Normal boat builders call these things Spiles. This is distinct from Spiling, or Spiling Batten. That’s why I like Donkey Toothpicks, a name coined by IYRS students a couple of years back that just stuck.
When you take out a screw, you may want repair the old hole so that you can screw into that wood again as if it were solid. You need something that’s made out of the same wood as the piece you’re patching. The thing we use to fill those holes are called Spiles, but for today, they’re Donkey Toothpicks (or DP’s) and today I’ll show you how we make them in bulk.
After taking off the garboard and first broad, we had a lot of holes left over in the frames. Approximately 800 screws came out of there. So, we needed to make a pile of DT’s. The frames are oak, so that’s what we made the DT’s out of.
To make a pile of DT’s, you’ll need a saw and a chunk of oak. I like using the bandsaw. First, determine approximately how long your DT will be, and approximately how wide it’ll be. Mark the length of your DT on the oak.
These are going to be about 1 3/4″ long. This is a totally rough measurement. I just looked at it, and made a mark on 2 sides of the wood.
We want these guys to be about 3/16″ wide at some point, so I make a series of tapered cuts that start a little over 1/4″ wide and taper down to close to a point.
Don’t get caught up in being precise here. These are toothpicks. Do it by eye. Trust your steady hand. Be the toothpick.
Then rotate the wood 90 degrees, and make the same series of cuts.
Now, cut your toothpicks free! I like to cut just below the line so that they stay barely attached to each other, like matches in a book of matches. However, in this shot, I cut a bit high and they all came apart.
No big deal, they just have a higher probability of scattering around, and you have to pick through them a little more carefully for the next step. That scrap of wood behind the DT’s is there to keep them from flying backwards and all over the place. I’ve since refined my technique, and now I hold them together in a bundle as I cut.
Oh, by the way, you can see I’ve made a little zero-clearance base here.
It’s just a scrap of plywood that I cut part way through and didn’t complete the cut. This keeps DT’s from falling down the throat plate of the saw and making a racket.
Once you’ve cut your DT’s, you’ll find that about 1/3 of them have the right shape. What you’re looking for is an elongated pyramid shape: square base and tapering to a long point.
The other 2/3 or so are other shapes, usually with flat sides, looking a bit like 2 flattened interpenetrating gyres. Yeah, whatever. Damned liberal arts education.
So, lots of sawing later, you end up with a pile of these puppies. Round them slightly by cutting the corners with your knife, and fit them into the old screw holes.
We fit them lightly in the holes without glue at first. Afterwards, we pull them out, dip them into epoxy and put them back in permanently with a little tap of the hammer. Since fitting the DT’s involves a little time spent rounding them, it’s best not to do this while your epoxy is sitting in a little cup in front of you slowly curing. It’s best to have everything ready, and then make up your epoxy and fly though the process, picking out a DT, dipping it, re-inserting and setting it, moving on to the next one.
So, remember, if you refer to Spiles as Donkey Toothpicks to any boat builder not educated at IYRS in the past few years, you’ll be met with the same face that Dubya had when he was told about the attacks on the World Trade Center while he was reading about the pet goat to school children.
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