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Date Posted: - Monday - 03/10/08 - 2:50am
Author: Randall
Subject: REPORT #7: Glassing and Slatting
In reply to: Randall, M31, Murre 's message, "Aft Cabin Bulkhead Replacement" on - Monday - 01/21/08 - 9:56pm

“I was beginning to wonder where you were,” said Mark.

“Family stuff last weekend,” I said, panting, setting down a large box of supplies, my third load. Murre is at the end of the dock—my truck in the parking lot, so far away. It amazed me how much stuff I’d needed to take home for the glassing stage—tools and resin and glass and tape and sand paper and a respirator and a bag of plastic yogurt containers and gloves and rags and more tools and don’t forget the bulkhead or the slats, and …

“How’s your project?” I asked.

“Good. Now that it’s stopped raining I got the windows in—go figure! And as you can see, I’m building stairs. I find some of my friends won’t visit me if I make them board using a regular old ladder.

Mark has the end-tie next to Murre, and he lives on a massive ferro-cement sail boat bare of any hardware having to do with locomotion. “I’m turning it into condos,” he told me on the first day. The boat is a good fifty feet on deck and the freeboard is at least ten feet if you count the massive cabin. Still, his use of the plural, “condos”, made me smile.

“Well,” said Mark, looking at my glassed and slat laden bulkhead, “keep going on like that and you’ll be out of here in no time.”

“Thanks,” I said, “but there are two more projects down stream of this one. I’ve got plenty to do.”

“That is the way,” said Mark, turning to his stairway.


Before trundling everything home, I had taken a pencil tracing on the bulkhead, this of the deck line and the inside edge of the two splashboard shoulders. I wanted to cover the bulkhead exterior in more than one layer of glass, but couldn’t afford to thicken the ply too much inside the splashboard groove or below the deck as it would throw things off at the coach roof beam. In this photo the bulkhead is laid out, and you can see the line made again with a felt pen.

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I intended to cover the bulkhead in one layer of 18oz roving and one layer of 1.5 oz mat. The roving would cover the entire exterior, the mat just those sections above the tracing. Here the roving is being cut. Note the very large scissors, bought at a fabric store just for this job. On previous jobs I’ve had no end of problems cutting heavy glass, but these functioned perfectly.

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To cover the cut separating the two pieces of bulkhead and to help lock it in place, I created a small rectangle of glass to be set aside and added after the bulkhead is glued-up. The rectangle is entirely above the deck line and extends six inches each side of the cut. I’ve taped the outer edges of the rectangle so as to help the roving retain its shape, but I wouldn’t be surprised if removing the tape at some future date destroys it. It can easily be remade.

If the rectangle looks lopsided, remember that the cockpit deck slopes upward at its ends.

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Next came laying out the 1.5 oz mat. With the roving cut and set aside, it was easy enough to pick up the black felt pen tracing on the bulkhead and trace that onto the mat. I also traced and cut a line 7/16” in from the companion way hatch (not visible here). Given the way I’d separated the old bulkhead from the companionway hatch, some of the internal grooving on the frame had been lost. Thus, building up the bulkhead with the roving was admissible, but not roving and mat.

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I did one side at a time and because I was only using two layers of glass, I went very heavy on the resin.

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Here is a detail shot of the bulkhead below the companion way hatch and with both layers of glass on. Unlike roving, mat holds its shape well during both the cutting and epoxy phases, and so is the proper glass if “precise” lay-out is necessary. Note the groove left for the companion way hatch frames and the empty space left aside for later.

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And on the interior of the bulkhead?

I had intended to leave off replacing the slats as they were nothing more than decorative paneling. But I thought better of it … or at least I thought differently. Here’s how the slat game went.

I only had enough clamps to do six slats at a time (thank god this is weeknight work).

So, I first coated the back of the slat with clear epoxy.

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Then, with the companionway hatch frames in place as a guide, I applied WAY TOO MUCH resin mixed with colloidal silica to this six-slat area.

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After removing the excess, I clamped each slat lightly with a very straight 2 x 4 wrapped in wax paper. About an hour later, I unclamped each slat, wiped away excess epoxy that had filled the grooves, and re-clamped.

Learning from projects past, I also wrapped the necessary areas of the work bench in wax paper, this so my precious bulkhead could refuse an invitation to permanently bond with the pine tabletop.

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Next night. Six slats in place; six more being positioned.

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Some of the outer slats were destroyed during demolition; specifically, those inside the splashboard shoulder and below the cabin-side-bulkhead joining piece. These I fashioned out of 1/4” thick red oak as mahogany in anything approaching the right size I could not find at any lumber yard open on a weekend. But even the ¼” oak was too thick and had to be planed down using a loose slat as a guide.

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The final gluing of the run of slats across the bottom of the bulkhead, and then two detail shots showing the exterior red oak slats clamped in place.

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Hindsight is 20 / 20. If I had this to do over again, two things come to mind. One, I’d have held out for mahogany. I’m on a schedule and lost a week due to family issues, but I should have figured a way to find the right wood. Luckily most of the oak is inside the joints. Second, I should have let the new slats run straight. For reasons that baffle me, the original slats describe the curve of the inside of the cabin-side-to-bulkhead joining piece. This has no functional value that I can think of and should have been avoided in the new construction. My mistakes here, if such they are, will matter not at all when strength is considered, and that is my major concern.



Back at the boat and after a good gam with Mark, the fitting begins.

Especially with the addition of the 18oz roving, some planing of the outboard ends of the bulkhead is required.

