Floor Beams and Knees
Back to the Far Reach. First, I ran a couple of fairly 2x4s over my jointer to give them a straight edge. I used two of them for strong backs as an aid to ensuring the beams and knees will be in exactly the right place. I would have prefered to use only one strongback down the center, but I needed to be able to lift the water tanks out without disturbing the floor timbers during the test fit. Next, I used some inexpensive 1/4" ply and my compass to scribe some mock-up knees. Then I used clamps and a 1"x1" as a template for the floor beams. Once I was satisfied with the templates, I took them into the shop and cut the actual knees out of 3/4" BS 1088 plywood. I used some D. Fir for the beams. I was going to use some white oak I have been saving but I think these will work fine and if I change my mind this will not be a huge thing to change a little later on. The ply will be sealed with west epoxy and the beams will get a couple of coats of varnish. Last, I took the pieces up to the boat and clamped them in place to test fit them.
In the photo to the right you can see the 3/4" closed cell foam between the knees and the hull. It is cut with 45 degree angle and keeps the plywood off the hull and from causing hard spots. The epoxy/biaxial tape will go right over the foam, which provides a more gentle bend for the biaxial, and secures the knees in place. The beams will be secured to the knees with bolts and nuts--this way they can be removed to facilitate removing the tanks.
The bottom picture shows two of the three beams in place. I need to cut one more that will span the middle of the forward tank. This will provide good support to the hardwood cabin sole I plan to install later--teak (if the budget allows . . . probably not) or perhaps walnut (about 1/8 the cost of teak). The maximum span for the 7/8" thick hardwood will be about 19". Either way, the sole will be completely removable without tearing the boat apart. The tanks will also be removable. Before I glass all this in tomorrow I need to do some more work on the knees to make them symmetrical--there is a story here but I am not giving it up that easily!!
If I can complete this tomorrow I will be ready to install the seacocks on Tuesday/Wednesday.
This seems like a good time to comment on the budget for the DIY restoration/rebuild. I think it is so easy to get carried away and try to make the boat perfect. Sometimes it can be tough to push-back against that desire. But the reality is, unless you are prepared to sink everything you have into your boat (I am not) you have to know where to draw the line and have the conviction and discipline not to cross it without good reason (of course the line is different for each person, but you should figure out where the line is before you get started) . . . . stuctural issues are an example of something that can't be ignored. I am not talking about cutting corners or doing sloppy work. If you want to do it right , some things just cost money--epoxy, biaxial, primer and paint, fasteners, solvents, tools, etc--and time and effort. The time ande physical effort to tackle some of these projects is not for the feint-hearted. This is still a huge project and, sure, it's expensive. But, without a plan and some discipline it could also be a bottomless money pit.
Today I epoxyed in two of the three pairs of knees that will support the floor timbers and subsequently the cabin sole in the main saloon. I only glassed in the forward face of the knees. Tomorrow I will glass in the aft face of the knees and also glass in the third set of knees that will allow me to put a beam over the middle of the larger forward water tank.
I used three layers of 17.7oz biaxial: one 8" wide and two 6" wide, per knee. I also wet out the bottom edge of the plywood knee to seal it from possible water intrusion. I'll wet out the rest of the knee edges when I unclamp the floor beams.
A while back I was having difficulty getting the boat level. I had the deck level but then everything inside the boat was off though it was square and plumb to itself. By that, I mean, if I leveled the existing floor timbers in the boat then the bulkhead edges were perpendicular and the cleat for the counter was level . . . but then the deck was not level. It was not off just a little either, i.e. with the deck level the floor timbers were out of level by 9/16" over a span of just 45 ". That's a lot in my book. I thought about this for a while and corresponded with a few boat builders I respect. The problem was that I did not know what the true level was--the inside of the boat or the deck. There was no good solid single datum point that could connect the two. The deck could have been placed on crooked when it was installed or when the builders installed the interior (the deck was put on after the interior was installed) they did not have the boat level.
What to do? Well, I decided to leave well enough alone. I would build the interior to the original level and paint the waterline to the level deck. Who would know . . . boats are always moving around and slightly out of trim, etc as you work through your water and stores. I probably wouldn't know either. Besides, if I tried to level everything to one datum point, I had a 50 percent change of that not being the true level. I figured I would live with it because I did not know how to link the two different levels. But, it gets better . . . .
You may recall from yesterday's post that I was having a hard time getting the port and starboard knees that support the floor timbers in the saloon to match. I couldn't do it. I cut my way through three pair of knees and no matter how I tried to compensate the starboard side was always smaller by an inch in length than the port side knee, or else it was way out of square on the inside corner. I racked my brain over that yesterday and last night. If you look in the photo from yesterdays post you can even see the port side knee is shorter than the starboard side knee. Today, I sat there for the longest time thinking "something is not right here." Then, I had one of those "ah-ha" moments . . . the knees did not match because even though the floor timbers were level, the hull they were sitting in was canted to one side--the starboard side. I decided to test this theory. So, I leveled the boat with a bubble level on the deck. Then I went down inside the boat and shimmed the forward and aft beams--the original ones, at the forward and aft end of the saloon, by raising them on the port side 9/16". I laid my strong-backs back in place. I checked them with the level--athwart-ship and fore-and-aft. Next I took the starboard side knee--larger of the knees--and placed them on the port side. They fit perfectly. I then dropped a plumb-bob through the hole for the mast and over the mast-step. It was off about an inch. With the deck level and the floor shimmed, the floor timbers are exactly perpendicular to the plumb-bob but the inside edge of the bulkheads are off.
