Friday, July 30, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In The Beginning:

In the beginning there was a word.
And the word was Chocolate.
And it was good.

- Confections: 1.5 oz., 375 calories.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday

Cat recently sent me some pictures of the canoe that she is working on. She's chosen to use White Pine for the strips. It's not a bad choice, really - while not as light as cedar it is fairly lightweight, shapes well and is inexpensive. Some of the downsides include the fact that White Pine can be brittle, isn't really rot resistant and can have pitch pockets. Brittleness isn't a biggie if you can strip the boat with it and the rot resistance should be taken care of by the epoxy and fiberglass encapsulation. The pitch pockets, however...

Let me start with a little story - my father made a pair of nice Adirondack chairs for my DW and I that were out of White Pine. White Pine being a resinous wood, contains pitch pockets which are little areas that may or may not be seen and contain pitch. Being a rather savvy guy, I knew that before I painted them, I should seal them with shellac to keep the pitch from bleeding at any knots or pitch pockets. I then primed and painted over the shellac. The color was a nice hunter green. When I put the chairs out on the deck, they warmed up in the sun and the pitch pockets that I'd carefully sealed bled through. The chairs are still in the cellar - one of these days I'll put them out to see if the pitch has hardened up and I can fix the finish.

Back to Cat's canoe. She says that she has only a few small pitch pockets - about 5 on one side and she hasn't looked at the other. She was debating what to do about them. Here are a few of the pitch pockets:

I'm concerned that leaving the pitch pockets will cause the fiberglass layer to delaminate. As they are small areas, it might not be a huge problem, but it's better to be safe than sorry. One problem here is that there may be more pitch pockets than she can see, but the strips are fairly thin (~1/4") so most of them should be making an appearance.

To deal with this issue, she was thinking of excising the pitch pockets with an X-Acto knife and then filling the void with either a mixture of wood flour and carpenter's glue or a wood putty with mineral spirits.

First of all, the best approach is to avoid the pitch pockets before you put them on the boat. One method is to use a different species of wood that doesn't have them. If you're going to use a wood like White Pine, just be selective about the strips you put on and leave the strips with pitch pockets behind. You can also cut the pitch pockets out and scarf the strips together.

If you've built the boat, carefully excising the pitch pockets with a small sharp knife is not a bad idea. If there is residual pitch, a bit of denatured alcohol to remove the remaining pitch would be OK. Whatever you do, avoid the use of mineral spirits on the hull - residual material absorbed by the hull can prevent the adhesion of the epoxy and fiberglass coating that you'll be putting on the wood. For that reason, the wood putty with mineral spirits is not a good idea as a filler. I had a student try to find glue spots with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits at home. his epoxy/fiberglass layer had issues in the future and he had to remove contaminated areas of fiberglass and put repair patches in.

The use of wood flour and carpenter's glue is not necessarily a bad idea but, if you will be claddin with epoxy there are two issues. First, it doesn't saturate with epoxy and looks "light" in color. Also, epoxy doesn't bond well to the glue. I don't recommend the wood flour and carpenter's glue mix for that reason.

The best ideas is to use Dookie Shmutz. Dookie Shmutz is the name for a mixture of epoxy, wood flour (from the hull sanding) and fumed silica. (Cab-O-Sil is one trade name) The epoxy gives you the hardness, the wood flour the color and the silica is a thickening agent to keep the epoxy from bleeding out of the mixture. Once you've mixed a batch of epoxy, you add wood flour until it is the consistency of warm organic peanut butter. You then add silica until it is a creamy peanut butter consistency. This mixture is applied with a plastic spreader into the checks or voids in the hull. Avoid spreading on excess as it is difficult to sand off and can leave a blotchy finish on the surface of the strips. Masking areas you don't want to coat with tape works well, too - just remember to remove the tape before the epoxy sets.

After you've applied the epoxy filler and let it cure, you need to sand off the excess. Because it is significantly harder than the surrounding wood, if you try to hand-sand this, it will cause the softer wood to sand away first, leaving irregularities. To avoid this, use a sanding block or longboard and work carefully.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sights at Work.

When you look around at the place where you work, do you notice odd little details?

I do.

To wit:

He's been impaled!

(Actually, my co-worker with a cap embedded in the belt-buckle under his shirt.)

Cartoon from a cube wall. My only response is, "really?"

From the bottom of a shipping box...

Again, and I repeat, "really?"

Finally, our purchasing department:

(Don't laugh - it works!)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'll have mine without the 10W-30 gravy, please

I'm beginning to wish that I had a long road trip coming up. Mostly it is because of this book. Our local transfer station where we go to drop off our household trash and recycling has a "book shack". You can drop off or take books from the book shack. There are all kinds of books and this is certainly proof of that. Manifold Destiny, or at least the version my DW picked up for me was written sometime back in the early 1990's and is a modern treatise on a very old skill. Basically, when going for a trip, you would make up a meal, wrap it in foil and strap it to a hot spot on your car's engine with baling wire. After a certain number of miles, you would stop and enjoy a hot meal for your lunch.

