violin making workshop

Friday, September 25, 2015

Gippsland Lakes in the 1920's

This old promotional film of our area reeks of the inter-war period. I include it here because of the boats and fishing techniques,  but I'm also charmed by the style of the period.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

To my lizard friends; I'm sorry

We are going to call him Keith after my father. I always regret becoming close to predators, because I know that the things they fancy and lust after as  menu items are also lovely small creatures that I like to spend time with. Some of my best friends may end up as his lunch.

Don't get me wrong. He's not called Keith because my dad was some kind of predator. That Keith was a giver, and a life-time solver of people's problems, but the thing that is pertinent here is that he was a morning whistler. One of those positive, enthusiastic souls for whom the morning was a cause for celebration and optimism. The sun had risen again, and that is enough to be happy. What a glorious thing it was to hear him whistle through his shower and shave, tunefully making his way back to the wardrobe in his short pyjamas. I fail both the whistling and the pyjama tests.

But the relationship between Keiths is even deeper. The one, pictured and I mimmick each other's call, and I'm almost certain that I can convince him to sing 'Some Enchanted Evening" eventually, but he keeps beginning in the wrong key. We are moving forward and the tunes are relentlessly positive in a 'King and I'  popular-musical-sort of way, like the things my dad used to whistle.

So Im naturally drawn to this bird, and he is causing me to whistle, and that causes me to remember my beautiful father, and that causes me to write this post.

So I continue to have confused and passionate relationships with predators and carnivors (like me) even though I believe that in a perfect world, we could all be fallen fruit and seed eaters....I just don't feel optimistic that I can convince this Keith about all the moral arguments that I would love to adopt if I were to become a better soul. But I'm working on his tunes. And he is connecting me with that bit of my father that was unfailingly optimistic despite his understanding of our limitations as humans.

I don't know if he ever understood that despite my turning away from many of the nineteenth Century religious paradigms that he held dearly, he was responsible for my on-going romantic idealism- that feeling that we can all do everything a little bit better if we give it some honest consideration.

Oh, and the bird? He is a grey butcher bird. Along with a clutch of King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas, Common Bronze-Wings, Magpies, Kookaburras, Rainbow Lorikeets, Pink Galahs, Wattlebirds, Honey-Eaters and Blue Fairy Wrens (amongst others) he is a beautiful part of the reason I'm enjoying being here, now.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

from horn cleats to a little bit of cam

 Beachcomber came with a splendid array of wooden horn cleats, and they somehow looked 'proper', and representative of the satisfying habit of 'making fast'. They are easy to use because they are big and well-proportioned, but for a sometimes lone, and a not overly confident self-taught sailor they presented a bit of a risk in a sudden gust if I need to de-power any or all of three sails quickly without leaving the helm. So I felt it was a safety issue to bring a little cam (calm?) into the arrangement.

The pic above shows the old horn and the new by-pass, through the combing to the cam cleat on a merbau block. The angle is 45 degrees. Being a two-ended main sheet, this end will be cleated off while I sit next to it, working its opposite number across and under the tiller- and that side can be cleated too, obviously...but released in a panic without needing to go anywhere.

I will arrange the jib sheet similarly, but I'm struggling to decide how far aft to take these cleats. If I had crew, they would prefer them further forward, near the side seats, but alone, I would prefer them quite close to the main sheet, so that two lines come from a similar direction can lay across my lap. Either way will have benefits...

The staysail is self-tacking and will probably remain horn cleated for the moment, because it its the outer one, the jib that is most likely to want to power me into trouble in a blow.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Metung Old Gaffers, East Gippsland

Soon, the old gaffers will come out of hiding in preparation for a series of six events on Sundays. Above, Endeavour owned by Peter Harvey is sailing in second position (last year), ahead of the red sailed Calypso. I hope to spend some time celebrating and photographing some of these local boats in the future, and will try to find a few stories about them too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

magic morning merely motoring

Above, a beautiful, tranquil Lake King viewed from off Shaving point, looking towards Paynesville.

