Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tech Tip Tuesday

Today's Tech Tip Tuesday is an old-fashioned geometry lesson, pure and simple. How to equally divide a length. I see people scratching their heads - just take the measurement and divide, then work from there...

Well, that's certainly one way, but I'd be worried about errors. I like to avoid them if I can, so I like to be "simple". From my old-school drafting (Yes, I've worked on an actual drafting board with a T-Square and triangles...) I dredged up a simple trick.

Here's the premise - a lapstrake boat is being built and I'm working to assemble the form. I've got a strongback with patterns set in place. The plans tell me where a garboard stringer goes and where a sheer stringer goes. It also tells me I need to have 6 stringers equally spaced on both sides. You can see the garboard and sheer stringer in the photo below:

I then took a piece of paper and held it to the bottom edge of the garboard stringer and carefully wrapping around the form, marked the bottom edge of the sheer stringer. While I used paper, if you're going to make patterns or special measuring sheets that you'll use later, you might want to use drafting mylar as it doesn't change size with a change in humidity...

At this point, I've got a piece of paper with the length of the arc that I will be dividing. In this case, into 5 equal portions.

I then take a scale and a triangle and set them up on the paper. In this case, I'm using a 10" length on the scale as I can divide it easily into five two inch lengths. Note that the short leg of the triangle intersects the corner of the paper and the 10" mark on the ruler is at the mark we made on the paper when we were over at the form.

Now, I draw a line on the edge of my scale (in case it accidentally moves...) and make tick marks every two inches along my scale.

I bring my triangle over and sliding it up the scale, draw a line at every tick mark over to the edge of the paper.

At this point, I have divisions along the edge of the paper which represent the spacing that I want on the form.

I then take the paper over to the form, wrap it along the edge and transfer the marks from the paper to the form.

The end result? Equally spaced stringers to make equally spaced planking.

A remarkably simple method, really. I was able to lay out all 7 forms in less than twenty minutes using this method. Quick, easy and not prone to measuring and math mistakes!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

WoodenBoat Show 2011 at Mystic Seaport : Part 1

Here's a quick little video of what was seen at the seaport this weekend. If you haven't been yet and are within a few hours of the Mystic, Connecticut, you still have time to get there!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

A very nice Father's Day

With a bit of a small hole in it... I'll explain.

I awoke - much later than usual - to the smell of home-made banana-blueberry muffins. If truth be told, it's a nice thing to wake up to. While it wasn't breakfast in bed, it was still appreciated. There were some nice cards on the table and a bottle of jalapeno-peach barbecue sauce. Looks good...

The hole in the day was the fact that MY father was off vacationing in Maine with the owner of the Grand Laker from the previous post. Some year when I've got the time, I'm sure that an invitation would be extended my way to join them. I usually like to arrange for little paddle-time with my dad on Father's Day and seeing some posts over at the WCHA website (One from Fitz, who I know is probably missing a paddle with his dad, unfortunately - but able to enjoy one with his son, I'm sure..) about Father's Day paddling events in various locations.

After a wonderful breakfast, DD and I wound up going to feed my father's cat in his absence and did a little weekly food shopping before the whole family went out for a late lunch. (We did get a pretty slow start on the day. I guess that was a tactical error...) One of my favorite summer eating places is a wonderful brewery in town which serves good food as well. Even better, they have an open-air deck on the roof of the place to enjoy the food and beer that they serve on a nice day - and Sunday was a gorgeous day to be outside. After lunch a little siesta in a hammock was due for "lunch recovery" before I grilled up an even later dinner.

Hopefully on my father's return, we can arrange for a nice quiet morning paddle after being able to get out the cast iron griddle for some bacon and pancakes one of these weekends.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Are you addicted?

For those of you (us?) who have discovered Angry Birds, I give you the following from T-Mobile in Spain. It's highly entertaining...

Can you picture being able to rent this set-up for a party?

I was, actually, highly surprised when DS came home from a Build-a-Bear Workshop birthday party this morning with a plush yellow "angry bird".

Monday, June 13, 2011

Visit with an old friend...

I had an unexpected visit with an old friend this weekend.

