Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Another tool test, and some other bits and pieces.


Tool test.

Now and again I get power tools for testing in return for writing up publicity stories for magazines, on odd occasions I’ve gone back to the suppliers and told them that in all conscience I could not write a positive report on the tool concerned so would prefer to not write one, and I’ve always ( so far) had an ok response to that.  I guess it adds to the credibility.
A recent one was a little 3.7v l.ion battery screwdriver which was as near as useless as any power tool I’ve ever used.  Now not all of those small screwdrivers are the same, I’ve read credible reports on some of the better “name” brand ones that suggest that they are quite useful for light work, but the one I was handed recently, not so.
I was very pleased though to have in my hot paws a Makita TD090DWE impact screwdriver.  I’d watched others using them and had several people recommend them to me, but had been convinced that the much quieter driver/drills suited me better.
I picked this little monster up and was immediately impressed by the way it sat in my hand, comfortable, light and better balanced than the much longer drills with their gearboxes and chucks.







Now a good friend had recommended these to me, but I’d felt quite happy with the several cordless drills I have on the rack.  All but the Ryobi one that is and that lives back with my ex for me to use on things like fixing her curtain rails.

When I first used the Makita impact driver, at first I found the fast rotational speed difficult to manage.  It spins the screw really quickly until the screw begins to load up, then the impact drive starts to rattle like a racecar wheel change and slows right down.  Yes its got a variable speed trigger but its very sensitive and it took a while to get used to it, and the noise.

But that said, I tend to reach for the tool that I like rather than the one nearest, and as I get more time with this tool I am liking it more and more.  My trigger finger is adjusting ( hands up ponder!) and if I’m doing a long row of fastenings I put my “hearmuffs” back up where they do good.

This little thing will drive monster screws into almost anything,  I used it the other day to build a set of shelves ( again, for the “ex”, the “honey please do” list is still functional it seems) out of 18mm plywood, and the 2in twinstart screws needed no pilot holes, just push on the point and pull the trigger. Whirr, rattle rattle done, countersunk and all!
The little lithium batteries will run for a days work, and charge in half an hour or so, there are two in the kit so you wont ever run out of battery if you remember to put the down one back in the slot.

I find that I like it, I like the light weight, the clip in chuck which makes a change of  the hex bits very quick, it’s a very nice tool of about the right size and fit for building small boats and handy for the “honey do” list.

I don’t think I’d have a reason to buy the bigger one, I’m not putting steel siding or roofing on, and the 10.6 volt unit does almost everything else with a light and comfortable tool.

One more thing, SCAMP Camp at Port Townsend last year was great, some lovely people as always at SCAMP Camp, and Thom Davies was one of those.  We talked about many things Thom and I, tools among them and somewhere along the way I must have mentioned that I was hoping sometime to get myself a leather handled Estwing 16 oz finishing claw hammer. They are not common in the hardware stores, much too light for most uses but ideal for small boat builders.
Thom found one, and sent it with a friend who was coming to NZ.  That was an unexpected treat, its in my hand most days and I think of him, and that “camp” whenever I touch it.
Thanks Thom, very much appreciated.

 Such a nice tool to use, perfect fit to the hand, just the right weight and balance.

I’m off to the next SCAMP Camp in less than two weeks, it was a bit doubtful that I’d be fit enough this year but I went to the haematology clinic for what I hope was the last time yesterday and am cleared to go, there are some conditions attached but I’m ok to travel and to undertake “light work” part time. Sitting on my chair in a sunny corner and telling others what to do might fit that.

J

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Back boatbuilding again.


Back to work on SEI.

With the bottom panel all scarfed up and the edges faired off with a hand plane it was time to cut the daggerboard case slot and fit it to the framing.

I measured the frame to get the “case” position, then the width and such, drew the ‘case” shape out and drilled a couple of holes big enough to take the jigsaw blade.

Off topic for a moment, I regularly get people asking about jigsaw blades, and why theirs make such a splintery mess of their plywood and mine don’t.
I use hollow ground veneer blade, in Makita these are number 10s, they have not got the wavy “set” that the usual blades have on the teeth in order to give the blade clearance in damp or resinous wood, rather they are shiny ground on the sides, have seriously shark like teeth which are straight, not bent outward like  a handsaw blade and cut on the up stroke.  The downstroke veneer blades look similar but are not what you want at all.
Most major brands supply an equivalent, as do most of the specialist manufacturers of jigsaw blades, they are used by cabinet makers and those odd types who putter around in their garages building plywood boats.

