Saturday, December 28, 2013

Use at your own parrell! Ha!

This will be my last post for the year as we're headed down to Phoenix for the Christmas week.

When I was down in Chicago visiting my friend Dale this past week, we stopped at an odd-lots type of store, and I came across a bin full of wooden beads with holes drilled through the center. My first thought was, "Aha! Parrell beads!" Just the right size.  And just $0.10 each?? Can you buy ANYTHING for ten cents these days?  So for a buck forty I got more than what I'll need for rigging the gaff jaws later in the build. Of course, you gotta wonder, for ten cents, are they going to break or wear down in thirty seconds?  As Dale said, you can't be the price...but use them at your own parrell!  [rimshot].

$0.10 wooden beads. 
I was happy to finish up all the cutouts for the stem, bulkheads, and transom before I left. When I get back from Phoenix, I'll have a big glue-up/epoxy day, and then make room for building the ladder frame that the boat will be built on. Then within a week or so, things will start to look more like a boat. Right now, it's just piles of odd-shaped lumber.

Lots of bulkhead parts

Meantime, I'm pretty pleased with how clean most of the cuts have turned out, and how my measurements so far are all checking out with the plans down to the millimeter. It's always a great relief when you break out the rule and verify that line X, which connects points Y and Z and which is supposed to be 137 mm long actually IS 137 mm long.

With regard to tools, I've been making good use of my Bosch jigsaw, my Ryobi band saw, and my friend Scott's Ryobi 10" sliding compound bevel miter saw. I replaced the general purpose blade on the miter saw with a nice diablo fine kerf 90 tpi blade. A good blade makes a world of difference.

I've also been putting my veritas block plane, edge plane, and a couple of small Japanese-style pulling planes for rounding edges. By the way, those Veritas blades are wicked sharp right out of the box. I sliced myself just taking it out of its protective bag!

A couple of people have asked how my shop is laid out. Pretty simple, really. I have my bench against the garage wall. I have set up a "power station" that holds the drill press, band saw, and router. I parallel to the bench I have set up a couple of saw horses with a 3/4" half sheet of ply as a cutting, measuring, gluing station. I have a wire rack with shelves full of boat-building stuff...glue, epoxy, bar clamps, paint stain, sanding supplies, cups, sticks, etc. at the other end of the garage, I have a stack of lumber and a (quickly filling) box of offcuts. Kinda nice really. It occupies one stall in the 3-car garage. And everything is close at hand.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Preliminary name and color scheme

So it's never too early to think about what the end project is going to look like, and I've got a list of about 15 "working names" at the moment. Top on the list of names is "Puffin".

Last year Karla and I were fortunate to take a trip to Iceland where one of the highlights was visiting the Puffin colonies. If you've never seen them, they're remarkable sea birds. Adorable as can be. They're a cousin of the Penguin, but unlike the penguin, they can fly, and frequent the northern climes. Look at this shot from our trip:

Are these just not the coolest birds ever?

Lots of people like to varnish their wooden boats. I like a little bit of "brightwork", but I'm more partial to the painted "working class" roots of traditional boats. I'm thinking of a scheme that looks something like this: Off white topsides and deck. A green sheer strake. Varnished rub rails, and black below the waterline. My spars will be wood, and I will go with a traditional varnish for the "working areas" AND white painted uppers on the non-working parts. Rudder and tiller will be varnished. Some people really like the look of dark, "tan-bark" sails. I prefer white, or off white. Here's my CAD sketch of what she may ultimately look like. I'm open to suggestions on both name and color scheme.

Preliminary sketch of "Puffin"

Another alternative would be a flag blue sheer strake with dark red bottom. 
A more patriotic Puffin

What do you think?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

More bulkheads...

Second day of cutting. Things are progressing much faster than I originally thought. I guess it helps when you have the right tools!

I got all the bulkheads, stem and transom rough cut, and have begun shaping the pieces to smooth out any misfires of the jigsaw.
Here's how I laid out the various parts. I think I could have made more economical use of the ply...

Working on cleaning up the jigsaw cuts on BH8. The ply looks thicker than it actually is. I doubled up the 9mm so that each side is identical. 

After all the bulkheads were rough cut, I laid them out in order on my cutting bench.  Looks funny without the proper spacing. 

Rear bulkheads and ransom 
Looking forward

You may notice on the above picture, that on bulkhead 2, there are 2 storage openings. One on each side. The plans called for only one, but I think that since the main mast will be right there, it would be awkward having to work around the mast for stowing stuff, so I made two smaller openings instead of one big one.  Also, you can see the round inspection ports on bulkhead 3. Those will ultimately have waterproof access ports. When closed they will form part of the positive buoyancy design of the boat. She may swamp, but unless there's a hull breach, she won't sink!