She picked it on a lark for me to read and have a laugh about, but I'm actually thinking about giving it a try. The only hard part is how to find that hot spot on a car engine whose manifold and valve cover are in turn covered by bits of plastic. Then again, bailing wire isn't quite as common as it used to be either.

Perhaps a nice pork tenderloin, but I think I'd need a 400 mile trip for that!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Photo by Bobby Fields

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday

Here's a conversation overheard at work recently:

"Why did you go to the Dark Side?"

"They had cookies!"

One of our experienced assembly technicians had trained a new intern in one particular assembly technique that the technician had used with good success. However, the intern had learned another way from another technician that he found easier.

The same is very true of boat-building. I may show one or two methods of doing something, but that doesn't mean that it is the only way to do it. If another method works for you and is safe and efficient, I say - do it. I often find as a teacher that I am customizing what I teach at the individual level to accommodate the students tools, experience and ability. Fortunately, my classes are very small, so I have the luxury of doing this.

One important thing that I have learned is that people learn by very different methods. When teaching a new step in the strip-canoe building process, I talk about what we're going to be doing and follow that up with what is important to how it relates to the next step. Then, as I'm demonstrating, I try to explain it again. When the student is finally doing the work themselves, I try to offer tips and tricks that work well for them. If I find this isn't working, I propose another method or research other ways to do the same task for them.

As I hear at home, "To each cat his own rat."

Monday, July 19, 2010

So I survived the last Wordless Wednesday post...

The picture that you see there is my DW, her little brother in the middle and her younger sister. I'm told the picture was taken somewhere in France when on summer holidays. That little red inflatable boat is the one that I referred to in an earlier post on the reasons why she doesn't like small boats. While the water in the picture is very calm, the water in North Wales where she overturned in the same boat was anything but. I still think that she's very brave to try going out in small boats again, 'tho.

The part that I survived was the thread label "vintage".

When discussing DW's paddling exploits with DaGoof, I found out that his DW, DS and DD had been out paddling with he and his FIL over the weekend. I believe it was his DS and DD's first trip in a canoe. (fortunately a very beamy model with the DS leaning over to trail his hands in the water...) His DW got to paddle his Wee Lassie; The Blue Streak for the first time and was rather surprised at how quick it was.

I guess we're going to be building boats for both DW's pretty soon...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

After nearly 90 days...

British Petroleum is still working to contain the Gulf leak. Jimmy Buffet and others have stepped up and produced a benefit show for folks in the Gulf region. I know some friends have chosen to take vacations from Florida through to Louisiana to try to help stimulate the economy - is there something you can do to help, too?

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Top Ten Kinda Day

There are those days in your life that make up for whatever else you may have to put up with. Last Saturday was one of those days. We have friends who through the interweaving of many lives we have worked with, camped with and played with over the course of time. They generously invited us to join them for their 4th of July celebration at the camp that they own on a nearby lake.

I spent Friday evening preparing food to share and getting all the myriad things that one seems to need when heading to "the lake". I'm always impressed at the number of things that you seem to need. Chairs - check. Boats - check. Paddles - check. Life Jackets - check and on and on and on...

We headed up just after lunchtime and the weather was warm and dry with a light breeze and a cloudless cerulean sky. The "lake" is actually a man-made pond with a dam and spillway at one end and that has fairly small summer camps surrounding about two-thirds of the shoreline. It's the kind of place where families have been going with their friends for generations. Goings-on always seem to be ever so laid back. This particular party was planned to coincide with a long-running 4th of July celebration at the camp next door which had very good live music played at a respectful volume all afternoon. Here's the party next door just getting started...

By the end of the evening, there were probably four times as many people!

As soon as we arrived, another one of the guests who was also a former co-worker helped me unload my sea kayak and Wee Lassie. My father arrived shortly after with the Charlotte and we shuffled that down to the water's edge as well. I was looking forward to sitting down on the table at the floating dock to relax with a beer, but that was not to be - DD was champing at the bit to go out in one of the boats. Out we went with me in my kayak and herself in the Wee Lassie. She was a bit nervous as her last trip in that boat resulted in a dunking. We returned and I hopped into the Wee Lassie and she grabbed the Charlotte. Here she is un-feathering the paddle before hopping in:

We headed up the lake...