Here she is:

She's definitely not a beauty queen and never was - she's an un-named workboat of somewhat uncertain origin and belongs to a friend's father. This canoe is a Grand Laker canoe and was in pretty tough shape when it was handed to me about 18 years ago for some restoration work. She had quite a few broken planks and broken ribs, needed new outwales, keel and bilge keels, cane on the stern seat, old varnish removed and replaced and a new covering put on.

All of this work took place in fits and starts over a period of about three months. The owner had put some budgetary restrictions on what he was willing to put into her and wanted her to be 'glassed and not re-canvassed. Ordinarily, I might have jumped up and down, but looking at the condition of the planking and ribs, I thought that it wasn't a half-bad idea to add some structural strength to a boat that we really considered to be on her last legs. She was hogged, had about a 10° twist to the hull and the wear on the ribs from years of sandy feet was particularly egregious.

We replace broken ribs and planks, straightened and repaired what we could. When done, the varnish gleamed and the hull was straighter and fairer than it had been, but was still not perfect. The 'glass work was done with a dyed through hunter green color and a white pinstripe about 3" below the gunwales. A new Sunbrella cover was made to protect her from the sunlight and the stern seat was re-caned.

For those not familiar with these canoes, they are MASSIVE. This particular example is about 4' in the beam and 24 feet long with a 30" tall bow and a considerable transom - it is 1-1/2" thick Mahogany. The were built for the guides around Grand Lake Stream in Maine to take their "sports" out hunting, fishing and camping and needed the capacity to carry men and gear in and men gear and game out of the woods on some very large lakes. This one gets used for bass fishing duty and to get gear back and forth to the cabin.

Since I restored her, she's had a tough life. First, she's hauled on a sailboat trailer for about 450 miles (Each way!) to get to the camp near Grand Lake Stream where the owner goes to fish and relax. The canoe doesn't get stored at the camp, it is hauled back and forth every time they go up there. The particular lake this man has his camp on has a plethora of rocks - and the scratches on the boat show it. This man fishes for bass standing on the rear seat. The cane had gone through and was replaced with wooden slats - probably a good idea... She's hauled on the beach every night with her load of fuel, gear and engine (one of them below) hanging on the stern. When I spent time at WoodenBoat talking with Pop Moore's Son in Law, Bill Shamel - both men builders of this type of canoe, Bill said that they typically put 5-7 horsepower motors on these canoes. The 15 horsepower motor is way to much weight and force for the hull and stresses it badly.

I will put it to you this way - I had one ride in the canoe after I restored it. I had to kneel wa-a-a-a-a-y-y-y-y- up in the bow. Why? I had to provide some weight to keep the bow down as the helmsman opened up the throttle. Even still, the bow was barely on the water for most of the trip. It was an, um, exhilarating ride. I must say, I prefer paddles over motors any day of the week.

The hull has been painted over in the same hunter green color that it was when I refurbished the boat, but the person who sprayed the hull painted right over the pin-stripe tape - didn't even bother to remove it. I don't think it has seen a lick of varnish in 18 years.

At any rate, the reason for my visit was pretty straightforward - she was leaking at the stern. A quick-and-dirty fix was required as they're leaving for the camp this week. A quick inspection found that repeated groundings had caused the keel to push up into the 'glass and planking at the stern to delaminate. Someone had tried to stop the leak by caulking with silicone caulk around the inside of the transom - a solution sure to trap water between transom and hull that will lead to rot. We removed the damaged area - a small one - probably a total of about 4 square inches , checked for soft wood and applied some epoxy filler and a new patch of fiberglass over the damaged area. It'll need some more work when they come back from Maine to finish filling the cloth, feathering it in and re-painting but it shouldn't leak any more.

I'm still trying to convince the owner to go visit Bill and to order a new boat, but I don't think he'd seriously consider it and I think he'd be h-e-double-toothpicks on a canvas bottomed boat based on what I've seen.

Anyway, I guess the old girl still has a bit of life in her yet.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One of my Favorite Posts of the Year.

