the port rub rail at the bow, with a cardboard template for marking up.


And this is the port rub rail at the stern, with its shape marked up.


I then cut off the overhangs and roughly shaped the rail ends with a Japanese saw, before grinding them to their final shape with the rotary sander and a P40 grit.

This is the port rail at the bow.


I think the curve might be a little 'fat', but I will see what it looks like when finishing the hull.

And this is the starboard rail at the stern.


She is starting to look quite elegant!