Archive for the ‘woodworking’ Category

Marine Paint Part 3

March 7, 2017

The lead is gone….

It is March, and that means that the process of preparing for the next boating season has already begun. It is in February and March that I start ordering materials and looking at the work that needs to be done before the boat(s) go back into the water. I have written about this before, but I wanted to write an update on this subject of yearly maintenance because I got a nice comment from one of the Kirby’s regarding their paint.

I wrote in Marine paint part 1 about why I like Kirby paint, (you can read more here) but I commented that it contains lead. It turns out that Kirby paint has not contained lead for over twenty years. They still put warnings on the cans because sanding old paint that might have lead in it can still present a health hazard.

It is great to know that there is one less toxic hazard to face when preparing for another season.

One of the things that I like about wooden boats is that when they are looked after and well maintained, they can last and incredibly long time. We have several friends who own Friendship sloops that are over one hundred years old, those boats are still sailing and are still in good shape.

The key phrase there is “looked after and well maintained”, maintenance that is messy, 8px910qlhbe7m81y94ijvlkj93ohojkeinvolves dangerous chemicals, or results in cleanup of toxic ingredients are typically the first things to get dropped from a maintenance schedule because they are too much of a pain. And few things are more discouraging than doing all the hard work of sanding, fairing, cleaning and tacking and then applying paint, only to have that paint not hold up to the environment, fade, or peel.

A wooden boat is a living thing, and like all living things they require regular care and when a problem develops that might affect the health of the boat, it needs to be dealt with or the boat will start down the road to the burn pile. But it is getting harder to find good quality wood and good reliable products to care for a wooden boat. Good paint that gives consistent results and that does not change its formula or color chart can be even harder to find, but good quality paint is also critical, it provides an absolutely vital barrier to the elements and contributes to the longevity of a wooden boat.

As I have said before on this blog, I like Kirby’s paint, we have used it on our boat now for sixteen seasons and are pleased with the results, and now that we know that it does not contain lead, we like it even more.

 

Toy Castle

January 11, 2017

This wooden castle is another in a long line of wooden toys built for nephews and nieces. This one is for a nine-year-old for Christmas. The big challenges for this one were that first, it needed to have a fairly small footprint and second, I wanted to be sure that small hands could access every part of it.

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The solutions were to go more vertical to keep the footprint size small, and to have walls in several places that swing out on hinges to allow access to the inner-sanctum and the keep in particular.

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castle closed from the side

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castle open from the side

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castle closed from the back

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castle open from the back

…did I mention the dungeon? A good place to keep the domesticated dragons, or prisoners.

A long overdue update:

September 6, 2016

The last post was about children’s gifts for Christmas 2014, since then a lot has been going on.

2015

First the fleet; we built a new sail for the launch and finished a new solid mast for the Penny Fee the winter of 2015. Both worked out well until we cracked the new mast at the partners (on one of the last weekends of the season). It would appear that a flaw in the wood and the smallness of the opening in the deck combined in the worst possible way. So this spring we built a new mast (our third) and redesigned both the foredeck and mast step. So far the results have been good.

Our Friendship sloop also got some attention in the spring of 2015. In addition to the usual painting and maintenance, we had discovered rot in the covering boards over the transom. This is an area known to have problems in any boat with an elliptical transom so we were not overly surprised. The actual rot was not very extensive and limited to the covering boards themselves where the end grain was most exposed to the elements. The new white oak for the replacement covering boards was not too costly, but the work dictated the removal of the toe-rails aft and the bulwarks which was both time consuming and a little painful since both jobs involved removing sound wood that looked great and would only have to be put back together later. This is the kind of job that I am not fond of since when you are done, if you have done a proper job, no one will know that you have done anything at all…well our surveyor knows since he got a look at the finished job, and I guess that’s a good thing.

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New covering boards

Anyway the fleet went into the water in mid June.

While we were working on the fleet we were also setting in motion a building campaign that has been in the planning stages for five years.

