Note, in the picture, the 1 & 3/8 diameter hole about a foot above the rudder shoe. It is over an inch deep. I "popped" that hole many years ago with the boat went into storage. It is hard now and will be grinded, filled, and glassed over during this refit. I have often wondered if this hole was caused by osmosis due to the integral holding tank in the aft bilge (just slightly forward of the hole) or is a "void" that occurred during the original hull lay-up as other CD owners have suggested on the Cape Dory Owners Association Web Site.
The key is about 5" long and 3/8" square. It sits in a matching key-way slot on the rudder post. It is 3/16" deep, thus the key protrudes from the rudder post 3/16" of an inch. It had to come out because I need to be able to drop the rudder to repair a split in the bottom. With the key installed, the rudder post won't slide through its stuffing box.
I thought I would just have to tap on it and I would be able to pull it out. Not the case. After tapping lightly, hammering harder, heating with a soldering torch, spraying PB (liquid wrench), beating on it with a hammer and a 8" long 3/16" spike it would not budge. I clamped vice grips on it thinking I could gain some leverage and wiggle it out. All I did was burr up the edges of the key. So, I soaked it overnight in PB and sent an email to Gordon Reed, the yard manager at Robinhood Marine asking if he had any techniques he could suggest when faced with this kind of problem. He sent back a reply saying I was doing all the right things but what I needed to be able to do was get a screwdriver under one end and pry it up. The problem was the key-way slot matched the length and shape of the key exactly. I couldn't get anything under the end. After laying there and looking at it for a while I determined I would have to create a gap to allow me to drive/hammer a screwdriver under the edge of the key.
I decided to drill holes in one end of the key to create a gap. I started out with a 3/8" drill bit, which was a mistake. I center-punched the key to start the bit between the edges of the key. I naively thought that if I was off a small amount, the harder stainless steel rudderpost would guide the drill bit back to the center of the softer brass key way. It did not work as well as I wanted. The bit easily drove into the brass and quickly went to the bottom of the key. But, it chewed up the edges of the key way and even the surface of the rudder post in the bottom of the key-way slot. Additionally, the hole I drilled did not allow the right angel to hammer the screwdriver under the key. I switched to a smaller diameter bit --5/16"-- and drilled a series of 3-4 holes one right against the other. Then I hammered in the edges of the key in and was able to use the screwdriver to lift up the portion of the key that I had drilled the holes in. This allowed enough angle on the screwdriver to hammer it under the edge of the key and allowed me to pry it up and remove it.
I filed the edges of the key-way as smooth as I could. Because I won't be reinstalling the steering quadrant--I am converting to a tiller--there should be no adverse issue. Nonetheless, had I used a smaller bit from the beginning and not tried to pry it out after drilling only one hole, I probably could have removed it with out any damage. One last thing, the key way should have been installed with a liberal coating of anti seize compound before it was initially installed.
In this picture you can clearly see the bronze shoe. You can also see the four bronze pins that were "peened." In fact, you can see the hammer blows from the ball peen hammer when the shoe was positioned previously (I suspect this was previously done when the bolt was built).
I only ground enough to expose the shoe on both sides. Then I drilled the heads off with a 1/4" drill bit and partially drove the pins out with a spike and hammer. I left them in to provide better support for the shoe while I dug the hole under the rudder that would allow me to drop the rudder far enough for the post to clear the hull.
Removing the bearing and stop collar was difficult. I tapped them, sprayed them with PB, heated them with a propane torch, and tapped them some more. Nothing. I called Gordon Reed, the Yard Manager at Robinhood, and always a wealth of helpful knowledge, to make sure I was not missing something. He said keep doing what you are doing and they should come off. I went back to the boat and repeated all the above. Nothing. I then rummaged through my tool box and found an old wheel puller. A friend held the top of the puller on the top end of the shaft and I held the arms on the edge of the bearing from below. He tightened the puller and the bearing came right off (maybe all the hammering, spraying, and heating helpedJ). Once the bearing was out, I was able to hammer the stop collar up and off the rudder shaft with a spike and hammer.
