Paying the Piper

My first efforts with fiberglass go back about 50 years,  patching a rotten old wooden dinghy in 1963.  A little British Seagull 1.5 horse outboard pushed that pram all over the cypress swamps of Seashore State Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Hog heaven for a 14 year old with his first boat all his own. As I recall,  my efforts at patching weren't all that effective.  The only remnant of that boat is her transom name plate, pictured above.

Over the years, I have dabbled with polyester and epoxy resins on kayaks, and even built an okume plywood lapstrake canoe with my friend Thom Hickey (a mere two decades ago).  Still, I have been a bit cavalier about the admonitions concerning clean up along the way.  Sunday I paid the price --  some scary moments with chisel and scraper.


It is one thing to face up to a few hours of unpleasant work to clean up a mess.  The trouble with this effort is that there is actual risk to the integrity of the boat, getting all the lumps and epoxied tape off the seams.  It is easy enough to imagine punching a very sharp chisel through the scant 4 mm plywood, or prying apart a seam, levering off a tenacious glob of the stuff.

I have been reluctant to use the heat gun, one recommended approach, as overheating an epoxy joint will destroy its integrity as well.  I managed to get the worst of it off, and even sanded a bit, though, I think I'll go through again with a heat gun and smooth out some of the worst of the remaining seam squeeze-out spots before I fillet the seams.

My inclinations at this point are to paint both the interior and exterior of the hull, and bright-finish all the add-ons... rails, gunnels, thwarts, floorboards, and spars.

I did some gingerly sanding with my Festool 3 mm random-orbit sander with 180 grit paper.  It wouldn't be that hard to do damage with that, either, but it does a nice job if you keep your head in the game.  And the vacuum filter makes the whole process very clean... no masks required.  Its a wonderful tool, and well worth the cost.

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