On the Mark: Boatbuilding Tools - Part 1
When buying tools you may want to look for tool reviews. Fine Woodworking and American Woodworker reviews and comparisons are, in general, by far the best. I also strongly recommend picking up this month's copy of Fine Woodworking, which has a number of excellent hand tool articles.
One of my absolute favorites is a heavy 2" wide slick (for timber framing or ship building) that I bought at an out of the way antique store ($20, broken handle). I use it a lot, but it would be very hard to justify the cost of a new one(~$100-150). If you can find an old one get it. Think of it as a plane without a body.
My personal preference for a simple system is a bench grinder (I have a cheap 6"), 1200 grit water stone, sewn cotton buffing wheel (for the drill press or grinder) with DICO emery and white rouge (optional) compounds. I started with oil stones, but was won over to the water stone due to faster cutting and less mess (no oil smell on my hands either). Each tool takes only a few minutes to get a razor sharp mirror finish after the initial tune up and flattening when new.
The hand saw of choice is the Stanley Short Cut. This is a "tool box" size saw that does an excellent job of most cuts and has Japanese saw style teeth. This means that the teeth have almost no set, but a very aggressive cutting pattern. The short blade allows cutting in between frame pieces, and where there is not much space. The lack of tooth set is very useful when trimming angle cuts, as you can lay the saw against the fixed piece and trim the end without scratching (at least not significantly) the fixed piece. You may want to also consider a Japanese style saw, but I never caught on to cutting on the pull stroke. I also have other more expensive hand saws but the Short Cut is what I now reach for. The funny thing is I originally bought it for my son, when he was ~6 as one of his first tools. It was too aggressive and hard for him to push, but now is a favorite. It is also very easy to sharpen, purchase a very slim triangular file.
12 Volt rechargeable drill. Most come now with 2 battery packs, a 3/8" keyless chuck. My preference is Porter Cable, Milwaukee or Panasonic. My Porter Cable 8500 is now nearly 10 years old and has lasted through many projects and abuse (3 falls off of a stepladder included). 2 of the 3 battery packs bought for it are still going strong (3rd was a replacement).
12 Volt provides a good tradeoff of size versus run time. Higher voltage leads to a larger and heavier drill. The size and weight really get to be a problem. I rarely have to resort to a standard (corded) electric drill.
For those large holes for propeller shafts, exhaust ports, etc. borrow (or rent) a 1/2" drill. The size and weight penalty is too great to have this be your only drill. Better yet is being able to borrow the hole saws and big boring bits with it (they get expensive).
You will need lots of these. The best buy are the Jorgensen F Clamps. Next are the Bessey Bar clamps. Beware of the knock-offs as some are good, but many will slip under pressure or bow excessively. A few Quick Grips are also very useful since you can put one on with one hand, but do not provide a lot of pressure. There is little use for pipe clamps, Bessey K Body , Jorgensen I beam, or other large clamps. Borrow them when you need them . If you look at my web site, you will see numerous shots of clamps lined up on the frame. For many years I asked for clamps as presents, to the point where my sister complained that she was bored getting them for me after several years. You can never have too many.
An often overlooked problem is that a lot of clamps are often needed and that you are often working on a curved position and the clamping surfaces are not parallel. Large clamps are harder to position, parallel jaws won't work, large clamps interfere with each other and the weight of the clamp may twist and distort your pieces.
Be sure to wax the bars and screws and put pads or multiple layers of duct tape on the jaws. Epoxy will gum up everything otherwise, and then will selectively stick more to the clamps that you have borrowed than your own.
A Stanley Workmate is my favorite portable workbench. You can easily move it around, clamp you work in it (or a tool). Mine is almost 20 years old and is still used for almost every project, even though I have fixed workbenches and other work surfaces.
Try use your other projects to justify as many of the tool purchases as possible, as you will still end up buying some new tools just because of the boat. Remember, "Every project requires a tool", and after a few years of training my wife now believes it and it is part of the up front "negotiation" for each household project.
Measuring tools, Tool versus material trade-offs, also known as how do I get my significant other to let me buy (i.e. justify). Next Month.
We are very pleased to have Mark sharing his expertise with his fellow boat builders. If you would like to comment on this article to Mark, he can be reached at "builders at bronkalla.com". Replace the at with @. (Just trying to dodge a few spammers). See Mark's great web site for information on his Riviera project.