Cutting remarks !

Blog time : it’s halfway through May 2021 and as i write it’s raining hard outside, i just went down to the shelter to check my newly installed guttering and the water is pouring into the butt at speed – enough that my overflow can’t cope with the excess. A small amount of rain comes in the high side when the wind backs but generally it’s good and dry under there – amazing how much rain that the shade/scrim net blocks out. Things have slowed down a bit on the actual build, i’m still messing around with frame patterns in different materials and still finding that some parts don’t match up and that i occasionally still read the wrong number off of the drawings ; mostly though the delay is because iv’e had to attend to other things in the gardens. One thing we inherited was a series of wooden slat paths that run around the deep beds and it’s a sloping site so there’s several sets of steps made from the same materials.

One discovery i made while doing the trellis work that boxes in one corner and half of the long side of the garden is just how much drop there is – we live on a steep hill on the side of a valley so to make the new work look right each panel has to drop by one square (100mm) every 6 foot length. Anyway, many of the bearers that support the wooden slats must be slowly rotting out and there are large voids under much of it…..i put my foot straight through a couple of slats this week so iv’e been attending to that. Really i should have ripped the whole structure out years ago and filled the voids with rubble…….hey ho !

For those that like their gardens those are the English Bluebells that are at their peak and my woodland Clematis is flowering too…..that’s going to be a big plant and want to get more climbers like it established at this end too.

On the bench this week.

Garden aside, what iv’e been working on this week is marking out and cutting out the flat pieces that will go together to make parts for the boat. This week so far iv’e made the bow complete spine to the point where it’s dry assembled ( 5 pieces) all nicely lined up and it’s even had some shaping and smoothing ; my spokeshave having it’s first outing ever possibly. Today i went to start cutting the lamells for the centerboard, had a bit of a ‘doh’ moment with that so i made the sides for the centerboard case instead and put those aside, with those done for now that’s the flat-pack stage done with.

My slap-head moment today was when i pulled out the hardwood stock that i bought for the centerboard – i thought i had bought it at the finished size i needed and that all i had to do was to cut the right lengths , stack them together in my super new sash cramps and glue em up….that would have been the first glueing operation and it might even have happened but for the fact that the stock is too wide and i don’t have the facilities to cut it to size. Today then i cast about a bit for someone with either a table saw or bandsaw who would take on the job for me, failed on that and instead committed to buying a brand spanking new table saw for the workshop. I’m sure that it won’t actually go in the workshop in use because there isn’t enough length in there to run the long stock past the blade so i’ll be setting it up outside on the cutting bench when it arrives – that’s the entire boatbuilding budget gone in one click of a credit card though !

The bow spine assembly complete with frame no 1.

Some cutting remarks then……

I want to use this post mainly to talk about the cutting iv’e done so far and the cutting tools that i actually ended up using and those being tools that i hadn’t expected to use at the start so….

As iv’e said a few times the boat is mostly made up made up of a series of planes which come together at the chine points – a bit like a 50 pence piece, or threepenny bit in old money.  What that means for the boat’s frames is that they comprise a set of straight lines on their outboard faces where the skin planks meet them and then a curve or multiple curves on their inboard sides ; after that there’s a few deliberate curves – the crown of the deck line and transom for example.   For some reason (i know why) i was very under confident about cutting lots of accurate straight lines and even less confident if such a thing were possible when it came to the curves ; i was fully expecting wonky straight lines and messy curves that would take an age to clean up. In reality though it’s all gone surprisingly well and iv’e had little clean up to do even with the multi-part curves of the spine assembly.

Once again i need to point out that i’m a beginner and a usually messy one at that so don’t take what i’m about to say as the way to do this – rather it’s what has evolved and worked for me and is what i would do next time unless shown otherwise.   I’ll do this as a set of notes so….

  1. Cutting/marking out bench.   This i think was the crucial breakthrough because my saw benches really didn’t work – any of the materials was just too floppy for them, the bench is an ideal height to stand next to and work on or to kneel on when i need to get over a cut halfway across the board.  The bench is an old garden picnic bench that we’ve had here since we took over the cottage and all iv’e done to turn it into a highly useful bench is to attach 4 lengths of 2 x 4 CLS timber across the width and the same width as a standard sheet of plywood.  That means in use that the plywood or MDF sheet is well supported across it’s width with about 18 inch gaps and a 4 inch space vertically    The vertical gap allows me to cut along and across a board anywhere until i hit one of the softwood bearers at which time i just slide the board one way or the other so that the blade is in ‘space’ again.  That’s true of both saws that iv’e mainly used plus my Jigsaw.

Yes….that is in fact blood ! _ just after cutting out the last 2 flat-pack pieces for now.

2. Saws. One major principle of this project is that if i have to do something frequently and that thing is a critical operation , such as marking out and cutting out, then i have to find a way to do it as efficiently as possible and to a consistently high standard. That was the case of marking out and what i found early on was that i needed a better long rule/straight edge, an actually square ‘square’ and strangely enough better pencils. With cutting out i initially messed around with my old workshop saws – cross cut saw and a stiffer/finer flooring saw but i got only mediocre results with but especially with the everyday crosscut saw. During the project pre-build stage for example i was using my old saws to cut up the 2 x 4’s, 4 x 4’s and wide boards that went into the shelter and they nearly all have wonky cuts despite my best efforts. One day i really tried to sort out what was going on with my relatively new crosscut saw and by cutting on opposite edges i worked out that the blade is not only slightly curved but slightly twisted so not only does it want to go it’s own way but after a while it also binds up in the cut.

Enter the Dozuki….i used to keep a small Irwin brand pull saw on the boat and quite liked it but somehow iv’e managed to chip the blade and twist it slightly (very fine blade) so for this project i thought i would try a proper Japanese pull saw (Dozuki….which is the crosscut version) and experiment with that. My first go was disappointing as it seemed to create a lot of vibration in the cut until i learned to hold it very lightly, right at the end of the handle, angle the saw very low and apply minimal pressure…..that done and it’s the sweetest saw iv’e ever used : i’m an absolute convert to Japanese style saws on the basis of this project so far. The Dozuki i bought does also have a thin blade but slightly wider and stiffer than the Irwin and it has the classic almost sword-like long handle which i now think is critical in the type. I’m amazed how cleanly the blade will start a cut even at an acute angle on the edge of a sheet, how easily it is to keep the cut going straight and clean and surprisingly that i can also cut many of the large radius curves with it as well – the deck crown comes to mind.

Where the curve is too tight as in the inner curve of the frame sides iv’e mostly been able to use the fine Irwin razor saw which has a very flexible blade and the only time iv’e had to resort to my Jigsaw is for the small inside curves on the inside top of the frame where the curve is about the same radius as a large tin of paint….i know that because i used a paint tin to draw that part of the curve. Where i have cut with the Jigsaw iv’e done it with a very narrow blade and that’s just about the only places where iv’e had to do a clean up afterwards with some sandpaper wrapped around a piece of 60 mm PVC pipe.

In most cases iv’e been able to do all of the cuts clean and first time with minimal fettling afterwards….that’s been a huge step forward in actual progress because it makes the work so much faster and it’s been a major boost to my confidence. The drill, by the way, is often how i have started a cut when it seemed better to start a frame edge in the middle of a panel….what i do is continue the line of the edge i want to cut and just cut a 25 mm hole using that size of spade bit.

As for the blood……mine sadly !

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