July 5, 2001 - Volume 1, Issue # 4
Winner of the coveted Walsh Award! New Stuff: No boat update yet! Bought a sailboat!

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4/8/01 - The Decision
Click to see a full-sized view A day which will resonate throughout the days remaining in my pathetic life. Today is the day in which I made the decision to build a boat. I made the decision lightly, almost cavalierly, and yet, once made, the decision resulted in a rush of idiotic euphoria that had me feeling good about myself for perhaps a full eight minutes.

This feeling died a horrible death as I contemplated the future home of my nascent marine construction career.

I am a slob of the first order. Nothing is so important that it cannot wait to be done until some unspecified date in the future. You can see that this is so by taking a quick look at the state of my garage.

I once had a neighbor who was a classic type "A" personality. Polished his garage floor, washed his car once a week, spent days upon days working in his yard, the whole bit. My garage drove him nuts. I took special delight in this.

4/9/01 - Choosing the boat
Click to see a full-sized view Today the decision moved from the realm of fantasy to the realm of expensive fantasy. I ordered two items; a set of plans for the Acorn Tender from Wooden Boat and a book by Iain Oughtred called "Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual."

It is my fervent hope that good Iain can guide this foolish amateur from his current state of ineptitude with all things tool-like to at a standard of proficiency sufficient to keep all of my body parts attached.

Aside from my total abhorrence to pain, I'm convinced that one cannot be accepted into heaven unless all of the appendages one was issued at birth can be accounted for.

4/10/01 - Kevin Springs into Action
Click to see a full-sized view "But as this enterprise appeared to me to be one of great magnitude, I waited until I had attained an age so mature as to leave me no hope that at any stage of life more advanced I should be better able to execute my design. On this account, I have delayed so long that I should henceforth consider I was doing wrong were I still to consume in deliberation any of the time that now remains for action."

Rene Descartes, Meditations, 1641

Right, Rene! So today I took action. Check out the great fluorescent light I installed in my garage! Rene would have been proud of me.

4/11/01 - A Slow News Day
Click to see a full-sized view I'm struck by how little boat building is actually going on here. Perhaps just talking and thinking about boat building is quite enough for some people. I don't think it is for me, but I haven't actually built anything yet, have I?

This is my dog, Tucker. He's wearing what is known as a "Buster Collar," meant to keep him from chewing on tender parts. And are his parts tender! He was neutered today, and my heart goes out to him.

I know that the procedure is for the best, but if there's anything that even comes close to describing the meaning of life, it has to be the need for all creatures to have sex, and to procreate, and the fact that Tucker has had that taken from him saddens me. Fortunately he won't hold me responsible for his disfigurement.

Good dog.

4/12/01 - Work Bench Genesis
Click to see a full-sized view Every good boat-wright needs a work bench, so I built myself a nice one. Note the skill with which this particular piece was rendered.

I don't really know what all the fuss is about with this overblown fawning over "skilled craftsmen." Hooey. What's the big deal, anyway? Just go down to the Home Depot, pick up one of those workbench kits in a box, slap it together and there you go. This wood working stuff is easy.

4/13/01 - The Plans Arrive
Click to see a full-sized view Okay, enough of the chit-chat. The plans and the book got here today, and a quick look at the plans was enough to convince me that I need to spend a great deal of time looking them over. There are notes scrawled (very neatly) every which way and it's very likely that if you don't examine every square inch of them, you'll miss something pretty important.

The plans also came with a smeary, poorly executed xerox copy of some construction notes. On the first few pages the copy is skewed to the left so that the first few words of each sentence are somewhere off the page, and I have to imagine what it is that they say. In most instances it's pretty easy, and in the cases where they are not, the book fills in the gaps.

4/13/01 - The Plans Arrive
Click to see a full-sized view Okay, enough study, it's time to go buy some wood. The book talks at great length about the difficulty in finding decent wood, but then cautions you that when you do manage to find some good wood, it's probably cut down in such a way as to kill some rain forest somewhere. I plan to paint the hull white to get that classic look, so the wood for the hull doesn't have to be premium quality wood, but I do plan to have the stem, keel and transom done in mahogany, so it will become an issue.

In any case, I have several days before I get to the point where I have to worry about that. Right now, the building frame and moulds have to be built, so I can get cheap pine boards and plywood for that.

4/14/01 - Building Frame
Click to see a full-sized view The moment in which it is determined whether or not I am allowed by the fates to retain my full complement of fingers has at last arrived. I begin the building frame. Many of the more experienced among you will no doubt skip ahead to the more complex bits, but the novices should take some time to study this part of the project and get it right. That's made even tougher because most of my reading skips over this relatively uninteresting bit, so I had lots of questions about how to do this as I went along, and no real answers anywhere. Unfortunately, as I went along the answers became clear in the work that I ended up having to re-do.

Still, it's important that the thing be square and level, because mistakes made here will be reflected in the final product. I'm taking this on faith, because that's what my reading says. In truth, I'm still struggling to manage a drill and a saw. Here I have one half of the frame completed, and I can assure everyone that the corners are by-God square.

