Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Yay, the last of the bulkheads.

Installation of bulkhead 8 prompted a moment of contemplation by me with the project supervisor, Mogget. I'm glad to say he's happy with the progress being made on his newest cat toy, and is enthusiastic about the upcoming installation of fishy smells and places to hide.

We celebrated by cutting out the cockpit seat fronts and installing those, along with more 19x19 bracing. John's offsets were spot on for the cockpit sides. I just drew them, cut them out, took a couple of light cuts with the plane, then epoxied them in place. One change I made from plan is to do the seats as a single piece extending all the way forward to bulkhead 5. This is because I'm doing the rowing thwart differently, so there's no cross brace at bulkhead 6. For that matter, there's no cross brace on bulkhead 8 either. I've elected to maximise the cockpit floor space, with the hope that at some point It'll make a semi-comfortable place to sleep while afloat.

Here's my latest weapon of choice for cleaning up these subtle boat-like concave curves. It's a Canadian Veritas spokeshave. A truly wondrous bit of kit. Beautifully made. Here I've just used it to trim the cockpit seat fronts flush with the bracing. I wouldn't have been able to do that with my normal planes, as it's an inside curve.

I used some clamps back to front to hold the end of the cockpit seat front against bulkhead 5. I haven't been much of a fan of these clamps up until now, because they're a bit flimsy. The ability to do this has given me new respect for them.

Another project that I knocked over while avoiding cutting out the rest of the bulkheads was a bit more work on my bench. I added a plank, taking the width from 750mm to 825mm, and added some 30x40 Jarrah lips to the front and back, which allow me to clamp things to the face of the bench. Then I went at it with my wonderful Stanley number 7 plane until it was perfectly flat, and finished it with a simple mix of gum terpentine and boiled linseed oil. I also bought a Dawn Wilton woodworking vice, which I've attached under the left side.

The Dawn vice, while very nicely made, was disappointingly not made in Australia, as I was led to believe from their website. Instead it's Taiwanese. It's also actually a Wilton, branded Dawn. I like the vice, but I'm a bit miffed at being mislead about its origins.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Nearly done with bulkheads and the beginnings of the rowing thwart

I've got to admit I'm over cutting out bulkheads. Cutting ply with the jigsaw just isn't terribly enjoyable. There's really no way to keep it from splitting and I go through blades quite quickly.

That said, I'm close to done with bulkheads. I installed six and seven this weekend. They're quite floppy for now, being secured only by their corners.

It's got some serious volume now. Just one more bulkhead and I'll be set to put in cockpit seat fronts and stringers.

Speaking of seats - I installed the first of four slats for the rowing thwart. These are Jarrah, a native WA timber. It's one of the toughest timbers I know of. I'm told young Endeavour was built exclusively from Jarrah under the waterline. It's dense and incredibly tough. The plan is to use Jarrah for the thwart, the outer gunwale and rubbing strip, and for the bowsprit.

As planned, the centerboard case comes up level with the rowing thwart, so it's a comfortable seat. I sat on it today and sang "row row row your boat", much to Perry's bemusement.

The forward slat is structural - It braces the centerboard case. The jarrah runs right across to the sides of the boat. I pinned the slat to the centerboard case with dowels, so it should be plenty strong.

While I was working today, I had my new marine VHF radio on, listening to the comings and goings at the port. The radio is one of my tax return splurges - a cool little Icom one with inbuilt GPS and the ability to send an automated distress call at the press of a button.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Buying expensive tools and bling, getting on top of sharpening, and gradual progress.

One regret I have is not cutting the notches for the stringers and bulkheads in the bulkheads while they were still flat on the bench. When they're mounted to the spine and floor they're really very floppy, and it's quite difficult to get them to stay still to cut them. Luckily, my frustration at this job coincided with getting a huge pile of money back from the tax man (one of the few perks I get from living half the year in the middle of nowhere is that I can claim a "remote area tax rebate" come tax time, which is quite generous). So I bought things that would help in boat building with my windfall.

First one is a lovely little Veritas crosscut saw, which cuts through the ply very easily and makes a lovely cut. Here it is having just cut the inner gunwale notch on bulkhead 4.

