Great Strides and New Toys

It may only be 10 degrees (F) outside, but we’re keeping busy in our slightly warmer shed. We’re in the stage of fabricating and assembling piece parts for the next stage. RELIANCE seems to go together in periodic leaps, and to visitors, we seem to be in one of our dormant phases; but it really are these “back-shop” activities which make progress happen.

Tim has brought down our boom and gaff for final preparation and painting; they really look like the real metal spars!

1 Tim working on the gaff2. First finish coat on 68' gaff

In the meantime, Bill has been working with our friends Andrew and Paula Wright of AMA Engineering to fabricate sail track on our boom. In one of those serendipitous RELIANCE moments, one of their standard “H” channel products fit our bill perfectly. Grind away the smaller, thicker base and you have the out-haul car track; grind away the thicker top and you have the sail track, and the rivet/screw holes are correctly spaced according to scale. How neat is that!

4 sail slide sample4a sail slide cross section

We’re also at the point where we can show you all the pieces that go on the boom. From left to right, they are as follows:

Footrope straps, reef haul eye, boom guy strap, quarter lift straps, main sheet span straps, twisted main sheet block shackles, main sheet block shackles, sheet block attachments, main sheet strap attachments, out-haul at boom end, out-haul car and clue attachment, clue out-haul forward end, oak reef cleat and sheave, boom crotch tackle attachment, boom capstan (winch) barrel with crank handle and assembly.

The background shows sections of the sail track and boom.
The silver-colored fittings are mold masters. These will be cast in bronze and then nickel-plated to look like the real nickel steel parts.

3. Boom fittings

Laura, our master rigger, has been splicing the two bobstays, and when our two apprentices get up to speed, we’ll be in full production mode. Her splices have been fantastic in tough 1/4″ 7×7 galvanized steel wire, just like the real thing. It’s tough work, and if you don’t believe me, come visit and try it yourself! She’s a tough lady, bundled up in the coldest section of the building, and you can see she’s wrapped her index finger with electrician’s tape over a wire cut.

5. Laura Splicing bobstay eyes6. Finished bobstay eye - wormed, parcelled, served and spliced

Mike just delivered cast bronze rudder pintles and gudgeons; each set is matched to fit the scale taper of the rudder. Keith will soon have to get cracking on the rudder assembly. He also delivered a full set of cast eyes and a spinnaker boom socket for the mast.

7. pintles and gudgeons8. mast fittings

Also, Burr delivered a beautiful set of bowsprit spreaders. What you can’t really see is that these rods are oval in cross-section and perfectly tapered to scale, just like the real ones. Both Mike and Burr have incredible attention to detail and fidelity to scale accuracy!

9. bowsprit spreader assemblies

We’re Back and At Full Throttle!

We’re back from the holidays and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dimly. Keith cut our mast to length: 17’8″ plus 14″ for the “bury” to our mast step. Keith put the newly cut mast upright to gauge whether we could also step the topmast in place. Alas, another 8′ 4″ is required and it won’t fit unless we move the whole rig under the cupola in the middle of the high bay, so there it’ll go! As a point of reference, the topmast and #1 topsail yard add another 13′ 8″ to the height of the mast, shown here; that’s almost another 75% of the length shown!

1 Cutting our mast to length2 Measuring fit inside bldg 28

While Keith worries about the design of the new jig, Bill has been working on the spreader. You can see that the “I-beam” construction has been routed out and drain holes have been drilled in the “I’s.” He’s now fitting it to the mast before varnishing, adding all the fittings and cladding the section around the mast in metal.

3 Fitting spreader to mast

Mike brought more wax mold master mast fittings to the shop. These were fitted to the mast and taken to our local metal casting company—Harrison Casting in Johnston, RI—to be made; we’ll be attaching these in place soon. All of this leaves us with actual wire splicing and wire rope standing rigging. The photos below show Herb and Larry plying their newly acquired specialty with help from Toss’s book, educational visits to, and some instruction from Bob Dollar of R&W Rope.

We’ve also been noodling with how to do the actual rigging of our model and have concluded that unlike the original RELIANCE—which was rigged after launching—we’ll construct a special rigging jig so we can cut and splice all the standing rigging to actual length. This jig will be separate from our model, so work can continue on her without interruption, and the butt of the mast would rest on the floor. You’ll see construction of our jig over the next few months.

