Archive for February, 2011

And what a fantastic misadventure it was. I imagine some launchings must be accompanied by fireworks, cheering, and brightly colored streamers. This was not one of them.

We have been working to finish it with the idea of going paddling this weeknd and there were points where I thought we wouldn’t make it. We put the final coat of paint on the gunwales a few days ago and I bought the webbing for the seat yesterday. We got up this morning and Emily got started on the seat, which is webbing wrapped around the frame and woven on both the top and bottom. Its the same method I used for Abigail and it proved both inexpensive and effective. We installed the seat, and this is where things got more interesting.

Today was the first time I had put this long of a boat on top of my car, and the shortcomings of having crossbars that don’t adjust forward and back became evident pretty quickly. We got the boat strapped on, started driving and all seemed well. About a half mile from my place we got on the freeway. Emily said something about the boat moving. At first I thought she meant just the slight wiggle in the bow, but then there was another gust of wind, and the bow started waving back and forth through about a 3 or 4 inch arc. Not good. So we pulled over and Emily did her best to try and fix it or at least make it better. She did her best but it became evident quickly that, though the boat was not going to fall off the car, that it was also not strapped on well enough, particularly with how windy it was getting. We pulled off at the next exit and decided on an alternate launch location.

I slowly picked my way on smaller surface streets, still feeling a bit trepidatious with how the boat was strapped on, to a park under the Sellwood bridge. We had decided at this point not to try and go out for a full paddle together, given the rain and wind, but that we would still take Gertie out for her launch and a quick test. We took her down to the dock and Emily got in first. I quickly noticed that though the stern sits nicely in the water, the front foot of the bottom of the boat at the bow was not submerged. She also seemed to be struggling to keep it pointed up into the wind on the way back. I got in next. I could tell from inside the boat that the bow portion of the bottom was not in the water for me either. It also does not seem particularly fast, though I expected that. It is also a bit funny to propel such a wide boat with a double paddle. The strangest thing came when I started turning it around to face back into the wind and head back to the dock. A gust of wind came up midway into the turn and the boat tried to turn back to my original direction. Well, I stuggled with it a bit and got the boat pointed where I wanted it and returned to the dock.

All told, I would consider today a success. Gertie was launched, at the end of the day nothing was broken, and everyone was still smiling. Launching her today also completed one of my new years resolutions, which was to have her done within the first two months of the year. All that being said, today could also be considered a learning experience. First of all, something needs to be done about the rack setup. Just because the boat is not going to fall off the car doesn’t mean it is strapped on securely. A far better setup would be needed on my car to securely strap a 15 foot boat to the top of it. Secondly, Emily and I both agreed that the seat of Gertie is too far back, but that the frame also happens to be in the way of positioning it where I think it should probably go. My theory is that the boat will be far better behaved with a certain amount of camping gear in it, and with most of that gear in the front.

I will post more observations about her various virtues and shortcomings after we have had a chance to properly test her out. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of Emily working to keep the boat pointed into the wind.


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I found a fun spot to paddle around over the weekend. I parked and launched at the Bernert Landing in Willamette, Oregon, just south of West Linn and Oregon City on the west side of the Willamette river. There were two docks at the landing, so I chose to launch off of the one that sat lower to the water. It was a little over a mile of paddling into the current and the wind to reach some islands I wanted to check out.

As the islands were starting I took what looked like the middle left passage between them. The channel was flanked on each side by hilly islands with fir trees, small oak trees and madrone. There were also patches of moss and grass on rocky parts of the islands. As I got further up the channel the larger islands I had been between gave way to rocky shores and smaller rocky islands with small passages between them. They were fun to explore though I had to be careful. In many spots the passages were shallow and rocks would loom under the surface in front of me. Many of the gaps were simply too shallow to go through, even with how shallow the draft of my canoe is. After winding my way south through a variety of different passages, I reached a place where I could go no further.  I turned around and made my way back through the passages.

