Monday, January 23, 2012

Commiserating With Sisyphus

Within the context of archaic Greek mythology, a mortal was allegedly condemned by the deities to a perpetuating, onerous task as a result of his arrogant tendencies. This man, Sisyphus, was compelled to roll a monolithic stone upwards towards the Acropolis' summit, but the rock's gravitational propensity would invariably thwart his efforts, necessitating reinitiation of the task interminably. Today, we employ the term "sisyphean" to denote an engagement of unavailing nature, characterized by alternating forwards progress and subsequent retraction. Infelicitously, a similar nature routinely appears evident within boat construction. Recently, our experiences generated contemplation of Sisyphus and his commensurable plight.

  Admittedly, it comprised one of those instances where you knew in your heart that something wasn’t quite right but staidly refused to reconcile yourself to such. Irrespective of adopted mentality or viewing perspective, that disconcerting impression of undesirability persisted. Conveyed briefly, the transition from the gunwale to the breasthook seemed to deviate from an aesthetically appealing (or "fair", as termed within the boatbuilding community) appearance. To further complicate matters, as we started to plane the gunwales smooth (both across the inner and outer pieces, the intersections to the quarter knees, and the tops of the frames) it rapidly became apparent that a section at the convergence of gunwale and breasthook where between the inner and outer gunwales there would harbor an irreparable divot wherein the surface would descend locally, inducing substantial consternation.

We attempted fervently to formulate a solution, but, in the end, the sole viable approach comprised that which we acknowledged to entail the most substantial labor and associated difficulty. Inauspiciously, the breasthook necessitated replacement with a surrogate that conformed to the angular  inclinations of the hull sides (which incant port-starboard, as depicted within the below representation)  instead of the horizontally planar component we had originally installed. In other words, we required to fabricate a breasthook that was "vee-formed".

Respectively, eventual acceptance of this revelation required temporary detachment of both the inwale and outwale and removal of the gunwale blocking upon port and starboard polarities. At this juncture, we embraced our previous decision to anchor these structural elements via mechanical fasteners, as utilization of adhesive would have rendered the erroneous breasthook shape irreparable. However, as a function of incomplete foresight, we had predominantly completed the screwhole plugging process, compelling extraction of those meticulously selected, hue corresponded plugs prior to screw access.

As a bit of an aside, I really enjoyed the plugging process. We purchased a plugger from Lee Valley Tools that creates a tapered plug--intentioned to preclude marginal deviances from the desired diameter that invariably result from drill press imperfections--and it constitutes a really impressive tool! To produce the superlative plugs (and ensure essential indiscernibility from the surrounding wood), it is salient to locate scrap stock that corresponds within coloration, texturation, and grain character to the piece being plugged and carefully inserting it into the void in grain orientation congruent with the encompassing material. Employing this stratagem, we efficaciously generated plugs capable of satisfying our discerning perceptions of permissible quality. Our superlative efforts are visually imperceptible at one foot and the majority cannot be seen from three feet.

The process entailed within fabricating the second breasthook was virtually identical to that of its predecessor. The sole substantial differences were that the angle situated at the intersection of the two breasthook components (measured across the boat) required ascertainment and the curve necessitated inscribing within each piece independently and subsequently hand-executed smoothing processes to ensure attainment of an aesthetically-compelling appearance. To facilitate realization of intent, discerning the precise positioning of lateral craft centrality was imperative, as this permitted conception of two symmetrical constituent components that, within summation, would comprise the structural breasthook. In this altered arrangment, the breasthook possesses edges that touches the planking is at 90 degrees and the convergence of these portions is angular in relation to the oak members, whereas the initial design entailed planarity of the hook itself and impartment of exterior angles to accommodate the hull's contours.
Within the second instance, emergent perturbation with the construction process begat a degree of impatience, catalyzing an election to employ a simplistic epoxy joint within the 'hook. Enabling this approach was a super quick and easy jig that held the two sides of the breasthook tightly adjacent during epoxy adhesive solidification. To form this, I simply screwed a piece of scrap to a plywood base and then pushed the two sides together by hand prior to positioning a second piece of scrap tight to the initial's edge. Then, using a clamp, I lightly imposed downward pressure upon the center joint and left the breasthook to dry. In the end we were much happier with the results of the curved breasthook as the lines are measurably visible below. Evidently, the primary distinction between our endeavours and Sisyphus' manifest futility is the ability to eventually realize intent (a prospect preferable to perpetual deity-imposed tormentation, assuredly). Now the prospect of paint application appears tantalizingly tangible, catalyzing additional efforts to effect forward progression upon the gradually-materializing craft. 

Smooth transition now from inner to outer gunwale
Still needs a little more smoothing on the underside

1 comment:

  1. Impressive recent advancements!!! Your construction tale has been sweeet!