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Shop cats and epoxy

By micahsimmons - Posted on 04 June 2013

Pete the Cat under boatTransom on, bottom braced, I attached the frames and the stem.  With the frames in place, it's easy to see where the bottom bevel needs to end up, and I could see that I'd been pretty generous when I cut the bottom out.  I left plenty of stock to trim away, and it looked like I'd be planing forever, but it turned out to be less of a job than I feared.  I stropped my plane, put some music on, and planed happily away; got a little carried away, evidently, because when I checked the bevel at the fourth frame, I found I had gone too far.  The first stumble is painful, but plywood garboards will bend enough to compensate for the dip in the bottom bevel, and I'll just have to hope that people are too polite to stare at my bottom and snigger. 


Pete the Cat on CouchTwo years ago, a skinny middle-school-aged cat showed up at my back door.  I think it must have been dropped off, because it was de-clawed and had clearly been a house cat.  I didn't really want another cat; Aaron was a wonderful pet, and I was sad when he died, but I've really had enough of litter boxes and cat hair all over the house.  This poor stray looked so starved that I couldn't help but feed it, and so of course I now have another cat. 


This new cat's tiny little body made its head look enormous, so I called it Big Head Pete.  A short time later, my friend Steve was visiting, and Pete hopped up in his lap and introduced himself.  The cat turned around on Steve's lap, and he looked under the tail and said, "You realize, of course, that this isn't a Pete."  I had fancied myself a competent cat sexer, but I guess I'm kind of bad at it.  Gender confusion aside, Pete's a pretty good cat; she lives in the shop, and once we established that the coal bin is not a luxury litter box, we've gotten along famously.  


Having a shop cat is great, but it does complicate wood working in several ways.  To make the garboards, I first had to rip two sheets of plywood in half, scarf the ends, and epoxy them together.  Scarfing is simply cutting a low angle on the ends of two boards to provide a wide gluing surface, ending up with a glue joint that's the same thickness as the rest of the board. 



I watched a couple of YouTube videos about scarfing plywood, and looked at plans for a simple jig for scarfing   plywood with a circular saw.  Looked simple enough.  I built a jig, fired up the saw, and made the dog's dinner out of a piece of plywood.  I'm still now sure how I took that perfectly lucid concept and then botched the execution so thoroughly.  On the second attempt, I actually sawbeed the face of the jig off, so I decided the circular saw might not be the way to go. 


Röessel recommends building a scarfing jig to use with a hand plane.  He says that it requires a sharp plane and plenty of patience to use, and that turned out to be true.  Actually, I think that it only took me ten minutes or so to scarf each piece, and with a little tuning with a belt sander, the resulting joint was pretty good.  When I was ready to glue the first joint, the cat proved to be an unexpected challenge. 


glue jointI used West  System 105 epoxy for all the glue joints on the boat.  I started mixing the epoxy and wood flour for the plywood scarfs, and the cat went nuts.  She started doing laps around my ankles, staring at the cup and begging like a maniac.  When I told her that cats don't like epoxy, she stood on her hind legs and patted my waist, trying to reach the mixing cup in my hand. 


The only space I have that's long enough to glue up a sixteen foot board is the floor of the bar portion of my shop, which is the middle of Pete's living room.  Now, as far as I know, there's no real research about what happens when a cat licks wet epoxy, but I'm guessing that it doesn't do the cat any good and that the only reason there isn't a warning on the can is that I have the only cat in the world that would make that necessary.  In the end, the only thing I could do was glue the boards, and lock Pete out of the shop overnight while the epoxy cured. 


Pete's mostly an outdoor cat, and in the winter she's all fat and furry, and she has a straw nest under the shop where she sleeps most of the time by choice, so spending a night outside was no real hardship.  She still didn't talk to me for a day after that. 

 boat with garboards









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