In the process of completing this task, we've had to come up with some tools to allow us to reach the center of a 9 foot by 12 foot structure. We've also had to figure out other tools we needed. The usual tools like fiberglass layup rollers, plastic spreaders, and polyethylene mixing cups are always needed. Paint rollers to spread resin are also needed, and trying to figure out what covers are compatible with polyester resin was fun. In the case of the roller cover, we quickly gave up on the idea of cleaning the covers and determined the cheap foam rollers at the local Lowe's work well.
|Fiberglass table, bucket on a stick, and more traditional tools.|
To get a plastic spreader to the middle of the top, we found a cheap stain spreading pad that could be screwed to a painters pole and then taped, yes duct taped, a spreader to the end. To pour resin at the appropriate spot in the middle of the top, I needed to create a bucket on a stick. I found a large scrap hose clamp at the boatyard and screwed it onto the end of a scrap piece of wood. I could then attach a quart size or smaller mixing cup and reach past the middle of the top from any side.
Tools aren't the only place where thinking outside the box is handy. I've probably mentioned it before, but one of the design features of the top is to have a couple of integrated wire chases (for lighting and solar wiring). But how do you make a 2 inch by 4 inch hollow rounded rectangle on the underside of the top. Wandering the local big-box hardware stores, we were asked several times if we needed help. Unfortunately I've found that most people employed there aren't very good at thinking outside the box, and when I describe what I'm trying to do I usually get the "deer in headlights" blank stare. So we wander the aisles and try to come up with inspiration. What we found was a 4 inch square hollow plastic fence post. If we cut it in half lengthwise, it should make two forms we can then fiberglass over to create the channels.
|Jig for splitting PVC pipe into C shapes.|
Another feature of the top is that I would like to make integrated hand-holds around the edges of the top. I'd thought about taking some of that foam pipe insulation and sticking it over the edges of the top and then glassing over that, but discovered a better idea. I was told of another blog, via a comment on one of my posts, where the couple built their own hard top. They had the same idea for handholds, and they used PVC pipe split in half to create the form. The neat thing about this approach was that they could then cut a slit in the PVC to create a bolt rope holder for installation of a dodger. I quickly decided this was a great idea and incorporated it into the design. But how do you split a piece of PVC in half lengthwise. The other blogger I think used a hacksaw (and obviously a lot of time) to make the cuts. I know I wouldn't be able to cut it straight enough by hand, so I came up with another option. Using some scrap wood from the build of the form, I was able to create a jig I could clamp onto a tablesaw and it worked perfectly to split the tubes in half.
Of course, this presented a new problem I need to figure out. I thought the thin wall PVC would be a bit more flexible once it was split, but I don't think I can bend it to match the compound curve along the front of the top. I tried making some cuts in the C shaped PVC to see if I could get it to bend better...but if you think cutting a tube is hard, try cutting the sides of a C shaped bit of PVC. I'm sure I'll figure out something, but it is another problem to deal with.
Meanwhile, I've got wire chases and other structure to install while the weather continues to somewhat cooperate.
Update: You are reading this fairly late because we were invited to dinner by new friends at the marina. Yes, while the focus has been to get the top done, we have taken a few breaks. They made a multiple course Indian dinner that was absolutely awesome...thanks Stuart and Julia! The picture below shows the wiring chase and other structural foam just before I glued it to the top with polyester resin. Hopefully tomorrow we can start glassing that in place.
|The split "fencepost" and additional foam structure.|