Monday, June 28, 2010

Canada circa 1910

I was having a concise but important chat with someone yesterday, and we stumbled across some of the big issues; the roles of the state, the dangers inherent in nationalism, the issues of meaning and creation. I was reminded of similar chats I'd had with my father, and ones that he'd told me about that he had with my grandfather. I expressed the view that exploring things - doing battle with them even- is more important than the feeling of having found definitive answers.
This is a photo of my father's father about one hundred years ago in Canada. He travelled there and in the USA with his wife, retracing the places that meant a lot to his parents and her parents, but more than that, they were lifting their eyes above their normal horizon. They felt part of an international energy that sprang in various forms, with particular optimism in the 'New World' on both sides of the Pacific at the beginnings of a new century.
In the photo he is watering the horses in front of a huge bank of snow, or possibly a glacier, I don't know. I can see from his attitude (but mainly also what I know of him) that he is looking for the same stuff that many of us are looking for still. And that is why yesterday's conversation made me seek out this picture.
I wonder what he would make of this modern world, and I wonder if all our modern changes have altered in any substantive way the fact that engaging with unanswerable questions is the inescapable lot for curious people. And after a lifetime of looking and thinking, we may end up not really knowing any more than our grandparents did.
But I'd rather accept that than the artificial smugness and real dangers that come with the illusion of certainty.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Navigator planking begins

These planks went in without drama, held with cable ties to the bottom one. The forefoot planks took a bit more consideration as there is a huge flare in the shape as it transitions from near horizontal to near vertical, and stories are legion of the various things that can go wrong here, but even the worst of them can be rectified. As it happens, the shape seems OK, although I'll know more when the waste is removed and the curves at the turn of the stem are cleaned up. I think I've avoided the bulge that sometimes occurs just behind the stem. This seems to be the defining moment in many navigator builds- the 'rite of passage'. Well it can't be approached casually, but the thought of it should not put the prospective builder off, especially because this little transition of shapes pretty much defines the appearance of this particular design- and it is a very functional shape that cuts and spreads, and turns a wall of water into parted streams that will gurgle with calm enthusiasm as they make their way down the hull, hoping to join their friends from the other side again when they've said good-bye to the transom. And what a happy little transom it is...

Monday, June 21, 2010

warm low evening light

Sometimes it is good for me to remember that nature can not only be benign but also quite seductively and totally entrancing. The rage it shows at other times only intensifies the pleasure of this stillness. The little bump on the right horizon is what our early European explorers optimistically and pompously called Mt. Gellibrand.
Had this picture been taken twenty-five years ago, virtually none of the trees visible here would have existed. Had it been taken one hundred and fifty years ago, none of the ground would have been visible.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

could this be the first Gothic Tabernacle support?

I really wanted to make setting up at the ramp as easy as possible, and while this is a short mast and won't be a trouble to lift, the possibility of keeping more of the lines and fittings attached during transport encouraged me to think further on it. To begin with it seemed logical to make a lightweight one out of stainless steel, but I wanted to avoid too much of a metal look on this boat; I want it to be softer, more tactile.
Once committed to the tabernacle idea it was only a short jump to commit myself to designing one high enough to fix the gooseneck from it, enabling the boom to stay put for transport. But as I alluded in the previous post, the appearance of this was going to trouble me, because I had committed to a bulky material and possibly, to a very ugly appendage.
The process for arrival at this as a design solution can be followed in the sequence of pics on the Flickr page. I began in a very chunky fashion, then removed as much 'beef' as possible from the design, transferring loads in a more architectural way. Hardly worth the bother in a sense, because most of the curves will be hidden under the foredeck, but I hope they will echo the shapes within the boat elsewhere, and become a background thing- only noticeable if you are looking for them.
The two prongs above deck will always be strong visually, but I hope they just look like they are doing what they are supposed to do. There are still details missing from this dry assembly, and joints that will be faired to become invisible. The little gap between the 'legs' might be a good spot to stash a map, or maybe a novel...

Monday, June 14, 2010

cello invasion

Last week there was an inundation (collective noun for too many cellos) of cellos in for repair. They often seem to wrangle this; word goes out that they are going in for therapy and others seek out the sympathetic company. Apart from my instruments and long term stayers there were thirteen in for repair and they stood around like expectant aliens waiting for a feed.

Introspective things, cellos. I expect that's why we get on so well. They are used to someone being all around them, focussing on them and drawing them out. Quite unlike a violin, which is generally a showpiece, an extension of an out-going personality, a show-stopper.

