Delamination!

January 11, 2021

That’s a scary word to a plywood/fiberglass boat builder.

No, the hull is fine (I poke, prod, tap and check it about once a month). But far into the project I ran out of the super-grade Brynzeel marine plywood I used to build the majority of the boat. I just didn’t want rent a truck and head up to Massachusetts for just one sheet. So I built out part of the interior with Home Depot birch ply. As you can see, the dinette drawers, with absolutely no direct exposure to water, literally fell apart, and the last deck storage box I built was not looking good.

The top of the engine box, even after a lot of beefing up of the structure and fiberglass on the top, still seemed a little flimsy and actually blew off during Tropical Storm Isaias and damaged the mahogany trim around the edges. So I broke down and bought a $193 sheet of Joubert 18mm okoume plywood from General Marine in New London, which now carries a pretty good selection, and went back into boat carpentry.

The Igloo cooler I used as a step into the starboard side of the cockpit really wasn’t needed for ice and leaked something terrible, so with plywood in hand, I built a new stern deckbox, a new box for storage and the step, a new engine box top, and remade all the drawers.

The new drawers are basically little boats — 9 mm marine plywood left over from building a skiff for the Connecticut River Museum, glued up in a jig with epoxy, filets on all the seams, with fronts tabbed in with fiberglass. When the Tardis is a wreck in some Florida backwater 50 years from now, the drawers should be able to float off downstream by themselves to a new life.

The deck boxes both have waterproof hatch covers with a lip around the inside of the box and a tightly-fitting lid. Unless water can run uphill a good ways, they shouldn’t leak. The engine box top is now extremely sturdy and held down be an oversize latch.

I have gone through all the rest of the galley areas where I used the useless birch ply and they look okay, but just too be safe, wherever I could see an exposed edge, I painted it with clear epoxy. The floorboards are epoxied to AC exterior underlayment plywood (not from Home Depot!), and look good, but when they come out for varnish, I am going to recoat their undersides with a tough epoxy bilge paint.

So the moral of the story is exactly what I was told by John Brooks at the WoodenBoat School 30 years ago –no matter how good a piece of plywood might look in the store, don’t let anything but sapele, okoume or meranti marine ply stamped with the BS1088 rating go near your boat!

Probably won’t be posting for a while. Since the Tardis will be up in Maine for the next two summers and stored there next winter, I won’t have land access to the boat until it lands in Florida after a trip down the Intracoastal Waterway in the fall of 2022. So I am painting and varnishing every inch inside and out. I have already changed the color scheme on the outer cockpit sides a bit, taking them from varnish to paint, and putting Interdeck non-skid on the side decks. The cockpit ties in much better to the rest of the boat now.

Home Depot crappy plywood after three years of use
Drawer-building jig
Beautiful new drawers
New deck boxes
Water-resistant lids
Third time better be the charm for the motor box lid
Hurricane hasp
New side deck non-skid and paint

2 comments on “Delamination!

  1. Ray Gaulke
    January 12, 2021 at 7:27 am #

    Thanks for the update I think I saw most of that work Really beautiful work Stay safe Ray

    Like

    • Ton Schoenmakers
      June 26, 2021 at 12:09 am #

      Paul,
      While you faced delamination of your drawers 3 years after your maiden voyage, Sytse and I had to redo our drawers today,and Arnhem has not even been near any body of water she can float in.

      For one thing, Sytse designed drawers, not doors and shelves, for every possible storage cabinet area.
      And the drawer slides had to be Blum, his favorite brand as cabinet maker.
      Well, that’s a European brand, and all their measurements are in millimeters. No problem for a couple of Dutch-American guys, as you would think.
      As it turns out, it was. We prepared some 15 drawers out of marine grade plywood, only to find out they did not fit with the projected hardware and had to spend a full day -and more plywood- to fix it.

      But there is a positive way of looking at it.
      Sytse told me it is the first time in his career that he erred that way, but I could assure him it was probably also the last time in his career (retirement is around the corner).
      And it is not as costly as the $125M Mars Climate Orbiter loss. We’re still on the low end of that scale.

      Like

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