Archive for November, 2009

14
Nov
09

The “New Deal”: An Alumacraft “FDR” restoration part three: Polishing aluminum…

When we parted company last we were working to prepare our little vessel for a good buffing.  To make a nice finish, some small items must be dealt with.  Aluminum “warts”.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-003

This is a "wart". See the little aluminum nodule at the end of the scrape? This needs to be removed.

A “wart” is formed by scraping the aluminum hull hard enough that the soft metal is dragged and reformed into a lump at the end of a scrape.  The problem is they are very unsightly, they tend to collect polishing compound and snag your wool polishing bonnets.  To get rid of these you can wet sand the area with 600 grit wet/dry sand paper.  I wanted this boat to look nice so I actually sanded the entire bottom of the hull.

Okay, some might think this is extreme…as do I.  However, this will make the hull very smooth (albeit not perfect) and allow us to actually save some time when buffing since all the little bumps or “warts” will be done away with on the front side of the buffing work.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-001

The tools for prepping the hull. An orbital sander, a pad sander, a 7" angle grinder, fine and coarse wool bonnets, and a Cyclo orbital buffer.

To begin with the hull will be sanded with 240 grit sanding discs on the orbital sander.  Don’t obsess about the rivet heads too much as they will buff out.  However…don’t linger on the rivets too long either.  Sand the hull working in manageable areas.  For instance I work from one vertical rivet line to the next, finish sanding and buffing, then move on.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-005

After sanding with the orbital sander and 240 grit sanding disc, the aluminum should be fairly dull and you should be able to get rid of the "warts" and other imperfections. Some folks will feather and buff out every scratch. I'm too lazy for that!

Next, using the pad sander loaded with 600 grit wet dry sand paper, sand the same area again to finish getting rid of scratches and “warts”, as well as softening the effects of the previous sanding work.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-007

After re-sanding using 600 grit wet/dry sand paper and the pad sander, the aluminum is already showing a shine.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-008

Here is a comparison of the cleaned aluminum (right) and the sanded aluminum (left).

After all this sanding, you may want to move to 1000 grit or even work your way toward 1500 or 2000 grit paper.  I am not going to obsess about the bottom of the hull too much.  The sides are where the money is for me.

Now lets move on to the buffing.  To begin you’ll need an angle grinder/buffer of some type.  The one I used is a relatively cheap 7 inch size.  It is a variable speed so that as we work with different compounds we can adjust the speed as needed.  We also need a coarse wool bonnet.  In fact several are a good idea since they can get loaded up with compound.  The good news is you can wash them out and reuse them.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-002

For both the Feather Craft and the Alumacraft, 3M Heavy Duty Buffing Compound was used. It is fairly abrasive, but gets out a lot of little nicks and scrapes. It also prepares the aluminum for finer polishing compounds for the mirror finish.

A little dab will do you!  Keep this old axiom in mind.  DO NOT use too much compound as it will load up in the wool bonnet and eventually the wool will become ineffective at buffing….PERIOD.  Use a little bit at a time.  Spread it out with the pad, then turn on the buffer at the lowest possible RPM’s and work in a small area of about 12 to 16 inches by 6 inches high.

The work is slow, but good results will follow!

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-009

Now we're gettin' somewhere! The old shine is coming through. On the left is the area we just buffed as described, and the right is what we sanded earlier.

Alumacraft FDR 11-10-09-010

After buffing about half the length of the port side, I still found areas of scratches that were objectionable. No problem. Just sand them again, and buff as we have been. You can see in the middle and right part of the photo the area that was re-sanded.

Alumacraft FDR 11-14-09-003

After more buffing, we are left with a nice shiny, smooth surface.

Alumacraft FDR 11-14-09-001

A shot of the bow.

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The side shot above shows the progress from the aluminum brightener (bottom of hull in the photo) to the buffed area. (Top of hull in the photo)

Alumacraft FDR 11-14-09-002

And finally a stern shot. Yes we have swirls from the coarse wool bonnet, but those can be buffed with a fine bonnet or the Cyclo orbital buffer and micro-fiber cloth. You can also get rid of a lot of those swirls by hand buffing.

Hopefully before winter gets a real hold on NW Ohio, I will be able to finish the other half of the hull.  Then in the spring time, we’ll revisit the project and work on the topsides and deck.  Then we can begin to work on adding hardware, seat, repairing the old cracked steering wheel, and getting this boat ready for boating season.

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10
Nov
09

The “New Deal”: An Alumacraft “FDR” restoration part two: Polishing aluminum…

For whatever reason I have gotten many…many calls about my Feather Craft Vagabond that we sold last month.  Every single call was somehow related to how to polish the aluminum for a mirror finish.  While not any kind of expert, the work is time-consuming and slow-moving.  The work on the Vagabond was good, but had its issues owing to the vessels rough life.

All that being said, I will attempt to help others by showing in a step-by-step fashion how to polish an aluminum boat, or whatever.

