Monday, December 31, 2012

Launch day at last for Marisol

Finally made my way to the lake with the new 12 foot canoe "Marisol".  The hull was finished in May so it has been a long wait to get her into the water.  She looks good on the water but I still need to fine tune the rudder and seating.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tankerton and Sandy Point

We launched at Stony point into a 15 knot south westerly and headed for Tankerton testing out my new second reefing point. We arrived just before the high tide and had lunch and a walk around on the island.  The return trip was wet but we made good time and then headed down the coast to Sandy point and back.  Three hours at the helm brings the total to 135 hours.

Friday, December 28, 2012

How far would you go?

We had some Swedish visitors over the Christmas break who were keen to take Beth for a sail.  It was a blustery day so in the interests of good international relations we restricted ourselves to the local lake.  Two hours sailing brings the total to 132 hours.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Back in the saddle

Beth hit the water freshly painted and all the new bits and pieces worked well.  It was a blustery day on the lake but we handled 2 hours of sailing well.  Easy to set up and easy to pack up all the work was worth while.  Two hours sailing brings the total to 130 hours.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Get thee behind me varnish

As much as I like beautiful brightwork on a boat the only time varnish looked good on Beth was on launch day in 2007.  I have opted for a more practical approach second time round using commercial deck oil with all the good stuff like mould retardants, UV protection and a nice colour tint.  The new foredeck should also be a practical addition when I finish the mast gate.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


With my own boat under repair I attended the WBA weekend at Paynesville in my capacity as wooden boat groupie.  And what a weekend it was.  The planned outing for Saturday was a trip out to Sperm Whale Head for a BBQ.  I was lucky enough to hitch a one way ride on "Millie" a 35ft gaff cutter and a return trip on "Penguin", a 60 year old putt putt for the return journey.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fat knees and firm bottoms

I am always surprised when I discover some one has read my blog, but last weeks reader left a comment which made me realise how little I think about an audience.  The question was "why is a stiffer boat better" and "some flex would be a good thing".  That's correct, some flex is a good thing.  A flexible structure will absorb impact loading softening a blow.  My concern, however, is that localised impact loading from the trailer could be delaminating my bottom planks.  A stiffer bottom and more rigid hull will help distribute the impact load across a broader area instead of the immediate impact zone.

Rubbing strips added to plank edges

It kind of makes sense to me and I think it will help my boat deal with rough conditions.  I hope it makes sense to my reader. I don't have an animation prepared, but this is a real simulation from the "MechanicalLaboratory" you tube channel explains torsional stresses better than I can.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Double the Swiss cheese please

After giving the hull a good going over looking for splits and cracks I pulled off the delaminated sections and sanded back to clean wood.  The majority of the time since then I have been wondering what to do.  Having gone this far my quick clean up in time for my traditional November sail has turned to the major refit I have pondering for the last five years.

To fix the delamination I have decided to do away with the split floor bearer and laminate 4mm ply backing planks giving me a 10mm bottom.  I will also add rubbing strips to the plank edges on the outside of the hull extending across the internal floor bearers.  I'm hoping this will help spread the load from any localised forces on the trailer. I will also replace the old 25mm knees with thicker 40mm knees and instead of screwing the pieces together I will try using stainless bolts and spring washers.  I'm hoping this will help me make the boat stiffer and reduce the tendency for the ply to split.

While all this has been going on I have had an extra reef point added to my mainsail and I am thinking of adding a small foredeck just like this one on vivierboats site.  This should also help stiffen the hull as well as keep some of the spray out.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Swiss cheese

So far the boat has been disassembled and the spars cleaned and oiled without problems.  Damage to the centre board has been repaired without major drama and the trailer is in good order.  When I started looking at what I thought were paint cracks in the hull things went pair shaped.  In a classic example of the swiss cheese model a whole range of factors seem to have conspired to delaminate a patch of my 6mm ply hull.

Most of the floor bearers span the width of the bottom except, for obvious reasons, the bearers either side of the centre board trunk.  Floor bearers, epoxy and ply all flex with the load but the weak point is the bond between layers of ply.  What started as a paint crack developed into delamination and accelerated with the ingress of water and sand.

So out come the offending floor bearers.
What was that I said? "I don't want to spend my summer refitting my boat".

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Five year service.