I was then greeted with terrified squealing. "DADDY - THERE ARE BUGS!!! EARWIGS! DADDY GET RID OF THEM!!!" This canoe was stored outside with the foam blocks on the gunwales. Underneath the blocks were all of the earwigs. As the boat started moving, they seemed to start coming out of everywhere. We paddled back to the beach after much complaining from DD I rinsed the bugs out of the canoe and we headed back out. Up the lake again...

Then we paddled down the lake. It seemed we were stopped at nearly every dock or float with people on it who admired the beautiful wooden boats - we probably had the only ones on the whole lake. I need to print up some waterproof business cards to carry with me when I paddle, I guess.

... and back up to the dock.

DS wanted to go out in a boat on his own. I put him in the Charlotte and he tried to paddle away from the shore, but was very nervous and got out almost as soon as he got in. He's young, so I wasn't bothered.

I figured I might get a chance to sit on the dock but DW decided that she wanted to go out in a boat.



Yup. DW wanted to go out in a boat. She got a life jacket and went in the Charlotte. I'm pretty sure my mouth was agape. You see, DW doesn't care much for small boats. As a child, she was at the beach in North Wales with one of those little inflatable vinyl rafts and got overturned in the surf, catching her leg in the rope and holding her under the water. I'm sure this was a terrifying experience.

Still, she relaxed a bit and finally we went for a paddle down the lake and back. DD stood on the floating dock and took pictures of pretty much the whole trip. Here's a shot by DD of DW checking out the party next door as we headed back in:

I finally hopped out and grabbed a cold beer from the cooler. I went down to the dock and was sitting chatting with friends when I saw my canoe heading down the lake. My father decided to take it out for a little run:

Because she was feeling adventurous, I figured that DW should try some other boats. We were certainly spoiled for choices:

She finally went out in a fairly short and wide flat-bottomed kayak that belonged to the hostess. Strangely enough, DW was happy with the ride of this boat. I guess I know what I need to build now. Perhaps I could just cut off the claw feet on some bathing equipment? Hmmmm....

We relaxed and the kids played in the water near the shore. Happily for DS and DD there were friends of theirs from school at the party next door to play with. As the afternoon slipped easily by, the host disappeared to start grilling some steaks and people started to assemble a fantastic pot-luck picnic on the groaning board in the front porch. The variety, quality and quantity of food were truly impressive.

Dinner was consumed at tables up in front of the house, both large and small:

And down on the floating dock:

After supper, but before dessert, DS wanted desperately to go paddling with the little girl from his class who was there. It was the motivation he needed to get out in a boat. Not to be left behind, DD wanted to go again, too. I herded the small flotilla out on the water. DS had a hard time staying up with the more experienced girls and I had a hard time convincing DD that she needed to wait for her brother. I think DD spent more time with the other little girl than DS did, but he was very happy to be able to say he'd been out paddling with her.

We returned to shore just in time for dessert. As I was still full from dinner, I decided that I'd rather go out and do a circuit of the lake before it was time for the fireworks.

At dusk, a metal rowboat was moored out in the middle of the lake and cases of fireworks were stacked on a nearby dock. I was, to be honest, expecting a fairly mediocre display of bottle rockets, roman candles and sparklers. I was wrong and was pleasantly surprised.

The fireworks display started down at the other end of the lake with impressive sky-bursts of multi-colored fireworks. When the fireworks started being lit, we moved down to the dock for a better view. The kids were complaining that they were going to be too loud, even though the fireworks were very small by comparison to municipal displays. The fireworks were loaded into the rowboat by the case - each case containing maybe 20 shells. The rowboat was loaded up at least 8 separate times with awe-inspiring displays resulting - it was difficult deciding where to look!

It truly was a top ten kind of day - there were good friends, good food and drink, excellent fireworks and an effortlessly good time was had by all. The kids were so absorbed in what they were doing that they just had a great time. I hope to get the opportunity to repeat it in future!

Thanks to the host and hostess with the most-ess!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mystic WoodenBoat Show 2010 : Episode 4

One of the great things that goes on at the WoodenBoat show is the Interlux "I Built It Myself" exhibit. This is a display of owner-built boats from the very small to the fairly large and from the pedestrian to the completely unusual. As this year's honoree was Iain Oughtred, many of the boats that were present had been built to his designs.

These are boats built by people like you and I who have decided that it is time to get started building a boat. These boats are built in sheds, garages, basements and yards. Very often most builders find that once they get started, all of the worries and fears go away and they get what advice, materials and tools they need and just build. I think some even find that they like the building process as much or more than using the boats.

A very nicely made Beach Pea - designed by Doug Hylan. Very tempting...

An Iain Oughtred designed, Jll Yawl named Nina S. Benjamin built by Andrew Kitchen. Most, if not all of the hardware on this boat was hand made. Truly amazing - I'm sorry I didn't get more detail shots of the hardware and the rigging.

