Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pen Making 2009

It is pen making time again! Fall always brings me into the wood shop with a focus on pens and other woodworking projects. This year I have expanded my inventory of wood choices and pen designs. Perhaps the most interesting addition is the use of Olive wood that comes from Bethlehem. The certificates that come with the wood say that it was taken from ancient olive orchards that date back to Roman times. The wood was salvaged from pruning and no trees were removed or destroyed in the process.

You can see many of the design choices in the picture here. The pens with the black silicone grip are known as Comfort Pens. These can be assembled as a ball point twist pen or as a 7mm pencil with a click mechanism. These sell for about $25 each.

The top center group are called Designer Pens. These are my favorite to make. They are large enough to show off the wood grain and make a real eye-catching and elegant pen. They can be made a little thinner for a feminine or smaller hand. These sell for about $35 each. There is also a Designer Pencil available that is a match for this pen design.

The group of pens at the bottom of the picture are a classic design modeled after a 1935 Parker fountain pen. These can be made as a fountain pen or as a roller ball gel writer. The pens in this picture have the roller ball insert. These pens are absolutely gorgeous, but are also challenging to build. These pens sell for about $45.

Prices can vary based on wood choice. The standard finish is a combination of shellac and carnauba wax. It creates a highly polished surface that holds up well and takes on character as it is used. Different woods will age and show character differently as the oil of the user's skin interacts with the wood and the finish. If you wish to maintain a shiny new look, I recommend the use of a furniture polish that contains wax to clean and polish your pen.

If you are interested in purchasing a pen from my inventory, or having one made, send me an email.
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sailing to Boston Harbor on 6/27/09

We launched on Friday afternoon and had a nice evening sailing session near Olympia. We found out later that we probably had the best breeze of the day for our evening sail. We ended up back at the dock at about 8:00 PM and got one of the last open berths at Swantown for the night. We met up with Tom and Jan Salzer who had sailed down from Shelton earlier that day and enjoyed some nice conversation.

On Saturday morning we met up with a third Pottering couple who came to launch a beautiful Potter 15. They heard about our sailing plans from the online discussion and came to join us. There were three Potters in Budd Inlet for a while on Saturday morning. Tom and Jan went north to drop Jan off so Tom could continue a solo trip, and Dee Ann and I started our trek to Boston Harbor. I was in the Potter 19 (Dare) and she was in her 14 foot kayak.

The day started out with very light wind that sometimes dropped to almost nothing. It changed direction constantly until it made a 180 degree switch and blew me downwind to my goal. We took some pictures of the kayak floating in front of Boston Harbor as proof that she made it, then headed back.

I ran into the same shifting winds in Central Budd Inlet, but as I made it south things picked up a lot. I soon discovered I was catching up and passing Dee Ann and the ride was getting a little wild. I used some of my recently learned skills to put the boat in a Heave To maneuver and I reefed the main down to the first reef point. I was able to maintain the same boat speed and have a much more comfortable ride.

I was amazed at how calm things became the instant I did the Heave To maneuver. I went instantly from over-powered sailing to quiet calm bliss. Reefing went real quick because this time I had the reefing line installed before I needed it. The boat behaved much better with a reef in the sail.

In my many years of windsurfing I would change sails quite often during the day. So I wonder why it had never occurred to me that I would do the same thing in a bigger boat? Now that I have done it once, I will be much more likely to adjust my sails to match the changing wind conditions.

I am lucky to be tall. I can stand with one foot on the keel trunk and one in the companionway and do my reefing without having to go forward. I don't have enough experience to say for sure, but it might be easier to do that with the halyards on the mast rather than run to the cockpit. It was sure handy to have all the reefing lines in close proximity when making a quick sail adjustment. I am giving some thought to manufacturing a companionway table that is sturdy enough to stand on when sailing solo. It would make those trips to the mast feel a lot safer.

I rigged a lifeline and a jib downhaul for this trip, and was real glad to have the downhaul. The P19 lapper will not drop without it, and I wish to avoid trips to the foredeck whenever I can, even when not sailing alone. My downhaul was an old halyard that was simply run through the bow pulpit and tied to the top jib hank. It worked great for me. I will add this to my list for winter boat enhancements.