After the trip I managed to toss a bit of varnish on the decks on the basis that a 20% chance of rain was also an 80% chance of the varnish drying...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mainsheet blocks

The kit for Beachcomber's main sheet has been brought home for treatment. It has been a joy to tackle the tackle.

Some of the loftier blocks have been a challenge , particularly the peak halyard system, which involves five blocks altogether, and a very long piece of string. The topmost double block is at the very top of the mast. Despite this, I've managed to decommission about seven blocks in simplifying the rig from exhaustively traditional to more pragmatically practical. Of course I'm open to being wrong about these simplifications, but will always try to simplify and 'add lightness'.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cape Conran beach textures

Our first trip to Cape Conran on the East Gippsland coast- one of several new places for us to explore in an area of the state we have only seen superficially before. This is wonderful and expansive farmland, bush and coastal country. The bush is not unlike that of the Western parts of the state- the places most familiar to us- but there are significant differences in species and climate. In the bush this is Banksia country with gnarled old trunks supporting masses of the unusual flowers.

Exposure to deep ocean currents makes for interesting beach combing. I couldn't resist a few pics of sponges and weeds that competed with the horizon for my attention.

Friday, July 24, 2015

love my tender

You know how things go when you feel like you are on a roll. Thought a tender would be handy to get around Beachcomber from the water, and maybe row across to the little beach for a stroll or a picnic.

Fantasies of teaching grandchildren to row. Small disposable plastic tenders would do. Something cheap- I'm already way too into this...but then the ideas start conflating with my love of a good story, and my love for a nice hand made line and suddenly I'm taking delivery of this from Clive, our local slip owner and boat guru.

Before the second war this boat used to be filled with fishing nets to take them in from the big boat and brought to a landing just over the water a hundred metres from us. She was made locally from kauri pine and has had a few stories to tell. One of the shipwrights that worked a lot on the restoration of Beachcomber in the 1990's owned this one for quite a while. So did Clive.

A couple of ribs, a bit of inwale, a new breast hook and quite a bit of abrasive surface work will see her nice...but I'm not going to rush it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Bosun's Backside Blog

The only time I have knowingly photographed my backside, above. Thoroughly harnessed and 'lanyarded' to the ladder and mast, I have found some gaps in the weather to go aloft, gathering blocks and halyards to take home for refurbishment. The picture below shows something of recent work on the cockpit sole pieces. The long thin ones next to the centreboard are still of the original timber. I found some rot in them but was able to resaw the boards and introduce some breather gaps and reassemble them without new wood on top. (although some of the cross pieces on the underside have been replaced from good wood sourced in other inserts that were too far gone)

I have to decide whether to paint or re-varnish those pieces below the side seats. They are in pretty good condition, so the decision will be largely a visual one. If I paint them it will be to try to make a large, simple, uncluttered area all of the same colour and texture. If I varnish them it will be because I'm paying homage to the last restoration and the honesty of the timber, and maybe also because I'll decide that I like the shape provided by the contrast of colour....sue me, I'm not decisive at all sometimes.

This close-up, above is of some of the servings that survived nearly a quarter of a century outside in the harsh Australian weather and still needed significant force to be cut open. Fred did a truly beautiful job with his blocks and fittings. I've always struggled a bit with soft furnishings and threads. Me doing up the buttons on a doonah cover for the bed is often a source of amusement for my dear Julia, although I have to say it is some years since she fell about, is more of a knowing smile now. I did manage to get my 'knot badge' when I was a Cub Scout, but only just. It reminded me too much of my deviant method of tying my shoes.

Anyway, the point of all that is to explain why my restoration of the servings and blocks will not be anything like as artful as Fred's.

