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Thread: Joel White, fasteners and fiberglass

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Rochester, NY
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    Default Joel White, fasteners and fiberglass

    New builder, have plans and guide book for Joel White's Shellback. As well as few well respected books on lapstrake boat building.

    The one lesson I have really heard a lot is 'do not deviate from design.'

    Makes perfect sense to me.

    Current plan is to stick exactly to the Shellback plan - which means to not use any fiberglass and also not encapsulate the entirety of the planks in epoxy. Stick to using it as an adhesive and edge sealer. Not only does Joel not mention this but other current designers (Ross Lillistone for instance) advocate letting the wood breath under a layer of paint. My Shellback will be 'moored' in the garage when not in use and lead a semi pampered life. The downside of a layer of fiberglass to me is extra weight, and deviates from plan.

    Many really nice boats though have a fiberglass layer on the bottom to improve durability or using an epoxy coat over all of the wood. If the Shellback was designed in the early 80's maybe the virtues of epoxy were not completely understood? Would it be a technique that Mr White would suggest now? If I attended a class a Wooden Boat school for a Shellback or Nutshell would coating the wood in epoxy or using fiberglass be the norm or suggested?

    And, heretical thought, if I am using a layer of fiberglass, or fiberglass taping the seams as some have done, do I still need to use the bronze fasteners? Other more modern plans seem to use screws to bring the boards together but then remove and fill the holes.

    I really think I can't go wrong sticking with the plans.

    Thanks

    John

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    SF Bay Area- Richmond
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    16,001

    Default Re: Joel White, fasteners and fiberglass

    As we say here, "Stick to the plan, man!"

    Remember that there is a HUGE difference between building with dimensional lumber (aka "solid wood") and marine ply. Boats built from marine ply are now often just clamped together and glued with epoxy, but solid wood moves too much to allow this process and still requires fasteners.
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  3. #3
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    Mar 2014
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    Rochester, NY
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    Default Re: Joel White, fasteners and fiberglass

    there is a HUGE difference between building with dimensional lumber

    Yes, but the Shellback planking and transom is plywood. Stem and mid-rib are laminated lumber. But I appreciate the "stick with the plan"

    "
    exposed plywood edge grain is potentially trouble."
    Yes, will seal this with epoxy. Very tempting to tape the seams you mention. Maybe that is not so much deviating as adding to?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
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    Narragansett Bay and Approaches
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    208

    Default Re: Joel White, fasteners and fiberglass

    I seal the bejesus out of plywood with epoxy. I might not with solid timber.
    Glued Lap Plywood sailing dinghies have been successfully built and used in the UK for many years.
    I don’t see why the Shellback is any different. I think fasteners are dreadful things which invite water and rot right where you want it least. I don’t wear a Breton Cap and have a neck beard, I think Gougeon Brothers had it dead right as far as plywood boats go.
    SHC

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Location
    Madison Wisconsin
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    9,278

    Default Re: Joel White, fasteners and fiberglass

    A couple thoughts..... First of all, I think the idea that your wood can "breathe" through two or three coats of enamel is a bunch of crap. It is not as vapor/moisture resistant as epoxy resin coatings would make it, but the idea that the wood is free to exchange moisture with the air sounds like pure bull to me. If it was doing that you would have an awful lot of prematurely peeling paint.

    Also be aware that epoxy resin coatings, and epoxy/fiberglass coatings, do not go on smoothly. It isn't varnish and doesn't behave like varnish. It needs to be applied in multiple coats (with even more of them to fill the weave texture if glass fabric is involved) and the surface does not cure to a smooth, good looking finish. If you want the boat to look anything other than crude and amateurish the epoxy will need to be allowed to cure fully, then be sanded smooth and painted or varnished to protect the resin from UV. Trying to epoxy coat or fiberglass clad even a fairly small wooden boat adds a whole lot of cost, labor, complexity and build time to the job.

    And it is certainly true that we constantly see beginning builders screw up perfectly good boats, not because they are bad craftsmen, but because they think they have a better idea of how to build the boat than what the plans call for. They usually don't. Get a few builds under your belt before you wander off the path

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    361

    Default Re: Joel White, fasteners and fiberglass

    Not sure what letting “letting the word breathe” means. This is a plywood boat. There are several layers of wood glued together with waterproof glue. The inner layers can’t “breathe” even if there’s no finish on the outer layers, nor would you want them to.
    The boat is designed without all of the extra weight of the fibreglass and epoxy. Adding the extra weight will change it, not for the better.
    There are plenty of people sailing plywood boats that aren’t sealed with frp and epoxy. If they get a scratch in the paint they touch it up. If they get a gouge that goes through into the wood a suitable filler is easy to find.
    Your first instinct is right: stick to the plan. It’s a really good plan.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Freeport, ME, USA
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    7

    Default Re: Joel White, fasteners and fiberglass

    I built my Shellback in 1998/99 and like you, strove to not deviate. I only used Eric Dow's 3 part series in WB on how to build as a guide, but didn't skimp on materials and put quite a bit of effort into the details like the crowned breasthook and lovely, if un-necessary inwhale.

    In the end, when it came time to paint it, I realized I still had a goodly amount of Goudeon's finest left over with no good use for and only a lot of effort to dispose of or transport to look forward to, so opted to coat the exterior bottom and interior bilge with the dregs.

    A good blush wash, some serious sanding to smooth holidays and 20 years of hard use later he's still going strong, maybe looking a little treadworn, but strong and showing no signs of suffering from rot or malfeasance due to using the goop.

    I'm just an amateur, but I'd say there's a benefit in durability from that extra coating. If you're building a museum piece, don't do it. If you plan to row up onto rocky shores or leave the boat out in bad weather, slather on, dude!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Hull, QC, Canada
    Posts
    26

    Default Re: Joel White, fasteners and fiberglass

    I built a Shellback last year and followed the plans and Eric Dow's How to Build book, to the letter pretty much.

    I also read Ian Oughtred's book about glued clinker construction and was interested in his comments about reducing / eliminating screws in boat construction.

    One thing I would do differently next time is to use clamps rather than temp drywall screws to join the planks together during glue up: The screw holes were a pain to fill and it was hard to be consistent about clamping pressure. Oughtread details this method in his book.

    I would also consider omitting the screws for the gunnel and or inwale. Not sure if this is a good idea, but it occurred to me if I ever had to repair or replace the gunnel it would be very hard to do with all the buried screws.

    I just painted the hull and I'm happy with that decision. Sure it gets scratched up, but I just repainted in the spring and nbd. I'm happy to just put a coat of paint on every year if that's what it takes. I did sheath the bottom with Dynel cloth though - I think I got that from Oughtred's book.

    Oh, another thing that isn't covered in Dow's book is sealing all the plywood end grain with epoxy. I didn't do this because I didn't know to, but next time I would definitely soak all exposed end grain with a couple coats of neat epoxy before painting.

    Anyway, off topic, but I wanted to add how much I love the boat. I had a little adventure with my Shellback yesterday - rowing and sailing to windward all afternoon and evening in 20 kts (in and out of shelter). Not a big deal for some, but definitely outside my comfort zone. It was a long slog, but the boat looked after me the whole way. I wasn't sure if I would be able to get where I wanted to go, but I never felt in mortal danger. Thank you little Shellback!

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