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And then before installation time was needed for fashioning the spacers—one on the starboard side and two on the port (pictured here). Again, it’s tough to imagine why the slats were irregularly truncated for these three slats, only. There’s no evidence that these were added later.

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And finally, a shot of the bulkhead fitted, just so.

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[> REPORT #8, More on slats; Gluing up the bulkhead -- Randall (), - Monday - 03/17/08 - 4:08am

During the week I grew more and more unhappy with the Red Oak as a substitute for Mahogany. The ¼” prefabricated slats I’d found in a hobby store were the best my area offered—I’d been to four different lumber/hardware outlets the previous weekend without finding a hint of Mahogany in any size. But the grain structure of the Red Oak was too obviously different, and the wood’s hardness meant it took stain differently than the original.

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To add insult to injury, the slats that had been added to follow the curve of the interior frame didn’t slide behind it as designed, but stuck out a tad. The whole thing was a tad too much not right for my comfort.

So I took part of Friday off to explore the lumber yards that weren’t open on weekends. The first was a bust. “No, we’ve not seen Honduran Mahogany here for 10 years,” said the yard manager as he dismounted his forklift.

“But my friend got some here two months ago, and from that bin there marked ‘Honduran’”, I whined.

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe he meant this stuff,” he said, pointing to a pile of very red wood called Tampis.

On a hint from the sales manager, I tried another yard just two miles away. “What you need?” asked a guy named Josh as I rummaged the dark corners of their very cramped warehouse. The further I got into the hardwood section, the less light there was. I was lost.

I handed Josh a slat turned over to show the yellow wood. “Honduran Mahogany,” I replied.

“Oh, Luan,” he said. And then as I protested, “It’s the same species.” He dug out a board from under a pile of teak. It was a tad lighter than my sample, but the grain structure was a direct match.

“I can rip and mill this into five three foot pieces of that paneling you got there. Come back in four hours.”

It was that simple.


So, on Saturday I set to removing the offending Red Oak and another slat or two of the old stuff beside. It was discouraging to have to take a step back, but as the new Mahogany / Luan slats went on I began to feel better about the job.

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Next day began with prepping the bulkhead for fitting—trimming off the new Mahogany edges, cutting out for the porthole, and sanding off the slat’s old stain and varnish.

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And then fitting, again. This time it went well and I also knocked holes for the fasteners while all was in place. Across the exterior top, I used #10 x 1 ½” stainless wood screws spaced about 4 ½” apart. On the exterior sides, #12 x 2” fasteners were used.

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On the inside, I used #12 x 2” stainless wood screws spaced every 5”, this in place of the original ring nails. These fastener holes were knocked deep enough for wood plugs as I’m not sure the covering piece will … cover.

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I have no photos of the next several hours, the gluing phase, because it was a sprint to the finish line.

The sequence went as follows:

1. Wash all appropriate areas with fiberglass solvent.
2. Dress all contact surfaces with straight clear epoxy.
3. Mix a large batch of epoxy with colloidal silica to peanut butter consistency and, using a 10 oz tube and gun, squeeze into area between splashboard shoulder and anchoring frame. Use a putty knife to thickly coat all interior surfaces. Mix more and reapply if necessary (it’s necessary).
4. Mix another batch of same, thick but less thick, for all other surfaces: the deck beam, the coach roof beam, the coach roof overhang, and have another go at the corresponding surfaces on the bulkhead. This seems overkill, but the goal is to have epoxy oozing out of all joints—and waste be hanged.
5. Fit the bulkhead pieces in place starting with the port side (no fasteners yet). Pull the bulkhead out and repeat gooping phases as necessary, especially in the splashboard area, if the desired oozing seems a bit shy.
6. NOW fit the companionway hatch frames (no, no fasteners yet!). In removing the old bulkhead from the companionway joints, much of the original sizing will have been lost, so lather these frames with a thick mixture of epoxy and colloidal silica. Be very generous. If you like peanut butter, think peanut butter on toast that’s spread with a spoon. If you don’t like peanut butter, think of something else that’s laid on way too thick for one’s own good.
a. Place the bottom frame first and then the starboard. The small area of bulkhead on this side means it will be difficult to pry out in order to make room for the frame. Use something like a chisel or a screwdriver to wedge in between bulkhead and coach roof. Have a hammer at the ready for thwacking the frame down and to starboard and in place.
b. Next insert the port frame. This will place much more easily because it’s easier to flex this part of the bulkhead.
7. Once the frames are well placed (and just because they snugged up nice in the dry fit stage don’t mean they will now … don’t lose that hammer), insert all fasteners.
8. Grab a few rags and a spatula and begin cleaning up oozing epoxy. Remind yourself that this huge mess of rapidly kicking glop is exactly what you were aiming for.

One of those choices that hung in the balance today was whether to use slow or fast hardener. Yesterday was cold (about 50* and windy); today was sunny and warm, but what if the overnight temp dipped too low? I opted for fast hardener, and the result was a long, nerve wracking race against time.

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And suddenly it’s well past sun down.

I knew Joanna was waiting for me in the parking lot with the car running. She’d already done the week’s grocery shopping, she’d got gas, and she’d had dinner. I’d called twice with another delay, “I need another 45 minutes,” I say. She didn’t get upset, even at the second call. “I have a good book,” she said, but I knew she is playing solitaire. How do I account for this patience on her part and who do I thank? I just needed to get one last thing done … the glass over the cut dividing the bulkhead.

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Last edited by author: Mon March 24, 2008 21:19:19   Edited 2 times.

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