Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Maine Boatbuilders Show : Episode 4

While I've said that I tend to gloss over the power boats at the show, I want to do a little justice to my favorite power boats of the show. While I admire these boats, I really ascribe to Mac McCarthy's thinking. That thought is that the best boats you can have are the ones you can pick up with one hand and take places that other people can't go because they float in only 3" of water.

As I may have noted, one of the major reasons that I don't have much interest in large power boats is that my pockets aren't deep enough to keep one. Another is that I'd need to get more training to properly handle such a large boat. For boats of this size, dockage, maintenance, hauling, fuel and insurance costs are huge - and we haven't even factored in the purchase cost! I have no real purpose to keep a boat like this because:
  1. I lack deep pockets (as noted above)
  2. My DW doesn't want to be on the water - at all.
  3. I don't own a camp on an island or on the water.
  4. I live far from the coast.
  5. I don't fish.
  6. Because of (2), the thought of using such a boat as a floating "hotel" is nixed.
So, irony being what it is, I'll probably wind up with one of these in my lifetime.

As you can see in the pictures below (and at the beginning of the post), the fourth and fifth section of the first floor are dominated by large power boats, many of which resemble the coastal lobster boats which ply the coast. For many people, these are "picnic boats" for getting out on the water for fishing, picnics along the coast and islands of Maine and as a mobile weekend camp.

As an engineer, the thing that amazes me is the systems integration in these boats. You've got the main power, hydraulics, ventilation, pumps, docking thrusters, electronics for illumination, entertainment, cooling, etc. and navigation in the form of radar, sonar, GPS plotters. You've also got to add things like trim tabs, and gyroscopic stabilization to help damp out the waves to give a smooth ride in bad conditions. All of this gets wrapped into a elegant shell with finely appointed cabins including beautiful wood and metal work. The workmanship is really incredible and the technology is awesome.

Some of these boats even lack propellers and are powered by diesel engines that turn turbines and steer using hydraulically controlled "buckets" to direct the flow of water from the turbine. The upside of this propulsion method is that they can run in shallow water and you're less likely to have problems snagging lines or other debris in the water.

While most of these boats are fiberglass hulled with wood trim, some are actually still wooden boats.

One of the first boats I saw that I found interesting was Mischief by CW Hood Yachts Mischief - a Wasque 26 model. It was of a scale and type that I could actually see using.

The other power boat that piqued my interest was this one from the John Williams Boat Company.

The boat is Maisie McGoo, a Stanley 38 powered by a 540 hp Cummins diesel engine. Let's just say that I didn't bother to ask how many gallons per hour it burned at cruise. Woodwork, fit and finish were fantastic.

Maisie's launching - photo by Joshua Harding. Pretty, no?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Maine Boatbuiders Show : Episode 3

Normally when I go to the Maine Boatbuilders show I try to walk through the first floor of the building fairly quickly to get an overview of the show. My main purpose is to decide which booths I'd like to go spend more time looking over. There are five main sections and this year, I managed to walk through the front section of the building and into the second section. I went down the left aisle and turned back up the right aisle towards the front of the building. I then 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 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!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A flood of memories...

Today's post is picture-less. I'm going to try to paint some pictures in your mind's eye in a little while from my memory.

Yesterday's Wordless Wednesday post shows a car that was at the Maine Boatbuilders Show in the Portland Yacht Services area. Ok, you may ask why a car was at this show. Well, it's also a boat of sorts. The car was an Amphicar (more about the cars here) that was owned by a client of Portland Yacht Services and they'd done some repair or restoration work on the car for this client. If you look on the ground at the rear of the car, you will notice a mirror which reflects a portion of the car's propeller.

As you can tell from the name, this is an amphibious car based around a Triumph engine. At the time these first came out, Dan Neil of Time magazine called it "a vehicle that promised to revolutionize drowning". Nice thought, eh?

I hadn't seen one of these cars "in the flesh" in over 25 years.

WARNING! : Shiny pretty things digression from here...

...but I promise to get back to the car.

