Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Holes drilled: now to the sewing.  Easy, methought*.  Wrong. 

First I was going to use monofilament nylon, and then I remembered that I cannot tie it in a million years.  Copper wire, then.  And because I am a miserly hoarder who can't bear to throw rubbish away I delved under the bench for a cardboard box and found therein all the bits of wire that the electrician had left when we did the kitchen. There is a very fortunate thing about electricians, though all the tradesmen complain about it: they never sweep their mess up. When an electrician has visited, you will always find eighty-one short pieces of red, brown and green/yellow plastic coated pieces of copper wire. And what I have now discovered is that provided they're minimum of 63mm in length, they will sew a wooden board to another wooden board.

First there was the obligatory Human Sacrifice. In the olden days when the natives were more tractable you'd get an Aztec and in a hideous illustration found only in National Geographic you'd do away with him in a welter of blood and screams.  Today it is necessary only to let me loose in the workshop. I started to strip the short bits of wire, and one such, the end folded round on itself to facilitate clamping in some unknown appliance, ploughed heartily and without mercy straight through the pulpy end of my left index finger.
"Aaaaah!" I cried.
And then I thought for a half-pico-second, "I am about to regret that."
And then I uttered the usual word.
And then I mopped things up and wandered inside for a plaster.

When you come to sew two flimsy boards together you face the dilemma of how to hold them. This hadn't crossed my stupid mind beforehand: I  simply thought "Sew!" but actually wood isn't as pliable as any of the other things you might be called on to sew and you can't get your hand and eyeball underneath a board that's lying on the floor.  Eventually I realised that since the two garboard strakes would be as a Vee with one another, they would stand upright on the floor at the back. I propped them both up vertically for the first stitch, and so it proved.

After five stitches I thought "I wonder if the middle bit of the bottom ought to be flatter."  And I started to wonder how flat the bottom ought to be if the finished thing was to turn in the water when I want it to tack.  And then I thought "Actually, I don't know what I'm doing here", so I popped next door and dragged Graeme over, and he told me that Wharram sews the sides together flat, and then forces them apart and they make their own rocker. "Get on with it" he said, not for the first time, "and then you'll see what will work."

When he'd gone I thought  "I wonder how long it will be until I gouge myself on one of these exposed sharp copper wire ends."  So I crept up into the loft and got a roll of 35lbs breaking strain nylon monofilament and found that it is, actually,  possible to tie a timber hitch and jam it in one of the holes - they're 2mm in diameter - and then to sew three times through it creating two loops, which is a holding-together-strength of 70 lbs.

However. When you come to open the two boards apart, you find they don't want to pivot on one another's corner. One instantly slips down onto t'other. So this was going to be a problem. And then I thought that since the nylon sewing was going rather well I'd remove the copper stitches before they stabbed me again, a rare moment's prudency. Running short of fishing line I had to nip to the Warehouse, the Warehouse, where everything's open and broken, because all the other shops were shut. (Otherwise I never go there, on principle.)  I discovered that they didn't have any 35lbs fishing line, and true to form when I got their 40lbs home I found it was thinner and weaker than the 35lbs I'd got from Walkers of Trowell 27 years ago. Trowell is where sometimes NFI was to be found written in a patient's notes, standing for Normal For Ilkeston. (They had several of these acronyms. FLK meant Funny Looking Kid, so some startled young paediatrician didn't go off doing hundreds of unnecessary invasive tests.)

Nevertheless the 40lbs monofilament held, and even allowed me to open the whole thing apart, when I discovered that I was, after all, going to need some formers to hold the two planks at the correct angle to one another, or the end wouldn't bend upwards at the curve to match my carefully prepared side planks. So I made three formers to see what happened, with angles 22, 44 and 55 degrees off a straight line. (Okay, Mr. Knight you horrid mathematician, with angles of 158, 136 and 125 degrees.)

Happily, by experimenting, I found that I could vary the amount of rocker by moving the 44 degree former backward or forward, and I don't seem to need the 55 degree former at all.

I was surprised at how much force was needed to prise the planks apart, and got John to help with his bulk and muscle. He was not in a bulk and muscle mood, however: he was in a composing poetry mood. John has a healthy teenage disdain for poetry, and his verse tends toward the irreverent, invariably being brief and also invariably involving words like Knob which have easily thought-of on-the-spot homophones.
"Just lean hard on this, Sir Andrew."
"Andrew Motion. I mistook you for the poet laureate."
"That's a job?"
He was surprised to learn that the job of the poet laureate is, actually, to composed odes and whatnot for state occasions. He immediately had a thought.
"Could I write and ask him to find words that rhyme?"
"You probably could, though I don't know that he'd reply."
"I'll say I'm composing a poem for the Queen's jubilee, and ask him what rhymes with Regina."

Afterwards it occurred to me that I have a car scissor-jack doing nothing, so I screwed it to the rafters to save more poetic ramblings when forcing the planks apart with the permanent formers.

Anyway, all the people who've ever made these things before were right, of course. The nylon will hold everything together, even the very sharply bent tip, provided you sew it very tightly when the boards are flat together like a close book.

And the boards pivoting on their sharp edges didn't turn out to be a problem - all I did was lightly tap them into place with a dowel and a hammer, and the tension of the nylon keeps them there.

Now the epoxy is hardening, with the addition of a 60 watt light bulb as a heater and lots of rags and bits of cardboard to keep the heat in and quite a few checks to be sure it isn't kept in enough to catch fire.

*Methought.  Hapax legomenon - until now - courtesy of Miss Davena Watkin.

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