Sunday, January 6, 2008

We had a very good committee meeting yesterday. Though not much progress was made on the mechanism, there has been with the LEDs and photos and, of course, the boat itself. I’ve got the title and will probably add a subtitle to it once I get a better idea of what the photos will look like. The flooring is being eliminated which will give me more resources on the budget to work with. Especially if I will go with the suggestions and use the longer light strips which are twice the price.

Radek helped me set up and with just the vellum paper for the photos it looked quite appealing. There will be two different types of LED strips to differentiate the images and color of the light. The whiter, shorter strip will be the on the circuits that will come from the boat. Still not clear on how the images will be shot, though. Something to think about over the break. The longer strips tend to have a bluish luminosity. These will illuminate the city of Phoenix and will be powered by A/C power. I think the blue is interesting—it represents both an emotional blueness with a sense of virtual water. I think the shorter strips may be of the Salt River. Flowing? Dry?

Testing the walls with the LED strips and photos on vellum. The spacing and wiring will be refined as will the mounting system.

Here's a closeup with the overhead lights off. With close to 60 strips running along two 40ft walls it won't seem so dark.

Long days in the shop but the boat is almost ready to be moved. The planking went really well and surprisingly quick. Just a bit of soaking and they were pliable enough to lap on. I let them sit overnight for the most part but when time started to get short I glued and stapled as soon as they looked dried. Here’s some process pics. My hands hurt from all the clamping. A lot of on and off, then on again. I used Gorilla glue (mainly for strength) and a compressor stapler and bradnailer.

Ready to be turned and moved.

Almost done, the last lap is added.

The laps get added while wet and as they dry they take shape. The clamps are then loosened, glue is run along the lap joint, clamps tightened again, and finally the joints stapled. This allows me to remove the clamps after an hour so I can add another lap. Once the boat is turned right side up the staples will be removed before sanding.

One thing I’ve discovered about boat making…it’s all about the timing (like everything else in life!). You cannot rush even with a simple design. I rushed the soaking of some planks and put more than two in the pipe. Big mistake. They expanded and wedged. I couldn’t get them out. Finally, I resorted to cutting the pipe. So back I went to the hardware store to buy more. I also discovered you can’t cheat your way out of trued corners.

Lapstrake boat-making
requiring a lot of clamps.

Finally, planking begins!

Some delays. After laying out the planks I discover I will run out of wood for the laps/hull sides. I cave and buy hardwood (maple and oak). What a heartbreak but necessary. I have a week to finish the hull form. The framing will get done later. I’m still recovering from Sunday’s long day in the shop. If I was a better woodworker I would’ve been more careful with my jigsaw to cut straighter lines on the bottom. I spent 6 hours planing the edges of the bottom when I realized the planks would not fit flush against wobbly edges. Painful work. My body was so sore the next day I could barely move. But I got it done and it looks beautiful!

The boards that will make the bottom are ready to cut from the pattern. They were connected simply with dowels and wood glue. Since this boat will not see water I didn't think it necessary to use waterproof glue.

Pleased with the progress on the boat thus far. I’m having great luck as the wood situation and planking conundrum has worked itself out. The bottom boards have almost been laminated. By Sunday I’ll have all the pieces glued, the bottom plan drawn out and cut. The planks look beautiful! They were cut down, planed and grooved with lap joints by David at Woodworker’s Source. I’m so thrilled that all the material for the boat is from old furniture. Though, I must admit, doing it this way is costly but it keeps someone employed without using additional natural resources. The energy for planing and cutting the joints would be incurred anyway for new materials. Now I understand why restoration is so expensive. It’s labor intensive. I just hope the planks will bend as I anticipate. I will soak them in a 10 ft PVC pipe overnight.

Everything else is at a standstill as I can only think about the boat right now, with the exception of a title for the project. I’ve decided on Emergy. Though the definition of the word is still a ‘work-in-progress’ by the experts, I feel it represents this project very closely and I like it’s poetic sound. It is a contraction of the words embodied energy. Read more about Emergy here. I think the most simplified definition is this:

“Emergy is the available energy of any kind [including human?] previously used both directly and indirectly to make another form of energy, product or service.”