With the start of the sunny weather a couple of weeks ago I was keen to take Beth out round the lake.  When I lifted the covers she didn't look too good.  I have had in the back of my mind I would refurbish the boat after five years but I'm not sure I want to spend the summer refitting my boat.  As a minimum I need to replace all the lines and redo the varnish and take a good look at the centre board which I have had problems with.  I also want to try to increase the volume of flotation and reinforce the bilge and floor section. I think the toughest time Beth has is on the trailer on the road so I want to make sure there are no cracks or splits.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cooking with gas, almost

With the arrival of the sunny weather in recent weeks I discovered that my BBQ has rusted through leaving a hole where there was once material supporting the gas burner.

Oh well, 0.9mm sheet metal won't last forever.  I should just buy a new BBQ every 7 years, right?  The problem is the great advancement in BBQ manufacture in the last 7 years is that now the entire BBQ is made from 0.9mm sheet metal, including the burners!  Luckily, having just completed my welding short course, I am in a position to make my own using ye olde worlde cast iron gas burners left over from the old BBQ.  I wasn't able to make the whole thing from my scrap bin so I had to buy some of the longer lengths.  Whilst distracting my metal merchant with my $30 order I had a good 10 minutes to rummage through his pile of offcuts and found enough shorts to made the cross members.  It is probably 60% scrap material. 

The BBQ has been made in two sections.  The main frame and a separate burner sub-assembly which bolts inside.  I still have to figure out how to fit sheet metal wind guards, drip tray and fit the old hood but so far so good.  It probably isn't and Masterchef approved stainless job with wok burner but it will keep me in wood smoked porchetta for another five years or so.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The birchware keeps coming

One last project to clear out the workshop.  A couple of birch logs stashed under my bench for the last couple of years have been split and carved to add to my life time supply of Swedish butter knives as well as a large spatula  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Welding practice

With my winter clear out program well under way I thought I would do some welding practice with some 3mm plate I have had stashed away.  The sheet was 200mm wide and I thought I would weld a small wood stove.  I cut the sheet with my jigsaw which was surprisingly easy.  Restricted by the size of the material I welded a 200mm square x 600mm box with an exhaust baffle in the ceiling.  The test burn went well enough with air drawing through the fire and up the chimney.  I was happy with the welding but I learnt that if I wanted a portable camp stove 3mm plate is too heavy and if I wanted a wood stove for my workshop 200mm square x 600mm is too small to be practical.  An interesting experiment and another stove will be on the drawing board soon.  This stove went to my local friendly scrap yard in exchange for more materials.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

H.M.S. Recalcitrant

This little project has reminded me why I'm fascinated with sailing.  You would imagine a 12 inch toy boat would be a fairly straight forward project.  Three trial rigs later and some unplanned brass ballast has finally meant I can hand this over to its new 7 year old owner.  The boat should be able to sail in a straight line across a pond and should provide hours of entertainment when video games loose their edge.  In terms of tinkering value for money this project was as good as it gets.  Free materials and hours fine tuning and setup.  Of course the client has naming rights so "Recalcitrant" was only a project name during the trials.  Maybe a French name?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A cedar Japanese toolbox

My bread and butter boat is progressing bit by bit and mostly in the comfort of my lounge room.  In a recent outing to the workshop I pulled out some of the red cedar salvaged from Sydney to try to pick out some boards to make a box to present the boat.  The deal was my friends would help load the wood onto my trailer and I would make something out of it for them.

All the boards were fairly fragile with splits along the grain and I noticed that the larger wider boards had been harder to break up and so had more hammer marks.  What started as two promising boards ended as one sound box top and two fragile sides on the verge of splitting.  I thought the Japanese toolbox design would be ideal because the cleats would double as reinforcing.  I cut the box ends from some straight 19mm hardwood to provide a large gluing surface and some solid rigidity to the box.  The sides were glued to the ends and a ply base glued over the top, again, to provide rigidity.  Left over offcuts were trimmed down to make the cleats and a some trim to cover the ply edges.

I've said it before and I'll say it again but this Japanese tool box design is so clever and simple.  The lid sits inside the box sides and is cut oversized along its length.  The cleats are positioned asymmetrically so that the longer overhang can be placed in first, the opposite end drops in and the lid can be slid across to latch in place.  It has a very satisfying and secure feel without any metal hardware.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

An harmonograph

Ever since my last visit to the MSMEE exhibition, two years ago, I have been wanting to build myself an harmonograph.  Just after that exhibition, two years ago, I was cleaning out my shed and found some old curtain rods which I decided would be perfect for the project and leaned them up beside the doorway instead of throwing them out.  I was keen to build a design that I could pack away neatly so I made the box long enough to store the longest spars.  The gimbals are turned from aluminium and pivots made from M3 allthread.  The paper platform is simply some masonite glued to a wooden block with a hole in the middle so that is sits tightly on the spar.