My lifeline was just a piece of line tied around my waist and cleated off to the boat. If I fell in, they would at least find the body. :-) I am giving some thought to how I might improve that arrangement a little. I found that I would step on my own line and make it hard to stand up!

Lessons Learned:
1. Always wear a lifeline when sailing alone. If you ever need it and don't have it, you will really wish you had adopted this plan! (Thanks Tom)
2. Always sail with your Jiffy Reefing lines installed. Jiffy Reefing is for the unexpected sail change. If you don't expect you are going to need it today, that should be your first clue.
3. Lashing a boat hook to the tiller lets you step into the cabin to get a pop without losing control of the boat.
4. Heave-To is a great maneuver. When things start getting a little out of control, heave-to and make a plan. The boat settles down immediately.
5. If you ever heave-to so you can start your engine and drop your sails, make sure the engine is idling in neutral. If not, you will begin to spin in circles like a tired mutt as soon as your jib comes down!

I will attach a short video I took that commemorates my first successful mainsail reef attempt.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Our New Boat!

On 6/7/2009 we launched and sailed our new (well, new to us) West Wight Potter 19 sailboat. We bought the boat from WIlliam Dooley of Wolf Creek Montana. Bill was kind enough to meet us in Spokane to finalize the sale. He and his wife had trailered the boat to Florida for several years and lived on it down there in the winter. Our plans are not quite that ambitious, but we are happy to have the boat. This larger model Potter will allow us to stretch our boundaries a little and do some camping on the water and cruising around Puget Sound.

We don't have any big trips planned yet, but we have had our first overnight stay on the boat. We attended the Olympia Potter Rig and Sail Event on Friday and Saturday June 12 & 13, 2009. We got to sail with about a dozen other West Wight Potters and had a great time getting better acquainted with the NW Potter group.

getting a bigger boat is making us re-evaluate our ground transportation alternatives. I am presently borrowing my Dad's truck to get the boat in and out of the water because this boat is just a little too heavy for my little pickup, though I am sersiously thinking about trying it to see if it will work.

We managed to sell our Potter 15 about 3 hours after getting home with the new boat. It was purchased by a local sailor, Raymond Smythe. Ray is an old salt at the local marina in Olympia and seems to be pretty well known in these parts. Ray is 89 years young! He is down-sizing from a 28 foot pilot house sailboat. Ray joined us at the Rig and Sail event and elected to ride along with one of our boats as his crew bailed out on him at the last minute. Ray's was riding with a new skipper and probably provided lots of help in the afternoon when the wind picked up enough to scare most the boats back to the marina.

The name is probalby going to change. If for no other reason, I think it will be prettier if it doesn't have the large letters on the side like that. I have a short list of possible names so far that includes: Mistress, eTime, iBoat, iSailboat, Blues Traveler, Gust Buster, and Longboard. I recently stated that windsurfing had been my mistress for almost 30 years. Now I have a new mistress! "Longboard" also comes from my windsurfing experience. A longboard is something you can sail and have a nice relaxing time. I'll keep you posted on the progress. Feel free to offer your comments about boat names.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Potter Spotter

I caught sight of a West Wight Potter 15 in downtown Olympia recently.  I snapped a few pictures of the boat.  I don't know who the owner is, but maybe we will meet sometime.  The boat is very close to mine in age.  It is always a nice sight to see a couple of Potters out on the bay together.

The weather looks like we might have a break in the rain this weekend.  I am hoping I get the chance to take our little yellow Potter out for some sailing.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Finished Calf Stretchers

Here is a look at the finished calf stretchers.  These are the ones mentioned in an earlier post.  They are made from Lacewood and Curly Lyptus.  It is a hand rubbed finish of wipe-on polyurethane finish.  These are now for sale for $70 each.  I have prospective buyer for each one, and I am always making more.  I believe I have now made 17 of these.  I especially like this combination of woods and think these are the best I have made so far.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Engine #2 is Up and Running!