Before I was ever a glint in my father's eye or he in his father's eye, my grandfather married a woman who was the housekeeper for a local family. This same family kept boarders in their large home. One of those boarders was a woman from Lincolnville, Maine who like many smart, independent women of the time who were seeking opportunity left her home to become a teacher in our local high school. My father had this woman as a teacher in high school and my parents kept a relationship with this woman even after she retired to her family's home.

The family home is located at the end of the road on Fernald's Neck which is a piece of land that juts out into Lake Megunticook. She lived alone in this large rambling house at the top of a field with a detached garage, two well-heads, a hen-house and an old outhouse. The house itself was a very traditional Maine home with cedar shingles and white trim. The interior had gray painted floors more white trim and what was to me ancient wallpaper.

She lived on the second floor of the house ("Its drier.", she'd say.) in the east-facing rooms in what would be the front of the house. She had a small bedroom, a room which served as her kitchen living room and dining room with a large south-facing bay window, and a small bathroom. There were always bird feeders in these windows that she could see from anywhere in this room. Behind this were other attic rooms that were chock-full of family history - furniture, papers, household goods, etc. from many generations past that she rarely accessed. I'm sure that a historian would have had a field day researching in that attic.

On the first floor of the house, it was mostly vacant with the exception of one front parlor room in which were stored things for use out in the garden, There were boots, rain gear and bags of bird seed. In a back hallway off an immense and long-vacant combined kitchen, family room and living space with a massive wood kitchen stove. A sun porch off the kitchen was used for storing myriad items as well. At the far back of the house was a second bathroom. ("You can bathe in the water, but don't drink it or brush your teeth. The water in here comes from the well that's where the barn used to be.")

In the winter time, she would have the water in the house drained and she would go to live with her cousin and her cousin's beloved dogs at the head of the road. This dirt road which would be nearly impassable at times with winter snow and ice and spring flooding. Her cousin's house was not quite as large, but had a barn where peacocks had once been raised. I'm sure it also helped save on heating bills, too. On good winter days, she would walk down the road to check on the house.

This woman was very independent and would keep a pretty large garden and also had chickens that she kept for the eggs. Every now and again she would lose a chicken or two to the local foxes that roamed the tall grass of her fields.

As a child, my family would travel up to visit this woman during our summer vacations. When you arrived at the house, any one of about a half-dozen neatly hand-written cardboard signs in her distinctive handwriting that would be on the front door. "Upstairs", "In the garden", "In the field", "Up the road" (at her cousin's) "Out", "Gone for a walk", "Swimming". This is certainly something you wouldn't do today, but at the time, nothing seemed really odd about it.

The first time we went to visit, I was fairly small and my mother and I stayed in the house in a small room on the second floor near the back stairs while my brother and father slept in a tent. On subsequent visits, the whole family would camp in the shelter of a copse of trees in the middle of the field between the house and the lake.

We would use this camp in the field as a base from which we could explore the surrounding area including trips into Camden, Rockland and Lincolnville. Sometimes we'd even hop on a ferry out to Vinalhaven or Ilesboro with a picnic lunch. (Nearly got eaten alive by mosquitoes on one trip to Ilesboro...) Treats would include trips over to Lincolnville Beach to The Lobster Pound or Duck Trap Woodworking, into Camden for ice cream.

As a youngster, I was felt honored to be given responsibilities that I wouldn't have at home. For example, on my way up to the bathroom in the morning, I'd collect the eggs from the hen-house and bring them up to the kitchen. I was also taught how to use a sickle and a scythe to clear weeds around the "house yard." We learned about the different birds and their calls and would listen to the haunting cry of loons down in the lake. I heard the story of Maiden's Leap and climbed Mount Battie to overlook the surrounding area.

I can also recall going up into her barn past the powder blue Ford Falcon that she had bought from my father and was still driving into the '80's to see a lapstrake pulling boat that she had rowed on the lake. We learned about the lime kilns that were on the path to the west shore of the lake. On seeing a tea-towel with a map of New Zealand on it, we heard tales of her trip to the South Pacific. There was much we learned.