Above, the new throat halyard (top)  has been prepared and it's lower block has been fitted with it's partly served grommet. Making grommets and splicing are quite pleasant to do, but I don't think I'll ever nail them as skills.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sole, Grate and Varnish

One coat of Cetol on the decks has shown me that despite several scrubbings with oxalic acid, and plenty of sanding, the white beech will still look a bit patchy, varying between yellow and darker browns, but I hope that with a reasonable surface quality the colours will simply look 'woody' and of suitable patina. The merbau has come up beautifully red.

The panels above have three coats of Jotun alkyd primer and two coats of Norglass marine decking enamel for a non-slip surface of the sole plates aft. The grey was chosen to give it a workboat kind of simplicity as there is so much timber elsewhere, and while these boards may be temporary, I wanted to see what a neutral floor might do to lift the appearance of the brightwork. The square holes in these two boards are to provide a bit more air movement around the bilge and they are shaped in a grid of squares to reference the grate at the feet of the helmsman.

This panel is shown with only primer on it but with the restored grate. I need to decide whether to paint the floors on the inside hull sides grey like the panels above (to unify the inside a bit) or repaint in the cream which is also the topsides colour. The little box at the top of this pic conceals the Yanmar control panel, ignition and warning lights etc. When in use the lid folds up and away.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Beachcomber's Mushroom Farm

Just to prove that I am a 'regular guy' I include this glossy shot of the twenty-plus year old Yanmar after de-corosion and respray. The prettier motor will enable faster burnouts and donuts I'm sure.

The aft sole looked a little rotten in one corner, and the grating had lost a tooth, but I was surprised to find a mushroom farm underneath when I brought it back to the sensible atmosphere in what has to pass for a workshop at the moment...

So I'm glad I decided to make a new sole, it may be temporary, we'll see what else needs doing while I see how it works. The grating was nicely made and is rotten in places, but I have cut out the rot as far as I can tell, and have grafted new wood to make it useable again.

Above, the table saw was used to remove half the thickness around the perimeter, and below, new rails are attached.

The ply will be painted with Jotun alkyd Primer initially. It is a light grey and very robust. We'll see if it is too light in tone to be serviceable under foot. The grating will be coated in Sikkens Cetol.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Beachcomber Lines

I was able to get reprints of these drawings from the firm that produced them for the previous owners. When I saw them I was struck by the uncanny resemblance of this boat to a design from Campion boats that I very nearly built before deciding to make our Navigator. TD drew a lovely cutter rig on his hull 'Pearl' and a somewhat larger 'Annie' as I recall. The boats were smaller than this one, and the stern was a tilted transom rather than a counter stern, but the overall presence was similar.

Monday, June 15, 2015

renovating a 150yr old boat outdoors in mid winter

Starting with some ugly shots...
above, the tiller was greyed and multicoloured, but a very beautiful piece of work, so I couldn't resist staring there. The challenge in Winter though is getting sufficient temperature to dry things off and harden the finish. 

 The combing was next and was bigger to sand that it can see some of the deck boards. These varied considerably from fresh to greyed to crackled to de-laminating. Her old berth was heavily shaded on one side and this position tended to leave almost half the boat damp for long periods. But the planks ribs and bilges are pretty good. Note the Manilla line. Fred used only natural fibres in his rigging.

Above, one of the previously shaded areas. Some of these boards had lifted at their edges, curling away from the epoxy coated ply beneath. It was a bit of a triumph to get the epoxy to go off in the cold weather, outside in high humidity. Pre-warming it and the (fast) hardener in hot water (in a bucket) got things started. The repairs have sanded up well since.

Next, while I wait for a warm enough day to varnish the combing I'll continue to strip back the gunge from the decks and begin making a new aft cockpit sole plate- the old one has started to rot and is in danger of rotting the frames that it sits on. All the flooring is of Australian White Beech, like the decks. I'd like to stick to that or something similar, but to get me going I'll make temporary replacements from 21mm ply, and paint them. I'm stuck there because I don't want the floors to deteriorate further this Spring, but I don't have time (or a sufficiently well set-up workshop any more, for a while) so a temporary job seems in order.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Getting started with Beachcomber

With Beachcomber now home in our pen, the scale of the job became more apparent. She had missed a few years of routine sprucing-up and the timber looked tired and grey, but we needed, first, to undertake the essential behind and below the scenes work, and that meant a trip to our local slip. She was due for antifouling and in any case I needed to have her surveyed before I could insure her.