Time for our annual exhibition of student work again! As per usual, they got a big tent for the front lawn for us to put our boats under/around and uncharacteristically, we had two days of wonderfully cool, dry weather after a week of hot and oppressive weather. Just enough of a breeze to be pleasant and comfortable. I took the pictures that you see here before we opened the exhibition on the morning of the second day. If I tried to do it with people around, it would be nearly impossible to get pictures!

We even had some unique boat stands (as seen above and below) which were student built!

My student who had nearly finished his Osprey sea kayak from Newfound Woodworks at last year's exhibition brought the finished article back for exhibition this year. For a boat which has really only been recently finished it has quite a bit of history already. The kayak is named Phoenix as we considered it to rise from the ashes of a tragedy - the student, a professional cabinetmaker, lost his workshop to a fire while taking the class. The same fire claimed the unfinished Wee Lassie of another student who was doing work in the shop on his canoe outside of class. In addition, the hatch with the inlay of the osprey was lost in an accident last year and had to be re-created. I think he did an excellent job recreating the hatch and matching species, color and grain to the existing kayak:

I am, however, a little disappointed in the bow. I was expecting a small hand-carved figurehead of a woman's face with flowing hair trailing down the sides of the bow. (Just kidding here, folks...) It's a simple detail, but I think a nice one.

Next to the Phoenix is a Charlotte based on the Tom Hill design. While this is not a boat built in the class, we've been displaying this canoe to try to gauge the interest of the public in offering another boat-building method. My father and I built this one and I've got another one I really need to get cracking on in the basement. This is probably DD's favorite canoe... While I enjoy strip construction, I'm considering a change that will allow for quicker and less expensive boats to be built so that more students will be able to take the class and enjoy their boats.

Pretty, no?

The students are always comparing details on each other's boats... This is the Root Beer Float - so named because it is a Sassafrass Wee Lassie canoe. It HAS to be one of the longest builds in my class, but then again, this student took a break to build a second decked canoe.

Took a while, but she's finally getting her "bling":

The next canoe is a Wee Lassie II called the Wavy Gravy. The canoe was named for the sinuous feature strip down the side and has been the product of one of my more meticulous students. I can't wait to see the finished product. It was a very popular canoe when visitors started showing up. One of the things that this student got to experience for the first time was answering the questions of visitors about how we do what we do as we build canoes. Most of my students are both critical of their own boats and dismissive of what they've learned until they hear the "oohs" and "aahs" of those people who come to see the canoes. I also believe that answering questions for visitors crystallizes what the students have learned in the process of building their canoe.

The canoe below is a Wee Lassie called the Cedar Ghost. The canoe was so-named as during the construction, the builder was sanding the hull in the parking lot and was covered in cedar dust. With the low contrast, it looked like he had turned into a ghost. The Cedar Ghost is another canoe that has been a while in coming. The builder took a very demanding job and installed a new kitchen in his home between the start and end of the build. This canoe is an exercise in following the spirit of the Wee Lassie - materials were selected for their light weight and simplicity. While the most unique feature is the hand-sculpted thwart/backrest, the boat has class by virtue of elegance.

This canoe also holds an interesting tale. She's a Wee Lassie II called Patience and is the product of a boat-builder who started in the class by coming to help her sister fair and sand her own Wee Lassie. Since that time, she has worked diligently and patiently to build this canoe and to continue helping her sister with her canoe.

To the left of Patience is our router table that we use to mold cove-and-bead features on the strips. In the foreground, you will see a set of forms that Odyssey came off of only recently. We try to share not only the finished (or nearly finished) products, but also try to show how we accomplish some of the tasks in the class. While Odyssey isn't pictured here, she is a beautiful Wee Lassie with strips of the same color located symmetrically that is being built by an amazingly dedicated student who would travel nearly a total of 400 miles every time he came to class. Consider that he's been coming to class for two years - that's 56 classes for a total of over 22,000 miles - if that's not an odyssey, I don't know what is!

Below is the Tesseract; a Wee Lassie with curved Mahogany decks that is being built by the sister of the builder of Patience. As I mentioned before, this student came to sign up to attend one of the furniture making classes because she wanted to build a table. Finding the class full, she signed up for the canoe-building class instead!

The curved decks came from a fairly thick piece of stock, but they have been back-thinned to keep them light. A coaming will be installed to hide this and the transition from the curved deck to the flat gunwales.

