Winter 2016

The end of fall signaled the end of the outdoor boat-building season. Epoxy needs to be at least 50 degrees to harden, and you all know what a wimp I am about the cold.

So I moved the tools back in to the basement to work on the masts and spars until the return of warmer weather.

An unusually warm day in December gave me the chance to cut the parts that would become the mast. At first I couldn’t adjust my very old table saw to make the 45º cut, but after I took off the top, cleaned out the sawdust and oiled the parts, she made it.

Special thanks to Pearl for helping me feed 16-foot-long staves into the saw!


Here’s how the mast comes together. Eight staves with a 90º groove cut out of one end come together to make a perfect 8-sided whole. You can see why it got its name – The Bird Mouth method. On this practice piece I’ve already started rounding off the edges to make a circle.

These are 3 of the 8 sides.I had to piece together a lot of smaller ones  to get 15-foot long staves with no knots.

One of the great advantages of this method is that when you clamp the pieces together tightly they hold each other in the right position.

Hours of work with a hand plane turned it into a pile of shavings and a mast!


The smaller spars were much easier. Start with a square, plane into an octagon, then round.

The boomkin sticks our of the back of the boat to control the rear sail, the mizzen. I copied other builders on the net to make it hollow so that the mizzen sheet, the line that controls the mizzen location, will actually go through the center of the boomkin all the way to the end. I screwed a scrap of wood to my router to act as a guide, then routed a groove down the middle of both halves.

I carefully glued the two sides together, making sure that I didn’t clog the tunnel with glue. These guides helped to hold it in place during the initial shaping, and the cap on top gave a flat surface for a clamp to hold it in place.

Doesn’t seem like much progress for a whole winter! In other news, in April I started working part-time at Community Boating in downtown Boston. Great fun, lots of time on boats, neat people and extra dough for boat building.

On the middle school trip to DC I got to teach some of the kids this important life skill.

I got to make a great trip to the region’s sewage treatment plant. Two of my students came in first and third in the poster contest (out of thousands!). Abe voted for the first time on a special vote for school construction. Thanks, Abe! We need the space.



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