America's Most Historic Yacht

Progress through May, 2010

Posted By on August 31, 2010

At the risk of getting too wrapped up in tool lust, I thought I should point out a few more tools that you won’t normally find at a boat shop that nonetheless are, if not critical, extremely useful on a large timber project like this.  Many of these tools come out of the log home building industry.

The first is a beam saw.  This tool is the love child of a big circular saw and a chain saw.

It has a wide base, like a circular saw, but instead of a disc of spinning teeth, you’ve got a long chain saw sticking down.  As you can imagine, this allows you to make a very deep cut, and it’s the absolute tool of choice when roughing out 18″ thick chunks of oak for futtocks.

If a full-blown tool like this is out of your price range, you can go with a conversion kit.  See that little blue saw on the floor?  That’s a good quality Makita worm drive saw fitted with an aftermarket chain saw attachment.

They pretty much destroyed it on this project.  It’s not a bad tool, but it’s no match for thousands of board feet of thick oak.

Next up is a big, big circular saw.  One advantage of the beam saw is that you can cut curves with it.  You can steer a circular saw, but only in gentle, sweeping curves.  The bigger the blade, the less you can steer it.  Circular saws are great for cutting in a straight line, and they also have a thinner kerf (the slot that the blade makes in the wood) so you get less waste.

This big Mafell has a blade that’s about the size of the blade you’d have on your table saw.  It’s a beast.

Ok, enough tool porn.  Back to what’s been going on at the boat.

Or, to be more accurate, what’s been coming off.  The answer is: lots and lots of wood.

A lot of time has been spent making new parts, and now it’s time to make space for those parts to be installed.  This means cutting out large sections of the boat that won’t be able to be saved.

This can be heart-breaking if you want to save every possible original part of the boat.  This boat has been extensively surveyed, and the years have not been kind to many of the frames.  Iron sickness (areas where rusting iron destroys the surrounding wood) numerous holes from previous fasteners,  rot, and the various ravages of time have degraded the frames to the point where they are no longer safe or practically worth saving.  So, away they go.

We’ll try to save as many of the knees (those big white parts that look like shelf brackets) as possible.  We’ll also save most of the ceiling planks (the large planks that run fore-and-aft on the inside face of the frames).

The stem has been removed now, and you can see Leo standing in the boat, framed by the forward ends of the ceiling planks

Riley the shop dog supervises as Claes and Chris move a section of hull, with the sheer clamp and knee still attached, over to a storage pile.  Even though all of these parts may not be saved, it’s good to have them around for reference later.

For instance, here’s the ship’s registration number and tonnage carved into a deck beam.  They’ll probably want to copy this font and style when they carve in the new numbers.

I mentioned earlier that we’ll be saving the ceiling planks.  It’s not enough to simply remove all these planks and thrown them into a pile.  We want to put them back where they came from.  If you’ve ever seen photos of famous stone structures that were dismantled and re-built, you may recall that each stone gets labelled so that it could be put back in the proper place.  That’s what they did when Robert P. McCulloch bought the London Bridge and re-built it in Arizona.

This is a bit less involved than that.

Here’s Leo, standing on the ceiling that he’s marked with spray paint.

Each plank is marked with a number designating which course it comes from (1 is lowest, 2 next up, etc.), Port or Starboard, and since each course is made up of multiple planks, a letter indicating it’s order along the length of the boat (“A” is the farthest aft, “B” is the next plank forward, etc.).

So, the plank marked 4SB is the 4th up from the bottom, Starboard side, 2nd from the aft end of the boat.  The pink numbers identify the frame location for each plank as well.  Once everything is marked, the ceiling planks can be removed and stored.

The deck has been taken off now, and the deck beams are slowly coming off as well.

So, load after load of old boat is taken off and carted away.

The ceiling gets stacked up,

and in no time, there’s only half a boat left standing.

It’s rare to be able to see a cross-section of a big wooden boat like this.  Here’s a great shot of the major structural members.

From the bottom up, you’ve got the keel in 2 pieces, the floor resting on top of that (the piece with the arms stretching out to either side), and the keelson on top of the floor.  See that the top of the keel has a little angle cut in it?  That’s the rabbet.  The planks lie along the outer face of the floors with the bottom edge set into that rabbet.

With the demolition complete, it’s back to construction.  Leo is assembling the forefoot and forekeel here.

Work hard, play hard.  The guys decided that it was time for a pig roast, so they built a spit using an old bike, a motor, and a creepy fluorescent painted guy.

It’s a bit hard to explain without video, but when it’s up and running there are giant butterfly wings that flap, a moving tiki lamp, and a big slab of slowly turning meat over a fire in the half barrel.  All in all, a stunning presentation.

And the meat was delicious.


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