Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

Inevitably, I’ve been distracted. Before getting down to business, allow me to illustrate why, and perhaps justify in part why I have been so tardy in sharing any progress on the Shearwater.

Back in early April, I became the lead instructor for the Wind and Oar Boat School. With that increase in responsibility came a decrease in personal boat building time. Check out a brief glimpse at what some of my classes have involved:

Building models with a group of middle school students at Cascade Heights Public Charter School. Don’t worry, it wasn’t all fun and games. Among other things I had them do a displacement estimate on an existing design for a sail and oar boat. I thought that was fun.20140704-185705-68225749.jpg

I had the pleasure of helping my high school students from Merlo High School finish an Arch Davis designed Penobscot 13:


Fitting the oarlock sockets. 20140704-185837-68317437.jpg

Shaping the tiller.


Post launch.

Somewhere in there a lovely Bevin’s Skiff was built by a group of students from Southwest Charter School:20140704-185704-68224940.jpg

Currently I am working with a group of students at Jackson Middle School building another Bevin’s Skiff, and below are a few glimpses of the Arch Davis designed Sand Dollar being built by SEI students at ADX.
20140704-185839-68319817.jpg 20140721-225011-82211934.jpgSomehow, after teaching boat building to my students each day, I still enjoy going home to work on my own boat. At times, there has been less time left over than I would like, but considerable progress has certainly been made since my last update.

After the last update, the next pair of planks were patterned, scarfed and mounted. I got most of a final plank out of the 16 foot sheet previously scarfed, but the rest of the planks were scarfed together out of three pieces each to conserve plywood.

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After another round of beveling, the sheer strakes were finally patterned, scarfed, cut and mounted.



With planking completed, my short-lived tiny plywood cathedral was complete.20140704-183733-67053449.jpg20140704-183734-67054309.jpgBefore the boat could be flipped over, the external keel,stem and sternpost were pieced together, fitted, shaped and mounted.20140704-183604-66964473.jpg20140704-183605-66965272.jpg

Finally, after many months of waiting, the boat was flipped over. The stem and sternpost were left quite long. They continue to be quite flamboyant in a viking-esque sort of way.






With the boat upright, a variety of projects were started. Among the first was a complete redesign of the centerboard.

[Warning: the next section may be best reserved for only the nerdiest among you.] From my first look at the plans, I didn’t like the shape of the centerboard. It was a low aspect ratio wedge, and looked impossibly difficult to put a good foil shape on. Perhaps I should have kept in mind the thought another Shearwater builder shared with me, suggesting that the boat is quite tender and a sail rig would only be reasonable as a downwind rig. This idea would suggest I should have left well enough alone and not worried about upwind efficiency or doing my best to shape the board into a NACA 0012 foil shape. I suppose I must be stubborn or something, because I ignored those ideas. I embarked on a geometric journey far beyond what I ever expected. Who knew the geometry of a centerboard was so complicated? The brief explanation of the process is that I estimated the location of the center of lateral effort of the current centerboard (just the board, not the whole boat), and used this boat as the starting point of a new board. The length of the new board was limited by the location of the central frame, and the length limitations on the board helped dictate the width of the board, as my goal was to design the new board to have a similar area to the old design (theoretically, since it has a higher aspect ratio than the old design, it could be a bit smaller. I might have ended up making it a bit smaller, but not by more than 10%).

The board is built up of several long pieces of clear fir epoxied together. I worked to achieve a NACA 0012 foil section, and have subsequently fiberglassed it and filled the weave with epoxy thickened with graphite powder. In addition to being efficient it should be nearly bomb proof.




20140704-184252-67372361.jpgAt some point work began on the spruce oars. Though I have picked at this project and they are a bit further along now than is shown below, they have not been a top priority. Their design is a combination of the design provided on the plans for the Shearwater and the shape of the Pete Culler oars described in Wooden Boat Magazine, issue 71.20140704-184249-67369981.jpg

Ah yes, back to the boat itself. The gunwales. The lower edge is cut to rise at a 20 degree bevel instead of being cut to a rectangular cross section. They also taper down in both their height and width as they reach the bow and stern. Gluing them on was an all clamps on deck sort of occasion.


