It's good for the soul to have a change of pace occasionally. As a reprieve from sanding and priming and sanding on the decks and cockpit I checked my list looking for a nice small project to tackle: the tiller looked interesting.
|Priming and Sanding.
The Ballad tiller is a simple shape: a curve near the yoke and a gentle sweep to the forward end. The previous tiller had been smashed when the mast was lowered. I'd glued it back together to get the shape, and also used it to cut plugs from for patching holes in the interior Mahogany joinery.
Rather than cut from one solid piece of wood like the one I was replacing, laminated construction seemed the best option. Instead of using thin strips that would bend easily I decided to try using 1/2" strips and steam bend them before laying them up. This would relieve most of the stress in the wood fibers.
A simple steam box about 5' long was made from some 2x6 material, leaving an inside box about 4" square and 5' long, with 1/2" ply end caps. A 6" x 4" slot was cut in the center of the bottom and a piece of 1/2" plywood, large enough to cover the boiling water pot with a matching hole, was attached. The whole rig sat on a Coleman propane camp stove set on the garage floor.
|30 minute steam box.
The wood I chose was Sapele, a type of Mahogany that is quite strong. Some straight grained pieces were selected and cut into 1/2" plus wide strips on a bandsaw then run through a thickness planer to smooth them out. It took about 30 minutes in the hot box for the Sapele to get supple enough to bend, and I quickly clamped them to a jig to be held in place while they cooled.
|Clamping a 'hot' strip.
There was some "spring-back" when the pieces were removed, but enough bend remained to make clamping very easy.
The strips were left to dry overnight and the following morning glued with epoxy, and clamped . I used the usual technique of coating all the strips with un-thickened resin, then layering thickened resin (ketchup consistency) between the strips. Having the pieces already bent allowed less clamping pressure in the jig, preventing excessive epoxy sqeeze-out and the possibility of a dry joint. A strip of Maple was added to the center to highlight the laminations.
|Clamped trips, oozing epoxy, and the old tiller.
|New tiller, looking very "Albin".
It has a nice heft to it. I can visualize having both feet braced on the opposite cockpit seat, new tiller in hand, struggling against weather helm caused by a sudden gust .... ah, thoughts of sailing to keep me going!
Next: PART 19: MORE PROGRESS PHOTOS