Sunday, December 31, 2006

Read the plans CAREFULLY.

There's nothing quite like the realisation that the piece of wood you have spent so much time on is just plain wrong. You know the sort of thing, cutting two left hand side pieces.

The little section in marked in red in the bottom left is actually part of the side piece. I read the plans as if it were a chine, or longitudinal member. So now I have two side pieces which are each about an inch short.

Oh well. It's all learning and practice I suppose.

The plans for the boat come from Glen L.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Planing square

Ever try to square a side of a board with a plane. It can be a bit more difficult that it looks.

If the board is off to one side, one thing that worked for me was to offset the blade of the plane. (Please forgive the block diagram). Now the plane will take off more on one side than the other. This let me take off the the bulk of the material quickly.

Don't forget to reset your blade to square as you finish off the job.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

New Planes

Christmas brought some new planes. Wooden ones from Rutlands. The Jointer plane blade doesn't sit quite right. One side of the blade is lower than the other and no amount of pushing the top of the blade left or right will fix it. I suspect that the throat is not square with the base of the plane.

Since the plane is made of wood, a few minutes with a file should fix that.

The blades will need a little work to sharpen them up, a sheet of glass and some carbide paper is your only man for the job : ScarySharp.

Yep. I know that I opened them early, but that's a traddition in this house that goes back hours.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A shim in time saves recutting.

When cutting this frame, I was a little careless with the jigsaw, and the angle of the blade wandered. At one end the cut was perpendicular to the face, at the other, the bevel was almost 15 degrees off square.

Since this piece will be supporting weight from above, and will be under compression, and will have some nice bronze screws through it holding it all together, I reckon shimming is the way to go.

A ScarySharp block plane (see previous post) makes short work of getting a really flat edge, square to the surface of the board.

The shim was cut with a circular saw with a fine cut blade (lots of teeth) and a parallel guide. Works wonders for cutting a narrow strip.

Since I'm using Balcotan PU, I can get a strong end grain to side grain glue joint. All I need is LOTS of clamping pressure.

None of my clamps were of any use in this, so I put a block of wood behind my shim, tied a cord tight around it and the notch in the far end of the frame piece (with a small piece of wood there to prevent marking) and twisted it very tight with a screw driver. This method has been in use for centuries. It's cheap and versatile.

The shim was glued in place oversize, and then I trimmed the ends to fit.

I think that this counts as a rescue.

Next I will try shimming the other frame piece that I messed up, but that will be more difficult as I want to just shim the damaged part, which means cutting a notch. The only downside of Balcotan PU, is that it's pretty intolerant of gaps.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Shimming it.

From my previous post on routers and tearout, you may remember that I kind of messed up a perfectly good frame piece.

I am thinking of Cutting off 1/8 inch and shimming it. Clamp and glue another peice to it and sand /plane it to size. If the glue is truely stronger than the wood, it should be fine. Since I'll be using Balcotan PU, the end grain joint should not matter. And there I think there will be screws in place to hold it all together anyway.

And one last peice of reason is that it should be under compression most of the time anyway.

This time I think I'll try it out on a peice of scrap first to see how it goes. It if works, then I may be able to do the same thing on one of the transom frame pieces that got cut a little short.

That piece is cut a little short at the top. Since that part will be under compression and out of sight, shimming may be the way to go.

- To err is human, to mess up in style you need power tools.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Keeping Nyala in Style

A book that I came across that you might like. Keeping Nyala in Style
It's the story of a couple who bought and restored an old wooden boat. It's written by the woman, to disabuse us of our stereotypes.
She details many of the things that she learned along the way, along with illustrations and photos, from fitting bulkheads to the curves of the hull to cutting the joints for the frames for cabinets and beds.
I've already used some of her ideas for building a wardrobe in the attic. Ok, so that's not boat building, but it's all practice.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fuller Stepped Drill Bits

Today I had cause to try out my Fuller stepped drill bits. I won't repeat my earlier post, and I have not got a cut through photo to post yet, but they do make life so easy. The drill bits come for different lengths screws, so for any one drill bit, the length of the narrowest part of the drill, ie for the pilot hole, is fixed.

But the length of the shank and the depth of the counter sink can be set so easily. This means that you can set the depth that you want to countersink the screws to exactly, just under the surface, or deep enough to plug.

Drill one hole and then pop in the screw, no trying to drill two concentric holes and a countersink.

