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-   -   Toe rail: Replace existing mahogany, or go with aluminum? (http://www.sailnet.com/forums/gear-maintenance/72359-toe-rail-replace-existing-mahogany-go-aluminum.html)

chrisncate 02-25-2011 10:12 PM

Toe rail: Replace existing mahogany, or go with aluminum?
 
Howdy gents, another in a long series of questions you can expect from me over the next three months...:p

We have to replace the rotted toe rail, it currently is the oe mahogany, and it's shot. Obviously we have never done a toe rail, and we aren't sure of the difficulty of replacing it with either wood or aluminum.

Cate ran across the below pieces of aluminum from WM, looks like it comes in 34' lengths (which would work for our boat). My thoughts and questions: Am I correct in assuming the metal toe rail would be virtually maintenance free? Does anyone know how hard it is to install? Does it conform (bend) to the hull shape easily? Can two greenhorns install it without needing to call out the national guard for rescue?

Would wood be more difficult to fabricate and install? I know wood looks way better, but I really would consider the metal as it seems like a truly functional way to go. It would eliminate the current toe rail mounted block track, as you can use snatch blocks in any one of the holes on the aluminum, correct?

The bottom line is I would like to keep the wood if it is practical and something we can build and install ourselves without tearing our hair out.

Thoughts? Fire away..


http://img64.imageshack.us/img64/6030/toerail.png

A pic of what we have now
http://img135.imageshack.us/img135/9...0719164054.jpg

Faster 02-26-2011 01:10 AM

The slotted aluminum works very well... it does not need maintenance, it provides places to connect shackles, tie down items on deck, attach bungee cords, store halyards off the mast, etc etc.... but I think it's pretty pricey. Not sure just how easy it is to bend to shape, but obviously it's possible. Virtually all of them are through bolted as part of the hull/deck attachment scheme. I believe they are rarely added on after the fact.

The wood looks great but as you know requires upkeep. It's also not as easy to bend as you might think, and cleanly removing the existing is going to be a difficult job all on its own. On one of our first boats we removed a rotten toerail but had to change the way the original wood was oriented in order to have any hope of bending the new one into place. In the end it worked out OK but I would have preferred to have an aluminum one.

The only downside to the perforated aluminum rails is that they tend to leave unsightly stains as they oxidize and the rain water off the deck runs down the hull. If you keep ahead of it it's an easy clean, if you let those stains sit for a while they can be quite stubborn to remove. On a dark hull such as yours they would be less noticeable.

Whether you can use them or not will require a close look at the hull/deck joint construction, spacing of existing bolts, and the actual profile of the hull-to-deck surfaces. I noticed that the rail you posted has an outer rim that would cover the edge of the joint so perhaps that would work for you. But if there's no room to drill and install the new bolts it would be an iffy proposition.

Best of luck...

sailingdog 02-26-2011 07:51 AM

It would help if you said what kind of boat you're looking to install this rubrail on. Rubrails are usually installed as part of the hull-deck join, as Faster mentions, and retrofitting one can range from easy to a real PITA, depending on the design of the hull-deck join in question.

Based on the photo you posted, I am guessing that your boat has either a shoebox or inward flange type hull-deck join, and if you've got decent access to the hull deck join area, then installing an aluminum rubrail might not be too bad.

Faster's concerns about the fastener spacing and size, as well as the profile of the hull-deck surfaces are key. The fact that the aluminum toe rail has a lower flange is probably going to be an issue, since I don't believe it will fit on your boat with that lower flange in the way. Having an L-shaped extrusion would be better and give you a lot more flexibility in the way you place it, including allowing you to have the vertical portion inboard rather than outboard and make bending the toerail easier.

