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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Indispensable Tools

Thought I would share some thoughts on some of the more uncommon tools I have found indispensable. I would classify "uncommon" as those tools not typically found in a garage (i.e. not the typical cordless drill, saw, router, etc.)

Pacific Laser Systems's PLS2
Is a laser level device that projects bright sharp crosshares completely level and perpendicular. You can optionally project the horizontal, vertical, or both. This is very handy for aligning pieces for matching heights and positioning verticals. One area where I used this device was installing the floor/tank cleats in the compartments under the main salon floor. The device has a wide angle spread (maybe 160-170 degrees). It projected a level line most of the way around the tank compartment. The top edge of the cleats are then aligned to the beam, and screwed in all the way around the compartment. No measuring (except initial height) and no sprit level needed. And quick!

Now, don't confuse this with those "cheap" laser leveling devices you see at Home Depot (I mean the sub $50 thingys, not the nice DeWalt rotary laser levels). The PLS2 uses real optics to bend and spread the beam to produce a nice solid line. Unlike the cheapies that use a diffraction grating which produces more a dashed line, and, not as wide of a spread.

Use of this, of course, requires the boat to be level, which it is. I also have the PLS5 which will project verticals and perpendiculars in 3D space which is very useful for aligning pieces on BOTH sides of the boat perpendicular to the centerline. But, the PLS2 has got the most use.

Black & Decker Workmate

Yes, the one you get bombarded with ads about just before Christmas. This is ideal as a portable worksurface in the boat, where you are constantly moving things around. And, the vise feature is a great third hand for clamping and holding pieces that need grinding and trimming.

Dust Collector w/Wireless Remote Control
We have one setup to go to the shop, and the boat. It is a 220v 5HP device with a series of ducts and gates connecting the saws and routers. Ducts also go in through the fore and aft hatch openings of the boat. This is very useful for controlling/removing dust when grinding glass on the inside of the boat. It does not replace a respirator, but helps keep dust to a minimum that you would otherwise have to vacuum up. Also, it helps keep the inside of the boat ventilated when working with resin that produces VOC gases (stuff you really shouldnt breathe).

Also part of the dust collection setup is a "cyclone catch" that separates the larger particles from the finer dust to help extend the life of the motor and impeller.

EOS Wireless iPod Speakers

Ok, so not really a tool, but I need my music damnit. I also listen to a number of podcasts in the shop. And there is nothing worse hearing an interesting topic, then having to go into the boat and missing the rest of the segment. I tried cobbling together a wireless solution using existing computer and car-stereo components I had laying around, but it just didnt work well. These are great and have really good fidelity. You can wirelessly connect up to 4 pairs of speakers wth a claimed range of 150 feet. WiFi and bluetooth will not interfere.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

More about this Coosa Stuff

If you have been following this blog, you know I rave about this Coosa board. A glass reinforced polyurethane replacement for plywood.

  • cuts easily
  • light
  • resin really sticks to it
  • does not absorb water
  • will not rot
  • strength comparable to plywood (actually, a little less in some characteristics).

Well. there are a few other things I have come to like about it. Shaping with a grinder

Coosa can easily be shaped with a grinder. For example, when cutting bulkheads, if you cant get that nice fit from your tick-stick and/or door skin template. Spot sculpting the edges here and there with a 36 grit grinding disc gets it shaped nice and quickly. Faster and easier than taking a jigsaw to it.

Routing is a snap You can really get some really clean smooth cuts with a router, almost like it were solid wood. Routing plywood tends to produce more messy and rougher cuts. Of course router bits dull much more quickly due to the glass, so, having spare sharpened bits is a must. Of course there are some things to watch out for. Glass Particles When you take a router or grinder to Coosa, it really vaporises the stuff into small particles. That means there are tiny glass particles in the air that are probably too small for a simple dust mask. If you really want to save your lungs, a respirator should be worn. Painting The surface of this stuff is more pourous than plywood. Painting it requires twice as much paint. Where possible it is worth painting a light coat of resin first to seal the surface, then applying color paint. That is assuming the paint you are using is more expensive than the resin.

