Friday, January 25, 2013

Whaleboat times two

This week's biggest change was the departure from the shop of the Chesapeake Light Craft team rowing dory, which is now awaiting spring in the company of the small craft fleet, on the ISM floating dock.  We are all looking forward to seeing how she performs in the water. In her place, the WOW team has installed a 22 foot long bench, that will serve as a workstation for spar construction and oar building, primarily for the two whaleboats.  The new bench is easily removable and can be stored compactly, since it was constructed with strong but lightweight sawhorses using the torsion boxes shown being built in a previous post.

The spar making/oar making bench comes together
A looong clamping surface is already in use
The kids from Wooden Boat Factory were in the shop working as part of the ISM  S.A.I.L.O.R. program.  They worked with Jeff on putting the new workbench together, and with Nick on the installation of molds atop the keel of the second Beetle replica whaleboat.  The new whaleboat is taking shape quickly.  She is almost ready for planking.
Nick works with a student setting up whaleboat molds 
The molds are the same ones we used for the first whaleboat, so lots of time was saved by not having to construct them.  Also, the experience gained from the first effort is saving time and allowing us to avoid missteps that occurred the first time.  One begins to better understand how the incredibly rapid pace of whaleboat construction in the 1830s and 1840s shops could have been achieved.  Experience is, after all, the best teacher.

Nick checks molds for symmetry and correct alignment
Meanwhile, the seemingly endless array of chocks, cleats, holes, brackets, etc. continue to be added to the whaleboat number one.  A coat of white primer was applied to the entire interior, and sanded smooth in preparation for the application of grey paint.  The sheer will be painted blue on this boat, and the rest of the hull will be white.
The hull interior is now primed white from gunwale to gunwale.
John sands the primer coat, getting ready for painting.
Some of the little fixtures being added are peculiar to whaling, and make sense only in that context.  For example, a sheet of lead has been fastened between the huge white oak bow chocks.  Its purpose was to allow the harpoon line to pay out smoothly and avoid chafing.
Lead sheet is copper nailed between bow chocks.
Newt constructed another specialized piece of equipment -- a harpoon holder.  This was set into a bracket on the starboard gunwale and allowed several harpoons to be placed at the ready, close to the harpooner's station at the clumsy cleat.
Newt's harpoon rest, under construction
Belaying pins were installed into the underside of the forward thwart, alongside the mast partner.  These pins were used to belay the halyards when the boat was under sail.  Charles turned the pins on the lathe and installed them through the thwart using wedges to lock them in place.
Belaying pins alongside mast partner.

Caulking will mostly be done after the interior is completed and the boat can be turned over, but Charles began the lengthy process by caulking the stems. This required opening up the joints between the plank ends and the stems, which were a bit tight is several places, and hammering in cotton caulking.  The completion of the stems caulking will allow us to complete the installation of gudgeons for the rudder, once our hardware kit arrives from Mystic Seaport.
Caulking begins along the stems.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Good Problem

Obadiah, the Marsh Cat  is gone.  The space she formerly occupied is now filled with the  whaleboat strongback needed to begin the construction of the second Beetle replica whaleboat. There is still not an inch to spare, with four boats, three of them with substantial footprints, filling the shop.  As the sagacious former WoW director, who is now the ISM CEO says, a shop crowded by lots of boats may be a problem, but it is a good problem to have.

While Newt, Carl, and Charles attached a few bits of whaling paraphernalia to whaleboat number one, Bruce worked on shaping a rabbet in the new keel to accept the plank ends.  It is more apparent every day how much we learned from the experience of building the first boat, and how much that helps improving efficiency and quality as we begin the second.  So far, the keel has been cut, including the centerboard slot, tapering is complete, and the rabbet is in place.  Also, one of the stems has been attached to the keel and the other is soon to follow.  

Keel cut and tapered, with centerboard slot also cut.  Strongback is on floor below keel
Bruce works on the keel rabbet with hand plane and chisels
Stem notched and clamped to keel.  Bolts to follow.

