Outer Island Project: The Sequel

Page 6

Milestone: March 11, 2010, Work Resumes After 9 Months Long Hiatus! 

Here's where we left off: hull and deck glassed inside and out, coaming riser installed, and even Dynel wear strips added to stem and stern in a fit of bygone optimism. But no worries; a project like this keeps well if certain care is taken. Namely, hull and deck had been stored snugly strapped together with several forms stuffed inside to ensure everything would still be shaped pretty much like an Outer Island whenever I decided to get off my dead butt and go back to work on it.

It worked. There are no horrors to be faced today, everything looks just as I left it. Of course, I checked it closely several times in the interim also, so that comes as no huge surprise.

I was exceedingly happy with the way everything was going on this boat, except for the coaming. It had no sooner gotten put together than it got stuck in my craw, and never dislodged. So the first order of business is to rectify the problems, perceived or real though they may be, and get happy once again.


So out comes the recess template.

I made both cockpit opening and recess templates out of FRP (that's Fiberglass Reinforced Panel to you) that I use for making telescope bearings, the shapes having been lofted from Uncle Nick's book. They're for the Guillemot, and I've used them on all my boats. It's a nice shape, and my spray skirt fit all my yaks alike. If you look closely, you may be able to discern the pencil marks betraying the fact that I am stretching this recess nearly three inches in length.

Or maybe not. It isn't like my photography is ready for National Geographic or anything.

Anyway, this is what I am thinking about doing.



Whoops, looks I ain't thinking about it no more.



You might notice that I sanded around the area the pencil line was going to go. That's so the line will lay down nice and dark. Remember what I said about making good bold distinct pencil lines to cut to? No? Eh, don't worry, I can't blame you, I don't read any of this stuff either.


In case you're wondering why I'm bound and determined to saw out all that work and start over, there are a couple reasons. First and foremost, I'm a rolling nut, and I want that rear coaming to be just as low, low, low as I can possibly get it, and I'm not going to get it by skipping the recess. The photo explains how it works better than I can, so stop reading this and take a gander at that. Nearly a full inch, not too shabby.

Another reason is that I got a little careless when putting that riser together, and you can easily find what I'm talking about if you haven't noticed it already. It may be a minor deal (no it isn't - it sucks), but nothing I'm willing to live with when the rest of the work is coming along so nicely.

Finally, recesses look cool.


Here at The Sawdust Factory, we're RUTHLESS about quality! Satisfaction guaranteed!


Well, it only took nine months to get back to work on this project after sitting out last year's spectacular early summer heat wave in the first weeks of June, but better late than never, we always say. Maybe this is a good time to invoke, as I do so often, the Paddler's General All-Purpose Motto once again:

 "I Get There Eventually"



Anyone who runs around with a wood yak on the racks knows about all the questions complete strangers ask. Somebody really needs to collect them, as they sometimes get pretty amusing. The standards are:

"How long did it take to build?"

"How old is it?"

"Is it heavy?"

And my favorite: "How did you make it look like WOOD?!"

It can be difficult to remember that we were once innocent too, so let's try not to make fun of them too much (mmmph, snicker, snicker). And when I am asked "How in the world do you build a boat like that?" my standard reply is:

"It's built just how it looks like it's built - by hand, one piece at a time."


Then I (try to) explain that building a boat is not some dreadful ordeal that must be endured, but rather, a pleasurable pastime itself; like, say, vegetable gardening. Only in this one, it kind of helps if you're a vegetable yourself to get started in it in the first place. And that there are even some people who get into it so much that they barely even paddle their results much, as building is their main focus. And still others who do not pretend to paddle at all; they build kayaks and/or canoes strictly as a hobby wholly unto itself. (And no, nobody wants to pay thousands of dollars for you to build them one, it doesn't happen.)