They are not what you would call cheap, but given that I have about 1000 bronze screws which all need predrilling, that equates to a whole lot of saved time. Even if I figure that time saved at minimum wage, I think I'm well in the black.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Routers and Tearout

And I really should have known better. Really. This is starting to read like a "Mistakes not to make when building a boat." - Actually I may use that as a title if I ever write a book. I certainly won't be short of material.

I forgot that Routers like to cut the grain, but they really like to lift the grain. So the bottom peice here has nice big lumps missing.

When you find that the direction of spin of the blade will lift the grain - see diagram opposite.

Flip the thing over so that the as the blade of the router rotates, it cuts the grain, rather than trying to lift it.

Of course the really annoying thing is that I knew this, I really did. In my hurry to finish the frame, I forgot. And then when cutting seemed not to be working quite right, rather than take five and put my brain back into gear, I pressed ahead and messed up.

The damage is done to the part of the frame that sits on the keel.

If you can't be a good example, be a dire warning.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Boats are easier than carpets.

I'm a software engineer by profession, not a carpenter. But that basically involves three skills.
  1. Break a problem into little problems.
  2. Solve little problems.
  3. Keep an eye on the big picture.
Anyone see a resemblance to boat building here.

In addition, I've done a lot around the house, like plumbing, tiling floors (the tiling you see in the background of some of my photos), showers, baths, putting down wooden floors. (All with the assistance of my beautiful wife).

Boats, wooden floors and tiling seem to have one thing in common, it's hard to mess it up at one fell swoop. Break a tile, cut another. Cut a frame wrong, cut it again. If you are prepared to redo, then you can do.

If, however, you mess up and persist in going in the wrong direction in spite of knowing that something's not right, then I suggest that you buy the more expensive life jacket

Somewhere in the middle are mistakes that can be shimmed. There's probably a lifetime's experience in figuring out what can be shimmed and what needs to be recut.

Carpets (and Lino) on the other hand are different. Cut them too short and they're pretty much ruined. one single mistake and you're toast.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What I will do better next time.

You live and learn.
  • As I have said before, trying to cut the most complex frame first is a bad plan. But there are other things that can make life easier or more difficult.

  • Never assume planks are parallel. If you want to cut a 3" strip of Oak, don't use the far side of the plank for your cutting guide. Rough cut planks are NEVER perfectly parallel.

  • Cut long straight cuts with a circular saw, not a jig saw. Circular saws are made to cut straight lines.
  • Working out of doors is a Pain it the . You have the cold, the dark, you have to take everything out and put it away. And you can't work if it might rain. Don't underestimate how much extra time everything takes if you work out of doors in northern Europe in the winter.
  • Check the blade setting on your Jigsaw before you cut. Run it through a piece of scrap, take out a Square and make sure that it's cutting perpendicularly. It's a real pain to look at a frame you have just cut and realise that there's an unintentional bevel.

  • If you want to use a guide or a
    jig with a Jigsaw, use blades with a set to the teeth. Bosch's T144DP does the job nicely, and it cuts Oak just fine. Blades without a set to the teeth tend to follow the cut, not the guide.

A new frame...

This weekend I tried a simpler frame. Frame 1 has no bevels pre-cut. If you look closely, you will see that the two bottom parts have not been fitted correctly at the center yet. That's another days work. By the way, sorry about the quality of the photo, my sis has borrowed my DSLR for a trip to South Africa, so I took this with an Ixus. Nice Camera for snapshots, but you can hardly set up remote triggered flashes. I'll retake it with a more contrasting background when I get my camera back.

This time I cut the joints away from the mark and fitted them with a Stanley Bailey Block Plane. Using the ScarySharp method for sharpening; progressively finer silicon carbide papers and a glass plate.

I was able shave paper thin slivers from the end grain of an Oak Plank. Then suddenly as if by magic (well with a little bit of work), bits that are supposed to fit together do.

I have still to "fit" the join at the center, but I need to draw the frame out on a large plywood board to ensure I have the angles right.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Pretty much everything that seems simple is not. If it seems simple then you probably don't know enough about it. Take Glue for example. Put two bits of wood together, some glue in the middle and it sticks right. Well sort of.

It needs to be waterproof. So that means Resorcinol, Epoxy or Polyurethane adhesive.
  • Resorcinol needs to be cured at relatively high temperature, won't fill gaps and need high clamping pressure.
  • Epoxy fills gaps, but doesn't like the cold and there can be problems with gluing white oak.
  • Polyurethane will fill gaps to .3 mm (small, tiny really), requires clamping, but doesn't mind the cold. It has a long open time that's not dependent on temperature.
Given that most of my work will be out of doors in winter in Ireland, I've just gotten 1Kg of Balcotan Super Fibre to try out. My plan is to glue the boat with this, then by the time it comes to glassing the boat, it should be a little warmer, and I can use a low temp epoxy. It's never really hot here.