Gladrags1 02-26-2011 08:18 AM

I agree with what the previous poster said. I like the look of the wood and the functionality of the aluminum. The aluminum would need to be through bolted along it's entire length while you would only need to through bolt the wood at the track. So a key is how much access you have inside for washers and nuts. Depending upon the sharpness of the bends, you might have less trouble with the aluminum but you may need to make a clamping jig or long pipe clamp to pressure them around the curves. The wood might need some coaxing with strategically applied water to help it bend correctly, again using your job-made clamps. Don't forget with either material to use caulk (life-caulk not 5200) to keep water out of edgegrain of wood and help with structural adhesion for either. I'm thinking you might have an easier job with replacing it with wood simply due to the access under the toerail around the length of the boat.
Once you remove the old material, you will get an idea of how the toe rail is presently installed. If installed with wood screw like I imagine, you might need to fill and fair to redrill the holes for best bite for the new screws. While it seems like a big, complicated job, breaking it down into segments will help it go smoother and you should enjoy the result. It's a very pretty boat.

chrisncate 02-26-2011 11:04 AM

sailingdog
Quote:

Based on the photo you posted, I am guessing that your boat has either a shoebox or inward flange type hull-deck join, and if you've got decent access to the hull deck join area, then installing an aluminum rubrail might not be too bad.
I am unfamiliar with these terms and what they mean regarding my hull-deck join, can you please elaborate on what to look for so I can identify what I have?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gladrags1 (Post 702454)
I agree with what the previous poster said. I like the look of the wood and the functionality of the aluminum. The aluminum would need to be through bolted along it's entire length while you would only need to through bolt the wood at the track. So a key is how much access you have inside for washers and nuts. Depending upon the sharpness of the bends, you might have less trouble with the aluminum but you may need to make a clamping jig or long pipe clamp to pressure them around the curves. The wood might need some coaxing with strategically applied water to help it bend correctly, again using your job-made clamps. Don't forget with either material to use caulk (life-caulk not 5200) to keep water out of edgegrain of wood and help with structural adhesion for either. I'm thinking you might have an easier job with replacing it with wood simply due to the access under the toerail around the length of the boat.
Once you remove the old material, you will get an idea of how the toe rail is presently installed. If installed with wood screw like I imagine, you might need to fill and fair to redrill the holes for best bite for the new screws. While it seems like a big, complicated job, breaking it down into segments will help it go smoother and you should enjoy the result. It's a very pretty boat.

I have really great access to all the bolts of the toe rail (it is thru bolted by the way). None of the bends seem that extreme, but I honestly don't know what would constitute a hard bend.

The w/m alum. toe rail is on sale for just under $700.00 for a 34' section (I'd need two), so it is pricey initially but maintenance free in the long run (I'd imagine). When you say I wouldn't have to thru bolt it all the length of it (a wood rail), how is this possible? It's currently bolted the entire length, and it seems like it would be "loose" where it was not bolted? I'd love to eliminate as many fasteners as possible, but I don't understand how I could achieve this in this application...?

I do plan on bedding with butyl tape instead of a curing product, I plan on bedding everything with butyl actually.

If going with wood, would you recommend shorter sections that would (I think) require less bending, or longer sections that show less seams and endgrain?

Faster 02-26-2011 11:22 AM

Here are some examples of hull deck joints. This should help you to decide what would work for you if you can determine what you've got.

"C" is a 'shoebox' style, "D" is an outturned flange style.. etc. However your boat may be different from any of these.... The Irwin diagram shows the same aluminum rail you're thinking of... (but think bolts/washers/nuts instead of those little screws) I suspect this is similar to your hull/deck joint arrangement. I've found several A30 blogs touching on the subject..


http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/c...345/joints.gif

http://i213.photobucket.com/albums/c...ldeckjoint.jpg

baboon 02-26-2011 11:27 AM

If your toerail is already through bolted along its entire length and the fasteners are as easy to get to as you say, I would go with the aluminum. Getting wood to curve is not easy and the cost of knot free clear teak or mahogany might be as high as the metal (I have only purchased small amounts of teak, but have been startled by the cost). I have had to bend wood for smaller projects, it always seems harder than it looks. You will have trouble getting wood the length of your boat, so scarf joints will be needed, which makes the bending even harder.

Your maintentence concerns are real. The hardest thing to maintain on my 30 ft boat is the toerails. Remember they meet the deck on both sides of the rail, a total of 120 linear feet of wood to glass contact. This makes finishing, taping, cleaning etc an hours long chore on your hands and knees. The toe rails get the most abuse of any wood part of the boat, and therefore need the most attention. I would trade the look of wood for low maintenence metal any day.