The cottage where the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and take the anchor watch and I live and that is owned by the two tortoiseshell cats has been in sore need of attention for some time. Difficult to heat, limited in space, poorly insulated, and with dodgy plumbing, it is nonetheless a beautiful old classic cottage dating from the late 18th century. In fact it is one of the oldest houses in the area. We have been working on a design that would allow us to add some space, replace plumbing, and some wiring, as well as better insulate and add both a soapstone heater, and new wood stove.

We started this project in the spring of 2015 knowing that the summer would be too busy to commit much time to the project (we were right about that) but, being in the mountains of New Hampshire, there is never a good way to know what will happen when you start digging for a new foundation, even a small one. If we hit solid granite we knew we would need time to reconsider the design, thus we broke ground a full three months before we actually intended to start construction.

Fortunately, we did not hit ledge and things went so smoothly (despite busted water main) that we were able to get the foundation and the new septic line in and finished before the summer really got going.

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Foundation in and covered for summer

With the new foundation in the ground and covered with a tarp, the boats splashed and we made ready for a cruise to Mount Desert Island and back with friends.
Two weeks in July that were a total time out. We cruised with three other Friendships and a retired commodore who had owned two Friendships himself but has now progressed to a handsome lobster yacht, much easier to manage for an older solo mariner.

Pretty much everywhere we went we met with warm welcomes and safe moorings or dockage.

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In September the building project got underway in earnest and has dominated our lives since then. The actual addition went up quite quickly, but since we were doing almost all the work ourselves, it was also exhausting. We were under cover and closed in from the weather by the beginning of November, and then shifted to working on interior spaces.

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We spent most of the winter learning to use the new soapstone Tulikivi heater. Thankfully we had some expert help with that.

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2016

As we entered 2016 we were still working on interior construction of the addition, as well as replacing some worn out furniture. A new dining table of white oak, some built in benches, and at least the start of more cabinets to augment the minimal kitchen storage that we have.

The boat projects this spring included the replacing of a bulkhead that had been getting soft in the cockpit, and the mounting of a bronze windlass that should make retrieving the anchor easier. There was also the yearly painting, varnishing, and bottom paint.

We put the fleet in the water about a week earlier than usual, and between keeping the fleet up to scratch and working on the cottage it has left time for little else….

Boats for HMS Unicorn

January 9, 2015

A year ago when I built the toy ship HMS Unicorn for one of my nephews, I did not know how well it would survive either the interest or the rough handling of a seven-year-old. As it turns out, the Unicorn is still much adored and other than the loss of the horn of the figurehead and the unraveling of one of the anchor rodes, it has survived and is in excellent shape. When I saw the nephew in question early in December he brought out the Unicorn and began to ask all kinds of questions about how 18th Century ships functioned. As we talked it became very clear that HMS Unicorn was in desperate need of ships boats.

“Cutting out expeditions” need ships boats, that house is full of wooden toy ships just begging to be cut out. The sailors need to be able to get to and from the shore, the crew of bears aboard Unicorn has not had shore leave in a year…anyway, it was time to remedy the situation.

As with almost all the toys I make I started with rough sketches drawn to actual size and then shaped the hulls for the ships cutter and jolly boat based on those sketches.

The boats themselves were not that challenging to make, but the crews took a little time. Templates helped speed up the repetitive process of carving the crews for both boats.

The idea was to have each rower positioned such that an oar could either be shipped with the loom in the rowing position,

or the oar could be removed and set in the “oars up” position for coming along side.

The cutter has an officer and coxswain and the jolly boat has a midshipmen in charge. “Away all boats!”

HMS Unicorn

January 22, 2014

While I have been doing a lot of writing in the last eight months or so, it has been for a book and not this blog. It is time, however, to add to the wooden toy category.

I visited with a six-year-old nephew just after Thanksgiving and he was completely obsessed with building a version of HMS Unicorn from one of the TINTIN books.

Since I was only visiting for a few days, there was not time to even start on this project, but it certainly made it easy to figure out what to make him for his Christmas gift.

This will be mostly a photo post, but here are a few particulars and some of the decisions that I needed to make.

First, it appears that the Unicorn in the books is a frigate, a 38, if I remember correctly, and that would be both too much work and too big a toy. So, I went with a 14 gun brig—essentially a sloop of war. This allowed me to keep the scale appropriate for small hands to play with and also make this a project that was manageable over a three-week period.

