Family Boat Build & WoodenBoat Show 2011

Well, we did it!   My family and I attended the 20th Annual Wooden Boat show in Mystic, CT and built our own boat over a 2.5 day period….My wife, 11 year old son and 7 year old daughter combined efforts with Dave Gentry, our excellent instructor, to build the Mystic Molly.   Named after one of our dogs and built using one of Dave’s designs (the Chuckanut 15) we progressed from pile of wood to framed and skinned boat in a long weekend.   All she needs now is paint and her rub-rails and cockpit-coamings to be ready to hit the water.

The trip was a great family bonding experience and we had a great time.  Weather cooperated and it was warm but not uncomfortable in the large outdoor tent where we built our boat along with 26 other families and about 5 other boat designers.   Five families joined us in building version’s of Dave Gentry’s Chuckanut.   The Chuckanut was the only skin-on-frame boat (the others were mostly lap-stitch construction) that was offered for family boat-build, and that was why we selected it.  I was very interested in learning this method of construction.

First, some background on the family boat-build concept from the WoodenBoat Show website:

WoodenBoat magazine started Family BoatBuilding in 1998 as a way to bring new people to boatbuilding, and to boating.  The concept is simple:  To provide a kit that can be built in two-and-a-half days and provide expert building instruction.  The goal is to launch all the boats into the water midway through the third day of the show.  And then they put their boats on their cartops or trailers and take them home.

Cool concept, and growing every year, I’m told.  We will likely do it again next year, we had so much fun…do it with your family! Its fun and the WoodenBoat Show itself as well as the Mystic Seaport Museum are both very much worth the trip.

Now, about our boat.  Below is a summary from Dave’s website:

The Chuckanut 15

Designed by Gentry Custom Boats
LOA 15′; Beam 2′7-1/2″; Weight 35-40 pounds
The Chuckanut 15 is an ideal family boat optimized for comfortable and relaxed use by paddlers of all abilities. The Chuckanut can be carried with one hand, cartopped easily, and launched and paddled on a whim—with no special skills or equipment necessary!

She’s a tandem, recreational style skin-on-frame kayak that can be paddled solo, or as a double, and has a fast, stable hull design which tracks well, but still turns easily. She has a large open cockpit, with stowage and floatation in the ends.

The Chuckanut is designed for messing about on ponds, lakes and bays, and is great as a day paddler, or protected water expedition boat.

For more information and to order your kit, please email Dave,

She is built with cedar stringers and marine plywood frames and covered with 8 oz polyester fabric that it stapled to the frames and then shrunk tight with an iron and heat gun.  The polyester is the painted with a oil-based paint to make it water tight. Below are some photos from our build:

Here is Dave Gentry’s blog entry on the family boat build:

I will post photos again as soon as the Mystic Molly is painted and in the water.

Some thoughts on Chris Schwarz’s new book “The Anarchist’s Tool Chest”

I pre-ordered The Anarchist’s Tool Chest” quite a while ago because I love almost everything that Chris writes.  This book was no exception.  Chris writes in a style that is entertaining and readable in addition to being informative.  It seems that he could write about home dental surgery and I would find it interesting.

I read the book cover-to-cover in two sittings, spurred on by the breaking news that Chris was leaving the editor’s chair at Popular Woodworking Magazine to write and to operate “Lost Art Press” full time.    This news was distressing to me, as his leadership has made PW what it is today…my favorite woodworking magazine by far…but I think that Chris’ new role could open up a world of fascinating possibilities.

The new book is very thought provoking and mingles Chris’ philosophy on craft, economics and society into the usual mix of sawdust and projects.   I find myself in agreement with much or most of his philosophy, but in this book I also find that he is moving more quickly away from the “blended woodworking” style that I have always felt that he represented and that he virtually created over the past decade.  In this book, it seems to me that Chris has moved significantly toward the more pure hand-tool only (or nearly so) world of Roy Underhill.   I love Roy’s work also, but always appreciated Chris’ more balanced approach as the path that I have wanted to take in wood.

In my simplistic world, Roy Underhill (all power tools are evil) and Norm Abram (if it doesn’t have a cord its useless) represented the two radical limits of the craft, and Chris carefully navigated the middle ground.  Power had its place and hand tools would refine and elevate the work.  With this book, I think that Chris is now cleaving far more aggressively into the Underhill camp.  I certainly respect his path, but I’m not sure that I’m ready to follow him there yet.

Now, I’m a confirmed history nut….I love it, but I’ve always felt that the trick is to use the best tool for the job, regardless of whether it is powered or not.  Someone once said that if our 18th century ancestors had seen some of our power tools, they would have used them if for no other reason than to save time.  Time was money even back then.  I agree.  So, unless I become more of a woodworking reenactor, I am likely to continue to use a very blended approach given my very limited time in the shop.  While I am not woodworking for money, I still have very tight time constraints on my workshop time and a little bit of power now and then can make me much more productive….and then the surfaces can be hand-planed, etc to elevate the result.