Next is a picture of the gap between the bearing and the steel beam to which it was bolted. When I took the bearing off I noticed that the flange on each end was bent. At first I thought it was bent as a result of some unintentional stress but the more I thought about it that seemed unlikely. It occurs to me that perhaps it was bent intentionally when it was installed to eliminate contact between the bronze bearing casing and the milder steel of the beam (if that is the case there are many better ways of doing it). Regardless, if you look closely you can see the gap between the bearing casing and the steel beam.
The last picture is the center of the steel beam itself. I think this kind of beam is called a "C" Box as that is the shape when you look at it end-on. Regardless, it has light rust all over and was scaling in the center which was directly under the bronze inspection port in the cockpit floor. The inspection port was installed over the top of the rudder post to allow an emergency tiller to be fitted should the wheel steering ever fail. I can't imagine steering with the emergency tiller that came with the boat--a short, angled, steel pipe that barely cleared the wheel. This is another one of the strange Cape Doryisims of mixing different types of metal together with no justifiable reason: Bronze chain-plates to mild steel backing plates; a bronze bob-stay fitting to stainless steel bolts to aluminum backing plate; a bronze pillow block bolted to a mild steel beam under an inspection port in the cockpit floor that will allow water to drip directly on to it.
What to do? The steel beam is not that rusted. So, I had it blasted in a special kind of rotating blasting box at a machine shop. They did not use sand and I don't remember what it was except I was glad I was not doing it and it was free. I plan to coat it with POR-15, then cover that in epoxy barrier-coat, then paint it, and reinstall it. For more on POR-15 go to this link.
The picture to the left is after the 2nd coat. It looks pretty good. Tomorrow I will coat it with West Epoxy thickened with 407. Then I'll paint it with Rustoleum Marine Enamel. This is not overkill from my perspective as the steel pillow-block beam will be right below the tiller head and water will drip down on the beam. So the additional protection will be worth it.
It took a couple of days to apply all the coats necessary to satisfactorily cover the beam with epoxy. I started out with west epoxy thickened with 407 low density filler that I just brushed on. Then some thicker coats of 407 and each time sanded it as fair as I could make it.
When I was satisfied with the epoxy coating I applied two coats of white alkyd enamel. I think the steel beam looks pretty good. This should provide the highest degree of protection possible. There are a couple of minor imperfections in the final epoxy coating that I could not see till it was painted with the white paint. But it is a vast improvement compared to what I started with. "Perfection is the enemy of good enough."
After wiping every thing down with acetone I poured in unthickened epoxy to soak down into any voids in the rudder. I left about 1/2" inch deep unfilled. After the epoxy kicked and was fairly hard to the touch I mixed up more epoxy thickened with 406 to near peanut butter thickness. Then I worked it into the void on top of the previously poured unthickened epoxy and I let it harden over night.
Today I taped over the bottom with three layers of 17 oz biaxial. First 4 inches wide, then three, and finally two inches. when possible, I wet out all three layers together and apply the wet cloth all at once. I smoothed the biaxial tape out with a plastic squeegee to eliminate any air bubbles and ensure the edges of the tape would hold down over the turn of the rudder. About 6 hours later I mixed up more epoxy and thickened it with 407 and trowled it on. The next step will be to sand and fair the repair area smooth.
In between working on the rudder repair I cut out and laminated up the plywood that will serve as the foundation for filling in the propeller aperture that is on the keel side of the cutout. Later in the week, when the rudder repair is complete, I will do the same for the "cut-out" on the rudder side. This will take some work to get a nice even fairing so that the water will flow smoothly and evenly over the area that once housed the propeller.
I also started glassing in the "plug" for the propeller aperture. This action seems to cause real grief for some folks. The befits for filling in the aperture are many and have been well documented going back to observations by Norman Skene in his book "Elements of Yacht Design" first written in 1904 and updated in 1927. Don Street made the same comments when he eliminated the aperture and engine on Iolaire. It's not for everyone. But, if you can get by without the aperture you stand to gain a lot of improvement in sailing performance. Hal Roth did the same thing on his 35' Spencer Whisper. He had a 10 HP Diesel. He kept the engine but filled in the aperture bringing the prop shaft out along side the rudder post and just above the top of the rudder. To that he added a two blade Martec folding prop and used that combination to sail around the world, documented in his book, "Always a Distant Anchorage." Many others have taken similar action. Accordingly, yesterday I laminated four 1/2" Douglas Fir marine grade plywood pieces together to form the plug that would serve as the foundation for filling in the aperture.
