Page published 20 January 2021

Go to Top Sanding Down Starts At Last

9 February 2011

The time has finally arrived. I'd been thinking about it for a day or two. After all Spring does seem to be on its way. Today I went in search of Imagination. In spite of having had the task in mind for a week or so, I didn't manage an early start. It was just after midday when I got to the yard.

Having got there it turned out that it was a search too! Imagination wasn't to be seen. However, before full-scale panic had set in, I found her, now on the other side of the roadway in the yard.

What had really made up my mind that it was time to start work was that a fellow SeaHawk owner, on the Tees, had been posting messages about his winter refurbishment on the SeaHawk Forum. If he can do it - and he's much further north than me - then surely I ought to be braving the chill and getting outside and on with the job in hand. I'd already been thinking that in no time at all everyone at the yard will be clamouring for use of the shed to do some pre-season painting and I'll find myself at the the back of the queue.

Sanding started

Sanding started on Imagination

Having reversed the car onto the ground beside the boat it was out with my specially purchased connector lead. This allows me to plug in my sander to the 240v supply. Being a boat yard, the power supply is the same as you would find for a shore-line in any marina, and uses a special round-pin plug. The connector proved a bit stiff on first use, but didn't really cause a problem.

Next, I cut a length of "Liberty Green" abrasive paper, fitted it to my orbital sander and went to work. I thought it might be wise to start somewhere simple, so I chose the transom. It was the only flat area of the boat which didn't require me to climb aboard and as I had planned to start with the hull I hadn't brought my step ladder.

It was a shame the weather was not as good as yesterday, when we had clear skies and sunshine through almost the whole day and a temperature a reasonable 8°c. Today was deeply overcast and no warmer than 5°c, but at least winds were light so, wrapped up in my oldest jeans and anorak, I was warm enough.

I'd been at it about 15 minutes when I realised I hadn't taken a photograph to record the start of work. I made a brief pause to get the camera from the car. It was then I wished I brought my gloves. My hands were already white with the finest dust and, I feared, would get on the lens, as it was the body of the camera took on a light dusting of white powder.

Then it was back to work. I carried on solidly for just over four hours, packing up as light was beginning to fade. One mistake was that I had failed to bring a knife to cut open the packaging of the face mask I had bought. When I finally stopped work I had a nasty feeling that my sander was making a little more noise by the end of the session. Hardly surprising given that it was several shades lighter than it had been when I started. No doubt there was still more dust sucked into the works.

It wasn't so much that it was getting dark that made me stop work so much that I couldn't see what I was doing through the lens of my goggles. I had taken to wearing them when, after the first hour and a half, when I realised my glasses were getting mucky. The last thing I wanted to do was give them a wipe and risk scratching the lens so I pout them back in the car as they were. The trouble was that taking the new goggles out of the plastic packaging had, seemingly, given them a good static charge. The cheap plastic one-piece lens was attracting dust still faster than my spectacles were. As it got closer to twilight, it became harder and hard to distinguish white hull from whit paint through the white dust on the lens.

So at quarter to five I packed up for the day. I took another photograph to show the state of play at the end of the first session. The tally: the transom and about a three foot length of the port side. The curve to the hull side hadn't proved to be such a hassle as I had imagined. It just required a firm push on the sander to prevent it flying about all over the place. The edges of the "planking" was a little more of a problem, but I can't really tell whether I made a good enough job. That will take better light than I had when I finished.

End of the first day's sanding

Imagination after the first day's sanding down

On the basis of progress on the first day, I estimated it might take about forty hours to complete the job. However, I don't know whether the greater number of nooks and crannies on the cabin and cockpit will make the job harder. I may well have to buy a smaller tool than the half-sheet orbital sander I have been using today. I am also conscious that the fore hatch and cockpit sole both have textured surfaces and I don't really want to sand that away. It could be that I'll have to buy some chemical stripper to help with that part of the job.

However, whatever the problems to come, I'm glad I have made a start.

