I came across some pictures of my previous boat, an older 36 ft. trawler. When you sat in the salon and looked across to the cabin entry door you were staring at a big ugly stain in the wood paneling at the corner of the door. The leak problem that caused the stain had long ago been solved, but the stain remained. I spent a long time staring at that stain and plotting how to get rid of it. This is what I ended up doing.

 Using 1/8 white ABS I fashioned a plate to cover the stain, including going around the door trim at the bottom. To this plate I then attached a 3 sided box, sized to fit a flashlight. The unit was then fastened to the wall covering the stain. Since the unit had a purpose, to hold the flashlight, it was not obvious that its real purpose was to cover the stain.
 

New Deck Drains

06/15/2010

 
This project does not involve any materials or services from PlasticWorks but it does deal with fiberglass.

The rear deck of my boat has 2 large hatches. Inset at the edge of each hatch is a gutter or trough that handles any rain or wash water. In the gutter of each hatch are 2 drains that take the water from the gutter, through a hose, and out via a through hull installed above the water line. The problem is that these drains are small, make a right angle immediately below the deck, and plug very easily with sea gull crud that I seem to get more than my share of. As a result I get a lot of rain water that ends up in the bilge. There is a very active web site for Tollycraft owners so I went there to state my problem and seek advice or comments about reworking the drains. What comments I got were very negative, basically that I was entering into unknown territory, no one seemed to have tackled this problem. So for a year I set the problem aside and went on to other projects.
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Deck hatch fits into drain gutter.
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The original drain - hatch cover removed
This fall I put on the winter cover, which of course eliminates the problem because no rain or sea gull crud gets on the deck. However the winter cover also allows me to work under cover, so lets take a run at this problem. I had lots of paper schemes that went no where, I tried to fabricate some small fiberglass drains with a 90 degree bend but the hose connection never turned out right and I never did try and install them. Eventually I settled on a bronze fitting, threaded on one end and sized for a 1″ hose on the other end. My plan was to wax up the threads and cast a fiberglass plug. The fitting could be twisted out and the plug glassed in place under the deck then the fitting reinstalled. However before I could act on this plan I came across a reasonably priced tap, so why not try and tap directly into the deck? Even if it did not work I could go back to my original plan.
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The new drain fitting and the original one.
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The tools: hand brace with twist drill, the tap and battery drill with step bit for enlarging hole for through hull.
The original drains were twisted out (were they tapped in when the boat was built or was some other technique used?). The tap called for a 1- 5/32 ” hole, but the only reasonable readily available bit I could put my hands on was 1-3/16″ so I would go with that. I was aware that taking a big hole (the existing one) and trying to make it bigger using a twist bit would probably lead to a three sided hole; I had just had this problem recently while trying to enlarge a hole in some plastic. My plan was to drill the hole by hand and eliminate the chatter a battery or power drill would create. I rigged the bit in a hand brace and proceeded to enlarge the hole. The bit had to be backed up frequently to keep it from biting in too much, and downward pressure was minimal, but in a few minutes I had a new, enlarged, perfectly round hole.
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Widening a hole with a twist drill can result in chatter, leading to a three sided hole, as happened in this other project.
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Using the hand brace to widen the hole I hoped to get a round hole that I could use the tap on.
Next to tap the hole. The fiberglass deck at the location of the hole was reasonably thick, and this helped the tap start easily. The tap was turned with a wrench, with as much downward pressure as my other hand could muster. Turning the tap required a lot of muscle, however the tap did seem to be cutting the fiberglass as opposed to pushing it aside and forcing its way in. At this point I was committed, if the deck cracked I would deal with that later. It was going so well I forgot to get a picture of the tap in action.
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I now have a threaded hole in the deck, ready for the new drain.
The new bronze drains turned in easily, but did require quite a bit of force to get them up to the top of the deck. I am not certain this technique would have worked if I had started with the 1-5/32″ hole recommended. I put a bit of caulking on the threads when I was screwing them in and a bit more on the underside of the deck. I will check them later and may put more caulking on the underside when the weather warms up.
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New drain screwed in place.
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New drain from below deck.
Next was to replace the existing through hulls with new ones sized for the 1″ hose. The through hulls were reasonably accessible and did not require more than the normal amount of contorting and positioning yourself in unnatural positions. The visible caulking was scraped away and the backing plates screwed off and the old through hulls pushed out. The holes in the sides of the hull were enlarged using a step bit and a battery drill, working from the dock on one side and from the dingy on the other side. New through hulls were then installed, and 1″ I.D. hose connected to the new drains and the new through hulls.
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Original through hull removed. Hole was enlarged with step bit working from the outside.
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The new drain, with hose connecting to the new through hull. (Reminder, must clean or replaces some of those other hoses.)
For the new system the most restrictive point is the I.D. of the through hull at .75 inches. The I.D. of the old through hull was .45 inches. Thus the new system produces a cross sectional area of .44 sq. inches, as compared to the original of .16 sq. inches, an almost 3 fold increase, and the sharp right angle bends are replaced with the sweeping curve of the bronze units.

