Thursday, September 10, 2015

What Was I Thinking

I wonder how many times I've asked myself that question during this project.  Let's see...I probably average 3 times a day how long have I been working on this project...never mind, I don't want to know. Anyway, work has been continuing in between oppressive heat and torrential rains.

After getting the top flipped over, we needed to start glassing the other side.  Of course, there is one little issue.  Fiberglass cloth doesn't really like to bend around sharp corners. If you did manage to bend it into a sharp corner you would break every glass fiber so the result wouldn't be structurally sound.  Now the mounting flange at the back of the top is a 60 degree acute angle, so this would be an issue for the glass. To resolve the problem I needed to fill the angle and make a radius the cloth could handle.

I took some of the scrap Divinycell foam board and cut little 1/2 inch isosceles-triangle-shaped filler strips using a table saw (borrowed from a friend at the marina) and a fine tooth blade.  I then mixed up some thickened polyester resin and glued the triangle strips along the edge of the flange where it meets the top.   Making some even thicker resin (near peanut butter consistency), I created little fillets at the edges of the triangle using Popsicle sticks so the cloth would have a more reasonable transition from the bottom of the top down onto the flange.

Triangle filler strip to curve fiberglass around the sharp corner.

That evening, after the triangle strips cured, we applied fiberglass along the mounting flange and around the corner onto the bottom of the top.  Due to the curves, and to make life a little easier on this step, the pieces of fiberglass were only long enough to cover the flange and about 18 inches of the bottom side of the top. As usual, we ended up working late into the night...I think it was about 1 AM by the time we got back to the boat.

In order to make sure the first layer along the bottom was one nice homogeneous piece of fiberglass, we wanted to get an early start so we could apply the two 12 foot long pieces of cloth that would complete the first layer. Apparently mother nature had other ideas .  This time, unlike the high temperatures that she had been throwing at us, we woke up to a thick fog.  Our hearts sank.  High humidity isn't good for fiberglass and water vapor, well it can ruin the stuff. Was all the work the prior night ruined?  I made my way out to the work area to inspect the project, bracing myself for the worst.

Fortunately, when I peeked into the tent, I found that the fiberglass had apparently cured well enough before the onset of the fog.  There were a few drips of water where it had condensed on the inside of the canopy and dripped down, but I was able to blot them up and everything dried out just fine.  Of course, thanks to the humidity levels, it took a LONG time to dry out and only the heat of the day ended up doing the trick.  By the time everything was dry enough we could continue, the temperatures at the work site were climbing past 95 degrees. We had to postpone the application of the second strip of fiberglass until it cooled off that evening.  We spent the evening applying the next strip, completing the task around 11 PM.  Oh, and the humidity levels the past day apparently hatched every sort of insect within a 5 county radius, so we were fighting off swarms of various insects attracted to our work light. I wonder what the acceptable number of insect carcasses is per square foot of fiberglass. Let's just say it was a trying evening.

After getting the second strip of fiberglass installed, we got up early the next morning in an attempt to get the final piece for the first layer on before the temperature got too high.  This time there was no fog, but there was a fair amount of dew on the boat.  I go back to the work area, and the canopy was covered in dew as well. A couple drips were again found on the fiberglass and foam and were blotted up with a rag. Then everything was left to dry for a bit.  Not wanting to wait until the evening, we started applying the fiberglass as soon as the foam was dry and the water spots on the fiberglass disappeared. It was a very different experience applying the glass during the day.  I thought that the added ambient light would help to find any issues during the layup, but it only helped right around the edges.  Everywhere else there was a fair amount of glare from across the top so it seemed visibility was about like working at night.

Yeah, a little warm for fiberglass.

There was another difference working during the day.  The higher temperature means the resin cures faster, even at the minimum catalyst amount recommended by the manufacturer.  When we started the layup, it was 84 degrees. The first couple feet worth of fabric went OK, then I noticed I was starting to sweat.  I checked the temperature and it had jumped to almost 90 degrees.  I could tell the resin was going to set up quickly so we had to work very fast.  In the rush to get the fabric wet out properly, we used a bit more resin and were unable to get it cleaned up or redistributed before it started setting up. As a result, the fiberglass has some excess resin floating on top of the fibers in a few spots.  Guess we will need to sand those spots down a bit so we don't end up with an overly resin rich layup. When we were done, I looked over at the thermometer and it was reading wonder the resin was setting up so quickly. That is why I was avoiding this process during the day but the lack of progress and forecast of lower temperatures convinced me to give it a try.  Guess we won't be doing that again for at least large layup areas.  The irony is that I think we actually do better work at night, probably due to the extended working time at those temperatures.

First layer applied...might need a little cleanup on the front section.

Making this top has been an interesting, if not incredibly slow, process.  I wish I had been able to find a place were I could do this work indoors as I think it would have alleviated many of the issues that slow down the process.  I should have chosen a different time of year as well, but the desire to head to the islands in the fall only left the summer (hurricane season) to get the work done. Of course, ideally I would have found a reasonably priced top I could have just had installed.  What was I thinking.


