Monday, May 2, 2011

White Caulking

It was suppose to be an exciting day but it ended up being a long hard day and an exciting night.  I have been looking forward to the day when I filled all the gaps between the planks on the boat deck.  I knew that once the gaps were filled, the look of the boat would really come to life.  I had been thinking about this look for months.  I failed to realize how much work it would be to get to that point.  Once this step was done, it was very exciting to see how it all turned out.

The morning started about 9:30 am on Saturday when a good friend and airplane builder Dave Pohl stopped by to take a look and I put him to work for a couple hours.  Dave helped me tape off the boat and mix epoxy and was a great help.  After Dave went home I thought that I would have about 30 minutes remaining to finish up but it actually took me another seven (7) hours before I was done with the caulking.
A couple of months ago I spoke with a Chris Craft Restoration builder and builder of some of the most beautiful wood boats that I have seen on the Internet about caulking my boat.  He does not use caulking because it breaks down in time.  He uses a mix of epoxy and white pigment with a caulking gun.  I figured if it is good enough for him, I would give it a try. 

The problem with epoxy is that you need to pace yourself because the mixture will harden.  I had purchased empty plastic caulking tubes but after listening to a good friend who used this method to apply the epoxy I had second thoughts.  He said it was a mess, trying to fill the tubes and problems with air in the tubes.  What I ended up doing (and it worked great) was to use clear empty catsup bottles that I bought at JoAnn Fabrics.  I only needed two bottles and I rotated them with each mixture of epoxy.

The reason it took me so long to caulk all of the gaps was the thickness of the epoxy.  It is extremely important to get the mixture thick enough to stop the running (flow).  I used cello-fill and microballoons the help thicken up the mixture.  The boat deck has a large arch in it and the epoxy wants to flow to the bottom which leave low spots and the extra epoxy runs to the bottom.  I found myself constantly dragging epoxy over the gaps to make the mixture level.  I had work in an area that epoxy had set up and keep moving around the boat (for hours).

Another problem I had was pulling the tape off.  I needed to wait until the epoxy had set up enough that it would not pull out of the gap, like taffy and when the epoxy finally kicked off, it was too late to pull the tape.  I ended up using a razor knife and a pair of tweezers when that happened.

The final problem that I ended up with was, dripping.  When I installed all the deck plank boards I used screws and washers as clamps.  Well they made holes in the deck (Dahh.....).  My original thought was that the epoxy would be thick enough to fill the holes and it did but only after dripping all over the inside of the boat.  Lucky for me, I had plastic sheets covering the floor but the inside walls had white epoxy dripped all over them.  Nothing that an hour worth of clean up with Acetone could not handle.

It was 7pm when I called it a day and the caulking turned out great.  Next will be to sand it all flush and smooth.  Then apply two more coats of clear epoxy on the entire deck.  Then 4-6 coats of Varnish over the entire boat (except the painted bottom) with sanding between every coat of epoxy and varnish.

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