One of the surprises has been just how much variability there is in the setup and how much tuning is required to get good pictures.

The finished harmonograph

Some of my best works

Gimbal detail from underneath. One set of bottom pivots fitted to the box and the components for the second gimbal ready to go.

Neatly packed away

Hours of entertainment

Whilst researching construction details I came across Wayne Schmidt's multi-topic site.  The site covers everything from kaleidoscopes to electric rocket engines and deserves a nomination to the tinkerers hall of fame.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bread and butter boat

Almost six months ago I had a great idea to make a toy pond yacht from my windfall Sydney cedar.  I have never used "bread and butter" construction method but thought it would be ideal for a toy yacht because it should be fairly quick to carve out a small pilot cutter.  I started with a central board and cut the profile to include the keel and cut three additional boards each side.  It's not exactly to plan but the basic shape is right.

I made a point of keeping the hull length long enough to test buoyancy in the kitchen sink and found the hull floated slightly to one side and the stern sunk right down to the waterline.  I corrected the center of gravity with a 250gram block of cheese and estimated about 25ml of lead would do the job.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


All that time in my workshop sanding, scraping, filling, padding and polishing I kept myself going with one thought.  By golly I'm going to heat this workshop by next winter.  Could my rekindled welding interest be enough to put together a Yukon stove by next winter?  Watch this space.

Can't place the tune on the Collaro Classic radiogram?  
It's an old 78 called "Parkin' in the moonlight" by Maurice Winnick and his band from 1923.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Long time readers might remember an earlier post, last August, where I had dismantled my "Classic" radiogram ready for renovating the finish.  Finishing is not my favourite type of work so it has been sitting in my workshop ever since waiting for my motivational levels to reach a critical threshold.  In the process of building three canoes I have tripped over this lump at least once a week so the time is ripe to GET IT DONE!  I wont be posting about every coat of varnish but hopefully the finished product will be worth showing.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Beating the winter blues

Winter in my workshop is always a struggle.  Cold, damp and early darkness saps my motivation every year.  This winter I have taken up a welding short course at my local technical college.  I have had a long and difficult relationship with my welder.  It started when I was about 16 tinkering with my Dad's and now my ancient arc welder where I eventually managed a barely passable fillet weld in 6mm material.  At one stage in my twenties I worked for a laboratory manager who was a welder by trade who used to give me grief about my lack of welding skill.  More recently I have thought about welding light gauge tubing but haven't been able to manage a good weld.

The revelation came last week with my introduction to the full penetration open rooted butt weld.  Not the sort of thing I would normally Google so it has slipped me by for the last 30 years.  High strength welds start with an open gap between substrate material.  Layer upon layer a weld is built up which joins the substrate across the full cross sectional area.  My construction project is a new stand for my drill press from 3mm angle which I am very happy with.  High voltage power tools and a slag hammer.  I would recommend them to any one struggling through winter.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

One small step ...

Well is only a knock together router table with a lift mechanism made from scrap timber but its a huge leap forward in tinkering technology for my workshop.  The lift mechanism works well and the adjustment mechanism is perfect for fine adjustments.  Any lift or drop to change tools needs to be done with a socket drive in my battery drill because of the slow feed.  I have added two locking screws to make sure the router is secure and stable during operation.  This is probably not required in a conventional lift mechanism precision machined from steel components but with any timber sliding mechanism needs clearance and will therefore be loose.  I had to fork out for flat and spring washers to complete the project so the expenditure crept over the $5 limit.  Other than that it has been made from scrap.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Experimental router lift

Here is some additional photos of my experimental router lift.  The bearing is mounted to the horizontal plate and drives the vertical plate with the diagonal slot in it.  Still working on the router mount.

Experimental router lift.  The router side.

Experimental router lift.  Screw drive side.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Experimental router lift

With my ever expanding collection of timber offcuts one of my priority projects is to make a router table with lifting mechanism.  I have had a number of temporary jigs for my router over the years but since I came across the "" router table design I have been keen to build a more permanent setup.  A couple of evenings with a sketch pad and a free afternoon in the workshop produced this experimental proof of concept setup.  It is basically two sliding plates mounted in a timber frame with a 45 degree slot in one plate and a roller bearing in the other.  As you push and pull one plate horizontally the other plate is driven vertically up and down.  The plan is to bolt the frame to the side of the router table and bolt the router to the vertical plate.  An M6 screw advance should provide 1mm rise per turn and a slot and one or two locking bolts through the plates should provide enough rigidity.

