What happened to the building log?


Torn rotator cuff. Mother with cancer. Depression. Apathy.

Sometime over the summer...
I welded together the masthead. The masthead is ¼" stainless pipe, 4" tall, 4½" Ų. The tangs are ½" except for the ghoster tang which is ¼". It could be called 90% finished because I still have to weld a seat for the lights.

Built a rowboat and some oars.

4800 pounds of lead in the same place at the same time for a total cost of about 7 cents/lb.
The keel will be updated periodically.

01/24/02 - The terseness of the above section should be indicative of a "Not much fun" year last year. The crises are past and I hope at this point to resume my saga in greater detail.

First month of '02 - A recap of boat related events and progress to date.

The hull is ready for painting. I'm experimenting with homemade Copperpoxy. It's $300.00 a gallon. It purports to be great stuff, but You know me, I'm a cheapskate. Chances are though, that given to my desire to "get on with it" I'll break down and just spend the money. More on that later.

The frames where the keel bolts will attach the keel to the hull have been substantially beefed up. 1" holes have been bored into the frames. All is ready for the ballast keel.

Up until one day last September I'd acumulated about 800 lbs. of lead scraps; cast iron soil pipe joints, bits of lead flashing, the occcasional lead pig from a plumber on a jobsite. Then I got a call from Buddy Borders, an old model railroading friend, asking if I was still looking for lead. He works in the machine shop at The University of Pennsylvania. They had a mountain of lead they wanted to get rid of, and Buddy told me to "make us an offer we can't refuse." His superiors approved my offer of 10 cents a pound and we made arrangements for me to come over and pick it up.

A week later I arrived in my Honda Civic Hatchback, "The World's Smallest Fully-Enclosed Pickup Truck", and took away one ton of lead. Wipe that look off your face! I made three trips, 700, 700, and 600 pounds. I loaded 500 into the back of the car and 200 on the floor on the passenger side. Piece of cake. A week later I went back and got the rest. It makes a pile of bricks about 3'x3'x2'

Every once in a while after building the keel plug I'd look at it and say to myself, "There's something wrong with this picture." I'd take it off the shelf on the wall and put back up on the boat, and look at it from different angles. I'd study the plans again, then look at it some more. The more I looked, the more I realized that it wasn't shaped right "at the pointy part." To put it simply, it was too fat.

So began another seemingly endless series of sanding, shaping, 'glassing, fairing, and sanding and fairing... ad nausium. After several more weekends that I'd like to not think about, the plug was "acceptable." Not less, but sadly not more either. Encouraging words from Brian, "It'll be underwater. Nobody'll ever see it.", allowed me to forgive myself for it's not ever being absolutely perfect.
This picture doesn't show any of the numerous hours spent finishing this big pink pig but...
there's another pic of this lovely work of art later on down the page.

Being virtually and woefully clueless about sand casting, I'd thought it would be a simple (and cheap) matter to substitute concrete for sand. Fortunately I was convinced by several sources that this was madness beyond even my acceptable level of lunacy. In short, the concrete mold was sure to explode on contact with molten lead.
Mongo provided the links for sand casting research and materials. So I expanded my knowledge base beyond what you could print on a matchbook cover.

The prospects didn't look too encouraging from my viewpoint. The materials weren't going to be cheap. The operation was going to take up a lot more space in an already cramped workshop. And, I'd be left with quite a lot of "stuff" I'd hopefully never need again.
Three sheets of sturdy plywood and a dozen 2x4's, 1000 lbs. of sand and 250 lbs. bentonite, and a couple gallons of fuel oil. Where do you get two gallons of fuel oil? Do you stop an oil truck making a delivery and say, "Can you squirt some oil into these milk jugs for me, please?" Then I'd need to fabricate an eight cubic foot cauldron capable of holding seven cubic feet of molten lead without collapsing or springing a leak; another daunting project. Finally, I'd have to dispose of all the setup gear just to be able to move around in the shop again.

Realizing that I'd have to do some Iron Work anyway, AND, remembering my reading of Jacques Mertens' Serpentaire plans, I decided to cut a couple of steps out of the entire process by "fab'ing" the keel from steel plate, then filling it full of lead.
I used 1/8" mild steel plate and 6013 wire to weld it together. I ordered the plate sheared to size, (more or less), from a local ironwork shop.
I used God's Own Everlovin' Keel Plug to "as-built" the offsets for the frames for the interior.

