Over the last month and a half I have been working part time, while working part time on my boat.
I made templates for just about everything the other day, in the basement of the public library. Thanks Darryl. It was easy and fun. The hardest part was finding a batten that was long enough to make the curves, but eventually I just made one by scarfing pieces of 1/4″ x 3/4″ pine together. It was inspiring to see the deck laid out full size, and to start to get a feel for the actual size of the boat. I used a product called “Builder Board” for the templates.
Last fall I scored a free 40′ aluminum mast, complete with mast steps, some hardware, the boom, and a harken furling system. Moving it was a challenge, but eventually I came up with a solution for the two mile drive. Afterwards, my dad came up with the idea to just rest one end on the truck and attach some wheels to the other, but that was afterwards. Below you can see what I came up with, using the tools on hand. Two ratchet straps and a bucket to protect the end of the mast were all I needed. It was ridiculous.
The guy who gave me the mast has been a huge help with this whole thing. Many of my parts have come from him. He once built a steel tugboat of his own design, using the origami method, or something very similar to it. This is where I first heard about it. He found out about the building style while driving truck in the Northwest. That was twenty some years ago. Here is his boat, The Lindsey Nicole, as of last fall. Still riding dry, having frozen in many years in a row. In this photo the seiche is up, hence the water over the docks.
The ice road wasn’t open yet, so I skied the 2.2 miles to Madeline Island across 6 inches of ice. I carried the hatches on my ski pulk. Of course, a white blew up just before I left. I followed the wind sled tracks all the way there, and Cedric met me at the landing.
This time we had an 1/8″ tungsten and things went much better, but far from perfect. Aluminum has to be extremely clean. That was one thing we didn’t get at first. We finished the bow hatch after a couple hours, then tried to work on the main hatch. I ended up scrapping the main hatch and will be making a new one per the design proper.
What I learned that was already told to me.
- Follow the plans.
- Aluminum is hard to weld, so keep the welds to a minimum.
- Clean, clean, clean.
I first cut out the proper dimensions for the hatches with the plasma cutter, using a guide for straight edges. The aluminum I am using is 5052, which is made for the marine environment. I then scored a line with the angle grinder where I wanted the aluminum sheet to bend, then bent the sheet in the bench vice.
I then traveled to Madeline Island via ferry, to meet up with my tig welding friend, Cedric. There was already a little ice on the lake.
At the shop, most of the day was a crapshoot. Cedric had only welded aluminum a few times, and had never welded it. We spent a while trying to figure out what tungsten to use. Ultimately we were only able to lay four inch tack welds because the end of the tungsten would ball up and drip into the weld pool, which then pops. So, after about 10 hours we had the hatches tacked together. We found out later we needed a thicker tungsten.
While Cedric was welding, I went to work on the pilot house and trunk cabin handrails. All I had to do was bend the ends, so it took little time. Then I stood around and watched Cedric be frustrated with his welds for 9 hours straight.
When I started visualizing the project, I thought I would be getting all my metal from the same yard, all in one go. A little ways into this, I’ve been to three different suppliers for various things. The stainless for the deck hardware came from a steel yard, in Minneapolis, MN. There, I was able to get half of my needs at $1.25 a pound from the stainless clearance bin, a quarter from the shear drops bin at $2.50 a pound, and the last quarter of my stainless I bought new. Even with the four hour drive to get there it was a deal, half of which was in another snow storm. I must also mention how incredibly helpful and friendly the staff was, as well as how organized the place was. That said, I was able to get my 1 1/4″, 20 foot long, stainless bulwarks for $65 less than MPLS yards, at my local steel yard.
My friends Dan and Heidi let me use the plasma cutter at Vesper Atelier. Dan was also my guide in finding the deals on stainless. They do a lot of metal sculpting at their school.
The plasma cutter was an indispensable tool. The plasma cutter made what surely would have been several days of using cutting discs into a two hour job with hardly any distortion or slag. It handled the 1/4″ – 1/2″ plate with ease and accuracy. The only bad thing was the sunburn I got on my face from using it. I went through five tips, about $50 dollars worth of consumables. The thing that burnt up tips was blasting holes through the plate to make the inner circles of some pieces. It would have been wise to drill a small pilot hole first, then use the plasma to finish the job.
I made templates out of foam core for all my deck hardware.