Details, Devils, Whatever

Perfection is the enemy of production. Remember that.

From the start of this project I have known that I want a “workboat” level of finish on it. Still I found myself getting sucked into the madness that is a perfect final paint job. In both composite aircraft construction and in boat building you can measure the quality of the finish by how far away you have to be to see the imperfections. 10 feet is a good workboat finish, Three feet is a work of art, and on occasion you see a one foot boat. Those are best in show winners. I have said several times that I am not the greatest woodworker around and that is very true but, one area I do know well is composite construction.

I have been working with advanced composites for quite a while now and I knew that a three foot boat was well within my abilities. Over the course of almost two months of part time work I found myself sliding deeper and deeper into madness chasing that three foot boat. Follow me on my journey and use this as a warning for yourself.

Picking up from the last post I had the bottom fiberglassed and the center line runner and skeg installed. The next operation was to get the hull ready for paint. The first step in this process was to fill and fair all of the screw holes, panel gaps, and plank edges.

fillet 2

This is a view looking at the junction of the number one plank and the number two plank. You can see that there are voids that need to be filled. The plans tell you to use high density epoxy putty to fillet these areas.

fillet 3

The areas were masked and filleted.

fillet one

I went through a lot of trouble on this step to ensure that I cleaned up all of the goobers left over and smoothed the fillet out so there would be little to no sanding later.

You can see from the pictures above that a ton of screw holes needed to be filled. I broke out the QuickFair and went to town on both the screw holes and the panel joints. I will give you a warning on this. NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES YOU PURPOSELY AND CAREFULLY FILL THE SCREW HOLES IN YOUR BOAT, YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND MORE LATER. Enough said. For fairing the panel joints I had a full arsenal of sanding equipment. Stiff long boards, flexible long boards, sander, foam pads, soft blocks etc. It took a while but I finally got the hull to where I was happy with it and started coating the entire outside hull in epoxy.


Coating the hull is a critical part of this style of wooden boat construction. First it seals the wood, and secondly the plywood it is made out of is super soft and needs epoxy to toughen it up. Most designers recommend two coats of epoxy before paint. To make sure that I had a full two coats left after sanding I rolled on two coats of clear epoxy followed by two coats of epoxy with white pigment in in. This allows me to see the color change as I get closer to the base coat so I do not cut to deep. At this point I hit all of the high spots with 80 grit and the whole boat with 120. This is the point where all of the defects stand out. It hurts. To correct it I started the process of mixing epoxy/microballon paste, evenly coating the boat, and then sanding almost all of it off. This went on for almost a full week until the lovely and level headed Bride told me to cut it out, “It’s the bottom of the boat, no one will ever see it!”. Yes ma’am.


During the times the epoxy was curing, I broke out the plug cutter and some mahogany type wood I had laying around and cut plugs for the upper rub rail and installed them.

At this point I stood back and looked at hull and decided that I had done all I was going to do. F&%$ it I am painting.

After reading a really good article in Small Craft Advisor magazine and talking to several people that have painted wooden boats I decided to go with an oil based alkyd enamel paint in a satin finish.  I started with a coat of primer under the watchful eye of the shop foreman.


From there two coats of color on the bottom.

hull 1st coat

The blue took four coats to get a good deep finish.

transom final

profile final

Cheryl picked out the colors and I couldn’t be happier:

Gray – Sherwin Williams Knitting Needles

Blue – Sherwin Williams Navy

With the masking tape pulled I have a little bit of touchup to do here and there but I am super happy with the overall quality. It’s not a three foot boat but I can live with a really good 10 foot boat.  At this point there was nothing else to do but clean up two months of mess and enjoy the view.

Painting final