I say practically indispensable, because I did indeed dispense with my bandsaw when cutting Cabin Boy's planks, for a variety of reasons.
And lately, my bandsaw and I have not been on speaking terms. Maybe it was me dissing it in a public forum, or maybe the poor machine was just getting old, or maybe I just didn't know how to use it, but, bottom line, it would not cut a straight line. No matter how carefully I tried to guide it, it would veer off at an angle, usually ruining whatever piece I was working on.
Eventually, in frustration, I banned the former Pride of the Fleet to a dark corner of my shop, until it repented the error of its ways.
Then I started my wooden block project.
Now, making wooden blocks is pretty complicated, as we shall see, but I was making good progress with a Japanese pullsaw that made beautiful cuts exactly where I wanted them.
But a little voice kept nagging at me, saying, "Wow, this would be a whole lot easier with a bandsaw!"
I decided to give old Buff one more chance.
|Cutting Cabin Boy's Transom, on a happier day, long ago|
After moving it to my work bench, I tried a few test cuts on scraps of 3/4" maple.
Once again, it made crooked cuts, bogged down, and even burned the wood, producing clouds of smoke.
"What a piece of junk," I thought.
Then I had another thought... what if?
I'd had a whole year's experience with woodworking since banning my bandsaw. That included lots of experience with dull tools. Could it be that simple?
Since the Buffalo uses an odd-size blade, I'd had to buy replacements from a shop that made them up special. It was such a hassle that I'd bought 3 of them, just in case I had to replace the first one.
Just in case...
I stripped off the old blade, replaced it with a brand new one, adjusted the tension, and tried another test cut.
This time, the old workhorse cut through that maple like it was made of butter. No smoking, no bogging down, no crooked, veering cuts.
That's when the title for this week's blog popped into my head: The Department of 'Duh!'. Did I think bandsaw blades were immortal? What was I thinking?
It just proves that some lessons are worth learning over and over again. In this case: It's a poor worker who blames his tools.
So old Buff is back on his pedestal: Pride of the UnlikelyBoatBuilder's Power Tool Fleet, once again.
I'm on a mission to upgrade the Blue Moon's running rigging with stout, salty-looking gear. As I have time and money, I'm replacing yacht braid with 3-strand, and plastic blocks with lovely wooden ones.
That's the vision, anyway. I'd never made a wooden block, but I was ready to try.
I used as my guide, Derek Water's tutorial on Duckworks.com. I won't repeat the tutorial here, but will talk about troubles I ran into, and one significant addition I made.
I started with the sheaves, because they seemed to be the most difficult bit.
As Derek suggests, I cut out the blanks using my drill press and the best hole cutter I could buy at my local Big Box -- a Milwalkee.
It turned out beautifully machined blanks. Unfortunately, the pilot drill was only 1/4" and I needed a 3/8" hole for the axle. Even with a drill press, my first attempt to expand the axle hole ended up slightly off-center. I eventually mastered the trick, but have ordered a 3/8" drill bit with 1/4" shaft, so I can drill the right size pilot hole at the same time I make the blank.
It was much easier, and more fun, to cut the groove in the sheave. As Derek suggests in his tutorial, I turned the sheave with my drill press and cut the groove with a Microplane rasp. It took less time to do it than to explain it.
|Sheaves: generations 1-4|
|Glued up stock for 10 blocks|
It took me several tries to get these spacers right. In fact, they were so hard to make that I stopped long enough to get old Buff working again.
In the end, I cut them a bit over-sized in the bandsaw, then clamped them together, and planed them to the right size as a unit. That way, they both ended up the same size.
|Making an even set of spacers|
First, I used the bandsaw, freehand, to trim off the edges.
|One blank, sawed off from the mother ship,|
edges trimmed off
I'm sure there's a scientific way to do this, but I just did it by eye. It wasn't hard.
|Smoothing corners; cutting grooves|
|Linseed Oil Soak|
|Liberally oiled block|
|Pieces of Block before Assembly|
It took me several tries to get the seizing right. The trick, as I learned from experienced block makers on Wooden Boat Forum, is to seize the block and thimble in the strop under a full working load. This takes any stretch out of the strop so the block doesn't pop out at midnight in the middle of a gale.
I put tension on the strop by stretching it as tight as I could between two trees, using another block and tackle. I had at least a few hundred pounds of tension on it.
You wouldn't think you'd be able to draw the two parts of the strop together with a bit of waxed twine, but it was fairly easy. I wound the seizing twine on a primitive shuttle (laying on ground in photo below.) The shuttle made it easier to make all the wraps, and allowed me to haul the racking turns good and tight.
The strop ends up hard as a rock.
|Seizing under pressure|
But that's for another day. For now, I'm going to say 'good enough'!
|(almost) finished block|
Or, I could just make a new one!
Which just goes to show, if you're smart enough to change your bandsaw blade on a regular basis, you're probably smart enough to make a rope-stropped block.
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