Today I glassed in the plug using west epoxy thickened with 406. I secured the plug in place while the epoxy cured with two ratchet straps. Over the next few days I'll add a few more tapered layers of plywood and epoxy and eventually biaxial cloth and fairing compound to create a smooth surface completely eliminating the old aperture. When I finish faring the repair to the rudder crack, and taking any action to correct any lack of symmetry between the rudder sides, I'll glass in a similar plug on the rudder side of the propeller aperture.
After thinking about this for the last few days I came up with two plans. Plan (1) is to use a 2" PVC pipe as a mold, that fits nicely into the the groove that exists above and below the aperture. With the plug now glassed in place I could cover the tube with plastic sheeting and strap it in place along the trailing edge of the plug then just trowel thickened epoxy up to the tube using the tube as a mold. However, epoxy, without the cloth that gives it strength, in such a vulnerable area, might just fracture if it took a big hit from something. Plan (2) is to cut two wood wedges and glass them to the back of the aperture plug and then cover them with more glass and fiberglass cloth and building a stronger more structural groove. Then fair that in with thickened epoxy. I decided on plan (2).
So, I cut two strips of Southern Bald Cypress about a 1/2" wide X 3/4 " thick and with a 30 degree angle on the inside edge. This essentially creates a slightly lower/smaller version of the tapers that comprise the two side of the groove above and below the aperture. Then I softened the edge and test fit them to the back of the aperture. Once I was satisfied with the fit, I glassed them in place with thickened epoxy. After that I laid the first two layers of 17 oz biaxial over the aperture, on each side, glassing them to the keel. Though it doesn't leap out in the photo, if you look carefully you can see the begining of the form that will serve as the base of the groove on the back of the rudder. After adding more thickened epoxy, I will cover the groove with fiberglass tape before final fairing.
Tomorrow I will begin adding more epoxy, thickened with 407, to fair in the plug and begin to fair in the groove on the back of the aperture. I should be interesteing to see how it comes out.
After that I laminated four layers of 1/2" Marine Grade Plywood that I will use to cut the plug that will be glassed into the other half of the aperture in the rudder.
The next two picture show the plug in place in the rudder and secured with epoxy thickened with 406. I had previously rounded over the leading edge of the plug and it came out pretty good but it will require a little more rounding to match the contour of the rest of the rudder's leading edge. I used the left over epoxy that "squished out" to fillet the edges where the plug fits up to the rudder. I made the plug by laminating four layers of 1/2" marine grade plywood that I clamped together overnight. Then I used a cardboard template of the aperture to trace out the pattern on the plywood. Finally, I cut it out with my saber saw and smoothed the profile up on a bench top belt/disk grinder.
Before I put the plug in place I ground a bevel on the rudder around the edge of the aperture that would allow the biaxial cloth, used to cover the wooden plug and give it the maximum bond to the rudder, to lie as flush as possible with the original surface of the rudder. After the cloth is applied, 2-3 layers of 17 oz biaxial, I will fair it all in then test fit the rudder to the back of the keel.
The aperture in the back of the keel is plugged, glassed, and the final fairing is complete. It took some work and a lot of sanding to get both sides symmetrical. You can see the areas on the hull where the through-hulls were. In this picture they have 1/4" epoxy plugs glassed in the hole and will get 5/16" thick patches both on the inside and the outside when the temperatures come back up. The one to the ouside and forward was the engine intake and the one to the left and aft is the starboard cockpit scupper through-hull. I will move that one to the outside a bit more to better position it relative to the space I need where the engine used to be.
