Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stepping the mast part 1: wait, chainplates first.

It would have been much easier if I had just ignored that nagging concern about my 25 year old rigging.  And then even easier had I ignored the opportunity with the mast down to pull a chainplate and have a look. 

Once I pulled the first chainplate (a suprisingly easy task), it was time to go for the gusto, and replace them all.  The only downside would turn out to be the time it would delay the stepping the mast.  Now that all that is behind us, I feel MUCH BETTER about the mast staying upright. 

So, the route I went on the chainplates was to purchase the base metal from (they are set up to send certificates guaranteeing that the steel is 316L, something I could not easily find locally).  Then I had a shop cut out the shape and bend them the appropriate angles.  The final step was the fun part.  Since I purchased mill finish bar stock, I got the pleasure of learning how and then executing the sanding and polishing steps.  While time consuming, it wasn't too physically demanding.  I estimate I spent about 6-8 hours finishing each chainplate.  I'm glad there were only 7, er I mean 8, to do.  I get to that story later...

In case you are interested, here is what sanding stainless looks like with a 6" sander, complete with PPE.
Following the sanding phase, which incidently included 120, 240, 320, 400 and 600 grit steps, I moved on to the polishing step. For this step, I used the white polishing compound.  While it left a few lines once complete, the finish is highly reflective, and sufficient for my purpose.  Here is what my buffing/polishing stance, or some my call my polish buff stance...

So, once I completed with all the chainplates, it was time to install them.  After I had removed the old chainplates, I filled the holes in the deck of the boat with epoxy and filler to seal the deck and be able to customize the holes for the new chainplates.  I was busy cutting out the first hole, installing and removing the chainplate as I customized the fit, until alas, my butterfingers got the best of me an plop into the water the chainplate went.  So, that is how I ended up needing to make an eighth chainplate.  Kristen actually hired a diver to go after ti (something I was grateful for).  Unfortunately, the bottom under our marina is made up of about a foot deep of silt.  The combination of the soft silt, zero visibility, and the tendency for flat steel to plane through the water, instead of falling straight down, resulted in one lost chainplate.  Oh well, at least by this time I had figured out my technique for polishing, so the replacement took about 6 hours to complete. 
Here is the last chainplate, in its finished form.  You can see that I only polished the last 8 inches or so of the plate: this includes the part that will be outside the boat and the part that goes through the hull.  The previous plate were polished to the same extent, and they held up fine for 25 years. 

Installing the remaining chainplates was event free and now I have some new anchor points for the rig.  Here is what they look like installed.  Oh yeah, I made new cover plates for the them, as well.


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