As I have said before on this site, I like to sketch out ideas in scale and work from there.

Another consideration is that no matter how careful he is, at some point either my nephew or one of his friends, or siblings is going to drop, knock over, or step on this toy, so it had to be built solidly enough to survive.

Starboard side showing the main chains. The wood for the main chains are mortised in to the side of the hull with the grain running across the center line so they won’t break off.

The wood is poplar, a choice that I have had good luck with over the years, inexpensive, readily available, easy to work, and stable.

The guns for the Unicorn have barrels turned on the lathe of and simple carriages made from a piece of “U” channel stock that I made up. To save time the carriages have no wheels, so I suppose they could be technically carronades.

Guns fresh from the lathe, gun ports, and capstan, which turns.

Carronades

I was concerned with the possibility of the masts getting broken off, so the masts are made of thick hardwood dowels and much thought went into how to stay the masts to support them.

In the end I chose to go with the most obvious solution, which is basically how they would be stayed on a real vessel. The dead-eyes took the most time to make, but I could not think of a better way to tighten the stays, and once into production mode, took less time than you might think. The lanyards and dead-eyes made it easy to tighten the stays and make the rig very sturdy.

The wheel took a ridiculously large amount of time to make, but is a key feature so I felt it was worth the three hours invested into it.

Helmsman and wheel with the rigging started.

On the other hand, the figurehead took little time and is also a great detail.

Unicorn has anchors that may be fished and catted over the rail or deployed.

Anchors fished and catted

The rigging took about seven hours spread over a week of evenings and two long sessions in the shop over a weekend.

Sails were made from an old pillowcase that had just the right amount of wear and yellowing to look like canvas. The edges of the sails were sewn so that they would not fray and to make  them less likely to tear, the vertical seams were drawn with a pencil and straight-edge. The actual cutting and stitching of the sails only took a few hours, but bending them on was a more involved task and took more time.

I chose to leave off most of the sheets so that it would be easier for small hands to reach in and play with objects on the deck. Only the masts are rigidly attached to the hull, all other spars are lashed to eyebolts so that they can move. This has two advantages, one being that sails can be trimmed to approximate tacking, running, and heaving-to, the other is that if dropped, or knocked down, the spars and sails twist and move rather than break and tear.

Unicorn caries a compliment of two officers and four crew members, all bears. These pictures were taken before the crew had been varnished.

Lieutenant and captain

Hand going aloft

All deck crew have holes drilled in the bottom of their feet so that they can be set on pegs that stick up in strategic places on decks and in the tops. This way crew can be moved around and set on pegs, but don’t fall over when Unicorn moves.

So there you have it, the good sloop Unicorn.

Boat Shed Details

January 3, 2014

A reader requested more specific details for the boat shed that we built in 2000. I have three thumbnails below of the original building plans with materials lists and details on them. If you click on each one you should be brought to a larger image. You can either print those, or blow them up on the screen to read the details.
Happy New Year!

Wooden Toy Car

April 8, 2013

I have been tied up with a bunch of other projects for the last six months or so and this blog has suffered as a result, but it is time to make up for that. First a toy post:

I have a nephew who just turned six. For some reason he likes old cars. I mean really old cars, as in from the 1920s. So for his birthday he got the touring car below.

The doors and trunk open, and close and the car came with a bear driver and a bear passenger. If you are new to this site you might want to read  “the whole bear thing” for an explanation.

The hood ornament is a bear, and as with the saber jet in the last post, a little acrylic for a windshield adds something to a toy which is otherwise made entirely of wood.

Wooden Toy Saber Jet

February 14, 2013

Well the winter holidays have come and gone again and as usual I have been making toys. I have not written about toy making (or anything else) in a while and I wanted to put up a post or two on this subject.

For me, the hardest part of making toys, and in some ways the best part, is figuring out what to make in the first place. In this case I have a five-year-old nephew who has always got pictures of planes around and before the holidays, he was showing me one of a Saber jet from the 1950s. So that is what I set out to make him.