Before I started this last phase of the rudder modification, I hauled to rudder up to Bircher's Machine Shop in Morehead City to have Jim Bircher look at the immersion corrosion on the back side of the post about three inches above the top of the rudder. It's a small area about 1/2" wide and 2" long vertically. He thought it was not too big a deal. His comment was that the rudder post had lasted for 20 years and the corrosion was pretty small. He told me I could have a new post machined, build a new rudder, and it could look the same in two years. He thought the rudder post would easily last another 10-12 years. This was all just an educated guess but it worked for me. I decided to keep pushing forward and use the rudder I have. I'll be able to keep an eye on it because I can see this spot with the rudder mounted. He did say one should avoid putting any anti-fouling paint on SS. Once deprived of the protective oxygen it can quickly corrode, which is probably what happened.
Back to applying the epoxy on the rudder. There was a couple of ways to attack this problem. I thought about taking a high-speed grinder and aggressively cutting back the fiberglass all around the rudder post. Then rebuild the whole area. But after thinking about it I decided "less-was-more." I realize this is a first for me but sometime you have to change your pattern to keep your adversaries off-guard. I decided to use my Dremel with a very small steel headed wedge bit about 1/8" wide so I could keep it from gouging the rudder post. More like surgical work vice destruction work. I very carefully ground the glass back about 3/16" wide and deep (see top photo to the right). I then roughly sanded the fiberglass with 40 grit paper back about two inches from where the post enters the rudder. Then I used a small epoxy brush to fill the crevice with unthickened epoxy. I let it start to tack up then I created a heavy fillet with 406 thickened epoxy completely around the post (see middle photo to right). Before the fillet was cured I cut a strip of 17oz biaxial about 1" wide and 4-5" long. After wetting it out I wrapped it around the the fillet for added strength to this area (I failed to get a picture of the biaxial tape). Before it was fully cured I covered it with 407 thickened epoxy and faired it as smooth as I could while it was still soft. I let it cure for a couple of days then I faired it smooth. The new faired top "should" fit easily inside the wide entry point for the rudder tube. The rest of the rudder only requires minor touch ups with 407 thickened epoxy before it is ready to barrier coat, apply bottom paint to provide UV protection, and reinstall. Installation will occur later this spring after I have competed the hull-deck joint.
After thinking about numerous ways to eliminate the gap for several days the best option seem to be to extend the trailing edge of the keel. Every other option seemed to have too many second and third order consequences. So, chose the course of action that best focused on the problem. I built a jig and added multiple coatings of 406/407 thickened epoxy to extend the trailing edge. It was delicate work. After test fitting the rudder for the third time, and satisfied I would have at least 45 degrees of rudder arc on both side of a centered rudder, I wrapped all the work from one side to the other with 8oz tape which you can see in the middle picture. The purpose of the epoxy covered 8oz tape is to add strength to the new trailing edge and provide some protection. Then, this morning, after washing and scrubbing the epoxy to remove any amine blush, I shipped the rudder again and test fit it for the fourth time. It looked very good. You can see the difference in the bottom photo. After taking this picture I dropped the rudder again and added a strip of 2" wide 8oz tape down the side overlapping the tape I applied yesterday. After about 2 hours I brushed on some unthickend epoxy to fill the weave. Tomorrow, I'll fair in the tape work after I have sanded it and I am satisfied with the final fairing I will ship the rudder for the final time.
Next, it was time to "peen" the bronze pins. I had previously cut the bronze rod to length, about 1/4" proud on each side, and tapered one end with a metal file so they would more easily "find their way" though the opposite hole in the shoe when it was time to hammer them into place. Even though we had placed the straws in the holes we still had to redrill them very carefully with a 3/8" drill bit. Once that was completed we lightly tapped the pins into place. I had never "peened" a metal pin before but my neighbor Bruce has done all kind of manly things like this so he guided me along and held the facing hammer on the opposite side. I don't have a real facing hammer but we were able to substitute an 8 lb maul that I use to split wood. He held the facing hammer on one side and I hammered away with the ball-peen hammer on the other side. There was nothing to it. The key was just to get the head starting to flair then strike glancing blows along the edge to continue to "mushroom" and flair the head until it completely filled the chamfered hole in the bronze shoe. We went back and fourth from side to side a few times until we were satisfied we had a proper head on the both sides of the pins. The first one took about 10 minutes or so and the last one we did took about half that long.