This was one of those projects where everything went right the first time. We need that every once in a while don’t we? Maybe the next project will go the same way.
 

Rail Mounted Tray

11/12/2009

 
I wrote earlier about the fold down table made for the rear deck area. The table works fine, always available and out of the way when not in use. However it is not very big. Thus when Patricia does a full meal there is not enough room for everything on the table. The table cannot be made larger without making it much less convenient, or at least I could not figure out a way to make it larger and convenient. (By the way isn’t working on problems like this one of the fun aspects of boating.)

Eventually I began working on the design for a small – call it a holding tray- that would be attached to the side railing and hang mostly overboard. I envisioned the tray being used more for snacks than meals, and hanging it overboard would maximize space for deck chairs when guests are on board.

A tray was made of 1/2″ Starboard with aluminum fiddles around the outside edge. The shop CNC’d some units from 1″ UHMW to attach the tray to the rail. Next was the support to keep the tray level. Using stainless steel rod I fashioned some supports that were attached to the underside of the tray and rested on the fiberglass walls of the aft deck. It did not work. Nor did the second configuration or the third or the fourth.

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This is the rail where I first tried to mount the tray.
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The tray.
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The original rail clips and locking tabs could still be used, it was the support system that did not work, leaving many unused holes in the underside of the tray.

 ”Patricia, you will have to live with what you have.” At which point she started using the boarding step to handle the overflow of dishes. It worked during the 3 weeks of cruising we got in this year, but…

 Then, sitting at the table one day I started looking at the unused flag holder attached to the top of the fiberglass railing. Perhaps I could use the rear rail, along with a folding leg down to the flag holder to prop the table level. The table was already made, with the railing attachments, and a leg could be fashioned from Starboard. The Starboard would need to be bent, something I had never tried before. 

After my previous failures I could not wait to get to the shop so I would work with the tools I had available. The leg was cut to size. Leaving lots of extra length as the final fitting would be through trial and error. The U shaped cut was made using a jig saw, at the point of the bend the Starboard was cut part way through with a hand saw and then V’d out using a wood chisel. Starboard is great to work with. I had never worked on it with a chisel, but the V was cut easily with just hand force. The piece was then put in a vice, heated with a hot air gun, and bent by hand. It bent easily, but there was a lot of spring back so it was held in place until it cooled. It cools slowly! I cleaned up all the saw cut edges with a fine rasp. It went quickly and finished smoothly. As I said earlier, great stuff to work with.
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The top rail that I would mount the tray to, the flag holder, and the new rail and table previously installed.
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The existing table and support leg. The support leg had never been a problem.
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The Starboard support leg, shaped and bent.
Down to the boat to attach the leg to the tray using a stainless steel hinge. The leg had to be cut a few times to get the length that would keep the tray level. And - it works!
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The completed tray in place, a step up from the table.
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Support leg wraps around the flag holder.
While the table can be left permanently in place, the tray cannot and will have to be stored when not in use. One last problem. The heads of the bolts holding the leg to the hinge prevented the leg from folding flat against the table. I had a large drill bit on board and thought I would try and drill some shallow holes that the bolt heads would drop into. I was concerned that the grabby nature of all plastics like Starboard would pull the drill right through the tray. However with slow speed on the battery drill, and withdrawing the drill every few turns all went well.
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Divots, to allow leg to fold flat.
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Leg folds flat against underside of tray.
 ”Patricia, you should sew a case for your tray so when we stow it nothing gets scratched.”

