Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

Back with a Vengance

Ed Maurer and his group of writers and photographers have relaunched the Canoe Sailing Magazine and re-branded it as Skinny Hull.  It's a fantastic mix of the old and the new and I can really see canoe sailing as both a hobby and sport making a comeback.  The new format is powered by Issuu - an online magazine format that is much easier to read and a great improvement over the old hyper-linked format.

Congratulations to Ed & Crew!  Here's wishing you great success.  Be sure to go and take a look at the wonderful work they are doing over there!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Paddle Making?

Well, yes - and more.

I've really got some juggling going on in the shop.  I have 12 students in my class this session and the attendance rate is very high - I haven't had less than 10 students show up for any one class.  You will note, however, that I haven't posted about the class much until now.  Oh, yeah, I've posted about paddle making resources, some basics about picking good hand tools and lumber, but not about what's going on in the class.

The reason?

I've been too busy to pick up the camera - until I made a concerted effort today.  Consider the fact that in the class I have the following:

One student finishing his canoe (by special arrangement...)
Two students making oars
Three students building double-bladed paddles
Six students crafting single-bladed paddles

Let's just say it is a hopping place.  The oar makers seem to be having the greatest progress.  They've marked out the patterns, roughed the blades and shafts of the oars using the bandsaw, and were re-marking them with the outlines of the blades today.

My canoe-building student and I stayed late last week to fiberglass the outside of his hull, and this week he got another coat of epoxy on it.  We were hoping to get a second "hot coat" on, but the temperatures were cool and wouldn't co-operate.

Two of the three students making double-bladed paddles are making laminated blades.  They seemed to be having a fair amount of difficulty today re-sawing their thin pieces to laminate together.  I think a review of their methods may be in order for next week.  The other student is going to have sawn blades and had prepared the shaft and blade stock to glue together.

Single-bladed paddle makers are making good progress as well.  Two are making "one-board" paddles, but with some customization.  One will have a contrasting tip and grips, while the other will have contrasting tips, grips and blade edges.  The blade edge is going to be interesting because this student wants the edge to follow the contour of the blade.  To deal with this, she's cut a template from plywood so that we can use a router with a pattern bit to make smooth mating curves that we can glue together.  On top of the cosmetic appeal of these tips, they also serve a functional purpose.  The wood is hard, and the grain direction (for the tips) is perpendicular to the grain of the blades.  This helps to avoid splitting of the blade tips.

The contrasting tips are being made with a mortise and tenon arrangement for strength.  The tenon is easily made on the table saw with a dado head.  The ends of the tenon are then cut short with a hand-saw.  The mating mortise was created by drilling and chiseling out the material.  We could have done this several ways.  If we had a small enough mortising bit, we could have used that.  Alternatively, the router table could have been employed to create the mortise using an up-cut bit.  We could have also used a spline and dadoed both parts.  Many ways to approach this, really.

The other four students are working with "glued-up" paddles consisting of a center shaft with glued-on blades and grips.  In one case (at least at the moment) we also have a contrasting tip as well.   On the glued-up paddle below, you will note that there are two contrasting strips of wood on the blade - these are "skids" that are taped to the blades with carpet tape.   The surface of the strips is co-planar to the surface of the shaft and provide a stable base for machining operations on both the table saw and the band saw.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A New Twist on the SawStop Demonstration.

I saw this video below the other day and had to post it after my previous post with the video by Stephen Colbert.

For those of you who don't recognize the man wearing the cap in the video, his name is Roy Underhill.  Roy is very well known for his use of traditional hand tools and his application of them in his PBS show, The Woodwright's Shop.   Considering that his show has been running for 29 seasons, I'd say he's been able to expand on traditional tools quite successfully.   That's why I was quite surprised to see him demonstrating a power tool.

He definitely puts a regional twist on the traditional demonstration - check out the video.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chesapeake Light Craft Eat Your Heart Out

With apologies to John Harris and his fantastic crew down at Chesapeake Light Craft, they were beaten to the punch - by about 4,500 years.  The Egyptians were building kit boats for the funerals of their Pharaoh.  With wood from Lebanon and Egypt, ancient craftsmen created boats that were sewn and pegged together.  While the purpose of the boats is unclear, (There is some suspicions that the boats were actually used in the water...)  the assumption is that they were either intended for ceremonial use or for grave goods. 

When brought to the pyramids, the boats were disassembled and stored in pits. (image below)  One of the two known pits at Khufu's pyramid was excavated in 1954 and the boat was re-assembled.  This "solar barge" is now in the Khufu Boat Museum and is shown above.

The second known pit at the pyramid was excavated starting last June.  The limestone blocks that created the roof of the pit were removed and the restoration of the boat has begun.