Go to Top Sanding Down: Part Two

16 February 2011

A domestic crisis, a blown immersion heater in an all electric house, meant that I was diverted from boat business in the early part of this week, but with hot water restored and better than forecast weather it was back to the boat this afternoon.

This time I remembered my knife, so I was able to wear the face mask I had bought. However, wearing the mask seemed to make my goggles steam up, so I ended up abandoning them again.

Sanding continues

Sanding continues on Imagination

It may look as if there only a little of the gunwale sanded in this first photograph, but in fact there's some additional five foot of the hull back to the gel coat as well. After a couple of hours work and with the sun set I retired for the night.

Sanding continues

Imagination after the second day's sanding down

The zoom on this photograph makes it look as if very little has been done... Well, I'm going to blame the zoom!

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19 February 2011

The weather forecast had not looked good all week. That didn't stop me feeling hopeful that somehow I could fit in a bit of boat sanding. Part of the idea was that I could introduce Diana to Imagination. Diana had arrived for the weekend late on Friday evening and, although things didn't look too hopeful, I remained vaguely hopeful we might both be able to spend a little time at work on the boat.

It was Saturday morning and I remained more hopeful for some time spent sanding than sense would have allowed. I got as far as emailing my good friend Ian, saying if he happened to be my way could he drop in the extra tools he'd talked about, to help with the sanding task. After all, I argued to myself, there was no point in introducing Diana to the boat without her being able to feel part of the project and that meant I'd need a second sander for her to use.

Ian arrived soon after, with Jan his wife. He brought tools. She brought a splendid cake, so we spent an hour or so chatting, drinking coffee and scoffing cake.

Sanding tools

Sanding Tools

I would have added a photograph of the cake to this post had it not been too delicious and all gone by the time I thought it would be mentioned in this blog, so all I can offer is a photograph of the half-sheet and detail sander that Ian brought over, together with a good collection of appropriate abrasive.

Go to Top Sanding Down: Part Three

24 February 2011

Another week of not enough activity on Imagination! The weekend had proved far too damp to be worth an attempt at sanding and it wasn't till this afternoon that I finally got to her again. At the weekend Ian had recommended that I buy a Tyvek overall, even suggesting a place to buy one. I had been talking of how filthy all my clothes were getting. I hadn't got round to searching for a local supplier but, for the first time, did dig in an old drawer in my garage to find my conventional blue cotton overall.

It turned out to have been attacked by mice. I've no idea when that happened. The drawer had not been touched since moving house 10 months ago and was one that bird feed nuts had been stored since before the move. No doubt, it was the nuts that had attracted the mice in the first place, but whether the attack had taken place here or at my old home I could not tell. The volume of old nut skins found in the drawer suggested that it might have been recent. However, examination of the overall proved that it was only a small area near the bottom of one leg that was affected, so still wearable. I put it on and drove the short distance to the boat.

Immediately I set to work with the sander. It was only after I had that I realised that I'd failed to bring the spare tools that Ian had brought me. Still, I figured that it didn't matter too much. There was still plenty to do for which my half-sheet orbital sander was the perfect tool. First I got on with another three foot section of hull, then I did the whole of the gunwale as far forward as the front of the cabin. Then I returned to the hull and managed another couple of feet of the hull. That took a couple of hours but was better progress than I reckon I made last time.

It was shortly before sunset, so I grabbed the camera and took a couple of shots before the light really began to fail. I was now far enough forward that I couldn't take my photo from the same angle as before, but the setting sun meant I also couldn't take the shot from the angle I would have preferred, so the picture I managed isn't the best.

Sanding tools

Boat under-going sanding

My plan had been to carry on for another half hour. I'd already been interrupted by a guy who wanted to talk boats suitable for fishing. However, when I picked up the sander it began to play up, either running very slowly or not at all. That was enough for me. There was little point in struggling on. So I threw my tools in the boot, together with my overall, which I had peeled off and turned inside out and went home.

Go to Top Sanding Down: Part Four

25 February 2011

After the collapse of the sander, last night was spent taking it apart. There was dust and muck everywhere. I don't know why I worried about overalls and keeping things clean!