- Dennis
 

Winter Cover

03/30/2009

 
Winter Cover Supports

I have a full winter cover for my boat. The high point is at the helmsman seat on the upper deck and from there it slopes down to the rear rail and then down to a cinching strap at the level of the swim grid.

The problem is right at the rear rail. The fabric sags a bit, the water collects a bit, which cause it to sag some more, so it collects more water etc. It very quickly collects a huge amount of water, probably approaching 100 lbs. (Say the equivalent of a 20 liter pail on each side which would be 88 lbs.)
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To overcome this problem I made some pads of 1/2″ Starboard, a marine plastic. On the underside of the pads I attached plastic donuts of a thicker material, the supporting rods would go into these donuts. The donut holes were made larger than the supporting rods so the Starboard pads could pivot and take the slope of the cover.
The bases were welded and screwed to pieces of plywood. Under the plywood I put some expanded rubber, the type that is used on boats to keep the plates from sliding off the table. However even this was not enough to keep them from sliding, and thus the upright supports had to be tied in place so the cover would drain properly.
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Problem solved. No more ponding water.
 

Rearview Camera

03/30/2009

 
Rear View Camera

Pretty hard to make a case for this indulgence. Call it redundancy, always a good strategy where boats are concerned.
When steering from below, which I do frequently, as soon as it gets a bit rough, I cannot see behind the boat from where I sit to steer. The dingy mounted on the swim grid blocks my view. Thus to get a look behind I have to leave the wheel and go on deck to get a look over the dingy. Then the boat would get off course, quite quickly if it was a little rough, thus the auto pilot was added. However applying the principle of redundancy the camera will eliminate the necessity of going on deck, however if I do have to go on deck I have the auto helm.

I had actually played around with some rearview mirror ideas, none of which worked. Then I came across an article on rear view cameras in DIY Boat Owner magazine.

These cameras are made for RV’s, buses, and vehicles in general so I knew there would be some issues during the install. The magazine article was well researched so I felt confident going with their recommendations. My email with the few questions I had was quickly answered, another good sign. (www.rearviewcamera.net)

The monitor mount that came with the kit was made for vehicles. A ceiling mount of 1/4″ Plexiglas was easily fabricated, attached to the ceiling, and the monitor attached to the mount. No trick here, but doing things like this in plastic sure makes it easy.
The outside camera mount involved a little more work. The kit came with a camera mount to go on a flat surface. A platform for the camera mount was fabricated, that would then attach to the rear rail of the upper deck. The cord from the camera would go into the cabin through a hole drilled in the cabin wall. However the cord from the camera is not very long and if the camera was mounted on top of the rail it was very tight to get it through the hole. Thus I opted for a lowered platform design, which lowered the camera by about 1″, but this was all I needed. For the platform I used 1/2″and 3/4″ cutting board material because that was handy, but I could have used UHMW or Starboard. The upper and lower pieces were grooved out to take the 1″ railing, and then bolted together and then the camera mount attached to the platform. 

Again this was a very easy fabrication. The trick is to think of plastic as an option for dealing with these situations. Drop in and see us!
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Auto Pilot

12/22/2008

 
Based on last summers cruising, which I did alone, I felt an autopilot would be a handy addition to Morning Star.
I will spare you all the planning - where to locate the flux gate compass, how to tie the rudder sensor to the rudder arm, and all the work of stringing wires through already overcrowded conduit, and move on to the parts where I made use of PlasticWorks.

