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  1. #1

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    Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    It has been a while since I have had the time to build a model, much less one from scratch, but I have finally gotten around to finishing a project that I started in 2005.

    I am familiar with building boats, although they are usually full size boats. I have designed for Regal Marine, Monterey Boats, Crownline Boats, Cruisers Yachts, Cigarette Racing, Carolina Skiff, and I created the Azure Brand from scratch under Bennington Marine in 2004.

    The Azure line of boats was my baby between 2004 and 2009. I created it from scratch. I designed the boats, engineered them, hand lettered the Azure logo, wrote the brochures, developed the dealer network, and conducted all of the dealer training. We were the fastest growing company in the Marine Industry in 2006 and 2007. Unfortunately, the economic downturn of 2008 put the nail in our coffin, and the company was sold. I continued working with the company, but after struggling to regain market strength, I ultimately negotiated the sale of the company to the current owners.

    While developing the AZ 279 in 2005 (which at the time was called the AZ 259), we were worried that the full size boat would not be ready in time to show at the dealer meeting, so I cut 1/8 scale plugs off of the CNC machine so I could show a model of the boat. I had patented a cockpit layout that featured the head access from the cockpit, rather than the cabin, so you did not have to "Clear the Dugout" just to use the head. Access was also much improved, since you entered the head with open headroom in the cockpit. The cabin also had much more room, since the head was pulled halfway out of the cabin. The boat ultimately ended up making it to the show, so the 1/8 scale plugs collected dust until now.

    I took the plugs down from the rafters of my warehouse, and started building the boat similarly to how we built the real boats. I will try to document the process for those who are interested, and I will also mention where I have had to deviate from the process, due to the nature of the small scale.

    Enjoy:
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  2. #2

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    The boat that is the subject here is the Azure AZ 259. I will always call the boat by this original name, as I feel that the boat should only be measured to the molded hull, unless the extended swim platform is designed in as the only platform. On the Azures, the platforms were designed to be molded into the deck, and the extended swim platform was only an option to get a little more space. But the bean counters figured they could get more money for the boat by adding the platform as standard, and adding 2 feet into the cost. The boats were all renamed, as 2 feet larger, but they were the same boats as the year before. In the end, the consumer was not fooled, as I warned....

    Moving on. The first process of building the full size boat is completing your design. Boats are either built "on the floor", or "in the box".

    On the floor refers to building plugs the old way, by creating blueprints or lofting drawings. Here, craftsmen read the lofting drawings, and cut out a full size wood kit, which is built just like a wood model boat, or a wood model airplane kit.

    In the Box, refers to the more modern way of buidling boats, which I will outline here. My designs have always been created "on the board", which means I draw them to scale first, before they are ever converted into 3D CAD files. Drawing them long hand on a drafting table allows me to "sketch" the feel of the boat, which allows fast lines to be created. Sketching in the computer is possible, but lines are created spline by spline, and point by point, which is very precise, but has much less feel.

    Once I get a good feel, I will then engineer the boat, and make sure that the lines are not only beautiful, but that the boat is designed to be functional as well. I usually patent most of my designs, to protect innovations and details that create competetive edge. Unfortunately, I created one of the most signature features of the Azure while I was at Monterey Boats, and never patented the idea. The aft Convertible SunLounge was first featured on the Monterey 298SS, and I then redesigned it at Crownline on the 240EX Crossover Deckboat. In 2004, I further refined it on the AZURE, and after that, every manufacturer put it on their boats. There is not a boat company around today, that does not build a version of this cockpit, in the market segment.

    In any case, once my designs are completely worked out on paper, I scan them into the computer, and the lines from plan and profile drawings are "connected" to create B splines. These are lines that computers understand. I will include a picture of a partially completed design in CAD showing the lines scanned from a line drawing, but this is from a current project, not the Azure.

    After the CAD file is complete, it is sent "to the mill" to be cut. The CAD file that was cut for the real Azure was slightly different to the 8th scale model that I cut, because I felt the deck of the model was a little too flat. I added 2" of crown to the full size Azure deck, and also added the "pleasure bumps" (inside joke Dan) just in front of the windshield of the real boat.