One a Sunday morning, we'd all head out to the community church in Lincolnville for services. The church was a small, white wood framed building with hard wooden benches. The place was uninsulated and had a pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room that seemed to tell of the age of the place. A fire was lit even in the summer time to warm the building up. There was a foot-treadle organ for music and I don't think the building had electricity. Most of the congregation was probably over 60, but seemed everyone seemed ancient to me then.

Along with her church-going nature, she was a teatotaler. She recounted a tale of some young men who had been fishing and came ashore on her property during stormy weather. "There were cans rolling around in the boat", she said disdainfully. She let them use the phone to call for someone to pick them up. Later, they returned with a a bottle of wine to thank her. She returned it to them. My mother asked why she didn't keep the bottle and give it to someone else. "Well, I don't drink and I don't want anyone to think I do!"

I also learned some unusual lessons. We were eating ice cream in the kitchen one evening. The dishes were old. I mean antique old. She said that they were hers and she was going to enjoy them. That's what they were there for. As we ate the ice cream and talked, the phone rang. Keep in mind that this was long before answering machines were common. She kept talking with us. My brother asked, "Are you going to answer that?" The reply was simple. "That phone is here for my convenience." Good lesson!

One thing that always surprised me about this woman was her distrust of the Nature Conservancy which purchased a large parcel of land at the tip of Fernald's Neck that included the balancing rock down the shore. She was concerned about people trespassing and what would happen to the land in the future. With her love of nature, I could never understand her opposition to this group's preservation of the plot of land adjacent to her property.

End of shiny pretty things digression...

One morning we were having breakfast in camp and a little red convertible drove down the track that followed the stone wall that bordered the property from the house down towards the beach. It disappeared down into the trees at the edge of the lake and disappeared.

What the heck?

Later we asked our host about the disappearing car. It turned out to belong to a man who had a summer house out on one of the islands in the lake. He was, in the vernacular, "people from away". The car was a candy-apple red Amphicar with a white vinyl interior that looked just like the one in yesterday's picture. Arrangements were made for us to go on a ride in the car out to the island. Two days later, the man pulled up on the road and introduced himself. He showed us the car and told us to hop in. We all got in and he drove down to the beach. Once we got to the beach, he pulled some handles to engage the propeller and to seal the doors and then drove into the water. It was an odd sensation to see the water rising up the side of the car to within a few inches of the top of the door. The man read the mail he'd picked up at the post office that morning as he steered the car across the lake towards his island controlling the steering wheel with his knees. We arrived at the island to find a paved driveway that rose out of the water with a garage at the head of the driveway! It was truly an amazing sight. I will not forget that ride anytime soon.


After many summers on the lake, I returned one more time when I was about 15 and my Boy Scout troop was headed up for a week long trip in the Grand Lake Stream area. We were invited to go for a swim in the lake at her beach on the way up and I could see the man's island from the beach, but no sign of him or his car. It would be the last time I saw this woman. A book was written about another cousin of hers in which she is mentioned. The book is titled, Frost You Say? and was written by Marshall Dodge and Walter Howe. You can listen to it here (requires Real Audio Player) and see a picture of this woman's cousin. There is definitely a family resemblance.

About three years ago, I was invited up to WoodenBoat School to tour the shop before I went up to teach there the following year. On my way up, I camped at Camden Hills State Park. The coast was socked-in with what this woman would have called "sea smoke". While the woman who hosted us had long since passed away, I wanted to see the places that I remembered on Lake Megunticook that reminded me of both her and my youth. I drove down the road passing this her cousin's house and barn. The sights were all familiar. As I finally passed by her next door neighbor's house, I saw the house standing at the crest of the hill in the field. It looked much as I remembered it, an immaculately cared for building, but with the addition of a new outbuilding to the south of the house. It was odd, somehow to think of someone else living there.

