Friday, August 18, 2017

"When our backs are to the wall, we'll turn and fight"

One of my previous errors, several years ago, was starting the project in the first place.

Another one was cutting the timber for the cox's seat back a bit too short. One of the pleasures of working with wood, however, is that such mistakes can be rectified with ease, or glue.

We have a bit of a theme going with mahogany: the ends of the foot stretchers, the breasthook, the rudder yoke and the oars all have what we can pretentiously claim to be 'detailing' (thanks, Kevin McLeod) using the left overs from the thick length we bought to make the transom.

It therefore made sense to stick a couple of bits onto the otherwise-too-short piece of Fijian kauri. While I was at it, I also added a mahogany edge, top and bottom.

The added extras

I even remembered the early lesson we got that you cannot have too many clamps.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

It's all Joe's fault....

The oars remain the big hurdle between us and the Waikato: more about them later.

In the last week, I have sorted out the seat fixing, built a seat back for the cox's seat (worth a little blog on its own) and shaped the knees that will further strengthen the seats.

As well as the oars, what remains to be done is:
  • Fitting the slots for the foot stretcher
  • Varnishing for the final time
  • Gluing the seats and knees in place
  • Fitting the rudder.
The last on the list, annoyingly, caused a hiccup. OK, a cockup. The rudder was complete and I had finished the yoke, even adding eyelets for the rudder lines:
The yoke aren't white
Eyelets in Gaza

Unfortunately, I then had one of those moments of idiocy which, looking back, some may think have been a feature of my building methods. In most cases, Joe was there to avert disaster with his sage advice:

"You don't want to do it like that"

However, he's away, so therefore entirely to blame for my fitting the brackets on the rudder in the wrong place. I hadn't checked where the pintles needed to go to fit on the transom.The brackets were too far down on the rudder.

A badly drawn pintle
Image result for boat pintle rudder image
Rudder pintle

Two pintos

Guess what?
The necessary drilling and gouging to fit the brackets meant that the rudder was spoilt. Any repair would have been a botched effort and, although that may be what I specialise in, I decided to make a whole new one.Well, two so far, because my first effort was made up of scraps of ply and was heading to be a mess. I decided to buy some nice, clean ply and start from scratch.

Image result for plywood images
Can you guess what it is yet?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Problem Solving

I have been puzzling over how best to fix the seats in place. Aside from their obvious purpose, they are important as braces for the overall rigidity of the boat. One option would have been to bolt them in place, but I was reluctant to do so because the seats look so nice without any fittings to spoil the lines (see the pictures below). We will, of course, fit the knees in place on top of the seats, but they too should not have any visible fastenings.

The rowing seats in place
In the end, I opted for dowel pegs drilled into the underside of the seats and into the supporting cleats. I came across a handy little gadget to ensure that the holes were exactly aligned: a little metal stud with a very sharp point that fits into the first hole drilled, so that, when the seat is laid on top, it gives a neat and precise reference mark for the second drilling. Neat and simple.

Marker studs
Dowel peg in place

 The seats then dropped into place, once I had hit them with Harry's rubber mallet:

The bow seat, fixed with the pegs, but not yet glued (the knees, as you might expect, are below the seat).

With knees...

All 3 seats fitted

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Back by popular demand

This may just have been our longest gap yet, but the flame burnt, albeit dimly...

I have just completed a contract that lasted 14 months: being currently between opportunities, I have a bit of time to revive the project. Joe is away in the UK sourcing leathers and pintles, or maybe dressing in leather and sinking pints, at least one of which is popular in Brighton. He'd better come back with the goods. However, I made a promise to myself that I would get this damn thing done this year (yes, the same promise I made for the last three years) and so I took the plunge.

The frustration of the last couple of years has been the knowledge that we are really, really close to completion. On Monday morning, I decided to roll up my sleeves and crack on, with a clear plan of attack, no distractions, no interruptions: I was going to get the seats in place.

