Senior Project: James Lytton’s Boat

JL1 Ross Senior James Lytton is building a 15-foot Chesapeake Lake Craft fishing boat for his Senior Project. James chose the project because he always wanted his own boat, and he enjoys building with wood. Although he has built some pretty intricate items, such as a coffee table, he had never tackled something as large as a boat.

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The craft comes in a kit, and his first task was to glue together the flat bottom pieces and lay the fiberglass inside. Bit by bit, he glued and reinforced the sides and then shaped them. One challenge he encountered was applying the layers of epoxy to the fiberglass. The epoxy will not dry if the temperature is less than 50 degrees, and rolling it out can be difficult because a lot of little bubbles form. To get rid of these bubbles, he used a blowtorch, heating the material up enough for the bubbles to dissipate. When the layers were dry, he began the process of sanding down the epoxy, only to discover that when mixing the resin and hardener, he had miscalculated the ratio, so the epoxy wasn’t completely dried. With the help of a neighbor who is a boat builder, James fixed the problem by pouring acetone on the bits that were still tacky. He then spent hours scrubbing the surface.

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James encountered other issues along the way and quickly realized the intricate details involved in the art of boat building. But the process was rewarding, and he enjoyed problem solving. For example, he found out it is much easier to scrub in the acetone enough for it to start to dissolve some of the stickier epoxy and to then just sand the rest of it away.

From shaping the boat, to installing three bulkheads, to attaching the sides, the effort is significant because it involves bending the wood and wiring the pieces. Flipping the boat was also a tricky, and strength-demanding, process.

But finally, with his boat assembled, it was time to paint, a time-consuming process James accomplished in stages, as each section took more than 24 hours to dry. He painted the bottom black and the sides jade mist green, and added a cream stripe along the waterline.

The boat will eventually seat five people, and James modified the design to put a hatch in for life jacket storage. He also plans to add holders for fishing poles.

“The process was unbelievably time consuming, and the weather was a big challenge, but I’m really pleased with the outcome. It’s something I always wanted to do,” James said. He’s looking forward to the spring and the boat’s maiden voyage.

James’s boat will be parked outside the Ross Gallery at the Upper School during the Senior Project Exhibition on January 22, where attendees are welcome to inspect his work and ask any questions they have.