I'm still kind of up in the air about glassing the whole boat, or just taping the joints and glassing them. We'll see.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Bosche GST 135 BCE / 1590 EVSK

It's wonderful.

I could stop there, but, specifically,

The pendulum setting cuts through 1" oak planks as though they were soft pine. (Remember to turn down the pendulum if you are cutting curves.)

The base plate angle can be set without tools, and you can set it consistently to reproducible angles.

I think that the best all round blade that I have tried so far is the bosch T144DP. Since it has a set to it's teeth, it follows a jig well. It will also cut a bevel and cut curves. I think I'll order a few packs.

Incidently, I got it from The Tool Man in the UK. Ordered Monday, arrived Wednesday. Nice helpful people.

A simple Jig saw Jig

To cut a straight line with a jigsaw is remarkably easy. All you need is a simple jig made from a straight batten of wood, and a piece of 1/4" plywood.

First screw the plywood to the batten and counter sink the screws.

Clamp the batten down and saw along the batten as shown.

Place the plywood exactly along the line you wish to cut, and place a sceond scrap piece of the same plywood beside it to support the Jigsaw. Run the Jigsaw along the batten and it will cut your line exactly.

There are two caveats.

1) Always use it in the same direction, the distance from the side of the base plate of the jigsaw to the blade may be different on the left and right of the jigsaw.

2) If you want to cut a bevel, you need to make two jigs for each angle, one sloping away from the batten, the other sloping towards the batten.

Cutting Frames

Today I started actually cutting out frames and along the way I learned a few things.

Firstly, don't try the transome frame first if the transom is angled. This frame will be bevelled and this complicates things a little. If you are still, like me, finding your footing, then this is the most difficult frame to cut and you should pick another to start on.


When you are cutting frames, cut the critical parts slightly long and plane or sand to fit. When you try to cut the notch for the keel shown here, cut it away from the lines you have marked so that there is extra wood. Then lay it out and see how it should fit together. You can easily plane or sand wood away, adding it back can be somewhat tricky.

Friday, November 17, 2006

If only I could get to work on the boat.

I have to work out side as I don’t have a workshop. It gets dark here before I get home from work so I have a 500W site lamp. I can’t work in the rain, but the dark is no problem. The real problem is that there’s always so much to do in the house. So last night instead of cutting out frames, I was installing a panel in front of the bath. This should be a fifteen minute job, but as usual it’s not. The walls are not square, the bath fits in an alcove, and the walls slope in as you come away from the bath. Suddenly a simple job becomes a bit of work.

The good news is that I got to play with my new Jigsaw. Not cutting oak, just 1 ½“ square battens that I was pinning to the walls to hold the panel. Houses being houses, I had to cut various notches in the battens to make them fit into place. Since no one will see them, switch to full pendulum mode, stick in a fast cutting blade, and turn the Jigsaw up to half speed. (Full speed is just silly). Ah… when I think of the hard work my toy B&D made of this kind of think in the past. Ok, so it’s only pine, but hot knife through soft butter is about right.

I like this thing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More on Sapwood

Since I posted the detailed pictures of the planks below, the general consensus across the forums is that yes, the lighter wood is indeed sapwood. The holes gave it away. It's excellent for indoor furniture, worse than useless for boats.

Apparently it soaks up liquids, including whatever you might use to try to seal the ends of it, and then it soaks up some more.

Since being a rank beginner when it comes to working with oak, I will need to practice various cuts and joints. So I guess the sapwood won't go to waste. If I have Lots left, I may use if for the slats for the seats, then when it rots away, I'll just replace it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ordered a new Jigsaw

Since I busted my toy jigsaw, I need a new one. It appears from reading across three forums, that the bosche GST 135BCE is the one to get.

I'll let you know how it works out..

Credit where credit is due

A while back I bought two saw blades for my circular saw from They sat on a shelf for a few weeks while I did other stuff. This weekend I was just about to put the first one in my saw when I realised that I had bought the wrong size.

I sent them an email asking if I could exchange them, and got back an email to the effect of "no problem, send us the blades and let us know what you need".

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone was this great.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My Poor Jigsaw....

Never send a boy to do a mans work, neither use toy tools to cut hard wood. A little 400w Jigsaw intended for home use is no good for cutting 1" thick oak planks with a bevel.