Lastly, we at the RELIANCE Project and Herreshoff Museum would like to formally recognize the loss of a great friend. New Year’s Day brought the passing on of Stanley Livingston, 96, an active supporter and family member in our cause. Fair winds and a following sea on the other side of the bar, Stanley; RIP

Livingston's visit Stan on deck, Marty and Sandy Lee

New Progress and New Gear

Bob Dollar of R&W Rope came to our shop to introduce us to the Liverpool Wire Splice. Books are helpful in the learning process, but something as complex as a Liverpool splice really needs a personal session to show the “art” in the task. Bob told “Bosun” Herb that he’ll need to practice, so as you can see him practicing this new craft below.


Tools make all the difference, so Bob also brought us a splicing clamp which you can see here:


Meanwhile, Bill has been working on our very complex spreader assembly. The inboard half of the Douglas Fir spreader is actually an I-beam and Bill is shown routing out the center section. He’s using our first non-laminated spreader as a router guide.


PS: If anyone would be interested in learning how to splice, come visit us; you know where we are! If you wish to do some at-home research on it, Bob suggests going to

More Christmas Spirit!

Never turn your back on our “morale officer”, Keith. He always has something up his sleeve; he probably lies awake at night thinking about puns, tricks, and displays. Last week, he took one of our GI Joes on liberty to Cape Cod, only to return with it donned in Santa garments. We’d like to thank Keith’s wife Mary Jo for making the Santa outfit.

Speaking of dressing: would anyone be willing to make an outfit for Mrs. Iselin? We have a description of her sailor’s dress.


Meanwhile, we’ve reach another major milestone on the project. On Tuesday, we fitted the last of our deck fittings in place; our deck is essentially complete, we just some touch-up to go, which we’ll do as part of the final wrap-up. These topmast running backstay staples were some of the several items plated by R. E. Sturdy and Co. They’ve been glued, riveted, and bolted into place to ensure they can carry the load.

Now we’re working at fittings for the boom and mast, the first of which has been fitted to the boom and temporarily to our stump mast. We still have some work to do on the goose neck assembly.


As many of you know, RELIANCE was launched 177 days from receipt of order and delivered to the Iselin syndicate 194 days after masting, rigging, and sail testing. So, we’re about 150 scale man-days complete!


New “Bling” for the RELIANCE

Burr made and delivered teak pads and their accompanying capstans a few days ago. Zach the intern admired them so much that we put him to manual labor; now, we’ve got the three capstans firmly in place!




The fourth of the capstans, complete with a crank handle, will be mounted starboard side, on the forward end of the boom. Imagine that: a deck winch attached to a boom!



Deck the Hulls!

After a much needed Thanksgiving break to regain energy, we’ve returned to the RELIANCE Project with some lively holiday spirit. We decked out the RELIANCE model by putting a pole star on the unfinished mast. It lights up the shop pretty nicely!


New Contributions; an Early Christmas!

Bob Dollar of R&W Rope, New Bedford, Mass. has again contributed to the RELIANCE Project; this time, with various sizes of faux manila line (manila fibers do not scale down by 1/6th and thus would not look appropriate). Now all we have to figure out is how to translate 12, 30, 45, 60, 75, and 90 size line (as shown) into real world manila line dimensions. The size of manila line is measured in circumference, while wire rope and new synthetic fiber lines are measured in diameter.

1 Manila Line

We also just received our first lot of nickel-plated chain plates, staples, and turnbuckles from Tom Perkins of R.E. Sturdy Company in Providence. A number of RELIANCE fittings were nickel steel, but we are limited to casting and shaping brass or bronze. Our “Guy Upstairs” Dave Stewart of Systematics Inc. has been our intermediary for this project, so we do not know who to thank… it was all very hush, hush, so we’ll just thank them both!

2 plating

Burr has also given the RELIANCE Project an early Christmas present! Burr brought over four capstans, three of which go on deck and the fourth onto the boom. Our next step will be to fabricate the teak pads and then fix it in place. The barrels turn, so we’re a little weary of showing these to Mike–our caster–who are is a miniaturist and clock maker. He’ll probably want to make the internal gears and ratchets!


Meanwhile, rigging continues to go well. We’ve been worming, parceling, and serving the galvanized wire every day; hopefully that will be all finished soon.