Plus, while I admire and agree with Chris’ statement that “you can build almost anything with a kit of less than 50 high-quality tools”….I’m also a confirmed tool-a-holic.  Without some kind of rehab program, every new tool, whether it burns electrons or not, is likely to make me drool. Do I need them all?  no.  Will I buy them all? no.   But I like to admire them and am more than willing to try them out and give my antique tools a run for their money.  The old tool may very well be better, but given my day-job, finding new innovations is in my blood too.

My comments above not withstanding, I enjoyed this new book immensely and its really caused me to think more deeply about the relationship of craft and physical objects to 21st Century Americans.   Buy the book.  Maybe I’ll move more toward Chris’ philosophy as my traditional skills improve…we’ll see.

TieYak – Kayak Security Cables

One of the weaknesses of car roof-racks as well as my Yakima  roof-rack-like kayak trailer for transporting kayaks is that there is no way to lock them to the rack for security when parked at hotels and restaurants, etc.

The trailer can be locked to the vehicle or it can be locked with a chain to a tree, etc. but the shape of the kayaks makes them very hard to effectively cable or lock to the trailer racks.  So, no one is going to steal the trailer (without bolt cutters), but they might steal the boats.

I found the below recently online and just installed them on the trailer.  I like how they work, hopefully they will keep the kayaks secure during this summer’s trips:

TieYak Your Kayak

TieYak Kayak Security Cables prevent

theft of kayaks, rowing shells, canoes

and other watercraft from the roofs

of cars and other vehicles.

via TieYak™ Your Kayak – Kayak Security Cables.

Sea Kayaking

In addition to our other interests, my family and I also enjoy sea kayaking on the lakes and rivers near our home. We also enjoy taking our kayaks on the road with us when we travel.   We invested a couple years ago in a Yakima RackandRoll 78 trailer for the boats.  Old photo below was taken during its initial construction.  I will add a more recent photo with all of the kayak cradles, etc on it soon.  I had mail-ordered the trailer, and it took a couple of hours to assemble it to this point.

The Yakima trailer has proven to be a great investment.  It was not cheap, but it is very road worthy and light.  The frame is made from aluminum and it uses larger tires than standard utility trailers.  I think that the tires are a type of scooter tire, or maybe small motorcycle.  It also has suspension with significant travel in the shocks, to ease its handling and limit bouncing/skittering.  The trailer itself is basically a Yakima roof-rack on wheels, so all Yakima and Thule and other standard roof rack attachments fit right on.  The trailer folds up for winter storage in the garage, and I am preparing to re-assemble it for spring kayak season this weekend.

We currently run three boats.  My wife and son each have their own, and my daughter and I share a tandem until she is old enough to have her own also.

We are big fans of Hurricane brand Kayaks, like the one in the photo above.  Two of our boats are currently Hurricane boats (a Tampico and a Tracer).

The tandem is a Necky Manitou II….works great but is heavy and only really easily maneuverable with a rudder.  Photo above is taken by me from the rear cockpit of the Necky tandem.

This summer, we are going to build our own skin-on-frame kayak as a family project.   A post on that soon.

Non-Roubo Power-Strip

I’m not sure if Chris Schwarz would approve of this modification to my Roubo bench, but so far I like it.

I added a very non-Roubo power-strip onto the base shelf of my bench. Note the bright red color courtesy of Costco. I attached small pieces of plywood with Gorilla-brand black duct tape hinges over each outlet. These hinged covers keep saw dust out of each plug and easily drop into place when the outlet is unused. In this location on the bench, the power-strip does not seem to interfere with any clamping capabilities, etc. and allows me to rapidly plug and unplug powered hand tools when working on the bench.

Spontaneous Combustion Prevention

I added a garbage can to the shop that is designed to prevent the “spontaneous combustion” of rags that have wet finish on them, etc.

Now that my son, daughter and I are all doing projects in the shop, I’ve noticed that not everyone remembers  to lay out their drying rags in a safe manner to prevent a surprise fire after we all leave the shop….I’m hoping the the big red can in a prominent location helps matters.  $46 on Amazon.

Millers Falls plane back in service

I received a Millers Falls No. 8 (a number 3 in Stanley-ese) for Christmas from my parents.  My Dad found it while in a local antique store.

The plane (post-war, I think) was in excellent condition other than a little rust, and with very little work today I put it back into service.

I sharpened the blade, which appeared to have never been sharpened before and generally cleaned up the plane.  It is now as good as it was new, and likely a great deal sharper.

The Pond in Winter

It was 1 degree Fahrenheit this past weekend.  The pond pump continues to run under the ice and keeps the bog flowing freely and thereby (I hope) allow the fish to continue to get enough oxygen.   The pond heater that I am using froze over, so it is either dead already, or unable to keep up with the extreme cold.  Either way, as long as the pump keeps flowing, I don’t think that it is critical.  If any of you know otherwise, please let me know.