I drove around the road towards the Nature Conservancy's parking lot and passed a gate where the path to the west shore of the lake and the lime kilns used to be. Behind the gate was a large new house that belonged to this woman's nephew. In the field near the parking lot, deer were grazing and seemed undisturbed by my presence. I walked down the trail to the balancing rock and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the place. Most of the place had large stands of white pine, mountain laurel and blueberry. The wind whispered through the needles of the pines as the swayed n the breeze. There were many more deer to be seen along the trails and they had eaten a fair amount of the under-story lending a park like atmosphere to the place. As I climbed to the top of the balancing rock, I looked out over the lake and watched the waves run up on the smooth rocky shore.

At that point I realized that as many times as I had been to Fernald's Neck, I had never been in a real boat on the lake, just the Amphicar. I've always wanted to paddle the lake, but when we went to visit, my father didn't own a canoe of his own.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Maine Boatbuilder's Show : Episode 2

As you walk into the show, you are first struck by the cavernous size of the building you are in and the overhead gantry cranes. If I recall correctly, someone told me that the building had originally been for the building or repair of railroad engines. I'll have to check up on that one.
Usually, there are two or three LARGE powerboats in the center of this space - this year was no exception. Immediately in front of me was Zogo - a hybrid diesel/electric launch built by French & Webb. It was a pretty boat, with a unique color... (Photo by Derek Davis of the Portland Herald.)

To my right was the display from Artisan Boatworks. This was Murmur; a Buzzard's Bay 15 day sailor designed by Nat Herreshoff. For the past three years that I've been attending the show, Artisan always has a fantastic display that draws a huge crowd. While my photos can't begin to do justice to this boat, here they are:

Attention to detail seems to be the rule here - from the flowers to the hardware, woodwork and finish.

To give you a better idea of the beauty of the boats that Artisan builds, here's a shot showing the deck and interior from their promotional materials.

A picture of one of these boats from last year's show has been a consistent draw here from the web.

To my left was Dick Pulsifer's Pulsifer Hampton strip-built center console workboat. Definitely a utility boat, but a well made and well finished boat suited to its purpose:

I'll admit that when I go to the show, I tend to ignore most of the large powerboats. Some of the smaller ones I find interesting, including an electric inboard launch that Thad Danielson of of Redd's Pond Boatworks brought to the show three years ago. However, unless there is something particularly interesting about a large powerboat, I tend to skip over them as I don't have much personal interest in them. Apologies if that was what you were hoping to find. Still, I do find some interesting - like the Zogo for it's hybrid drive and others for their shallow water jet drives.

Cape Cod Shipbuilding
had another beautiful Herreshoff 12 1/2 on display again this year. This popular daysailor always seems to be a popular draw. This year, the boat on display was available for a mere $42,260.00. I'll let you enjoy their handiwork:

More to follow...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Maine Boatbuilder's Show : Episode 1

The Maine Boatbuilder's show in Portland Maine ran last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I managed to get up to the show on Sunday. This show is a typical rite of spring. All the signs were there. The two robins hanging about as I put away the kayak deck before I hit the road were one give-away. Not all of the ponds that I passed on my way were iced-out yet, but probably 2/3rd's of them were ice free, so we'll say that paddling season is rapidly approaching. Both the Merrimac and the Saco rivers were swollen with runoff and both were barely contained in their banks with churning muddy waters.

I arrived at the Boatbuilder's show to find that there were some displays outside as was typical - including the powerboat to the left of the door. I think that there were fewer outdoor displays, which was fairly ironic, as the weather was very nice - according to some of the vendors at the show, the temperature in Portland had been in the mid-60's.

Before I even got to the front door, I'd seen my first display - from Rob Macks at Laughing Loon - in the parking lot by Hamilton Marine.

Here it is...

The kayak to the right is his Shooting Star design - a 16'-6" long by 21" wide baidarka-style design. The one to the left is the Disko Bay kayak, a 17' long by 21" wide West Greenland Style hard-chine boat. Below is a better view of the Disko Bay.

Detail of the fore hatch on the Shooting Star:

Bow and grip detail on the Shooting Star:

More to follow:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Expressions from Work

We use a CAD package at work called SolidWorks. It's neat software, but it has a few small issues. One is that you can move parts in an assembly so that they occupy the same virtual space.