Back to our topic.
After cutting the case slot and dry fitting the 9mm plywood bottom, I reached in underneath with a pencil and traced off all of the frames onto the plywood bottom panel.  I then lifted the bottom off, flipped it over working from the outside drilled pilot holes and countersinks for all the screws.
This procedure meant that all of the screws hit their target when driven through from outside.
I masked up the few places where I did not want the glue to stick, temporary cross members in the main and I was ready to make it permanent.

Mixed up the system 3 epoxy glue, applied just enough to make sure it all stays where I want it to until the boat is all planked up and seams taped, the boat then being ready for the interior to be filleted, then fitted the bottom to the boat with screws driven in.
It’s a big step, takes her from just “bones” to, well, not a boat really but a bit different from what she was.  Visible progress.

 Sorry about the light, it was late on a very gloomy day, and my camera insisted that the light outside was nicer than the gloom inside.
You'll get more in a few days, but this will show you where I'm up to.
The next job is to hotmelt glue a spiling plank together out of MDF door skin strips and work out the shape of the garboard plank.
Sunday! I'm out of action tomorrow through Saturday.

One of the reasons for the progress in the shop today is that its blowing like stink here, again!  The weatherman says it may be the worst storm in a decade!  The nowcasting buoy off the river mouth is reporting gusts of 60 knots.  That’s better than it was a couple of hours ago! The trouble is that its blowing straight down the estuary so its much rougher in here than it would usually be, “the ship” is beig bounced around enough to make work at the drawing board quite uncomfortable so it’s been a workshop day.

Out in the workshop is nice, gave me a chance to do some comparison between the new sample Blu-Mol drill set that I had handed to me a few weeks ago.

 This shows the inside of the bottom panel, all pencil marked and drilled, the case slot cut and test fitted, and I"m ready to flip it over and drill the countersinks with my nice new Blu-Mol drill bits.  

These have whats known as a “split point” configuration on the point, plus are ground for more clearance angle than is usual in an engineering twist drill (the kind that we almost invariably use in our smaller sizes).  Breakout is an issue with most drill bits, as is clogging when pushing into a deep hole.
These new drill bits are made by (or for) the old Disston company under their Blu-Mol brand.  I’ve come across these in their holesaws which are pretty good tools, and was keen to see how these drill bits worked out so asked the distributors for a sample set so I could put my impressions up here.
( thanks guys,)
These are impressive drill bits. On metals they work really well, cutting cleanly and smoothly in mild steel, cast iron and aluminium. Sizing is accurate, they don’t vibrate in the cut and they clear well.
Not good on thin sheet metal though, but then, not many drill bits are.
When drilling wood or plywood they are significantly better in terms of surface breakout around the holes, and seem able to go further in without clogging the flutes up than a conventional  drill bit. The extra clearance behind the cutting edge down the flute makes it possible to cut laterally if you are careful, not like a router bit of course but it will cut an oval or enlarged hole for you.
They seem to cut faster as well, always helpful.
The drill set is housed in a very nice case, that case has drills from 1.5mm to 10 mm ( I am told that there are imperial sets available in the USA ) and has two extended driver bits in it as well. In this case a pair of number 2 square drives.
Points? Say 8/10 where a normal engineering twistdrill set in their usual plastic case scores 6/10.  I like them, will be looking to get them in preference to the usual ones in future.





Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Boatbuilding again, and other odd things


Boatbuilding again.

“Cold” here in the north of New Zealand only means a vest and a reasonably thick sweater.  Epoxy still sets ok, but with rain, wind and  work to do on the drawing board I’ve been for the most part stuck inside for a week.  SEI needs some love and attention to make progress from bare bones frames to looking as though she’ll be a boat this summer, so I took a day away from other things and put some hours in.
I’ve fitted the seat risers. They are stringers that run along as supports for the seats and buoyancy tanks, they also hold the frames and prevent them moving around when the first plank is being fitted.  They’re glued and screwed in, not so many screws actually, just in the ends where they fit to the stems as the where the very small section strip passes the frames I’ve drilled and pinned with long nails rather than risk breaking the small section stringer where its bent sharply around the stern sections.

The second job was to scarf up the bottom panel, more than a plywood sheet length long this comes out of one sheet of ply cut slightly on an angle then fitted wide ends together, a sloping scarf joint cut then glued up.  I've cut this to shape, glued it up and in two or three days will be able to fit it to the boat, and voila! The boat will have a bottom and I can get on with the “interesting” job of working out the plank shapes.