Choice one would obviously be to have someone else do it.  However, being a cheapskate…this work will again be done by yours truly on this 1959 Alumacraft FDR.  I acknowledge that neither the Feather Craft or Alumacraft boats came polished, but rather in natural aluminum.  If upon completion you desire the original look of natural “satin” aluminum, you can always acid wash the boat to give it the original luster.

Let’s get started with this edition being a comparison of before and after photos with explanation.

 
Alumacraft FDR 10-18-09-001

The vessel as it was when it arrived in its new home port. 50 years of dirt has accumulated on its hull. But the worst was yet to come when it was rolled over.

Alumacraft FDR 11-09-09-003

Using a one gallon garden sprayer full of aluminum brightener, the hull was sprayed and brushed gently, then thoroughly washed with water from a garden hose.

Let’s talk about the topic of aluminum brighteners.  I buy mine in a one gallon jug from a local vendor who sells products to car washes.  The same type of product is made under trade names such as Toon Bright, available at local marine stores.  There are others that are available from auto parts outlets.

Aluminum brightners contain phosphoric acid and other goodies…so a respirator is a must!  These brighteners should be “cut” as they are a concentrate.  The instruction on the bottle should be adheared to as well.  I “cut” my formula 3 parts water to 1 part brightener.  It can be mixed stronger as needed.

The process starts at the BOTTOM of the vessel and works its way UP to the top of the vessel.  So if your ship is upside-down on saw horses, as mine was, you will need to start at the gunwales and work your way up the hull to the keel.  Why is this? 

You must first remove all the dirt at the bottom to prevent streaking.  In other words, if you start at the keel, the aluminum brightener will run down the sides of the hull while still actively cleaning and leave streaks that can be very difficult to remove after the fact.

Starting at the gunwales spray with the garden sprayer along the length of the vessel working in two foot lengths, then using a medium or soft bristle scrub brush, gently work  along the section “massaging” the aluminum brightner.  Don’t scrub!  Let the aluminum brightner do the work.   You may need to make several passes at the area or the entire hull to make sure it is good and clean before moving on.

After you have cleaned the area with aluminum brightner, be sure to rinse thoroughly with water to stop the acidic action.  This is a must.  Then move on to the next section and repeat the process along the gunwales.  After the entire length of the hull has been cleaned, move up to the area above and repeat the process until the whole hull has been done.

Alumacraft FDR 11-09-09-004

The Alumacraft FDR has been completely cleaned with aluminum brightner on the sides. The worst is yet to come!

The aluminum will initially turn a light shade of white or grey following application of the aluminum brightener, but upon washing with water should return to aluminum.  Of course it will be dull or satin at this point.

Now we’ll move onto the bottom…which was a shocker!

When the boat was rolled over onto the saw horses, I was horrified to find the bottom coated in dirt and filth.  The boat must have been left in the water over the years, as it was covered with very thick growth.

Alumacraft FDR 11-09-09-001

A half-n-half view of the bottom of the hull. The left side shows the dirt that existed over the entire bottom of the hull. Also if you look at the far left, you can see the streaking caused by the aluminum brightener that was washed over the keel when rinsing the right half. Those same streaks are the reason we began cleaning at the gunwales, or the bottom of the hull. This eliminates the streaks running down the entire side of the hull.

Alumacraft FDR 11-09-09-002

After applying the aluminum brightener over the entire hull, the boat looks like new.

The inside was washed before the outside.  The reason is simply that there is aluminum brightner overspray that could louse up the work on the outside leaving white spots everywhere.  The inside also cleaned up very nicely.

You may need to repeat the steps above multiple times to be sure the hull is devoid of all dirt and grime.

At this point you will want to inspect your hull very closely.  You’ll be surprised at the number of dents and dings that you’ll find now that she is clean.  Things you never noticed will now stand out.  We’ll correct these issues in the next step as we prepare to use compounding polish to begin the buffing process.

05
Nov
09

The Autumn Leaves: Boating off the water…

As the old song says…”The Autumn Leaves….drift by my window…”.  Not only have they drifted, but they have landed and are at the curb waiting for pickup.

In the meantime, I’ve been spending more time practicing my trombone in the evening, and more time in the workshop working on all things boat related.  I have even made a list as to what I need to achieve before next boating season.  IE; Fix and restore 1958 Johnson CD-15 5hp, 1957 Evinrude 35hp, 1950 Johnson QD-11 (Under Way), 1950 TD-20 (completed), 1948 Gambles Hiawatha 5hp, and a 195? Firestone 3.6hp.  Also on the agenda is stripping the inside of the 1949 Thompson and getting new varnish inside her passenger area.  After all this is done, work can begin on the 1959 Alumacraft.

As mentioned, I have finished a nice little 1950 TD-20 Johnson 5hp outboard.  It came to me in a strange way.  A fellow walks in a local marine dealer…no this is not a joke, as there is no priest or rabbi involved…and wanted to trade this poor old thing in for a new motor.  He’d had the recoil replaced, and the thing would run for a while…then die.