I also bought supplies (only half of which have arrived thus far) for sharpening my tools. I figured a 300 grit, 1200 grit and 6000 grit Japanese waterstone would do the job, along with a flat steel plate for dressing. Alas only the 300 grit stone and plate showed up, so after some thought I dug out some aluminium oxide and cerium oxide grit I had left over from making a telescope mirror (long story) and had a play.

I find that if I'm patient and methodical, and work tools with the 300 grit stone, then the 25um, 15um, 9um aluminium oxide on the plate, then strop with an old belt loaded up with cerium oxide, I get a blade that I can see my own reflection in and that's sharp enough to do surgery with. When that blade meets a bit of timber, it just cuts through it like it's butter.

A few wipes on the 300 grit stone then five minutes with 25um and 15um aluminium oxide gets me most of the way there in a tiny fraction of the time. No reflection, alas, but I can still make lovely cuts easily. It'll be interesting to see how the 1200 and 6000 grit waterstones compare.

While blowing money, I also splurged on some bronze. I bought rowlocks and some cleats, just because they were shiny. I may have stuffed up a bit with the rowlocks though. These are ones that fold over so they're below the gunwale. I had it in mind that they go on the outer gunwale and fold onto the outside of the boat, but all the pictures I've seen since buying them show them mounted to the inner gunwale of a boat without a deck and folding down inside. Hmmm. I figure I can either just stick them on the outside and be damned (it is after all my boat), put them on the inside of the coaming, or just build a whole extra boat around them with no deck, and buy some more conventional (not to mention cheaper) deck mount ones for this boat. Anyway, they're plenty shiny, but I can see how to make them much shinier.

Meanwhile I continue to cut pieces of wood up and glue them to other pieces. I've epoxied the floor ply to the keel plank (making the whole thing now too heavy to lift) and added the lower cockpit seat stringers, plus both sides of bulkhead 5. I've also started cutting notches in all the bulkheads for the inner gunwale. I figure once all the bulkheads are mounted I'll put the inner gunwale in next, which will give everything much needed stiffness and make the job of cutting notches a lot easier.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Garboard plank and building frame

We went and bought some more sheets of ply. I rearranged things in the garage a bit, and cut a 10:1 scarf into four sheets with my no. 5 plane. Another big workout. With all this boatbuilding, I'm going to end up with an upper body like Schwartznegger. Although it's hard work, scarfing is actually pretty simple. With ply the layers of wood guide you.

Next step was to build a building frame for the boat. This was just knocked together with framing pine. It took a while to find two lengths that were acceptably straight for the side pieces. before the boat went on I used the building frame as a huge workbench to prep the double length scarfed garboard plank.mMogget sees it as a huge cat climbing frame.

Here's another view of the frame. Don't look too closely at it. It's rather rough. It's flat and square though, and nice and strong with six legs being braced in all directions.

So here's where the fun really begins. I marked up the garboard plank with John's offsets, used a stringer to draw a fair curve, and cut it out with a jigsaw, finishing with my plane to get a really nice smooth curve.

Then I cut a hole in the middle for the centerboard slot, and offered up the rest of the boat. Much grunting ensued with this two-person lift. It took three tries before the centerboard slot was just the right size. To celebrate having somewhere to put my motorbike again, I tidied up the garage a little.

Next step is to put the proper reference height pieces in at each of the stations to form the curvature of the bottom of the hull, then glue and screw the garboard plank to the keel plank. Then I'll add more bulkheads and install some stringers and seats.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Cutting pieces of wood and gluing them to other pieces of wood.

This weekend has been pretty busy. Basically I joined bits together with epoxy, so now I can barely lift the boat.

I started by using a scarf joint to join a couple of bits of 90x19 Tasmanian oak, that'll be my keel plank. Scarf joints have been used since their first appearance at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the eighteen eighties... Anyway this is a 6:1 scarf, and makes my two 2.4m planks one 4.8m one.

I was careful not to clamp too hard, to get optimal squeezage. That's a technical term. A quick bit of planing, and it looks quite nice.

While waiting for epoxy to go off, I joined all the bulkheads I've made to the spine, and attached the centerboard case as well with screws. I also added bits of 19x19 Tasmanian oak as bracing.

Then I cut a huge slot in the keel plank for the centerboard to poke out of, and screwed that to the spine/centerboard case combo. Mogget is impressed.

It looks kinda cool now, with the centerboard poking out.

Friday, 20 June 2014

It floats! Is that a good thing?

