On (not) taking the knee !

Blog time : it’s mid May 2021 and our dry windy and warm spring has turned into a very windy, wet but mild late spring/early summer. Right now it’s blowing a good 40 kn in the gusts and that’s forecast to be up to 60 mph gusts later on, the greenhouse is creaking and groaning like it always does in a gale but the shelter seems ok with just a little bit of rain coming in one end. Today, in between the heavy gusts and squalls i did a bit more work on my Pathfinder build project – mainly in finishing off some frame cuts from the day before…..today though is a better day for admin and writing, and a bit of a catch-up on progress.

On the bench this week.

The bench this week became the floor, at least temporarily, because i ran out of space on my actual workshop bench – while it seems like a decent sized bench it loses quite a bit of length and width due to the pillar drill being down at one end and then there’s a compression post that goes through the bench to at one point which holds the roof up.  Those 2 things and the fact that there isn’t much space to begin with meant that i simply didn’t have enough space on the bench to mark up the longer frame pieces so i had to take the job outside and briefly experiment with doing the lofting on the floor, traditional style except that my lofting floor would have to be the tarmac of the drive.  For several reasons that just didn’t work !

For those that know even less than i do about boatbuilding a traditional boat starts it’s life as a set of scale drawings and then those drawings get scaled up and marked out on a clean ‘lofting’ floor, often painted white . The boatbuilder will usually then draw things like the frames directly onto the floor and then a bit like iv’e had to do a couple of times, hammer a load of nails around the marks and set a flexible batten around them to draw the curve required.   In comparison most of my marking out is a simple set of straight lines with just a few curves for the deck crown and the inside line of the frame side pieces….can i just say though that it really doesn’t work do try and draw/loft the shapes onto the patterning material which is sitting on the coarse tarmac drive : for a start the nails just bend !.     The real problem i had though was simply in the work ergonomics – kneeling and bending over for long periods just doesn’t work for me any more what with old back injuries and one knee replacement already done……so iv’e had to come up with a work solution to make the whole project do-able without knackering myself.

Enter the picnic bench.

Just to say also that my home made saw benches don’t work because all of the materials i’m working with at the moment – packaging plastic, 3mm MDF and even the 9mm plywood, are all too floppy to sit across the saw benches and lay straight.  That might have worked with say a sheet of 25mm plywood as a work surface but then i don’t think that my saw benches would have been wide enough for me to ‘take the knee’ on top when i’m cutting so…..

My solution has been to create a marking out and cutting table using the old garden picnic bench which we inherited with the cottage and which iv’e never had a great use for ; sometimes i’ll sit on it and have my coffee, sometimes i use it to cut firewood and in the spring i used it as my potting bench but most of the time it just sits there taking up space.  So, we lifted and heaved the old bench into the shelter and i added 4 lengths of 2 x 4 inch CLS timber, edge on, to make a surface with deck beams/floor beams which would i hoped support the materials i’m working with thus :


If you’re wondering then i made it the same width as a standard sheet of plywood although the old bench is a tad less than 6 feet in length, my first impressions though are good ; it seems to be able to support sheets of MDF and the actual boatbuilding plywood.  I was a bit cautious first time i knelt onto the plywood to make a cut but the 9mm ply is what i’ll be using for the boat’s soleboards and seats and they will be supported on bearers too.  The extra height seems to make it a lot more comfortable to lean over it and do the marking out and then when i need to i can kneel on the workpiece to cut….that or slide the ply around to cut near an edge.

Also…..that’s frame no 2 just after i made the last cut, for those who are wondering yes iv’e chosen to make that frame in 1 piece (plus it’s doubler) whereas most of the frames i’ll be making up from bottom webs and side pieces.

So, this is just a catch-up post, obviously now i’m actually marking out and cutting pieces that will go into the actual build and that’s a big step forward after my loss of confidence during the previous weeks. As i write i’m working my way back through the frames, today i finished cutting the side pieces for frames 3 and 4 , and then called it a day as it’s pretty unpleasant out there even under shelter.  Iv’e said enough about interpreting the plans and marking up the pieces so in the next post i want to talk mainly about what iv’e learned in cutting out the parts ; new saws, hole cutters and all that workshop bling.

Catch you next week.

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