Whatever, here we are installing a recess to lower the cockpit coaming, and as you see, it is done just how it looks like it's done - by hand, one little piece at a time. Actually, at the stage you see in the photo above, four at a time; but still, you must wait for glue to harden at least a little bit before proceeding to the next set of four. So it helps to have something else to do to keep your hands busy, and prevent you from rushing things as I am so terribly prone to doing (it's spelled 'OCD'). In the meantime, it behooves one to think ahead, and consider things to come, like necessary hardware (foot braces, screws, washers, etc.) and "software" (webbing strap, bungee cord, minicell, etc.). Think about the stuff you make yourself, too, like homemade padeyes, carved hooks for paddle parks, etc. Here, it shall be fashioning toggle handles for boat-toting as a sub-project to work on while waiting for recess pieces to dry a little.


I recently got suckered into carving wooden propellers for WWI-era replica aircraft, and made my start by carving a few quarter-scale versions (they're 24" long) as proof-of-concept/technique/method models. They came out very nice, if I do say so myself, and I am particularly smitten with the way the redwood and basswood looks together.

And, of course, I had scraps left over from making them, so.......



......I naturally got the idea to make toggles using material which would otherwise be ammo for trash can target practice. I stubbornly resist throwing stuff away, and relish finding uses for scrap. I also get a kick out of carving, a very pleasant diversion indeed, especially when working with such perfect wood species as these; basswood is every whittler's first choice for its wonderful carving properties, and redwood is pretty easy to get along with too.

So we're going to do a little wood carving demonstration for today's exciting episode.

Start with a blank that covers all major dimensions. Or in other words, that is about the right size. Duh, but you gotta start at the beginning. Anyway, once you got your blank covering the required size in all dimensions, mark and cut the profile shape of the front view, then the top view, then the side view.

Starting with profile shapes in all viewing directions is the starting point for all carving, and will keep you honest.


So that's what we're doing here, cutting to basic shape. Over there  --------------- >

Note the "zero-clearance insert" on my band saw. It's just a piece of door skin plywood taped to the table, takes five seconds to make and install, works like a charm.


Continue doing same, here we are at the sander, refining the profile shapes. Front view, top view, side view.....



When you're happy with that, it's time to shed the boxy look and go for sexy curves. At this point, it is well to practice a little method and discipline, for executing consistent and symmetrical roundiness is nigh unto impossible if you just start by just trying to carve or sand roundy surfaces by eye. Chamfers are where it's at. Chamfers, or beveled edges, are far easier to keep even, consistent, and accurate. For instance, you can see how uneven, inconsistent, and inaccurate my chamfers are in the photo at right. Ugh! But you get the idea, right? See how the corners can be judged for evenness? The football shape on either side? This is how you most plainly see that everything looks the same all the way around.


When the chamfers are as accurately made as you care to go with it, then knock the edges off them. Rinse and repeat, keep knocking off corners until your surfaces begin to look more curved than faceted. Again, take it as far as you can stand to go with it, for working flat surfaces is a million times easier to gage by eyeball than curves ones.

When you finally turn to sandpaper for true rounding, always use a sanding block. Always. Otherwise you're just begging for queasy lumps and dips. I used minicell scraps about 1/2" thick to back the sandpaper when working on these guys, and it was just the thing.

When hunting that elusive perfectly curved surface, use the grazing angle shadow of a direct light source. The sun often works well, as does a work light on the bench. Do not rely on overhead lighting unless it comes from a single source. The shadows knows, as they say, and if you look closely at the photo at right, you can see for yourself what it tells you.

Round off the ends as the last step. Keep all steps separate and distinct. Start with a square blank; go to basic profile shapes; chamfer; work down chamfer edges; round off; finish ends. Try to avoid mixing or blending steps to arrive at the most accurate, symmetrical final shape.


Or get out the lathe and turn 'em in about five minutes each, which is what I would have done if I needed them pronto. But again, making small parts like these are best done well in advance, when you are far more likely to make them just exactly how you want, or even toss 'em and start over if they're not going your way. When you're in a rush to launch, you tend to settle for less. And small details are very often what makes the difference between a nice result ...... and a truly impressive one.


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