Drilling Begins!

We’re finally doing it!  Drilling the holes in the solid keel for cradle support rods.

It took us days to get the alignment as accurate as we could. We’ve used laser leveling and good old geometry with string and tape measure in a modern and old school “belt and suspenders” approach. We hopefully have measured twice and drilled once to get this accurate.

We are drilling three 2-1/8″ diameter holes up through the keel, spaced 12″ apart. We’ll insert three 2″ diameter steel rods up through these holes. Gaps will be filled with epoxy.

Our first hole took 2 1/2 hours to drill using a diamond tipped drill. The second hole seems to be going faster.

We are constrained where we can drill by the thickness of the keel. The keel must be at least 2-3/4″ so we’ll have 3/8″ wall thickness. So, all we could get was a length of 24″ to support RELIANCE.

Enjoy the pictures which show progress to date. Hopefully sessions Saturday and next Tuesday will conclude drilling operations!

1-3. Steve Siok measures keel thickness with our high-tech measuring device – home-made wooden caliper with arms 2 3/4″ apart. (validated by drilling small holes and measuring thickness and keel material composition. These holes also confirm that the keel is indeed solid). We also confirmed that the fore and aft balance point” BP” will be “between the pipes.”

4-7. Our drill bit assembly – note the card showing the comparison of size of RELIANCE to the Space Shuttle – done by our RWU intern Aaron Towers 8. Picture of the three 2″ o.d. rods with attachment plates that will inserted into the three holes we are about to drill. The attachment plates will be bolted to a 6′ x 6′ a 1″ steel road plate weighing about 1,500 lbs. Before assembly, we’ll put oak “keel blocks” on top of the attachment plates. These will be conformal to keel shape and angle of heel, and the keel will rest on these rather than on steel.

9-10. Keith Bradley, Sandy Lee, Steve and Bill Lawton measure face and butt height alignment of the drill from base of drill rails to height of level laser line. This culminated many measurement activities.  First, fore and aft RELIANCE hull levelness as well as her sideways levelness were checked by laser. Then the drill assembly was aligned to be perpendicular to the waterline which had been marked on the upper part of the keel and the drill bit was centered to the hole to be drilled. Finally, we then ensured that the drill bit and drill assembly were level. These last steps will be repeated as we go to the second and third holes.

11-17. Various pictures of crew drilling. Note the road plate mentioned above gives a steady base for the drill


Steve lays out keel thickness



Fitting into small places



Balance point and thickness laid out



Drill bit



Bit and extension



Steel bars



Laser leveling



Checking alignment



Drilling first hole, Bill, Steve and Keith



First hole, Keith getting tired!



First hole – about 1 hour in



About 1.5 hours in



First hole – Herk takes picture



Now with extension on bit



Steve takes over



Tim Horton takes over for the second hole





4 thoughts on “Drilling Begins!

    1. Sandy Lee

      Thanks for the question. The hull was made about a decade ago by Marine Concepts in Florida and is Fiberglass. All the dimensions we’ve taken from this hull are “anatomically correct,” so they did a wonderful job of it. She was made in three parts (left and right hull and deck) and these were glued and glassed together. It appears that the minimum thickness is 3/8″ and much of her is thicker. The keel was filled with what appears to be micro-balloon material, so it is solid and ,yes, does require a diamond bit. (We chose this type of bit (rather than an auger) so it would track true.) RELIANCE model is built like a tank, unlike her namesake!
      The original RELIANCE had 102.5 tons of lead in the keel attached to steel frames and stringers and boiler tube diagnoal bracing. Hull plates were tobin bronze, deck plates were aluminum, and if memory serves me she had steel deck and hull edge margin planks, The aluminum was covered with cork linoleum. All the steel, tobin bronze and aluminum pieces riveted together. The exterior rivets were then ground perfectly flush, so flush that they are invisible in pictures from 1903. By the way, quite a battery of dissimilar metals….
      She only had 21 frames (“web’frames” and large mast-step) for her 144′ length on deck, so she was very lightly constructed.
      Since the interior of our RELIANCE model will not be visible, the exterior rivels in 1/6th scale invisible and our hull painted over, we are not concerned that we have varied from use of metal hull construction….
      Sandy Lee
      RELIANCE Project Manager

      1. Cyrus Taft

        Thanks for explaining how the model was constructed. Another question, what is micro-balloon material? Is that a fiberglass filler of some sort?


  1. Sandy Lee

    I’m not a technical materials guy, so I invite you to look at, for example, WEST System 407 Low Density Filler. Description says “West System 407 Low-Density filler is a blended microballoon-based filler used to make fairing putties that are easy to sand or carve. Reasonably strong on a strength-to-weight basis. Cures to a dark red/brown color.”
    My comment was made before we’d started drilling and looking at her keel from inside the boat and drilling a few test bores. Ross Weene, the naval architect who collaborated with us on the cradle, came to our open house Saturday and reviewed our core samples. His comments:

    Hi Sandy,
    It looked like polyester filling putty to me.

    Ross Weene
    Rodger Martin Design
    Box 242
    Newport, RI 02840


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