Here is something interesting - two Herreshoff-Gardner pulling boats. The top one is Plus One and the bottom one is, obviously, Ruby. What's interesting here is the different take that the two builders had on the finish work and the hull itself. Plus One's builder made her a little bit wider for his use as a fishing platform while Ruby's builders seem to have plans to go fast in her.

This stunning little Delaware Ducker certainly caught the eye. It's very much like a slightly wide sailing canoe in some regards. A very pretty and very traditional build.

Tiller and rudder:
Bow detail:

Ness Yawl, Goldberry by Garth Jones - another Oughtred design - seeing the pattern here?

Willow, built by Howard Sharp to Iain Oughtred's Ptarmigan design:

Annie - a very beautiful double-ender. I'm not certain of the design, but she was certainly a well built boat.

Finally, a still-to-be-named Humblebee pram built by Steven Bauer for use as a tender to his folkboat. Hand made oars as well. She had her maiden voyage at the Seaport on Saturday. What a great memory to have.

Humblebee's Interior.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Re-Post! Please Help Save a Tradition!

I don't re-post information, but this is entirely worthy. Bob Holtzman, the Membership and Marketing Coordinator at the Penobscot Marine Museum (and author of the wonderful blog, Indigenous Boats) had recently sent out notice that the museum's raffle needs a bit more help as tickets were selling a bit more slowly than hoped.

The Penobscot Marine Museum has been hosting a seminar to help keep the tradition of Birchbark canoe building alive. It is an art form which up until recently was nearly forgotten by the First Peoples of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and the Maliseet. Last summer, the museum hosted one of these seminars and master builder and former WoodenBoat School instructor Steve Cayard led a two-week long class on how to build these traditional boats. The canoe was named a "Boat of the Year" by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine - and for good reason - here it is:

(Photo by Jeff Sher)

Here's the article about the canoe from Maine Boats Homes & Harbors written by Ben Fuller, one of the Museum's curators.

Steve Cayard has been teaching about the subject for quite some time and one of his students and now assistant David Moses Bridges of the Passamaquoddy is featured in a video here. (Thanks, Scot!) Now that Steve has passed these skills along to David, he's been passing them along as well.

To help fund this program, the museum has been working to obtain grants. This year, they are also raffling off the birchbark canoe made in last year's seminar and featured in the article. If you are interested in supporting the Penobscot Marine Museum's efforts to keep these skills alive, please look here.

Please - help keep this tradition alive!

While there may be some duplication - here is the re-post from my visit to the Maine Boatbuilders Show.

* * * RE-POST * * *

I saw the following at the Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors Magazine booth:

I stopped.

I stared.

I stayed.

I listened.

The canoe was built by Steve Cayard and a group of Native Americans at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. Steve Cayard has been working to bring the traditional skills of birchbark canoe building back to the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and MicMac peoples. The irony here is that Steve Cayard is an Anglo-American and is really bringing traditional skills back to the native peoples. There are not many people who build these boats today and it is in danger of becoming a lost art. While I'm fairly well read about canoes I only know of a few people in New England who build these kind of canoes. While I'm sure there are other builders, Steve, Henri Vaillancourt, and David Moses Bridges are the only ones I know of - and David is the only Native American.

The goal of the program that is hosted by the Penobscot Marine Museum is to have Native American artists come and learn these skills and bring them back to others. Ben Fuller, a curator at the museum, did an article for Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors about this canoe that can be found here.

Ben was there promoting the museum, the program through which the boat was built and the raffle the museum is holding in support of the program. He was patient in describing the program and the building process, which I really appreciated. What is really amazing is to think about the build process - there are no forms used the way a cedar and canvas canoe is built - the canoe is built from the outside in, not the inside out. Probably the biggest difficulty today is the sourcing of the materials for the canoe. Good Northern White Cedar, spruce root, pitch, and the birch bark itself must be gathered and processed. Traditionally, these boats were built with very few tools - an axe, crooked knife and an awl. Ben indicated that the desired width of birch bark wasn't available, so the builder's had sewn in a panel at the gunwale line.

The canoe was named a "2009 Boat of the Year" by the folks at Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors and the museum is selling 200 tickets for this raffle to help fund the program that built the canoe. More details about the raffle here.

Bob Holtzman, who is the membership coordinator at the museum also hosts an excellent website called Indigenous Boats about non-Western styles of boats. Some really very interesting reading over there - some specifically about this boat. If you'd like to see more pictures from the building process, be sure to check out Bob Holtzman's Picasa photo page.

Bow Lashings with Spruce Root

The folks at Paddlemaking (and other canoe stuff...) also had a great post on this build.

Consider supporting the museum in their effort to keep this history alive!