Sunday, February 19, 2012

More planing and scarfing

The past two weeks I have been working on the oars and I started on the masts.  Last week I cut new oar blade pieces and glued together new oar blades.  I used filleting compound (epoxy and wood flour) to glue and reinforce the joints, and put the pieces over a heat register to make sure the epoxy cured properly (first photo).  Once that was done, I did a lot of planing to taper the oar blades to the right profile and rounded their corners (second photo).  The oars were a little heavy, so I decided to round the shafts all the way from where they meet the oarlocks (where the so-called button will go) to the blade.  I did it with drawknife and plane, using only my eyes and sense of touch for guides, and created an unbelievable amount of wood shavings (my wife said, "too bad we don't have a hamster").   By now the rough carving of the oars is done and they will need much sanding before they are epoxied and varnished.  Hours of physical labor went into it but there is something very satisfying about this type of woodwork.

Today I started on cutting the boards for the masts and creating the scarf joints.  I thought I would try to cut the joints rather than spend hours sanding the joints away.  First I clamped together six boards, staggered by 4 inches each, and clamped on a piece of leftover poplar 1X2 as a cutting guide for the circular saw (third photo).  It worked, sort of: keeping the blade absolutely vertical is not easy.  So now I have to finish the job by sanding the scarfs flat (last photo), but at least 80% of the material is already removed.

Then I cut two of the remaining boards in two, using the same kind of diagonal scarf cut.  I got two pieces of approximately 48 inches and two of just over 43.  I got three pieces of 24 inches out of the ninth board, and a 19 inch piece from a bit left over from the my original, abortive oar blade work.  Once again the scarf joints were not cut 100% right and they need sanding to the final shape.  After that, the boards will be arranged in the following way:

Main mast: top layer eight feet plus four feet; middle layer two feet plus eight feet plus two feet; bottom layer four feet plus eight feet.  This will create a mast of about 12 feet, with scarf joints at different places to avoid weak points.

Mizzen mast:  top layer eight feet plus 43 inches; middle layer two feet plus eight feet plus 19 inches; bottom layer 43 inches plus eight feet.  This will create a mast of about 139 inches.

There will be more sawdust flying, clamps tightening and epoxy curing, so keep checking 179inches.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Yards, oars and masts

The sails are now done.  I still need to sew reef points, which involves sewing on square pieces of sailmaker's tape with a buttonhole at the center of each (some people prefer grommets, but I'm good with the machine buttonhole stitch) .  Reefing, for landlubbers, means shortening the sail and rolling up and securing the loose ends by tying loops of line that go through each reef point buttonhole.  Since the leech of the sail is rounded for maximum sail area (this is called roach, again no idea why) I need to use battens to stiffen it, which means sewing in batten pockets made of folded-over sailmaker's tape.  Both these will wait until I order all the chandlery (blocks, cleats, fairleads, rope, anchor, assorted hardware and battens).

Meanwhile I have rounded and sanded the two yards, and have put on one coat of epoxy.  After drilling holes at the ends to tie the corners of the sail's head onto the yard, there will be sanding, a second coat of epoxy, more sanding and a couple of coats of spar varnish.  That will take time, so I started on making the oar shafts, by laminating together two layers of 1X2 poplar, 1 1/2 inch-square (or 37 mm square) in total actual dimensions.  Then I cut and edge-glued the rough oar blades from 1X2 poplar (center) and 1X3 pine (sides).  You can see them in the photo.

While I was tapering the shafts down to the blade's thickness of 3/4 inch (19 mm) with a hand plane, both blades managed to fall to the floor and delaminate into two pieces each.  Better now than later, I think.  Clearly the temperatures, even in the partially heated basement, are too low for reliable epoxy curing.  I think I will take the opportunity to redo the blades.  I originally decided to use pine on the sides for the visual contrast, but pine is probably too soft for an oar blade that could be scraping against sand and stones.  I also realized that the original blades are a little stubby.  So I will make the new ones longer, and will cut them from poplar like the rest of the oar.  I don't mind: remarkably, this is pretty much the first thing I've had to do over in this whole project.  I will have to glue the blades and shafts together with thickened epoxy, and make sure I keep the basement and/or the piece warmer.  Then the blades will have to be tapered to a thinner edge, the corners rounded, etc.  In the meantime I have started rounding the shafts at the hand-grip ends.  Next I will round the shafts where they meet the oar locks, and that part will need leathering and buttons put on--I'll explain later.  All in all there will be even more planing, shaving, sanding and other work before the oars are ready for coating.

In between all this I will also be cutting 14 mast boards and preparing a total of 16 wedge-shaped board ends for eight staggered scarf joints.  Check 176inches for more details and pictures of mast work.