The following is the story from the Associated Press:

CAIRO (AP) — Archaeologists on Monday began restoration on a 4,500-year-old wooden boat found next to the pyramids, one of Egypt's main tourist attractions. The boat is one of two that were buried next to the Pharaoh Khufu, spokesmen for a joint Egyptian-Japanese team of archeologists said. The boats are believed to have been intended to carry pharaohs into the afterlife.
Khufu, also known as Cheops, is credited with building the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest of the pyramids. Khufu, son of Snefru, was the second ruler of the 4th Dynasty around 2680 B.C. and ruled Egypt for 23 years.
Both boats, made from Lebanese cedar and Egyptian acacia trees, were originally discovered in 1954. One of the boats is on display at a museum near the pyramids.
The second boat, which is now undergoing the restoration, remained buried. It is thought to be smaller than its sister ship, which is about 140 feet (43 meters) long.
The head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mustafa Amin, said Egyptologists began taking samples of the wood for restoration on Monday. "The boat was found in a complete shape, intact and in place," he said, adding that the focus now is on taking samples of the wood. He said Egyptologists are studying "the different components and fungus in the wood in order to find the most sufficient and advanced way to work on the wood."
Last year in June, a team of scientists lifted the first of 41 limestone slabs each weighing about 16 tons to uncover the pit in which the ancient ship was buried, said Sakuji Yoshimura, professor from Japan's Waseda University. At the time, experts said restoration would likely take about four years and that at its completion, the boat would be placed on display at the Solar Boat Museum near the pyramids, which routinely attract millions of tourists and boost one of Egypt's most important industries.
The team had initially thought the vessel would be safer left underground than exposed to pollution, but evidence showed that pollution, water and insects had invaded the boat's chamber.
A $10 million grant from Waseda University has helped in preparing the ship's excavation process.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Destroying America? :-)

From Stephen Colbert.  A must see for woodworkers and boat-builders.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Another Diversion

I do consider myself a renaissance man of sorts. (Perhaps Jack-of-all-Trades-Master-of-None is more appropriate...)  I am an engineer, I like to cook, I maintain an house and the yard, I build boats and I can manage to find time to do a few other things as well.  One of them is to keep up the computers in this household.

My DW was issued a Macintosh Powerbook Titanium laptop at a previous workplace.  When she left, her former employer gave her the computer.  Very generous of them, really.  The computer has not been without its problems, however.  The hard drive and the optical drive (CD-RW/DVD) expired a few years ago.  We ordered a new hard drive and a new CD-RW/DVD-RW drive to replace the expired components and I utilized the most excellent instructions to be found at to replace the damaged equipment.  My DW continued to use the machine for several years until such time as the hinges failed.  She actually continued to limp along with the damaged hinges for a period of time, but then replaced the Powerbook with a new 21" iMac.

Fast forward a few years and DD now needs to have a computer at her disposal for her homework.  Most of what she does is basic web browsing and word processing.  The Powerbook would be fine for this, but alas, the hinges are broken.  If we spin backwards a few years, a friend of my DW had a Titanium Powerbook of the same series which had some issue - probably with the motherboard in the computer, but a case that was in excellent condition.  For a very meager fee, he generously shipped his old computer to her for us to use.

This weekend, I finally got around to swapping things around.  Again, using the excellent instructions found at Ifixit, i decided that I would swap out the guts of my DW's machine with her friend's case.  I sat down at the dining room table with my tools and got busy.

About an hour and a half later, I had closed up the Franken-puter that I had created from the two non-functional machines.  I was greeted with this:


I re-opened the case and checked the connections between the components.  Not everything was seated as nicely as I'd like.  I re-seated the connectors, paying particular attention to the inverter connections for the display and the monitor connection.  I was greeted with better results, but still not right.  I withdrew the monitor connector and cleaned it carefully before re-inserting it.  


The Pig of Happiness was back. (DW's old desktop.)

There were some casualties from this exercise, however.  the case, display, heat-pipes, keyboard and display from DW's old machine are on the right along with the motherboard from the "donor" machine.  One the left are some components we'll keep for spares including a spare battery, optical drive modem filter, hard drive and power supply.  If the other machine is the Pig of Happiness, I'm not sure what to call the remains in this picture, but either Pulled Pork or the Pork Chop of Despair seems to be appropriate.

This appears to be one of those days that DW is glad her husband is handy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


I've been waylaid by small people in yellow, brown and green now four times in the past two weeks.  I think they're called "Girl Scouts".   In our neck of the woods, it must be the time of year to sell Girl Scout cookies.   I was with DS for my first encounter of the year and purchased a box of Tagalongs from a group of Scouts at a market where we'd stopped to pick up ketchup.  We were on our way to a Boy Scout winter camping event where a few extra calories are required, so I picked up the box to share with the participants there.

The next time I was waylaid I was with DS again.  We were headed for our local supermarket and DS recognized the Girl Scouts who were selling from school.  We had to buy some.  DS wouldn't let me pass without buying some.  We picked up two boxes of Thin Mints, a box of Samoas and a box of Savannah Smiles.  At this point, I realized that I hadn't co-ordinated cookie purchases with my DW and didn't know if we were going to be swimming in cookies.