Doesn't really work that way in real life, now does it?

As I moved parts in an assembly model last week they intersected in virtual space. My co-worker, who was looking over my shoulder exclaimed, "GET OUT OF MY SPACE/TIME CONTINUUM!"

Definitely geek humor.

This isn't about me
This isn't about you
This is about the space/time continuum

You're a very nice girl,
I'm a swell guy
But I'm time displaced
And if I meet myself I'll die

- Rhune Kincaid

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday

If you look at some of my posts, one of the common labels that you will see is "Devil is in the details..." I think that the best canoes are those where the builder has thought ahead to how they want the canoe to look when it is finished. Often, the new builder is so wrapped up in what they are doing at the moment, that they're not thinking ahead to the finishing details.

The choices are only limited by your imagination. The variety is really mind-boggling if you think about it too much. There are lots of good examples of how to finish your canoe's details by looking at both classic and modern canoes - it's a matter of taste, really. Pictures can be found by searching online for images using "canoe bow" and "canoe deck".

After the hull is finished and 'glassed, the trim needs to go on. For our small solo canoes, this typically includes the seat, a thwart, decks and gunwales. For those that like the woodwork a bit fancier or are concerned about shipping water over the deck (a serious concern in small canoes with low freeboard) a coaming - a curved lip at the back of the deck to help deflect water away from the inside of the boat is a good idea.

Another good thing to add to the canoe is a footrest. This helps as you paddle the canoe to give something to push against. Often, this is just a stick parallel to the front edge of the seat and tied to the front edge of the seat.

The other concern that people have a hard time figuring out is how to tie a rope to the bow and stern of the canoe. This is important for several reasons. First, you need to be able to tie your boat down to the top of your car to transport it. You also will want to tie the boat up so it doesn't float away from a dock or beach. You may also want to be able to "line" the boat through shallow water where the bottom is too muddy to walk along beside your canoe. This needs to be secure as the forces on your canoe - particularly on the car - can be high as it is going down the highway. You definitely don't want your hand-made boat to go flying off. (See my previous post on transporting boats here.)

There are lots of ways to attach a line to the front of the canoe. You can put in a ferrule like the one below:

It is a hole drilled through the bow of the boat that is lined with a piece of brass or bronze tubing that has rounded edges to keep from chafing the line. It is simple and effective, but you need to do a good job sealing to avoid having a place for water to get in and to rot the wood of the canoe.

A simple way to attach a line and to have a good place to carry the canoe is to add a grab handle at the bow and stern - it just needs to be comfortably rounded - like the one below:

Brass or Stainless quarter round stock can also be purchased and formed around the stem and stern of the canoe. As with the hole through the bow, this needs to be well sealed as you will be screwing into the wood of the stem. The benefit is that it helps to protect the bow from abrasion. Often, as seen below, this metal strip is bent over the top of the deck. Sometimes, a loop is formed at the apex for a painter ring to tie on a rope.

Older boat designs like the B.N. Morris below had custom hardware like the diamond painter ring mounts and the flag socket.

Hardware was often vendor specific, as can be seen from the Old Town painter rings below:

Personally, I don't like the painter rings as they bang around on the boat damaging the deck unless there is something to protect the deck. To avoid the loose rings, a solid pad eye can be screwed down to the deck. Along with another version with a loose painter ring, here are 5 different versions:

There IS a reason that stuff like this is known as "canoe jewelry". Pretty, isn't it?

It is also possible to mount hidden hardware beneath the deck - such a a brass, bronze or wooden cleat below the deck. Most people are familiar with a "horn cleat" which looks like this:

Don't let this limit you, however - there are many other types of cleats, such as the very art-deco streamlined cleats here:

Canoe hardware is smaller than that found on most other boats and can be a bit hard to find at an appropriate scale. Be sure to keep that in mind as you look.

Where do you look? Well, that's up to you.

