She’s been in storage over the late winter, through spring and until now. Finally, Lake Champlain is below flood stage and heavy winds over recent weeks have driven floating logs and debris to shore. But, with rising north winds in the forecast and beginning now, we will likely choose another day this week to float her.
She fired and barked a few times, but now is running beautifully … love that Hercules grumble and growl!
We found a couple of leaky stopcocks, which we are switching out, and the thermostat is being a pain, but we will continue fighting with the engine.
As I hope is evident in the clip, we could not be happier with the final result.
Mickey Dupuis and his crew at D&S Custom Metal Restoration in Holyoke, MA, once again transformed pitted and pocked plating into jewelry.
Shauna Whiting, Kocian Instruments in Forest Lake, MN, once again masterfully restored her gauges.
Robert Henkel, Peter Henkel, Inc. in Marine City, MI, tore the engine down and rebuilt it, the transmission, and everything bolted onto it.
Joanie Alden, Vital Signs hand painted her registration lettering.
Sorry about the behemoth compressor firing up in the “background.” With five preservation projects fully engaged right now, I cannot simply shut the shop down when I shoot a video.
Finally, I am confident we have solved a chronic wood boat preservation conundrum, “My boat has an original bottom with open seams. I do not wish to, or in the case of a Striptite hull cannot, install a True 5200 Bottom. Nor do I typically drop her in the water where she lives all season. What are my options short of waiting for her to swell each time we launch and hope to use her?”
Hmmm …. Our stock answer has been, “Use Interlux Seam Compound for below water applications. It will remain elastic, compressible and able to withstand the swell-shrink cycle, even if the movement is miniscule, without overly compressing the wood on each side of the seam.” Save for two cases where a boat came back for new bottom paint and we found that some of the Seam Compound had become hard and brittle, I am still comfortable with it as a product that solves the problem. However….
OMG! Even when heated, it pays very, very poorly, and will fight you every inch of the way. What’s worse than all the time involved, Interlux recommends three applications.
There must be something better, especially in terms of ease and time cost of application.
I recently answered a query about the best material to use when sealing lapstrake topside strake seams with a small fillet. Our practice to date has been 3M5200, as long as the fillet is tiny, tiny in cross section, and any feathers beyond it are removed. One of you answered simply, “Use West G-Flex and you will be good.”
Hours and hours of subsequent research tells me that this person is correct. However, while two-part G-Flex is supplied in squeeze bottles and quart cans, Jamestown Distributors offers Thixo Flex, a TotalBoat brand version that is also two-part, satisfies G-Flex’s criteria for adhesion and lasting elasticity and is packaged in 10 oz. caulking tubes along with a mixing tip that delivers material in a fine stream that comes out having been mixed precisely.
Our tests, albeit only over several weeks rather than several years, and painfully small sampled, delivered a bond that is flexible and simply cannot be torn apart unless the wood fibers fail. After paying a seam’s worth, I use a super flexible putty knife to drive the material into the seam. (A plastic spreader may work as well, but I prefer the putty knife.)
The waste is scooped and spread into the next seam.
I should be able to finish the Captivator’s bottom spending about 2+ hours per side. Paying Seam Compound would take time measured in days, by contrast.
Once the Thixo Flex has cured, and after we’ve checked for any pin holes or holidays, we will sand the cured residue off the planks and seal the entire bottom with three full coats of Smith’s Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer.
Priming it with three coats of Pettit Tie Coat Primer 6627 will follow.
We must install the new transom bracing and transom before we can finish paying TotalBoat Thixo Flex into the bottom seams, however.
Stripping paint and varnish from antique and classic wood hulls must be the least rewarding element of their preservation. It’s all about getting it off.
That it is a cliché’ is immaterial. Preparation is 95%+ of great wood boat preservation. Cleaning the wood completely, until all traces of penetrating stain or surface coatings have vanished, is the cornerstone of thorough and complete preparation.
