Friday, December 8, 2017

Home stretch

 The final stages for the boat: everything is varnished and I have finally fixed the seats in place.
I admit to a bit of nervousness because of the finality of this step and, although I know it should work, the idea of a boat held together by epoxy still doesn't feel right. On Harry's advice, I drilled extra pegs under each seat to ensure a good bond.

I keep thinking how little progress has been made since some very early pictures were taken, showing seats and knees in place, but the big difference is the deep shine from the many layers of varnish.

One of the remaining steps for the interior is to fix the mahogany strips that will support the foot stretchers. I have epoxied these in readiness. Ensuring they fit well was important, as they need to provide a snug slot for the foot stretcher boards, which  sit across the boat, but also slope back towards the stern. At the same time, the hull also flares outwards. All this added up to mean that every one of the strips had to be shaped individually.

Luckily, Joe took the precaution of numbering them once they were right, so they should fit without any further work...I just don't know whether he numbered them from the stern or the bows. 

I'll guess. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Asymptotic progress

Restricted to short bursts of activity, I have been edging the project along, sanding the multiple layers of varnish on the outer hull in preparation for the final coat and working on a good finish on the seats and the rudder.

After several sessions shaping the oars, I took the plunge and applied the layer of reinforcing fibreglass cloth to the spoons. Immediately, the rich colours of the wood came out, as well as, just as I did the last one, Joe's advice about how I had done it wrong and how to do it properly.

It doesn't look bad, but, yes, I should have wrapped it around... Never mind, I have a cunning plan involving a spider, a bird, a cat, a dog... we may have been here before.

Fibreglass cloth applied with epoxy

Not surprisingly, the last one looked best.

Trimmed and sanded: see the contrast in colour, too.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fun times

Spring, and the rowing season kicks into a new gear. The serious athletes have been training long hours through the winter, but rarely getting into boats because of the conditions.
The long weekend just past gave us a chance to make some real progress on building crews from our respective squads. Joe is looking after the Senior and Intermediate women and, at long last, real continuity from one year to the next means he's able to develop, rather than build from scratch. I have the novices, who are lots of fun and making great improvements.

Which is yet another way of saying that the boat hasn't had a lot of attention for the last few weeks. Not entirely true, though: I have been varnishing, sanding, varnishing...and the results are pretty satisfying.

Rudder, seat back and thwarts
The rudder and the seat back for the coxswain have a thin seal of epoxy: even that makes them look warm and colourful. They'll get a few layers of varnish and take on the slightly deeper hue that you can see on the seats.

The interior is beginning to look very shiny as the layers build up. Probably a light sand, a last coat, and that will be our lot.

The breasthook has always been our special feature and this finish is just gorgeous:

Done with a brush only.

This week, we can drop in the seats and foot stretcher fittings, spin her over and add the last layers of varnish to the hull, then we're done.

Not entirely bad...

(Apart from the oars, that is...)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

‘Hang spring-cleaning!’

It seems that a dog ate Joe's blog, so you are stuck with me once again.

A nasty cold kept me away for a couple two weeks, but I got back to it a recently. Each time I leave the oars, I think they look great: when I come back to them, I can see that more work is required.

I spent a little more time on the rudder, which came up beautifully after a progressive sanding.  I wiped it down with a damp cloth, which gave some idea of what it will look like with a varnish coat:

Stunning colour

The weather is changing, which is important because it means conditions will be better for applying the last coats of varnish.  We have already sprayed several coats on the hull, inside and out, but the finish is uneven and quite disappointing. I have therefore done quite a bit of sanding of the inside of the boat and, when that gets too tedious, I turn to other bits and pieces.

We are planning to put glass fibre on the spoons and part of the looms to add strength, so I experimented with some offcut wood, to see how it all works. The glass fibre cloth moulded very easily to shape and a layer of epoxy fixed it beautifully. Once that layer dried, the weave of the cloth was very obvious, but a light sanding, followed by a layer of varnish, gave a smooth finish and the cloth became almost invisible.
A test piece with glass fibre

I found a series of videos on You Tube, posted by Nick Schade of Guillemot Kayaks: if you want to learn some good stuff about woodworking, he's very, very skilled. He also has all the right tools and they are all sharp! (

I watched Nick applying varnish to his kayaks. With a simple technique, he gets a perfect finish, using a brush. Basically, he goes once with the grain, once across, and then once with again. He keeps to a relatively small area ( a couple or three feet), changes to the other side, repeats and then back to the starting side.

I decided to have a go on our seats, which had previously been sealed with a layer of epoxy. I was thrilled by the result and am wondering whether to abandon the spraying altogether:

No brush strokes here.
Once the first new coat had dried, I sanded very lightly with 240 grit, rubbed over with a kitchen scourer, wiped with a tack cloth (a soft, slightly sticky cloth to pick up the last of the dust) and applied a second coat. Very pleasing.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The seven-year itch

Nothing to do with boat building
Well, we've quietly slipped into our eighth year of this project. I recall laughing at someone else's blog when they had taken over 2 years to complete!

It really doesn't seem that long and, as I have said before, the actual time spent building is probably more or less within the 200 hours that the supplier of the plans and kit predicted.

Image result for pile of wood image

The Kit (saw not provided)

Plenty has happened in the years since we started: Joe's kids have grown up and left home (well, not Harry, obviously). In 2010, my eldest boy, Owen, was in his early days at primary school: he started at High School this year.
I am sorry to say we have both lost our mothers in that time.

Between us, we have won lots of medals as coaches and made a decent contribution of effort and guidance to Wellington Rowing Club. Generally speaking, those who won congratulated themselves, while those who lost blamed the coaches, which is, of course, entirely fair, though Joe and I have observed a spooky correlation between training properly and those medals (probably a coincidence).

I think I can speak for both of us when I say that, despite a vague sense that we ought to finish this project, we are pretty much happy with what we have done and how we have done it. The boat is beautiful and will be finished, but that's not the point: the fun has been in working together, solving problems and learning new skills.

I am looking forward to the next seven years...