Since I knew that many cuts would be bevelled, I set the blade to 72 degrees, put on the jigsaw fence and tried to cut a straight line parallel to the side of the board.

Not a hope. The blade cut the bevel to within 1 degree, but would not follow a straight line for love nor money.

Primarily I think the problem was trying to get the blade and the base parallel. The blade would always pull the cut to the left. I tried setting the fence on the far side of the plank to prevent this and I ended up overheating the blade and breaking the locking mechanism.

So a cheap jigsaw can cut pine, or thin ply, but forget trying to cut hardwood.

Time to go shopping.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tracing Frames - inch by inch / Sapwood

The real world has been intervening as I have finally gotten around to breaking out the first row of tiles around the bath, removing the old seal, replacing the seal, and replacing the first row of tiles.

However I have made a little more progress on the boat, in that I have transferred the plans for the transom frames onto oak, ready for cutting tomorrow after work.

Unfortunately I have also found that one of the oak planks that I bought is almost 60% sapwood. I reckon that I can get about 2 inches down the middle of good wood out of it. Luckily, I only bought a few planks, as I knew I did not really know what I was looking for. Though I have been told that spotting sapwood in unplaned oak can be tough at the best of times.

Some days are good days, some days are less so.

I have ordered a set of roof bars for the car, so that I can carry longer planks, and I will be heading down to lisnavagh to see what they have in stock.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Today was a good day

I planned and thicknessed a few boards today, and I'm ready to start transferring the traced frames to the boards. Hopefully I'll start cutting frames this week, and see how my little Black & Decker Jig saw holds up.

I suspect that it will fail on one or more of
  • it's only 400 watts
  • I bought it or about €50 so I don't hold out much hope for the blade running true when I set it at an angle.
  • It has no pendulum cutting feature, so I'm a little concerned about how fast it'll be cutting oak.
It may well end up on eBay while I look for something more suitable.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

The power of the internet...

A quick posting to the boards in my link list, wait a little, and I have a few answers. The problem is they conflict. And they all appear to know what they are talking about. At least, they appear to know a lot more than I.

  • One says the light wood is sapwood, don't use it.
  • One says the sap wood would be softer than the heartwood. The lighter wood in my piece is not.
  • Another says no, sapwood is hard, but would rot away over time.

And then a description of white oak on a site about wood describes the sap wood exactly as I see it. Fortunately this is only about a piece of wood, and I can simply play it safe and discard the lighter coloured part and the cost is minor.

Pity, it's a very nice plank...

Planed and Thicknessed

After a little more setting up, I am now happy with the Woodster PT 85. So I ran some good wood through it. I have to say that I am impressed. I have pretty good results . I measured the thickness on both sides at both ends, and it is consistent. The scale on the Woodster is a little off, but I sort of expected that - I must actually figure out how much off for the future.

I ran a short board through and a longer one. No sniping and a nice finish. Though the longer board was a handful.

I think before I run any more long planks through I will invest in a roller stand.

Incidently the two tools on the short board
are Veritas Cornering Tool. I tried it out on a scrap peice of oak and the results were OK. But as there is no breaker, you must be careful to cut across the grain at the corner, if you cur under the grain, then it will lift the wood and ruin the corner. My Scrap peice of Oak was scrap due to a nasty knot. This mean the grain ran every which way. A lot of care was required to use the tool.

I think that I will try a Radius Plane and see if it's any easier to use.

I have a question, you can see the Oak board above has a lighter strip on the right hand side - is that sapwood. And if so, does that mean that I need to just use the darker wood. Bear in mind that I'm using this for the frame of a small sail boat. I'll post this question on a few forums and summaries the replies in another post.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stepped Drill Bits

To join two bits of wood with a Bronze Screw requires a lot more work than you might think. Bronze screws will not go into oak without the proper pilot hole.

Ideally you want a pilot hole, an shank hole and a countersink hole, which all have to be concentric.

Since the screw is free to turn in the top piece of wood, the screws pull the second piece of wood tight to the first in a way nails just can't.

Not wanting to drill three holes per screw, I searched the 'net and found Fuller. They produce an array of drill bits and other accessories, but of primary interest to me was the stepped drills.

Combine these with a countersink and a drill stop and you can in theory drink your three holes in one fell swoop.

As none of their distributors had the particular drills in stock that I needed, they kindly shipped the drills directly to me. The drills arrived promptly, in little envelopes, with each one coated in a plastic that peels off easily to protect them from damage in the post.