All the pieces are just clamped at this point. This week, time allowing, I'll work on cleaning them up, gluing them up, and adding all the various doublers and reinforcements. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

First cuts

So I got all the bulkheads drawn up in CAD and printed out at FedEx. I was pretty pleased with the accuracy. Everything is exactly spot on; angles to the decimal point, all measurements to the millimeter. I was a little worried about paper distortion, but from what I can tell everything has printed and laid out exactly as it should.

After getting all my tools handy, and rearranging the garage, today I began cutting plywood. I feel like I made good progress.
Tools include: Straight edge, mallet, countersink and sharpie. 

 In the series of pictures you can see bulkheads 1 and 2, the transom, and the stem are all roughly cut out.

The process to transfer the design from paper to wood is as follows:

I laid the paper onto the ply and trimmed the excess.

Bulkhead #2 trimmed 

I used a hole punch/brad countersink to mark the specific vector points. I used a straightedge and sharpie to connect the dots.

You can see the small countersink holes that I used to connect the dots.

Clamping the straight-edge to draw a fair curve for the top of the transom.

I used  Bosch jig saw with a clean plywood blade to cut the parts out.
I used a small block plane to trim some of the really rough edges and jaggies of the wood.

Seems like it's taking about 1 hour per piece to lay out, cut, and clean up. But these first ones are the easy pieces. Bulkheads 3-8 are more intricate. So I figure 15 to 20 hours of work before I have most of the bulkhead parts cut and trimmed.

Each of these parts will require a lot more work. Edges will need to be planed smooth to the cut lines, they'll need to be reinforced with plywood doublers in high stress points, coated in epoxy, filleted and sanded, which I will do before assembling them on the keel later on in the build process.

Parts...rough cut

Dry layout of bulkheads 1 and 2 on the composite stem

The sum of my work today. Note the 1/5 scale model compared to the full size pieces. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

More preparation...learning mechanical drawing

So, John Welsford's Navigator plans arrived in a nicely rolled tube.

A couple of things to note about the plans: There are 14 sheets in all, I think. Like many plans, some of the drawings are scaled, some are actual size, and some aren't to scale at all, but rather only for illustration purposes. Because Welsford is from New Zealand, his plans are drawn in metric, using millimeters as the base unit. Theoretically, this should make things easier, because I won't have to deal with all those squirrelly fractions that one wrestles with in Imperial measurement. It's much easier to know that 521mm minus 10mm is 511mm. Any schoolchild can do that in his head. Here in the States, we have to resort to calculators to figure out what 17/32 minus 5/8 is. The problem is that all my tools, rules, tape measures, etc are all Imperial, not metric. Just another small challenge to be overcome.

As an aside, it's still baffling to me why this country has never fully embraced the metric system. It's so much easier.

So after spending some time over the summer studying the plans and working up a 1/5 scale model to test out the basic construction techniques, my next challenge is figuring out how to accurately get a 1/5 scale drawing of various boat parts up to full-size, so that I can print them out and make templates so for all the cutting I will be doing shortly.

Test Model: Bulkheads 1-4 and Centerboard Trunkcase 1/5 scale

Test Model: Stem and construction detail for various bulkheads.
Cut-out notches on the bulkheads will be connected by stringers.

It seems simple at first – why not just scan the drawings, and then scale them up 500%? Well, I ran a test on this, and it turns out that scaling a pixel map up isn't exactly the most accurate process unless you really know what you're doing (and I don't!). There's something to do with the resolution of the screen vs the resolution of the scan vs the resolution of the printing device. If they're not all perfectly calibrated, the results are less than spectacular. The "full size" version of my first tests were something like 35% bigger than what they should have been and all fuzzy and pixelated, which would have made for not very accurate cuts in the shop.

Then I thought maybe I could draw them out full-size by using an opaque projector to put the image up onto a wall at full size, and then just trace the outlines onto paper. OK...yes, but where to find an opaque projector these days?? And what if your projector isn't perfectly square to the projected surface? This could cause distortions in the full-size image resulting in a seriously canted boat. Hmm. My options are narrowing.

Expert opinion seems to be that there's nothing for it except to "loft" the drawings. That is, take all the various measurements and offsets in the plans and transfer them to a full-size surface. It's called lofting because in the old days when they still made boats and ships out of wood, they would find a large, open (covered) space in a loft of a building someplace out of the way to lay all the various shapes and sizes out. As with many maritime words and phrases, tradition dies hard. Some people still loft by hand. But the modern equivalent of lofting by hand is to loft in a CAD software program, and then print the resulting images out to full size on a large-format plotter/printer.