The centreboard for the Navigator has been hurrumphing around the shed lately, taking up bench space and hiding tools under itself and generally spoiling for a fight. So I did a bit of surfacing with a block plane and then turned my attention to the top edges where the foil section meets the rectangular section that stays in the box. Nice little area that- pity it stays hidden under the boat. I include a pic of the beginnings of the harmonisation of these shapes, and for this I used a spokeshave and a couple of chisels. Another tool that would have been useful is a skew chisel, but I don't have one at that workshop. Whichever tool is used I find it easiest if the blade is used in a slicing motion rather than a cutting or pushing one- cut down the hill on a 45 degree angle so the shavings peel off to the side. Present the blade at this angle to the direction of cut so the fibres travel up the cutting edge and are parted gradually. This enables nice continuous curves without stabbing and stalling. But the board is still bored, so I'll drill out the pivot hole and epoxy coat it this week, then trial fit it in the boat to make it feel like it belongs.

Also this week I had a think about the shape and position of the coaming at the forward end, and work has begun on a tabernacle design that will be high enough to keep the boom attached during transport. Making the thing look acceptable is the big challenge.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Talisker Bounty Boat voyage

I can't believe I missed the beginnings of this adventure, but fortunately there is a blog and a web site to fill in the gaps.

For some reason the Youtube format won't fit nicely in this blog template. To see this video better double click to go to it on the Youtube site.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

page three boat pictures

Page Three Boats?

Probably wooden boats, mostly open boats, generally under 6 metres long, sometimes in their habitat, occasionally being built, often being sailed, maybe rowed or paddled.

It's just a gallery, maybe something restful or perhaps inspirational for the eye when it should be doing something sensible instead.
I admit that given my present preoccupation it will probably favour pictures of Navigators, reclining in best page three fashion...but it needn't, if others want to contribute things along the suggested guidelines, above.

This photo is of a beautiful boat from Dave in New Zealand. It's called 'Korora" and Kiwis may have the pleasure of seeing her with man, woman and dog aboard, probably loaded for a picnic. This man not only has a fine eye for a boat, he makes marvellous images.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

keeping warm in Stringerland

Well the cold front may have looked threatening on the synoptic chart, and the rain did belt down from time to time, and the temperature was below 10 degrees C, but I had a magic morning in the hills, allowing myself a little time off and stopping in our little forest on the way. The little pond (or dam as we optimistically call them in Aus) is surrounded by about 4000 trees that we put in about eight years ago to bring our patch of remnant native vegetation up to our boundary. The new trees are behind the camera in the picture above. These new plants (trees and indigenous understory) were propagated from seed taken from our existing plants by a local business "Otway Greening" that specialises in such projects. Mike emigrated from North America some decades ago and has probably been responsible for the propagation of more trees in our district than anyone else ever has. It is wonderful to stand beneath these things now, and feel small in comparison.

Despite the cold, the fast cure epoxy allowed me to fit the inner stringers that define the side decks, the combing and the seat backs. I was also able to attend to some of those niggles referred to in the previous post. The sheer is staring to look more elegant. I am quite taken by this design as I build it. The shapes are very attractive in a way that can't be captured in a single photo- I guess it is in the way they interact as you move around them.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Navigator work: gluing gunwales

This bit is really very sculptural. From above you have a fairly simple pair of convex curves forming the length and breadth of the boat. From the side you have a long sheer curve, dipping from the transom to a low point aft of the middle and then slowly rising much higher than before, when it approaches the stem. But as soon as your position changes from these theoretical perpendicular ones (which only really exist on paper, because our vision is never really comparable to a 'projection') the shapes become so complex as they interact that some of us find ourselves wandering in circles, tripping over clamps and off-cuts, trying to take in the totality of the edges of volume and building up our own three dimensional construct in our little brains. Taking it in is one thing, but forming a judgement about which bits aren't working so well is quite another.

One of the benefits of building in this method is that there are layers that go over layers, so lines that worry you can be finessed a little now, but not too fussily, in the knowledge that further refinement can happen later at a new stage. So the side view of the sheer may have some little bumps or irregularities that bug you, and the high spots can be planed off, but the planking will go over all that anyway- and then the rubbing strake, and each of these can improve- or not- your feelings about that line.

In the photo above, I've just started to bevel the tops of the gunwales to the angle of the side deck, but in doing this I'm also trying to form a view of the line as a whole from several viewpoints, and will work some bits more than others to remove the visual offences. Now some people will read this and think; "why doesn't he just make the boat, and stop analysing?' And the answer to that is that I love lines, and mucking about with lines and edges is just as important to me as having a boat. I guess I've had more than five decades working with lines of one sort or another, but I'm an absolute beginner at boat building.

