Tag Archives: bending oak frames

Steamboxes, oak bending and baked potatoes

The Grove Woodworking School, located on lovely Gabriola Island off the east coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., is a marvel of order and efficiency. Tony Grove’s shop is beautifully organized – partly because that’s how he works, and partly because he needs every bit of space available, especially with a 30 foot sloop taking up most of the room in his shop, her bowsprit touching the bay doors, AND a painting studio up on the mezzanine.

Passagemaker below Dorothy-T.Grove

The man has worked in enough places (read: other company shops) over his 30 year career in boat building to learn what works and what doesn’t, and he knows exactly what he wants to see in his own shop. So, as I’ve learned over the past months of filming Dorothy’s restoration, when Tony works up a head of steam about efficiency, organization and putting everything in its place, I keep my mouth shut and just let it roll.

In terms of steamboxes, what apparently works for Tony is a humble design, built from recycled plywood, built as small as possible – pretty much the exact opposite of complicated and expensive. What doesn’t work is a clunky, permanent structure that takes up more precious room than it needs.

I had been so anticipating seeing this amazing steambox in action – picturing some long, elegant box that could fit a plank at least – that when he actually brought out his box to begin steaming some oak pieces to replace Dorothy’s forward straps, I have to admit to a little disappointment.

It looked just a little too humble.

Steambox set up outside Tony's shop

But really, I’ve learned, it’s about whatever works. (See previous post for more on the results from this box and photos of Dorothy’s new straps.)

Tony’s steamboxes are portable, so they can be taken apart easily and transported anywhere, and he makes them on the fly, to fit the piece of furniture or boat piece he’s working with. He makes them just large enough to fit the piece of wood he’s working with, so as to not waste a ton of energy heating up steam to fill a big box when it’s not needed.

And the heating agency is … shall we say … less than imposing. The box Tony set up outside his shop for this job uses a simple electric kettle recycled from the local depot, and a piece of rubber radiator hose.

Simple, efficient, economical, and it works.

Tony grove steambox special

And it makes lunch, too!

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At 1.5 hours per inch of wood thickness, (Tony was steaming and bending 1.5 inch oak straps) was just the right amount of time to cook some potatoes for lunch.

Potatoes steam box

What does your ideal steambox – or workspace – look like? Email us a photo at dorothysails@gmail.com and we could feature it in the next newsletter. Stay in touch.

Happy sailing!

Love from Dorothy HQ – Tobi and Tony

Replacing the first of Dorothy’s floors

From outside Dorothy

Dorothy has been patiently waiting for attention in Tony Grove’s magical woodshop for some time. At last, other work being cleared away, the boatbuilder could begin on her stem/keel and floors, cutting away the 117 year old wood and fastenings, and measuring new timbers and frames.

Filming this process was a bit difficult – or I’m frankly out of practice – because Tony works super fast (even with me slowing him down!) He moves from bow to bandsaw to sander to steambox to clamp station and back again while I’m still setting up my shot! Wonderfully challenging. So if you wonder why there’s a series of similar looking shots from the bow, it’s because I finally found a perch where he would keep coming back and I could observe him without getting in the way.

Dorothy's floor timbers from above

View from small hatch of the stem with keel bolt taken out. Her garboards were actually removed back in October 2012, a process we filmed on our first shoot for “Between Wood and Water”.

Here’s a series of images that hopefully will give you the “1000 words” behind the story. If anyone has any technical questions, Tony will do his best to answer, but as he’s still in the middle of researching, some answers will take a bit longer to get to. But please do write and comment! This is a great time to ask questions because it will inform us a bit on what you want to see in the documentary…

Total shock at how little is holding Dorothy together

Tony expresses his shock at how little is holding Dorothy together….. OK, not really. He was mostly trying to scare me, saying the bow would crack under my weight as he took out these frames! Yikes!

Tobi shooting from the bow

There is barely room for two of us in that bow – Dorothy is very narrow up forward, and this wide-angle lens makes her look beamier than her actual 10 feet.

 

Removing old epoxy from mast step

Tony has just ripped off the mast step, which was covered in epoxy, which made it suspect, but it was actually ok. At least it’s clean now.

Now we can see how the floor timbers fit together

Now we can see how the floor timbers fit together

This old bolt just popped out (which is not supposed to happen). Tony thinks it’s galvanized steel and is original to the boat. It’s been eaten away pretty badly as you can tell, it should be about twice as long.

This old bolt came off super easy, in fact the head broke off. Tony thinks it's a mixture of iron and galvenized steel and is original to the boat.

This is where the bolt was…

Unscrewing keel bolt

This bronze keel bolt is actually in pretty good shape, still has thread but the wood timber its supposed to be holding in place is completely gone.

This was the wood around the keel bolt, now obviously broken down due to electrochemical decay. Here with the new oak timber that will replace it.

This was the wood around the keel bolt, now obviously broken down due to electrochemical decay. Here with the new oak timber that will replace it.

So this is where it’s complicated – or can be. Building new frames and floors for Dorothy requires taking so many angles into consideration, Tony was scribing, measuring, considering, sawing, sanding for a good half hour for each. It was fascinating to watch/film, because he would spend all this time simply looking, analyzing, running the shape through his artistic/boatbuilder brain, and then fly into action and 20 minutes later… the pieces popped into place like they grew there – the first time! Amazing to watch him in action.

The old rotten frame coming out. There was almost nothing holding them to the stem/keel.

The old rotten frame coming out. There was almost nothing holding them to the stem/keel.

Here’s a measuring-to-bandsaw series:

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And then it’s necessary to keep testing them in place. This back and forth could take all day, but was relatively short this time around. Thankfully for the filmmaker and hungry boatbuilder!

Fitting in new floors

The piece on the right (port) will sister the frame going across the floor, which was steamed and bent yesterday.

The piece on the right (port) will sister the frame going across the floor, which was steamed and bent yesterday. These two sister/side pieces popped in for an exact fit – nice when that happens!

And then who doesn’t know how clamps work? Not much to say except they are pretty essential to any boatshop, as I’m learning. As I posted yesterday, Tony has about 50 in his shop, but could always use more. And someone on Facebook responded by saying “there are never enough clamps”. I guess it’s a universal thing…

Clamping new oak for Dorothy's floor

That about wraps our little inside look at the floor timber/frame restoration process. Lots still to come. Tony will be working on Dorothy throughout the summer, aiming to get her back in Victoria for re-rigging by Fall. So there will be frequent updates here, watch this space!

On the weekend I will post more about the Tony Grove special… a steambox that is portable and won’t break your bank!

Cheers, happy sailing (and restoring and refinishing and varnishing and polishing… )

Tobi and Tony and Dorothy