Last but not least is a picture of the happy builders of the first tandem canoe built in the class. It is a Peterborough Ranger 15' design from Steve Killing that was purchased from Bear Mountain Boats. This is a LARGE canoe to move in and out of the shop every week and has been quite a challenge for that reason. The canoe has beautiful accent stripes and trim in Peruvian Walnut and Basswood with Mesquite decks. This is a boat I'm dying to paddle, actually.

While the theme this year seems to have been the "nearly finished", it was still an awe inspiring display of the students' creativity, patience and talent!

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Very Nice Treat...

A very rare occurrence happened yesterday evening. We got to be social butterflies. My students got together and invited DW and I out to a local restaurant for dinner yesterday evening as a thank you to us for the extra time that I offer them and the tolerance of DW who lets me do it. It was a thoughtful and greatly appreciated gesture. It was nice to be able to go out and interact with my students and their spouses when we're not thinking about boats.

I have to say that the program I teach would be nothing without the dedication and patience of the students in my class. This class and a few others at the school where I teach are very consistently attended. In addition, my students also help out with the annual exhibition (Pictures to be posted later...) where all the students at the school show the various projects that they've been working on all year. For most of the classes, this means bringing your project to the school and picking it up after exhibition. For us, it is a labor of love. For both days of the exhibition, we arrive early and leave late because we need to haul the boats and all the assorted stands and display materials from the barn and to the tent in front of the school and back. During exhibition, my students very patiently field questions from visitors and explain the work that they've been doing. The reward is the "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd and the realization that they have indeed learned more than they thought they had.

I should say that it would appear that no gathering of the canoe-building class can be held without moving a canoe. One of my students wanted to pick his boat up so that he could work on it over the summer, so before dinner, we loaded it up!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night...

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them.

- Madeline L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time.

Photo by Luke Rottman

I'm not sure if I'd agree with Mrs. Whatsit, but I do enjoy seeing unusual weather. I certainly got my fill yesterday. The picture above was taken a little over a mile from where I work and was not the worst of yesterday's weather. Uncharacteristically for this corner of the country, yesterday was a day of severe thunderstorms, tornado watches, tornado warnings and, as the picture above show - tornadoes.

For about the past week or so, we've had unseasonably hot and humid weather and when it gets like that, we usually have severe weather when it finally "breaks". This usually means a thunder-shower with high winds as the cold front passes through. Yesterday was another animal altogether. In the morning, the weather called for thunderstorms. At lunch, the weather called for tornado watches. About two hours later, one of my co-workers came in and mentioned that there was a tornado warning. He was particularly excited.

First, you've got to understand that when not building canoes, I work with a bunch of true weather geeks. We build weather radar systems for all kinds of applications. They were all crowded in one of the cubicles checking out the NOAA live web information that is available for reasearchers. The wind came up and the sky turned black. Rain and hail started to fall - fortunately small hail - and then thunder and lightning picked up. Then something really unusual happened. Civil defense sirens at a nearby college started up. I was told it was a "shelter in place" warning. (The picture above was taken at the college.) Then our power blinked out for a bit.

After the power came back on, I checked what local news had to say on the web. I found this:

Be sure to pay attention to the vortex sucking the water off the surface of the river...

Later, we found out this tornado traveled about 50 miles across the state. This was one of three reported tornadoes yesterday, and we were fortunate to have not damage where I live. Unfortunately 4 people were reported killed and many others injured with severe damage to property in the area where the video was taken and to the east for many more miles.

Although there was a mixture of clouds and sun for my ride home, thunder continued to rumble around the area until probably about 8:30 in the evening. Flooding was evident along the roadways from the heavy rain. After supper, we went outside to watch a strange ballet of turbulent clouds rotating and dropping little funnels while the tops of the clouds were also quickly rising in impressive cottony thunder-heads. Truly impressive and dangerous-looking clouds.

Edited to add: The National Weather Service finally had their say about the tornadoes. On the Enhanced Fujita Scale, the main tornado was an EF3 with up to 160 MPH winds and was on the ground for 39 miles with a maximum width of 1/2 a mile. Wow.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011