Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tools of Traditional Shipwrights

There are many amazing things about Phase 1 of Adventuress' Centennial Restoration project, but the best part has been--by far--working with our shipwrights. They are strong, intelligent, and humble men keeping a tradition alive. I have learned so much over the last three weeks about ship construction and restoration simply from helping and observing them work. To make things even better, they are natural educators, often giving us demonstrations and answering our many questions.

I am a lover of tools, and the shipwrights of Haven Boatworks have many. They use traditional tools and have tricks of the trade gleaned from the vast history of boatbuilding, but they also use power tools to expedite the overall restoration. The results are beautiful and efficient.

One of my favorite traditional tools the shipwrights carry is the bevel gauge. The picture to the left is a spread of shipwright Leland's tools. You can see three bevel gauges: two small brass ones in the bottom-middle of the picture, and a larger sliding bevel-gauge in the top middle.  The metal ruler is Leland's bevel board; on the back it has specifically angled lines etched in so you can compare the bevel gauge to the bevel board to find your angle.

From top to bottom, the tools are as follows: (row 1) a combination square, a sliding bevel gauge, a hand planer; (row 2) a bevel board, a folding knife, a spiling block, a folding ruler, an awl; (row 3) two sizes of bevel gauges. The square is for measuring and being sure things are "square," i.e. at 90 degree angles. The awl is good for a lot of things, like making marks on wood or probing for rot. It is the spiling blocks, however, are curious and genius tools.

My own description of spiling would be a little rough, so here's a link that explains it better: Spiling. Spiling is the process of making a pattern of an existing futtock so you can make a new, sister futtock. Through this process, our frames are being reconstructed. You can see Brad at right using spiling blocks to make a pattern on the spiling batten.

There are many other tools the shipwrights harness: pry bars, hammers, mallets, drills, sawzalls, bandsaws, table saws, chisels, slide hammers, braces,  pencil sharpeners, and so on. I am continually being impressed by their talents and knowledge, and I am proud to be working alongside them during this restoration project.

The picture above is of Brad and Leland using the ship's saw to cut a futtock.  Brad is careful to keep the saw abreast of his markings while Leland is changing the angle of the saw. 5 degrees, 6 degrees, 7 degrees...

Project Update
The rest of the preservation and maintenance is going well. Here is an list of some things we've done.

  • Continually replacing futtocks
  • Removed mast wedges to check masts
  • Painted anchor chain
  • Completely disassembled, cleaned, and painted the Edson Patent Gyber
  • Removed & replaced deck bungs
  • Overhauled main-cabin stove, Lucy
  • Put Dutchmen in the deck (carved out rot and put in new wood)
  • Checked shaft alignment
  • Overhauled bilge alarms
Pictures (top to bottom): New frames next to the old! Amazing that these futtocks have survived; Nora working under the engine; Lara clearing rot for the Dutchman; A mast wedge removed; Adam proud of his sanding on the main-cabin hatch; A pretty picture of our new futtocks against the hull

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wrecking, Wrecking, and More Wrecking

Greetings again,

I promise to get another crew member to write one of these soon. In the mean time, I'll write another post because it has been a week since the last one and a lot has happened.

I can speak for the crew without reservation on this one: there has been a lot of hard work this week! The shipwrights have been working us hard, and it has been educational and fantastic. They have had us wrecking planks, removing fasteners, and chipping concrete with a hammer and chisel (the latter being what I did for 4 hours yesterday).

Chipping concrete where, you ask? In the forepeak. The shipwrights need to see the stem of the boat. So, we were charged with exposing it. Adam started, I continued, and our new friend Jay finished it off today.

Meanwhile, we have all taken turns wrecking planks off the boat. Fasteners stick out here and there. They are no match for our pry-bars, 2 pound mallets, slide hammers, and brawn. We modified the slide hammer so that it could be secured around the head of the fasteners, then hammered out of the ship.

Today was especially cool because we removed the port chain-plate. The chain plate is what the shrouds are secured to. You can see in the picture it coming out of its hiding place behind the pin rail. The majority of the plate rests inside the ship--pinched between the frames and the planking. The top portion sneaks out above deck and rests snugly against the inboard side of the bulwarks, which is where the shrouds attach. It was fun to help the shipwrights get it out, then learn from them afterward.

Shipwright Brad started making patterns of the futtocks today. A futtock is a curved piece of wood. Many of these pieces are put together to make a single frame. I learned that this is called a sawn frame, as opposed to a bent frame where wood is steamed and bent into place. We took the patterns to the purple-heart wood and cut out manageable pieces, which were then planed down to the appropriate thickness. This was great fun!