Bruce works on spiling a fair  rabbet line at transition from keel to stem.
Each of the stems were made in two parts.  These were attached with Sikaflex, which produces an extremely strong watertight bond, making the two parts of the stem into one.  It works much better than attempting to fill the kerf with bedding, as we did with the first boat.  It is also a much quicker process.
Charles clamps up a stem to allow Sikaflex bond to cure overnight.
Sikaflex squeeze out must be trimmed when stem is removed from clamps.
On the first replica whaleboat, the many small parts that were used on working whaleboats have been fabricated, and most have been attached.  There is lots of cleanup, chamfering of edges, scraping, etc., before painting can begin on the inside.
Newt uses a spokeshave to chamfer a thwart edge.  No yacht finish here!
The mast partner hinge was bedded and bolted.  It is not going anywhere!
The centerboard trunk cap was cut and temporarily fastened  in place.
This bracket at the stern, receives the mast top when the mast is unstepped.
The Chesapeake Light Craft team rowing dory got her first coat of paint over her many coats of epoxy.  Blemishes needed to be filled, and a light sanding done before another coat -- hopefully the final one, can be applied to her outside.
The rowing dory with her first coat of paint.

John sands the hull and fills dents and blemishes before repainting.
With more and more students coming to WoW as part of their school curriculum, Bruce had Jeff working on some very cool torsion box work tables, which can be assembled to a length of over 20 feet, as needed, and disassembled easily when not in use.  
Jeff cuts a big pile of torsion box framing material.
A torsion box takes shape on the shop floor.
Meanwhile, Bob continued his work on the Herreshoff Meadow Lark, Suzy.  The compression post assembly is ready to be installed.  The foredeck has been jacked up more than an inch to its original position, and Bob has fabricated a brace to distribute the weight of the mast to a broad area of foredeck, and down to the keel through the compression post.  A strong boat will be even stronger as a result.
Notched support below foredeck.  Jack post is in position beneath it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Finishing Touches

The WoW team is entering the last few days/weeks with several projects, and is making good progress on all of them.  With all staff back from end of year vacations, and a full brace/host/gaggle/pod(?) of volunteers on hand, lots of little tasks are getting finished so that completed boats will soon be rolling out the door.

Obadiah, our Marsh Cat project, has her bottom newly coated with anti-fouling paint, and her topsides completed with the final coat of white paint.  Bruce and Jeff spent time re-installing bronze rub strips, chain plates, mooring eye, etc., all of which needed re-drilling and bedding.  We know that Obadiah will be leaving us soon, since her owner brought her trailer into the shop.  When the paint is dry, we'll say goodbye.
That mirror look of the final coat.
Bruce and Jeff fasten a bronze strip on the stem.

Newly re-installed chain plate and a very smooth and shiny hull
Jeff drills screw holes for brass rub strip on bottom

Obadiah's departure is very timely, because the white oak has arrived to construct the keel of whaleboat number two, and it will be laid on a strongback in the spot where we now have the Marsh Cat.    In the meanwhile, we will need to continue ducking under, climbing over, and otherwise trying to avoid long, heavy, rough oak timbers cleverly and strategically located throughout the center of the shop in such a way as to make movement the most challenging possible.

Whaleboat number one is being fitted out with the many small and not-so-small specialized bits of equipment peculiar to her trade.  Most of them had a more or less obvious purpose; others, not quite as obvious.  Nevertheless, we are faithfully reproducing every cleat, chock, brace, and wedge that Mr. Beetle installed in his originals, more than 150 years ago.
Channel for stepping and un-stepping mast is installed forward of mast step.
A full width cedar seat pad installed between thwart knees, near stern. 
No-frills seating.  Boards go only where oarsman sits, and not an inch further.
Looking forward at mast stepping structure with partners clamped in place.
Mast partner needed to be notched into forward edge of thwart above step.

One more small cleat for a not-so-obvious purpose.
Newt installs a footrest near stern.  Additional foot brace is to his left.
Carl and Bob drill a grommet hole through inwale on port side.

As noted, many of the parts we are making and installing now are unique to whaleboats, and some are actually unique to the Beetle design.  One uncommon part is the oar shipping rest, which is installed at each oar station, opposite the side where the oar enters the water.  These rests are contoured oak blocks, with a hole bored in the side, into which the oar hand grip is inserted when the oars are shipped.  The oars, which are nearly 17 feet long, are a bit much for stowing inside the whaleboat.
Oar rests-to-be await drilling and installation after sealing. 
Steamed oak strips cooling in jig prior to installation as foot braces.