 The two pieces cut out and lined up ready to cut the slope for the scarf joint, string lined and the ends of the two pieces are staggered for the slope of the join.

I dont mind planing scarf joints up by hand, the one in the pic is a bit more than  30 in across, it’s a 6/1 scarf which I can get away with as its to be fiberglassed on the outside.  Hand planing this plywood with a sharp no 3 Stanley with the corners of the blade slightly rounded is nice work. The laminations of the plywood and the  dark lines of the waterproof glue are good guidelines that help keep the slope straight and the joint shown here would have taken maybe 10 mins to make.

 The scarf slope cut, just the hand plane, no other tools . It does not take long to do and is pleasant work.  The Japanese saw ( From www.duckworksmagazine.com by the way, excellent tool) was used to cut the bottom panel out, its as fast as a fine cut jigsaw and leaves a nicer finish.

I used a big chunk of 150 x 250 x 9mm wall box section steel as a weight, but made very sure that the assembly was lined up dead straight before I left it.
To keep it that way I’ve used very fine finishing nails to nail both parts to the plywood table, it wont move and the fine nails will pull out without leaving a noticeable blemish.

The steel?  That is destined to become a small upright woodburning stove. But I can tell you that my attempts to cut it with a small angle grinder with cutoff wheel were not too successful so I’m carting all 45 kg of it around to my friends engineering works to do the big cuts.
Hacksaw? You are kidding!


 An easy way to put clamping pressure on the join, 45 kg is just shy of 100 lbs, that join is not going to move!

On another subject, a month from today I’ll be in the belly of the big silver bird heading for Sydney, then Los Angeles and from there to Seattle, rail, ferry and friends car through to Port Ludlow where I will be staying with said friends while doing the SCAMP Camp thing, then a sailing school class and the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival.

I’ve come to know quite a few people there, this will be visit number five and I like Port Townsend a lot. The Banana Leaf is a lovely place to eat, the coffee shop in the Maritime Centers Chandlery makes great hot chocolate and tea (I am not a coffee drinker,)  the Maritime Center is a wonderful place to work, and the little harbour and marina next door is full of stunning boats. 
If you can get to the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, do, its one of the best.
See you there.

 http://www.nwmaritime.org/wooden-boat-foundation/wooden-boat-festival

This year I"m in much better shape than last, ( fingers crossed).
I’m very much looking forward to teaming up with Howard Rice, my hosts Helen and Pete Leenhouts, Josh and Anica Colvin of Small Craft Advisor magazine, Scott, Ace, Jake, Russell, Steve, Katy, Hasse ( I’ll get to go sailing in her lovely Folkboat yet). It’s a long list and I don’t see them nearly often enough.








Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Going for a run on a rainy day


Ships, and dogs both need a run every now and again.  Come to think of it so do their owners!
This mornings weather forecast made “lousy” look desirable so our long walk on the beach was out, besides that only works for Dimbleby the dog and I.  The ship still needed a run, Mr Ford down there in the engine room would just corrode away if not run regularly and its not good to just fire a diesel up and let it idle with no load so a short voyage down to the fuel dock an hour away at the marina seemed a good idea.

The tide was to be full about 10.30 am, so at 9 45 it was disconnect the electricity, cast off and head upriver to my usual turnaround spot.  The channel is very narrow where our dock is, the current was running strongly plus it was blowing hard and in those circumstances I like a bit more space to spin her around.

No problem, turning a single screw boat is not hard once the basic idea is understood, this one has a “left hand” prop, rotates anticlockwise when seen from behind so if you back her a little then put her in forward with the engine just above idle and the helm over to starboard the prop will "walk" her stern around about a quarter turn to starboard before gaining way. Stop, back up a little and repeat , its possible to turn her right around in about  a boat length and a half.
We have a 5 knot speed limit in here, I’ve never figured out whether that is 5 knots through the water or over the ground and the harbour board cant tell me either but there would be two knots of tide in this river at mid range so it’s a leisurely trip against the current out to the entrance and past the bar (three actually! One kind is the alcoholic kind at each of the two yacht clubs, and one is of the marine kind which is just as dangerous, across the mouth of the river) and out into the open.

Out through the river mouth and I pushed the throttle forward to 1750 rpm which from Mr Ford gives us just about right on 8 knots.  While not fast for a motor boat, for someone more used to small sail and rowing craft that makes the scenery go past at a satisfyingly fast rate.