Well the owner of the marina has done some of my motor block work and knows I like old motors.  He didn’t want the thing and gave this fellow my number.  The guy calls me up and asks me to come look at it.

Well I go to this fellows house…and not only is the motor beat up…it’s seized up.  I chuckled when he told me he just put 40 bucks in the motor for a new recoil.  Clearly this guy was frustrated…really just plain ticked.

“How much will you give me for it?!?!” the guy asked.

“Well…it might sell for 30 bucks at a swap meet in this condition.”

He says “Give me 40 bucks for it so I can recoup what I just put in the recoil, and I’ll let you have.”

Okay…I knew this was a tad high, but the guy seemed nice enough, and I had fallen in love with a TN-27 at Pokagon State Park Lodge.  The motor at least had the possibility of running again at best case, and being a nice non-running relic at worst case.  So I shelled out the 40 clams.  The guy was happy.  I wasn’t sure where I stood on the matter.

So home to tear into this thing.  As usual a consultation on the AMOCI forum was the first step.  A fellow there named Lloyd alerted me to the fact that the primer for the carb has a tendency to leak fuel due to worn out leather washers in the primer pump.  He sold the washers with instructions…so I bought them when we met at the Constantine, MI AMOCI meet.

Well I had a helluva time getting the little brass tube that holds these washer in the primer of the carb out.  Penetrating oil, PB Blaster, WD-40…nothing budged this brass tube in the Tillotson carb primer pump.  Lloyd checked in and assured me it should come right out.  If not he would assist in finding another carburetor body for me.

Now I really am thinking…what fresh hell is this motor!

Finally one day a week or two later, while picking at the tube…with a little heat from a torch and some patience…headway came about….it moved and eventually was free from 50+ years of gum  and varnish.  New leather washers were installed and the carb reassembled.  In the meantime the flywheel was pulled and the ignition cleaned up and reworked.  When I popped the flywheel…miricles of miricles…the pistons also broke free and the motor turned.  Go figure.

I did a bit of work on the lower unit to seal it up with new seals and a fresh load of Lubriplate 105, since this is a non shift outboard.  FORWARD ONLY!  And you better be pointed away from the dock.

After re-assembly, I found the motor ran erratically.  A fuel issue it appeared.  Indeed the cork float was saturated.  The carb was removed again, and the float dipped in Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer left over from the Thompson.  This penetrates into the cork and seals it better than varnish or airplane hot dope.

Reassembled the carb and the motor tuned fine now…except for a few leaks in the fuel tank.

It seems that when the tank was sandblasted by a local shop, they used “a LITTLE too much pressure” and apparently the medium of choice was railroad ballast/stone.  I patched the holes with JB Weld.  then set about filling the dents.

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The dents in the tank were filled with light weight body filler.

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The entire tank needed body work.

Next came sanding.  LOTS of sanding.  Sanding with a pad sander, then an orbital sander, then by hand.  And just when you think its perfect…sand some more!

DSC00799

Now the tank was ready for a coat of self-etching primer.

After trying some expensive self etching primer from the local paint supply house, I found it did not work well at all.  However, for 9.00 at NAPA, I found Duplicolor Self Etching primer.  This stuff seems to really work.  But we’ll see how it holds up in the water.

Paint was ordered from NY Marine at http://www.nymarine.ca/.  Peter sells paint that is a dead match for all the Johnson, Evinrude, and other popular outboards.  At first the 19.99 for a spray can was hard to swallow, but good things have been said about his paint…so I thought I’d give it a try.  It works very much like lacquer.  Very forgiving and very hard when dried completely.  The color is perfect too.  He also sells decals for this motor, so I ordered those as well.

The last issue with the motor is the recoil.  It has three tiny little springs that keep the pawls extended to grab the recoil when pulled.  Then when the motor is running, these pawls swing in due to centrifugal force.  The problem is…they were all missing.  An article was passed around the AMOCI Forum about making your own rather than buying them…so I did…using a guitar string, a screw with the head cut of and a notch cut down its middle.  The sting is wrapped around the screw…and presto!  Recoil spring!

StarterPawls2

The springs are wrapped around the little poles where the pawls pivot on top of the flywheel.

Next all old flaking paint was sanded or blasted off with a soda blaster.  Then primer and paint…and decals too.

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Our little 1950 TD-20 is finished and ready for service. She is pictured hanging here on my 1959 Alumacraft FDR.

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The Helmsman's controls left to right: Stop, Slow, Start, Fast. To go in reverse, turn the entire motor 360 degrees!

To protect the decals, a clear coat of automotive lacquer was applied.  Several coats later, she was shiny and new looking.

This may be a nice little motor for trolling along the Maumee River for a sunset cruise next spring.

Work is underway on the 1950 Johnson QD-11.  These are great little 10hp motors, and a blog with be forth coming on it soon.