Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lotions and potions

Well. A fine day in the shop. I got a mess of little messes unmessed, got the seat structure in, oiled the entire hatch-land of the Moe, and got the cockpit ready to prime. 

I mixed up a proprietary variant on my favorite wood treatment–LTV—Linseed oil, turpentine, and varnish.  It was a favorite finish of Sam Maloof, the famous furniture maker. It makes wood glow from within. In the nautical world I substitute spar varnish for the interior varnish that Maloof used. I hybridize the LTV on a random basis with an old nautical recipe called boat soup, which does not have the varnish, but has pine tar (which is very yummy smelling if you like that sort of thing) and a strange product called Japan Drier, which helps dry out and harden the sticky stuff. Greg, my mentor at boatbuilding school, has a low opinion of these mixes, as in a salt-water application they turn gray, then black. But in freshwater, I think they excel. For a boat interior, it allows the boat to dry rather than rot and/or peel. And on brightwork, you never have to sand off peeling varnish--just rub on a little more LTV when things start looking a little dry. And it smells neat, especially if you throw in a bit of that stinky pine tar. As Greg admits, it smells so nautical you just want to say "arrrrrgggh."

Next comes that sad time when the boatbuilder, after laboring over so many strange and wonderful cuts, angles, and interfaces, buries all that cool superstructure of the boat beneath big flat boring decks. 


Maybe plexiglass decks would work. 

Or at least... turn the lights down low, have a little whiskey, and soak it all in for a while. 

Or maybe a not-so-little whiskey.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Flat spiling with straightedge and board

I got distracted until late today and had to leave the shop early. But I did get the last of the troublesome bulkheads done, so it is pretty smooth sailing tomorrow. Here's the scrap of plywood that carried all the information on my thirteen-corned, compound-angled beast of a board. Each line points precisely to a corner point of the intended panel, and a mark along that line says precisely how far in that direction the corner lies. It transfers a complex pattern astonishingly well. The trick is cutting the 69° back-bevels.

The upper-left triangular pice is the one being spiled in the previous picture. With the cockpit nearly complete it looks from above a bit shrine-like. Perhaps a statue of the virgin and a few candles would look good on that shelf.

If this thing doesn't work out as a boat, maybe it could have another use.

Friday, December 28, 2012

When angles meet angles at angles

Whoa. You wouldn't think a boxy boat like the Moe would have such truly difficult angles, but, well, it does. At least at this stage of the production, there is nothing straight about it. The triangular bulkheads rise parallel to the exterior walls, which tilt out at about nine degrees. And the bottom is curved. This makes the angled bulkheads meet the straight bulkheads at some altogether peculiar angles. Yadda yadda yadda. Not complaining, just talking it out. But the good news is that I got three of the four of them done, in, and caulked today. It involves some very creative spiling and some alarming table saw cuts to make it work, but it has gone remarkably well, albeit slow.

The last bulkhead should go down pretty easily. Then the seat hatch goes in but that is relatively simple. And the decks go on. Woohoo.

Looks like the Dewalt drills started their New Years party early. Two have passed out already.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Balky bulkheads

I gave in to my consternation that the inner gunwales do not go the full length of Moe. This morning I scarfed in the center section. I may have to cut them out again to put the oar-blocks in, but until then, I feel a whole lot better about it.

Then I set to work trying to locate the proper position of the triangular bulkheads that, in the WEN, seal off great triangular sections from the cockpit. These triangles are inaccessible on the WEN and are likely filled with foam for floatation. This troubles me greatly. Once again, I am giving in to some inauthentic modern thinking: The sealed off triangles are no longer needed with modern boating techniques and waterproof containers. And they are total rot traps, as they cannot be bailed out when the inevitable seepage gets in them. So I am opening them up to the adjacent hatches. Sorry, Norman. Although they will be difficult to utilize or bail, with some contortions both things can happen, and perhaps the boat will not rot to death immediately.

The blue wiggles* show where I scarfed in full gunwales. The red drawings are the triangular bulkheads which I am about to put in. The green arrows show the giant holes I hacked in the stern bulkhead today to provide access and anti-rot drying to the triangles. The green x-es are where I will hack more holes tomorrow.

I am afraid I may not get my historic replica merit badge if I keep doing things like this, but...oh well. My conscience will not let me do otherwise.

* I just looked up the fancy typographic name for the blue wiggles, as, being a typo-geek, I thought there must be some cool word like ampersand or ellipsis, and I would be remiss without using the very special name. All I came up with was "curly brackets" so I stuck with wiggles.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Deck the hulls

I wasn't really going to spend the whole day in the shop but it sucked me in. Again. I faired out the gunwales with the belt sander, fixed one wacky deck beam that we somehow made an inch too high, and just, in general, stared at the boat, trying to figure out the next moves. There are a few things we just can't help doing to Norman's original design. Like the floor ribs have these plywood flanges on either side that turn the top of the rib into little swimming pools for rot microbes. We put in some drains so the poor microbes will have to find another place to party.

Greg came by wanting to lend a hand. I gave him the sander and he sanded. And sanded.

And sanded. Moe's entire guts are all smooth and lovely now. Thanks Greg!

Meanwhile I mortised in the deck beams. Oh, the joy of having a set of really sharp chisels. I spent most of my life thinking chisels were those blunt things that you pound through nails and wreck otherwise nice looking cuts with. No, they can be lovely tools.


And there we have the deck framing.