It is a pretty simple toy. Other than the wheels there are no moving parts, but it does have an interesting shape, and capturing and interesting shape is always a fun challenge in a toy. I want to create toys that a child is drawn to and toys that a child wants to touch and hold. So for me, there is always an element of toy making that is sculptural. I am drawn to shapes that echo those found in nature, and shapes that explain visually the purpose of the object. Put in simpler terms, I like a ship to look like a ship, a toy plane to look like it could really fly, and even a toy fire truck to look like it could rush off at any minute to put out a fire.

Toys that get broken through handling don’t bother me, toys that sit on a shelf and are never used do.

Saber jet

Another challenge is to figure out how much detail to include.  I like to leave some details to the imagination and I like to have some details that balance the shape and texture of the wood.

First ideas for a unit insignia

With toy airplanes I have a lot of fun with insignia. Coming up with nose-art or unit insignia is always a challenge and a fun one. If you have

read my post “the whole bear thing” then you know that most of my toys are flown, driven, or sailed by bears. So with insignia I try to mix in something bear-like, or that a bear would like, and I also usually play with numbers that reflect either the child’s age, or in some cases a birth date.

The finished insignia

In this case the unit is the 5th Ursus, with the constellation ursus major on the tail, and group number VF 56. The child in question is five, thus

the unit number, but he is almost six (which he will tell you given any opportunity) so the unit group designation VF-56.

Mixed mediums. This is basically a wooden toy, and I like my toys to be obviously hand made, however, there are always exceptions that prove the rule. This is one of those exceptions a clear canopy over the cockpit is a key design element of the saber and how it looks. Without one, the plane looks wrong.

I have said many times on this site that it is not a how-to blog. But I thought I would break with that

Vacuum jig

tradition to explain how I mold the plexi for toys. In this case we have a fairly simple “bubble” type of canopy. To get the shape right I use a vacuum jig that I made several years ago. The jig is fairly simple, a small table with a hole in the middle of it is set up and an edge made of self-stick foam insulation is put around the outside edge. In the middle of the table a piece of plastic plumbing pipe with a right angle bend in it is set up like a drain in a sink. Now fold up a piece of old wire window screen and place it over the hole. Add a shopvac, a metal spoon, and you are ready to make a canopy.

Vacuum jig with the plumbing pipe in place

The method is fairly simple, make a wooden mold of what you want the canopy to look like. Make the mold smaller than you want the finished canopy to be in every dimension except height, in this one dimension you want the mold to be taller than the finished cockpit canopy so you can make adjustments.

To make the actual canopy, plug the shopvac into your vacuum table and turn it on so that the

Mold on the vacuum jig and shopvac running

vacuum is pulling air down through the window screen. When you have that set up and running take a piece of plexiglass or acrylic sheeting and using a heat gun or a propane torch slowly heat up the center of the plastic in a well ventilated area. If you have any questions about what kind of gasses might be released by heating the plastic, WEAR A RESPIRATOR.

Vacuum at work

The trick with this method is to heat the plastic slowly, if you heat it too fast, you will get air bubbles in the plastic and it will ruin the canopy, so go slowly, but get the plastic hot, hot enough so that it starts to sag in the middle. When you have got the plastic hot enough that it is sagging in the middle, carefully place the hot plastic over the mold and push down so that you get a seal between the edge of the plastic and the foam rim of the vacuum table. The vacuum will pull the plastic down over the mold. If it does not do a perfect job grab the spoon and use the rounded side of the

The canopy ready to cut out

spoon to push down and help shape the plastic where it is needed. Allow the plastic to cool and cut out the canopy. It is pretty simple, but I would advise getting enough plastic to make several tries in case your first effort does not work out.

I attached this canopy with thickened epoxy because I wanted a smooth transition between the plastic and the wood.

That’s it—end of lesson. Have fun, I certainly did.

Another Toy Plane

March 22, 2012

One of the more pleasant distractions in life is the making of toys for nephews and nieces. I have written about this before on this blog, but the truth is that when a birthday comes around for one of the younger ones, I never know what I am going to do, I think I won’t come up with any ideas, and that I will never get anything done in time. What I try to do to come up with an idea is to think about that last conversation I had with that child in question, and to recall what we were doing together at the time. It always seems like something that child said, did, or asked about gives me an idea for a toy.