The wire sizes, to avoid voltage drop, were very large, 8 ga. These wires were too large to attach to the course computer and I had to install a short length of 10 ga between the course computer and the 8 ga. These are still very stiff wires that could not be tucked out of sight without pulling them loose from the computer. It looked terrible…
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The plastic solution was to have PlasticWorks make a simple bent cover of black .060 ABS that projected below the computer and covered the wires. The cover extends a long ways under the mounting shelf so anything slid underneath will not pull the wires from the computer.
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I wanted to mount the autopilot controller to the ceiling of the cabin. This would make it visible from the helm yet far enough away from the radio and compass to not effect them. A simple Plexiglas bracket was the answer. The installation instructions had a mounting template, fully dimensioned, so the bracket was CNC cut for the holes needed and then bent to the viewing angle I needed.
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I also had to string the wire from the controller to the course computer. This is the wire running to the right of the controller, along the aluminum window frame, with no visible means of support. To keep the wire tight to the aluminum frame I used a dab of E6000 adhesive behind the wire and held it in place with masking tape until the glue set up. I was very pleased with how this worked out.
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The wire does not show up well in this picture, but it is not going anywhere. E6000 adhesive is available at PlasticWorks. We use it regularly in our shop for dissimilar materials, such as acrylic to metal.
 

Propane Box

12/18/2007

 
Propane Box

Warning: What follows is a description of what I did. It is not a recommendation, has never been inspected, may not be legal or meet any required codes.

This was an early project, but one of the most involved.

Morning Star has a propane stove. The tank was located under the console of the upper bridge deck. The tank was old and rusty and not fastened down. As well, over time holes had been drilled from below to route wires for radios, antenna cables and miscellaneous other add ons. Propane is heavier than air. Thus any leaks in the vicinity of the tank could find their way into the cabin.

I was going to correct these problems by putting a new tank in a sealed box with a vent line so that any escaping gas would be vented over board. It sounds simple but there were many little problems to be solved along the way.

The box and the tank. While there is lots of space under the console the door into it is of limited size. Also the front to back distance is limited, so any size box would have to go in with a twist so it sat at an angle to the fore aft line of the boat. A regular propane tank would not work. After much searching I found a very expensive aluminum horizontal tank that would fit the box size limitations. The final size of the box was now worked out. The box had to contain the tank, regulator, pressure gauge, solenoid, and allow for the propane to exit the box to the stove in a non leaking manner and for any propane within the box to be vented over board. The box would have a shoe box type lid, with a gasket, held on with bungee cords. 

A female mold was constructed using melamine, the corners filleted with body filler, and then the fiberglass was laid in. Lay up consisted of 1.5 oz mat, 18 oz roving and 1.5 oz mat. The mold was then taken apart to remove the fiberglass box. 

The filleting I had done was pretty rough so the corners were cleaned up and filled and smoothed. No one was going to see the box so I was not very concerned with appearance. Plywood strips were cut to hold the tank in place and Sikaflex was used to attach these to the bottom of the fiberglass box. Sikaflex was also used to attach plywood at one end of the box so the regulator could be attached without having bolts going through the box. The box was then drilled so a brass fitting could be inserted, sealed from both sides, the hose from the regulator attached at the inside and the outside connected via a flexible line to the line that ran to the stove. A second larger hole was drilled, a through hull fitting was installed, sealed from both sides, and a large hose attached outside the box and lead to an existing vent at the leading edge of the console. Single sided foam tape was used as a gasket on the inside of the lid.
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On the left the propane line going to the boat system, the large through hull fitting and hose to take any leaking propane over board, oh yes and the electrical lines leading to the solenoid. Bungee cords holding down the lid.
The ins and outs of things:

 It became apparent during the above process that the only way to get the tank in and out of the box was while it was outside the console. Thus the supply and vent hoses had to be long enough for the box to be taken out from under the console without having to remove them each time. Taking the box from under the console onto the deck so you could check the tank or remove it for refilling was difficult, you had limited leverage to lift it, were working on your knees in a tight space etc. 

To make this easier I used some cut to size 2×4′s and plywood to raise the area where the box sat so that it could be slid out rather than having to be lifted out. To lock the box in place I attached aluminum angle to two sides of the box, with slots cut in the aluminum so hold downs could go through the slots and into threaded inserts set in the plywood. The aluminum was attached to the fiberglass box with Sikaflex. (Just an aside here. I have had Sikaflex affect some paint so that the Sikaflex and the paint just peel away from the substrate. My rule now is to apply Sikaflex only to gel coat or raw fiberglass.)