  1. Hi Mike,
    I wondered why there was no post, have been checking each night for an update :)
    You are on the home stretch, think of the satisfaction at the end knowing you have done this yourself.
    A trick I learnt when laying up over a fillet is to layup a small piece of 300g chopped strand first. It will bend to the shape easily, and the next layer will wet out and bond well. You can also do similar when going over an outside curve. When wetting out the woven rovings, place a small strip of the 300 chopped strand over the top. The extra glass makes it bend easier and stick to the job.
    It is looking so good.

    1. Hey Alan,
      Sorry for the sporadic posting. I'm usually hard at work on the top whenever the weather actually allows. It rained yesterday so I had time for a post. :) I do sometimes post quick tidbits on the Facebook page since it takes a lot less time.

      I also typically wait until I have enough to write about. Every excruciating detail related to it took almost a whole day to find a saw, a saw blade, and cut 12 foot of that triangle filler strip would get boring in a hurry I would think.

      Wish I had known that trick for the fillet. It was a real bear to get the 1708 to conform (even with it's attached CSM backing). Glad I didn't try doing a full strip of glass all the way across. I'm not using a woven roving for anything (I favor strength over thickness), but do have some 10oz woven cloth on order that I'm thinking about using to make a smoother surface (trying to cut down on the finishing/fairing time). I'll also be using it for some of the detail work (handholds, lighting chases, etc) since it will conform better than the 1708.

      Still a long way to go, but progress is being made. Just wish it would go faster...I'm ready to be moving on.

  2. Hi Mike,
    Given the heat you seem to be battling and having to work at night- any way you can set a 5000 btu air conditioner in a hole in blue tarp walls? This might drop temp inside canopy by 15-20 degrees , allowing you to work during day. Might need a few more blue tarps and maybe one wall of clear plastic for northern light during the day (or few non- heat generating CFL or LED lights). You have power and you'd have to clear the fumes out periodically. You might have use of the air conditioner later at marinas or you sell it. Don't want to add to you cost but your progress seems much slower than you want due to heat.
    Doug in VT

    1. Hey Doug,

      I actually have a 12K BTU AC already (when the boat was in the yard, it was a necessity). I can't think of any way, short of buying a much bigger tent (or "borrowing" one from the car dealership up the street) to get enough space to work completely enclosed. The canopy I have is only 10 foot square and I use the tarps as additional roof/shade when I'm working. It would take some pretty complex structure to make a workspace big enough...and then the AC unit probably woudn't keep up anyway without insulated walls (think greenhouse).

      If I were ever to do this again (besides being sent to a mental hospital), I think I would look harder at renting an indoor space somewhere. I did actually look for this, but was having a hard time finding a small industrial type space near a marina. And those storage type places frowned on the idea of someone doing fiberglass work in them (not to mention they would probably be hot, lack electricity, etc. Or pick a better climate than Virginia in August/September.

      Did I mention I really miss my old 3-car garage right now. :) Anyway, we are making is just much slower than either of us would like.

    2. I like your thinking... mental hospitals will have air conditioning... They probably have rooms to rent also. :)

    3. LOL...well, there you go. The mental hospital seems like the SANE option. :)

  3. Hey Mike! It's been quite a while since I checked in o your guys and wouldn't you know it, I pick a post like this! You see now, that no one can every prepare you through advise, for just how much of an undertaking it is to take on a job like that. Poor Mofilla still sits down there wondering if we will ever return to finish her. We agreed it would be this fall, as soon as the temps cool down, but neither of us are very excited to dive head first back into that project. Fiberglass work sucks!

    Keep up the good work though! It's coming along :-)

    1. Hey Britton,
      It has been a while. Did you know I started this little project? It's definitely been trying at times, but I don't have to tell you that. Glad to hear you are thinking of continuing on with Mofilla. Saw some of the videos you have been doing. Boy is your pup getting big.

  4. No, I didn't catch exactly when you started it. I knew you planned on doing it, but haven't followed the whole thing from the beginning. Life has been quite busy and I've barely kept up with any blogs over the last 6 months or so. Yeah, the pup is getting big. Will be a year old Sept 23rd. He's such a good dog! He doesn't know he's as big as he is - he thinks he's just a little puppy ;-)
    I'll tell you this - it's been so long since we got away from the fiberglass work that I'm gonna have to learn all the little tricks of the trade all over again. We had it down to a pretty smooth process, now I don't even remember my mixes!

    1. I couldn't remember if I had given up on having someone else do it when we were in Georgia. Doing this large of a project from scratch has been a learning experience for sure. Don't worry, I'm sure everything will come back to you when you are working on it again.

      Keep in touch. We'll try to look you guys up next time we are down that way again...which will hopefully be sometime soon-ish.