 

Case in point: I have a nephew who turned five this week. When I realized his birthday was just around the corner I began to stress over what to make. I could not think of anything. Then I started thinking about the time we spent together just after Christmas. I suddenly remembered playing on the floor with him with a bunch of wooden boats and fire trucks that I had made him, and he quite suddenly started asking me about a toy biplane that I had made for his older brother when he was little. He seemed fixated with the plane (which he is not allowed to touch) and I was a little surprised at the time because it is a rather simple toy, and not one of my more elaborate efforts. Once I recalled the conversation, however, I knew what I was going to make him.

The plane is an Albatross D-series fighter dating from World War I. The toy is made of varnished poplar. All parts are glued and doweled together for strength. It has a plexi-propeller disk, a design which I have found holds up better and is less prone to getting broken than a wooden propeller blade that turns on a spinner. A bear flies the plane, and the insignia on the fuselage is made up, but loosely based on the bear symbol of the city of Bern Switzerland.

New Boat Part 15

March 15, 2012

Interior prep, centerboard, and bulkhead templates:

It has been months since we have been able to work on our Penny Fee project, but with the arrival of March it looks like we might actually get something done on this lovely little boat.

If you cast your mind back to a much earlier post on this project (New Boat #8 ) you will recall that when we clamped the strakes together we used long battens screwed through the strakes to hold the planks together until the epoxy dried. We plugged those holes from the outside before we painted and flipped the boat. Now it was time to clean out the boat and plug the interior ends of those holes. This is one of those jobs that often gets glossed over because it is not all that romantic or glamorous to climb all over the bilge of a boat wielding putty knife and pot of epoxy spooge, but in fact it is vitally important; an unplugged hole in the bottom of the boat is a very bad thing.

Filling interior ends of screw holes

With the interior ends of the holes plugged, we needed to sand the interior.

While this was going on we were making the templates for the bulkheads. The plans do not call for bulkheads, but because of how we intend to use this boat as our launch, we want lockers fore and aft which will allow us to keep gear for the boat locked on board. In addition we want areas where we can put inflatable floatation. Knowing this we have figured out the location for our bulkheads and are making templates in cardboard. One of the nice things about lapstrake construction is that making templates is relatively easy because the section of the boat is made up of a series of short straight lines. We used a shop compass to get the templates close, and then hot-glued short pieces of cardboard onto the master template to make any corrections.

Cardboard template for aft bulkhead

Corrections made with scraps of cardboard and hot glue

We have also been working on the centerboard, which is made up of three layers of marine plywood leftover from the planking that have been glued together. The idea is to create a wing-like cross section to reduce drag through the water. The leading edge is simply rounded, but the trailing edge poses more of a challenge because it has a significant taper running from the bottom trailing edge up to about half its length, at this point I wanted to keep the aft edge of the board rectangular in profile so that the board will not twist or rattle in the centerboard trunk. This meant that as I shaped the trailing edge there would be a sort of scooped place halfway down the length of the board that would ease into a hydrodynamic trailing edge. In essence the problem was to scoop out some of the laminated plywood without raising the grain too much.

After some experimentation, the best tool for the job appeared to be a round-bottom plane that I originally bought for shaping the propellers of a full sized airplane that I built in High School (a story for another time).

Round-bottom plane

After roughing out the shape the rest of the shaping was simply done with a sander.

Roughing out the centerboard

The board will be coated in epoxy and the leading edge will be glassed with 4oz fiberglass to protect it from groundings.

The centerboard after shaping

Coating the centerboard with epoxy

Meanwhile the interior of the boat with all holes plugged, was sanded and cleaned. This allowed us to apply a sealer coat of epoxy to the interior below the waterline. The idea is to protect the interior if it has to sit with rainwater in it for any extended period of time.

Cleaning out the interior of the boat after sanding

Coating the interior with epoxy

With any luck we will be shaping floor timbers, finishing up the centerboard, and building the centerboard well soon.

If you would like to read all the posts related to this project together, go to the category at the right called “Penny Fee” and click on it. It will pull all the posts on the penny fee onto one page for you.