To further stabilize the shape and departing from the plans, I decided to add breasthooks in each end. The pieces were glued together with 10 degrees of camber. The centerboard trunk and also 20140704-184750-67670958.jpg


The light used to highlight gaps between the breasthooks and sheer planks also create wonderfully dramatic ambiance to work in. I highly recomend it.20140704-185156-67916139.jpg


The mast step goes together in an example of “how many clamps can you fit in a small space?” The mast step also supports the sides and back of a mast trunk because the mast will be stepped through the deck of the forward watertight compartment.20140704-185157-67917041.jpg

Oh look, my trailer is here! 4 boxes, with one more to come. Some assembly required. I decided to bite the bullet and get a brand new SUT-250-S from Trailex. Included in this decision were the fact that the lightweight trailer would put less stress on my car, it would be better suited to carrying a lightweight boat, and whenever I end up selling the boat it may increase resale value. I thought about trying to get a used trailer, but the thought of dealing with repacking bearings or perhaps dealing with old wiring seemed like concerns I didn’t want the hassle of dealing with.20140704-185157-67917901.jpg

The bulkheads getting fitted along with deck framing. I decided to go with fairly large rectangular hatches to improve access to the compartments under the decks.20140704-185304-67984848.jpg




Oh yes, and somewhere in there I had the pleasure of being able to assist a former professional sailmaker, as he assembled my lovely little sail. It looks awesome, and I can’t wait to see it hauled up my mast (which isn’t built yet)!20140704-183235-66755003.jpg20140704-183235-66755787.jpg20140704-185707-68227289.jpgAt this point things are looking slightly different almost every single day. The framing for the decks is nearly all fitted. As soon as those pieces are glued, I’ll be ready to fillet the joints, coat the interior of the compartments, and to paint the inside of the compartments before the decks go on. The slot for the centerboard is cut and the centerboard trunk is nearly ready to install. I’m getting ready to put the supports for the thwarts in. I’ll try to post updates more regularly as things progress. With summer progressing entirely too quickly, my current goal is to get it ready for rowing as soon as possible, with the sail rig soon to follow. Wish me luck!

Oh, one last thing: If you have any super nerdy questions, feel free to ask away. I skipped over many details of the process, but would be glad to share more information if anyone is interested.


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My past few weeks have been pretty awesome all things considered. I got to work on a 1917 Crosby Catboat that was recently donated to the Wind and Oar Boat school, and the group of us working on it enjoyed making fun of the “repair” work done by one of the previous owners. It turns out one of the previous owners REALLY likes Bondo. As we stripped away paint, bondo, and fiberglass, we enjoyed the moments where what was underneath got revealed. At times we could call out “looks like original wood!” and at times it was “good god, the bondo is 1/2″ thick with a manky piece of plywood underneath!” Either way, the camaraderie was good, and despite the cold weather it was good fun.


I have also started teaching 3 of the 4 classes I’ll be teaching with the Wind and Oar Boat School for the next few months, which was great. To prepare for one I had to create a prototype and kits for 20 scale models of the Bevin’s Skiff, which I thoroughly enjoyed. New classes are always an interesting challenge. You don’t know the students, and the format is a bit different than I’m used to. For those reasons and others, the start of these classes had me feel a bit insecure as first, but in that way that makes me want to work harder at what I can to improve how the classes are run. That feels pretty good. In one of the classes, the students will be building a Penobscot 13, designed by Arch Davis. Those of us with the school have been very impressed with the quality of his plans and instructions as well as how quickly he responds to questions. It looks like we have a fantastic group of students in that class and I am excited to see that boat in particular go together.


The thing that hasn’t been so cool is that my heal has been slow to heal.  Last Friday I had my 4 week follow up appointment, and the doctor told me to continue using crutches for 9 more days till my next follow up. That appointment is scheduled for this coming Monday, but its been difficult for me to spend the past 5 weeks unable to go kayaking, sailing, hiking, skiing or biking. Its been difficult to even get much woodworking done, and its been keeping me from putting as much effort as I would like into a variety of projects I have going on. Progress on the Shearwater has stagnated, and I have whales that I wanted to finish weeks ago that I still need to create pieces for. To maintain sanity, I’ve come up with some smaller projects I can work on with my foot up or while seated.