After exiting that system of passages, I worked my way up current the main channel for a while. The current in that part of the river was swift, but I reached a spot which was about even with where I had been among the islands. I worked my way back down river in the far right channel, which was very calm and pleasant and headed back to the docks. It was a fun little trip, and I will be interested to go back when the trees have leaves again.

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Joseph has almost all of the staples removed, and has added thickened epoxy to the seams and staple holes. There are only a few staples left, and it should only take one or two more applications of thickened epoxy to be able to begin sanding down the deck.

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Joseph and I glued the deck of his kayak together over the weekend. He had beveled the deck pieces as needed and wired them in place over the weekend. Before gluing, we taped the deck to the hull to make sure they will match up well when the deck is fully glued. We used syringes to get the epoxy into the seams. There will be additional layers of thickened epoxy used to completely fill the seams.

One thing Joseph found was that he probably should not have beveled the triangular piece that sits right behind the cockpit as much. The extra space created by the bevel meant that the central deck pieces were not long enough to sit snugly against the deck side panels where the four panels meet in the stern while also fitting snugly against the triangular piece. The gaps are not particularly noticable, but it might be something to watch for if we build another.

Joseph used some tacks to keep the central panels flush with the side panel of the deck:

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I feel like this justifies a mid-week update. Almost all of the deck of the Pygmy Coho is now stitched together. Could it be epoxied together by the end of the weekend? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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On Saturday we began the heat treating process on the blades we shaped out two weeks ago.  When I arrived the electric furnace was already on and the first batch of tools was already inside. Here is the process we are using to heat treat the blades. This is the process Randy came up with after his research into the subject, and by his own admissions, parts of the process are not ideal for all blade types, but they represent a good middle ground for the blades we made and considering that we are using 01 tool steel.

Our blades were first heated to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit in the furnace. To make sure the blades were hot enough, a magnet was used. When the steel is hot enough, the magnet will not be attracted to it. The blades were taken out of the furnace one at a time using tongs and they were quenched in peanut oil. I am not sure why peanut oil specifically, but that is what we used. When quenching the metal, we were conscientious about getting the entire blade submerged quickly. If the blade is not submerged quickly, the oil around the blade will be heated to a high temperature and the metal which has not been submerged can ignite it.  For obvious reasons, this is not considered desirable. After the blade had been cooled quickly in the oil, making it very hard, the blade would be quickly toweled off and put into a toaster oven set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit to temper it.

The hardening makes the blade hard enough that the edges of the tools would be brittle. By heating them to 350 we changed the crystal make up of the metal, resulting in much tougher and more durable tools. Randy said 300 degrees would likely a better temperature to heat the skew chisels to considering that they are not designed to be used with mallets,  and that 400 might be better for the marking knife, but that 350 would be a nice compromise within the context of the class.

The previously described steps were completed in the class on Saturday. We were instructed to heat them again to around 300-325 for an hour or two to further refine the temper. The final stage for tempering process will be a cryogenic temper. That stage will occur in two weeks during the plane making class, where we will cool the blades in kerosene cooled with dry ice for 24 hours. Don’t ask me what the chemical changes are that occur, but it sounds pretty neat and should help us end up with some really nice hand made tools.

Here John and Jim are removing tools from the furnace and quenching them in the pot of peanut oil you can see at the bottom of the photo:Here are my blades after a little clean up. I have relieved both sides of the skew chisel here and tapered the tang to it into the handles I will be making:

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Progress continued on both of the boats under way in the garage over last week and during the weekend. We now have two coats of paint on the interior of Emily’s boat, with one left to go. All we have left to do on that boat after the last interior coat is to paint the trim. Joseph now has all the deck pieces glued lengthwise and he assembled the deck with tape to lay out the wire stitch holes. Its fun to start seeing more of what the final boat will look like.

Here are some pictures from the weekend. As many of you will agree, boat building should be a fun process:

But sometimes you really have to concentrate:

Here is Joseph laying out the position of stitch holes:

Here is a better view of his boat as it looks at the moment:

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