In getting the machine apart, I think I managed to damage the rubber posts that connect the sanding plate to the body of the machine. The screws that pass through the plate and secure it to the rubber posts seemed to have bored out large holes and they no longer were gripping properly by the time the pieces were spread out on my kitchen work top. I cured that by the simple expedient of reversing the rubber posts. The screws at each end seemed to grip again.

It was then that I realised that one of the wires on the main switch had come adrift. I put it back in the hole and tightened the screw. A good clean-up of as much dust as possible was followed by a little lubrication and re-assembling the machine. I plugged it in and... it worked!

So today it was back to Imagination. I was at the boat a couple of hours earlier than most of my trips so far. I hoped that there would be enough time to finish the whole of the rest of the port side of the hull. But first a another view of the end of yesterday's work...

Sanding tools

Yesterday's Sanding sanding progress on Imagination

I put in a couple of hours work and was making good progress. Experience had taught me that the secret was in changing the sandpaper regularly. Trying to keep a sheet going for too long just meant that your arms ached more and progress slowed.

Then it happened. Exactly the same as yesterday. As I pulled the trigger, after taking a minutes break to rest my arms, the machine groaned and didn't come up to speed as normal. I released the trigger and pulled again. Nothing!

Yesterday, after the fault occurred, there had been several times when the sander would make a groaning noise and run at slow speed, or be dead, or run at full speed only to run slow as I turned the sander to bring the sanding plate up to face the hull. Then I had concluded that the machine had just overheated. This time I assumed that the wire had come loose again. I had, after all, really been giving it some wellie and maybe it had shook itself apart once more.

Thinking about it since coming home I wonder if it had just over heated. I really does seem unlikely that the screw on the switch had come loose again so soon. I'm also not convinced that it could be down to failure through excessive dust. I'd expect more of the groaning, if that was the case.

This time, the breakdown was less of a worry. I had remembered to pack the spare tools, supplied by Ian. I got out the larger sander, a 1/3 sheet model with a 135 watt motor, against my 180w 1/2 plate model. What a gentle beast it was. I could control this one single-handed. It didn't need pressing hard with both hands to hold it in place. However, it wasn't exactly raising much dust either. But, I had no choice if I was to continue work, so I settled down to a slower session.

Fifteen minutes later, the reserve machine made a horrible noise. Not only that it was shooting sparks out of vents in the casing. It looks as if the motor's brushes have given up the ghost.

Sanding tools

The Progress after Sanding Session Four!

There was nothing for it but to take a photograph of the day's progress and pack up for the day. I didn't dare get out the second reserve machine, the one designed for delicate work and end up with three broken machines. I guess I had better let Ian know I have wrecked his machine!

Never mind! There was a pile of ironing waiting for me to do when I got home, so I wasn't idle!

Go to Top Sanding Down: Part Five

27 February 2011

On Saturday the weather wasn't so good, but while work wasn't done on the boat, I did need to do something about a lack of sanders. I emailed Ian telling him about the collapse of his and that I was about to buy another and got the response "stick it in the bin" and an offer further sanders.

So in the evening I went over to pick up a whole collection of goodies, including a 1/3rd sheet sander 135w in original manufacturer's packing, a circular orbital sander 400w and a large circular orbital sander 600w, plus a "proper" dust mask. When I got there I was also offered a full face mask.

We spent much of the evening talking cameras and it was late when I left. I got home, cooked myself a meal, and then went to pick up my sander. Before going about the business of taking it apart, I plugged it in, and as if to prove my theory that it had overheated, it sprang into life. Oh joy! I wouldn't have to take it apart. With that I retired to bed.

I slept well and long. It was around midday on Sunday before I got to the boat. The previous day's rain seemed to have washed the boat clean. The dirt that smeared the windows yesterday were now clear and I could actually see into the cabin.

I fetched the cable from the car's boot, connected it up, got out my tool box, which I use as a low stool to sit on when tackling the lower part of the hull, sat on it and plugged in my sander. Picking it up I pulled the trigger. It fired up beautifully. I swung the plate up to face the hull and the motor died. It didn't just run slow. It died completely. I swore gently under my breath but as I went to put it down again it burst into life again. I then spent a few moments swinging it up towards the boat, when it died, only to return to life each time I went to put it on the ground. It did this repeatedly. Three or four times was enough to convince me that last night's theory of it having overheated was very definitely in error.