You can make your own wooden hardware from unusual hardwoods - ebony, hard maple, etc. If you've made the boat, how hard can the hardware be?

You can also cast your own brass or bronze hardware. Really. I'm serious. There are classes out there where you can learn to make patterns and actually cast your own parts. If you want something specific, it isn't a bad way to go. Alternatively, you can cut, file and polish parts out of brass - it's fairly soft metal and machines easily. You can also contract the manufacture of custom hardware. One source is the Springfield Fan Centerboard Company which is known for reproduction canoe hardware - including articulated fan centerboards similar to the Radix boards used in sailing canoes of the late 1800's.

You can buy old or antique hardware from dealers, too. One source is a company called Ross Brothers who are active WCHA members. The WCHA also has a list of vendors for canoe building vendors and material suppliers on their website.

New hardware is also available from a variety of vendors. Among them are Hamilton Marine, West Marine, Jamestown Distributors, Bristol Bronze and TenderCraft Boat Shop.

Just remember, you're only limited by your imagination!

Monday, March 15, 2010

A new brew...

For those of you who aren't afraid of the dark, here is an interesting Imperial Stout that we brought to a party this weekend. It was a Wii (Wee?) St. Patrick's Day party at a friend's house that promised supplies of Guinness Stout and Smithwick's. (DW has posted about it here.) There were good friends, good food and Nintendo Wii which was played by all.

I figured that there would be some stout lovers at the party so I brought this bottle along to share as a tasting.

Imperial Stouts or Russian Imperial Stouts were brewed in London for consumption in the court of Catherine the Great. They have a high alcohol content - typically about 9-10% ABV. The high alcohol content was to keep it from freezing in shipping and to maintain the quality of the brew in the same way that India Pale Ales have large amounts of hops to hold their flavor in shipping.

It wasn't the brew that I was originally looking to bring, but this is what I took:

This was a strongly flavored and relatively highly carbonated, strong ale with coffee and chocolate flavors and a slight bitter tinge to it. It was delicious, but definitely something that I wouldn't want to drink a whole bottle of by myself. I'm pretty sure that it would both age and keep very well if cellared nicely. I think that if you wanted to drink it in small portions over several days, it would keep with a good stopper.

The label was fun too!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A new dish was served...

Osprey under glass:

The inlay that was put in place on the Osprey's deck was cleaned up and the deck was glassed. The end result is above. The various wood species really "pop" once saturated with epoxy.

Nice, huh?

Friday, March 12, 2010


I have two Patagonia brand Synchilla Snap-T's that DW gave me many years ago. (They're both over 11 years old, to tell the truth!) One was a lightly used fleece Snap-T left behind by a student at a school where DW taught. Another was a brand new Snap-T right in the bag. According to DW, the student's mother owned the factory in which these fleece pull-overs were made.

These two fleeces have worn very well, really. I have worn them a lot. I don't baby them in any way shape or form - abused them, really. They get used for yard work, camping, hiking, in the shop - pretty much wherever, whenever. They wash well and are very warm and comfortable and still manage to be presentable. I love them when I'm outdoors as they keep you warm even if they get wet. They're particularly wonderful when paddling.

After all this time, the first Snap-T is starting to show its age. I decided that I'd see if they were still made and if so, I'd buy a new one.

Yup. They still make 'em.

I hope they keep making them for a long, long time.

Let me say a few words about Patagonia as a company. (I should note that I don't work for them, nor do I get anything from them as a "kickback". I'm simply a happy customer.) First, they are very environmentally conscious as a company. They're concerned about the footprint of their product, including all of the aspects of manufacturing, packaging and shipping. The Snap-T is made from 85% recycled materials. Once you're done with it, they have a recycling program called "Common Threads" where they re-use the materials from fleece and cotton products. While their products are not inexpensive (The list price for the Snap-T is $95.), their products are highly functional and durable.


I went directly to the Patagonia website and tried to order a fleece. I had a window pop up on my computer that told me that they were out of stock at Patagonia, but that I could find what I was looking for from 4 of their distributors.

