Saturday, July 01, 2006

Epoxy and "Butt Joints"

It's been a terrible week in upstate NY! As reported previously, we have seen unprecedented flooding here. The past two days I have spent trying to support family and friends, and visiting churches that have been devastated by putrid river water. Because of these realities, the boat has taken a back seat. Today I finally had some time to be at home, and get back to building our vessel. Unfortunately, my nephew Dan is even busier than me! Between his work as a volunteer fireman (nearly around the clock help for evacuees for four days) and his bus driving of folks from shelter to home, he's had NO time whatsoever. Our goal is to have this boat in the water by August 1st, so that Dan has a little time to enjoy it before he heads to school. So, with the feeling that we are behind schedule, I decided to try to experiment with epoxy resins for the first time without him. Hope Dan can forgive me!My order of epoxy arrived from NJ on Thursday. I had read a great deal about working with this stuff... it's miraculous boat building qualities, but also it's dangerous chemistry ( you don't want to have it come in contact with your skin, nor do you want to inhale it's fumes!). So, I was a little apprehensive getting started, but was thankul for a beautiful dry day, so I could take the work outside! Here you see the four 20" x 8' pieces of plywood Dan and I cut out a couple of weeks ago. According to instructions, I have laid out 6" wide pieces of plastic... under each work area. Then, I have cut out four 2" x 22" pieces of fiberglass cloth... and laid the first two on top of the plastic. These are the beginnings of a kind of sandwich.

I mixed together the resin and the reactant... in a two to one ratio... stirred it vigorously for two minutes... and began to apply it by soaking the fiberglass cloth. Next, I soaked the last 1" of the bottom edge of each board with epoxy, before placing the two pieces butt-end to butt-end on top of the already soaked cloth. Here you see me applying a thick coat of epoxy to the top edges of the two pieces...
careful to get plenty down into any gaps in the joint.
Next, I place the other piece of fiberglass cloth on top, and give it a thorough coating of epoxy.
I complete the sandwich by placing another piece of plastic on top... and weight it down to ensure that the ends are perfectly aligned, as the epoxy dries. It takes many hours for it to harden fully. In theory, when it hardens fully, the joints will be even stronger than the wood itself. That is if I did it all right. We'll see about that!
It will be out of these now 20" x 16 foot long boards that we will cut the the sides of the boat. Once dried, we will lay out the shape of the hull in pencil... and then cut them out... ready to be bent around those frames I was working on earlier in the week! Until next time... be good to each other!

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