Saturday, November 29, 2014

Making Sails: I'm not as clewless as I used to be?

One of the interesting things about building a boat like this is that you have to always be thinking several steps ahead of where you are. For example, while planking the outside of the hull, you have to plan for and make the cockpit seating. Why? It is so much easier to get the fit and curves right if you don't have installed planks blocking your access and view.

Likewise, as I finish up the top layer of planking I thought to myself, "I need to finish the inside of the bow compartment. Waterproof it and paint it. And then working back from there, make sure that my mast step and holes for the mast are in the right place." Which made me think about the diameter of the mast at its entry point through the deck, and the angle at which it needs to sit relative to the waterline. Which got me thinking about the spars in general and that I ought to make them before I actually cut any deck boards, And then of course, before I actually cut wood for the spars, perhaps I should know the exact size and shape of the sails that will be attached to them.

All of this is to say that I decided I had better make the sails sooner rather than later. Then make the spars. Then test position everything so that I can finish building the hull. It's like building the boat in reverse order from what logic might otherwise dictate.

ANYHOO...I originally thought to buy a suit of sails. There are some excellent choices for ready-made Navigator sails. And then I came across the Sailrite site, which encouraged me to make my own. For giggles, I submitted for a materials quote from Sailrite, and discovered that the materials cost was actually quite reasonable, IF I stayed away from the rainbow of sailcloth colors available. I sent in the dimensions, so kindly provided by Mr. Welford on the sailplan drawings, and within a few days, I was busy down in the sail loft (neé basement). I was fortunate to commandeer the ping pong table, and my daughter's Singer Stylist sewing machine. Over the course of the next 2 or 3 weeks, as time allowed, I knocked a pretty white suit for Puffin. A few photos and comments follow.

I had never used a sewing machine before. The hardest part was figuring out how to load and thread the bobbin. Given the small size of my boat and her corresponding sails, a little consumer machine, like my daughter's Singer worked just fine. I might otherwise have said "worked great" except for one thing: the volume of sail cloth for even a small gaff main like mine is bulky and heavy for a small, lightweight machine like our little electronic Singer. I found that as I was feeding cloth into the machine, I was pushing the machine all over the table. Yeah. Pain in the rumpus. Also the throat depth of the machine was •almost• inadequate for the job. But other things like the myriad choices of stitch style (including a customizable 4-point zigzag stitch!!), tension adjustment, and even power to push through up to 8 layers of 5 oz dacron, plus 2 layers of nylon webbing were just fine.

Laying out the sailcloth panels for the mizzen sail. Decided to start with the smallest sail first, so if I really screwed up...well less damage done.

This is the mizzen head patch. Made up of 5 layers of dacron. Once it's all sewn together I'll appliqué it to the main body of the sail.

Cutting the batten pockets.

Here's the mizzen head patch and first batten pocket attached to the mizzen sail. 

Jib. Laid out and stitched up. No luff wire yet, and no grommets.

Detail of the jib clew patch. Here you can see the 5-layers of  dacron that reinforce this part of the sail that carries the greatest load.

Mainsail laid out and stitched. You can see two rows of reef points.  While JW's plans call for two full battens, the sail designer at Sailrite suggested partial battens throughout, which would not impact performance, but would make it much easier to furl and flake while at her mooring/anchor.

Detail of reef points and batten pockets.

Puffin logo. I wanted something that was reminiscent of a puffin without actually *being* a puffin. The logo is 5 oz dacron  appliquéed to both sides of the sail. Mistake here. I should have pointed the beak a little bit more to the level. I did it perpendicular to the head luff, forgetting that this is a gaff main, the head luff will not be perpendicular to the hull but rather at a slight 10-15˚ angle off vertical. Oh well. Call it Puffin Triumphant. Or Puffin Rising. 

Three finished sails. 

Detail of the jib luff edge. I opted for a roller-furling jib. So the luff of the sail is 3/16" stainless wire spliced to thimbles at each end. The luff also serves as the forestay. The corners of the sail here are hand reinforced with waxed poly sail twine.

Finished Jib clew. Nice leather dressing on the clew will prevent chafe from a flogging jib. Hand-sewn to the nickel #4 grommet.

Mainsail clew. Finished and dressed. Here you see the 5-layer patch, the edge tape, the nickel grommet,  the load-bearing nylon webbing, and the leather edge dressing. I don't know this for sure, but I'm guessing this thing could lift 3,000 lbs. It's crazy robust.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A bunch of pictures, a 3rd Course of planks and a tiller

Fits and starts. Fits and starts. I wish the obligations of daily life would stop interfering with my building hours! Alas. Progress continues, and what follows is a random string of pictures of the work over the past few weeks. 

I'm inspired to make rapid progress at this point. I think I mentioned that we're building a new home, and I want this to be finished by the time we move in. I'm also harboring a little plan to launch my Nav in Florida when we head down there over Spring Break next April. So...6 months. But fall is in full swing here in Wisconsin, and the weather is getting colder, and cold weather, ice and snow make for longer hours in the shop, and less time enjoying Wisconsin's waterways.