I accepted the challenge some time back that I would design and build a Stirling Engine that would run from the heat of your hand, and could be built without a machine shop.  The first engine I made did all that, but it didn't have any spinning parts.  The man offering to publish the book wanted an engine with a rotating flywheel, as this is more appealing to our potential audience for a book.  

I sketched out two more designs that were modifications of my first working model.  But then I got side tracked with more back surgery and both new designs (#2 and #3) were partially assembled for over a year.

This week I took two days off work and made a commitment to get them up and running.  At 1:00 PM today my second design (with a rotating flywheel of sorts) started running, and it has been going strong for most of the last 8 hours.  It has not run from the heat of the hand yet, but it has run on sunshine with no ice, and when inside it runs with ice when sitting next to a 60 watt light bulb.  I have a high level of confidence that this engine will run from the heat of the hand after some minor adjustment to the crank shaft and the addition of a little helium.

I believe the last of the three designs will be the most efficient.  It uses the same ultra-low friction design of the first engine with the addition of a rotating flywheel.  It should be also up and running by the end of the weekend.  After that I then have to get back to the text and finish up all the assembly instructions and organize all the pictures and illustrations.  The end of this project is in sight.

I don't know if I still have a publication deal or not.  I would not be surprised to learn that the offer has expired.  If I have to start over finding a publisher I will be looking into self publication with print on demand.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Calf Stretcher Progress

It was a nice rainy day today, so I spent part of my Easter in the garage making sawdust.  The picture shows my progress on two calf stretchers I am making.  I am long overdue on this order, so it is nice to see them start to come together.

The dark wood is Lace Wood.  The light wood is Curly Lyptus.  Curly Lyptus is a hybrid of the eucalyptus tree and is a product grown by Weyerhaeuser.

The joint is a dovetail, but because those tend to be a little loose I will also add some braces on the back side.  The pieces are currently a little over sized and will be cut down to their final dimensions before they are finished.  

The wood will remain unstained and will be finished with a wipe-on poly finish.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fixing Genoa Sheet Binding Problem

Last Sunday was my first trip out in the boat for the 2009 season.  I was alone on this trip, and I didn't have a lot of time, so I only spent a couple of hours on the water.  The trip quickly reminded me of some of the other little issues that I wanted to fix this winter.  One of them was the way that the Genoa sheet gets cleated.  The standard installation of Genoa tracks and blocks on a Potter 15 uses the same cleat that is used for the smaller head sail.  This causes the jib sheet to have to traverse a sharp Z pattern through the blocks and cleats.  This sharp Z pattern causes a great deal of drag on the lines and it is hard to come about.  Wind alone is often not enough to get the Genoa to change sides.  I repeatedly had to pull rope through the windward side pulley because it was binding in the cleat.

I addressed the problem by mounting a second set of cleats aft of the Genoa tracks.  I looked at lots of options in the marine store and finally settled on a simple clam cleat.  It fits well in the confined space, was pretty cheap, and has a proven track record of working well.

The pictures posted here show the patterns the lines followed both before and after my modification.  This should make the lines release freely and simplify tacking when using the Genoa.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Next Batch of Calf Stretchers

This first picture is a calf stretcher from a previous batch.  I have orders for at least two more, and I finally got around to getting them started.

I found a nice piece of Lacewood that was almost wide enough to make them in one piece.  To make up the difference, I am gluing them up with some light colored Curly Lyptus.  The Lacewood is incredibly heavy and very porous.  The Lyptus is slightly thicker and will need to be sanded down after the gluing is done.

The second image shows the Lacewood and Lyptus in the clamps.  The smaller piece will be the front.  The larger piece will become the deck.

Halyard Shackles

I have wanted to add shackles to my halyards for a long time.  I am hoping this will speed up and simplify the process of rigging and launching the boat.  Now that I finally have purchased some hardware, I am not sure I really want to go this route.  It doesn't really take all that long to tie a bowline after all!  Here is a brief recap of my hardware shopping.

I looked at many of the shackle options at West Marine, both in the store and in their catalog.  I am still in shock at what good stainless steel hardware costs!  The cheapest "economy" shackle at West marine is about $16 for bronze, and a bit more for stainless.  The really nice ones are at least $35 each.  That just seems a bit much for two clips on the end of a rope for my little boat.  So I went shopping on eBay to see what I could find.

