Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tacky Self-promoting Post

Hey--If you are a FaceBook sort of person and would be willing to vote for my picture in a contest so I can win big booty from the Sawyer/Smoker Oar folks, then go to FaceBook right now (contest ends today, Thursday, December 19, at 5p.m. Pacific time). Search for the Sawyer Paddles and Oars page. Click on their photo contest. Vote for this picture. Quickly. Emergency. It's a really tight race.

This link may or may not help you get there quicker:


Friday, December 13, 2013


Hey, I love wood boats. A lot. But sometimes I get distracted. Like this spring when our friend Greg Loehr brought a couple Stand Up Paddleboards along on our wooden boat regatta. I was skeptical, but I gingerly climbed aboard one and paddled it around a bit. Damn it all. It was really fun.

Then Greg, former rad surfer, rebel board designer and shaper, heretic epoxy chemist, said, "Well I can show you how to make them. Let's make a fleet of them. It's easy." Double damn it.

We started out on Friday morning with a very large block of foam. Six-and-a-half cubic yards of foam. We took some scrap lumber, screw-eyes, nichrome wire, and an old extension cord and hooked it all up to Greg's Frankenstein machine, the Variac. Using Greg's masonite templates, we sliced up the giant block.

We jury-rigged a huge blade into my jig saw and cut out the perimeter of the slices. And then Greg showed us how to true them up with his way cool ancient Skil 100 planer--the tool of the trade for pro board shapers. Tool lust--I need one of these.

Next step was to cut symmetrical bevels--called bands--along the edges. Then break the bands into nice curves and sand them smooth.


Take some patching spackle and seal the boards, stick them on a rack, stoke the fire and retire for the evening with four shaped boards.

Saturday got off to a slow start as we got fussy with our graphics, masking out cool lines, spray painting gradients, forcing my recalcitrant printer to make pretty logos on delicate curly rice paper, etc. Greg showed us how to make cool hawaiian flower patterns out of paper stencils and spray paint. 

 With the paint on, we rolled the boards over and put a couple layers of six-ounce fiberglass cloth.

Sticky time. Mix up a bunch of Resin Research KwikKick CE epoxy, Purple Haze variety, complete with optical brighteners, UV stabilizers, the mysterious Additive F, a few other secret ingredients, and slather it on all four boards. That was it for day two

Sunday, day three, started a little rough. First we had to get over the annual AzRA Boatfolk's Christmas party (a low-key, stodgy affair) of the night before. A few highlights  lowlights:

What better way to recover than to grind fiberglass? With yesterday's edges smoothed, it was time to lay up the topsides with three layers of glass and our cool artwork. 


By late afternoon they got hard enough to roll them, cut in the fin boxes and, once they set up, roll the boards back up and put on the handles. The LiftSUP handle required me to invent a router jig, but it worked slick. Then let them kick for the night.

Day four. Our team was dissipating but we kept at it. Grinding down the fin boxes, sanding them down one more time, getting ready for the flow coat. We painted a nice smooth coat on the bottoms and let them kick. A bit fatigued, we quit early.

Day five. My guess of two hours to finish them off was only off by about four hours. We cleaned up the edges of the bottom flow coat, ground the handles clean, and drilled in a few tie-downs. Then we stuck on the Seadek nonskid pads. Masked out the remaining deck, flow coated it, and put on the nonskid.

And I guess that's about it--except for a quick sanding of the nonskid, they're done. Many, many, many thanks to Greg Loehr for leading us through the adventure and making us want to make more of them.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Fretwater Foundry

As I mentioned in my last post, Sam Johnson, who taught the bronze casting course, showed us how to make our own foundry. Well, you can't show me something like that and expect me to walk the other way. Especially when Sam made me a screaming deal on a new crucible. Four days after I got back to Arizona I had acquired most of the materials I needed. Here I am mixing refractory cement and casting up the furnace in a used 30-gallon oil can.

Which then got its final drying cure in my oven. It is really heavy.

Harlan helped me weld up the requisite implements: tongs, a slag scoop, and a crucible grabber.

The blower apparatus is in the background here; ingot molds for any leftover molten bronze are in the foreground, sitting on some large ingots of silicon bronze.

A leaf blower from Home Despot supplies the pressurized air and lots of noise. And away we go.

Sam warned us about curious onlookers and the need for all to have non-flammable shoes and eye protection. I knew I kept that roll of caution tape for something.

While the bronze is melting we make up another oarlock mold.

Let the games begin.


Gratification is pretty quick in this game.

 Yup, it's an oarlock alright.

Which one is real?

Just for fun we tried to cast a piece of rope. To our amazement, it worked.

And the rest of the bronze gets poured off into my crucible-sized mini-ingots. For next time. Which is soon.