I erected it right side up, cutting the bottom first and tacking the frames on 12" centers all along the "box" part. Then I wrapped and clamped the sides on. A couple of tacks here and there held the whole thing in shape. Later I stitch welded all the frames to the sides and bottom.
For the "nose" I made a construction paper template using G'sOEKP, cutting the paper along the edges of the nose. I traced the pattern on a piece of plate about three feet square and cut justabout to size, leaving it just a tad full. I bent the nose using a piece of 1½" steel rod and a pair of sawhorses, and a Bigass® rosebud torch. (That's a brand name by the way. You just won't find it in any family oriented catalogs. Dawgs and Ironworkers know where to get them and how to use them.) Bending the nose took the best part of a day none the less, heating and bending, heating and bending.
Once it was shaped to my satisfaction I lined it up and tacked it to the box. It took a couple of tries to get lined up exactly right, but then I welded it solid.
The anchor bolts are welded to framelets and have 3"x3" plate washers bolted on the bottom ends.
All done.

The red iron on the milk crates was used to fab a frame to hold and level the "container" for the melt & pour. I'll use four scaffold screw jacks to level up the top edge of the container.

Second month of '02

02/02/02 - Nautical Follies celebrates its Second Birthday !!!

02/02/02 - Got to the shop at 7:30 AM to prepare for the casting session. Cleaned and moved tools and the tablesaw. Conducted the "water test". That means pouring a couple of gallons into the container to see if it leaks, in case you wondered. Found a leak. Rolled the container over and dumped out the water, welded the leak. Grinded the surface smooth again. Rolled it back upright.
After having cleared and cleaned the area out, I moved the support frame and container over next to the lead. Those are the bricks on the right. The top of the container has been leveled. Here's another view below.

Brian arrived right on time at 9:30. This him a little while later, (10:30). Mongo arrived at about 11:00
We stacked 1400 lbs. worth of bricks into the container and I placed two Harbor Freight flame throwers under the container. It now became its own cauldron. We used a third flame thrower on top, playing it over the bricks.
Brian in his new Carharts, safety glasses, and Organic Vapor Barrier Respirator on the left; much smaller pile of bricks on the right.
"What are those "C" clamps and angles doing there?" you ask.
Well, I've been dreading some sort of catastrophe ever since this project first began. That may be in part why I've taken so long to get it done. Call me chickenshit if you like, but nearly 5000 lbs. of molten lead on the loose should give any madman or dog pause for concern, or paws for concern, as the case may be. I had both. So I added extra legs as insurance. They helped spread out the center of gravity, (maybe). They DID raise my peace-of-mind factor, in any case.

Nice and neat.
No mishaps, no lost time, no injuries.

One ballast keel!

We worked steadily, adding bricks to the soup, until 4 hours later, we were finished. Brian, Mongo and I took turns heating the top and adding bricks. Mongo made several trips to Homo Depot for more propane. The whole business took about 90 lbs. of propane.


It got (only a little) hairy at the end, as the lead got right up to the top. I'd debated with myself the idea of welding some shirts around the top, 2" above the edge of the container, but decided not to bother. There are two leadbergs that didn't melt fully. I'll either remelt them down later, or chisel them off. Haven't decided yet.

Next step will be to weld caster wheels on to the plates I welded below the frame earlier. That way this monster can be moved around. I've got six 6" wheels, rated 900 lbs.(each). Four will turn, two are straight.

Remember the couple gallons of water for "water test"?
Well, check out this Puppy!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

02/02/03 - We left off yesterday with the keel cast. But the top surface was actually pretty crappy looking. There was a bit of dross and the aforementioned "leadbergs". Usually about 2:30 or 3:00 we all begin to poop out, so unless there's something that's really, really time-critical we finish whatever we're doing the next day.

We got started this morning by chopping up a couple of the 28 lbs. pigs that I've made from my small lead mold. These we melted in a tiny 30 lb. lead pot. While that was going on, Brian used the rosebud tip on my oxy-acetelene torch to preheat the top surfaces of the keel. I say "surfaces" because as the lead cooled it shrank a bit and the very top surface became devided by the frames. We poured the liquid lead into the frame sections and by playing the rosebud flame into the lead below, married the new metal to the old. The result was a uniformly smooth top surface from end to end.

