Flats Stalker 18

14. Fairing - A Strategy

Bill of Materials
1. The Strongback
2. The Pencil
3. Wood Butchering
4. Transom
5. Joining Panels
6. Round Chine Option
7. Jig Assembly
8. Stitching it all together
9. Tabbing & Filleting
10. Fiberglassing the Seams
11. Glassing the Hull Bottom
12. Fiberglassing the Sides
13. Fairing Slurry
14. Fairing - A Strategy
15. Fairing the Outside (Cont'd)
16. Skeg
17: Rubrails
18. Primer
19. Hull Flip
20. Inside Taping
21. Inside Cloth
22. Stringers & Knees
23. Installing Frames
24. Sole
25. Rod Holders
Photo Album
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Fairing the Bottom & Transom - A Strategy

I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, I suck at fairing.  However, over the last couple of days I've made a significant breakthrough.

On a planing hull (a.k.a. "go-fast boat"), the shape of the bottom can have a noticeable and sometimes a very negative impact on the performance and handling of the boat.  A hook, or concave profile in the hull bottom, parallel the the keel will waste power, provoke bad trim, and cause porpoising.  It can slow or prevent the boat from getting on plane.  Rocker is the opposite of a hooked bottom and this condition is where the hull bottom has a outward hump or curve.  This can cause steering difficulties and other issues.  So basically, on a planing hull (go fast boat), you want the bottom to have flat surfaces without low spots or humps.  

If you did a good job stitching and positioning the plywood panels, your bottom pieces should be flat and the chine edge gradually drop away from the keel line from the transom forward.  Placing a rigid straight edge parallel to the keel should show you if there are any gaps that will need to be brought level.  If you can correct the gaps in the stitching phase by adjusting a panel or shimming under a stringer or frame edge, do it.

A predictable thing happens when you start laminating the panels seams with fiberglass tape and cloth.  The once flat and "gapless" expanses now have this high build up fiberglass and epoxy along the keel, chine and transom edges.  If you place a straight edge across any direction you're going to have a gap.  Some places may have a little sliver of light showing and other places may have so much gap that you gasp as the straight edge quivers in your hand.  You think to yourself "no F-ning way".

Now, after a couple of weeks of filling low areas and sanding like a madman, I just wasn't getting the bottom "ruler flat" in any particular direction.  Sure I was building up low areas and getting things somewhat close to fair on the bottom, but not the super flat I was counting on.  So I finally said enough was enough and stepped back to see what I've been doing wrong and why things weren't to my expectations.

My 1st conclusion was that a couple of the tools I was using to lay down layers of fairing compound were just aggravating the problem.  I had a 2' long drywall or wallpaper knife that I was using to level the fairing compound over each half of the hull bottom.  This would be an adequate tool IF you kept the edge perpendicular to the hull surface as you dragged it across the areas you're trying to level.  As soon as the long edge gets a cant or angle to it, I was putting a bow in the tool that translated to fairing compound by dishing out the area I was trying to level.  Not a good thing.  I was wasting materials and time using this method and getting pretty poor results. I didn't check my work while the compound was still soft, so I was waiting until it cured, only to find I still had gaps.  My next obvious conclusion was that if the edges supporting the leveling tool weren't smooth & level as I drew the knife across an area, then the surface being faired would have the same profile as the edges supporting the tool.  Pretty obvious stuff, but then again I suck at faring!

So, I came up with a strategy and a new tool.  The strategy is very simple.  If you've ever watched or poured concrete for a floor or side walk, you'll get the idea.  To get a flat surface on a concrete floor you use forms along the edges that determine the depth and use the tops of those forms as a guide to level the concrete out.  You simply take a straight board and draw it along the form edges to level out the concrete that gets dumped in between. Now this analogy is similar to what needs to be done to all the low areas created by the build up of fiberglass along all the edges on the hull bottom and transom.

On the hull, the "form" edges will be the keel line, transom edge, and chine edges.  If those are straight and and flat, then drawing a straight edge though the fairing compound dumped into the gaps will leave you with a flat and fair surface.  So the first thing I did was to make sure the keel line was straight for the length of the bottom until in transitions into the bow.  Any low or high areas needed to be made flat.  Now the tool I switched to for this step is a 3' piece of RIGID and straight extruded aluminum I had bought for a router table fence.  I had this lying around, so to keep from ruining it with epoxy, I taped the flat faces with clear packaging tape.  Epoxy doesn't bond well to packaging tape.  I don't recommend going out and buying a fancy piece of extruded aluminum, you just need something very rigid and with a straight edge.  Now when I leveled the low spots, the resulting surface was level when the compound cured - and there were no gaps!  What a concept.  After the keel line was made level and true for about 3" on either side of its centerline, I checked and used the same techinique for the transom edge and the chines.  The chine edge starts dropping away from the bottom around Frame C, so I faired the chine edges up to the point where the drop was noticeable and just made sure that the surface inboard to the "dropped" edge was flat.

So now the perimeter of the hull bottom sections was straight and flat.  The only thing left was to use a rigid, straight tool to pull through the fairing compound and level the large expanses between all higher edges.  I decided if I filled in the gaps from keel line to chine edge, then the resulting surface would be flat in both forward and aft directions as well perpendicular to the keel.  Since the edges defining the outline of these areas were straight & fair, then the resulting surface in between will end up flat & fair in all directions, right?  

Well, as it turns out, this is exactly what happened.  So after 2 weeks of torturous filling and sanding, I finally had a hull bottom and transom that were ruler flat.  If I place a straight edge running parallel to the keel line, there's no gaps.  If I place the straight edge  from the keel to the chine, no gaps.  This covers an area from just forward of Frame C all the way back to the transom, on both sides of the keel.  I really was sweating over getting the bottom truly fair and it's a big relief now that I'm there.