Next I filled the hole that had been staring up at me since last fall. I have to admit I was sick of that hole. The pile of dirt was always in the way and there is nothing as demoralizing as constantly being reminded that there is a major task started but not completed. So, it was with great pleasure that I shoveled that pile of dirt into the 3 1/2' deep X 4' long hole. I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the SRF and enjoying having a smug look on my face.
Tomorrow, I will start laying on the biaxial fabric and epoxy to repair what I had to grind off to remove the shoe and drop the rudder. Then I will spend a few days fairing in the repair work. While that is taking place I will start work on the floor beams in the cabin, complete the rudder installation by mounting the rudder stuffing box and self-aligning bearing, and begin work to install the tiller head and tiller.
I brought the new parts home and my neighbor, Bruce, helped me install them. The top picture shows the shaft sticking up through the cutout in the cockpit floor with the tiller head installed. It just clears the back of the cockpit. The next picture was taking from below where the engine used to be. Nothing is bolted in but it is all assembled to see how it fits together. From the bottom you can just see the top edge of the stuffing box for the rudder post. Then you can see the long key way that originally supported the quadrant for the wheel steering (Ironically I'll reinstall the quadrant but this time for the purpose of connecting the Cape Horn windvane control lines from the vane to the rudder via this quadrant). Above the quadrant keyway is the SS stop collar to keep the rudder from becoming "unshipped" should there be a hard grounding that impacts the rudder. Above that is the Edson self-aligning bearing (AKA pillow-block) that supports the upper end of the rudder post. This is a new bearing as the old one was galled and had become seized to the rudder post. I had to have the hole of the bearing ground out a little to freely rotate on the rudder post. It was too tight a fit. The old one was the same way and it was not right. Supporting the bearing and keeping it in place is the pillow-block support beam. This is mild steel (another one of those Cape Dory foibles) and was rusted when I took it out. I cleaned it up and painted it with POR-15 and it came out amazing. I have a post on the POR-15 under the Rudder Project section. Above the pillow-block you can just see the bottom of the 4" long Edson bronze rudder post coupling. It has a 3/8" key way cut in it and it joins the top 2" of the rudder post to the lower 2" of the rudder post extension (which is 9" long). The rudder post slide in one end and the extension in the other. Both the rudder post and the extension have a 3/8" key way in it matching the one in the coupling. The coupling has four bolts (on the back side that you can't see) that you tighten and it clamps the whole coupling down on the shafts. It seems like a pretty solid set up.
Tomorrow I'll position and secure the pillow-block support beam with four 3 1/2" long X 3/8" SS bolts. Then I'll build a cover plate and insert the custom epoxy rudder tube I made last winter to support the extension and keep water from getting into the boat from around the rudder post extension. I'll trim the tube to fit. Eventually I'll glass the epoxy tube to the cover plate and caulk and bolt it through the cockpit floor. Then only thing left on the project after that will be to build the tiller. I'll probably build it out of white oak and sapele or walnut or something like that.
My 10 year old son helped me install the support beam. I ask him for help every so often when I think the task will hold his interest by being challenging enough but not take too long. You can't start'em too early learning to work with tools and their hands. He worked the ratchet down inside one of the lockers. We had to audible a couple of times and did a great job. It's also nice to get him trained to go down in those tight spaces so I have to always turn myself into a pretzel!
The self aligning bearing and pillow block beam were installed with some 3/8" X 2 1/2" long SS bolts, washer, and nylon locking nuts. It went fine except that when I was finished and I went down to the ground and rotated the rudder back and forth there was a clunking sound coming from the shaft area. I thought maybe I had a bent shaft and I have to admit my heart sank a little. But, I found I had not tightened down the bolts that hold the top part of the self-aligning bearing and I could actually see it hopping around as the shaft was turned. A couple of turns on the bolts and that problem went away thankfully.
The middle picture shows the components of the rudder post modifications much better than the pictures I posted yesterday. You can see the SS stop collar, then the self-aligning bearing bolted to the support beam, then above that you can see the coupling that joins the rudder post and the 9" extension. You can see some tuff-gel that I coated liberally on the ends of the shafts before I inserted them into the coupling. Tuff-gel is supposed to prevent galvanic corrosion between dissimilar metals, allow them to come apart more easily, and prevent galling. No doubt, at some point this will have to come apart . . . but hopefully not anytime soon!
