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.