    The 2 pictures of the AZ 259 are the final CAD drawings that were cut for the full size boat, but other than the changes mentioned, the 8th scale deck is extremely accurate. The hull is 100% exact in every detail to the full size boat.
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  3. #3

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    The plugs for the 1/8 model boat were cut from 4 pound density foam blocks. This is a relatively simple process, since a 4 foot long by 2 foot wide foam block is a standard size.

    However, the plugs for the full size boats are cut from structures that are built up from wood, and spray on foam, since nobody makes 28 foot long blocks of foam. I will show pictures of an Azure AZ298, since I do not have any of the AZ 259. You will see the CNC machine cutting the rough foam.

    Once the rough foam of the full size boat is cut, it is carefully sanded and primed to replicate the surface of a real boat. IE, it has to be perfect. I will include pictures of the full size boat after it has been blocked and sanded for weeks. You will also see parts like hatches and the windshield added on to verify the fit before the final molds are made off of the plugs.

    This is where the main difference between the model and the full size boats comes in. Since the 8th scale model is so small, the details of the real boat can not be accurately scaled down in foam. The foam of the plug is too soft to replicate minute details and crisp surfaces, and spraying on primer will destroy all of the fine lines and detail that got cut into the plug.

    So I had to create a "fiberglass plug" to do my finish sanding and body work on. I PVA'd (mold release) the foam plug, and made a rough, throw away mold directly off of the 8th scale foam plug. This would allow me to make a fiberglass plug, which is much better for sanding, and will retain its shape better than a foam plug. Unfortunately, I did not take any pics of the 8th scale hull plug that I used to make the rough mold, but the hull foam plug was undamaged in the process. It will not be needed again for the project though.

    The 8th scale rough mold had all of the tooling marks, and rough surface of the foam transmited into it, so I carefully sanded all of the positive shapes of the hull in the mold. I molded it out of black gel coat, since this would show the most blemishes that I needed to sand. Here I sanded the trim flange at the top of the hull, and I also sanded the flats between the strakes, as it was easier to do in the mold. Basically, the rough mold was sanded only where it would be easier to fix issues, instead of sanding the fiberglass plug.

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  4. #4

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    After sanding the rough mold, I sealed and flexed (waxed) the rough mold. In real boat manufacturing, the top builders do not hand wax the molds. This leads to wax buildup, which leads to dull parts.

    I chose to seal the mold with a sealer that fills all of the tiny pores in the mold that would trap gasses or styrene in full size boats. I then applied 6 coats of FLEX 5 mold release. Flex 5 is a very slippery release agent that is too aggressive for production boat building. If the mold is too slippery, the part will detatch from the mold before it is cured, and the hull or deck will look "dented" or wavy down the sides. Since my rough mold had many tooling marks, rough surfaces, and foam texture, this "pre-release" issue would not be a problem since I had a stronger mechanical bond with the mold surface.

    The final fiberglass plug came out just as I had imagined. It looked like the foam plug with all of the tooling CNC marks and rough texture, however, the convex shapes were slightly sanded to remove the tooling marks.
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  5. #5

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    looks good
    Owner - Express Craft Model Boats

  6. #6

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Thanks Express,

    The fiberglass hull plug was sanded carefully to replicate the crisp style lines found all over the real boat. Extreme care was also used in sanding the running surface. All radii on the hull surface are razor sharp. The transom is crisp with zero radius. The strakes are also sanded sharp, and the chines will actually cut you if you rub your arm on them. This is a critical area to replicate, as sharp corners allow the hulls to run to their best abilities.

    These corners will be very difficult to replicate if the hulls were built in production, but I will not be doing that.

    The hull mold is now ready to build.
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  7. #7

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    The hull plug was sealed with 3 coats of sealer, and 5 coats of FLEX 5. Sealing and Flexing only takes about an hour total, but the hull would be good to pull 7 molds off of it with this type of mold release.

    The plug is then shot with Orange tooling gel, and then a 3oz skin coat of chopped glass roving.

    The skin coat is designed to make a barrier between the gelcoat and the bulk glass which will generate considerable heat. You can build a mold or a part in one step, but you will most often see heat distortion in the surfaces of the parts.