Not sure why my video uploads have the colour cast.  I'll post clearer photos next time.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

One canoe down, two to go.

Canoe number one, Marisol, has left the workshop for extensive "trials".  Heavy, persistent, rain will get her ready for a sunny weekend when I can arrange a launch party.  It's good to have a clear workshop again and I might take a break from canoe building to get some of my smaller projects out of the way.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Back on deck

All this blog and book reading isn't going to get three canoes built.  Luckily I am on the mend and have been able to spend the day in the workshop getting the canoe seat installed and all the lines connected.  The floor, seat and pedals are part of the same assembly and can be completely removed for transport.  At this stage I am just trying to get everything together quickly in the knowledge that I will be changing the details after I have had a chance to try the boat on the water.  One of the questions I have is the ratio of pedal to rudder movement.  The plans show the lines mounted 7 inches from the rudder pivot and 6 inches from the pedal pivot.  This means I don't get much rudder movement from my 4 inch range of foot movement.  I'll be taking my battery drill on launch day to make adjustments if I cant make a tight turn after I push off.

Friday, May 4, 2012

NZ Shed

I've had a couple of days confined to my bunk with a flu.  Luckily, thanks to my NZ supplier, the latest edition of NZ shed mag arrived.  In the "Shed of the month" interview we are introduced to Bruce Alexander from Taranaki. Amongst other exploits Bruce and his father bought a World War II Valentine tank in 1960.  This was the basis of their famous hedge cutter mounted with a 16 foot blade.  The Taranaki locals would line up to see boxthorn and barberry infestations cleared with a 17 tonne tank mounted with cutting arm where the turret once was, powered by a second six cylinder motor.

Now that's the Kiwi spirit!

Check out the website

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I recently came across the ibuildit site and thought it deserved a mention and induction to the Tinkerer's hall of fame.  I was particularly impressed with the router table design and the shop made bandsaw.

Hope you like it

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gudgeons fitted

I don't have a lot of faith in the mechanical strength of brass so I have tried to beef up these fittings as much as is practical.  The plans recommend riveting the gudgeons to the hull but I wanted to be able remove and repair fittings so I have drilled and tapped some 1/4 inch brass rod with a 3/16 whitworth thread and pushed it into a hole through the stern.  The fittings have then been screwed in and seem plenty strong enough.  At this stage I'm keen to push ahead to launch and fine tune the details later.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Polished Pintles

The canoe build plans helpfully note that gudgeons and pintles might be hard to find so the builder should braze them from brass plate.  It has been close to 20 years since I have had to braze anything and back then I had the luxury of a fully equipped workshop with an oxy torch.  I started by bending some 1.6mm cartridge brass around a 3/4inch former so that it would fit snuggly around 3/4 copper pipe.  Initially I tried to use a small portable gas torch to silver solder but to no avail.  It took the propane torch with the 9kg gas bottle to provide the heat.

The gudgeons have the 3/4 copper pipe and the pintles have a turned brass spacer.  The plan is to use allthread to mount the pintle shafts.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A morning sail

My canoe building schedule may be suffering but I can't let this perfect autumn weather go without making the most of it.  A relaxing couple of hours exploring the local lake brings my total at the helm to 128 hours.  The canoe has progressed with both the seat and gudgeons and pintles started. 

Choice engineering video

Great NZ video of the Hamilton Waterjet propulsion system.  I recommend watching it and hope they will repost with a translation or subtitles soon.  Makes me wonder if I can combine a small jet system into a wooden boat?  Another retirement project maybe.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Miracle of miracles

A free day with no commitments!  That doesn't happen often.  The forecast was for 17 degrees and a ten knot breeze dying off through the day.  I decided to try a local boat ramp because I wasn't even sure there would be enough of a breeze to sail.  We were greeted by a gusty onshore 12 knots with wave breaking onto the concrete ramp.  There was no way I was going to launch in that wind with only rocks either side of the ramp.

We headed for Rye and launched into a stiff 12knots breeze heading along the coast for Sorrento.  We stopped for lunch on the beach before Blaregowrie and by the time we headed off the breeze had died down to a   relaxing 10 knots.  We made our way through the couta boat fleet and made Sorrento in about three hours.  We let out the reef and made the return leg in just over an hour.

Three hours at the helm brings the total to 126 hours.