And, what with grain typically running in multiple directions, great care must be taken that the scrubbing involved here does not raise a forest of cross-grain scratches in the process. While we do sometimes reach for the heat gun when stripping paint, chemical stripping is our go-to method, especially when stripping bottom paint. The chemical stripper encapsulates any lead that might be released by the stripper, where there is danger in using a heat gun that exceeds 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which lead vaporizes.
Stripping varnish with a heat gun has advantages, not the least of which is that the waste flakes off in a dry state, which obviates the need for taping areas off lest dribs and drops of chemical stripper fall on them. But, as is evident in the clop, and RJ’s implicit expressed disdain for heat, it is both slower and potentially more damaging to wood, especially those portions of the hull that will be finished bright.
Burning the wood or dissolving the glue in plywood strakes of a lapstrake hull is the major risk when going the heat gun rout. Indeed, the blackened mahogany tells us that someone must have stripped our 1937 20’ Lyman Runabout’s hull sides with heat. What we found beneath the many, many layers of black paint and primer is a veritable sea of blackened leopard spots.
Fortunately, Eagle’s strakes will be painted. Even more fortunately, the same person did not strip the decks, covering boards, windshield and coamings, for sanding through the singed areas would require major thinning of the planks.
We are standardized on three BAHCO-Sandvik ergonomic scrapers and the wide variety of BAHCO carbide blades. Both are available from JamestownDistributors.com and Amazon.com.
BAHCO-Sandvik 650 Premium Ergonomic Carbide Scraper, 1”, 2” and 2.5” – a one-handed scraper
BAHCO-Sandvik 650 Premium Ergonomic Carbide Scraper, 1”, 2”, 2.5” – a “big dog” two-handed scraper with a knob just behind the blade.
BAHCO-Sandvik Premium Ergonomic Carbide Scraper, 1” – a small detail scraper
BAHCO Heavy Duty 2-Inch Replacement Scraper Blade #442
While we do occasionally give competing brands a chance to outperform it, nothing we’ve tried holds a candle to Jamestown Distributors’ Circa 1850 Heavy Body Paint and Varnish Remover. Period., at least during our nine months of winter when cold temperatures, snow and ice make stripping hulls outdoors with one of the spray-on strippers at best impractical.
Finally, after trying a dozen or so brands, we have settled on New Star Foodservice 54460 Extra Large Stainless Steel Sponges Scrubbers sold by Amazon.com. (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00…)
RJ takes you through the steps needed to arrive at you clean wood goal.
Strip the surface material – varnish or paint – using the chemical stripper of your choice.
The Chemical Rout
Apply the stripper three times, allowing about 20 minutes working time between each of the coats.
Scrape with the wood grain using the two-hand scraper and long strokes.
Apply another coat of scraper. Let it work for five minutes or so and repeat the long-stroke, two-handed scraping.
Apply the stripper again, wait a minute or so, reach for the stainless-steel sponge scrubber and scrub the surface briskly with the grain until the wood is dry.
Avoiding produce long, deep scratches that result if excessive down pressure is applied. While we continue using the same sponge for job after job after job, reaching for a new one, which will be less aggressive on the wood, might be a good “first-time-through” strategy.
Congratulations! You have reached the clean-wood goal and are ready to bleach!
We truly believed we’d found any and all rot existing on Eagle’s hull, but forgot a major reality. Some sort of stained paste filler and varnish, which is what was used on parts of the foredeck and elsewhere on her hull, can hide all manner of deterioration.
In the Eagle’s case it hid rotted foredeck planks on both port and starboard along the seam between the covering boards and deck planks.
We now face releasing the coamings and dashboard if we wish to address these issues, and the required plank replacement properly.
This rot strengthens our resolve that the deck, coaming, windshield and covering boards be stripped to bare wood.
As I will amplify in our next update, just releasing varnish, whether chemically or using a heat gun, is only the first step in cleaning the wood. As is clear in the clip, scraping away the varnish leaves a residual-stain-mottled surface behind.
