Part Three of a series by Douglas J. Westover:I like to say, a boat is like finding the love of your life and living happily ever after.
uh…er, you know…the “happily ever after” part?Its like that old Sesame street song,…”one of these things just doesn’t belong …la la la” (hope I’m not the only one who remembers that?)Basically, a boat is one big giant trade-off vortex!
Of course, I love boats, and I couldn’t live without them. Kinda like when you live with someone.
You love them, but sometimes it can just drive you nuts trying to figure out how to make it work.
The thing of it is, after I built my first few stationary vessels, I had the divine revelation that I wanted my home to be mobile. That is, I wanted my floating home to MOVE!. Not just periodically, by towing it or throwing on a 5 hp outboard and waiting till a calm day to move it a few hundred feet.
Nope! I wanted to experience actually travelling.
Nothing could be better in my mind….”AHHH now THAT would be Heaven!…Nirvana…! The happy hunting ground even!”
But as usual…nothing is ever perfect. ~~~
Not long ago, I had the chance to realize this. The place I was renting had the space to build a boat.
This was great news since my last build was a catastrophe.
I was pretty far into a build at my previous place when out of nowhere , like a sniper shot, the relationship between myself and the landowner went into retrograde and I was forced to up and move quite quickly. I had to actually leave behind my newly built frames, and strong back, in which I had invested a great deal of money and effort.
Ah heck, who said this hobo, boat dwellers lifestyle was going to be easy(shoulda been a doctor!).Here then was a new chance to fulfill my destiny. But at the price of a major ass-ache.
The new place that was offered up, was a backyard. But the building of a boat in the backyard had limitations.The main problem was that the vessel needed to get from the backyard to the street, and standing in the way was a wall, and a gate between the house and the driveway.As I saw it, this meant two possible solutions.
The first option was to hire a crane. This would mean adding a good four or five months to the project.
The Second option, took me a while to concoct. But as I write this, I am reminiscing about my childhood, watching Wile-E-Coyote, coming up with his best idea yet to get the Bird, and how, when he would formulate the next dazzling plan, he would wring his hands and smile that wry devious “roadrunner eating” smile of his.
Well, I was bloody well gonna eat that roadrunner!
That’s kinda how I must have looked like at least, when I decided I would take it upon myself to find a solution to getting a 1500-2000 lb. hull through a 52″gate in the side alley.
So here is where the wood and epoxy comes in.
I had to find a light weight alternative to my former build processes. The lighter the boat the better chance I had to make this work.
I have to tell you that I don’t have a huge data base of knowledge on taped seam. What I know comes from my knowledge of conventional wood and my experiments in past builds as well as some experiments with it in the early fall of 2014.
Back to my proposed hull.
I wanted the hull to be strong. I also needed good impact resistance and good durability as well as low maintenance.
I looked at FRP but decided the process would be too expensive and too much risk for what I wanted to build.
As I investigated wood/epoxy, the more the light bulbs went on, and the more I became a believer of this method.
So much so that at the present, I consider it to be the best material, all around for any boat project save for a jet boat, and I even know of some ways that I could create a hull arguably better than aluminum using high tech fabrics and wood coring for a small jet boat.
That however is another story, for another time.
Wood epoxy, to my knowledge, is the fastest, least expensive, strongest, and lowest maintenance system of building a boat in modern times.
Its interesting to me that many boat owners or builders still have not heard of or tried this method.
I starting investigations for my hull by doing taped seam tests on 1/8th inch door skin ply. I have a set of glen-l plans ironically, for a jet boat in wood, and I thought this little 11 ft. boat would make a great winter project. So, I bought some 1:1 epoxy from Clark craft, ordered a set of Jim Michalak plans from Duckworks, and started my experiment.
First I cut two large pieces of ply about 4 inches wide and 2 ft long. I then laid them at a 90 degree angle in order to experiment with an epoxy joint. I created a liquid weld using epoxy and milled fibers as well as some Cabosil. I basically eyeballed the whole mix making it to the consistency of peanut butter or petroleum jelly. after I made the epoxy weld using a popsicle stick that has a bulbous end on the stick, I glassed it with three layers of 10 oz cloth on the inside of the joint. I did not glass the outside. But If I was building the hull, I would have. I just did this abbreviated version for test reasons.
This made such a beautiful joint. Nothing I could do would rip it open. In fact the whole process was a joy to do. The results of it however, made it clear to me that I would most likely never build a boat again in steel.
I could not get over how strong the joint was. After the epoxy joint fully cured, I became a kid again.
Many times after the cure, I would sit and hold the wood, running my fingers over it to feel how smooth it was. I would take a sharp object and try to chip it, or try for fun, to punch through the epoxy, but nothing worked. I enjoyed feeling its strong rounded edge and smooth surface so much that I would often sit and just hold my test sample for the sheer joy of feeling how light and incredibly strong it was.
This was my first time using this method. But it felt as though the wood had turned to steel. It seems almost counter intuitive when make an epoxy joint, and how strong it is, that something so light could be so strong.
The raw power of the epoxy and the strength alone would be enough to convert me. But on top of this miracle goop being so user friendly, strong and light, is the low costs and the incredible speed. This system does not need much skill. And my back loves it!
If you haven’t worked with this method yet, and you like to build boats or even have a project that is imminent, I believe that there is no better method for an amateur.
I believe you will find the results spectacular, if done with a little bit of care and knowledge before hand.
I do say this with one caveat. If building in wood and weight is not an issue I would frp the hull inside and out making a core.
By doing this you increase the shell stiffness exponentially, at the same time increasing the chance that water will not become trapped.
In the end you have to basically epoxy coat everything anyway, so why not go the extra distance and core the hull?. The costs won’t be much higher in the smaller boat sizes, and the gain in strength would be enormous.
Of course, there are downfalls, the decision to use marine or common grade ply, the costs of using marine. It cannot from to compound shapes.
To name a few. No method is perfect.
What I can tell you with certainty from my first experience of it, is that, for someone like me, who has worked in steel, and built conventional vessels out of wood, screw and glue, that the result of working in this modern method was incredibly rewarding with the small amount I have done up till now.
Sadly, I cannot say I have built an entire boat out of it yet. But many have, including the late Master himself, Phil Bolger. If your hull is developable, and you want to get on the water for the best cost/strength/low maintenance ratio, The you owe it to yourself to look into epoxy/ply taped seam.