As we came past the fairway markers there was an interesting sight up ahead,  four yards across a good sized foremast, a black hull with the silver fern on the bow and a group of people bustling around on deck.  That’s the Training ship “Spirit of New Zealand”.  Three masted, square rigged on her foremast, Steel hull,  rather pretty.

 The rainbow was a really pretty one but it was the herald of a seriously nasty squall, I beat it into the marina by a few minutes, not that it was a worry to the ship, I just did not want to have to get out in the rain to tie the ship up to the dock. Wus, thats me!

From the photoshoot location I motored across to the marina and took on fuel, Dog and I went ashore for a walk, he seemed eager but was really just needing to lose some fluids. I’ve tried to teach him to use the boarding platform aft but that might take a while for a “housetrained” animal to learn.


 Yes thats my "Ship.  As I get used to her she's easier and easier to handle, even singlehanded but a dock like this one with a decent fender on it and lots of space makes it easy.
I put 100 litres of diesel  in the forward tank. All done, the line squall gone through and I'm ready to go. More of that weather coming so I think its a "drawing board" afternoon rather than an outside occupation one.

Tanked up, enough to keep the tanks fresh and to do the trip across to Waiheke next week I’m now tied up at the dock here at Gulf Harbour Marina while a big squall goes through, I’ve two hours in which to get back to my own dock before the tide drops too much so I’ve time to relax. Mendelsson on the radio, cuppatea and a biscuit (a cookie to you USA people)  and the dog curled up on the rug while I write this.  Life could be worse.


Update.  2 hours after the above.

There are times in life when there is no going back, for example like about halfway through proposing to your spouse to be .
This one was not quite on that scale, but approaching the dock back at the boatshed in 15 tons of boat that does not steer that well at very low speeds, singlehanded with a screamer of a wind blowing and the tide running hard, is one of those.
Bringing a lump like this to her berth is always a heart in mouth moment, but I’ve practiced, know where the narrow channel is and had both fenders and dock lines at the ready. The standard approach and docking drill worked.
No dents or scrapes. Whew!
So we’re home. Electricity connected, kettle heating for a cup of tea, lunch on the table and ---- well, its been a good morning on the water.

Friday, June 27, 2014

More winter entertainment

Some years back a US East coast resident asked me to to design a sail and oar cruising boat. The brief was for a boat that would suit a wide variety of waters from rivers and canals where long stretches of rowing could be expected, to wide open ocean passages of up to 50 miles. He wanted to sleep aboard, and the boat when not being used for adventuring had to be workable for family daysailing, thats two adults and two kids.

Walkabout was the result,  on the face of it a very specialised design as it has no provision for an outboard, has a rig thats a bit different to the usual jib and triangular mainsail and an unusual interior layout that has an offset centerboard, side seats, a remote tiller that pivots on the mizzen mast and lines back to the rudder.  She's relatively slim so she will row easily, is  light enough to drag up the beach on your own, and is capable of unaided self rescue if rolled over or swamped.

Its been a very popular design, a number of notable voyages have been made in various versions of her including Sail Caledonia, the Everglades Challenge, and a singlehanded voyage from Perth Australia north up the coast to Shark Bay and back.  Changes in family circumstances meant that the original customer did not get to build a Walkabout, but I know that he is watching the design that he sparked with interest. ( Hi Steve, howzit?)

Martyn Long has the latest version, he's changed the offcenterboard for a leeboard but otherwise his craft is as per the plan, heres a nice little video he's just posted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkmAfAtfjhc&feature=youtu.be

Congratulations Martyn, and thanks for showing us your little ship.

While on the subject of adventure sailing, and Walkabout, Osbert Lancaster in Edinborough , Scotland  built a Walkabout so he could get out on the water both sailing and rowing, and he's become a real ambassador for small boat adventuring.  He has a marvellous blog  here

http://forthsailoar.osbert.org/

and an inspirational presentation video here. 
 
http://forthsailoar.osbert.org/2011/08/01/talking-about-adventure/

 Well worth watching if you are considering taking your boating a little further.  If you are not? Then, after you watch this you might change your mind.

Thanks Osbert, great work.

JohnW

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Winter entertainment

Here in the Southern Hemisphere its winter of course.  So what am I doing instead of going sailing?


Around the shortest day here in NZ we tend to have wet, windy weather.  This year is for the most part true to form apart from being unseasonably warm, one of the theories is that the warmer weather provides more energy to the weather systems so we get more and worse but warmish. 
These last couple of weeks has seen some really odd stuff, 70 knots on the nowcasting weather buoy off the mouth of the river, and a few hours later bright sun and absolutely still air. Not for long though as the next frontal system is generally only a few hours away, they say that here in New Zealand “if you don’t like the weather just wait for a few hours”.
Too true.

