Monday, January 7, 2013

Elizabeth comes home

Some readers may recall when I posted about a young cruising couple who had been gifted an old Ventnor Moth Boat named Elizabeth.  Over a year and a half have since past and just before Christmas I received an email asking if I'd be interested in acquiring the Moth.  The couple  had come to the conclusion that with their cruising commitments they would probably never get around to restoring and racing their Ventnor.  Amelia H. pointed out that the deck of the boat had dried out and planks had separated since I'd last seen her and that they had discovered small areas of rot.  I started racing Moth Boats back in 1959 in a Ventnor Moth very similar to this boat, so in a moment of nostalgia I made an offer and it was accepted.  After getting the boat home the holidays intervened but over the last few days I've had a bit of time to look at the boat and today's post details a repair I've made to the boom.

The Ventnor boom, like most vintage era Moth booms, does not have a groove for the bolt rope of the sail's foot.  Instead, the foot of the sail is attached by a piece of light line which runs through rings sewn to the sail and eyes screwed into the top of the single plank boom.

Instead of the usual gooseneck which mates a boom to the mast, one finds a pair of wood jaws.  The large eye screw is for attachment of the tack grommet of the sail.  The smaller brass eye to the right of the photo is one of nine, spaced at one foot intervals down the length of the boom for attachment of the sail's foot.  The dark color on the wood is not due to stain under varnish but the color taken on by the dead varnish itself.

Here is the same portion of the boom after I wooded it down with a card scraper.  The jaws appear to be white oak.  I'm uncertain of what type of wood the boom itself is made.  The large hook seen on the bottom side of the jaws is for attachment of a simple 2:1 downhaul.

I like using a card scraper (sometimes called a cabinet scraper) to remove old varnish.  Old varnish tends to hard and rapidly takes the tooth off sandpaper but at the same time, as the varnish heats up from the action of the sander, it quickly softens and gums up the sanding disks.  Stripping this boom would have taken at least a dozen disks.  Additionally, I would have had to listen to the sander howling away, would have had to wear a dust mask and would have had to be mindful to not create dips and hollows while removing the hard varnish from the relatively soft wood.

Of course there's a down side to using a card scraper: dead varnish quickly dulls the edges.  However it takes only a minute or two to touch up the edges.  I start the sharpening process by squaring the edges with a file.

This is followed by filing the burrs off the sides of the card.  Just a couple stokes are needed.

The final step in sharpening a card scraper is to burnish the edges at about a 5 degree angle.  You don't have to use a fancy gizmo like this.  The shank of a chisel or the stem of an exhaust valve from an automobile engine (usually can be obtained for free from a repair shop) are plenty hard enough to burnish the edge of the relatively soft scraper.  In less than 5 minutes your scraper will be sharp again.

Removing the darkened varnish revealed the wood.  I was surprised to discover that this boom was made from a plainsawn board.  All the other booms which I've seen on Ventnor-built boats have been made from quartersawn boards which exposes vertical grain.  Vertical grain is stronger and less prone to warp.  I suspect that this boom was home made to replace the original which was either broken or lost at some point.

The susceptibility of plainsawn plank to splitting can be seen by this nasty crack discovered while I wooded down the boom.

The crack seen from above.  It's deeper and more extensive that it appears in these pictures.  Note that the thin edges of a plainsawn board do expose the vertical grain.

I daubed epoxy into the crack as best I could and clamped the repair overnight.  I may shop for a suitable piece of quartersawn wood and use this boom as a pattern.  We'll see.

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