The brown paper and green tape in no way reflect what will be the tape out line for the non-skid. It's just on there to provide some protection to the epoxy primer on the cockpit sole while I stomp around on the boat.
After talking with some adhesive tech reps and getting advice from some folks I trust I ordered Weldwood UF glue. I will use it to laminate my tiller and a test bowsprit. That way I will get some experience with it and get to practice making the bowsprit before I build the real one.
I began work on the tiller by building several templates/mock-ups for the tiller. I used some 1/4" plywood to build the mock-ups to get a feel for the shape and length. The picture to the right is one of three mock-ups. The tillers are all about 4'6" long. It seems a little long but better to have to cut it back then make it too short. I also needed to determine the correct height of the end of the tiller above the cockpit floor. The best height seems to be about 27-28". When I decide on the right shape, I will laminate the tiller out of tapered hardwood . . . probably white oak. The butt-end will be about 2" square and the end of the handle about 1 1/4" round. I'll glue it up with the Weldwood and go from there.
The fourth tiller mock-up satisfied me. I went to Lowes and bought a 8' long 2X8. When I got home I placed the 2X8 on my assembly table. Then I laid the tiller mock up (cut from 1/4" plywood) on top of the 2X8. I traced the mockup top edge of the tiller mockup onto the 2X8 and then used my Bosch Jig Saw to cut along the line separating the 2X8 into two sections. I took the excess part (concave section) and flipped it over and screwed it to the "bottom edge" of the jig portion (convex section)(see photo). The beauty of this is there is now a lower curve (concave) on the jig parallel to the upper curve (convex) which will allow the top and bottom pads of the clamps to be in alignment. (I got this idea from the Pardey's book "The Cost Conscious Cruiser"). Then I took my block plane and smoothed the curved surface as smooth as possible. After that I used some scrap wood to make a stand to raise the jig up high enough for the knobs on my pipe clamps to clear the table the jig will be sitting on when I glue up the tiller.
Afterwards I brought a rough cut 8/4 X 10" X 10' long plank of white oak into the shop which I will mill tomorrow to build the tiller. The rest of the white oak will be used for the bow-sprit sampson post or bitts (I haven't decided which yet) and cleats for the interior furniture.
To mill the strips I had jointed and planed an 8/4 piece of white oak. I ripped it into two pieces 1 7/8" thick X 2 3/8" wide X 66" long. The tiller would need to be at least 2" wide where it fits into the tiller head so I would have to rip the strips by standing the wood on edge. This would work better anyway since it is easer to bend the wood with the grain vice against it. To cut tapered strips I would need a tapering jig. I have always wanted to build a nice one so I would always have it on hand but I never think of it till I need it and then I am too focused on the project at hand to take the time to make one. This project was no different. So, I pulled together some scrap plywood and put together a simple jig. Since it was not "adjustable", i.e. with knobs, etc, I would have to move the tapering fence each time by unscrewing the platform (one sits on top of the other) and move the tapering fence over. It sounds complicated but by using a couple of precut spacer blocks (one for the 1/4" handle end and another for the 1/2" butt end) it was pretty simple. The actually cutting took about 30 minutes. The only complication was that I had to spend a lot of time sorting out why I was burning the oak. After the first cut (when I started the milling process yesterday) I spend several hours sorting out the "why" of that. I checked to make sure the saw, blade, and fence were all tuned. They were. So, it came down to a somewhat worn out thin kerf 24 tooth ripping blade that I have used hard for the last 18 months. It was dirty as well, so I took it off the saw and spent some time cleaning it. Much better, though not perfect. The edge of the lams are burned, from the original cut, but the flat parts that are glued together are all clean. The burned edge will not matter because after I pull the tiller fro the jig it will be run through the planner to smooth the sides in preparation for final tapering, shaping, and sanding. Once the strips were cut it was time to laminate them.
