Friday, February 29, 2008


In January I think I only took a couple days off, and the excitement of starting helped me work late into the night after work. But then real life set in during February. It's going to be a large project, and I realized you can't sacrifice 'balance'. I took at least a third of the month off - a week for turning 46 years old, and 5 days for family skiing at Sun Peaks in B.C., Canada.

When I added up the month's work, I found that sometimes it's the short period spent after a late day at work, which doesn't seem like much, that then allows the whole thing to happen the next night. Or a week of little things that sets the stage for a productive weekend.

I journal in a spiral bound notebook about what I've done, ideas I don't want to forget. And I've found that following Ian's advice about making a plan at the end of each work period helps jump start the next -- especially if there's a break between work periods.

Now a month 'wiser', I look back at notes and smile -- when first finding my way, a written plan of attack was important, though now they seem to be the natural order of events. Notes like: don't forget to drill holes (to allow equalization of the resin between sides), vacuum the part clean, don't confuse transfer of the patterns if port or starboard with asymmetrical parts . . .

A couple of things I've learned. Foam is easy to cut, file and sand to shape. With 3/8", a score with the knife and quick snap is an easy way to deal with cutting to size.

If the part is going to be vacuum bagged, joining pieces is easy with a Copula or hot glue gun. As I get more scrap pieces and realize that the VB process does all the joining and flattening of the part, there is no need to use large virgin foam for each part! Extra resin in the seam adds insignificant weight, and looking ahead, efficient use of supplies will be important. Since I'm doing all the flat parts first, I will lose the luxury of such an easy way to use that pile in the corner.

Planning out the cockpit seats and floor slowed me down. I was thinking about drainage, two thicknesses, putting in rebates . . . in other words I was thinking too hard. I chose to lay out the pattern on paper and then transfer it to the foam. Next time I would save my 3/4 stock and use a second layer of 3/8 scrap. I would not worry about rebates (they have to be on the bag side, not table side to work, but you have to also consider which side you want flat if you are doing two thicknesses . . . I used rebate 'spacers' wrapped in release film which worked but . . .) In the end the product looked great, but it didn't need to take so long.

One thing that I tried which I really like is using an electric blanket for speeding the cure in a unheated winter garage. I'm guessing 70ºF evenly applied heat at 15 watts! Compare that to radiant heat lamps. A spare piece of foam over the top can help. Mine cost $3 at a thrift store and didn't have a controller so I just plug it in directly. (I only do this when I'm there to supervise, and as they say, 'try at your own risk'.)

Luckily, since I'm not even sure it will be useful, I'm finding less things that rebating might help. When I do, like down the center of the bunk, it's a quick swipe with the electric planer. I'll cut the forward and aft-cabin bunk in half and put a gluing flange along the back side before installation. I'm hoping the rebate will make taping the top joint easy to fair.

I started out doing square panels when I was VI'ing, and I continued that with my early VB since there were lots of parts to put together like a puzzle. But strange shapes await and I think I can be more efficient with foam, glass, and epoxy if I 'pre' cut and then trim to shape after.

I am also starting to reuse my vacuum bag material. I had saved all the pieces from VI and early VB. By going from larger to smaller parts, you can make up for cutting off the edge with the tape. Or you can join pieces with tape to make a larger bag. I wouldn't do this for VI, but it seems easy to get at least three uses and if a small leak happens it won't ruin a VB part, just make the pump cycle occasionally. Although I've read about reusing the tape, I've found that I can usually separate the two until I get to the areas with pleats, then it's impossible.

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