4/15/01 - The Complete Frame
Click to see a full-sized view I don't really have much to add about this except to say that once I got everything screwed together and after checking and re-checking that the damned thing is really square, I took another hard look at the plans and found that I got the after set of legs mounted too far back, so I had to re-do that part of the project.

Now normally I'd just call it a job done well-enough, but it turns out that the frame needs the gap I eliminated to mount the transom mounting boards (don't worry, we'll get there) so I had no choice but to do it right.

If this pesky need for getting things right is an absolute requirement, I'm going to have endless amounts of trouble. Anyway, here's the completed building frame. The astute will notice the couch behind the frame. That's going to the Salvation Army on Wednesday. Apparently they are in dire need of couches, so off it goes.

On to the moulds.

4/16/01 - Marking Lines
Click to see a full-sized view As I read the chapter on laying up lines for plank lands, I came to the conclusion that I'd be lofting and laying up lines for the next two years. Iain Oughtred could not possibly have made the process for doing this more confusing in his book, and the photocopy instructions simply say there is no foolproof way to do it. This was beginning to cause no small amount of panic until I realized (no thanks to any documentation) that I didn't have to do this step because the plans came will full size mould patterns.

I have to say that my confusion resulted not because Iain is an incompetent writer (on the contrary, his book is well-written and engaging.) Rather, it's because he assumes that I already know a great deal about the process, so many details that seem intuitively obvious to him become matters of earth-shattering import to me. At some point I will have achieved a level of familiarity with all things boat, and then I too will exhibit impatience with raw newbies. RTFM, buddy!

So here are nails pounded into the wood marking the outer perimeter of the station 6 mould. When I'm done, I'll wrap a flexible metal strip across the nails and mark the fair line it describes, then cut the board using the resuling lines.

4/17/01 - Moulds partway done
Click to see a full-sized view And here are several moulds already cut. I should point out that I used a jig-saw for cutting the moulds, which was a first for me. The last time I used any kind of saw to cut a line that was supposed to curve around, I was in seventh grade woodshop and I used a coping saw. At this point I have two more moulds to cut, then I will begin adding the spalling and mount the moulds on the building frame.

4/19/01 - Mounting the Moulds
Click to see a full-sized view The moulds are all cut out and now it's time to begin mounting them. The plans call for a 7/8" x 7/8" spalling to mount the moulds, but I was unable to find anything like that, so I first tried 3/4" x 3/4" stock. It seemed a little too wimpy, and as it turned out, I was right. When I put in the screw, the rail split. Time for another trip to Home Depot.

4/19/01 - Mounting the Moulds
Click to see a full-sized view This is more like it. I used 2x2's which are really more line 1 1/2" and these suckers are solid now.

4/19/01 - Mounting the Moulds
Click to see a full-sized view If you sort of half-squint your eyes, the shape of a boat sort of springs to mind, doesn't it? That, or a row of tombstones in a very crowded cemetary. So I've reached my second milestone, the first of which was completing the building frame, and now the possibility to pretend like I was building a boat without spending a whole lot of money comes to an end. Next steps are the stem, transom and hog, all of which will be done with mahogany, if I can manage to find anybody who sells it.

4/25/01 - The Transom Brace
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It's been several days since I have had a chance to work on the boat. Part of the time has been spent scouring the city looking for a source for wood meant for things other than slapping some frames up and hammering fiber board to them, but I finally found a place called The Woodworker's Source in Phoenix. The selection is amazing, but you of course have to have a pretty critical eye to make sure you get what you want.

In the mean time, I put together a contraption meant to hold the transom at the 93 degree angle required by the plans, and amazingly enough, these meet those measurements exactly. Once in a very great while I do something right, but generally I have to do just about everything at least twice before I get it the way I want it.

4/26/01 - Fitting the Transom Boards
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I finally picked up what I considered to be pretty decent mahogany and here I'm testing the fit of the boards to one another. The old adage, "measure twice, cut once" is simply not sufficient for me because I measure the cut of these boards several times and it still looks as if I may have cut them too short, or at least they are so close as to leave no room for error.

I also started putting the stem together, but I'm too ashamed to show the pictures of the effort. You have two ways to go when putting together the stem; you can laminate several thin strips of wood and epoxy to build up the stem with the proper curve, or you can simply cut and glue pieces together to build it up. I chose the latter method, during the execution of which I botched up several pieces of beautiful mahogany so bady that I wanted to cry. I haven't given up on it, but I'm definitely considering other options.

5/9/01 - Okay, the stem
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It's been a while since I posted, and a lot's been done, with puzzlingly little progress to show for it. First I thought I'd give you a peek at my first attempt at a stem pieced together from parts. This approach was really hard to make work for an amateur-amateur because of the tricky mating surfaces. Had I cut the entire stem from boards glued at a 90 degree angle I think I could have made it work, but I chose instead to go with what one would think is the more difficult approach, a laminated stem.

