|The RASCAL's 60 hp motor pushes her easily and economically up to a top speed of nearly 50 mph.|
Fifteen years! Not that it took 15 years to
build; it was more like a year and a half. I first
saw a photograph of RASCAL and decided
right then, if I ever build a boat, this is the
one. RASCAL was a new design by Ken Basset
for a modified V-bottom 14'10" runabout with
a beam of 5'4" and hull weight of 420 pounds.
For the next 15 years, RASCAL became one of
those projects sitting on the back burner, waiting
until I had enough time and money to
comfortably build her without having to compromise
on engine, equipment or material. I'm
sure plenty of builders out there can relate.
My first step was to set the standard to which
the boat would be built. Considering the time
and money investment, the boat design, and
the need to push my own skills, I set the bar
high: Van Dam quality should do it. Van Dam
Wood Craft is a builder of fine mahogany
boats in Boyne City, Michigan, whose
100mph, 32' runabout, Alpha-Z, was featured
in a cover story in Epoxyworks 14.
From the beginning, I sanded and triple
coated all components with WEST SYSTEM®
epoxy prior to assembly. This process seemed
to take forever, but I can only imagine the
nightmare it would have been to coat and
sand around all the frames and stringers, all
those tight little areas up in the bow, while
standing on a milk crate and bending over the
sheer rail. Then to repeat it three times. The
whole project would have ground to a halt
right there. Pre-coat. You'll save time in the
I purchased LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber,
which looks like plywood 2x10) from the
lumberyard to use as a strongback, set up the
framework, and then turned my attention to
the 120+ notches that would need to be cut
in the frames to accept the Sitka spruce stringers.
I made up a simple jig, a plywood plate
approximately 4"x6" with a rectangular hole
cut in the center. The opening in the plate was
centered over the notch location and screwed
to the edge of the frame. I placed a guide
bushing on my plunge cut router, adjusted the depth, and cut each notch in three passes.
|The framework is faired and ready for plywood. Frames and stringers were coated and sanded before they were assembled.|
Back-up blocks were clamped to each frame to
avoid chip-out. If you bevel the frames first,
the bottom of each notch will automatically be
cut to the same angle. However, I chose not to
do this at this time and used a chisel to bevel
the bottom of each notch, using the stringer as
a guide. I also used this method to cut the
notches in the white ash stem. After a little
practice, I found I could install a complete
stringer in about 25 minutes. Since the stringers
were so closely spaced, I faired the entire
framework with a board sander and an 8"
Dual Action (DA) sander with 40-grit, then
80-grit sandpaper. Then I coated all contact
surfaces with epoxy.
|The finished hull interior before the floor and deck were installed. The botton was covered with ¼" okume plywood and the topsides with ⅛" okume plywood.|
The bottom was covered with ¼" okoume plywood
and the topsides with ⅛" okoume plywood. This layer was epoxied and stapled in place with ¼" crown staples. I shot each staple through a piece of braided nylon handling material (used to band lumber together for shipping). This allowed for quick staple removal by simply grabbing the tail end of the strap with a pair of pliers and giving a quick sharp tug 90° to the hull surface. Caution: wear your safety glasses as some of the staples will go flying. I again faired the hull and applied two
coats of WEST SYSTEM epoxy.
|The bottom and topsides are faired and coated, ready for mahogany planking.|
Vacuum bagging the mahogany planks
Now the hull was ready for the ¼" Philippine
mahogany. The plans called for the planking
to be stapled along its edges approximately every 3". In my mind, I envisioned a wooden boat that looked as though it had been assembled on a giant sewing machine. The next best thing was to try to match up about a thousand hole plugs, still not what I was looking for. I wanted a blemish-free surface totally free of fasteners. The only way to clamp the planking
without making any marks was to vacuum bag
it in place. Great...sounds simple enough, but how to bend the plank and hold it in alignment while setting up the vacuum? I would have to devise some type of non-penetrating fastener.
|Each ¼" mahogany plank on the hull was clamped using vacuum bagging to avoid staples holes. An old dehumidifier compressor was rigged to pull up to 22" Hg.|
The fasteners ended up looking like 1" by 1½"
mirror clips, similar to those used to hold your
bathroom mirror to the wall. These clips were
made from scrap plywood, and since they
would be under the plastic, the top edges were
rounded off with a sander. I found that once
one plank was butted tightly against another,
using these clips along the "loose" edge was all
that I needed to secure the plank.
Prior to gluing and mounting the plank, I ran
a strip of ½" double back tape around the perimeter
of the plank being installed and made
sure to seal down all the edges and overlaps
tightly. Then I glued and clamped the plank.
|A closeup of the vacuum port and the clip used to hold the individual planks in position until the vacuum took over.|
I then took a piece of ¼" nylon tubing and
drilled small holes in it every 3". I taped this
loosely along the length of the plank. The tubing
allowed the air to be removed from the
extreme ends of the bag and was reusable.