Now I have to frame in four strange triangular bulkheads that fill up a bunch of the voluminous cockpit.   Then the decks, seat, oarlocks and hatch lids. And some more paint.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Over easy

What a Christmas treat—to get to play in the boatshop all day. Again. Josh and Joel came by and we started by putting the chine caps and bottom skids on Moe. They looked so good as stained oak that we are now thinking we might not be able to paint all the trim green as Nevills did. There will still be plenty of green, but we can't bear to lose all that beautiful white oak.

Don and Scott Perry wandered by and quickly ended up with drills and screw guns in their hands. And pretty quick we were ready to roll.

We sent Josh down under to disconnect Moe from the strong back. No easy task, but he got 'er done.

And up she went.

Sometimes it's nice to have five screw guns. We broke down the strongback in short order.

And over she goes.

How did Santa know that was just what I wanted?

White Christmas

In celebration of the upcoming holiday, we painted the boat snow white first thing in the morning. 

Lest it dry undisturbed, we spent the next six hours making sawdust—much to the chagrin of the table saw, who thought sawing a half mile of three-inch-thick oak a bit of an overload. But we persevered and made a healthy pile of bottom skid stock...

... which we planed smooth...

... and routed the edges...

... and oiled and stood by the woodstove to dry for the night. Josh closed out the day with a second coat of enamel on the Moe.

I fired up the Betty Boop shrine for Christmas Eve...

... grateful that we survived yet another apocalypse, and hoping sweet baby Santa sees his shadow in the morning and leaves us lots of eggs.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Plodding onward

Ah, 'twas a day of marvelous procrastination. None of my helpers could make it today, so I kept finding very important things to do. But I finally got some work done on Moe. Cutting and grinding the edges of the floor to near-perfect fairness with the sides was a hellacious project, but it's done. The magic two-o'clock sunbeam from the stairwell is illuminating my progress here.

And a couple of the scarf joints, which were a little rougher than I chose to leave on exhibit, are now faired out.

On the original WEN, most of the screws on the side panels are exposed. Which makes it very easy to do repair work should a fellow need to. But since we countersunk Moe's screws pretty seriously, I went ahead and put some ultralight spackling over the ones on the transom and sides of the boat for aesthetics. I think the enamel with stabilize the cheezy spackle enough to hold it in place and look good, but it will still be easy enough to poke it out of the way if I need to remove the screws for repairs. Not that I plan to be doing a lot of repairs. But the damnedest things happen sometimes.

A light sanding in the morning and it will be ready for its undercoating. We still have around a hundred feet of three-inch-by 3/8-inch oak skid strips to screw onto the bottom before we roll her right-side up for decking. Moe is going to be the beefiest boat I have ever rowed. Heavy white oak frames skinned with 5/8-inch sides and a 3/4-inch bottom. And 3/8 of an inch skids blanketing the bottom to boot. Look out rocks.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Moe's firm, nicely-curved bottom

Earl came by this morning and we cut and ground Moe's new sides fair with the chines. Then we test-fit, marked, and cut out the bottom panels. Joel and Josh came by at the perfect time and we did a multi-stage assembly:

Affix the bottom panel temporarily in place.
Lay the top panel on precisely and mark it with indexing lines so we can easily drop it in place once the epoxy is on.
Set second panel aside.
Life-calk© the first panel to the chines, one end at a time.

Re-affix the first panel in place with a few screws coming up from inside.
Roll straight epoxy on top of first panel and bottom of second. Dawn is documenting this stage.

Spread thickened epoxy all over the place.
Drop second panel on along our precise index lines.
Clamp, mark, and screw.

Do victory dance on top of bottom. (undocumented)

She's a boat. Crude, but we're working on that.

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the World

I guess I missed the apocalypse, which must have happened about five this morning at the moment of solstice. I was asleep, dreaming of strange cuts and awkward clamping positions. But perhaps this is the afterlife--if so, I scored. I get to live in a cool place surrounded by great people, get to have coffee and slow mornings and spend the rest of the day building boats. If that isn't heaven, what the hell is?

We did the last adjustments on the inner gunwale boards, getting them as precisely perfectly exactly just where they are supposed to be more or less. It is so fun to get all my long clamps in use. If only I had more.

A few fasteners were sticking but Josh fixed that.


Then we test-fitted a side panel. It was, as I suspected, pretty close to a straight line along the gunwales. I bet the originals were exactly straight, but the half-inch or so of waver we have in the new boat is an artifact of time and sagging boats and measurements taken over and over again.

Close enough. We scribed and cut a wee eccentricity into the lower edge, marked and cut the upper edge, transferred the lines to a second ply--we are making the 5/8" side out of a 1/4 and 3/8 glued together-- and transferred the pattern to the first panel for the other side. Then we put it on the boat. To celebrate that, both Nevills sisters, Joan and Sandy, came by. Here they are with Greg and Tanner. Five generations if you count Moe as a person and the ghost of Norm in the hull. 

We back-screwed the first ply in place until we could get the second one on, as I did not want to bury any screws that held the first ply on beneath a layer of plywood. Sometimes we wreck and have to take these things apart, you see. A few of the back-screws were a touch long, but once again, Josh knows how to fix that...

And into the world of epoxy. Saturate the sides...

lay on a thick epoxy filleting blend ( silica, sawdust, and RR2040 epoxy)...


trowel it out smooth...

carry it around to the boat...

stick it on...

clamp it in place (I do love my clamps)...

 Screw it on.

 Vwa lah. This thing may float yet.

The proud parents: Joel and Josh; me; Earl (Sandy's former high-school sweetheart, former Cataract boatman, and now Sandy's husband): and Greg.