As the port side restoration gets into full swing, there are still many regular maintenance projects to be done. We have been doing things like servicing and painting the blocks, overhauling the Edson Patent Gyber (which I mentioned earlier), removing the halyard deck eye-bolts, and more. Cameron, a regular aboard the A, is with us this week and has had the pleasure of cleaning the lazarette. If you are interested in volunteering, we can put you to work too!

That is all for today. Your homework assignment is to look up trunnels. Apparently, they are a way to fasten without using metal.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

End of the First Week

Hey All,

This is Zach again. We have successfully finished our first week of Adventuress' centennial restoration! What a week it has been. I am exhausted. The learning curve is steep, but there are so many people involved in this project with expert knowledge, experience, and patience, that I have never felt overwhelmed - just sore!

The shipwrights have continued tearing off planks, some of the holes now extend as far back as the mainmast. This fact didn't really settle in until I was reaching for the olive oil in the galley, I could see light streaming through the bulkhead. Bizarre.

That said, it has been really fun to clean up after their wrecking because I get to examine the wood; I can now tell the difference between the newer wood, Douglas Fir, and the older wood, Longleaf Yellow Pine, mostly by the smell! The older wood is also denser and darker but I usually rely on my nose to differentiate.We're saving many pieces of the wood and the old bronze fasteners to possibly use for something in the future...

The new wood for our planks, African sapele, came on Wednesday afternoon. In the picture to the right you can see the wood's initial resting place. Notice the hammer on the big stack of lumber; that's my attempt to give scale to this picture. We eventually moved the piles nearer to the starboard bow, which was quite the process.

Due to the other projects around us, the forklift could not get the lumber close enough to the ship. The task was then turned over to experts in wood-schlepping: the trusty volunteers. We each summoned our inner Clydesdale and proceeded to move the pieces one by one. We would wedge dunnage under each board so the forklift could get in there. The lift would move the board onto a pair of wheels, then leave it to us to roll it over to the Adventuress. While we were rolling, the shipwright would drive around and meet us to unload the board. Once it was successfully placed, we would prep the next board while the shipwright drove back. This happened 12 times. What a day!

To keep this brief, I will just outline some of the other projects we have done.
  • There was some copper sheathing covering the stem, just under the waterline. That has been removed.
  • The varnish on the main companionway hatch is being scraped off.
  • The head-rig was examined, rust removed, and a list of replacement parts was made
  • The Edson Patent Gyber (one of my favorite things on the ship) got an overhaul, see left.
  • On Thursday we got our plastic cover on which took all day. It hasn't been shrunk yet, so it flaps quite boisterously in the wind.
Last, but certainly not least, the Explorers came to help out on Friday. The Explorers are young adults who take on different projects around the community. I'm new to their program, so perhaps someone would care to elaborate on my description. The explorers removed the blocks from our storage container and brought them to the ship. They then formed an assembly line to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the blocks. It was fantastic to have their energy on the ship. When the day was finished, we gathered with them the main cabin for snacks and chanteys. I was deeply impressed by their positive attitudes, hard work, and musical abilities. I hope they come back.

That's it for now. I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Pictures: An Explorer playing the mandolin (excellently). The forepeak with planks removed. Volunteer Meg removing varnish. Nora anchoring the plastic. A bolthole through the stem in the forepeak.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Portside Restoration Begins!

Hello All!

This is Zach and I am going to try and post weekly updates on this blog and Facebook about our portside project. I am also hoping to get some of the other crew to post as well so you can hear different stories and perspectives!

The other maintenance volunteers involved in this process are Nora, Aleythea, and Adam. Our winter mate is Beth and Captain Korie is our fearless leader. We all met yesterday morning (Jan 4) and Korie gave us a great overview of the project and her hopes for the season.

After Korie's pep-talk, we launched into it. We're working with Haven Boatworks, and their shipwrights are cool fellows. Blaise and Leland seem to be our main shipwrights and they're great at pulling us aside and explaining what they're doing. Through their instruction I've learned what a "proud" board is--one that stands out from the ones around it and is generally newer--and also how to use a reefing tool and a brace.

Our first day we got the anchor and the 360 feet of chain off the ship, we got the liferaft off, the shipwrights started putting up the scaffolding, and our stairs were finished. That was nice because hauling gear up a ladder was a little unnerving! Adam also wrecked a few boards out of the engineers locker and, I think, removed a through-hole.

Today,we removed bungs from the port caprail, the shipwrights removed a plank from the portside, and the majority of the day was spent continuing construction of our shelter. Right now, it looks a lot like a whale's ribs covering our deck. Also, Edinsaw lumber delivered the purple-heart wood and it's beautiful.

That's all for now. Be looking for more posts in the future and there may be videos.

Until then, fair winds!
The lady here in orange is our winter mate, and I threw in this picture of the rudder and propeller because I don't think many people get to see it! I was really excited to see it for the first time.