Saturday, October 29, 2011

The six hour canoe

Notice not one but two fire extinguishers... Confidant wasn't I?
This is the offending floor section after the repairs were made and the holes were filled. Dont look too closely at the edges, my sawing isn't the best.

(This was a long project so you will see bits and pieces now and again for a while)
If it looks like something you might have seen on a waterway near you dont be surprised, it's an old American design.
Reputedly the Six Hour Canoe can be built in just six hours... if you’re a ham fisted, rough as guts bushy who doesn’t care how it looks or how long it lasts.
But I tend to get a bit carried away with projects like this.

I was feeling a bit jaded and needed something new, something different.
It’s somewhat well known that the only thing I can build from wood is a decent fire, but what else would you expect from an ex-boy scout...

So what else would I choose but to make a wooden boat.

I’ve had printed plans to make the canoe for nine years now and thought it was just about time to actually make it. As I started I thought it would be easy enough and I could bore you with all the details...but that’s not what my blog is about.
Instead, I’ll tell you about the things that went wrong, and the things that went really, really wrong. (laugh with me now!)

First up you mark up two eight foot sheets of thin, flimsy ply wood and cut out the shapes, remarkably, this went well and I ended up with four bits that make up the sides and two more bits that joined together to make the bottom.
Joining the two side bits together went well enough, lots of glue, a thin cover plate of ply and clamps to hold it all together while it dries, but just where do you join a floor that measures out to 16 feet?
I decided to sweep the cement driveway clean and use that to lay out the pieces nice and flat, again lots of glue, a cover plate of the same marine ply and a big stack of bricks to weigh it all down. Clever eh?

Well, not really, you see the next day when I removed the bricks I found I’d glued the canoe bottom to the driveway and I couldn’t get it up, I had no choice but to use a power sander to slowly sand away the quarter inch thick joining ply. Eventually I was able to lift the sides one bit at a time with only a little damage.
I started gluing again and eventually ended up with all the bits ready to turn into a boat…

The sides came together rather well eventually. This stage took weeks as the stem and stern posts as well as the middle joints all had to be planed exactly to size and shape before I could put it together.

These pics were taken in my old cramped shed before it was torn down to make way for a new much larger shed. Now I've got room to swing a cat...if I had a cat.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Bloody race cars again?


For a long time part of my work for the race team has been to make the bar work for the cars. Chassis, roll cages and bumpers, this includes Nerf Bars for the Formula 500’s. Nerf Bars are the small side bars that prevent cars getting locked together when they collide, what with all the bumping and jostling for place these bars get replaced every few meetings at least.
Up until now I made these bars out of my head, this does not mean I scull a pint of Scotch and go make them*; it means I remember the shrink and expansion rates as well as the lengths to cut and bend the pipes without ever writing them down.
Apparently this is no longer good enough! Now the team has delusions of grandeur everything has to be written down so every man can do every job. YeahRight!
So it was that I committed every length and bend to paper, labeled every sheet and made it as clear as I could.
Two of our team members decided to test the procedure by making a few Nerf Bars all by themselves…
They rang me at home to say:

A: Something’s not right, we seem to have done something wrong, please come and help us work it out.

B: Something’s not right, we’re not sure what’s wrong, please come help us work it out.

C: Something’s not right, your measurements are wrong! We need to change your plans.

If you guessed ‘C’ then you're more right that they were…
They, who had between them made just two bends in their life were sure I, who has made countless bars (ok, sometimes wrong) had got the numbers wrong and they wanted to change and alter my plans.
I went in to save my precious work.
After some time listening to them moan about how I had got it completely wrong I consulted the plans they were using to find they were using the measurements for one car and the bend rates for the other car… An almost understandable mistake as the pages followed each other in the book side by side. EXCEPT that one page had KAWASAKI RACE CAR printed across the top and the other had YAMAHA RACE CAR across the top.
Now and again I do make mistakes, but these bars are made from seamless stainless steel tubing which is very expensive, I triple checked my measurements…I knew they were right. There's only two of us that know how to use the hydraulic bender and I taught the other guy a few weeks ago; no one else can weld the thin stainless tubing but me so I don’t see the point in anyone else doing my work. It only adds to my work load by me having to fix other peoples mistakes. (grumble, mutter)

*though these’s an idea…


Tuesday, October 25, 2011


This is pretty much all that's left of the car that was supreme just a week ago...

