Sunday, March 9, 2014

Twinkle twinkle

My preferred method of fastening gunwales to a boat, for a few years now, is using a machine crew with a finishing washer on the inside of the boat, into a sex nut (a sort of sunken barrel bolt kind of thing). It's clean and pretty, quick and easy, and it is a cinch to take off the gunwales when somebody wrecks the boat. Here's an example of how they look, on last year's Rio Rojo. Machine screws and finish washers on the inside (orange arrows) and sex nuts on the outside (green arrows). 

Here are currently available finish washers in silicon bronze and brass.

But something has been bugging me about the finish washers. They are made of stamped sheet metal, so the edges dig into the gunwale when they are sufficiently tightened. It cuts the grain of the wood a bit sometimes. And I have looked the world over (well, on the internet) and have yet to find any solid finish washers. They just don't make 'em.

So the solution, I decided, was to make my own. And why make them round when I could have more fun? Step one was to carve a little star out of wood, with a countersunk hole in the middle, and glue a wee nail into it.

Step two was to make eleven more.

Step three: trim the little nails and glue them into a central stick.

There. A stick with twelve stars.

Sand it oh-so-smooth, shellac it a few coats, and get out the foundry materials. I was too busy to photograph pounding my star-stick into a sand mold, but here is the aftermath.

It's been eight months since I took my bronze-casting course and rushed home to build my own foundry. I fired it up at that time and it worked. Now it's time to see if I remembered all the things one has to do to make it work. I guess it's time to wait for the bronze to melt. 
   Check out the cool Nomex suit my friend Day gave me. It might not stop flying 2000° bronze, but at least it won't burst into flame.


Wait 'til the bronze has melted into a nice bright yellow pool, clean off the slag, and pour it into the mold.

So far, so good. But did I make the mold right?

It bursts into flame when I open it up. This is actually a good sign. It means there is a bunch of hot bronze in there where it is supposed to be.

To the quenching bucket.

By god it worked perfect.

A bit of cutting, grinding, and polishing and voila. Aren't they adorable?

They look kinda cool in a gunwale scrap. Note the bad case of foundryman's hand.

Only four more pours and I'll have sixty of them, enough for the rehabilitation of my forty-three-year-old dory Cataract. Tuesday afternoon is the plan. Come by and play if you like. Leather shoes, nonflammable clothes, safety glasses. It's the law.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Really Rapid Roberts

We finished up the second of the twin Rapid Roberts on our next day of work. Alan, Lora and I did the gunwale bolts first thing in the morning. Then I worked on trim pieces while Alan routed sanded and oiled her down. And out the door she goes, down the street to Alan's house for paint and interior fittings.

Hating to see a good shop go idle, we immediately began laying up Roy's side panels for his new Betty Boop clone, to be named in honor of the first dory on the Colorado back in 1889, a pine ocean dory named Brown Betty. We are hoping the new Brown Betty fares better than the original, which sank in its very first rapid upon entering Cataract Canyon. The rapid bears her name.

We pulled the lines off the original Betty Boop on Valentines Day 2012, just after I had finished a full restoration of her rotting 1967 hull.

Then a year ago, Jim Mackenzie and I lofted the lines and built the hull for his replica, Olo.  She came out beautifully.

But when Jim and I were laying out the side panels, we struggled to make the panel corner angles of Olo match those on the Betty Boop until smoke started coming out our ears. We got very close, but in the end, just gave it our best shot. This time we encountered the same problem and may have solved it by adding 1-3/8 inches to the sheer line length and shifting the position of the rib stations a bit. I doubt anyone will be able to tell the difference between the hull shapes of Olo and Brown Betty, but at least Roy and I will know we got the damned angles to agree this time.

In an unusual fit of caution, we clamped the entire boat together before drilling our screw holes to make sure our brainstorm was not going to backfire. It didn't so we went ahead and screwed her together.

Amy and Roy: proud parents of their second wooden boat. It is so fun to infect others with such impractical ideas.