Friday, March 29, 2013

Curved things made of wood

Thursdays have become a very busy day at WoW in recent months, and even with most of the students off on spring holiday, there was lots of action.  Oddly, nearly every project underway seemed to involve making curved things out of wood.  Frames continue to be formed, fitted, and fastened into the the second Beetle replica whaleboat at a truly prodigious pace; Suzy, the L. F. Herreshoff Meadow Lark, has a new keel to stem bridge ready to be bolted in place; the whaleboat bow is being fitted for, and will soon to be sporting her curvy and massive bow chocks.  A day of curved stuff, all around.

The work on Suzy continues below the water line.  Jeff has completed removal of the decayed wood at the junction of the keel and the stem, and he built a three dimensional plywood template of the new member.  Using a well dried and massive white oak timber, he cut out the new keel/stem section.

Cleaned out to the good wood, and ready to rebuild
Jeff's template for the keel to stem structural tie.
Jeff is sawing . . .
This is real macho carpentry, with the full range of workshop machinery -- bandsaw, planer, jointer -- participating in the process of making 50 pounds or so of dry white oak into a useful and fairly elegant form.

Jeff is jointing . . .
Jeff is planing . . .
Jeff is spiling . . .

Most of the surfaces are determined by the adjoining members in the existing structure, but the upper surface simply follows the inner sides of the keel and stem in a fair curve, which Jeff guarantees with ice picks and batten.

Ready to be fitted

In she goes, nearly ready to be fastened.

 Similar well dried big chunks of white oak were being formed into bow chocks for the second whaleboat, elsewhere in the shop.  The first  step was lofting the shape from the plans.  The bow chocks are complex, resting in a notch at the front of the inwale and sheer plank, flaring outward toward the stem, and fairly curved downward to join the gunwales at the aft end.  Three loftings were needed.  Actually all of this work was done a year ago when we build the first whaleboat, but in an successful effort to assure that we would get to build a second one, we discarded the earlier patterns.

Side bow chock pattern in place on starboard side.
Notches through plank and inwale will receive the chocks.
Not a curved piece of wood -- yet.
Meanwhile, Bruce and his team, which included Jeff the Younger, Lee, John, Newt, Bob and three or four visitors who just came in looking for the bathroom, were continuing to break land speed records making and installing frames.  In less than two weeks, they have nearly completed the painstaking framing process.  They are not slacking on quality either.  The batten notches are tight and square, and the positioning of the frames is precise and consistent.

MANY screws and cans of Dolfinite are needed to bed and fasten 72 frames.
The steamer is used steadily to rebend each frame prior to fitting.
Bob fits a frame up forward on starboard side.
Bruce cuts batten notches.
A LOT of frames, with more to come.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A little of everything nautical

The replica sea chest needed for ISM's early May exhibit is nearly finished.  All parts were glued up and fastened with decorative copper rosette head nails, similar to those used in the original.  The inside of the pine box was sealed, and the outside is ready for painting, once we can make a decision on the appropriate color.

Box interior showing "till" on left side.
The original box has handles which consist of a captured grommet in a pine becket at either end.  Lee put his rope splicing skills to work on a couple of lengths of 5/8 inch manila kindly provided by Olympia.  The handles look great, and give a real measure of authenticity to the project.

Lee splices.
Ready for painting
Nearby, the first Beetle whaleboat replica has gotten her waterline taped, her bottom painted, and a coat of white primer on her exterior hull.  The sheer strake has been primed with gray since the final paint will be a darker color.  Our deadline for putting her in the water is fast approaching, and she will most definitely be ready for launch.

White bottom paint (???), white topside primer, and gray sheer strake primer.  Looking sharp.
The second whaleboat is moving toward completion at warp speed (Startrek warp, not wood warp,) with a goal of having her ready to sail by late of May.  While this is a very aggressive schedule, nothing so far has given any reason to believe that it cannot be met.  The port inwale is fastened, and the starboard one is about to be, having already been steam bent and fitted.

Port inwale has been bedded and fastened
Work has begun on the painstaking task of fitting the many frames around the battens and against the planks so they can be fastened in place.  Repeated fittings, cuts, re-fittings, trimmings, and finally painting, bedding and fastening make this a very slow process which must be done for each of approximately 72 frames.  A good team can complete about 6 frames per workday.  Bruce modestly expects to do much better than that.  We shall see.

Jeff removes molds prior to frame carpentry beginning.

Bruce test fits a frame while Lee awaits orders.
Lee cuts notches for battens in a new frame.
The Suzy restoration is also moving along.  Jeff continues to dig out decayed wood and is almost ready to start fabricating a new stem-to-keel section that will greatly enhance her structural rigidity up front below the waterline -- always nice to have.  Meanwhile, the compass binnacle has been mounted in the cockpit, and it is a great improvement.

The new compass binnacle.  the opening on aft surface is for stowage.
Bob was working on one of the "luxuries" to be added to Suzy -- an on-deck shower installation.  You never know when you might want to get clean while on board a sailing vessel.

Plumbing may not be glamorous, but it is always welcome.  Bob installs shower fittings.