I opened the workshop (garage), to find that Harry had claimed part of his inheritance - half the garage - and has spread all the bits of a Kawasaki around. Never mind, the company is good and sawdust is the best finish for engine parts.

A couple of hours passed after which I had found most of the tools I needed. A while later, I had made some elegant and entirely redundant braces to support the rudder yoke. These, when in place, didn't match, so I made some more, but much quicker since I had been through the steep learning curve on the first attempt.

The rudder, with pointless braces.

Cynics might suggest that this inability to stay on task is at the root of our problem. I would respond, but something bright and sparkly just flitted across my field of vision.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Downhill all the way

The weekend before last, I raced for the first time for almost two years, at the Royal Hamilton International Duck Pond Regatta For Old Gits.There's an added frisson at this one, because there's always the possibility of a coronary or maybe a slower demise from poisoning.

You can't say they don't warn you
Happily, I survived and also managed to enjoy the races. It's particularly nice to race with people whom one has coached...especially because they are usually fitter and capable of dragging me down the course.

In the meantime, Joe was busy collecting medals with the Victoria University rowers.

Back home, and time to crack on with the oars. They are conceptually easy enough, but really very difficult to get right and a lot of patience is required so they all look the same. Here they are after many hours of hand-sanding:

It occurs to me that our elegant mahogany stripes on the spoons have condemned us to pursuing a far greater standard of finish: if we hadn't added that detail, a layer of paint could have been used to cover any blemishes. (I seem to remember that was Joe's preferred approach for the whole boat).
They look almost done, but there's still a while to go on the sanding, then they need to be varnished and a layer of glass fibre/silk applied to the spoons. We also need to put leather sleeves and buttons on them.

In the meantime, I have also put several coats of varnish on the hull. I forgot, however, that you can have too much pressure, as well as too little. The excessive airflow meant that the varnish didn't really take, so I ended up spraying several more coats than should have been necessary.

I hope our falerist will eventually come to the rescue...

A deeper gloss beginning to show

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Back again?

Another hiatus...sorry.

Joe and I have been flat out with our coaching commitments since the end of last year: a training camp in December, followed by the Cambridge Town Cup (probably the biggest club regatta in New Zealand), the North Island Championships and then, finishing on Saturday, the Nationals.

The good news is that we did very well at all of them: apart from two, who suffered a stroke of bad luck - or, rather, missed a stroke - everyone in our squad won at least one medal at the North Island Champs. For me, this was possibly the best day the club as a whole has had for many years

Wellington Rowing Club at the North Island Championships
We did well at the Nationals, too, and Joe excelled, winning Gold, two Silvers and a load of Bronzes. He took it in his stride, modesty and understatement being his watchwords:

Bloody showoff

His success was the result of enormous dedication over the year and beyond: well deserved, indeed.

I suppose, now, we shall have to get that boat finished....

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Spines and handles

I am discovering that Joe is spooked by things that work off electricity. He is very wary of the bench saw (I am rather with him on this, because it is a scary beast). But he also believes that orbital sanders are the work of the devil and the router a thing with a malevolent mind of its own. Witchcraft is behind these machines...

"Someone's using a Black and Decker Orbital round here"
We now have all four oars at different stages of completion. The first one has been the guinea pig and has taken about 10 hours to get close to the final shape, but we are confident that what we have learnt along the way will mean that the others are much quicker to produce. The others are following behind nicely.

The trick is to wait until Joe goes off to send smoke signals to people, then get to work with the power tools.

The router helped, so did a sanding disc attached to an angle grinder, as I mentioned before. A lot of wood had to be removed to get from this:

to this:

Nearly there: not bad for a first try? Instruments of the devil in the background.
A big challenge was shaping the central ridge or spine that appears to splice into the spoon from the loom. The answer was much patience and many iterations. Compared to that, the handle is quite straightforward:

Shaping the handle, using a milk bottle top as a template
There is still a huge amount of shaping, sanding and planing, but we can see that the results will be worth it.