Very soon, the installation of all the remaining small components will be complete, and we will begin to apply coats of paint to the outside, and oil to the inside of our first Beetle replica whaleboat.

The third boat in the shop nearing completion is the CLC Team Dory.  Yet another coat of epoxy was applied to the outside of the hull -- surely the final one -- and it will be sanded when cured.  Then paint can be applied to the outside, and the interior finish can be completed as well.
John checks the dory for curtains and holidays in the new coat of epoxy.
The only boat in the shop that will not be moving out in the next few weeks is the L. Francis Herreshoff Meadowlark, Suzy.  She has been surrounded with a plastic skirt at her waterline, and a humidifier is running full time under the skirt to keep her bottom from shrinking excessively.  This technique works nicely for boats that spend the winter (or summer) in the relatively low humidity setting of the shop.
Suzy's new skirt.
Another improvement in Suzy is the recent removal of over 600 pounds of lead ingot that was resting in her bilge, directly on the bottom planking.  Apparently, the lead has been in that location for many years, and it is a testament to the quality of her original construction that it did not succeed in making its way to the sea bottom at some point.  Be that as it may, Suzy is definitely going to be more watertight with the lead ingots removed from their former location.
Suzy gets the lead out.

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year, New Boat

The team at WoW started 2013, as planned, with the first steps in the construction of the second Beetle whaleboat replica.  Everyone agrees that there are real advantages in being able to build another one of the same design.  First of all, there are the obvious advantages:  the jigs, molds, and lofting is already done and on hand.  This saves many days of work.  Also, there is far less "hmmm-ing" over the plans attempting to figure out how this part is connected to that one.

Even more important are the lessons we learned from the construction of the first boat, including mistakes we made and had to correct, and techniques that could have made various processes simpler and quicker.  We started with the stems, both fore and aft, and improved techniques already helped make this step quicker and better.  In the first boat, we used a single 3" by 1 1/2" by 8' board, with a kerf nearly all the way through for stress reduction during bending.  Then, after bending, the rabbets into which the plank ends were recessed were cut. That was a lengthy and difficult process.  This time, we cut the stem fully into two lengths along the design kerf line, then planed the rabbet into the inner stem prior to bending.  Very fast, much more accurate, and way, way easier.
Planing chamfer, which will become half of rabbet, into inner stem

  We reused the bending jig that was constructed for the first whaleboat stems.  First, a stem set -- an inner and outer stem -- was steamed for two hours. 

Stem sections steaming in steam bag.  NB: That's water in the kero can!
 After steaming, the carefully orchestrated ballet (sans tutus) including Bruce, Jeff, Newt, John, and Bob, proceeded quickly to bend the two boards into the jig, clamp it in place, and leave it to cool.
Jeff and Bruce remove stem boards from steaming bag.
Inserting the hot boards into the jig.
Jeff begins to bend as Newt and Bob get the far end clamped into place.
Putting some weight into it.
Almost there.  Jeff works the bending lever while Bruce clamps.
Bob works some wedges in to hold stem boards against the jig.
All done.  A good job done well.
Even though the second boat has been started, there are still a few things to be finished up on the first one.  Newt and Bob fastened the very last thwart knee, so now the cedar seats can be made and fastened on the thwarts.  The knees are a bit uncomfortable, even for whalemen, to sit on.
Bob attempts to squeeze one more clamp into his knee assembly.
Newt and Bob are not at all sorry to have fastened the last knee.
Before the strongback and molds for whaleboat number two can be laid, we need to get the marsh cat finished and out of the whaleboat bay.  Bruce moved a big step closer to that by getting the first of two top coats of Petit Easypoxy onto the topsides.  This was accomplished after a final sanding by John and Christian, who came in to help out during his inter-semester break from college.
Christian and John work the sandpaper one more time.
Wow! Is that ever shiny!
On the rowing dory, yet another coat of epoxy was applied, and then sanded.  Once a good smooth surface is achieved, the plan is to apply varnish.
John sanding the rowing dory one more time.
One of the joys of a day at WoW is lunchtime, when everyone gets together to share opinions about nearly everything, jokes, insults, and random observations. 

Still in a festive holiday mood at lunchtime, Newt waves for the camera.
Someone must have been very proud of his lunch.