5/16/01 - A Laminated Stem
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This picture shows the laminated stem I made, along with the outer stem that I'm laying up using the inner stem as a form. To make the stem I glued two 36 inch long 1x4 planks face to face. I then used a table saw to cut 3/32" wide strips. I then taped the plans to a sheet of plywood and screwed some pine 2x2 blocks to the sheet along the line of the stem. I slopped epoxy on each face of all of the strips and pulled them around the blocks and applied a shit-pot full of clamps. The book says that this process is messy, and they are absolutely correct. Gloves, while difficult to do any work in, are highly recommend, otherwise your hands will be absolutely coated in epoxy.

5/21/01 - The Transom
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I've glued up the planks for the transom and done a cursory shaping and planing, and now I'm testing for fit and fairness. I first cut the transom using the fair curve lines from the plans, neglecting the teeny-tiny little note that says to cut the transom to the inside facing of the planks and not the lines. To fix it I had to cut off the bottom of the transom, glue a new plank and cut it.

5/27/01 - A Leap of Faith
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I've spent what seems like days and days measuring and eyeballing the lines of the hog, which is a 2" wide piece of mahogany the forms the backbone of the boat. This was one piece but to get it to form to the curve of the bottom I actually cut it into two 2" X 3/8" pieces, which I am gluing back together now. Up to this point I could if need be backtrack a few steps if I screw something up, but now I'm at the point where this becomes much more difficult.

5/27/01 - A Leap of Faith Continued
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Here I'm gluing the stem that took hours and hours more and buckets of epoxy more than should have been used, so I'm naturally nervous about the whole thing.

7/2/01 - I'm Back!
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It's been an awful long time since I have had a chance to work on the boat, but I'm back and I have a new tool; a spokeshave. I finally had to order one of these babies on-line (Amazon.com of all places!) because none of the local wood shops had any, and the ones that would order one for me applied a damned hefty markup.

Anyway, once I got a spokeshave, I was able to attack the globs of epoxy left over the outer stem, and here is a nice little picture of it. It's amazing how much more efficient this tool is than a block plane for many jobs like this.b

7/4/01 - Happy Birthday!
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Happy birthday to you -
Happy birthday to you -
Happy birthday dear USA-A -
Happy birthday to you!!!!

7/7/01 - Making Patterns
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It's now time to make a pattern of the first plank, also known as the garboard strake. This will serve as both a bullet proof way to cut both sides accurately, but it also allows me to test the fairing job I've done on the keelson, stem and transom.

Here is the transom being tested with the pattern. I'm not too pleased with the picture because it doesn't show very well the angle at which the strake landing places on the transom had to be cut. It's kind of nerve-wracking chiseling away at this expensive lumber, but I'm getting used to it.

7/4/01 - Pattern in Place
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Okay, now I'm as happy as I'm going to get with the fairing job. I am nowhere near the level of craftsmanship that I would like to accomplish, but I am certain that it's as good as I can make it given my current skill level. My son Sean keeps asking me if it will float. At this point in the project, that's hardly a measure for success.

10/28/01 - Placing the garboard strake
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It's been a while since I did any real work on the boat. That's partly due to the unavailability of suitable marine grade lumber in Phoenix, if you can imagine that. I finally broke down and ordered four sheets of very nice marine grade, 1/4" okoume, which arrived yesterday so now I have no excuses any more. Here I've placed the garboard strake and glued it up. I'm using brass wood screws to hold the strake in place while the epoxy sets up. They'll be removed and the holes filled when the time is right.

10/29/01 - Placing the second garboard strake
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I apparently didn't measure something right, or something wasn't quite fair, but after setting the second garboard, you can see that there is a pretty large gap down the center line. I know I'll be able to work around the gap later, but I'm worried about the effect of the strakes being to low and throwing off the alignment of subsequent strakes.

11/02/01 - Cutting the rebate
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In order for the next plank to lie properly at the stem, you have to chisel away a channel, or rebate for the plank to land on. I was actually dreading this, but it went pretty well.

11/02/01 - Making clamps
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The number of clamps needed to hold the second plank is somewhat daunting, not to mention expensive if you choose to buy them. Naturally, I, being a cheap bastard, fished about for some other way. Here I'm making some twenty or so plywood clamps and wedges from really cheap, nasty plywood. I figure they cost about 2 bucks to make. My kind of tools.

11/03/01 - Placing the next plank
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Now it's time to see if my measuring and planing worked. You have to put a bevel along the edge of the preceding plank (in addition to the rebate) to allow the plank to be well and truly glued. This helps to avoid the embarrassing condition in which you have a beautiful hand made craft that immediately sinks upon being placed in the water.

11/04/01 - Plank, plank, plank
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Okay, I'm boogeying now. My work is beginning to fall into a predictable sequence that goes like this: Cut the pattern. Fair the pattern. Place the pattern. Note that the pattern is all screwed up. Re-cut the pattern. Place the pattern. Accept the pattern for what it is. Say to hell with it and get a coffee. Cut the plank from the pattern. Plane, plane, plane. Glue the pattern. Accept the plank for what it is. Cut the pattern...

11/09/01 - If you half-squint your eyes...
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Hey, am I hallucinating, or is this actually beginning to look somewhat boat-like?

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