Usually we knew exactly how many boxes we'd have because DD would be our "connection".  She was our supplier for several years, but unfortunately, here troop disbanded.

We figured that we'd have to find some way of dealing with cookie withdrawl, as we weren't sure where we'd be finding them this year.

But truly, we shouldn't have been worried.  It's hard to avoid the cookies when the selling starts.

DS was with me the third and fourth time that we passed Scouts selling cookies at our local supermarket.  While they were not people he recognized, he dipped into his meager funds to donate money to each group, even though he wasn't buying (and couldn't afford) cookies.  I was proud of his generosity.

What's really amazing is to realize what a huge business cookie selling is for the Girl Scouts.  Did you realize that there is even an app for that?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tech Tip Tuesday

Probably one of the hardest things to get across is how to select good stock.  Students making canoe paddles in my class are looking for one thing, students making oars and Greenland Style paddles are looking for something else and those making double-bladed paddles are looking for both!  Those who are going to make one-piece canoe paddles are looking for flat or plainsawn wood.   That is clear.  That has no grain run-out.  Harder still is trying to explain the grain of the boards and why it is the way it is.

With words.

Yeah.  Doesn't work so well.

So, we're going to take another approach.

To wit, pictures.

Pictures are worth at least a thousand words. 

For example, let's start with this diagram looking at a cross-section of a tree:

This gives you a basic idea of the structure of a tree - simple.  You have to know how the growth rings run in a tree to understand why the next bit of information is important.  Now, let's look how a sawyer will slice that tree into boards:

On the left,  you can see how the boards are sliced from a tree for plainsawn stock.  This leaves the growth rings running side to side on the ends of the boards, with the exception of the slices through the middle which are actually quartersawn. Ideally, for paddle blades and single board paddles, we want them to be from about 3/4 of the way out from the center of the tree so the curve of the grain as viewed from the end of the board is gentle.  The plainsawn piece has flat grain on the wide face - like this:

Why are we so picky?  It has to do with strength and dimensional stability and flexibility.  If we were to thin out a vertical grain board, it is weak along the growth rings and is liable to split from the end.  Dimensionally, once seasoned, it should be relatively stable.  The shaft will exhibit some flexibility in the direction we're going to be pulling the paddle - which is good, as a paddle that is too stiff can be tiring to use.  Blades should be made from plainsawn stock, so a single board paddle should be as well.  A wide variety of materials can be used as you can put a protective tip on the paddle.  Some paddle-making woods are found below:

·       Basswood
·       Yellow Cedar
·       Douglas Fir
·       Spruce
·       Cherry
·       Birch
·       Maple (Soft or Hard, but Soft is a bit less dense, so lighter)
·       Ash
·       Mahogany
·       Walnut  (Peruvian is lighter than American if you can find it)
·       Sassafrass
·       Butternut
·       Cypress

For oars and Greenland style paddles, I want just the opposite - I want rift or quarter-sawn stock with vertical grain running on the face of the boards for a bit more rigidity.  Oars and double-bladed paddles are long and will flex a bit just because they are long and slender, so I'll use the board that has the grain running in the other direction for stiffness.  These boards should look like this:

I recommend good vertical grain dimensional lumber for oars and Greenland style paddles if you can find it - a 2x6 or 2x8 of spruce, cedar, redwood or douglas fir.  light, but strong.  For a Greenland style paddle, these materials work and a 2x4 provides just the right amount of stock.

For the traditional double-bladed kayak paddles, I usually recommend getting the shaft out of the same materials that are used for oars or Greenland style paddles - with a vertical grain in the direction you're pulling the shaft (i.e. looking at the vertical grain as you use the paddle) to avoid making a "whippy" paddle.  For blades - either flat or laminated curved blades, I want the same plainsawn stock that I'd use for a one-piece canoe paddle.  

If I were making a multi-piece canoe paddle, I would tend to use different woods to take advantage of their best properties - light weight, stiffness, hardness, rot resistance, etc.  Light, flexible material for the shaft and plain sawn hardwoods for the grain.

Don't forget that you can be selecting pieces of wood for aesthetic purposes, too - contrasting grains and colors.

Above all, you're looking for the straightest, clear grain stock without knots, checks or wild grain.  You also don't want the grain lines to run diagonally across the board (side-to-side or front-to-back) as it will create a weak area in the paddle - particularly the shaft.

It can take a while to find good wood.  Hopefully, your local lumberyards are like mine and will let you sort through the stock rack.  If they're kind enough to let you do that, be sure to neatly re-stack the stock and don't handle it roughly as you're sorting it or they won't be happy to let you (or others) sort through stock in the future.  Often, if you tell the folks who are in the yard what you're looking for and why, they can be fantastic resources to find those odds and ends that are either not out yet, or squirreled away that are perfect for the paddle you're going to make.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012