Kevin Walsh
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Fat Guys
Building Boats

Amateur Hour
by Kevin Walsh

Better Living Through Chemistry

I'm a big fan of The History Channel (also known in my house as The Hitler Channel) and during one unfortunate lull between documentaries about World War II, a short program came on which undertook to describe old barns, covered bridges and other types of structures that managed to remain standing hundreds of years after they were built. The program ascribed this architectural miracle to the use of mortise and tenon construction techniques rather than the nail, and went on to blather endlessly about mortises and tenons, but I had already stopped listening. I already knew that mortise and tenon is simply the old fashioned name for epoxy.

The fact is that without epoxy, I simply would not be building a boat. The reasons are legion. First, nails are dangerous. Like bullets, they are designed specifically to puncture a variety of materials, with a particularly nasty propensity for piercing my own flesh. It's well known that the first nails were invented by Torquemada, noted Spanish Inquisitor and amateur carpenter, a man who was consumed with the idea that every tool should have multiple applications. His ambition was well realized with the evil nail, puncture implement extraordinaire and excellent distribution mechanism for the tetanus bacilli. 

"But wait, Kevin!" I hear you exclaim. "Are not screws equally facile fasteners?" To which I must respond with an alternative inquiry, are not screws but twisted nails? And are not nails sufficiently twisted implements of torture all by themselves without adding sharp, gripping ridges that prevent a relatively clean extraction from a puncture wound?

Contrast this horror with epoxy. Aside from those unfortunates sensitized to epoxy exposure, what is the worst thing that can happen to you when working with this amazing substance? I suppose you could glue your hand to your face or something similar, but only if you hold it good and steady for six hours or so. Your muscles would cramp up well before the glue cures, thus preventing a decent bond, so this is rather unlikely. No, epoxy is safe and effective, and you must be an even bigger fool than I am to get into any real mischief with it.

Epoxy has none of the harmful vapors associated with such other common word-worker staples as paint thinner. I became well acquainted with the effects of paint thinner only recently when I painted the hull of my boat. Intent as I was on applying a smooth finish, I couldn't fail to notice when my dog began to utter short, derisive comments on my brush tipping technique, after which he proceeded to melt into a white and brown pool at my feet. 

Consider all of the wonderful uses to which epoxy can be safely put. The enterprising dieter might glue the refrigerator door shut to prevent those late night snacking episodes. Of course, given the availability of a hair dryer and chisel, such an obstacle can surely be overcome, but the calories expended chipping away the granite-like gobs would surely make up for any bingeing afterward. To get that last burst of speed in the swimming pool, glue your toes together for "flippers au natural." For those minor emergencies around the house, epoxy can work wonders when surgical sutures are in short supply. And the opportunities for practical jokes abound, not the least of which is the venerable but ever entertaining "huge glob of snot" trick. (Hint: husbands, make sure you've already ordered those flowers!)

So enamored am I with epoxy that I've applied it in huge, glopping gobs to my small boat project; nails and screws be damned. All of the concerns I once had about epoxy have fallen one by one, to the point that I have only a single worry remaining, and I would appreciate any information readers out there might have on the topic: does epoxy float?