So... on with the slide show.

Here I'm planing the bevels on the top edge of the 2nd course of planking and stringers to accept the bottom edge of the next plank. You can see I have scribed a line in pencil and am planing down to that line.
Here's another view of the same thing. The objective is to plane the plank and stringer down to the scribe line and close the gap between the plank and the vertical bulkhead. You can see I'm getting close at this point. I do this all by eye and free-hand, checking progress as I go with a scrap of off-cut ply. 

Current view from the step into my garage. You can see the 3rd row of planking complete. I'm fitting the starboard gunwale stringer. The port gunwale is on the floor, awaiting its fitting. You can also see I've dry-fitted the forward compartment "seat" top. This needed to be done as I was putting the 3rd course of planks on. Otherwise it would have been much more difficult to get right afterwards. I think the fun and challenging thing about building this boat is that you have to be thinking 3 or 4 steps ahead of where you're working, or it's very easy to screw and glue yourself into a corner. 
Forward port quarter view of progress. You can see I'm experimenting with phenolic microballoon-enfused epoxy as a filler on the stem sections. I got this idea from Barrett and her blog. Mix a batch of 'poxy, dump a mess of PMB's into it, and whip it up into a light "froth". Trowel it on, smooth it out, let it dry, and sand. Works great as a fairing compound. You'll see more of this once I get the boat turned over.
Front view. You can see the scribed lines on the top edge of the 3rd plank course. That's my planing guideline. I can't bevel these until I have the gunwale stringers finished, as they'll provide the final bevel angle reference point. I chose to do the gunwale stringers in 2 parts. Well...4 actually: two 8-foot length's of 20x20 poplar, scarfed into a 16' long piece. I think the samson post is too big and bulky, don't you? Need to size that down some.
Port side stern quarter, showing butt-end of planking so far. The bottom edges of the planks are not particularly fair yet. But I have a very nice little mini ebony smoothing plane that is working well to trim them. I'll get better pictures of that when I get the boat turned over. I've also clamped the rudder cheeks and blade in place. Because I want to make the tiller next, and I need to make sure the sizing is correct. 
Making a Tiller

So, I looked through the plans a few times and wasn't able to find any specific dimensions for tillers. So I measured the sketches of the finished boat that JW provides and scaled it up. I've decided my tiller will be 47" (1194mm) long with a 6.5" (165mm) rise. I will make it out of laminated Honduras Mahogany and White Oak—same as the rudder blade. Both the blade and the tiller will be 'poxied and varnished. Here are (most of) the steps:

Use a long piece of scrap wood to estimate and measure how long the tiller wants to be

Lay out a grid on a scrap piece of 3/4" ply and draw the lines of the desired shape.
Line up some cheap steel L brackets to use as clamping surfaces for the wood. 
All the the brackets screwed in place. I ran them out longer than needed.

Assemble yer laminations. Here's a stack of HM and WO in rough condition. I didn't take pictures of me running these through a thickness planer to bring each lamination down to 3/16" (5mm) thickness. But it happened. There is more wood than I will need for a tiller in this stack. I will also use it for the stem laminations and skeg.

Planed laminations, nice, clean and shiny smooth, alternating wood species for a stripy effect.

Dry-fit the laminations to make sure they can take the bend and clamp in place.
Mix up a batch of 'poxy goop. Spread unthickend across all lams, then, thicken the remaining goop with wood flour, spread that on all faces (except the outside ones), clamp it up and let it dry. Following SHOULD be a picture of me carving the laminated blank to shape with my handy spokeshave...but I didn't actually take any pictures of that :/

So here are some shots of a rough-carved tiller instead.

Voilá! A rough-carved tiller. Still needs some finessing of thickness. I want this to have some really sexy curves and a good hand feel. That will need to wait until my next shop session.  :)

Tiller protruding from between the rudder cheeks. Yikes. Can't believe I wrote that sequence of words.  Pin hole still needs to be drilled. Final shaping still pending.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

2nd Course of Planks done.

I got a lot of work done in the past 2 days: Starboard side 2nd course planks cut, installed, and filleted. About 6 hours work total.

One of my thoughts as I've been going about this process: I try to be really careful with my measurements and cutting. But's amazing how when you finally put that piece on the boat, it can really be off. Then I sit in the moaning chair and ask if I really want to go through the work to do it over, or if "it will do"? I'm thankful for the forgiving nature of epoxy and its ability to cover over my myriad mistakes.

I have aspirations to one day build a traditional lap strake, clinker, or cold-molded boat. But my lack of woodworking skills gives me great pause. I don't know if it's because I'm naturally impatient, and I just say to myself, "that's good enough", or if I had the proper time and space and equipment, maybe I'd have a cleaner build? I do know I don't have proper sharpening tools to keep my edge tools keen. THAT's an issue. I also don't have the space to lay out boards properly so that I could be more accurate in my work. I also have become addicted to the jigsaw, which for me is like scissors for wood.

