Real boatwork

First, some administrative business. I’ve posted pics of what the normal toolbox handle looks like in that post, as well as the various joints we made in the first week in that post. Ok, off we go.

Yesterday we began working with actual boats, at last!! 18 of us have been divided up into 4 groups to work on 4 Beetle cats. The task is to level the boats and “take the lines off” of them. What that means is that we measure the shape of the hull in a very precise way and then transfer that information to a series of 2-dimensional, full-sized, drawings of the boat. The process of drawing a boat full sized is called Lofting.

Here’s the full size boat we’re lofting:

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Here’s the boat the 2nd years are lofting (a Herreshoff 12 1/2… a wonderful boat)

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The framing around the boat is used to both stabilize the boat (so that it stays level and doesn’t move while you draw it) and to make a flat surface to draw on.

Our setup is a bit different since our boat is upside down. See, on our boat, we have this flat surface to draw on that looks like a little bridge over the boat.

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Here are Sam and Matthew about to put red paper on the flat surface we’ver built. They will then use a pointy stick laid against the paper and touching the boat to measure the distance from our little frame to each point along the hull that the stick touches. We record the angle of the stick and how far it is from the boat on the paper. We then take that paper off the flat surface, lay it on a grid that we’ve drawn on floor, and use the stick and paper to recreate the exact locations of those points we just measured on the boat. This gives a series of little points.
Continue reading “Real boatwork”

Finished projects

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Toolbox and Mallet. The handle looks like a big mustache or wings. I like it, although it’s not like the workmanlike handles on the rest of the boxes.

IMG_6884.jpg This is the traditional version.

The handle is something I came up with. The idea was to have a flat surface that I could do a little work on if I needed a spot while I was working on a boat. Like a little workbench. The box is made of pine and the handle is oak. The mallet is oak and is coated with shellac. Today we started on making a a backing out plane. This is a wooden plane that has a slightly convex bottom (rounded side to side) and is used for putting a slightly round surface on the inside of planks so that they fit snugly up against the curved frames.

Tonight was a coctail party designed to separate wealthy folk from their money for the good cause of supporting us. We didn’t have to talk or thank people or anything, thank goodness. As one student said when asked if he was going to come, “you had me at ‘open bar and free food.'” And the bar was very very open. Much dancing and cavorting, and a good time had by all. Luckily I’m an old fart with good sense so I walked home by 10 while the younger set went out bar hopping.

What we're up against

The first year program has one major goal: transform beat to crap beetle cats into shiny fully sailable beetle cats.

By the way: Beetle Cats are so named because of the Beetle family making a particularly popular version of the ubiquitous Cat boat. It’s not named for the bug, despite its somewhat scarab-like shape.

Ok, so here we go, the raw materials:

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The red boat in the upper right has many of its planks in a bundle in the center of the boat.

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The blue boat’s hull (lower row, center) had been covered in fiberglass sometime in the past, probably to stop a leak. It’s a death sentence to a wooden boat, as water gets trapped in between the glass and the wood making a nice little mold soup. The wood rots under these conditions quite quickly. I expect that when we pull the fiberglass off, we’ll be able to poke holes through the planking with our fingers.

In the end, we replace every stick of wood in the boat and arrive at this:

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So, if we replace all the wood, can you really call it a restoration? Why not call it a new build? It’s a good question, and the answer is that we call it a training exercise in restoration. In real life, you’d rarely do such an extensive rebuild unless you’re rebuilding something like the USS Constitution or some other historically significant boat. In those cases you’re actually re-creating the boat while demolishing the rotted old boat. It’s like you’re putting identical wood in the airspace that was previously occupied by the old boat. If you’re true to the original design, construction techniques, and materials, you’ve got yourself a reconstruction.

I’m learning that there’s a lot of ways to look at preserving history.

Here in Newport, the historical society has worked hard to preserve a whole bunch of mansions and much smaller, and much older homes. I think there are like 80 homes that have been preserved. The thing is, no one is going to pay money to visit all these places, so what do you do about upkeep, taxes, heating… on and on. The solution they’ve come up with has been to rent out the majority of them. So now there are 1700’s buildings with people living and working in them. They’ve had to update them to include plumbing, toilets, electricity, fire alarms, etc., so you can’t really say they’re perfect historical specimens, but they’re still standing, and they’re fulfilling their original purpose (to house folks). The alternative is to put them in a big barn to protect them from the elements and make them into a museum… an impossible alternative.

With boats, it’s a similar deal. Do you rebuild a boat to just have it sit in a museum? One of the boats the 2nd years will be working on is destined for this fate, never to sail ever again. Do you rebuild a boat to sail her, and if so, how much work do you need to do in order to make her seaworthy? Sometimes what you’re saving is the designer’s original shape… you’re re-creating the boat as it slid off her ways into the water for the first time. You use the same materials, even down to fabrics in the larger boats, the same rigging, the same sail types… Perhaps you get to include original hardware, parts of the keel or other bits that haven’t been destroyed by the inevitable ravages of sun and water. But then there are questions about whether you can make the boat better this time around. If you know that a new bedding compound will seal the joints much better and make this beautiful boat last another 20 years longer, do you use it even though the original didn’t? If the boats always break ribs because of a weakness in the original design, do you make the new ribs a little thicker or reinforce them to correct the problem?