After a day trip to the coast during which I did a bit of sketching at Ecola State park, I did the following watercolor, and I kinda like how it turned out. I also did a nice sketch of the St Johns bridge last weekend, but I severely botched the watercoloring on it. I won’t be sharing that one. Oh well, I suppose when you are learning something new, you have to embrace the fact that you will make mistakes.


I also began my own ditty bag apprenticeship, mostly using the instructions in The Sailmakers Apprentice. Why not? I’d learn a bit about sewing, and some day after I have the use of both feet again, I will eventually have my small sailboat. When that is the case, the skills developed might even become relevant? Either way, it would keep my hands busy for a while. So I walked myself into a fabric store, bought a yard of 12oz Canvas, and set myself to work. As something to do when I can’t get out in my boats, I have found the project surprisingly satisfying though I think I might have also just raised myself into higher echelon of nerdyness. Well, so be it. It would appear that I am well on my way to having a ridiculously overbuilt and salty looking bag, and that amuses me. With a bit of luck, I will be off crutches by midday Monday, and I will be able to get back out on the water as well as getting back to work on a variety of projects. Wish me luck.


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Apparently I also build Waldorf movable classroom style benches. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who was just hired to teach at a tiny brand new school in Portland called the Living School let me know that they were asking for quotes from people who could build them 12 benches. As part of the project, the school was interested in finding ways to include the students in their construction. Naturally, as someone who recently earned a masters in teaching but who also got into teaching initially through substitute teaching for my former wood shop teacher, and as someone who is currently under employed, I was very interested! I wrote up a quote describing how I would create a series of kits, assemble one myself and then assemble as many additional benches as possible over the course of a day with the students. A week later, I found out that I received the commission!

Among other things, it was a great excuse to go out an buy myself a router (I picked up a used Porter Cable 6911 off of craigslist), and I set myself to work. I was given some basic dimensions to work with. The benches were to be 4 feet long, have an 18 inch wide top, be 15.5 inches tall, and have ends that were 14.5 inches wide. I decided to use long course threaded screws for the ends of the stretchers with finish washers, and pocket screws to attach the top. Ah yes, this was also a good excuse to but a pocket screw drilling jig. The wood is all birch plywood except for the 2 by 4 lower stretcher. This project also happened to be a great way to put my still new-to-me table saw to the test ( A Delta TS300 bought off of craigslist for $200). Perhaps it is a little loud, and perhaps it could use a bit more power, but the fence and additional width I can rip boards to is a massive improvement over my ancient Atlas saw. With less than 20 hours of work I had all the pieces cut and routed for 12 benches, as well as the first one assembled.


Last Thursday I went into the school, and had the opportunity to assemble benches with the the students which range from kindergarten through 3rd grade. I had the school round up additional drills and safety glasses, and we ended up with a drill for almost every bit we were using, which was awesome. It turned out to be a beautiful day, so we worked outside. All the pieces were cut to shape, but I had the students do almost all of the drilling. The students were great, and I had so much fun! I was usually working with a group of about 3 students, and had them take turns drilling holes and driving screws. I had a variety of jigs to show where the holes needed to be drilled on the end pieces and to hold the stretchers in place as they were attached. I also had students using clamps, grabbing pieces, and sanding all day long. My favorite image of the day was the small girl with the big ol’ safety goggles using the big ol’ 18 volt Dewalt drill. You can see it below. I LOVE IT! And I think they loved it too. Every student seemed to have a great time using the tools and assembling the benches. It was great to see how we could meet each student where they were at with the use of the drills to make sure they felt included and like they contributed to the construction of these benches.

In the end we might have gotten fewer benches built than I had hoped, and there are ways that it could have been structured differently to be more efficient, but the way I did it. all the students were able to watch the full assembly process of at least one bench. They watched the whole process from pieces of wood in a variety of different piles to something they could sit on as well as flip over and walk across the balance beam central stretcher. In the end I took home and assembled the last few kits myself. The school also asked me to apply the finish to them, so on Monday the assembled benches will be delivered to my house, where I am thinking about applying a few coats of Watco and a layer of paste wax. Regardless though, Thursday was a fantastic day. I’m going to toss it out there, if anyone has the need to have another series of benches built and wants to involve students, I would happily do this again!



Love it!

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