So last week I downloaded some CAD software for my Mac, and began learning how to use it. For $20, I was able to get a copy of EazyDraw 6, which has all the features I could possibly need for a simple 2-D layout.

A few of the necessary tools needed to transfer the plan into a full-size computer drawing.
CAD drawn bulkhead. Note this is not just a half-breadth drawing but rather the full bulkhead.
Also note that the grayed out holes in the bulkhead represent two separate storage compartment entrances. This should be easier to access storage than the original drawing, where the mainmast would be in the way of anything going in or out of storage. 

Original Welsford hand-drawn bulkhead

By the time I'm done with this process I'll have perfectly accurate full-size version of each and every part of the Navigator hull. These will be arranged on a virtual sheet of 4' x 8' plywood, to economize on wood, and to minimize scrap. And then the cutting will begin.

But first things first...Building my workbench

I built the tandem wherry last year using a 2' x 8" sheet of plywood over a couple of sawhorses for a workbench in the garage. Seeing as I can't justify building a dedicated boat shop at this time, I think will have to make do with the garage for the time being. Maybe if there's a build #3 I'll find a dedicated workshop with lots of room.

However, I can definitely improve on last year's workbench. I shopped around online for woodworking benches, and found all kinds of options...most of them much more than what I wanted to pay for a solid work area. I figured that my woodworking skills would only improve if I could build my own bench. 

A little more online research turned up a design called the "Kirby" bench. This is a fairly simple, straight-forward kind of bench. Not too many doodads or specialized work areas. It also looked like something I could make with materials from my local Hope Depot. 

Overall it's 84" long, by 30" wide and I think 33" high (?). I put it on industrial strength locking casters, so I could move it around easily in my limited space. The top began as 3" rock maple planks laminated together with epoxy. I hand-planed it down to something like 2.75" inches. It's not perfectly flat (yet) but it will serve my purposes. The trestle is 3.5" cedar legs and cross-ties, hand mortised and tenoned, and bolted together with 3/8" lag bolts. I cut a wood stop into the top and bolted it to the leg, and I drilled 3/4" dog holes across the surface for any large-scale clamping I may have to do. I added a Jorgensen 10" front vise, and built a Veritas twin-screw end-vise (wow...that only took me a week to make!). It's finished with Tung oil to help seal the maple against spills, paint, glue, etc. 

The result is what you see below.
Laminating the maple top - lots of clamps needed!

The "raw" bench...basic shape, size, and layout.

The Jorgensen 10" front vise. Works very nicely!
Twin-screw end vise.
Screws can work in tandem for parallel clamping, or independently for skewed clamping.

Time for another build...

For those who don't know, last Christmas, Karla (my wife) bought me a Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC) tandem wherry rowing scull kit. I jumped right in during the holiday, and over a series of evenings and weekends, I managed to pull together a nice little boat. It was about 150 hours in the making, whereby I had my first experiences building anything out of wood, the use of marine 2-part epoxy, fiberglass, and marine polyurethanes. But the entire build was amazingly enjoyable and the end result is something we've been using frequently since the boat was finished last May. 

Well the bug has bitten, and now I find myself getting ready to embark on another project. 

I've always wanted a sailboat. So I shall build one. The question of which one has consumed many hours of research. In the end, I decided on the John Welsford "Navigator" design. Welsford is a New Zealand small craft designer and builder. He has a number of very successful boat designs, and is something of a legend in the small wooden boat universe. 

Why the Navigator? 

1) The construction process is one that I now have experience with.
2) She's small enough to be built in my garage, and to be able to be sailed single-handedly.
3) She's large enough where 3 or 4 people could enjoy an afternoon on the water, or 2 adults could camp-cruise her.
4) Welsford has done a great job in creating a small boat with really lovely lines and a sheer that could make you cry, while at the same time designing a boat that will offer plenty of fun and performance and stability on the water. 
5) It's a design that will allow me to make a very traditional-looking boat, with modern materials and technical enhancements. For example, I'm planning to put an electric inboard auxiliary motor in her, and use advanced composites like kevlar and carbon fiber.

From what I understand, Navigator is one of the most successful small boat designs ever, with more than 600 built around the world by amateurs like me. There are all kinds of photos of Navigators out there. Here are a few screen caps that will give you an idea of what I'm about to try to put together. This is Robert Ditterich's "Annie" Navigator at rest. 

Here's the same boat in a fresh breeze

And here is a line-drawing of the Welsford Navigator  in a racing sloop configuration. I'm planning on building the gaff-yawl rig, similar to the images shown above. 
If you're interested in more information about this boat, check out Welsford's website.

So the project begins. I will update this blog with pictures, and something of a narrative as I have time to do so between work, family, friends, travel, and yes...boat building. I hope you enjoy the journey!