Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bowsprit and forward handrails

In regard to handling the anchor and related gear I've always thought a bowsprit or pulpit would be a safety item for all who have to work on the bow. I wanted my anchor to be far enough away from the hull so that the anchor might not bang into the hull as it is deployed or retrieved. I also wanted the bowsprit to be stout enough to handle all forces put upon it by a rough anchorage. I'm thinking I probably went a little overboard in constructing the pulpit, but since I'm new at this boat building thing I'm giving myself a little bit of leeway.

I figured that the pulpit would be an area of the boat that will see it's fair share of abuse and for this reason I constructed the pulpit out of stainless steel. Most of the items I build out of stainless steel are going to get painted, but I want the stainless underneath the paint for the lower maintenance it will provide. I made the pulpit using 1.5" sch. 40 stainless pipe, and sheathed it in 3/16 stainless plate. All the stainless is of the "L" variety ( low carbon), and all of the stainless came used from the scrap yard costing about 30 cents on the dollar. I love going to the scrap yard and I'm always amazed at what gets thrown away. I added a front door that bolts on to the pulpit so that I would be able to paint and maintain the inside of the frame, and also for some storage. On the port side of the pulpit I added a recess for a wash down hose and a line for compressed air. Compressed air in my opinion is such a handy tool, I want it at both ends of the boat.

I'm planning on using a Maxwell hydraulic windlass with chain rode to starboard, and rope rode to port. I looked through the marine catalogs and for what anchor roller assemblies cost and how light duty they appeared to be I decided to build my own. Once again I probably went a little overboard but I've seen boats with the anchor rollers twisted off of them, and I have a strong opinion that one should not compromise on ground tackle and it's related infrastructure. I constructed the anchor rollers out of 1/2" stainless steel. To give the roller frames a more finished look I wrapped the roller frame with a piece of 3/4" stainless round stock. This round stock will make the paint stick better, it gives a much more fair edge, and is much more friendly on ones hands and feet. I turned the chain roller in my lathe out of a piece of 6" stainless round bar I found at the scrap yard. I turned the roller in such a way that my 3/8" anchor chain will lay down flat in the roller with a groove for the chain to ride in. I'm hoping that this design will prevent the chain from twisting as it comes home. The spindle is 3/4" round stock and I used two sealed bearings pressed in to the roller to prevent wear on the shaft and my roller. The shaft is pinned to the roller frame through a 3/4" boss's I turned in the lathe and welded to the frame. I made the rope roller frame the same way as the chain roller frame except that I purchased the roller wheel from a marine supplier.

I built the forward handrails out of 1.5" stainless sch. 40 and the uprights are 1" stainless sch. 40. I installed the 1" uprights at the same angle as the reverse rake of my wheelhouse windows. I ended up making a full size plywood template of the curve of the boat and used that template on the shop floor to bend the pipe. To cut the uprights I first used a chop saw to cut the miter where the uprights weld to the bulwark cap, then I clamped the pieces in my mill vise at the correct angle then used a hole saw to cope the joint where the upright welds to the rail. All the uprights are welded directly above a frame on the bulwark, and are extremely stout with absolutely no wiggle in them at all. I'd guess one could tow the boat with these rails if one wanted to. I'm going to polish the rails and leave them shiny vs painting them. The height of the rail off of the deck is 42" and all who grab a hold of the rail comment on the good height and how secure one feels by being behind the rail. With the addition of the swim platform and the bowsprit, the overall length of the boat is a hair under 49'. She's still 44 as far as the harbor bill is concerned ( that's my story at least)


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Swim Platform

For the type of boat I'm building I feel a good swim platform to be essential for getting on and off the boat while at a harbor or at anchor. I want a swim platform that will be able to take serious amounts of abuse and be basically bullet proof while being an easy to navigate tool of function. I decided upon building the swim platform out of stainless steel given my opinion that it will receive its fair share of dings. A wood platform, while attractive, I felt would one more maintenance and repair item for me a little further down the road.