The days fly by and I’m not much closer to really starting the boat. The forms took much adjusting and the stations on the ladder needed to be repositioned. I managed after three tries, to draw the curve of the stem at the bow. I sanded and cut a board that had a curved side. I figured why not go with that instead of cutting another plank. I’m tormented about the bottom. Should I laminate the found pieces – I have just enough - or should I just buy a piece of plywood, cut it and be done with it? Ply is so much easier but I have all this free wood. I’ll sand the boards. If it seems to take too long I’ll buy ply. If the hull sides can be glued and nailed by the 5th I’ll be happy. I pray the planks bend easily.

Here’s a pic of the ladder framing and some of the forms.

Sometime last week while talking to Tony Perez in his office a fella walked into the woodshop and asked if anyone needed some hardwood. He was clearing off an estate he’d purchased and was on his way to the dump to get rid of some old wood. I said I was interested and was it by chance planks. I couldn’t believe the serendipity of the moment! Not only were they terrific hardwoods but they were boards and planks from furniture that had been taken apart. I now had the wood for my boat!

Started the ladder framing that the boat will get built on. Ellie Richardson offered to share her studio space in the woodshop with me. She’s a new grad student. Her work is unconventional where wood is concerned. Very minimalist, about form and color. I’m very appreciative of the space offered up. I couldn’t make the boat otherwise. I still haven’t decided what the material of the boat should be. It’s driving me crazy now. I’ve got less than one month to make this boat and I don’t know what to make it out of! It’s important to the integrity of the project to choose material that speaks directly to the context of the work, i.e. it must reflect the idea of sustainability. I’m looking into the possibility of scavenged wood and having it milled.

There’s been substantial progress since the last entry. Today I made the decision that two-thirds of the light strips will run off of A/C power as it has become evident that there is no way I will generate that much current (8 amps) needed to light 70 LED strips. It has immensely simplified and eradicated the high current problem. The other one-third will be directly controlled by the boat. I decided to reduce the number of strips and break the system up into 3 circuits per wall without necessarily compromising the aesthetic I’m after. I have been working with a fella named Radek Roucka on the circuitry. He’s been a really big help in figuring out the math; how much wattage and current will be needed to light the strips, etc. Still not sure how the lights will be arranged nor do I know how the image will get photographed. Having the curved walls (panels from another grad student’s show) helps to visualize how the strips will look.

Finally the boat construction is getting started. I’ll have the ladder assembled this week and seriously consider the materials I’ll use. I’m still unsure. Like the mechanism and the lights it will have to be kept simple in its design. So much work is still needed to be done in order to have the prototype working properly.

Here’s a pic of the initial prototype of the mechanism. It’s made from a used rowing machine and bicycle parts. I did have to purchase new pillow blocks and a steel disc as well as some bike parts, as I couldn’t find what I needed at the salvage place (Apache Reclamation). I did find some parts there, especially the shaft and an old Kodak motor that at least tells me my system works, albeit not to the extent I want it to. It’s evident I will need to gear it. Many thanks to Byron Lahey who helped with this design and guided me through fabrication. Thanks also to Hilary Harp, one of my committee members, who muscled with the lathe very late into the night last spring to help me make the necessary modifications to bring the metric measurements of the bike parts and the US measurements of the row machine parts together.


Nothing has moved forward. I’m not clear on the boat material. Plywood? Hardwood? Basswood? I will make some plans and have them lofted (scaled) at the printers. Where I will build is also not clear. I’m working something out with Tom Eckert in the woodshop here at ASU. Still keeping my eyes open for a used boat. That would be the most sustainable but I’m not very hopeful.

Finding a used wooden boat is proving immensely difficult in Arizona. They just don’t live long in this intense heat and sun. No kidding. Why is there any need for a boat in this state anyway?? [We won’t go there right now.] So it looks like I will design it myself based on some designs I researched. I’m going with a flat bottom lapstrake with lap-jointed planks. Bought a couple of books to look at but – wow – they look incredibly complex. I’m excited and apprehensive at the same time.

I’m considering the use of an old, used lapstrake rowboat and refurbish it instead of building one from new materials. The lapstrake has an interesting history and seems perfect for this project. “The lapstrake boat building process is believed to have originated in Scandinavia with the Vikings. The earliest remains of a lapstrake boat is believed to have been built about the year 925 AD . Historians believe that lapstrake boats crossed the Atlantic to Newfoundland, Canada at about the year 1,000 AD.” More on the history of lapstrakes here and here.

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