It will be a while before I get to the stage of screwing things together. I have to cut the frames first, but rest assured that I will post the results here. I may even go overboard and cut a hole in half to show a photo of a hole with a screw inserted.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Setting up the Planer

In order to start cutting the frames, I needed to turn sawn oak into planed oak. Time to break out the Woodstar PT 85.

First I had to replace the power plug. Annoying but trivial. The PT 85 is small enough to put on a standard Black and Decker WorkMate and there are holes in the base of the machine to clamp it down. (Do set it up along the length of the bench to give yourself a longer base.)

Then I ran a scrap piece of Oak over the planer. Very nice except for the ends which suffered horrible sniping. The result for the middle of the board was excellent.

Time to break out the articles from old woodwork magazines about setting up a planer.

The Woodstar is really quite simple to set up for planing. There are two settings

The infeed table
This is set up by twisting a knob at the end of the table which moves it up or down. Moving back down is by means of a spring, which tends to catch and then slip. So to get any sort of accuracy, bring the table lower than you need, and then adjust it back up.

The Cutter Blades
These are held in place by four allen bolts perpendicular to the blades. The are adjusted by two more allen bolts which are parallel to the blades. Here, the manual is less than helpful. What you need to do is to loosen the allen bolts holding the blade, and then adjust the blades so that they are exactly level with the outfeed table. then tighten the bolts. This is fiddly and time consuming, and will probably require a number of iterations. And each time you sharpen the blades, you need to re-adjust them.

In order to align the blades, get a straight edge and run it from the out feed table over the blades. Each blade should just touch the straight edge as you rotate it. See the diagram opposite. You may find a little bit of trial and error is required here. Patience and small adjustments is the key.

Take Good Care
There is a push stick provided. Use it. In spite of the gaurd, and through my own foolishness, my push stick already has a nice little notch in it. Had that been my fingers, typing would now be somewhat difficult.

Unfortunately about now, it started to rain, and since my "workshop" is out of doors, that necessitated a quick cover and tidy.

Next time, I'll play with the thicknessor function. I plan to thickness all the peices for a given frame in one session so that they are all done with the same machine setting.

So far I'm happy with the Woodstar.

Incidently I bought this in McQuillans Tools in Blanchardstown shopping center. They don't appear to have a web site, so I can't provide a link. If anyone has a link, stick a comment in and I'll add the link here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Chisels and Planes

You could spend a LOT of money on these, I went with Marples Chisels and the more expensive Stanley planes. Then I spent a little time trying to sharpen them, and I found ScarySharp on the internet. Cheap, Simple, Effective, and it's easy even for a novice.

I'll let you know how the Marples and the Stanleys holds up. I can see a power plane in my future for fairing the frame of the boat. Doing that by hand could be a LOT of work.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The first problem....And Solution

While tracing the Transom Frames, the notch for the sheer clamp is different to the rest. It's shown with a small shaded area, as shown here to the right.

On the glen l web site forums Graham Knight came up with the fact that the transom is angled, so the sheer clamp, while horizontal would not be perpendicular to the transom frame.

This makes it most likely that the plans are showing the slope of the notch by marking the front and back of the transom frame where they need to be cut.

Given that the remaining fames are vertical, and have no similar shaded area, I think that I am going to go with this. I may mock up a paper model to convince myself the angles are correct first though. Measure four or five times, cut once.

Power Tools

Some tools...

Planer Thicknesser
Since it's difficult to get planed oak here in Ireland. I am buying rough sawn planks. In order to plane and thicnkess these, I bought a Woodstar PT85 Planer / Thicknesser - Planer Thicknessers

It's still in it's box, but it looks like it will cope with the job, I'll update this as I start using it and let you know how it goes.

I have a Black and Decker 400 watt JigSaw, I am not sure how well this will cope with cutting 1 inch thick pine boards. I have my eye on a Bosch BCE 135, but we'll see how B&D copes first.

I cannot justify a band saw. And from what I have heard, I would probably be better off spending €200 on a good jigsaw rather than wasting €200 on a cheap band saw.

The Plans

Maybe I should go back a little.

The plans for the boat come from Glen L

They have a good selection of plans, a forum, and can supply most of the parts, fasteners, glues etc if you want. There are others who sell plans, but I liked the plans for the Glen l 14.

Since they are in the US and I am in Ireland, then I'll be buying parts and bits locally where possible.

I did buy the bronze screws from them since they have a nice kit that you can order, instead of having to source the various different screws locally. (Easier said than done.)

The Boat Begins

I have just started actually working on the boat. So far just tracing out the parts from the plans on to more manageable tracing sheets to transfer them to the oak.

I'm building a Glen L 14