Once I decided upon an elevation above the water line for the platform I began by taking my ripped sections of 4" sch. 40 and adding back in a notched section that would make up the longitudinal frame of the platform. After these were welded to the hull perfectly level with the drawn water line I began the task of bending the athwart ship section of the platform. The only part of the stern that could handle the force of bending the pipe ( I was using the stern as my pattern) is the area where the cockpit deck meets the transom. I welded some jigs on the starboard side of the hull to hold the pipe fast and on the port side I welded some cleats to use as pull points. Using a one ton chain hoist I bent the 4" pipe unit she would bend no more... pretty much the shape of the transom less a little spring back on the pipe. Since I'm not building a watch and only the most of anal observers would realize the shape of my bend was not an exact duplicate, I called the job a success. To make the transition from the longitudinal pipe to the athwart ship section, I used two 90's cut to the fairest line I could make work. I know I'll need a little fairing compound on this area, but all in all it looks pretty damn good. I added 3/16 x 2" frames to support the platforms 12 gauge deck.

The platform extends 24" away from the transom and while I'd prefer 30" I'm satisfied with this depth. This is now my only way on and off of the boat while I build her. After a few trips on to the boat with the new swim platform I soon realized that a better set up steps other than conventional boat ladders were in order, so I designed what I consider to be a good alternative. I welded the treads for the steps out of 3/16 stainless and used some left over 4" stainless pipe with some 45 degree fittings for the stringer. The odd shape of the tread was my way of marrying the winding of the path of the steps with the 4" pipe that supports the steps. Given the fact that the platform is some 10 above my concrete floor I added some "U" shaped safety rails fabricated from 1.5" sch. 40 stainless along with a safety rail to help one navigate the steps. All the vertical pipes were fitted to the 4" section by clamping them in my mill and using a 4" hole saw to cut the profile for an exact fit to the 4". A boarding ladder will pin to the port side safety rail and on the outboard side of the rail. I added a bit under the middle safety rail and while I now think the proportion of the bit is a little off, I have yet to decide if I should make it shorter ( the bit is 2" sch. 40 with a solid bar of 1" welded through). Besides keeping me safe from falling and smacking the concrete I really feel the rails and the steps will make boarding the boat very safe and easy for even the drunkest of guests.


Rub rails

Being an excavating contractor I occasionally get some request to do some work for not for profits at a reduced fee on my part. My kids play soccer and the soccer association is always on the hunt to get much needed work done as reasonable as possible. The person who runs our local soccer association came to me one day down at the field and asked if I could give her a hand removing the old goal posts as they had just bought new, portable goals. Examining one of the goals I soon realized that they were made of 4" sch. 40 stainless steel. The goals were planted in the 5' in the ground, had elbows welded for connecting the upright, and measured 30' long x 10' tall. One field had these stainless steel treasures, and the other fields had mild steel posts. I told Barb ( the soccer lady) I'd take care of this little task for her @ no charge.

The sch. 40 4" stainless turned out to be grade 316l and I intended to use them for my rub rail and swim platform. Laying a 30 piece of the 4" on the shop floor I scribed a line parallel to the floor, rolled the piece over and scribed another line exactly 1/2 the diameter. I set the pieces up on less than adequate saw horses and began ripping the pipe in half with my plazma cutter. It took me about 1/2 of an hour to rip each length and another 15 minutes per section to grind the cuts.

After scribing lines on the hull for the lower and upper rub rail ( I began with installing the upper rub rail first) I cut a jig out of 1/4" plate to hold the pipe in place and another jig to use for driving wedges between the pipe and the jig to force the pipe against the hull. I terminated the upper rub rail on the aft section by ripping a 90 in half, and ripped a long taper on the front forward termination point.

The lower rub rail runs parallel to the water and the upper rub rail follows the shape of the cabin line. I cant find any pictures of constructing the rub rail so these pictures of the primed and faired hull are all I have.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Keel

Whenever I think of a keel I think of a sailboat. My trawler has a keel under and adds a considerable amount of structure to the boat. The bottom of the keel ( keel shoe I think) is 3/8" plate, the sides are 5/16", the length of the keel is 20', the height is 50", and it's width is about 18". The rudder bears on the keel shoe and the prop shaft exits the boat through the keel. The keel provides protection for both the prop and the rudder.

I built the keel on the shop floor then used my skid steer loader with a sch. 80 pipe extending the forks for the machine to maneuver the keel into position. Once I had the keel assembly under the boat I used floor jacks and bottle jacks to lift it into place and get it aligned with the marks on the bottom of the hull plating. Once I was satisfied with the alignment I welded both the inside and outside of the keel before putting on the starboard side plate. Before I put the starboard plate I blasted and primed the inside again. I know I'll burn through some of the primer during the final weld up but I just didn't feel right covering that up without putting some paint on her.