All of that stain must be scrubbed and bled out of the wood using Circa 1850 Heavy Bodied Paint & Varnish Remover (https://www.jamestowndistributors.com…), stainless steel pot scrubbers and lots of elbow grease. How clean is clean? You will know when you get there.
I will go into these last topics in greater depth later today.
We are almost there. Beginning with two raw boards yesterday morning, Joe and RJ have fabricated all the parts to Captivator’s new transom.
We allowed the glue in the tongue-and groove joint between the two transom planks to cure for 24 hours before removing the clamps.
Today they fabricated the interior transom frame using oak for the bottom bow and two side frames and Honduran mahogany for the center frame.
The individual oak components and the transom blank were cut to shape using the old material as patterns.
What cannot be patterned simply are the bevels and continuously-changing radii of the transom blank’s ends and the oak framing that runs up the hull sides. Sanding in with a belt sander is both tedious and exacting, and requires continual test fitting.
With the individual components fitting well, RJ and Joe assembled the new transom temporarily before final fitting ensues.
Once we have an excellent fit, the components will be released, final sanded, bleached, stained with Jel’d stain and sealed with three coats of CPES.
Sometime early next week Captivator’s new transom will be in place, bedded in 3M5200.
Happily for her and her owner, we have been saving the last Pattern Grade Honduran mahogany plank from an order I made ten years ago for just the right application. It had been held in inventory for over two decade at the many small furniture shops that fell victim to the Great Recession of 2008-2009. The planks had been sawed, stickered and begun air drying a decade or so when purchased by the shop’s owner.
While our 1954 Penn Yan Captivator Aristocrat is losing her original transom, her “new” one will be fabricated using wood that is almost as old as she is.
It took a bit less than a nanosecond for us to agree that we will use that plank for Captivator’s transom planks and center frame member.
The original transom planks were glued up employing a splined joint – grooves cut in the two mating surfaces are joined by a thin strip of mahogany, aka the spline. However, we will mate the two boards using a tongue and groove joint.
Why? Joe, who spent years managing a commercial precision woodworking – custom window and door design and fabrication, has experience with, and has tested, both mating systems. His experience argues for the tongue-and-groove rather than the splined joint as stronger and better able to survive flexing and expansion/contraction cycles.
Joe cut the tongue in one and groove in the other soon-to-be transom plank using a table saw. Two pieces of scrap from the same planks were used for setup.
Finally, once they had been run through the jointer, Joe and RJ will set up a half-dozen pipe clamps, with three spaced along each side of the plank. Wax paper will be laid beneath the joint and copious amounts of Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue will be applied to all surfaces. (https://www.amazon.com/Franklin-Titeb…)
Even though Titebond stipulates an 8-hour dry time, we will wait a full 24 hours before breaking the clamps down.
We will focus on her bottom once we’ve installed her new transom and its associated framing.
Happily, our worst fears, that we’d discover extensive garboard rot beneath the keel, did not happen. Despite the open seam along both sides of the keel-garboard joint, there was nothing but a tiny bit of rot way forward where the keel and stem join.
That said, once we have tightened fasteners where needed, sanded the bottom fair and applied three full coats of Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer to both the keel and bottom planking, keel installation will be upon us.
We will treat the keel installation exactly as we do when installing external bottom planks in a True 5200 Bottom. Fifty-Two-Hundred will be troweled into the entire area beneath the keel, and to an about 1/8″ thickness. Then, as we sink the fasteners from the inside out,, we will be certain that the entirety of the mating surfaces are entombed in 5200.
We will clean the squeeze-out with Interlux Brushing Liquid 333 and then wipe the seam down with acetone, which will accelerated the curing process.
Then the real fun begins as all the seams between Striptite planks must be caulked using Interlux Seam Compound For Underwater Applications.
Why not 5200? Once cured it will not compress. Any drying and shrinking of the planks either breaks the adhesion, as we saw with this bottom initially. Any soaking-up and subsequent plank expansion threatens crushing the planks.
Part II continues chronicling our woeful discoveries.
