Monday, August 3, 2015

Work Continues on the Top

I continue to make progress on the fiberglass replacement bimini top for the boat.  Sometimes it doesn't seem like much progress though.  It kind of feels like this: You want to build a house, so first you have to go into the forest to fell some trees, then saw them into lumber, then mine for ore to make iron to forge nails.  Ok, it isn't that bad, but it isn't too far behind.

I finally completed the table after giving the drill a chance to recharge for several hours.  With the screws in place, I then used boat stands to hold it up. Using five stands, one on each corner and one in the middle, worked out really well.  Since the height of boat stands are adjustable, I was able to level the least as far as the warped lumber from Lowe's would allow.  It is now a good height for a workbench and will work fine for this project.

The work space all set up, not too bad for a boatyard.

After getting the table squared away, I turned my attention to the stringers.  When I left off, I had drawn the arc, cut it out, and did a little sanding.  I also took it over to the boat to confirm that it indeed would match the curve of the arch when standing vertical and, as best we could tell, it did (remember, the arch is at an angle so we had to guess the position while holding a board over our heads).  I did just a bit more sanding on it, and then used it as a template for creating 9 more stringer pieces.

Once the stringer sections were cut out, I clamped all of them together and started sanding them down so they were all the same shape.  This is where I ran into a problem.  I didn't get very far with the sanding before the random orbital sander I was using had a problem. (Yes, there would be better tools to use for this...but I live on a boat and don't have a full workshop of tools). The almost new sander got about 10% of the job done when the head stopped "orbiting". I turned off the power and lifted up the sander. The motor hadn't stopped spinning yet and the head of the sander went sailing across the boatyard. I know Harbor Freight tools aren't high quality (the reason I call them the cheap Chinese tool store), but this is the first time I've had one fail so quickly.  Apparently the screws that hold the head on the sander got hot and melted the plastic to which they were once attached.  The sander didn't even last through its first piece of sandpaper.

Stringers clamped together and sanded.

So, a little time was wasted going back to Newport News to return the sander (it was purchased there less than a month ago) and then going elsewhere to buy a new one. Since I was impressed with the Ryobi jigsaw I bought for this project while in Palm Coast, I decided to go with their random orbital sander (it was only about 50% more than the HF one and still a pretty good price).  The next day I resumed my sanding and was able to get each of the stringer pieces virtually identical in shape.  I had purchased some 40 grit sandpaper with this second sander and, while I can't say it made the job quick, I would probably still be sanding those things if I had gone with a less aggressive sandpaper.

Attaching the two stringer sections together.

As I previously mentioned, the stringers need to be 12 feet long, and the pieces I just finished sanding were only 8 feet wide.  This is why I needed 10 of them. I took two of the pieces, flipped one around to be the mirror image of the first, lined them up so they would overlap and result in one continuous 12 foot curve.  The next task was getting them all aligned properly and attached together. I drew lines at two and four feet at the wide end of each board, checked the level of the table, attached a stop block to work against, and lined everything up.  I then used some clamps to hold them together while I pre-drilled holes for screws and temporarily installed them.  From there I moved the clamps and half the screws, applied some glue, and reattached them.  Repeated on the other side, and the result will hopefully be a solid arched stringer for the project.

Stringers done and clamped to keep/make them a bit straight.

I'm trying to figure out how best to attach the stringers together at two foot intervals to create a straight frame for attaching the foam sheets. I thought I had a good idea for that but ran into a problem while trying to implement it yesterday. Now I am having to rethink the solution - the fun of this sort of project.


  1. Hi Mike,
    Any possibility you could attach the stringers to your table? might work if large enough, only need them in place to curve and epoxy the foam together (and maybe the first layer of fiberglass cloth) and you don't need access from underneath- a la you are going to use weights not zip ties to hold foam down. This is where I thought 1/5" thick 4x8 plywood screwed on top of the stringers ($14 at lowes) might provide a sturdier, but still light, mold compared to just stringers.
    The other method is a la Hacking.
    As far as Repellant spray bottle- ever considered the Jenni can refillable aerosol can- pump it up with bike tire pump and comes with several nozzles -$24 Amazon and can be used for lot of other things

    Doug from VT

    1. Hey Doug,
      I'd prefer the stringers attached to a lighter frame than the table (the table is sturdy enough to walk on...I have). I want to be able to stand the frame up and move it around to make glassing easier. I was able to come up with a technique that is working...a bit time consuming, but I'm getting there.

      The problem with most sprayers are that the internal bits are plastic and the oils will eventually mess up the plastic. A cheap bottle I can feel good about using for 6 months or more and then recycle it (far less waste than if I were buying bottles of commercial repellent). Just can't see spending $25 on a bottle, knowing it won't be around for a while. The hairspray bottle actually worked well, but my wife has pretty much stopped using the stuff so I have to find another source. :)