Hopfully someone with more experience with alumninum rail instalilation will chime in, I will follow with interest.

sailingdog 02-26-2011 11:56 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by chrisncate (Post 702478)
sailingdog


I am unfamiliar with these terms and what they mean regarding my hull-deck join, can you please elaborate on what to look for so I can identify what I have?

Faster has posted great illustrations of the different types of hull-deck joins, and yours appears to either be a shoebox join or a inward-turned flange, like the irwin has.

Quote:

I have really great access to all the bolts of the toe rail (it is thru bolted by the way). None of the bends seem that extreme, but I honestly don't know what would constitute a hard bend.

The w/m alum. toe rail is on sale for just under $700.00 for a 34' section (I'd need two), so it is pricey initially but maintenance free in the long run (I'd imagine). When you say I wouldn't have to thru bolt it all the length of it (a wood rail), how is this possible? It's currently bolted the entire length, and it seems like it would be "loose" where it was not bolted? I'd love to eliminate as many fasteners as possible, but I don't understand how I could achieve this in this application...?
You're going to have to through-bolt the toe rail at regular intervals, usually every 4-6" or so.

Quote:

I do plan on bedding with butyl tape instead of a curing product, I plan on bedding everything with butyl actually.

If going with wood, would you recommend shorter sections that would (I think) require less bending, or longer sections that show less seams and endgrain?
Just be careful in areas near the fuel fill, since butyl tape is damaged by long-term exposure to petroleum fuels. That's one reason I don't recommend it for bedding fuel deck fills. It will make doing this a lot simpler, since you don't have to worry about it curing before you are done.

BTW, if you haven't priced a wooden rub rail, I think you'll be rather shocked at the cost of a good mahogany or teak rub rail... the aluminum isn't that much more expensive overall, and the reduced maintenance will more than make up for it in the long run. Don't forget to use something to isolate the stainless steel bolts from the aluminum.

Faster 02-26-2011 12:31 PM

If the hull/deck joint is the Irwin style then I really like the 'T' profile rail you've shown, it's going to cover the outer edge and make the whole thing look more finished right off the bat - it also guarantees the aluminum is the outermost piece (not necessarily the case with the top mounted "L" profile rail) making it a better 'rubrail' type of protection.

Using wood you'd definitely want longer pieces. Short bits would not bend as easily and you'd get a 'stop sign' effect at every joint. You really want to minimize the joints in any case to make the varnish more durable (joints are always tougher to keep sealed)

It's starting to look like you want to go with the aluminum - but make sure that if the the mounting holes are predrilled that they match your existing holes (unless there's room to go in between) and, perhaps more importantly, that the holes are inboard far enough to actually get the bolts and washers in without running into the inside hull surfaces.

With a crew you may be able to start the rail at one end (the end with the least curvature) bolt in the first two three, and maybe add some sort of clamp to hold it there for now, and then slowly push the rail into place for the next hole, etc etc, and manage the overall curve that way. However that will required some space alongside initially as the still-straight rail is going to want a lot of room until you form it. It would be interesting to know how the manufacturer's used to do it (nobody I know still adds those rails - cost issues, I imagine, but I think it's a backward step)

paulk 02-26-2011 12:57 PM

The "T" extrusion looks good and is certainly strong. Faster mentions making sure that the mounting holes line up with the existing holes, which is a good point to help avoid leaks from unused holes. Using the same holes will be impossible if the flange that goes onto the deck isn't deep (or long) enough to reach in to where the existing holes are. Better measure. Twice. Depending upon the extrusion thickness, the "T" may also be more difficult to bend than an "L" There are lots of sources for rails, and Taco is not the only supplier. Based on the pictures of your boat above, it looks like you could start attaching the new rails at the stern and use the leverage of the rail itself to torque it into position, drill the next hole, caulk & fasten it, and so on. (It looks like the most curve is towards the stern, so that's where the leverage of unattached rail would be most useful.) Figure that it will take about three times longer than you thought to do this, because it will be better to do it right, once, than three times.


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