Lazarette Modifications, Part 13: Gluing Up the Battery Box Cleats

The battery box cleats, glued-up and sanded
Having completed the initial painting of the lazarette and having installed the necessary hardware on the battery box shelves, it was now time for me to glue-up the battery box cleats in Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

I began by clamping the conduit for the VHF coaxial cable. I had to get this plastic conduit out of the way. Otherwise, I would have gotten epoxy and cloth on it.
With this out of the way, I started to cut cloth. I used 12 ounce biaxial cloth that I had purchased from RAKA epoxy in Florida.
I cut two small pieces for the joints at the base of the cleats.
I then cut two large pieces, which would overlap the cleats.
Although I had checked the house bank battery box shelf for level many other times, I just had to do it one more time before doing this epoxy work.
The level shelf helped me figure out exactly where I needed to install the cleats. I held the cleats, one at a time, under the shelf with one hand and marked the hull with the other.
For this project, as on so many others, I used RAKA 127 Low Viscosity Resin and 350 Special Non-Blush Hardener. I don't mind paying $12 extra for the 350 hardener, because it prevents me from having to clean off the amine blush from the work surface a day or two after the epoxy cures.
I had cleaned this area many times, but I still gave it a good wipe-down with acetone to remove any dust that might have settled here.
Once I had cleaned the hull, I mixed up 3 ounces of epoxy and wet out the appropriate areas of the hull with a brush
Then I wet out those sides of the cleat that would make contact with the hull.
I let this epoxy sit for about an hour so that it would become nice and sticky. This would improve the adhesion of the cleats to the hull during the glue-up. Then I mixed up another pot of epoxy, this time making 6 ounces - four ounces of resin and two ounces of hardener. In the picture below, you can see the hardener sitting on top of the resin. The hardener is yellowish, whereas the resin is more clear.
I have never timed myself in my mixing of the resin and hardener, but I would say that I do it for at least two minutes, making sure to scrape the sides of the pot throughout the mixing process.
It takes two-and-a-half to three scoops from this quart-sized container for me to thicken up the epoxy to a peanut-butter consistency - the consistency needed for gluing up things.
When thickening 6 ounces of epoxy, I therefore must use around 6 scoops. As I've said before, I use a large, 5 gallon bucket to store my colloidal silica, and I use the quart sized container in the picture below to distribute the silica. If I purchased the silica one quart at a time from somewhere like West Marine (as I did the very first time), I would spend a fortune on it.

I never add all of the silica at one time. Instead, I add it about two scoops at a time. This allows me to thoroughly mix the silica into the epoxy.
If it clings to my stir stick without the slightest bit of drooping, then I know it's thick enough.
The reason why I felt at leisure to take all of the above pictures is because I wanted to take my time in mixing up this epoxy. This would allow it time to heat up and thus become more sticky for this glue-up. I've described this technique of "sweating the pot" in earlier postings on my gluing-up of cleats. The trick is to stir it and stir it until you start to feel it get nice and warm in your hand. Then you quickly start to spread it onto the hull, or whatever it is that you're working on. This will keep it from getting too warm. If it gets to the point where it starts to feel hot in your hand, you might have waited too long. This is a called a "run away pot." It gets so hot that it smokes, and it moves from being a viscous liquid to a solid in a very short period of time.I had this happen to me the very first time I mixed up a pot of epoxy. Fortunately, I was not in the boat, but in the yard when this happened. The pot got so hot that I had to throw it away from me to prevent it from burning my hand.
Despite the steps I had taken, this cleat still had a tendency to slide slightly after I had stuck it into place. This was due undoubtedly to its size. To give it a little help, I applied some duct tape.
Before I had applied the duct tape, I had laid down a fillet along all four edges of the cleat. The fillet would improve the strength of the joint, and it would help provide smooth transitions for the cloth.
After I had completed the glue-up of the first cleat, I mixed up 6 more ounces of epoxy and focused on the second cleat.
Two or three hours later, when I was confident that the cleats were no longer going to move, I carefully removed the duct tape and prepared to lay down the cloth. First I laid down the little pieces and wet them out with neat epoxy. Then I laid down the large pieces and fully wet them out. I used at least 6 ounces of epoxy in this wetting out of the cloth. Biaxial cloth is like a thirsty sponge.
After I had fully wet out the cloth, I mixed up another 6 ounces of epoxy and thickened it to a ketchup-like consistency. With a brush in hand I spread this thickened epoxy over the cloth for the purpose of filling the weave and thus providing additional strength.
The next day, I was pleased to see not only that the shelf fit well into this space when placed atop the cleats, but also that it was level.
Now it was time for me to do some pre-drilling for the installation of the battery box shelf.
I purchased 1/4 inch stainless steel flathead screws from the local hardware store, and I used a 3/16 inch bit to drill the pilot holes.
After I had completed the drilling, I used a countersink bit to bevel the holes and thus provide a recessed area in the shelf for the heads of the screws.
After the epoxy had cured for two or three days I returned to the boat and prepared to sand the area.
I had already completed most of the rewiring of the boat. The last thing I wanted on this new electrical system was a bunch of epoxy dust. Therefore, I took the time to tape up some plastic. Below we see the port side of the lararette.
I also taped the center part of the lazarette, where many wires ran back and forth from the two sides.
Likewise, I taped plastic over the electrical components on the starboard side.
I also shoved towels and rags into the area between the icebox and the bulkhead. There were a lot of wires running up through this space into the cavity behind the bulkhead on the starboard side of the galley (where the battery charger was located).
Additionally, I taped plastic over the hole for the storage area under the galley sink. This was the last sanding of epoxy that I would undertake in the refitting of this boat, I was glad that it was almost over, and there was no way that I was going to let that dust get into some of the areas that were already finished. You'll recall that I had to postpone this epoxy work until after I had completed the rewiring project, because I needed to be able to sit in the bilge area (where the battery shelf would be located) while doing a lot of the rewiring.
To accomplish this sanding job, I used my Dremel with a 50 grit sanding drum, my Rockwell Sonicrafter oscillating tool with 50 grit paper on the sanding head, and I used my Dewalt quarter sheet sander with 40 grit paper.
At the end, I also had to do a little hand sanding with some 40 grit paper in areas around the joints where the Dremel could not quite reach. This thorough sanding would ensure that the paint would bond well to all of this epoxy work.
This ends this posting on how I glued-up the cleats for the house bank battery box shelf on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