Friday, March 15, 2013


The big event of the day, at least insofar as the number of people involved, was the steam bending of the port inwale for Beetle replica whaleboat number two.  The gunwales are very stout on the Beetles, for obvious reasons, and the inwale alone is a thick, wide, and long strip of white oak.  Because of its dimensions, it required nearly two hours of steaming (one hour of steam per inch of board thickness.)  
Inwale pieces cooking in the steam bag
Once the wood has steamed enough, it needed to be quickly removed from the bag and bent and clamped into place on the boat, along the sheer, where it will be eventually fastened.  Lots of hands make this process possible.  
Newt and Jeff remove the steam bag from the steamed oak boards.
Jeff, Bruce, and Jeff begin bending and clamping the forward section of the inwale.
Because steam bent oak will tend to spring back a little when unclamped, and because the bend was for the inwale, but was clamped to the outside of the sheer strake (because it's much easier to do) Bruce added spacers amidships to increase the bend.  Some of the spacers can be seen in the picture above. 

The inwale is fabricated in two sections, fore and aft, for ease of handling and because 30 foot straight grained clear white oak boards are tough to come by these days.  A scarph joint was cut and prefitted before steaming.   

The aft section of the inwale being clamped.
The final clamp goes into place.
The scarph joint is clamped.  It will be faired later on.
Earlier in the day, Bruce and Jeff had fitted and fastened the sheer plank.  Thus, whaleboat number 2 is fully planked -- beautifully and in record time.

Bruce fastens the sheer strake with copper clinch nails.
You can NEVER have too many clamps.
Meanwhile, back on whaleboat number 1, the seams have all been caulked and sealed.  Once the sealer dries, the first coat of hull paint can be applied.

A messy job, but a necessary one.
Jeff was busy tearing apart another boat.  This time, his victim is Suzy, the Herreshoff Meadow Lark.  Leaks in the bow were a problem, and fairly severe decay in some parts of the keel to stem joint was found.  Jeff removed the rotted stem section, and will fashion a new and better replacement.

Jeff and his hammer -- watch out!
Jeff extracts a particularly stubborn bolt.
Bob continued working topside on Suzy, fastening the Lexan top to her new forward hatch.  

Bob drills screw holes in the Lexan hatch top, a LOT of screws  holes.
Although planking was just completed on the second whaleboat, and there are still 72 frames to install, it is not to early to begin bending white oak for the many thwart knees that will need to be fabricated and riveted into place.  On the first boat, we had a very high mortality rate, as one knee after another cracked and split while bending.  To avoid that this time, Carl is fabricating a compression band that will fit on the knee bending jig.  We found that a compression band helped enormously when bending frames, reducing the failure rate to near zero.
Compression band in place on knee bending jig.
The sea chest replica, needed for an upcoming interactive exhibit in the Museum is coming along.  Charles finished cutting dovetails and mortises, and glued up the four sides.  Top and bottom will come along soon.

Four of 16 tails, plus another 16 pins -- let's see. . .
Glued and clamped up to dry.  Top and bottom come next.
A reminder why to "Do as I say, not as I do."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Turning turtle

Beetle replica whaleboat number 1 was finally flipped, so that the hull could be caulked and the exterior painted.  Newt and volunteers jumped to the task, and are already well into the process.  The starboard side is fully caulked, and Newt is well along on the port side.  Caulking a boat is always a painstaking process, and involves more taps with the mallet than one might like to count. On a 26 foot boat with 7 planks, you are going to hammer in well over 100 yards of cotton.  At a reasonable 3 mallet taps per 2 inches, that means in excess of 6,500 blows are needed, at minimum, to caulk a boat the like our whaleboats!  
Newt moves his way along the garboard to keel seam with mallet and caulking iron.
The task of caulking is simple and requires only a mallet, caulking iron, and cotton caulk.  Most people who have tried it say it is enjoyable and satisfying -- for a while.  Like many enjoyable and satisfying new experiences, it does tend to get old, especially on a large boat.
Tools of the trade -- cotton caulk and caulking iron.  Note caulk already hammered into seams.
While whaleboat number 1 was all about caulking, whaleboat number 2 is moving along on several fronts.  Great progress is being made in planking.  Bruce is already fitting the sheer plank on the port side with the starboard not far behind.
Bruce cuts the rabbet where the sheer strake meets the stem.
Planking is nearly complete on whaleboat number 2.

At the same time, S.A.I.L.O.R program kids are working on two key parts of the boat, the rudder and the centerboard case.  The first step in rudder construction was learning to take the dimensions off the plan, and loft a full size pattern for the rudder.
Careful measurements of the plan must be made before lofting the rudder.
The centerboard case, which is a much simpler shape (i.e., rectangular) was cut out from pine boards.  The boards are fastened together using bronze bolts inserted through pre-drilled holes. 
Using a jig to pre-drill sections of centerboard case for connecting bolts
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the shop, oar making and cleat making continued. 
Work continues in the oar factory, with coats of varnish being applied to finished oars.
John traces a cleat from a pattern.  A completed one is on the bench.
Lee files the horns of a newly cut oak cleat.
Steve's compass binnacle for Suzy has really taken shape.  It is made of solid mahogany, replacing the old one which had been mostly plywood.  
Steve applies oil to the new binnacle.
Charles' sea chest project took a step forward with the layout and cutting of dovetails to attach the front, back and sides.  The dovetails are hand cut, and will match the size and dimensions of the original from which the replica is being copied.
Sea chest side with dovetail pins laid out.