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by Dan Rogers - Diamond Lake, Washington - USA


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One of my all-time favorite movie scenes comes in the middle of The Agony and the Ecstasy,  where Rex Harrison yells up from the floor of the Sistine Chapel - paint splattering his papal robes - at Charlton Heston:  “Buonarroti!  When will you make an end?!?”  To which Michelangelo replies from a rickety scaffold, high above, with the perfectly useless, but timeless answer:  “…When I am…FINISHED!” 

It’s a scene that I find myself playing out over and over again.  Usually I play both the pope and the painter.  Sometimes, regular folks unwittingly play the impatient pontiff.  But, the question is essentially unchanged.  “How do you know when it’s good enough?”

And the answer is also pretty much unaltered from instance to instance.  “You don’t.”

At least, I sure don’t.  This particular project is really only a few weeks old.  Frankly, I’ve gotten a lot done.  And, a lot of that is probably “good enough.”  Equally hard to know which is stingier in rewards, and more difficult in standards of excellence, intrinsic or extrinsic critiques.  But, all that is pretty extraneous, right now.

You see.  This girl is supposed to look good.  Perform well.  And, be different enough from anything else “out there” to make all this grunting and groaning and flailing “worth it.”  So, I’m attempting to make something that nobody else has ever done.  At least, not quite the same.  Often, radically different than what anybody else has done.  Talk about a hairball set of goals!  Anyhow.

I’m closing in on the last big unknown on the list.  Maybe nobody can figure this out for me.  I certainly haven’t found anybody willing to expend the brain cells and head scratching that it would apparently take to do this by-the-book with a view to the time, talent, equipment, and resources that I can supply.  As in: lots, some, quite a bit, and not much.

Here’s the deal.  I made this top out of curved layers of 1-inch insulation foam, glued together with PL Premium construction adhesive.  The foam matrix was over-flexed to return to an about-right amount of curvature.

Then, this huge surf board cum toboggan was progressively shaped to emulate but not quite duplicate the lines established by the original designer and builders in a series of complex curves defining the cockpit edge and some stylistically interesting deck contours of the hull.

Then, I armoured the entire matrix with pieces of 1/8” plywood.  This “door skin” material was glued to the foam with PL as well, and held in contact (imperfectly) with use of a long list of differing techniques and articles that lent weight and portability - tires, steel pipes, etc.

I decided to forgo the added structural enhancement of vacuum bagging.  And actual mechanical fastening was pretty much hit or miss.  The edge curves were cut with a Japanese pull saw to a rough approximation of the line, that was itself a rough approximation of the goby line(s).  Then, with the limits placed by excessive joint pain and spinal stenosis and all that stuff that comes with “the territory”, I picked up my quite-heavy belt sander and proceeded to carve the edges in both fair curves and some semblance of a single plane as it wraps around this monolith.  “Chainsaw surgery,” if ever there was a case.  When I figured either that I would probably drop the damn sander, or when I actually thought it was “good enough,” I gave up the edge carving.  Then, with the full spectrum of success and failure, I glued a 2” wide strip of door skin around the edges, taking huge advantage of the gap-filling nature of PL.

As luck would have it, my most recent order of fiberglass tape was not yet arrived, so I cut strips from a sheet of specialized glass cloth that is truly NOT a good candidate for this sort of improvisation.  These strips were stuck over the edge, and held it in place in a more or less accurate representation of what the thing should look like.  Finally, the whole shootin’ match was glassed over in a single sheet.

The underside was varnished.  And, then through a feat of gymnastics, I got the whole thing up and sort of poised for the next phase.

Right now, is the phase in question.  The one that has had me pretty much stalled for several days, now.  Mostly, I just stand out there and visualize stuff.  Often, in the middle of the night, I’ll be out there standing on the ladder, studying imaginary lines on imaginary window frames on imaginary structures as the boat pitches and rolls and pounds into an imaginary head sea.  Checking for sight lines.  Checking for fair curves and potential joint failure.  Mostly, I’m pretending to be one of the Real Guys standing there and trying not to gag on my less-than-Chippendale workmanship.

Pictures don’t really convey this conundrum.  Words sort of just bounce off.  Like those bullets from Super Man’s chest.  And, there isn’t another one quite like it, to compare it to.   Equal parts blessing and curse.

I carved an inch and a half thick cedar 2x6 into a pair of “window sills” for fitting into the gaping hole along the sides of this thing.  Then the big decision to either made individual window frames to stick up one at a time.  Or something else, altogether.  I won’t further confuse the issue, other than to show a few photos of what is sort of mocked up right now.  This thing is gonna’ take a couple days to “build itself.”

Then, maybe I’ll have something, decent, to show.

Maybe a half-day on the table saw and router table and sander and jointer will render enough tigerwood strips to glue over that obnoxious green plywood that is itself a fairing panel.  Maybe.

Until then, do have a productive weekend…

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