Monday, September 15, 2008


A number of people have been kind enough to ask about progress on the Mill Creek 16.5. I'm touched by the concern, and inspired to resume the project. Nothing serious has kept from the project; when I missed the deadline of having it ready for the WoodenBoat Show '08 in June, the project was then relegated to secondary priority. A number of other household projects have taken up my time since then. But I will make a concerted effort to return to the build, and finish up what has been an enjoyable project so far. So look for updates to resume soon. And thanks so much for your interest!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

JCH at CLC saves the day with his CNC

The first big goof in building the Mill Creek 16.5 became apparent yesterday as I test fit the side deck panels. After having tested them prior to permanently installing the bow deck, I now found that my haphazard placement of the bow deck left a gap between it and the aft deck panel that was too large to be spanned by the precut center/side panel. The precut parts are cut with excess material to allow trimming to an exact fit, but I used up all that buffer by moving the bow deck panel too far forward. The error left about a quarter inch gap that needed to be spanned. Since I plan to give the deck a bright, or varnished finish, filling the gap with an additional scrap of wood or even peanutbutter epoxy would have been unacceptably unsightly. I had first resolved to order another sheet of okoume plywood and cut replacement parts myself, making them just a bit longer. However, the fine folks at Chesapeake Light Craft helpfully offered to cut a custom panel with the needed extra length. This will be much cheaper than purchasing and shipping an entire sheet of plywood! Thanks CLC!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Deck installation continued with the foredeck. This process was the same as previously described with the aft deck, except that the foredeck is significantly larger. It also must be worked into a sharper curve than the aft deck; the radius of the deck is 24" at the deck beam, compared to 30" in the aft section. To hold the deck in place, I applied a rachet strap at the location of the deck beam. I also used several spring clamps to hold it along the border of the cockpit at the carlins. Nailing along the sheerclamps every 3", and alternating sides every 4 nails or so eventually worked the deck into place. I found that my original positioning was a bit off, and the port side near the bow almost didn't cover the sheerclamp- put it came out flush, and will merely eliminate the need for much trimming in that area. Total hours 34.00.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Aft deck

After a bit of a struggle, I finally overcame my procrastination and planed the sheerclamps, prior to deck installation. I'm not sure why I had avoided this for so long, but on the hottest day of the season so far, I used my inadequate, cheap block plane and worked the clamps into the proper angle. Two templates are provided in the kit- the angle of the sheerclamp aft of the forward hanging knee should meet a 30" radius curve. At the bow, the angle changes to a 24" radius curve. I found that little planing was needed in the forward area, but the 30" area took a good bit of planing to meet the proper contour. I won't say my planing was skillfully done, but the final result should be reasonably acceptable.
Then before dehydration set in, I installed the aft deck section. The precut part was first coated on one side with unthickened epoxy. This side then was turned to face the interior of the aft air chamber. The endpour, sheerclamps, and bulkhead surface were then coated with mustard thickened epoxy, and the deck was clamped in place. I also applied a ratchet strap to temporarily hold the deck to the proper contour. Next, bronze ring nails were driven through the deck into the sheerclamp with the aid of a gauge that allowed them to be positioned squarely in the center of the sheerclamp. I spaced the nails along the sheerclamp every three inches, driving a couple on each side, alternating sides all the way to the stern. Once the nails were all driven, I wiped up some mustard epoxy drips, and went inside for a cool drink. I now know why boat builders tend to set up shop in Maine! Total hours 32.75

Saturday, May 17, 2008

End pours

I decided to do the optional step of end pours. This is simply pouring a fairly large amount of thickened epoxy into the very tip of the bow and stern hull. On some smaller kayaks, end pours are accomplished by hoisting the hull vertically on end and pouring the epoxy into the hull, then letting gravity keep it in the tip. However, in a hull the size of a Mill Creek 16.5, it is easier to use the dam method. I cut some corrugated cardboard to a shape that would fit snugly in the end of the bow and stern. I covered the cardboard with clear plastic packing tape, and also used the tape to seal the edges against the hull wall. At this point I could pour epoxy that had been thickened with wood flour --but was still pourable--into the chamber created by the dam. I ended up doing a pour at both ends in two stages, to reduce the amount of heat generated by the curing epoxy. It was an unusually cool evening, and yet the heat of the chemical reaction could be felt through the wood and fiberglass of the hull wall. These end pours will add weight to the hull, but also will add strength and impact resistance. Total Hours 30.75.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interior epoxy