Having such a large structure of the boat existing with burnt primer had always bothered me while I was building the keel so I made provisions to make the keel an air tight structure. After I installed the stern tube I air tested the keel to 7 psi. Air testing and repairing all the pinhole probably added a day to building of the keel, but I feel much better knowing it is air tight. My thinking is that by being air tight rust and corrosion will have a hard time getting started.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Sheathing the frame and welding

The hull is now completely sheathed.

The plating process goes as follows: First I would hang the plates in place using my gantry and align the joint, check that all the reference lines aligned, then tack the plate at the joint. Before moving the plate into position I had ground bevels all the plate edges prior to fitting so I would be able to get full penetration of the weld. Once the plate edges were tacked I would go inside the hull and start pulling the plate to the longitudinal framing and tack weld at this point. Once in a while I would tack weld to the frames ( frames run perpendicular to the ground longitudinal framing runs parallel to the ground), but I would rather weld to the longs as this is the correct way to attach the hull sheathing. Heavy welding to the frame will cause the hull to have the starved horse look witch is a sunken look between the frames and is extremely unattractive.

After plating the hull the next process was to start the welding of the hull. This stage is where some real work begins as the fun and amazement of watching the boat take shape is replaced by the grunt work of welding it all together. I am using a Lincoln Power Mig 200 for welding with a 12' lead and a 25' lead. I like the 25' lead but I have to use .045 wire in the lead to get the machine to push wire that far without kinking the welding wire. The 25' lead is very convenient in regard to not having to move the welder, but one has to avoid sharp bends in the lead as this causes the wire to bind and messes with the feed rate of the wire. I'm also using a auto darkening helmet with a welding type respirator that fits under my helmet. I've found that the respirators last about two days before I have to replace the filters. My other safety gear consists of a heavy leather jacket, welding gloves, exhaust fan, and ear plugs for both the loud sound of the welding arc and also keeps sparks out of my ears.

The welding is a critical process ( as one could guess on a metal boat) in that one wants the hull to maintain that fair shape. Fair is what one calls a hull as you move your eyes or hands over the sides of the hull.... she has to look and feel fair. Over welding or welding too much in one area can cause the hull to distort or twist loosing it's fair shape. My welding of the hull went as follows: weld the longs to the frames, weld the hull joints below the water line inside and out, weld the above the water line joints outside only, weld the hull to the longs. My hull plating is 1/4" below the water, and 3/16 above the water. Being a relatively beefy sheathing, the hull plates are not as easily distorted, but I was extremely careful none the less of moving around the hull and not laying a weld down more than 3" long at any one time. Some people call this skip welding or chain welding witch is a 3" weld, skip 12" then another 3" weld and so on until all the welds join together. Moving around the hull skipping like this prevents heat from building up and causing the metal to distort.

The welding of the hull was a huge job that took a couple of months to complete. At some point I stopped keeping track of the amount of welding wire I had purchased, but at last count I was well over 1000 lbs. I think I went through two welding auto darkening helmets, two leather jackets, and dozens of pairs of welding gloves along with a pair of boots and many pairs of jeans.\

The pictures on this post show the hull sheathed without the Portuguese bridge in place.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Framing

The framing has been going at a rather quick steady pace. I'm amazed at how accurate the NC cut parts are and how much labor NC cutting saves. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the money I paid to have the parts NC cut is probably less than what I would have spent on grinding wheels, and electric to run the operate the grinder. The time savings with NC cutting are immense. I've pretty much come to the conclusion that if a part does not fit correctly, I've probably done something wrong as the NC cutting is way to accurate.

Here are a few more shots of some framing details. The crash bulkhead is shown on this page and makes up the chain locker for my anchor chain. You can also see some of the detail on the spray chine on the starboard side. I've starting installing some plate at this point and I'm pretty much ready to sheath the hull now. Looking back on how I did things I wished I would have done all the framing at this point ( no sheathing), installed the decks above, then began to sheath the sides. Oh well... no sense crying over these things now. Most of the comments I make like the last comment are more of the " learn from my mistakes" variety.


Thursday, July 9, 2009


Once the center seam of the hull was tacked together I began standing the frames and tacking them on their respective reference line. Having welded the flat bar to the inside of the frame made the frames much more easy to deal with. I started the framing on station #9 witch is pretty much in the center of the boat where the bulkhead divides the cabin space from the engine room and from here I worked fore and aft. I took some bad advice from a so called boat builder and welded the center seam solid before installing any of the frames and from that moment on I fought some unnecessary battles with the metal. If anyone is contemplating taking on a project like this ...ONLY TACK WELD UNTIL THE HULL IS COMPLETELY SHEATHED. Sorry for the loud typing, but I am kicking myself in the ass for making this mistake.

