Making oars

With regular freezing temperatures as we entered late fall, I realized if I wanted to take the boat out for a float test before the lakes froze over,  I would need some propulsion. So I consulted the stock pile, and found that I had the wood on hand to make a pair of ten foot narrow bladed oars. They are a bit heavier in Douglas fir than clear spruce, and I wanted to leave them thick, so they could be used to pole in the shallows, and take a bit of a beating. for sailing, I will likely build very fine spruce oars, that will break down for easy storage. 

 

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Stopping and Starting Again

From what I understand, one usually doesn't move across the country with an unfinished boat... But I've never been very conventional. 

The first step was to build a cradle for the hull, so it wouldn't be damaged in transit. 

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Next we had to extract the dinghy from the second floor mezzanine, which required some thoughtful rigging and some fancy forklift driving. We carefully hoisted the boat, and maneuvered it out to the truck.  

A week later, We were reunited, and the boat hadn't received so much as a scratch.

Excited to get back to work, the next thing to do was to attach the rub-rails (or outwales). These are tapered in two directions and steam-bent before fastening through the planking into the inwales. They provide additional stiffness, durability and a place sit while sailing. 

I then shaped the top edge of the transom, giving it a smooth curve.

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Next, I cut down and shaped the head of the stem.

All of a sudden it started to look like a real boat! 

An evening drive after a thunderstorm

 

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After a visit to Kevin's workshop, we took a circuitous route home. Three of us traveled the backroads between Fairfield and Waterville on our way to Jeffersonville. Awestruck by the verdant greens and the subtle hues of the natural landscape, we drove at a leisurely pace. We marveled at old maples, deep gulches and weathered rock. Stopping or slowing to stare at an old barn, it's curiously ornate cupola saluting the cobalt sky. We looked in amazement at an old barn, listing so far to one side as to seemingly defy gravity. We listened to Larz point out a house that got the "Connecticut Treatment" since he last saw it; new siding and windows, and nary a decrepit piece of farm machinery in sight.   

"Turn right" commanded Kevin "Look down there!" He pointed at the ruins of an old mill, a delicate stone arch disappearing into the tranquil darkness of overgrowing trees. 

"There used to be a sign on that road that said Egypt, I think it was a town... though I only know it as a dot in the Gazetteer map."  Said Kevin

Winding our way through a deep valley, we talked about a place where there was supposedly an old hippie commune "Look at the paintings on that rock!". 

"There's a good old bridge down that road, but someone crashed into it, so it's been closed a while" said Kevin. 

"What kind?" I ask. 

"A Burr-arch covered bridge" replied Larz. "Like the one near my house".

"I wonder how they sprung the timbers to such a curve?"  I wonder aloud. 

"They didn't" said Kevin "It's a segmented arch". 

"I think the one near my house is sprung" replied Larz.

You see the three of us are woodworkers, boatbuilders, artists and engineers, so the matter of a segmented arch concerns us greatly. As we happily argued and reveled in beauty of the dirt back roads, we saw peaceful cattle suddenly startled. A mink raced feverishly across the road, a profusion of birds and flowers, both wild and planted. 

Nearing home, we took a detour toward the old bridge, and sure enough, Kevin was right. The quaint old structure, straight and sound, did contain a faceted curve. Laughing, we remarked at the tight joinery of the bridge, suspended for over one hundred and fifty years above the frothing, boiling waters below.  

 

Scratching out the details

After I fit the thwart risers, I decided to dress them up a bit, before pre-finishing the back sides.

 

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I have almost always used routers and shapers to create moldings in the past, but as I am trying to go traditional on this build, I thought a "scratch-stock" would be a more appropriate way to give the risers a bit of handmade detail.

 

Shown without the "bed" relief bevel for shaving clearance

Shown without the "bed" relief bevel for shaving clearance

The scratch stock I have made is capable of creating crisp lines in a hurry on curved parts. It is also capable of varying depth in a single pass, something a noisy dangerous electric router has a hard time with.

 

 
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I started by filing the inverse shape of the one I wanted into scraper. Next, I shaped a small wooden body, into which I cut a slot that would receive the cutter. The shape of the body seems to be important, as it is both fence and depth stop. Easing a slope into the "bed" toward the cutter is important, as it allows the shaving to have a place to escape. I next installed T-nuts into holes in the wooden body, so I would be able to tighten the slot in the body against the cutter, as any movement of the cutter would be a disaster.  A little wax on the wooden body, and I was making a custom bead with very little effort.