Asian inpsired open-front cherry sideboard completed

At long last, I finished the open-front side board project that I began quite a while ago.  I made this sideboard out of local cherry (and cherry cabinet grade ply) with General Finishes brand satin clearcoat.  The design was inspired by a photo in a woodworking magazine (I can no longer remember which one, its been so long since I started this project), and modifed by me to be open-front, have different dimensions and a number of other changes for the original.

I designed it to fit into a particular place in our home and to contain our stereo which is wired into our ceiling mounted speakers in our kitchen, and to contain our kids plastic bids of art supplies so that they are not always all over the floor.   Someday, if the sideboard is no longer needed for rapid access art-supply use, I may put doors and drawers on it.

Craigslist Bonanza

I managed to score a big win from Craigslist this week.  I rarely check out Craigslist, but after this, I may do it more often.

I found a local guy that was selling off someone’s shop after they passed away as a favor to his daughter.

I managed to get an immaculate DeWalt DW788 scroll saw with stand (and 100+ blades), brand new Porter-Cable 690 router, a brand new Porter-Cable laminate trimmer and Porter-Cable finish sander for a price that I am embarrassed to list.


Making Holdfasts work from Joel’s Blog at “Tools for Working Wood”

I have had trouble making my bench holdfasts “hold fast” since I built my Roubo bench a couple of years ago.  They tend to slip and no longer grip tight.

After seeing the following blog post from Joel at Tools for Working Wood recently, I finally fixed the problem.

I get a fair number of emails about our holdfasts. People are worried that their bench is either too thick or too thin and they aren’t sure if they will work.

I have two benches. One is 1 7/8″ thick, the other is 3″ thick.The holdfasts work fine in both benches. With much thinner or much thicker benches you might have an issue but in the years selling holdfasts I think we have never had a case where they could not be made to work. Maybe once.

via Joel’s Blog at Tools for Working Wood.

I sanded the holdfast shafts as suggested, but what really fixed my holdfasts was counter-boring an oversize hole on the underside of my bench at a diameter wider than the 3/4″ dog holes and about 1″ deep.   Turns out the my over-built Roubo bench with the near 4″ thick top was too thick for the holdfasts to grip.  They work great again now.

Using the Langdon Miter Box

I used the newly restored Langdon #16 1/2 Miter box for the first time on a real project over the past few days, and I REALLY like it.

For rapidly cutting small trim pieces to accurate angles quickly and quietly with a minimum of setup, it is my new best friend.  It is faster to set up than my power chop-saw, and I have no fear of cutting off a finger in a moment of inattention.  Definitely a plus.

This will be a well-used tool, not just an antique curiosity in my shop.  Makes me want to restore a larger Millers Falls miter box also for larger pieces of trim.

Langdon Millers Falls #16 1/2 Miter Box Restoration

I just finished restoring an old Millers Falls Langdon #16 1/2 miter box.  Not sure of its age, but I am guessing  the nineteen teens or twenties?

I stripped the rust and grease and repainted and lubricated it.  I also added new oak sacrificial table tops.   The sacrificial wood table tops that I removed were some sort of fiber board that I assume was not original.  It was in very bad shape.  I forgot to take “before” photos as usual, so here are some “after” photos.

The miter box’s original saw was beyond repair, so I asked Lie-Nielsen to make me a new one.  They will now make replacement miter box saws to your specifications.  Only took about three weeks and the saw looks and cuts beautifully.   I asked them to make my saw with a 16″ blade length and 2 3/8″ high.  It is cut to 11 ppi crosscut.

An old Millers Falls catalog from the period says lists the original saw as only 2″ high, but I did not find that reference until after I had ordered the saw.   The 2 3/8″ high plate that I ordered seems to work fine, though.

Looks as good as new or better, with its new saw.  I think that it will see a lot of use in the shop.

SketchUp “Guide Lines” speed up drawing construction

I have found StektchUp “Guide Lines” to be another very useful tool.   They allow you to put dotted lines in measured locations on your construction drawing as reference points during construction of your model.   This saves a significant amount of measuring time, etc.  This is another tool that seems “hidden.”  I didn’t know it was there until reading a book recently.

To create a “Guide Line” (Google uses two words instead of “guideline” for some reason), use the TAPE MEASURE tool as usual, but toggle “guide lines” on before hand with the CTRL key.  See for more.

This is likely my last Google SketchUp tip for a while.  I feel that I have taught myself enough SketchUp to get by for now, and will be focusing on using these skills on some projects.

SketchUp Outliner Window

Another quick Google SketchUp trick that I am finding usefull…the OUTLINER window.

This tool, actually a window available under the WINDOWS menu, displays all of your “components” and “groups” in a single list or outline.   You can right click on one or more of the components in the list and click “HIDE”.  This makes it easy for you to HIDE all of the components or groups in your drawing except for the one that you are currently working on.  Once done working on the single component, go back into the OUTLINER and unhide all of the rest of the drawing.