One of the bits of line that I'm not happy with is at bulkhead 2 on the starboard side (top pic). You can see there is a little clamp fixed to the spot near the top right of the pic. As the gunwale goes past this bulkhead the curve is a little 'hard' or sudden. I can't measure that, but I can see it and the gunwale will be planed back to make that curve as fair as the one on the other side. There's maybe only 2-3mm in it, but that curve would bug me forever, visible from the helm.

This picture says something about the 'powderhorn' shape that worried me in the previous Navigator up-date. A more front-on view has a more pronounced powderhorn, and that is inherent in the design and it doesn't worry me. But this view shows a secondary one that is a result of a wobbly gunwale shape, and I can make it nicer. If you follow the gunwale from transom, down to the low point then up, you will see that it comes up too suddenly to a false peak, and then flattens out on its way to the stem, dipping again, ever so slightly in the process. The extent of this changes as you move around the boat. A lot of it will disappear just by planing the top surface down to the correct deck angle, but knowing what I'm aiming for will help me target my planing, to be emphatic 'here', and restrained 'there' until the line flows simply from one end to the other.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cattle in Cloudsville

Feels like an old fashioned Winter, good for puddles and water tanks but not so good for using epoxy. The cattle are so attuned to squeezing more hay out of us that they hear the ute coming from a great distance and assemble themselves near the shed or house (whichever we park at) to press their case with massive, echoing bellows, demonstrating to us the desperation of their situation. Heifers that usually ignore us will follow us at very close quarters now, and when I quietly say "Come on" they leap and skip in their enthusiasm to get to the feed before their mothers. This is all theatre. This mob forage well, are happy to eat weeds that other breeds won't touch, and they have a double layered coat that keeps them well-insulated in our relatively mild cold season.
On Friday we were on the top edge of a huge cloud mass. I could look across the top of the cloud for hundreds of kilometres, spread as it was, right across the Western Plains of Victoria, which were blanketed in fog. Had I been able to walk on this thing, I could have taken a horizontal straight path to the southern edge of the Great Dividing Range, walking North West, and maybe ten times further if I headed West. The edge of the cloud defined a crisp, horizontal contour around the edges of our little valley- it felt good to be above it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Navigator work. Fitting gunwales

Here the two gunwales have been glued aft of the CB case, but are just 'waiting' at the bow end due to the lack of a good stretch of time. I found it more useful to glue half of each rather than one complete side because I want to bring the bow ends together at the same time to avoid asymmetric tension or twist.
The forward ends are mainly stressed along the horizontal plane whereas the aft ends are mainly stressed in the vertical plane. There is a significant and sudden rise near the transom which is bending against the thickest (and therefore stiffest) dimension. To alleviate this I used a handsaw to cut down the middle of the gunwales back to B7 (about 900mm) so that the top and bottom sections of the gunwale could slide against each other to take up the sheer curve comfortably. It wasn't necessary to pull any similar tricks on the remainder of the 20 x 40 strip.
The cut surfaces were obviously wet out with unthinned epoxy before thickened goo was brushed in and then the clamps applied.

There is a hint of 'powderhorn' shape as the sheerline broadens on its way forward, and I've noticed this in many previous builds. I would prefer to minimise this if I can, and when it is time to 'nuance' (I know it's not supposed to be a verb) the gunwale shape we will see if it can be adjusted with the hand plane.
It is impossible to capture in a single picture the sweetness of some of these curves as you walk around them. In this picture, for instance she looks very long and thin, but the impression from above the centre board is of a broad, beamy and voluminous shape. I only hope I can do these lines the justice they deserve. I do love drawing, and this is just 3D drawing with stringers.
The interior suddenly looks much more spacious than I had expected too, since the gunwales went on.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The little violin up-date

The little violin is ready for pick up. I find it particularly poignant when the restoration is of a child's instrument, when the child was born generations ago. I know that as my parents aged and I became older with them, it was easier for me to see the little girl and boy in their personas. This was an unthinkable proposition when I was small, that they should ever have been as insignificant and as playful as me...

Most young players start their learning on economical, imported instruments that are brand-spanking new. The current bunch of children have benefitted from the explosion of manufacturing in China as much as their parents and I have seen a huge improvement in the quality of beginner instruments that have become affordable for hesitant parents, unsure of their child's potential for commitment.

An instrument that I can sell for $300-$400 now is better in quality than many instruments that sold for $1500 ten or fifteen years ago.
Even this old one was 'manufactured' in a factory, albeit without machinery, but still turned out in large numbers by skilful, but unimaginative and poorly paid workers. But it has its own story, and that story is connected to the life of the owner, and you can't put a price on that.