    By letting the skin coat cure properly like the real boats, you will make a barrier that insulates the heat of the glass buildup process from distorting the gelcoat surface. This is critical, since my mold will be too finely detailed to sand any heat distortion out of.
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  8. #8

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Once the mold has cured, the edges are trimmed down to make a clean trim flange, and the the hull plug is popped out. This leaves a perfectly molded hull mold that exactly replicates the full size boat.

    You can see the full size lamination department at the original Azure facility in Elkhart, Indiana. Notice that all of the molds are either black tooling gel or orange tooling gel. If you see white in the mold, it is a layer of white gel coat.
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  9. #9

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    I would love to make those boats, if you want to work something out.And you just dont want to be the guy producing them. It's what we do. our work is good and prices are fair.I also have all of the sea ray model molds,There is not a big market for this type of model, but it's cool to have it available and see your work getting appreciated from people all over the world.We are only in Cocoa fl.
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    Owner - Express Craft Model Boats

  10. #10

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Hi Tom, please, can you give me the measures of that boat?  is stunning!!

  11. #11

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Thanks for the interest Express, but I did not have any plans of producing them. I was only building them to have a few for myself and my kids. I have looked at your site, and your prices do seem very good. I remember that SeaRay 280 SunSport. It was a gorgeous boat in its day. What scale do you have it modelled in? I might be interested in one of those if you are selling them.

    Yes, I have to admit, it is great to see one of my boats being used and appreciated. I love seeing someone at the boat ramp, or out on the water in one of them, and I always take the time to go over and show them something that the salesman missed.

    I am in Palm City, but I do business very near you at VectorWorks.

    As Mario asked, what are the specs of the SeaRay?

    Regards

  12. #12

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Moving along, and onto the deck.

    While the hull is a relatively simple part to laminate and pull, the deck creates quite a challenge. I wanted to stay faithful to the full size boat, and replicate the cockpit with much of the storage and engine access intact. Consequently, I modelled the entire engine well, as well as the cockpit seating with sorage and drainage system into the model. I did not mold the head door access, but I did cut the dash and console accurately as a separate part.

    The deck is very difficult to pull, since the foam texture of the side walls and storage boxes wants to grab, rather than slide.

    I used PVA water based mold release for the deck with 5 coats applied. I then treated all of the side walls with a thin layer of green wax, but not enough to wet the PVA out. I was just trying to fill the pores in the side walls that are vertical (or near vertical with 3' draft on them)

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  13. #13

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    The model shown is 23"L and 7" wide. I hear you about not wanting to produce them, But I would love to make them and send you a payment on each one sold, I would do all the work,And maybe pick your brain some to know the story behind the boat for sales.I have a lot of the sea ray molds.You will have to stop in some time when you are in the cocoa area.
    Owner - Express Craft Model Boats

  14. #14

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Wow. I am surprised by the dimensions of the SeaRay. It is tough to get models to look that good in that scale. Did they have any larger ones?

    Mine is tough enough at 8th scale. That puts me at 37 1/2" in length, and 12 3/4" in beam. I might build the AZ298 next, as it has a better length to beam ratio. The AZ259 that I modelled was quite tall for its length, to make a comfortable cabin interior. But the lines were carefully developed to make the boat look lower profile in real life. If you look at the All Black Z model in the first post pics, you will see that a new color break and a low profile windshield made a pretty cool sport boat...

    The tough thing about producing them is the intellectual property in the hulls. I would love to produce them, but I have utility patents on the chine fin, sound suppression in the step, the chine extensions, and the warp in the outer running surfaces. If somebody buys one from you and pops a mold off of it, I will have to chase down every single one and send them a cease and desist notice. In US commerce, if somebody infringes your patent, and you do nothing about it, then you essentially void out your own intellectual property (Its called abandonment)

    The royalties associated with building them vs the legal costs I will have defending my IP simply will not equate.

    I would love to stop by your shop, or even develop a boat that would be suitable for RC with no IP to cause me to lose sleep though.