Last night was spent doing some prep work for the upcoming deck installation this weekend. That is a definite planned event, since it is one of the few times I will have a helper available...and I anticipate that an extra pair of hands will be useful while installing the deck. So in anticipation of that, I did some work that should have been done earlier, at least as called for in the construction manual. This included some sanding of fillets and rough fiberglass tape edges, as well as rounding off the edges of the hanging knees. After that, I could begin epoxy coating the interior. To be honest, I am not putting a lot of effort into nice finishes in the bow and stern compartment, as these won't be seen much after the deck is installed. However, I am trying to keep the cockpit space as neat as I can, even though it will be painted. So the first of several coats of epoxy was rolled on and allowed to cure. This must be completed by this upcoming weekend so as to be ready for the deck. My original schedule to also construct seats and hatch covers will be deferred, but I hope to also do some of that this week. Total hours 29.75.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Brackets and Cleats

Over the past couple of days, I have been adding coats of epoxy to the hull exterior to fill the weave of the glass cloth. Between the last two, I sanded the surface with 100-grit paper to knock the peaks off the texture that was printing through the epoxy. With a nice, smooth surface produced, I then flipped the hull. The next step was to install some fittings, including seat cleats and brackets for the foot brace rails. The forward set of brackets are normally through-bolted, with a bolt head visible on the hull exterior. Instead, I used some special fittings with a bolt and perforated plate which were glassed onto the hull interior. The position for the forward foot brace rails was measured and marked. The substitute bolts require the plastic rails be drilled out slightly to enlarge the existing mounting holes. These bolt brackets were then glassed on the surface of the hull with a combination of silica thickened epoxy and unthickened epoxy to wet the glass tape that had been cut in 3" x 3" squares with a hole cut in the center. Once the glass was wetted, I taped the bolt to hold it in place. The instructions call for rolling the hull on its side and allowing gravity to hold the mount in place until the epoxy cures. This would have been easier and neater.

The aft pair of foot braces will be screwed into riser blocks so as to clear the hanging knee in that location. These blocks were simply epoxied into position and held in place with tape while the epoxy cured.

Finally, simple 3/4" x 3/4" pieces of lumber were epoxied into place on the hull floor to serve as seat cleats, or guide rails for the seat assemblies. Care must be taken to use the correct pieces of wood: for each seat there are four pieces of lumber- three are longer than the fourth. Two of the long pieces are used as the seat guides, while the third is used as a structural part of the lower seat. The fourth, shorter piece is used as a structural part of the seat back. The guides were measured and aligned, then epoxied into place with silica thickened epoxy and weighted until cured. Total hours 28.25.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fill the weave

Another coat of epoxy was rolled on the hull exterior in order to "fill the weave". This is merely the procedure to build up a layer of epoxy just sufficient to cover the texture of the fiberglass cloth and produce a smooth surface for later varnish or paint. The coat last night was very thin; I can see already another will be required.

Also, I have worked out a rough timeline to finish the Mill Creek 16.5 construction. The goal is to have major construction finished by the end of this month. That will allow about two weeks for finishing, varnishing and painting. So by the middle of June, we should be ready for water. The ultimate goal is to paddle around the harbor in Mystic CT during The WoodenBoat Show 2008. Total hours 24.50.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hull Glass

After some prep work, including filling stitch holes and chine gaps with thickened epoxy, and a final overall sanding of the hull, the fiberglass could now be applied. A large bundle of 6 oz fiberglass cloth is supplied for this purpose. It is unfolded and draped over the hull, and the excess trimmed off to where only a small overhang remains beyond the edge of the sheerclamp. The loose weave of the cloth allows it to be arranged without wrinkles fairly easily. Then, in a technique detailed here, batches of unthickened epoxy were mixed and poured onto the flat surface of the hull. Using a rubber spatula, the epoxy is gently spread so as to wet down the cloth. The idea is to get the cloth just wet enough that it turns from white to clear, but so that some of the cloth texture remains after the epoxy is cured. This allows the cloth to adhere to the wood of the hull, providing strength, durability, and waterproof-ness. Adding excess epoxy also adds weight, and runs the risk of "floating" the cloth out of close contact with the wood, reducing strength. It is a slow and painstaking task, but after a couple of hours, the hull was glass coated. Then, after a couple hours, when the epoxy was semi-cured, I trimmed the excess cloth from the bow, stern, and sheerline. Additional cloth tape will be applied to the bow and stern, and additional thin layers of epoxy will fill the weave of the cloth, leaving a smooth surface. Total hours 23.45.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Program note

