04 January 2010

Scary Dreams

I had a nightmare last night. Not about 60 foot breaking waves in the Gulf of Mexico. Not about being dashed on rocks, or falling overboard. No, I was worried about my lofting.

I woke up in a cold sweat, realizing that the chance were zero that a batten, run from Cabin Boy's stem to his transom, would show a fair line. I mean, how could the stem, the 4 forms, and the transom all line up perfectly, so that a plank, when pressed around that curve, would touch all 6 points at the same time?

Impossible. I would have had to do a perfect job of lofting -- and I knew I hadn't done that. And I would have had to build all the forms exactly right, and mounted them, again, exactly right. And then my jury-rigged stem and transom jigs would  have to be perfect.

Not a chance. The batten would probably have more bump and bends than the Long Island Expressway. My project was doomed.

So first thing this morning, I dragged Helena down to the basement workshop to give it a try. At least I'd have a shoulder to cry on.

Here's what I found:

Running a fairing batten around Cabin Boy's lines
photo jalmberg

All that praying I did last night must have paid off, because that batten went around Cabin Boy like a dream. Smooth as glass, and touching every edge.

So, it looks like this boat might float, after all.

This Day 15 was 'work on the chine pieces' day. A 'chine' is a sharp turn in the bottom of a boat. Like where Cabin Boy's bottom meets the side -- right where the batten is in the photo above.

Like all flat-bottom boats, Cabin Boy has a chine piece on each side that stiffens the boat, and helps strengthen the bottom-to-side joint. It's a 8 foot long piece of white oak, and it needs to be 'let into' the forms, the same way that the keelson was, and for the same reason. The chines are on the 'inside' of the boat. The bottom and side planking needs to go over them, so they need to be 'let into' the inside side of the boat.

I cut the first chine out of a long plank of oak:

Chine Piece
photo jalmberg

Then I needed to plane one edge straight. Actually, I probably didn't need to plane it, but I wanted to try out my new hand-cranked grinder, that Mark from the Old Tools list was kind enough to sell to me.

I'd been looking for one of these for my toolbox, but woodworkers must hoard the good ones, because I couldn't find one that didn't wobble like a drunken sailor. The one Mark sold me was a beaut, and I had a great time putting a hollow grind into the blade of my big smoothing plane, which I bought several months ago, but hadn't been able to sharpen without a grinder.

My new hand sharpener... love at first grind...
photo jalmberg

Actually, I practiced on a cheap plastic chisel first, for a good long time. It's not as easy as it looks to crank the grinder with one hand and manage the blade with the other. But after turning a cheap plastic chisel into a cheap plastic butt chisel, I thought I was good enough to sharpen my lovely English plane blade.

And, I have to say, grinder worked great, so after honing the blade on an oil stone, I was finally able to use my long wooden plane.

I used it to take the 'bumps' out of the edge of the chine piece. Because the plane is so long, it rides on top of the bumps and you have to take the tops of them off, a little at a time. I worked up a good sweat doing it, which really impressed Helena.

Using a long plane to make a long board perfectly straight (and smooth)
photo jalmberg

Cutting and shaping the first chine piece was the easy part. Tomorrow, I need to 'let it into' the forms. That's going to be a tough job -- particularly at the stem. There was no way I was going to finish that tonight, so I'll start on it fresh, tomorrow.

And tomorrow, I'll only have 2 weeks left. Lots of work, but the most fun I've had in a long, long time.

I'll say it again, if I can do this, anyone can, so buy some plans from Pat Atkin and make some saw dust!

>>> Next Episode: Chine Logs - Part 1

Get Notified Automatically

I hope you're enjoying "The Unlikely Boat Builder" as much as I enjoy writing it. Some people have asked for a way to be notified automatically when I post new episodes. I've figured out how to do this, so if you'd like to be notified, please click on the link below. I promise I'll never spam you (and Google will have my head if I do.)

Thanks for your interest!

-- John


  1. Spotted your post at cruisersforum - touched a note, as, funnily enough, I keep having silly nightmares about my very own refit ;)


I'd love to hear from you. Please comment!