Somewhere along the length of this tubing, I
wrapped a piece of landscape fabric and taped
it in place to form an "air bridge" from the
tubing to the suction cup or vacuum port.
|Rolling the hull to begin work on the deck was easy enough for three guys.|
I used builder's plastic for the bag. (Note: use the clear plastic, not the milky white variety as this type is too slippery.) This plastic does not stretch very much, so I had to get real creative when taping the end of the bag. After the bag was in place, I made a small "x" cut in the plastic at the fabric location and covered it with the suction cup. Then I started the pump and checked for leaks. I had forgotten to mark my frame and stringer locations on the plywood and would occasionally miss the frame with the screw, causing a leak. By the time I found this out, I was already committed to the job and needed to plug the leak. To do this, I crawled inside the hull, listened, and then ran my finger along the frame hull joints until I found the leak. Then I packed the leak full of plumber's putty or bubble gum, whatever I could come up with. After the epoxy cured, I cleaned up the plank edge with a trim router and moved on to the next plank.
|After the floor was installed, the deck was framed. Spruce stringers will support ⅛" okume plywood.|
To supply that suction, I needed a vacuum pump. After searching the internet, I found several commercial units, ranging from $100
to $300. I knew someone had to have a
cheaper solution. One kit-plane builder had
the answer. Turns out that the solution had
been sitting in my garage for years. I had an
old Kenmore™ dehumidifier. The fan motor
was burned out, but the compressor was still
good. On the opposite side of that compressor
was a vacuum, and that's what I was interested
in. I have had this unit pull up to 22" Hg (inches
of mercury), which is over 1,600 lb per sq ft. (To
find out how to build a vacuum pump, search
"the cheap little sucker" on the internet or go to
www.berkut13.com/sucker.htm. Read all the
links as they tell you what to look for when
choosing a compressor. A good source for
parts, vacuum gauge, suction cups, double
back tape, etc. is www.mcmaster.com; they offer
fast service and excellent prices.)
|After a slight bit of fairing the ¼" mahogany planking was installed. By using the right-sized braces, the roof provided some strategic clamping pressure.|
During winter 2004-2005, I constructed the
interior, disassembled it, and brought it into
the basement for finishing. I chose Interlux
Goldspar™ polyurethane varnish for two reasons:
1) I wanted the scratch resistance of the
hard finish and 2) Since dust was a constant
problem, the hard finish allowed me to wet
sand all the parts and then use automotive
products to rub out and polish the final finish.
I lost some of the high gloss, but I also got rid
of the dust flecks. This was a lot of extra work
but worth it. I started sanding with 600-grit
paper on a rubber block, very wet, then
800-grit, and finished with 1200-grit. All
sanding and polishing have to be done within
a single coat of varnish; if you sand through to
a previous coat, no amount of polishing will
make it blend and you will need to re-coat.
Deck construction used the same schedule as
the topsides. The caulked seams were filled
with WEST SYSTEM epoxy thickened with 406
Colloidal Silica Filler and then darkened with
423 Graphite Powder. This mixture was piped
into each seam with a zipper-seal bag with a
corner snipped off. Next, all deck hardware
and stainless steel trim were fabricated, fitted,
and installed. After the windshield brackets
were installed, patterns were made for the ¼
Plexiglas™ wind screens.
When I was satisfied with all the fits, I removed
everything and sent the windshield
brackets and stem-head fitting off to the
chromer. Be sure to send out this type of work
as soon as possible; my work took five weeks
and one part had be to be sent back to be redone.
Needless to say, that part was the last
thing installed on the boat before launch.
|A close attention to detail is most evident in the finished cockpit.|
To finish the hull, I used Minwax™ oil stain, followed by a 6 oz layer of glass cloth and five
coats of epoxy. Then I used six coats of
Epifanes™ no sand varnish and finished with
two coats of Epifanes spar varnish. I found that I had to plane the sheer very carefully as
the glass did not adhere as well as I would
have liked. For that reason, I would not recommend
the use of the Minwax oil stain under the epoxy. I used the same stain on the
deck and there elected to go with an all varnish
finish, 11 coats in all.
The RASCAL is a real head turner and gets a
lot of attention wherever she goes. She took
1st place in the contemporary classic division
at the 2005 Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat
Show. The 4 stroke was initially a little heavy,
which I corrected by mounting a hydrofoil to
the engine. This made the trim much more effective
throughout its range. Handling is very
solid and predictable, with a top speed somewhere
near 50 mph. Not bad for a fuel-sipping
60 hp motor.
Is she Van Dam quality? In my opinion, not
quite. Then again, I've always been my own
|The RASCAL at the 2005 Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show, where she earned
a 1st place in the Contemporary Classic division.|