I covered an old piece of 3/4" ply (the original saloon plywood sub-floor in fact) with some 4mm plastic as well as laminating edge of the jig. Then I screwed some 1/2" spacer blocks down and then screwed the jig down on top of that with some 2 1/2" deck screws. Now the bottom of the jig was set 1/2" above the sheet of plywood. I clamped the whole thing to the top of my table saw and outfeed table so it would not move during the clamping process. I performed a complete dry run with the oak strips and all the pipe-clamps I would use to make sure I had the sequence right and that everything would fit.
Then I mixed up some Weldwood Plastic Resin Glue. I just followed the directions: 5 parts powder to 2 parts water (water to be above 68 degrees). I poured the water into the powder and stirred it up into a thin paste. The color was a soft brown, like cinnamon. With the laminations laid out flat on the plastic I brushed the glue on one side of each of the laminations (the directions said it was only necessary to apply to one side). I spread the glue out with a notched epoxy spreader. Then I stacked the five laminations, laid them on their sides, and clamped them in sequence from the butt end to the handle end. By having the jig horizontal on top of a plastic covered plywood back all the laminations where even and there was no sliding around. I'll leave them clamped for 24 hours. The temperature needs to remain above 70 degrees F.
Next, I ran the tiller through the planer, on each side, and took it down to a hair over two inches wide. It just fits the bronze tiller head. Though the tiller is tapered top to bottom, as you can see in the photos, it is the same width down the length. I will need to taper this part as well. I wanted to see what some other tillers look like so I took some time today to drive up to West Marine in Morehead City and looked at some of the production ones they sell. With that in mind I came back home and developed a couple of options for tapering the sides of the tiller. I will draw the line on the tiller that will represent the taper tomorrow. Then I'll decide how I want to tackle it. I might take it over to the base wood-shop on Wednesday and cut the taper with a big band saw they have--then plane it smooth and sand--or I might do it here with a skill saw and a belt sander.
I am very pleased with how the tiller looks so far. The glue line is very tight and almost invisible. The tiller looks and feels strong. Despite the obvious tension the wood was under in the jig there was only about 1/4" of spring back at the end of the handle when I removed it from the jig. Though it looks industrial in the photos to the right, it will obviously be more elegant and leaner when I finish shaping and sanding it. I want it to be strong but not blocky looking. When climbing aboard the Far Reach the eye should not be drawn to the tiller because the proportion is wrong--it should fit seamlessly into the rest of the boat. My plan is not to stain it. It will be protected with varnish only. The lighter white-oak color will contrast nicely with the mahogany comings and exterior teak.
A few days later I used a 20" band saw at the base (a very nice machine) and taper the sides. Next, I sanded it with a horizontal bench belt sander. Then I set it aside to finish up in my shop tomorrow.
Next, I used a 3/8" round-over bit to put a bigger radius on the edges. That really improved the appearance and feel of the tiller. I sanded for a while with 100 grit on a rubber block and with a piece of sand paper on a 1/2" thick piece of flexible foam as a sanding block. The flexible block lets me more easily follow the shape along the edge of the tiller. Rounding the end of the handle completed the days work. Then I took the tiller up the Far Reach and installed it with a shim to hold it in place so I could see how it looked.
I am very pleased with the shape and design as well as with my first effort at laminating a curved piece of hardwood. I am also pleased to have installed something I have been thinking about for many years. Other than many coats of varnish and some bronze round head screws, this essentially completes the wheel steering to tiller conversion--long may it live.
I made the tube that is part of the deck plate assembly last fall when I wrapped many turns of epoxy saturated 17.7ox biaxial tape around a heavily waxed rudder post. I cut the deckplate out of G10 in the early summer and then set it aside as I worked on different projects. I had previously built a couple of mock-ups of the deck plate and rudder post tube assembly last spring, so this was pretty simple work today. The first thing was to confirm the angle the rudder post exits the cockpit sole. Next, I made some reference lines with a marking pen so I would know exactly where to cut the hole. Then, I spent some time setting up the drill press to accommodate the 45 degree angle I would need to cut the hole properly. I had to create some space between the G10 plate and the "iron bench," which is part of the drill press, so the hole-saw would be able to cut all the way through the G10 without bottoming out on the bench first. After clamping the deck plate in place and confirming the alignment of the hole-saw it was a simple matter to cut the hole for the tube.