The framing is pretty much straight forward. Put the frame on its line and tack weld it to the bottom hull plate. Find the correct longitudinal stringer, and put it on it's marks for the particular frame you are working on, and tack it in place. I had to do some temporary bracing to hold the frames in place, but after a few frames were installed along with a few longitudinal s, the framing went pretty smooth. Following the advice of the designer, I held the longs a little proud of the frames as the hull plating does not get welded to the frame, rather the hull plating gets welded to the longitudinal. If my memory serves me I believe I held the longs one diameter of my .035 welding wire away from the frame.

Once the framing got under way and progress was being made I found it hard to stop working. The boat is starting to pick up some weight at this point and in my haste I ignored the fact that the building jig needed to be braced. At on point the jig looked ready to collapse and had shifted off of it's marks in relation to the hull plating. I stopped what I was doing, lifted the welder off of the hull and spent the next six hours bracing the jig and getting it back in alignment.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Welding the frames together was a pretty straight forward deal. The biggest item on this task was to make sure the frame dimensions were the same as on the prints. After I welded the frames I then wrapped the inside of the frame with a piece of 1/4" x 1". This flat bar made the frames much stiffer and once they are welded into the hull the frame will become more like a beam. This added flat bar created a lot of work in both welding it in place and later down the road when I start painting the inside of the hull. Here are some of the frames resting against the shop wall waiting to be installed on the hull.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hull plating on the jig

Here are the bottom hull plates resting on the jig. The plates are almost ready for the frames and longs to be welded in place. Once the framing goes in the hull will grow around the framing and start to get some strength.

I guess we'll call this a starting point

I met a boat builder on the Internet who lived out in Seattle who was building the model boat I wanted to build. I took a trip to Seattle to meet the builder, Bart Samaduroff, and check out the build he was working on. The afternoon spent with Bart turned out to be a great deal on my part as Bart agreed to handle the blasting, priming, and CNC plasma cutting of my metal for what I considered a reasonable fee. The package was a few months late getting to me so Bart handled some good faith negotiating for me and had the vendor pay most of the shipping costs from Seattle to New Richmond, Ohio. I did not ask for this sizable reduction in price, but Bart insisted and I kept hearing that old adage of not looking a gift horse in the mouth. If anyone has the chance to do business with Bart Samaduroff I only have great things to say about him.

The metal package showed up at my shop on a flat bed weighing in at 40,000 lbs. We made the lift off the trailer in two picks using our Cat 312 Excavator, and then spent the next day sorting and checking that all the parts were accounted for and present. Looking back I believe that only one frame member for the Portuguese bridge was missing.

The first step for me in actually starting the physical part of building this boat was to set up the jig that will support the bottom hull plates and the boat as it is being built. I used some 4" H beams for squaring things up and then I welded the building jig to the H beam frame. With the jig welded to the frame the building can now begin.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

My first Blog

This blog was created to document my building of a 44' steel trawler designed by Bruce Roberts. Technically the boat is considered by Bruce Roberts to be a 43' model as the length on deck is 43'10". From this day forward I''m rounding up and calling it a 44' trawler for the purpose of paying harbor fees as the overall length has grown to 48' with the addition of a bow pulpit for my ground tackle ( anchors and anchor rollers in my case) and a 2' swim platform on the stern. The beam of my yet to be named trawler is 15' and she draws 5' of water depth. Her hull form is full displacement. She should displace around 30 tons with a D/L of 398. The D/l is boat speak measuring the displacement to length ratio and pretty much tells one that she is a stout boat and is considered a true trawler.

I'm building this boat during my spare time in my barn and have been working on her for a little over five years now. Due to height restrictions in my shop I've had to build her in two sections and join the sections together outside of the barn for fitting of the wheel house and salon cabinetry. Once I've fitted the wheel house and salon cabinetry I'll lift the upper module off the hull and transport the two units to the river for final fit out and launching. I've kicked around the different options of how to build and transport this boat and the two module approach seems to work best for me.

If all goes well and I keep my welds to the correct side of the lines ( remember to measure twice cut once.....) she should look something like the picture above. Check back often as I'll be posting pictures and twisted opinions of how things are going here at Conall's boat build.