 

Sawing the kerf that the cutter rests in

Sawing the kerf that the cutter rests in

It's interesting to me that this traditional wood shaping technique isn't more popular, as it is cheap, easy, and allows more variation in design, outside the stock router bits found at your woodworking supplier.  

 

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I like small details like this, it could easily have no embellishment, but I feel the time taken to add that "extra something" will enrich the character of this handmade vehicle for years to come. 

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Sheerline, Centerboard trunk and risers

With the knees, breast-hook and mast partners installed, I was standing admiring my work, when a friend stopped by. He asked "Keith are you going to make the angles of the sheer plank  match the angle of the knees and breast-hook?" At this point, I realized I had better fair the parts together, so I wouldn't have to answer that question again. 

 

Before

Before

After

After

With the fairing complete, but not ready to varnish, I looked into the bilge at the centerboard slot, covered in floors and frames, and decided it was time for the centerboard trunk install. This required the cutting of several frames and floors that I had installed over the slot for stability while planking and framing. With the frames cut, I was able to slip the centerboard trunk into place. The lofting I did at the beginning of the project paid off here, as I was able to drop the parts in, and fit them on the first try.


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With the centerboard trunk dry fit, I had the thwart (seat) height set, and proceeded to spile and make the thwart risers. These are mahogany and run from stem to stern. These parts give me a nice ledger on which to land the seats, and add a bit more stiffness to the hull.  

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Knees and things

 

After the inwales, it was time to beef up the sheer even further. This means breast-hook and quarter-knees.    

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These knees reinforce the corners or the vessel, hold the shape, and give points to which I can attach hardware. 

I chose to glue-up the breast-hook, for strength as well as looks.

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Grain choice here is important, if the grain runout is too short, the knees might break when put under the stress of sailing. They are fastened through the planking, frames, and inwales, they really tie it all together.

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After the breast-hook and quarter-knees, I decided I would build the mast partners and horizontal knees. 

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There are subtle bevels all over these parts, including the hole for the mast. I lifted all applicable info from my lofting.

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With the mast partners in, the boat not only looks more rugged, it is has become very stiff, and able to hold it's shape without the need of temporary braces and spreaders.

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Inwales

I have now installed the "fitted" inwales around the sheer. These parts are steam bent around the sheer, are notched around the frame heads, and are a real challenge to build this way. They serve the purpose of strengthening the sheer, and indeed joining the frames to one another. When done this way (with notches) it also provides a nice spot to perch when "hiking-out". With the inwales installed, the hull is noticeably stiffer.  

Though the notching was difficult, I think it may be a superior way to make an inwale, because it protects the end grain of the frame heads from the weather. The next step will be the breasthook and quarter knees.

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frame heads rough cut

frame heads rough cut

notch cut to accept frame head

notch cut to accept frame head

Inwale with notches cut, ready to fit

Inwale with notches cut, ready to fit

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Framing and finishing

All the frames are bent into place and fastened. There are still a few rivets left to do when I can get a hand from a friend (my poor arms just cannot reach the bilge). I have decided that even framing a small boat like this is a two person job, though possible to do by oneself, I would have to advise against it. Next, I will varnish all the frames and the planking where the station molds were. Then I will move onto the longitudinal parts, which are the thwart riser, sole margin and inwales. 

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Still framing

Only two frames left to bend! I have removed all of the construction molds as well. I have figured out a method to steam and fasten frames by myself, which although slower, is less hectic, and breaks fewer frames.


Framing

The floors are in, the planks are pre-finished…it is time for framing. I carefully selected straight grained white oak which was not kiln dried, and was as “green” as possible. I then milled it, sanded it, and knocked down the edges. I then enlisted a few friends and set up the steam box. After an appropriate length of time in the steam box, the white oak becomes pliable and able to take a bend not possible otherwise. Extra hands make this task easier. The frames are attached to the planks with copper rivets.

Finishing the floor timbers

After several coats of varnish, the planking is ready for me to start mounting things onto it. First are the floor timbers, the shape is lifted directly from the lofting, and then scribed or spiled to fit the laps. After I am happy with the fit, I cut the limber holes. The floors are then sanded and pre-finished, then I install them with bedding compound and screws. The floor timbers are essential to the wooden hull, and serve several duties: holding the two halves of the boat together, stiffening the bilges, and supporting the sole boards.

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Hull preparation

With planking complete, I have sanded the inside of the hull, and begun varnishing the planking and backbone. Doing this finishing step now ensures that all the wood will be sealed properly, before I start installing the rest of the floors, frames, etc on top of the planking. It also helps me to keep the wood grain free of the dirt and dust which will be present for the remainder of the build. Now it is now time to install the remaining floor timbers in preparation for framing!