Burlap-Resin Composite Boat

Searching youtube for how-tos on composites, there’s lots of videos on boat-making. So I decided, what the heck, why not get started with my boat making career. I made a really rough boat-like shape in Blender and applied a subsurface division modifier to smooth it down. The only foam I had on hand was 3/4″ thick, so I scaled the model and split it into 3 layers, set them side by side in Blender, and import the whole thing into MeshCAM.

MeshCAM generatered the gcode for our 1′ by 3′ CNC machine using a 1/4″ ballnose. Milling through insulation foam with a 1/4″ bit was a real treat — I cranked the speed up to the max and watched it cut like butter. After freeing the individual slices from the foam, I just hot glued them together.

I stacked 4 layers of SuperSap soaked burlap over the foam boat form, wrapped it up in release plastic, layered felt on top of that, and stuck the whole thing in a vacuum bag. We tried using our shopvac and then our smoke sucker, which sucked the bag tight against the form, but didn’t put any pressure on it. So, I ended up setting it in the sink under a trashbag filled with water, which visibly put a lot of pressure on the form.

After unpacking the form, and ripping out the foam (it did not go without a fight), I optimistically set it in the sink full of water, where it promptly sank. It’s totally permeable to water. Gabe’s frisbee floated a lot better. I’ll probably coat it with another layer of resin and let it cure without putting pressure on it. I figure the resin would be more solid with a two part mold, filled with resin (not squeezing the resin out of the burlap). Next time!

Update, a couple of weeks later: after pouring super-sap resin over the hole-ridden burlap boat with multiple applications and slowly spinning the boat upside down, rightside up, to keep the resin moving for about a half hour and cured in the air, the boat is sea-worthy! Unfortunately, the excess resin did slowly seep down to edge of the composite and pooled there, leaving me with heavy chunks of resin that’s just weighing the boat down. I can’t think of a good way to remove this except for a hacksaw.

I’ve also figured out that I’m not a great boat designer. The shape of my hull gives very little displacement, and the boat sits pretty low in the water without any weight (except for the aforementioned excess resin). I’ll look forward to designing a boat worth sticking a motor or sail into later on in life. In the meantime, here’s my burlap boat floating in Lake FabLab (our perpetually flooded parking lot).

Original Blender file with subdivision surface.

STL Export, scaled up to millimeter units.

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