In the words of J.P. Morgan when he was having a photograph taken, "I AM smiling!"
[020203a.jpg ready to weld]
We've clamped the wheels on one side... because I have only six large "C" clamps at the shop at the moment.
(For thems of youse what don't know much about welding, things that have to be welded have to be clamped rather firmly to counteract the pulling forces of the welds as they cool.)

Just because I don't suffer fools gladly doesn't mean I don't have a sense of humor.
[020203b.jpg, copy this one to your HD]

The first wheel is done. Here I am doing the overhead welding to the second one.

[020203d.jpg wheel detail]
Here's a closeup of one of the corner wheels. As you can see, the welds are flat. It's only the insides that get the overheads. The fiberglass laying on the wheel itself is acting as a fire blanket.

[020203e.jpg wheels up!]
All wheels welded on, ready to lower monster to the ground. We squirted some additional lube into the screw tubes to ease the process.
I call it "process" because it took us 10 minutes of come down 6 inches.
Beautiful top surface, don't you think? I gave the anchor bolts a shot of cold galvanize paint to appease the Rust Gods.

[020203f.jpg the beagle has landed]
Screw jacks up, and wired off the ground. The keel is mobile, with a considerable amount of grunting and wheezing from three grown men.
I baptized the keel "Albatross" with a splash of Brian's tangerine wine and a kiss.
Mongo chides me about getting lead poisoning.

On the horizon?
Suspending the keel for the fiberglassing operation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Fan mail from a very distinguished Fan.

Chuck Leinweber is a dedicated small boat builder and the asylum-master who publishes Duckworks Magazine, a snug harbor for "Those wacky homemade boat builders." Duckworks Magazine is one of my favorite sites on the 'net and a regular stop in my travels along the Information Highway.

Chuck wrote to me today to say...

Hi, Alan - er - Maddog:

I just read your latest, and speaking as one who is very familiar with sand casting (I'm a freelance patternmaker), I think you made the right decision in casting your keel the way you did. Nice job!


So why don't ya stop Duckworks Magazine and say "Hiya Chuck, 'Maddog!' sent me."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

02/02/23 - Suspending the keel

Not a big deal really. I have lots of scrap angle iron. With a torch and a welding machine you can do just about anything. Ironworking is fun!
[020223a.jpg frame and dolly]
Brian and I began by clamping two 2x2 angles to the keel bolts at a height I deemed to be sufficient to allow the keel to be raised and/or lowered. Then we clamped more 2x2 angles crosswise at the back bolt and forward paired bolts. These were squared up and welded. 7018 wire this time because that what I have the most of, and because it's stronger than 60xx series wire.
Next we clamped 3' lengths of 3x3 angle to these cross pieces as legs. Once they were plumbed, we measured for knee braces, cut them with the torch, clamped them in place and welded them to the legs and cross pieces.
I didn't have enough long 2x2 angle so the "X" bracing for the legs was scabbed together from smaller pieces.

Here's the frame holding up the keel.
[020223b.jpg frame minus dolly]
We ran some nuts down onto the bolts and took a strain. Lifting the keel off the dolly with the nuts was actually easier than picking it up with the jack legs.
Now we have clear access to the entire keel, including the bottom. That's important because this keel will be sanded to bright metal and fiberglassed. The first coat of epoxy gets grinded/sanded right into the metal. Then we're going to vacuum bag the 'glass on. That should be interesting... I've never vacuum bagged before.

Here's a shot of the dolly and the uneven pavement out front of the shop.
[020223c.jpg just the dolly]
The way I see it, this dolly is way too narrow to travel anywhere. The last thing I want is for it to tip over. So I'm going to cut it apart and widen it to about 3'. That should provide the stability needed.


The vacuum bagging operation turns into an utter disaster.
[020608a.jpg simply a mess]
After getting everything set up, for no discernable reason I can't draw the vacuum.
[020608b.jpg kaput]

As can be seen in subsequent photos, we 'glassed the old fashioned way... by hand. I'm happy to say it went smoothly and stuck hard. As usual, two layers of 1708 and the ubiquitous sanding and fairing.

The dolly was cut apart and widened to about 3' wide.

Last weekend of August...

A New Page..."Rockabye Baby"

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Most recent revision 02/09/02