Bury's slipway is a magical place set between Metung and Lakes Entrance. It is rural and it feels isolated  and is a wonderful local business which has overseen the maintenance of wooden and other boats hereabouts for generations
This is an unusual view of her stern, and I'm not sure Beachcomber would approve of it being published....not her best angle, but it does show the cutting of the gains and the transition to a solid piece of timber aft. Those boards have been on her since the time of the American Civil War  or the Victorian gold rush and at least thirty years before Australian states federated into a nation.

The screw after cleaning and before repainting. I have a bit to learn about docile diesel inboards, but I love the relaxed put-put and the gorgeous noise of the exhaust bubbling under the stern. She runs on the smell of an oily rag. I took her to the dockside fuel stop today after a few trips and she would only fit twenty dollars worth in the tank.

The current project now (apart from adapting our new house and shed for our things) is the restoration of the deck and timber trim.

Monday, May 4, 2015

I was so lucky as a kid. Some thoughts on friendships lost...

Is it coincidence that I've just found a group of primary school friends from the early 1960's- all of whom I haven't seen or heard from in the intervening decades, at the very time that we have a house and shed almost entirely packed up to move to the other side of the state?

It has caused me to allow some introspection on my relationship with friends, and I think what I'm learning is that even as a small boy I formed attachments based upon specific areas of curiosity. I'm looking at a picture of my grade five group from 1963.

There is Graeme, with whom I had such creative fun writing outrageous plays,  and making language into a recreational tool. I think we loved ideas, but we didn't know that then. We also shared an interest in certain types of cars. Then there is Jeffrey, whom I sat next to in class and visited on weekends. We drew incessantly- but each for an entirely different purpose. I loved to represent things, especially if the drawings could show things working. He loved to draw things to understand how they were put together. We filled pad after pad of drawings, always sharing output. He seemed to groove on my mechanical interests and I lapped up his obsession with human biology. No surprise I ended up in art school and he ended up a brain surgeon. Can't help feeling his creativity did a lot more good than mine ever could. There is another whole story in that friendship which showed me aspects of the post-war world that I never could have seen without someone like him...

Then there were Graham and Wayne who I liked to play cricket with. G was a very good batsman, W was a good bowler as I recall...I was never brilliant with a ball, maybe because of my other interests.

There was Jon who used to be a great mate to make tree houses with, and we made exploding volcanoes in sandpits, and billy carts with so many extra specifications that they rolled over with the weight of them, as well as more mundane ones that simply went very fast. With Geoffrey the following couple of years it was Meccano- we became mini engineers.

Neville and I used to scour the area for miles collecting scrap hession, copper, lead or anything we could sell to the person who would now be called a recycler. We also built things. Made model planes. Flew them in parks far and wide, and sometimes high!

Then there was Lee, and we shared an interest in the mysteries of oil paint, colour and form. Oh and David; we worked out how to make roller-skate wheels into skateboards (he had the wheels and I could shape a plank)...and go very fast down hills before they were even called skateboards.

There were others, but you get my drift. For every interest, there was a friend to experiment with and to see what we could find out.

 I was so lucky, and yet I look back and none of these pairings overlapped, each was an entity in itself, a one-on-one exploration of something, and each of those somethings are things that still interest me in one way or another. Then we all went to different secondary schools and became focussed on Important Things on a proper curriculum. But when I finished tertiary study, I think I went back to just being curious, but without the pairings....with a wonderful family instead.

Creative pairings became very difficult as the depth I sought in things became more insistent. It is no accident that the people who made the re-discovery of my early years of schooling possible were female. I hate to generalise, but I'm married to one of those and I've learnt that they often seem to have a capacity for connection to a group that I have always lacked.