It seemed reasonable to turn to "The Brute" as Ian had called it last night, his 600w circular orbital sander. The first thing I noticed about it as I fired it up was how quiet it was after my 280w 1/2 sheet sander. Mine wined and rattled with a penetrating, high pitched, note. Ian just shook and hummed with a low pitch growl. Then it struck me how heavy the thing was. I had been warned to ensure the sanding surface was held firmly against the hull or it would go into circular mode and probably "go through the boat".

I slapped on a sanding disk and started. It certainly cut through the paint OK, but it was heavy. It was also circular. This meant that it didn't present a lot of sanding surface along the long creases in the hull's mock clinker planking so, although a beast, and heavy, it didn't really get the job done much faster. I pointed out it was heavy, didn't I? It's something you couldn't help noticing. You noticed every time you put it down to take a rest, a very necessary and regular activity with "The Brute". You noticed how heavy it was when you picked it up again, as well.

On a more positive note it didn't seem to generate so much dust as my sander. This was definitely a good thing because this was the first day that I had done any sanding in good sunlight. I had started out wearing both Ian's dust mask over my nose and mouth and his full face mask to protect my eyes. The trouble was that I was doing the side of the boat that meant I had the sun in my eyes. The reflections inside the face mask meant that I couldn't see what I was doing properly. That was always going to be a problem when removing white paint from a white hull. Within two minutes that had come off and apart from my glasses, which seemed unaffected by the sunlight, my eyes went unprotected for the rest of the afternoon.

It rather made me wish I'd never touched the face mask for, as I always seem to be doing with equipment borrowed from Ian, it had fallen apart while I was cleaning it earlier. I was just turning the knob that was supposed to tighten the headband and ensure it was a good fit. I gave the knob half a turn and there it was in my hand, with a nice hexagonal hole where the nut had pulled through the plastic. I had stuck it together with Sellotape and realised that would be another confession I would have to make.

After from needing to take regular breaks to give my arms a rest, the sanding went well enough. I did worry at one stage that the parts of the hull that I treated to "The Brute" had a slightly coarser surface that that which had seen my sander, but even if that did appear true, I soon had to move to a finer grit as I had exhausted Ian's supply of circular sheets graded the same as the ones I had been using on my sander. Eventually, I completed the port side of the hull, except for a small area near the trailer winch.

Sanding to post complete

Sanding complete on the port hull

It certainly hadn't been any quicker doing the job with "The Brute" and that was a disappointment. Getting into the tight turns on the gunwales and clinker effect steps was definitely much harder to do. Indeed, I resorted to doing those areas by hand.

It was now around 16:15 and I began work on the starboard side. I couldn't face the prospect of working with the beast on the bottom of the hull, so on the second side I started at the gunwale. Again I had the difficulty of reaching into the fold. Then it occurred to me that my own sander seemed to work when held vertical. I plugged that in and it certainly helped, but it was not an answer for it all as it died again when turned to do the more vertical surfaces. In the end I took to sanding by hand with a small block.

Sanding starts to starboard

Sanding started on the starboard hull

As I was working a guy approached asked what kind of boat mine was. It turned out that he owned Latrigg (I think she is - I must check!), a Sabre 27 yacht moored nearby. We had a lengthy chat about electronics and communications, as he was about to fit gear to his boat to allow him to have an Internet connection anywhere. It involved using a print server and an aerial at the masthead. I must have a further chat with him about that. I was too tired to absorb it all and finish off sanding the starboard foredeck gunwale at the same time.

After Malcolm disappeared to do his work I realised that it really was time to pack up. The sun had dipped near the horizon and was now hidden by dark cloud. It had suddenly gone chilly. I packed up and came home. I hadn't got done quite as much as I'd hoped with the two sanders and extra time, but it was worthwhile progress.

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