After much thought I decided to correct what was obviously a mistake made by the Cape Dory builders. I spent the rest of the day making tapered shims for the forward and aft beams. Then I cut two more knees that matched the starboard side knees and now they are all the same and they all fit correctly. At some point, I will have to shim the bulkhead edges with trim when I am installing finishing trim. I'll also have to address the mast step.
Though I had resigned myself to two different levels, installing the knees provided the clue that I did not previously have. It was the key data point the connected the level deck to a level interior. What does this say about boat builders? I'll leave my thoughts on that for another post.
Preliminary measurements indicate the vertical face of the two settees will be 32" apart. That will provide enough room for settees that are 20" deep and a pilot berths that will be 24"-26" wide at the shoulder.
From my perspective this is a critical modification. I wanted to change how the ladder came down into the boat. The original ladder was a SS and wood ladder that gently sloped down and forward. To be comfortable the companion way hatch had to be all the way open otherwise you were bent over backward to keep from hitting your head. With a 9' hard dinghy on the cabin top, the companion way can't open all the way and I want the ladder to be comfortable to use when at sea as well as when anchored and the dinghy is over the side in the water. What to do? Well, I decided to make the ladder steeper and not protrude so far forward. Also, I wanted the ladder to land on a platform that would essentially serve as the first step. The platform would give me max storage and provide a place for my bronze Edson model 117 manual bilge pump. More on the pump later. The height from the top of the bridge deck to the saloon floor is 57." That allowed for five steps with a 11 1/2" rise per step. That seems high but because it is steep, a taller step exposes more tread. I spent hours looking at this at the beginning of the week. I finally got my sketch pad and drew it out--where the beams needed to go, how they would be secured to the knees, what the general shape of the knees would be, and most importantly where the aft plywood riser would go. Once I thought I had a good plan I went to work.
Following the same technique I used for the knees in the saloon, I clamped a strong back from the beams over the saloon area and extended it back to where I thought the ply wood step-up would go. I used cardboard to scribe the initial mock-up for the plywood step and then transferred the pattern to 1/4" ply, and test clamped it with a temporary 2X2 beam clamped to the strong back. Once I was satisfied I transferred the pattern to 3/4" BS 1088 Marine plywood and cut it out. Then I placed the plywood step-up on 5/8" closed cell foam that I cut with two 45 degree bevels to serve as fillets for the biaxial cloth. I had to trim the step-up to allow for the thickness of the foam. I marked the thickness of the beam on the plywood so I would not cover that area with the biaxial. This ensured the beam would fit flush and tight to the plywood step-up. Then I epoxied it in place with three layers of 17.7oz biaxial on both sides. Next, I followed the same technique for cutting the knees 20" forward of the plywood step-up. Once I was satisfied with them I epoxied them in placed with three layers of 17.7 on both sides.
The beams are Douglass Fir and this time instead of varnishing them I tried something different after reading an artical in Woodenboat Magazine. I applied two coats of clear shellac. It coat dries in an hour, is supposed to be more waterproof than varnish, and is a lot easier to work with. I have used shellac before in furniture making. It has some limitations for sure. It will disolve if you get alcohol on it. And it is not as tough a finish as varnish. But since it is under the cabin sole it seemed like something worth trying. Woodenboat really talked it up for sealing wood so I'll see how it works out. The beams are bolted to the knees with 3/8" SS bolts, washers, and nylon locking nuts.
The first beam is not that hard. It's a 5" wide piece of iroko that get through-bolted to the original beam, but the next two beams, that run into the head compartment, must be shimmed before I can build them up. The interior was not installed level, or maybe the deck was crooked . . . who can tell. Anyway, I have been shimming the beams to level up the port side so these next two beams have to be shimmed as well. I measure how much the shims had to be tapered then cut the appropriate tapers in some douglass fir on my table saw with a jig. In the bottom photo you can see the iroko step, clamped in place (the face will be covered with some thin mahogany later, the strongback that serves as the datum point for installing the beams, and the two shims sitting on the original beams. I'll glass them in over the next day or so then install the new beams on top of the shims.
After completing the final fitting of the forward beams I applied a single layer of biaxial tape to each of the locker bottom cleats that I installed yesterday. After that I mixed up some thickened epoxy and made fillets on the high side of each cleat. I did this to allow any water that comes down the hull from condensation to be channeled down into the bilge.
I finished up by working on the forward bulkhead template that I cut yesterday. Just some light trimming with a block plane to improve the fit. Tomorrow I will use the template to cut the 3/4" BS 1088 ply for the actual bulkhead.