I found a seller on eBay (marine_hardware) that listed small shackles at 2 for $13, with a "Make Offer" option.  I offered $10 for 2, and won the bid.  Two weeks later I now have the shackles in hand.  I have not tried them on the boat yet, but as I manipulate them in the living room it is obvious that they don't match the quality of the West Marine hardware.  Not even close.  I had to sand off a burr that I repeatedly stabbed my finger with, and the bail hinge is pretty loose.  The bail does not always line up with the pin when closing the shackle.  I think they will serve the intended purpose, but they are not as good as the economy shackles and I can see a possible upgrade in my future.

The proper way to put a shackle on a line is with a splice.  I thought that splicing double braided line would be easy.  Well, think again.  It is not hard, just complicated.  I watched some videos and read a few articles, then decided that for now I would tie a knot!  I did add some cheap thimbles to help prevent wear and tear on the lines.  I went for the galvanized thimble rather than the stainless ones.  I will update you later on how it all turns out.  My attempts to save money might not pay off like I had hoped!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Refinishing the Brightwork

The West Wight Potter does not have a lot of exposed wood.  Different production years included more wood parts at times.  On my 1980 Potter 15 I only have 4 pieces of brightwork, plus a companionway door, wood tiller, and some wood parts in the rudder.

This year the small parts are getting refinished with Deks Olje two part finish.  I received two cans (one of each part) as a hand-me-down gift from my father.

I removed the parts from the boat so that I could work indoors and avoid getting any varnish on the fiberglass.  The handles are from the cabin top.  The two small blocks are the brackets for the bottom of the companionway door.

The parts were first sanded lightly, then coated with as many coats of Deks Olje #1 as I could put on in one evening.  The instructions tell you to keep putting it on about every 15 minutes until it stops absorbing, then wipe off the excess.

After step 1 dries completely (about a week) I began coating with Deks Olje #2 (Gloss Finish).  The picture here was taken after the first coat of #2 was applied.  I will continue to apply one coat each day for the next few days and then the parts will be ready to install in about a week.

Re-installing the Keel

Two of us went in together to get our keels galvanized in order to save a little money.  The keels for two Potter 15's together weighed 134 pounds.  That still got us into the galvanizer at the minimum $100 charge.  So with tax the galvanizing cost each of us $54.50.  I thought that was a great bargain.

As I noted in an earlier post, I took my keel to a friend for sandblasting.  I invested between $20 and $30 in sand, and another $10 to buy lunch for my friend.  The other keel in this adventure went to a professional for sandblasting and the bill for that was $95.

The hot dip galvanizing process caused some accumulation of zinc in the holes where the line and pulley attach.  The zinc is pretty soft, so it was very easy to dress out the holes with a round file and then polish the edges smooth with a little sandpaper.  

I invited the same friend who helped remove the keel to come back and help re-install it.  I was under the boat when it came out, so I didn't get to see all the secret gyrations he had to do to get it out.  After a little head scratching, it went right in.  We dropped it in vertically then rotated the top forward until it rested against the pin.  We then continued to rotate the top of the keel forward until the keel was seated on the pivot pin.  All that is left now is to install the pulley and the new line.

We noticed a couple of differences between my keel from 1980 and the newer keel from the late 90's.  The shape is basically the same, but the newer keel swing arm attached a little differently.  The different attachment point means that the keel well slot can be 2 or 3 inches higher above the waterline.  That sounds like a great safety enhancement.  

Another key difference is the shape of the slot that holds the keel on the pivot pin.  My keel has a "J" shaped slot.  To get the keel off the pin you had to push up and back.  Unfortunately, this is the same motion one might experience if the keel hits bottom.  I have heard sad stories about keels bouncing off the pin.  The newer keel has a "T" shaped slot.  This makes the keel harder to take off, both accidentally and on purpose.  Both of these improvements seem to be intentional efforts on the part of the engineers at International Marine to make the Potter 15 safer and more seaworthy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Working on the keel: Sandblasting

Here is an update on my work on the West Wight Potter 15 #1036.  As you can see in the last post we managed to get the boat off the trailer and up on blocks.  The keel came out with a little help from a friend, and this weekend I took it over to another friend for sand blasting.  If you ever need to do something like this, here is a hint that might help you.  Sign makers often have a sand blaster for making sand blasted signs!  That was the case with my friend Walker.  He runs a small sign shop out of his home and was happy to lend a hand with the keel refinishing project.