Lazarette Modifications, Part 12: Battery Box Hardware

The house bank battery box, bolted to the battery box shelf
A necessary precursor to the permanent installation of the house bank battery box shelf in the lazarette of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, was the drilling of holes and the mounting of some of the hardware that would secure the battery box to the shelf. In this brief posting, I describe not only the steps I took along these lines for the house battery bank, but I also describe the work I did to help secure the reserve battery bank through the installation of mahogany cleats.

You'll recall that I had long before this time decided I would orient that house battery bank box in the fashion pictured below.
You'll also recall that I had constructed cleats of Douglas fir for the house battery bank shelf. These I would soon glass to the hull as a foundation of sorts for the battery box shelf.
You also may recall that I had taken into account the future location of the cleats when deciding where exactly to mount the Noco brand battery box on the shelf.
The forward end of the box would be easily accessible, since it would be close to the cutout under the companionway. For this reason, I planned to use 1/4 inch stainless steel hex-head bolts to secure the box. With a wrench I would hold the hex head steady underneath the shelf, while I tightened the lock nut down with a ratchet wrench on top of the shelf.
The aft end of the box was going to present some problems. Fortunately, since the cleats were not as long as the shelf itself, they would not prevent the installation of hardware through the mounting holes. The problem was that it would be impossible for me to use both hands to install hex head bolts and lock nuts on this end of the shelf. There was no way that I could get both of my hands back there to do this work.
At first, I considered  installing weld studs. I had used these earlier for mounting the panel over the cutout underneath the companionway. It just so happened, however, that when the time came to permanently install the shelf I no longer had any more 1/4 weld studs on hand. I was on a roll, and I did not want to wait several days for this hardware to arrive in the mail at my home in Charleston, South Carolina from McMaster-Carr in Atlanta, Georgia.
Therefore, I took a trip to a local hardware store (not a big box retailer) and described to the friendly folks there my predicament. Unlike the big box retailers, which are staffed with people who know almost nothing about the products they sell, these people actually know what they're talking about. They quickly pointed me to their supply of T-nuts. Since this store is in a coastal area, it had stainless steel versions of these T-nuts in stock. As I would later discover, McMaster-Carr sells a similar product, but calls it a "weld nut." These particular T-nuts that I purchased from this hardware store had holes on either side of the flange - holes that were made for securing the nut to the material (as I shall explain below).
Although the T-nut might look quite small in the picture above, it was actually large enough to accommodate a 1/4 inch bolt.
Earlier I had drilled 1/4 inch holes in the battery box shelf, since I planned to install 1/4 inch bolts or studs in all four holes. Now that I would be using the 1/4 inch T-nuts I needed to enlarge the two aft holes. The external dimensions of the T-nuts were of course greater than 1/4 inch.
Into the enlarged holes I inserted the T-nuts. Then I drilled pilot holes so that I could secure the nuts to the underside of the shelf with stainless steel pan head wood screws.
Afterwards, I temporarily installed the battery box shelf, just to see how the T-nuts worked.
As you can see, they did exactly what they were supposed to do.
As I mentioned at the end of my last posting, I pre-painted the underside of the battery box shelf. After I had accomplished this, I re-installed the T-nuts and prepared to glass the shelf permanently into place.
Earlier I had also considered how I might best secure the reserve battery bank on the port side shelf. Of course, in accordance with the regulations, I would use a strap.
I did, though, want something there in addition to the strap to keep the box absolutely still. My solution was to construct a frame of sorts for the battery box.
I constructed this frame out of scrap pieces of mahogany.
I had to leave one end open to accommodate the curvature of the hull.
I thought about leaving the mahogany plain, but eventually decided to stain it and varnish it along with other pieces from other projects. I began by wetting down the wood in order to raise the grain.
Then I rubbed Pettit brand Brown Mahogany stain into the wood with a clean rag.
The stain brought out the deep, rich color of the wood.
After I had rubbed away the excess stain and allowed the wood to dry for one day, I came back with Epiphanes varnish. The first coat, as per the manufacturer's recommendations, I thinned by fifty percent.
This enabled the varnish to creep deeply into the grain of the wood and seal it.
Two days later, I lightly sanded the wood with 220 grit paper. This would remove tiny imperfections and provide some tooth for the next coat of varnish.
I continued this varnishing-and-sanding ritual for quite some time. On these pieces of the battery box frame I stopped at three coats (on each side). If these pieces were going to be exposed to the elements, I would have applied eight to ten coats as I did for some of the other pieces.
Before I had ever done any of the varnish work I had pre-drilled the pieces, and I had pre-drilled the shelf on which I would mount the frame, as I described in an earlier posting.
At this point, it was simply a matter of screwing the mahogany pieces into place.
This ends this posting on the hardware and the techniques I used to secure the battery boxes in the lazarette of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.