Oh, and one more nice thing about Coosa: a wood chisel works really nice on it too.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Steering Mechanical Design

I may have mentioned some of the details before, but here is a drawing of the mechanical design for the steering system. It shows the side view from the cockpit to the rudder. This will be a direct drive transmission steering system, instead of the typical cable driven push/pull idler system. It uses a system of transmission shafts, u-joints and bevel gears. Advantages are...
  • more reliable (no cables to wear)
  • solid rudder feedback (very little "play")
  • more compact (no large quadrants, pulleys)
  • easier to install (the transmission tubes could be run just about anywhere).
The parts will be made by Jefa Steering Systems. The system is similar to the Lewmar Mamba System. Hopefully we will have the system coming together by summer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Forward Bulkheads and Galley

Forward Bulkheads are In!
Well, glued in permanently at least. Weather is still a bit too cold to be playing with resin and glass for the tabbing right now (in a month or two). You may recall me musing some months ago about the best way to install these. I decided, since we wanted pocket doors in the forward compartments, the bulkheads would be pieced in three sections. The ends, which mate to the hull, are 1 1/2" pieces. And, the center pieces is/will be 3/4" and joined to the outer pieces. This should leave enough room for a flush pocket door up to 3/4" plus the necessary hardware. While the center 3/4" pieces should have enough strength to mount hardware that will bear some loads we have planned (more on that later).

Work Surface
With the bulkheads set in, we now have structure to set up a badly needed temporary work surface (second picture, white countertop). Nothing is worse than tripping over and constantly moving the tools and items that naturally accumulate in the boat.

Galley Mockup
With the bulkheads between the main and forward salon installed, the opportunity has arisen to mock up the galley section (third picture). The vertical supports were rough cut a bit oversize (anticipating minor final adjustments) and tacked in with hot glue, spaced according to the design. Plywood was set over the top to simulate the counter. Now, we can get a real-world feel for the size of things that CAD and 3-D modelling just can't give you. So far, things are looking pretty much as anticipated. The mock up has reinforced that the refrigerator/ice box will have all the capacity we could ever need (after dealing with a teeny-tiny one on our 28 footer). One of the decisions this will help with is how far to set back the above-counter cabinet faces. Setting them flush with the cabin side will tend to make the galley feel small (and reduce counter space). Setting them too far back could make them impractical for storage.
(Apologies for the dirty camera lens)
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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Plug for Panbo

This has been listed on the links sidebar on this blog for a while. But I thought I would point out Panbo's Marine Electronics blog. An independant blog with lots of information for you marine electronics geeks out there. Well written, and updated frequently. The one article that recently caught my eye was NMEA 2000, Hail the first hobbyist! which points out a fellow who is hobbying with NMEA 2000 and CAN, the latest electronic networking protocols in the marine biz. I myself am somewhat of an elctronics/computer/amatuer radio geek, and could totally get into this. If I just had more time (maybe if I could train myself to not need sleep!).

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Diesel/Electric by Emotion Hybrids

I came across a company called Emotion Hybrids out of Florida that is providing marine diesel/electric solutions. Apparently started by an ex-Solomon Technologies manager. It appears they are providing the D/E propulsion systems for some of the Lagoon catamarans. Also, it appears the well known marine technology author and journalist, Nigel Calder, has chosen Emotion to provide the D/E system for his new Malo 46. Though, not in that "traditional" D/E setup (if there is one). Looks like his system will involve a traditional diesel propulsion-straightshaft-to-prop with an electric motor optionally driving the shaft via a belt system. Presumeably there will be some sort of clutch mechanism to disengage the standard diesel and engage the electric motor. The press release says the installation should be done by the spring of this year. I expect Mr. Calder will be doing a series of articles on this in Professional Boatbuilder. I am certainly looking forward to this. What will be interesting is that I know Calder has chosen AirPax's EPlex system for his boats distributed power switching. EPlex is something I am very interested in for the Westsail. EMotion has announced their system integration with EPlex. So I will be keeping a close eye on Calder's installation and performance reports.
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Click here for some YouTube info posted by the Emotionhybrids people. Some interesting technical info.

Update: Since this post writing, it was discovered that Nigel Calder in fact chose Capi2 as the digital switching system. Not ePlex.