Once the hole was cut I took the plate and epoxy tube up and test fit them over the rudder post head and checked the fit. Then, I sanded the G10 surfaces with a finish sander and 100 grit paper. Next, I routed a 3/16" "cove" in the bottom of the deck plate. This groove helps to make the plate more water tight than just laying caulk between two flat surfaces. I also routed a 1/4" radius on the upper edge of the plate to give it a more finished look.
The final task was to mix up some West Epoxy with 406 colloidal silica and some 404 high density filler. I took the plate, the tube, and the epoxy up to the boat. I positioned the deck-plate and tube over the rudder post then used a West System's plastic stir-stick, which has a chisel like flat surface on one end and a rounded popsicle shape on the other end, to push epoxy between the tube and the deck plate. I made a fillet by using a two inch long wood popsicle stick to smooth the thickened epoxy all the way around the tube. Once it is fully cured I will remove the deckplate and apply some biaxial cloth to the joint line to further strengthen it.
Next, I spent some time looking over the boat then realized that I would be varnishing the cabin sides soon (as soon as the rain stops) and I had not drilled the tiller to accept the tiller straps that are part of the tiller head assembly. How are the two connected you may wonder? I want to varnish the tiller at the same time and I want the holes drilled out before I varnish it. Besides, the tiller has been sitting in the shop unvarnished and I would like to get it varnished and out of the way.
It was not going to be a simple job though. My best friend gave me a spare bench top drill press in early October but it had not been tuned nor did it have an auxiliary table that it needs if it is to be used as a wood-working drill press. It's not a very big drill press but it fits my shop well and should do the jobs I need done. I used a half inch piece of scrap ply for the table. I drilled some 5/16" holes in the ply over the the slots in the small steel table that is part of the drill press proper. I counter sunk the holes and then with backing plates I bolted the ply auxiliary table to the steel table with 5/16" flat head machine bolts. Next I checked the accuracy of the drill press for trueness. It was true from left to right but needed to be shimmed slightly to lift the back side of the auxiliary table. Satisfied with the fit I then drilled and screwed a hardwood cleat to the underside of the front edge of the table to keep it flat.
Next, I checked the fit of the tiller strap assembly to the tiller that I made in September. I improved the fit of the tiller to the box section of the strap assembly by shaving just a tiny bit with a spoke-shave. Then, I cut a 2 1/8" wide piece of pine from a 2x4 scrap and used a scratch awl to prick holes through the holes in the tiller straps onto the scrap wood on both sides. Then I drilled them out with the press. Once nice hole all the way through so I was satisfied the drill press was accurate enough for the job at hand.
The trick with the drilling the tiller to match the holes in the tiller straps is they are both tapered but different tapers. The tiller strap assembly came with the holes already drilled. It is a big heavy assembly designed to fit over a 1 1/2" rudder post. I would have to drill the 1/4" holes in the tiller and have them line up exactly with the predrilled holes in the straps. I spent some time measuring and once I was satisfied I repeated the same procedure I used with the scrap pine--I placed the tiller strap assembly on the tiller and used the scratch awl to mark the center of holes to be drilled. I removed the tiller strap assembly and then spent some time clamping the tiller to the auxiliary table. I had to shim the other end of the tiller to hold it level. I checked it several times and with then drilled the first hole just over half way through the tiller. Then I flipped the tiller over and repeated the procedure on the other side drilling just deep enough for the holes to connect. I think this is the safest way to get the holes to line up. If they are off a little then it will be in the center where the misalignment can be drilled out more easily. If you try to drill all the way through, and you are off, you risk having the exit hole way off and then you have to booger it up to get the holes to line up and you have a mess. It took about 30 minutes but all the holes came out fine. I admit that I breathed a sigh of relief when it was finished because I kept thinking how pissed I would be if the holes were off and I had to start all over. But, fortune smiled on me today. So, I pushed the SS 1/4" X 4" pan head machine bolts through and then added nylon nuts and washer. I did not cut the bolts though. I think I will order some bronze round head bolts. It will look much better. Below are a few extra pictures of the drill press modification and the tiller strap assembly mounted on the tiller.
Tomorrow I will go back into the boat figure out the next task.