Stripping For Varnish

Lou Sauzedde, the Tips from a Shipwright mastermind, is back at it with some good tips on how to get your wood back down to bare grain in preparation for varnishing. Tis the season to lay on multiple coats, and whether you start from bare wood or not – preparation is key for adding coats for good UV protection in the sun and marine environment.

Lou covers how to remove stubborn spots and the various steps of surface prep before you are ready to lay down your varnish. Watch and learn from Lou!

46′ Gar Wood Ensign Bleached Blonde

Why take the time and spend the money bleaching the planking? Compare this clip to the one posted earlier this week for an excellent before and after comparison of the 1946 Gar Wood Ensign. Bleaching makes the coloration infinitely more uniform, while it also raises the grain, thereby delivering the perfect environment for the filler stain that follows bleaching.

Sanding lightly, and I mean lightly, scuff off the “feathers’ left by bleaching by hand and using 200-220 grit paper comes next. Do not get aggressive here as the bleached layer is only 1/32” to 1/16” deep. Sand through it and you will either end up with disfiguring blotches when you stain, or you must bleach anew.

Wood Bleach is available at Jamestown Distributors.

Rather than applying once and allow the surface to dry, and then coming back with a second application that must be neutralized, we keep the planking wet with repeated applications of the equal-part A and B solution over at least 12 hours before allowing the wood to dry.

Our results speak for themselves.

Drying will continue for the rest of today. Yes, the covering boards appear a bit darker than is the rest of the planking at this moment. Why? Because they are original to 1946, and are therefore a bit more porous than is the new planking, they are still quite wet. Once dry, they will match the rest of the planking.

We will stain the planking using Interlux InterStain Wood Filler Stain in brown mahogany tomorrow morning.

Then comes three coats of Penetrating Epoxy, and into the paint booth she will go, where varnishing can begin.

Quinn Connell’s White Water Kayak Project – Part 3: Layups

In the Fall of 2013, Quinn Connell devised an Independent Study in Kayak Design using free courseware from an MIT Naval Architecture Graduate program. Quinn was able to combine his experience as a kayaker with his studies in fluid dynamics and design his dream white water kayak. He then approached Jamestown Distributors and asked to sponsor his project  in order to make his dream boat into a reality.
Check out Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Now that I had the plugs fully prepped, the real work began. With just around two weeks left in the term it was time to start laying up the carbon fiber.  I’d never attempted to make anything nearly this large or complex before, and owe a lot of my success to the expertise of people more experienced than I who were willing to share their knowledge (also, the internet)- big shout out to Dave Niewenhuis, Jason Downs, Kevin Baron, Eli Stein and Quinn Harper.  The videos on the Jamestown Distributors website were a huge help here too, I strongly recommend checking them out before starting any project.

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“Once this little honey badger arrived, it was off to the races. I cannot thank Mike Mills and Jamestown distributors enough for their support and making this project a success.”

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“Cutting the fabric down to size: On the hull I sandwiched carbon fiber with carbon/kevlar to maximize durability while keeping weight to a minimum. As it turns out, it’s incredibly hard to cut kevlar. I cut all of the layers down to size while dry before hand to ensure we didn’t waste any time once the epoxy was mixed.”

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“Wetting out multiple layers is a team job – brushes, rollers and good old fashioned handwork ensured that every fiber was saturated with epoxy before adding the next layer of cloth.”

Here’s where things start to get nerve-wracking; you’re working against the clock with a limited time until the epoxy cures, it’s all permanent, and you’ve got a lot of time and material on the line by now.  It was key to have some good friends around to help. Thanks Quinn & Eli. Tip: measure out multiple smaller batches of epoxy before beginning to mix or start your layup.  This is useful on multiple fronts: The reaction is exothermic and causes positive feedback – in my first composites project we tried mixing around ½ gallon of epoxy at once. The bucket we were using melted and we were lucky to come out with just losing that amount of epoxy – burning down the school would have been much more expensive.  Using smaller batches gives you a longer pot life and you can mix each when you are ready for it.  Leaving the cups around lets you check to ensure you got the ratios right and the epoxy hardens correctly.

I used a 4×8 sheet of formica on top of a table so that I could wrap bagging plastic all the way around and seal it to itself.  Packing tape on the sheet of Formica kept things from sticking.

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“Peel ply made sure the vacuum bagging materials came off cleanly and didn’t stick to the boat.”

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“Peel ply, breather and bag on. Vacuum bagging is a really cool technique that uses negative pressure to clamp your material to whatever shape you want. The breather/bleeder layer allows airflow for an even vacuum and provides a reservoir for excess epoxy. This allows lighter, more efficient layups.”