Well the car came back in one piece but with a fair amount of damage. Race one did not go well, the car was sluggish and didn’t want to go. A quick carby re-jetting and it was supplying peak power again. This little car wheelstands the full length of the straight and you have to back off to get the front wheels on the ground long enough to go around the next corner, then it’s back on the power and front wheels off the ground again, lap after lap for the full race.
Toward the end of the second heat and well in front of the pack, a backmarker spun in front of us and we hit him hard… so hard that he went over the top of our car. He ripped the steering off, crushed the Nerf bars, bent the Jacobs Ladder and broke the disc brake rotor and caliper, bent the back axle and tore the big wing off the roof. All because the backmarkers steering wheel fell off in his hands…. He did the same thing in the next race and took out another car, he was black flagged for the rest of the night. (too late she cried)
We had all the new parts on hand so the car was quickly repaired in time for the Final Race…
Half a lap ahead with only a few laps to go the car suddenly lost power and pulled infield and out of the race.
The impact of the accident had critically stretched the control cable to the four carbies and it broke.. (weep!)
I’ve spent the last two days making new Nerf Bars and doing repairs to the body. We have a week off so there is time to fully rebuild the suspension and make ready for the next encounter. Of course we always hope to finish a race so we get the points but racing is often more about luck that good planning. (or whether some twit crashes and takes you out) LOL
Such is life! (Ned Kelly’s last words)


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Questions, questions!

Our nearest neighbors, the young family down the creek a little.

In the Northern Flinders Rangers and far away from the nearest town I went camping for a few days rest. I took an older friend with me, he’s 65 and new to camping.
I’ll tell you his story and ask for your opinion…

We arrived at this usually crowded spot to find we were one group among only 6 or so small groups sharing thousands of hectares.
We set up camp alongside a small almost dry creek 300 metres from a young family, with about the same distance to a retired couple with their two grand kids on the other side. Late on day two a couple of young twenty something women rode in on their bikes. (cycles, push bikes.. whatever you call them)
They rode around a bit and chose a spot halfway between the two old guys (us) and the grandparents. I assumed they chose this spot as there is safety in numbers and old people are less likely to be axe murderers…maybe!
As they set up their camp I noticed that Kev (my friend) placed his deck chair so he could see their camp…Hmm!
After some time Kev turned to me (remember he’s 65) and said “ That girl fancies me, every time I look over she’s checking me out”.
I thought he was making a joke….

I’d put money on it that she turned to her friend at this point and said “Every time I look over there that creepy old dude is watching me”

Eventually the girls came over and introduced themselves to ask for water for the next few days travel. We chatted for a while and I found the young teacher and her Jeweler friend were riding 900km up through the ranges on an ages old cattle trail. I lament that I am too old to do that sort of thing anymore though my wife and I rode our horses along part of that very trail 30 years ago. (before it became trendy)
While in our camp Kev made several cringe worthy comments about women which the other three of us ignored completely.
The girls left our camp with the water and enough firewood to keep them warm through the night. (wood I’d brought from home, as we must these days)
The next morning they returned the wood they didn’t use, topped up their water and left to continue their adventure.
I was so pissed and embarrassed by his behavior that I spend much of the next two days paying him out every time he opened his mouth. you find Kevs behavior creepy? …or is he just a foolish old man who doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up!

A piece of 600 million year old sea bed, 300 metres up in the ranges.


Monday, October 17, 2011

...and so it begins

Last season turned out pretty poorly after all that hard work getting ready for the season. We loaned our best car to someone who totally wrecked it. It was new, undriven and season ready when he rolled it every which way, he destroyed the new hand made body I’d built, tore the wheels off and tumbled the thing lengthways along the track.
So begun a rushed rebuild to make the car ready for the season…which had already started.
Although we missed a couple of meetings, the car was made ready and raced, but for the next several meetings it failed every time at the eleventh hour. Each failure was traced back to cracks and fractures coming from that first wreck, the last straw was a complete motor meltdown caused by a partial oil starvation as the motor had continued to run as it rolled. By the time it all became too much and every nut, bolt and replaceable item was replaced it had cost us a full season.
The lesson was learned…. In the off season the two cars have been stripped to the last bolt, everything being crack checked or replaced as a matter of course. New bodywork, new brackets and all these weeks spent crafting one off pieces so everything fits perfectly. Our team manager is a Fitter and Turner Machinist so everything is fitted to exacting specifications.
The two cars are now sitting on their own stands, surrounded by all new tools, flanked by a new spare motor each and several new bodies. They sit with their fully rebuilt Methanol engines ready to fire up, ready to race.
Nothing left to do but wait for the season to start…. This weekend!


Friday, October 14, 2011


I’ve been away for a few days camping and relaxing. (code for bored out of my head)
I fell off my Yamaha a while back and wrecked a shoulder, I’d just had three Cortisone injections put in and needed to rest it for a while. I went bush so I would have nothing to do but sit in my comfy chair and/or walk the trails. (both of which are good for resting shoulders)
Several interesting things happened while I was up there in the mountains of the Flinders Rangers S 32° 11.045 E 138° 00.564
One night I woke with my mind buzzing*, in my sleep I’d worked out the meaning of life and couldn’t believe it was so simple. I lay there considering the implications for a while, certain that life would never be the same again. Then I drifted off bent on writing it all down in the morning so I could share my revelations with you all.
I woke the next morning remembering the events of the night before but not remembering the revelation I needed desperately to share.
Damn, now I have to work it out again.

Feeling whimsical and admitting honestly that the only decent thing I could make with wood was a really good fire I decided to combine the two and took my one and only saw horse with me…
Very satisfying!

* I had not been drinking