Back in the saddle

The new year started off slowly as we all gradually found our way back to the museum from holiday visits. We’ll start off by looking at spar progress.

Walt began the year by addressing some of the checks in his main top yard. We don’t want to try to glue the checks together for a number of reasons. First, it’s impossible to pull the sides of the check back together to get a solid wood-wood bond. Second, if you were to fill the gaps with thickened epoxy (the only kind you could put in… regular epoxy is too thin to stay in the gap and would run out like water) then that epoxy would no longer move when the wood expanded and contracted as its moisture content changed. If the spar were in a perfectly constant environment where the moisture levels never changed, then this would be fine. But that’s not the environment that this spar will live in. As the spar dried, the wood would tear itself apart as it tried to pull away from the epoxy. As the spar got wet and swelled, it would press up against the immovable and hard epoxy in the check, and the epoxy would act as a wedge to pry the wood apart.

We’re ok with the checking as far as the structure of the wood goes, but we’d like to prevent water from infiltrating into the spar. Thus, we chose to pour in a hot mixture of melted bees wax and pine rosin to fill the gap.


The mixture is sticky enough to hold, and soft and flexible enough to move with the wood. The bees wax by itself is too soft, and the mixture would slump and run out on hot days. The rosin by itself is hard and brittle


(we chip it out of this 5 gal bucket with a chisel like amber), but when you melt the two together, you get a firm substance that can squish out as the wood expands (closing the check), and stretch when the wood contracts (opening the check).


All the run out was scraped off after the mix hardened.


Patrick did more than his share of scraping. Afterwards, he sanded and prepped the yard for painting. Real solid worker, that Patrick.


Walt has begun work on the new fore main course yard. This is the lowest yard on the foremast, and holds its largest sail. He’s working with a Douglas fir spar that was milled in Aberdeen WA. Here he’s tapering an end for the iron work.


He also lays out and cuts the openings for the shivs. Here, he’s drilled a series of guide holes, cut between them with a Sawzall, and is now removing the inner block.


Other side, done.


Walt has reattached all of the iron work to the main top yard.

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The fore top yard has also had its iron work attached. Looks just like the main top yard to be honest.


The fore top yard was waiting for some iron work to be finished for the ends. Now that the ironwork is finished it’s time to start tapering the end. Material is removed down to the target diameter first using a router. The router cut the rings you see in this picture.


Then the remaining wood was removed quickly using the slick you see above. A slick is essentially a large heavy chisel. In 30 minutes, it’s taken down to very close to final dimensions.


Just a little more tuning to fit the ironwork exactly. By the way, this yard is replacing the grey one to the right. That one had some rot at the ends as well as some twist and warping.

Speaking of the old fore top yard, we decided to recycle it into a new fore t’gallent yard. The new yard is thinner and shorter than the top yard, so we thought that we could work around the rot and warp. After drawing out new and old yards, we decided that there was enough meat to allow us to cut a smaller straight spar from the insides of the larger warped one. Here’s the old spar as we’re beginning to work on it.


The lighter piece of wood on top of the spar is a stiff batten. We use it to make sure that the taper we cut into the spar is fair and pleasing to the eye. Even though we’re working from measured drawings, the final part has to look right. If we’re 1/16” off on a given thickness but the curve is sweet, we’ll stick with discrepancy. Sighting along the lower edge of the batten, we can see slight humps and valleys that are best corrected early on.


Two faces done. You can now see how the taper will look on the final yard.


Working on the third and fourth faces. To get a round spar, we’re starting with a 4-sided spar. The four sides give us flat reference surfaces to measure off of.


The yard looks crooked, but that’s an illusion created by the uneven exposure of old grey wood from outer face of the old yard.

A laser is used to help reestablish the center lines after the tapered 4-sided shape is finished.


We make sure the opposing faces are parallel by using a level. If both faces are level along their length then they’re also parallel.


Once the faces are parallel, cut to the proper taper, and fairly curved, lines are marked to lay out cut lines for 8 and 16-siding. Here is the spar with the 8-siding started.


And the 8-siding done. Now it’s looking straight.


You can see the longitudinal layout lines that will be used for 16-siding the yard. The corners will be planed down until the plane just touches the line on each side of the corner. The lines that go across the mast make it easier to see what you’ve taken off as you plane down to the lines.


Matt is making progress on the Gammon knee braces. This one is built up of two parts to accommodate the amount of sweep the piece makes.




The parts will be bolted together and planed flush to make a part that appears to be a single curved part.


Matt’s been all over the place lately. He and Jamie laid out and built a level platform on deck for an upcoming stability test. Those little white flags are tied to nearly invisible layout strings going across the deck.


And… done. This is looking forward.


The platform will hold heavy pallets of lead that will be moved athwart ships during the test. As the weight is moved, engineers will measure how much the ship inclines. They will use these measurements to determine how best to distribute ballast for maximum stability at sea.

He’s also been helping Jamie and Ryan reef out the old caulking from the tween decks.

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John has been framing up the anchor deck at the bow of the boat.


There are a lot of angles to attend to here. The aft support post is relieved to mate with a mitered sloping joint.  John is drilling for fasteners into that post.


The horizontal supports tie into bulwarks planking that rakes out and sweeps back.

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The main fore-aft supports tie into the athwart ships supports with angled dados. You can see how they flare out at the top but are almost gone by the bottom of the joint.


On top of all that, one has to accommodate rigging that will come down and through the deck to tie into bolts that go through the bow.


There’s a lot to think about…

Kevin continues to work on the captain’s cabin. This is slow, complex joinery. He’s finished the aft area up high.

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One thing he’s discovered as he’s been working with these old panels is that somewhere early in her history, maybe even when she was first built, the pine paneling in the cabin was painted to look like oak.

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All of that grain is faked. This is plain pine wood. Somewhere along the line, the panelling was painted over with the off-white paint you see now. Chances are this was done to lighten up the cabin. It can get very dark below decks, and light woodwork can make a big difference in how bright a room appears.

Coming next, metal work! Here’s a video teaser of Mike and Ali heading over some chain plate pins.