No post today as minor sanding and prep work continues on the hull. The plan is for a glassing of the entire hull exterior tomorrow. Further, a plan is in place to complete major construction of the Mill Creek 16.5 by the end of this month (more on that later). That will leave about two weeks for finishing/painting/varnishing. And then, the tentative plan is to take the boat to The Wooden Boat Show in Mystic CT, June 27-29. High Hopes!

N.B.: Some of you may be curious as to where to find the Passagemaker Dinghy Forum for builders and fans of this CLC design. The forum has recently been moved to a new home, and can be found here. Interested in learning more about this nifty little sailing dinghy? Check out CLC's Passagemaker page, and my first blog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hull glass prep

No video for this post, as the task at hand consisted mostly of sanding. And the only thing more dreary than sanding is watching a couple of minute of video of someone sanding. Anyway, with stitches removed, the hull now can be prepped for application of a layer of fiberglass. Before that step, however, the hull must be smooth with no sharp edges. Fiberglass has a limited capacity to bend around sharp corners, so the chines must include a radius, and all the other dings, snags and seams of the hull must be smoothed. I had to use a chisel to lop off a few protruding copper wire stitches that weren't flush. That worked fairly well, except for a few additional gouges I put in the wood with the chisel. Then came out the "Darth Sander" costume, and sanding began. The chines also were rounded off with the trusty Black and Decker quarter sheet orbital sander and some 100-grit sandpaper. After careful work, the result is a nicely smooth and well-radiused multi-chine hull. Before glassing, though, gaps in the chine seams and stitch holes will have to be filled with thickened epoxy, and the hull sanded again. But that's the topic for next post! Total hours 19.50.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stitch removal

The hull could now be flipped over, and the copper wire stitches removed. The approximately 250 stitches that had been painstakingly drilled and twisted have now served their purpose, and were clipped off flush with the hull exterior. The portion of the stitch embedded in the epoxy fillet will remain, but the exterior portion was clipped off. I found it easiest to untwist the tighter stitches a few turns, in order to provide room to slip the small wire cutter under the loop. A word to the safe: wear eye protection! Some of the wire fragments can fly in dangerous directions. With the stitches removed, the hull is now ready for sanding and filling prior to fiberglassing. Total hours 18.50.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


With the deckbeam in place, I next installed the carlins. These are small, flexible pieces of lumber that will form the framework that supports the inner edge of the deck, along the periphery of the cockpit. In contrast to some reports of other builders, I had no problem bending the carlins along the fair curve described by the hanging knees and deck beam. Chalk it up to the humidity of spring in the deep south, I suppose. After a bit of trimming and bevelling at the bow end of the carlins, I tested for a tight fit in the notch formed by the blocks on the deck beam. Once everything was ready, I mixed a small amount of mustard epoxy and coated the mating surfaces, the returned the carlins to position and clamped in place. At the bow, I clamped a piece of scrap to wedge the two carlin ends snugly against the deck beam notch. Total hours 17.50.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Installation of some structure to support the deck came next. The position of the deckbeam was measured relative to the forward bulkhead. The pair of arched, precut plywood pieces had been previously epoxied together, forming a strong beam unit. Holding the piece in place, the ends were marked and cut, then bevelled and planed until they fit snugly in place between the sheer clamp in the correct position. Pilot holes were drilled and countersunk for #8, 1-1/2" bronze screws to hold the beam in place. Next, the centerline was measured by dividing the beam by two. This matched well with the centerline position given by a string stretched from bow to stern on the hull. From the plans, the position of the wood blocks were marked on the deck beam, and these were also drilled and screwed into place. Once everything fit satisfactorily, it was all disassembled. Some mustard epoxy was mixed with silica, and the parts were coated at the joint faces. The beam and then the blocks were screwed back into place. I had intended to install the carlins as well, but decided to let the deck beam parts cure before that. Besides, I only have two bar clamps, and will need two more to do the carlins... Total hours 17.00.