I am taking advantage having the boat off the trailer in another way too.  I am replacing all the parts that contact the boat.  That means a new winch, new rollers, and new bunk covers.  I remember last year I crawled under the trailer for most of a day and rewired it and replaced all the lights.  Then the next time I launched the boat I could see all my work from above, and thought it would be so much easier to do that if there was no boat on the trailer!  

I bought some keel rollers at West Marine for $10 each, but then saw a similar roller at Cabela's for $5.  Cabela's also has good prices on bunk carpet and winches.  The carpet at Cabela's was about half the price as West Marine.  And when it came time to pick out a winch, I was able to get one at Cabela's for less than $40 that more than doubled my pulling capacity.

So the next step in the spring re-fit is to get the keel to the galvanizer in Ballard, then re-assemble it all when the keel is finished.  I may be adding guide posts to the trailer.  I would like to mount the tail lights up high so that the salt water will not be able to get to them.  My waterproof lights I bought last year lasted less than one season before the salt water ate away the electrodes in the fixture.  I am glad I bought the extended warranty.  Too bad it doesn't come with free installation!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Removing the Keel from a Potter 15

Today we removed the keel from the Potter 15.  It was a bit more difficult that I had hoped, but not really all that hard.  I had hoped I could just slide the boat back on the trailer and then lower the keel enough to get it out.  But the rollers on the trailer were so stiff that the boat would not budge!  I knew I needed new rollers and new bunk carpeting, so I decided to try and get the boat off the trailer.  This will give me a chance to work on the trailer while I am waiting for the keel to get back from the galvanizer.

Step One:  Lower the trailer tongue and block up the back of the boat.  When you raise the tongue back up, the back of the boat will be off the trailer.

Step Two:  Raise the tongue high and block up the front of the boat, leaving room for the trailer to get out.  After you slide out the trailer, add some more blocks and support for the boat so that it is secure.

Step Three:  Position one person inside the boat, and one person under the boat.  Lower the keel until it touches the ground, then disconnect the line and hardware.  Together you can lift the keel off the pin, and pull it up and forward inside the cabin.  It weighs about 80 pounds, and in the confines of the Potter 15 cabin it is a bit tricky.  I left that up to a young friend with a strong back (thanks David).

The next step will be to take the keel to the galvanizer in Ballard.  They will strip off all the old coatings in an acid bath and then hot-dip galvanize it.  I am estimating it will cost about $75 for the process if I can talk one or two more people into taking theirs in at the same time.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back to Book Work

After a long break, I am getting back to work on the text of my book about making Stirling Engines. I am happy to say that the end is in sight.  And I am enthused again about the new concepts that are used in these engines.  The first of the three designs has been up and functional for a long time. The second and third engines are almost ready for their testing.  The big tasks that remain to get this project ready for press is to finish up the sections of the book that deal with the step by step assembly instructions, and to finish the assembly and testing of the last two engines.

The thing that makes this project so special is that the reader will be able to assemble a low temperature differential (LTD) Stirling Engine that will run from the heat of the hand, and the project can be completed with common hand and power tools.  A machine shop is not required.

These engines run with a 20 degree temperature differential.  That means that if your hand is 90 degrees or warmer, and the room is 70 or below, the engine will work from the heat of your hand.  They also have very impressive performance in direct sunlight.

I am not sure if I still have a publication deal for the book or not.  My long break from writing may make it necessary for me to find another publisher.  One way or the other I hope to get this information out there for the Stirling Engine community to enjoy.

I want to thank all those who have been enjoying and commenting on the YouTube videos.  I have had the chance to help out a few builders and answer some interesting questions as a result of those videos.

Take care!