They say it's a poor craftsman who blames his tools. But the craftsman has to have tools to begin with, nest ce pas? My tool set basically consists of el-cheapo brand stuff from Home Depot, a few small planes that I bought on Ebay, A hand-me-down set of chisels with knicks and dings in the edges, a veritable boatload of clamps, and my trusty Bosch jigsaw. ;) Oh, and my brother in law has loaned me some nice belt sanders that I clamp upside down or sideways on my bench and use as grinders and spindle sanders.

Anyway...a couple more pix:

A stem that is looking more and more like a boat.

....and you can never have enough clamps. Note the stem to stern run of spring clamps. I do believe that's ALL the spring clamps I own holding those planks on.
Hey...a reasonably clean fillet! A little sanding and a coat of bilge paint  and you'll never know it was there!


Saturday, September 6, 2014

2nd Course of planking

And progress continues. The second course is much easier than the first. Not sure if that's because I'm becoming more comfortable with the process, or the shapes are easier, or both?

Here are a few snaps from the garage this afternoon.

Been a while since I got a full view. Getting excited to see her final form.

Someone said I should fit the cockpit seat tops before finishing the planking and adding the sheer stringers.  I think that's good advice.

From sexy forefoot curve to sweet, firm bilges amidships. Nice! I'm interested to see how this actually works on the water: As drawn/built, the fine forefoot and swelling bilge will allow this boat to cut through waves and chop with relative ease, while providing rolling stability and good righting moment. We'll see!

So you can see the tips of screws protruding from the butted planks. The screws are holding the butt straps in place while the epoxy sets. They'll come out and the holes will get filled later.

You can see a pencil mark about 200mm long, 20mm from the top bow-side of the plank. That's the gain line. I don't trust my router skills, so I've marked where it should go, and I'll cut and plane it down to a nice ramp after the glue sets up.  The gain is a short bevel of sorts that allows the bottom edge of each plank to "feather" into the lap of the plank below. It's a pretty convention on lapstrake boats.  See below...

Note how on this canoe, the overlap of each of the planks at the bow of the boat disappears as they approach the stem, creating a nice, fair transition. That's what I'm trying to accomplish above. Hard to see right now, because well...just because.
So, it's hard to imagine how this assemblage of "matchsticks" will somehow come together to a) float, b) withstand the forces that sailing a boat through water will generate, c) carry 1 – not to mention as many as 4, – people in comfort and safety! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

First course of planking done (on one side!)

So I'm quite pleased with myself. Over the weekend I did the final rough/dry fitting of the bottom row of planks (port side). I broke out the 'poxy and created a fine mess. I clamped like a madman and then  squeegee'd up the dribs and drabs. Spent the night down at our friends' home on Brown's Lake, took in a couple of cocktails, a little bit of sunshine, and when I came home last night, I broke out the palm router and cleaned up the edges.

The dreaded forefoot plank, with a little bit of patience and cajoling turned out to be as easy as pie. Here are a few pictures. Of course, the photos don't do justice to that beautiful little hollow bit that happens from the forefoot stem out to the bilges of BH 2. It's a sweet little curve. All you Nav builders will know exactly what I'm talking about.

If I'm lucky I'll get to do the starboard side sometime this week. But I must head north for a couple of days and then out to Las Vegas for the remainder of the week. And then there's a wedding to attend on Saturday. Sheesh! When's a guy supposed to get an hour or two of boat building in???

The forefoot plank. All glued up and trimmed. The half circle on the front edge is residual sticky from the Joubert label that got peeled off earlier.

Side view of the first course

Stem and glued plank. Crazy that you can get that kind of bend in 6mm ply. 

oh yes...and there's the mizzen mast step. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The start of planking

Just a few pics to show you the progress on the planking. It's not so bad, really. And pretty straight forward (once you have the stringers on correctly!). The hardest part is the forefoot plank. Which as I mentioned before I made twice, broke twice, and am fitting hopefully a 3rd and final time (not counting the starboard side!).

A few pix for you:

Stern-most bottom port-side plank.  Plank 1 on the plans. Sorry about the fuzzy pic. But you can see my plastic covered copper wire holding things in place to the garboard. Dry fit at the moment.

Looking toward the stern, this is Plank #2. Long and curvaceous.  Also wired on the bottom edge
The dreaded forefoot plank. Taking somebody's advice – I think Barrett's – don't clamp the plank to the stringer. You'll pull it out of shape or break it. Insert a sturdier 2x4 and brace it up against the frame with clamps.
. Using the frame jig to press the plank into position against the bulkheads

Somehow, this gap has to be brought to a close hard against the beveled stem.  Without cracking. Patience, burro, patience.  Once it's closed, I'll trace the stem profile, remove, trim, and re-attach. 

Starboard equivalent of Plank #1. No wires yet. Just trimming to shape.

Planking is fun. And the work generally seems to progress faster than what has come before. Within the next few posts, she should really start to look like a boat, and not a boat frame. :)

I'll try to do better with keeping up with my posts.