  15. #15

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Here is a bigger boat we make, this is our sunseeker,we could leave those patented steps off of the model.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZNGU...feature=relmfu This boat is powered with a stock g-231 with a bonzi clutch.It's right at 60" less the swim platform, and we do have a hatch as well for this boat.
    Owner - Express Craft Model Boats

  16. #16

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    That Sunseeker looks great, and looks to run really well. Nice job, and nice detail with the swim platform. I have some CAD from the Predator 75 from a few years ago, but have no licensing to do anything with it. It is nice to see somebody with one in the water.

    The patents are not just in the steps. The entire style is design patented and it is trademarked with DV-H visual trademarks as well. As I said, it is just too much to worry about for any money that I might get out of it. I am just making the molds to make a few boats for the kids.

  17. #17

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Moving along,

    I layed up a hull in my 2nd favorite color scheme. I chose the full band, with the chine stripe in black. The deck will have the matching forward stripe in gel as well. The deck vents were standard in hull color, and they will be on the model as well.

    I repeated the process of sealing and Flexing the hull mold, and set out to lay up a hull.

    I first made masks for the chine stripe, and the aft portion of the color break around the thru-hull exhausts. The I completely taped all of the hull that would be black. I then sprayed about 15 mils of almond white gelcoat into the mold and let it gel off slightly.

    Waiting the right amount of time is critical to pull the tape off, as too soon will allow the white gel to flow back onto the mold and create a wavy line. Too late will allow the gel to cure too much and tear off of the mold with the tape.

    I got it pretty good, as the hull part shows. Taking the time to sand and finish your plug really pays off when you get a good surface, and it shows well in black. I trimmed the flange on the guide, but I left the rear of the flange on temporarily. It will come off after I do a hull to deck check fit.

    I am including a picture of an AZ298 in the same scheme (although blue) so you can see what the finished boat will look like.
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  18. #18

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    @Tom, would you want to custom build me a one off boat? Or is that not really your gig? I sent you an email about it but you didn't reply.
    Thanks
    Mike

  19. #19

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    I think I did respond and said it would not be cheap, that was the last I herd. lol maybe it was not you. there is a lot involved, but we can do it.Tony your boat is awesome.
    Owner - Express Craft Model Boats

  20. #20

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    That is some amazing work! Beautiful boat!
    Ryan
    http://lipgensfabrication.com

  21. #21

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Tony, what can i say... i have no words, like the others said, amazing work! Want to see more.

    Regards

  22. #22

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Man I wish my dad was cool like you and made me one!
    The boat looks great and man I wish I had one.

  23. #23

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Thanks all for the comments. It has been refreshing to work on the Azures again, even though it is in 8th scale this time.

    Moving along to the deck mold.

    The deck mold did not come off the CNC'd foam plug very easily. It put up a fight, as expected, and held in the deepest areas of the engine well, and the storage buckets. A few chuncks of the plug broke off in the mold which was expected as well.

    Included are pictures of the plug, after I pulled the mold, and then smashed it with a hammer. Intellectual property is governed very carefully, and destroying a plug before it gets thrown away is an important step to prevent "abandonment" of your patent.

    The deck mold will now have all of the foam chunks scraped off, and then scuffed to leave a tooled gel coat surface. AFter the surface is free of foam and mold release PVA (the green stuff) It will be sanded on all of the flats that are accessible, and all of the concave surfaces in the mold (convex on the deck part). I will leave the foam impression on the foredeck to simulate the non skid, although the real boat had diamond pattern molded non skid.

    After the deck mold is sanded, it will be used to create another fiberglass deck plug that I can do all of the detail sanding, and fitting of the deck vents, engine hatch, and dash. This mold will only be used to create the fiberglass deck plug. It will have no other purpose after that.

    I made it in orange tooling gel and resin, since these shrink less than standard resin and gel. This will ensure that the hull to deck fit is right on.
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  24. #24

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    RE: Scratch Built 1/8 Scale Azure AZ279 Build Thread

    Moving along.

    The temporary deck mold has been sanded to remove as much of the foam surface detail as possible. From this point, I will pull a fiberglass plug that will be much easier to sand and detail.

    This step is simply applying a liquid sealer to the temp mold before I apply the chemical release wax. The sealer is applied with a rag, and it is wiped on in 5 coats.

    You can see the sealer "absorb" into the gel, as it fills all of the tiny voids that might cause the part to stick in the mold.
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