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Box going in. It is a tight fit and at this point the box must start its twist to the left. Note aluminum hold down brackets.
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Box in place and locked down to the raised plywood shelf. The red and gold lines on the left are the control cables for speed and shifting. The white block of UHMW behind them protects them from being cut by the aluminum hold down when the box is going in and out. That is how tight this installation is.
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Under the upper console the vent hose from the propane box leads to an already installed vent. Any leaking propane will vent out above the front windows.
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The box lid with the sealing gasket.
The verdict. 

With a new tank, and all new fittings the chances of leaks are minimal. However I am quite convinced the set up will function as intended. The weakest point is probably the connection between the flexible hose leaving the box and the copper line that runs through the boat. I just have to be careful when removing the box that I do not pull it out too far and put stress on this joint. The foam tape used as a gasket in the lid seems to provide a good seal all around the edge of the box. The aluminum angle hold down system has survived some rough crossings and appears adequate to the job, and is fairly easy to position. 

Yes the lid should be painted and also the plywood shelf, but I was so tired of this project by the time I finished I just closed the door and went cruising.

- Dennis Facer
 

Note Holder

12/18/2007

 
Note Holder
I always used to think of solving problems using wood (my dad was a carpenter). Then when I went into the roofing business I discovered sheet metal, and a lot of the problems wood could not handle sheet metal could. Now in the plastics business I think I have found the most versatile material of all.

Cruising alone I often had the need to jot things down, course notes, weather, slip assignments going into a marina etc. How could this be done easily and unobtrusively?

My solution was a little bent piece of acrylic that would sit next to the console. So easy to do in plastic. Perhaps we at PlasticWorks can help you with solutions for your projects.
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Out of the way and convenient.
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Ready to write.
 
 
There are 3 Novus products: Novus 1 is a straight cleaner and anti static preparation for acrylic. It is not a scratch remover.
Novus 2 is used to remove fine scratches or hazing.

Novus 3 is a much more aggressive scratch remover than Novus 2 and can be used for deeper scratches. Novus 3 should be followed by Novus 2.

If you have some real serious scratches I have used 1000 grit wet dry sandpaper followed by 500 grit and then Novus 3 and Novus 2. This will remove very deep scratches and bring back full clarity, but you will have a dip where the scratch was.

For my project I had some instrument covers that needed refinishing.
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This is a picture of a cover from the top deck. I used some masking tape to divide it into 2 sections, and then went over the right hand side with Novus 2. This cover was virtually a throw away but Novus 2 brought it back to full clarity, and very quickly.
These 2 pictures are of the guage cover of the battery charging unit. This was in very bad shape. As well as having everything rubbing against it (it was located in a locker), it appeared to have been swiped with acetone or some other solvent. 

I only used Novus 2 on this and it took a long time to bring back clarity. The clarity is better than the picture shows as my focus is a bit off, as shown by the printing to the right of the bezel. Novus 2 saved me having to concoct a new bezel.

The Novus products are not a magic bullet. They do require elbow grease, but they do the job. Available, of course, at PlasticWorks.
 
 
Propane Sniffer

The old propane sensor was dead and needed to be replaced. My plan was to replace it with the same brand in the same location and avoid any rewiring. The old unit was quite flat and screwed directly to the valance. The new unit was bigger, and made to be mounted in a cut hole. Seems not all new models are advances. The sensor was kept in the same location by enclosing it in a black plexiglass box and mounting the box to the valance. Because of the increased depth of the unit the box had to hang below the valence. It works, is convenient to the stove, and avoided some rewiring, but not as pretty as the old model.
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The plexi box is notched to keep it as high as possible. The extension above covers the unfaded mark of the old unit.
Radio Holder
The kids who inherited this boat just cut the wires and took the old radio out. Again it was a case of putting a new radio back in the location of the old one as that is where the speaker and power wires led. I had purchased a car stereo-CD player and the bracket for mounting was made for a car. A holding shelf was fashioned out of black ABS, sized to hold the radio and with side wings that allowed it to be screwed to the underside of the wooden shelf above. The instruction book for the radio was bigger than that for the GPS and the VHF and the unruly mass of unused wires coming from the back of unit made for an ugly mess. Although you cannot see it in the picture, the mess of wires was covered by a piece 1/16 ABS, loosely screwed in at the corners.
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