So today I took my centerboard down to the boatramp and launched it :P Alas I totally forgot the champagne!

Bad news is it floats. Good news it it really wants to be the right way up, with the tip pointing down. It's only the bit above the pivot that sticks out of the water.

What to do? I presume it'll be okay, and the buoyancy at the top of the board won't be a problem, as that bit will be out of the water normally anyway, right...

It's incredibly easy to pull through the water, for what it's worth. Leaves barely a ripple on the surface.

Monday, 16 June 2014

More centerboard work, plus centerboard case

So here's the centerboard all nicely shaped. I added an uphaul pivot, made with two pieces of jarrah that sandwich the centerboard. It's held together with epoxy plus four 38mm 8G silicon bronze screws, so it should be nice and strong. I routed a nice big 20mm wide slot to accept either a sheave and metalwork for a becket for a 3:1 uphaul, or if it's still hard to haul up, a pair of sheaves for a 4:1 uphaul.

Next I made it look ugly by laying lots of 200 gsm unidirectional carbon fibre on either side. This stuff provides the strength. Not shown here (I forgot to take a photo) is a strip of 400 gsm fibreglass tape down the leading edge and across the tip, with a second piece at the tip of the leading edge.

Then I faired it. I used much the same epoxy mix that I make for gluing, with enough glue powder to make a peanut-butter consistency. I slathered this on with a spatula that I stole from my kitchen, and then after curing I removed most of it with some 60 grit emery in a sander. Then I repeated the exercise, with slightly runnier goop.

Once I was reasonably happy with the shape and surface, I bunged a coat of undercoat on. Once this is dry I'll remove most of it before doing a couple more coats and a couple of top coats. Also shown here is the case, which is framed with 19x42mm Tasmanian oak, and held together with no less than 48 8g silicon bronze woodscrews.

The pivot is only temporary. I've been testing how it works with an M10 bolt. I've got some more bronze on order to make a proper pivot, using a 12mm bolt to clamp a 19mm tube, with some 25mm OD flange pieces epoxied into the centerboard. I'll show details of that once the materials arrive.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Shaping the centerboard

I know I only glued the laminations together yesterday, but today has been a pretty big one, so I thought another post was the go. That and Perry told me that I really should stop working before I fall over :)

What a great cardio workout! I've found the perfect antidote to tuck-shop lady arms, in the form of my nice Stanley no. 4 plane. I tried my new no. 5, but found the extra weight harder to work with, so went back to my no. 4. It all started innocently enough. I cut out the profile of the board, and planed the board nice and smooth, then ruled some center lines down the board and started removing material from the leading edge:

After about eight hours of planing, my workshop started to look like a bomb had gone off:
The secret to successful planing is to remember to sharpen the plane iron often. Every time I started to get tired, I'd run the iron over the whetstone while I had a break, then when I went back to it it was easy again. I think I sharpened my iron about five times today. In terms of effort, I feel like I've just ridden about 80km. I'll sleep really well tonight.

So I reckon it's about 80% there. I went at it with some 80 grit emery to smooth things out, and it's looking pretty good. I think on payday I'll go buy myself a power sander. Note the extra little bit of Jarrah at the bottom of the leading edge. This is the area where I think the board will cop the most knocks, so I wanted it extra strong:

Check out the shavings. Planing with a proper hand plane like this is a lot like sculpting. The wood knows it wants to be a foil. You and the plane are there to help it achieve it's goal. It's pretty obvious where the non-foil bits are, so you work the plane over them, and it gets gradually closer to shape. Very rewarding.

After a day's work the profile is looking reasonably foil shaped. I have lots of motivation to remove all the unnecessary material. Otherwise I'll have to add more lead to get it to sink, and I really don't want to resort to that:

Once the shaping is done I'll add some of this stuff. It's unidirectional carbon fibre tape, and should make it reasonably hard to break:

Then do the pivot hole and the lifting bit, and this part's knocked over :)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Fun with epoxy

My epoxy arrived through the week, so I'm making the most of the long weekend, and getting it everywhere.