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“An hour into curing, Thayer’s high-end vacuum overheated and shut off, causing the vacuum bagging system to fail. In a borderline panic, I ended up finding this little engine-that-could tucked away in the basement.”

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“It worked like a charm. The rails came out sharp! Without a vacuum, there’s no way I could have gotten this definition.”

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“We moved operations into the boiler room, affectionately termed “The Ghettoclave” where temperatures were high which helped the curing process…”

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“…But not before getting lost wandering through basement labs trying to get there.”

A few days later: Once it was fully cured getting the plug out was fun.

“A few days later: Once it was fully cured getting the plug out was fun.”

"I used butcher’s paper and chalk to make a stencil for a Divinycell core on the hull."

“I used butcher’s paper and chalk to make a stencil for a Divinycell core on the hull.”

"Back to the boiler room! Layering the foam core into the hull interior with more carbon and kevlar. And of course vacuum bagging it all."

“Back to the boiler room! Layering the foam core into the hull interior with more carbon and kevlar. And of course vacuum bagging it all.”

Although I had tightly scheduled out construction, I hadn’t factored in nearly enough time for incidentals like additional cutting, sanding, and extra coats of epoxy.  With the end-of-term and my imminent departure closing in, this meant that I was now spending roughly 20 hours/day working on her.  To add to the fun, by this point I was covered in epoxy with carbon and kevlar splinters in places I didn’t know existed.  My friends joked that I was turning myself into a bulletproof man.  If I were to do it again, I’d invest in around 100 Tyvek suits before ever leaving the CAD lab.

"Inserting the deck plug"

“Inserting the deck plug”

"The green coating is PVA, a mold-release agent I sprayed on using Preval.  It’s alcohol-based, so theoretically it dissolves with just a little warm water and releases easily from the layup..."

“The green coating is PVA, a mold-release agent I sprayed on using Preval. It’s alcohol-based, so theoretically it dissolves with just a little warm water and releases easily from the layup…”

"I molded over the deck plug straight to the hull in order to avoid any seams or weak joints as molding it in two separate halves would have required.  This was possible because I only made a single boat, and had to destroy the plug to get it out."

“I molded over the deck plug straight to the hull in order to avoid any seams or weak joints as molding it in two separate halves would have required. This was possible because I only made a single boat, and had to destroy the plug to get it out.”

At one point, halfway through this layup I turned around from mixing a fresh batch of epoxy to find myself dumbfounded by the sight of the entire boat, beaming in majestic carbon for the first time.  At this moment, I started calling her La Sirena (Spanish for ‘mermaid’, or ‘siren’, like in the Odyssey) – she was beautiful and the object of all my pursuits, but at the same time she had become the bane of my existence. Or maybe I was just in a sleep-deprived haze.

"The deck ended up just being a wet layup as I couldn’t get the vacuum bag to seal to itself at 4am, alone, dripping with sweat in the boiler room.  Ironically, having epoxy everywhere kept the tape from sticking. I had my breath held for a few hours there, but it came out better than I could have hoped for."

“The deck ended up just being a wet layup as I couldn’t get the vacuum bag to seal to itself at 4am, alone, dripping with sweat in the boiler room. Ironically, having epoxy everywhere kept the tape from sticking. I had my breath held for a few hours there, but it came out better than I could have hoped for.”

"Now it’s starting to look like a boat! Sanding her down."

“Now it’s starting to look like a boat! Sanding her down.”

"I used the dremel to cut open a hole for the cockpit, which left a new question:  "How do I get this out of here?"

I used the dremel to cut open a hole for the cockpit, which left a new question:
“How do I get this out of here?”

"10 hours later…"

“10 hours later…”

With the plug removed I had the shell fully molded.  I was ecstatic and exhausted at the same time.  With just a few finishing touches she would be seaworthy!

Almost there! Part 4 coming soon!

Sanding High Build Epoxy Primer

Tricks to getting your epoxy primed surface ready for topcoat.

Varnish Sanding to a Snow Field Technique

A mile-deep varnished surface is all about preparation, preparation, preparation. A coat is applied and allowed to cure. Then this beautiful, seemingly perfect surface is sanded until it is transformed into a snow field.
Watch as Brian sands the starboard half of the foredeck on the 1957 Speedliner Class C racing hydro9plane.
The varnish used on her is Interlux Perfection Plus Two-part Epoxy. Brian is working on the second coat with 320 grit dry paper. He will eventually apply seven coats, sanding between each with progressively finer grit until he gets to 1200.

The final step will involve buffing with a pneumatic buffer until he reaches 9,000 grit and produces Snake Mountain Boatwork’s trademark varnish look.