So in between the stuff which has to be done each day, work and chores and such, rather than go outside and wade around in mud and puddles I stay inside drawing and researching, writing and generally getting on with the design work.

Between times though I’ve been watching some of the videos posted on the various small boat and design groups that I haunt, and todays post has some of my favourites from among the recent ones.

Here’s one showing Richard Schmidt in his Navigator  and Grant Nalder in his Pathfinder out enjoying themselves in allcomers dinghy class racing on Wellington harbour.


Another Pathfinder out cruising in New Zealands fabled Bay of Islands,  the author will have to forgive me for not knowing his name,  but he’s done a nice job of his build and this video shows off both the boat and the lovely waters of the BOI  .  Well done Skipper.


A third one from Western Australia, another Navigator out sailing with three friends,  nice work.  I’m sitting here in pitch darkness,  cuddled up to the heater while the rain beats on the cabin top.  No I’m not unhappy, I can go and watch videos like this to remind me of summertime.
Again, I don’t have the “authors” name to hand but congratulations, and yes I do envy you those warm blue waters.


Nice watching, have fun.

Thanks to the authors of these lovely little productions.

J

Sunday, June 22, 2014

WInter has arrived, and a dog along with it.


  Change of Season.

Well, the shortest day has just gone past, today was 37 seconds longer,  gosh it made a difference! (heh!)  .  But seriously, while today is officially the second day of winter here in the Southern Hemisphere the prospect of lengthening days makes it bearable.
Today though, if winter were like this all the time, was beautiful.
Warm enough to take the sweater off,  not a breath of wind on the water to mar the mirror calm, and just the occasional light cloud in the sky.
I’m home again after a few days of the same old same old,  there  wont be a lot of  gas in the tank for a couple of days but each time it’s a step in the right direction.
I did manage a short paddle in the kayak, I’d had time for a short nap when I got back to the ship here on the river and when I woke it was about 10 mins short of  high tide so the kayak was slid over the side and I went off up the river.
Occasionally I make an effort for conservations sake and pick up  the rubbish I come across, today was one of those. There was a string of Steinlager bottles afloat,  necks up, six of them about 50 yards apart as though they’d been carefully set that way, but I must say that I don’t appreciate the skill shown to get that spacing right.
I also picked up the usual plastic Coke  and water bottles plus a few other bits and pieces,  since I began doing this the place is noticeably tidier. Almost park like.  I’m thinking  of putting a sign out in the middle that says “Keep off the grass”.

Denny and I had agreed to “shared custody”  Indy, of her little Border Terrier dog,  he and I get on very well together and Denny had been worried about me being on my own so much, so had sometimes sent me back here with him which was nice.  But he’s her dog, she trains him for agility where he has proven to be a quick learner and smart but easily distracted, and she likes to have his company when she’s on her own.
We’d thought that perhaps after the next trip to the North, SCAMP Camp and Academy courses,  Boat shows and Messabouts, I’d find a small dog, “ship sized” so to speak.  We’d thought perhaps a Cairn Terrier or Wire haired Foxy, and she’d do some training to “civilise” the little monster then I’d have a dog of my own.
But, she was idly flicking through “Trade Me “  (Our version of E Bay) and what should come up but a Cairn Terrier Cross needing a good home.   He’d been “widowed” so to speak when his elderly lady owner passed on back about Christmas time, none of the family wanted him and friends had volunteered to rehouse him. Yes I know, “one elderly lady owner” but this was not a second hand car!
Said friends came to visit us here on board, Denny was here with Indy, and after a very pleasant afternoon tea they went away but “Dimbleby” stayed.


 Yes there are eyes under there! When he arrived there was no way he'd let anyone near his face, or feet but the other day I had him calm and relaxed so clipped a little of the hair around his eyes, am working on getting him ok with me handling his feet so I can clip his claws, and he's even relaxing when being brushed.  He'll be ok.
By the way, 11.5 kg, and a real "Terrier" temperament.  Loyal, smart, chase anything that moves and no idea that a full grown Rottweiler is bigger than him.

He’s fitting in pretty well, is good company, after a few days to settle in has become a cheerful and outgoing little guy, attentive and loyal (to whomever feeds him at least) and generally well mannered.  He’s 11 years old so the commitment is probably a four to six year one which I can cope with, and I’m  very much enjoying having him around.