Here's how I'm doing my centerboard - the lead hides in a routed out pocket, so it'll be surrounded by cedar. I'm hoping this will make the board easier to shape into a foil, rather than shaping, then cutting a big hole, adding lead, and fairing:

I did the laminating in three steps: The front section with the lead brick, then the back section, then I joined the two and added the leading edge jarrah piece. This allowed me to make better use of shorter clamps for the springier small pieces of timber. Here's the start, taking a deep breath before mixing epoxy:

And after gooping everything together:

Then finally the whole centerboard, after repeating the exercise for the rear bit and adding the leading edge:

While I was waiting for epoxy to go off, I joined doublers to bulkheads. At one point every one of my 27 clamps was being used. I think my building speed is limited by number of clamps and available horizontal surfaces. How many clamps do I need to build a boat anyway?

I quite like the bote cote epoxy. It's easy to mix and doesn't stink the house out. It's certainly refreshing doing woodwork after that awful lead interlude.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Restoring tools and making sausages

Two very different topics this week. Alas I've been out bush for much of the last fortnight, plus my epoxy is yet to arrive (buying stuff from boat supply places + shipping to Geraldton = much time waiting for stuff to show up).

So the first topic - restoring tools. Years ago I had a lovely old Stanley Bailey 4 plane. Very much standard issue, reasonably good quality, small enough to use one-handed but with enough heft to remove serious amounts of timber. I lent it to a mate and then promptly moved across the country, so it's his now. My centerboard is going to need plenty of planing (as are lots of other things on the boat), so I went looking for a new plane. I ended up buying a number 4 from ebay - probably older than I am, with proper rosewood handle and tote. Looked pretty well loved in the photos.

So once it arrived, I spent an enjoyable weekend restoring it. The handle and tote were rubbed back and got a few coats of varnish, showing the grain wonderfully. The blade, which was well rounded over, got a patient sharpening on my hone. For good measure, I went at the sole and sides with the hone as well, to remove some of the corrosion and scratches. If you're ever wanting to flatten your hone, spend a few minutes working the base of a plane on it - it'll very quickly become flat. Once much of the corrosion and scratches were taken out, I put a piece of 400 grit wet and dry on a flat countertop (okay, my kitchen bench) and polished the sole up so it's beautifully flat.

The result looks lovely, and is a delight to use, just like a plane should be. Of course now I've clicked buy on a number 5, and am eyeing number 7's...

Next onto the sausages.

I've decided I want a weighted centerboard. Not massively heavy, just enough weight that I won't need an uphaul. I figure around 5 kilograms of lead will overcome the buoyancy of the board and ensure it sinks nicely, without ending up a pain to work with. So I went to Bunnings to buy lead flashing. Turns out the stuff is revoltingly expensive. They wanted around $60 for a 5 kilogram sheet of lead flashing.

So I figured it'd be cool to recycle a battery for the lead. I've got a never ending supply of dead batteries, so I grabbed a ten kilo one and went to work. This is where everything turned to custard.

Turns out lead acid batteries are mostly lead oxide, which is completely useless. I opened the case relatively easily, and then neautralised the acid with sodium hydroxide until it was neutral and safe. Then I extracted the electrodes. Inside a battery is the most disgusting, filthy black mess you've ever seen. Most of the electrodes are lead oxide paste, held in a skimpy mesh of lead, with lead interconnects. Getting the lead oxide paste separated from the lead mesh was really no fun. Never again - my marriage just won't sustain the aggravation. Once done I had a paltry two kilograms of useable lead, for about four hours of the most disgusting work I've ever done. And now I've got about 8 kilograms of lead oxide that I have no idea what to do with.

So rather than waste my time and sanity on more batteries, I caved in, went to Bunnings and bought a 3 kilogram sheet of flashing. This at least was relatively pure lead. I melted my 5 kilograms of lead in a crucible (aka old camping billy), skimmed the oxides off the top, and poured the lead into a mold, which I made by pressing a sheet of ply the right size into some beach sand.

More disappointment. The mess that came out of the mold was about the right size, but was icky and porous, with a very rough surface finish. Not very flash. I figured the only way forward was to work with what I had, peen the surface to press the mess together, and melt more lead into the worst of the holes using a blowtorch. Then more peening to get it to something resembling the right size and shape. Thankfully lead is super ductile, so puts up with this abuse.

So this is the result, after about twelve hours of pure, unadulterated frustration and cursing:

It's not going to win any awards, but it's about the right weight, and about the right dimensions to fit into the cavity I've made in my centerboard. There are no photos of the process because, like making sausages, it's best left unseen. Now I truly understand why people aren't keen on weighted centerboards.