One distributor was Moosejaw - an outdoor products outfitter from Michigan that I'd never done business with before. I looked over their website and decided to give them a try. I did the usual on-line order entry and got a confirmation email which started as follows:

Your Order Has Been Placed

Way to go. You've won the best email receipt we've sent out all day. We recommend either printing this receipt and framing it in your foyer or using it as a screensaver. It would probably also be nice for you to forward it around to a couple friends and maybe even an enemy or two.

If you're bored, check us out on Facebook and on Twitter. Our CFO said he doesn't understand why anyone would use Twitter. He also thinks that a narwhal is a made-up animal. Please don't tell anyone about it.

Ok. This is entertaining.

The package arrived several days later. Check out the labels on the outside of the box. (Double click for a larger image)

And then here's what was inside the box with the fleece was a sticker (note the center activity in the lower line):

Also inside, was a slip of paper with the following on it:

Moosejaw Love the Madness

If you are actually reading this note you should be super happy. First, you have received your order, reading is fun and getting something in the mail (even if you bought it yourself) has got to make the day better.

Second, I put your order together all by myself. Sometimes people note that my packing job is so lovely that customers actually never remove their order from the bag or box, preferring to be awed by my personal work. I appreciate the thought but I don't recommend it.

I must say, the marketing was excellent and entertaining. I'll definitely consider dealing with them in the future!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday

My student who is building the Osprey sea kayak to the Newfound woodworks design gave me a bit of a surprise this past weekend. He'd saturated his deck with a seal coat of epoxy in preparation for glassing and I was expecting that he'd be doing the glassing last weekend. You can imagine my surprise when he produced this:

"What are you going to do with that?"

"You tell me.", he said.

Uh huh. Well now. That was unexpected.

"Where do you want to put it?"

"On the front deck - where the hatch will be."

We tried to put it on the front deck, but the curvature was starting to break up the inlay. We finally decided that the back deck was flatter and would allow us to put the inlay centered where the rear hatch would be located.

I teach boat building but don't do much inlay work. Fortunately, the piece of inlay was supplied with a template to allow us to mark the outline of the piece in the picture above.

We used an X-Acto knife to incise the inlay's outline. My father, who is a master cabinetmaker among other things was visiting class and took a chisel to remove deck material to the thickness of the inlay. Here's the template clamped in place with the material removed around the edge. Mind you, the inlay is about 1/32" thick, so we were trying not to make the recess too deep.

A small palm router was then used to remove the remaining material within the perimeter.

We did a quick test fit of the inlay and then tuned up the fit so that the inlay was perfectly flush around the edge. Things were looking pretty good.

Ok. Now what do we use for an adhesive here? At this point I ask my student what else came with the inlay.


"What about those papers?" Sticking out of the edge of the box were two pieces of paper with instructions for applying the osprey as both inlay and onlay. (Apparently we could have avoided the cutting, but we had already done the deed...) The papers also had the information that I was looking for - bond with un-thickened epoxy. This could have been a big issue. Not all adhesives are compatible - i.e. they will not stick to each other.

We now needed to apply uniform pressure to the inlay as it was bonded. We wanted to press down on the inlay with uniform pressure by wedging down from the ceiling on some foam. I didn't have anything with me as I hadn't planned on bonding inlay in class, so I asked if anyone had any foam. Another student turned this up out of his truck.

Yeah, I'm feeling the heat. Something else for foam would be good, however.

Ultimately, we applied well-mixed un-thickened epoxy to the cut we made in the deck and to the back of the inlay. We put some masking tape on the edges of the inlay so that we could be sure that it wouldn't move around when we clamped it. A layer of waxed paper was put in place to keep the epoxy from bonding the foam used to apply even pressure to the inlay to everything in sight. This is what the clamp-up looked like:

The next day, we went to put the boats back in the barn. Here's the result of our work:

A little bit of clean up of the excess epoxy around the edges will be required and then this will be covered with fiberglass and epoxy. The inlay should look like it is "floating" under the clear layer of epoxy and fiberglass. I'm looking forward to seeing how it will look.