Everything decays. Boats just do it faster. How to restore them and what consitutes a restoration is a constant dialogue between competing philosophies.

But these last few days I’ve been involved in far more mundane tasks: building a mallet and a tool tote. Photos soon.

What we’re up against

The first year program has one major goal: transform beat to crap beetle cats into shiny fully sailable beetle cats.

By the way: Beetle Cats are so named because of the Beetle family making a particularly popular version of the ubiquitous Cat boat. It’s not named for the bug, despite its somewhat scarab-like shape.

Ok, so here we go, the raw materials:

IMG_6876.jpg

The red boat in the upper right has many of its planks in a bundle in the center of the boat.

IMG_6875.jpg

The blue boat’s hull (lower row, center) had been covered in fiberglass sometime in the past, probably to stop a leak. It’s a death sentence to a wooden boat, as water gets trapped in between the glass and the wood making a nice little mold soup. The wood rots under these conditions quite quickly. I expect that when we pull the fiberglass off, we’ll be able to poke holes through the planking with our fingers.

In the end, we replace every stick of wood in the boat and arrive at this:

IMG_6879.jpg

IMG_6880.jpg

So, if we replace all the wood, can you really call it a restoration? Why not call it a new build? It’s a good question, and the answer is that we call it a training exercise in restoration. In real life, you’d rarely do such an extensive rebuild unless you’re rebuilding something like the USS Constitution or some other historically significant boat. In those cases you’re actually re-creating the boat while demolishing the rotted old boat. It’s like you’re putting identical wood in the airspace that was previously occupied by the old boat. If you’re true to the original design, construction techniques, and materials, you’ve got yourself a reconstruction.

I’m learning that there’s a lot of ways to look at preserving history.

Here in Newport, the historical society has worked hard to preserve a whole bunch of mansions and much smaller, and much older homes. I think there are like 80 homes that have been preserved. The thing is, no one is going to pay money to visit all these places, so what do you do about upkeep, taxes, heating… on and on. The solution they’ve come up with has been to rent out the majority of them. So now there are 1700’s buildings with people living and working in them. They’ve had to update them to include plumbing, toilets, electricity, fire alarms, etc., so you can’t really say they’re perfect historical specimens, but they’re still standing, and they’re fulfilling their original purpose (to house folks). The alternative is to put them in a big barn to protect them from the elements and make them into a museum… an impossible alternative.

With boats, it’s a similar deal. Do you rebuild a boat to just have it sit in a museum? One of the boats the 2nd years will be working on is destined for this fate, never to sail ever again. Do you rebuild a boat to sail her, and if so, how much work do you need to do in order to make her seaworthy? Sometimes what you’re saving is the designer’s original shape… you’re re-creating the boat as it slid off her ways into the water for the first time. You use the same materials, even down to fabrics in the larger boats, the same rigging, the same sail types… Perhaps you get to include original hardware, parts of the keel or other bits that haven’t been destroyed by the inevitable ravages of sun and water. But then there are questions about whether you can make the boat better this time around. If you know that a new bedding compound will seal the joints much better and make this beautiful boat last another 20 years longer, do you use it even though the original didn’t? If the boats always break ribs because of a weakness in the original design, do you make the new ribs a little thicker or reinforce them to correct the problem?

Everything decays. Boats just do it faster. How to restore them and what consitutes a restoration is a constant dialogue between competing philosophies.

But these last few days I’ve been involved in far more mundane tasks: building a mallet and a tool tote. Photos soon.

End of the first week of school

Here’s a photo of my friend Jessie and I on our 1st day of school. Awww…

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And here’s a photo of the various joints we built.

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Clockwise from the upper right: Dovetail, cross lap, blind mortise, bevel lap, through-mortise, half-lapped dovetail, and half lap.
Today was a good day in the shop. I passed all my safety tests which means that I can use the machine tools in the shop whenever I like. This is a very good thing. I also finished up the wooden joints we’d been asked to make and went on to the next project, a pocket bevel gauge.

This is a nifty little tool that you use to copy an angle. You place your bevel gauge next to the angle you want to copy, fold out the little blade until it’s at the angle of the thing you’re copying, and then leaving the gauge open at that setting, go to your paper or wood and transfer the angle.

In typical IYRS fashion, they gave us a measured drawing of the gauge, a strip of brass, and a copper nail. It was up to us to figure out how to properly cut and assemble this. The end product required cutting, filing, grinding, soldering and peening (hitting the nail with a ball peen side of a ball peen hammer). I’m quite happy with how mine turned out all in all. It looks like a little pocket knife. The 3 tiny dots on it are punch marks I made to identify it as mine.
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After school, a number of us went out to the bar one block down and celebrated the end of a good week of work with beer and nachos. Life is good.