Not only were our worst fears, implicitly expressed in Part I of this pair of clips, confirmed, I was blown away by the fact that the bottom “bow,” pronounced “beau,” were not only severely rotted, they were also quite wet. Honest! She has not been in the water since last fall, has been in dry cold storage since then and, yet, the bottom bow pegged our moisture meter and more.
As soon as we release the bottom transom plank and the framing, RJ will begin fabricating a new one. Replacing the transom’s interior framing was not in our scope of work, as we hoped against hope that the dark wood we observed during our initial observations might “only” be a bit of surface rot.
Not! This situation adds complexity to our project elsewhere as well. The two transom frames running behind the topsides are secured by copper nails driven from outside through the topside planking and into these frames.
Sadly the forward of the two courses of fasteners run through topside planking that is finished bright. We will do our best, but now fear that stripping and finishing the topsides anew has been added to the SOW.
RJ will fabricate and then he and I will temporarily install the bottom plank, the one we have just released, first, which will ensure the hull retains its proper shape.
With the keel, outer stem and splash rails released, and having cleaned all of the 5200-like material out of the bottom plank seams, our attention turns to the transom.
The transom is two planks that have been fixed to both the topside and bottom planking, but also to a series of frames. Individual frames run along the bottom, sitting on the bottom planks, across the top and down the sides of the transom. A pair of inverted “V” frames stiffen the transom’s center.
Upon initial inspection RJ and I were troubled by what appeared to be very poorly conceived and executed repairs to the center and port frames. The “Dutchman” attempted at the bottom of the pair of center frames not only created a powerful water trap, the rot growing there propagated and destroyed the bottom bow – “beau”.
Part II continues chronicling our woeful discoveries.
Yesterday we stripped her transom, flipped her, released her splash rails and stripped her bottom. Happily the splash rails are in excellent condition. They only want to be stripped, have some minor “bodywork” executed and refinished.
Today we released the keel and began releasing the keelson and the transom framing.
While the keel is in excellent shape, both in terms of being straight and sound, it has been off the boat at least once and sealant was given short shrift when it was last installed. As a result there is some rot, not so much that it cannot be repaired, on the garboards where they lie beneath the keel and the keelson.
Her owner informs me that the keel was not released by the shop that worked on her in 2007-08, but the myriad of plugged mounting holes tell us that it was released sometime prior to that work being done.
The paucity of sealant means that water will find its way into the bilge.
It will also sit in the bilge. That there is not more rot is testimony to the care given her by her current owner.
The rot we did find beneath the keel is far forward, and at the joint between the keel and the lower portion of the stem. That curved section runs from its joint with the keel up to the splash rails.
Once we have the keelson and garboards out of the hull, everything, garboards, keelson and keel, will be cleaned to absolutely bare wood. Once the components have been sealed and receive three coats of Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer, they will be set aside.
Next comes the most fun. The failed transom, which we must replace, must be released from the hull. That it is secured with many, many copper nails, and not wood screws, makes this task particularly challenging, but doable using a FEIN MultiMaster and the thinnest, narrowest blade we have. (That they are copper, and therefore quite soft, should translate into the MultiMaster zipping right through the nails leaving a clean surface behind.
We’ve flipped all sorts of boats, big wide ones, long deep ones and now our 1954 Penn Yann Captivator Aristocrat.
Forget the winch. No grunting needed. Her size, narrow beam and cylinder-like cross-sectional shape made flipping her hardly different from rolling a 5-foot diameter pipe.
Now that her bottom is fully exposed, I must say that I was surprised just how little paint is on it. We will know better once we begun stripping, but my guess is a couple of coats of red lead primer followed by about as many of some sort of gray paint.
The garboard-keel seams on port and starboard, while open, appear to be less so that we thought they were while lying on our backs looking up at the hull.
Once we have released both splash rails and masked her topsides, we will reach for the Circa 1850 Heavy Body Paint and Varnish Remover and strip the bottom down to raw wood.
We will surely share what we find and how we will attack the issues we unearth then.