Friday, November 17, 2017

Together again

With the decks back on I invited some friends from the space program to come help sand things smooth. The balmy fall weather has made for nice working conditions.

Bill made it up to the shop for another weekend of grunt work on his boat. He brought along his daughter Taylor, heir apparent to Peace River, to help put some love in her legacy. We decided the boat had earned some fine bronze work, so we fired up the foundry. Time to pound sand.

And get stuff really hot.

Taylor making gunwale stars:

Bill clearing slag out of the crucible.

Bill's friend Drew brought his son Marcus by to see what was going on. They just meant to do a drive-by, but we Tom Sawyered them into polishing bronze.

They finally escaped after forty stars.

We are forming up the pattern for the breasthook here--the showy piece that holds the bow of the boat together.

Taylor is tooling the leather on the breasthook pattern.

Not a bad day's haul.

It's dirty work.

The next day we put on the gunwales, using up our mountain of shiny bronze gunwale stars.

It was a delight to spend the weekend with these two, bonding with each other and the Peace River.

The trouble with this boat work is that the longer you spend with the boat, the more you realize you really ought to do to it. Janek is grinding out rusted bolts to replace the stem cap. The old one just isn't right.

Gotta have an oar slot.

And now for the persnickety job of making custom lipped hatch lids. First we milled out ash strips for the lips, rabbeting each one to catch the plywood lid.  These we glued together in place with five-minute epoxy, then gingerly lifted them out of the boat and traced the lid shape onto the plywood.

Then cut the plywood to fit.

Then glued the plywood into the frames.

We had a bit of extra epoxy in the pastry bag so of course, we had to make stuff.

It is so rewarding when the finished lids actually fit.

Next we put a thin layer of fiberglass on them to protect them from the upcoming decades of foot traffic.

The decks are getting a coat of glass as well.

With the glasswork all hardened and sanded, we installed the shiny new brass hinges. And here we are laminating a stiffening layer of 1/4" plywood inside the hatch lid. While the epoxy is still kicking, we pre-spring some camber into the lid so that the latch will pull the entire lid tightly closed.

Tomorrow: non-skid texturing and paint. and a million tiny details.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Give Peace a Chance

The Peace River is one of the very early Briggs dories, sister ship to my Cataract. Martin Litton had six of them built in 1972 after good reviews on the 1971 Briggs prototype, the now famous Emerald Mile. She got her first paint job from Jeff Clayton--a dory green that was quickly changed to white with a red top stripe.

The first river guide to adopt her was photographer John Blaustein. He rowed and photographed her for most of her first decade, keeping the classic paint job. John is quite excited to see his old gal being restored and has shared these six images of her in her youth. 

John's early GoPro:

To see more of his work, check out The Hidden Canyon. Better yet, buy it.

The boat eventually ended up in the Idaho division of Grand Canyon Dories and remained there until just a few years ago when O.A.R.S. (who bought the dory operation from Martin back in the 1980s) sold it to Bill Paul, a former boatman. Like most company boats, she had been wrecked and rebuilt, changed and modified many times, and generally taken some different paths over the years. Bill brought her by the boatshop with the hopes that we could restore some of the heritage that had been lost. And maybe make the damned hatch lids stop leaking.

Overall she is in amazingly good shape, and what I thought was remarkable, she had nearly the same paint job she had in 1973.

But there was an era when some folks felt the ribs should be removed from dories. To me, they are not only a lot of the strength of the boat, but impart a true classic look to a Briggs boat. As well, in an attempt to make the hatch lids more waterproof, great massive aluminum gutter systems with intricate plumbing were installed, with mixed results. One result was wicked abrasions and avulsions when scraping your hands against them. Yet another innovation that turned out to be a nightmare was the idea of permanently epoxying the outer gunwales to the hull, making repairs pretty much impossible. Another infuriating trend--ensuring that repairs and modifications would be irreversible by using space age caulk that is stronger than Godzilla.

We wanted to get Peace River back to something more classic. We had our work cut out for us. I mean really cut out. And ground out, and hammered out. Damn, they really didn't want that thing to be repaired again! Here is Bill removing the back deck, which was half an inch out of level.

We had every annoying, screaming, cutting tool I own going simultaneously for about four hours. By evening we had removed what had probably taken various builders weeks to create. We literally ground off the outer gunwales. Sorry. I know you earlier repairmen meant well. But...

An interlude:

The aftermath of the Day of the Dead procession, which we dedicated to Katie Lee and her paramour Joey, who departed this plane in the days just prior. More on that another time. The next day was the Day of the Living Dead. Ouch. (Thanks to Maggie the Muralist for the paint job.)

A side project--making High Density Polyethylene skids for the coolers at AzRA, so they can be dragged around with greater ease. (The ones we put on our prototype ChillyBin last year were a great hit, making the truck driver very happy.) Janek is sintering forty of them here, so the epoxy will bond.

Countersinking epoxy-grabbing holes is a strangely satisfying feeling, like machining butter.

Okay, back to work on the Peace River. Up to the loft for a big plank of the sacred Port Orford cedar. Then planing out sweet fragrant structural members into which we will cut guttering to move the water to somewhere other than the hatches.

Cutting structural members from Port Orford cedar and mortising them into each other. And recreating ribs where the originals had been excised.

Next, clamping temporary gunwales on to fair the hull, so that when we attach to decks they will hold her in her proper shape and she will conform to her new ash gunwales.

I'm not sure how it happened, but Cricket, Janek, and I had all the decks spiled, cut, beveled, caulked, and screwed on in five hours flat. That should have taken a couple days. Two hours later we had the fillets and seam tape on, securing the decks to the hull. We'd better slow down or we'll be out of work soon.

This morning we fired up the steam bender to limber up the new gunwales. While they were cooking we sanded and cleaned up all the gutters and last night's glass work.

Steamed gunwales bent to shape.

Later: cooled and hardened gunwales scarfed and glued together.

We should have those installed this weekend.

We also managed to sandwich in some more work on Kate's amazing woodcut dory. To protect her artwork from issues with the river, the hull needed to be stabilized with penetrating epoxy. And oh my god did that make the colors jump. We thought the boat was striking before. Wowzers.