Monthly Archives: April 2013

Rough Mast

We received a rough mast that we’ll be shaping into Reliance shape. It has the proper taper at the top most 3 1/2′ and is a straight stick for the remainder – just like the original. Ours is 8′ too long for now, but much better than too short!! Enlosed pictures show the mast with our telescoping topmast inserted and #1 club topsail yard two blocked against it, so you can see how tall the rig will be.

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Meet the Team

Keith Bradley is our Jack of All trades and master of everything he does! He’s been one of one woodworkers – the topmast is his baby – and metal worker – you should see his topmast fid!

Originally from Detroit, he has resided in Falmouth for many years where although retired from Woods Hole Oceanagraphic Institute, he still works there part-time. Few have had as varied a career as Keith; building upon undergraduate and advanced degrees in engineering from Notre Dame and Michigan (who does he root for?) and an MBA from Babson.
He has worked as an officer with NOAA, for Chrysler, and WHOI. At WHOI he was Operation Group Manager building very deep ocean instrumentation and deep sea buoys.

I am always struck by how unusual and special volunteers are. Never knew until getting background for this post, for example, that Keith teaches Science Lab at Babson and has been a Special Olympics swimming coach for 25 years!

Keith Bradley

Keith Bradley

Bill Lawton is the heart and soul of our Reliance crew. Having been a professional boat builder and furniture maker, he is our go-to guy. We often find him chuckling to himself that he can’t believe he’s building a big boat with 1/6th scale miniature parts.

Bill apprenticed as a furniture maker during high school before joining the Marine Corps for a decade. Leaving USMC he returned to furniture making but quickly joined Pearson to lead their woodworking shop at what is now our Herreshoff Museum campus. He left Pearson for stints at a number of boat bulders including Hunter as head of their R&D shop and Gulfstar (where he built 150′ boats for the Carribean trade) before finally owning his own boatyard.

During his boat building career he built wooden, fiberglass, and ferro cement yachts. He eventually left boatbuilding for a more stable life as a general contractor which he continues today on a part time basis in his “retirement” phase.

So now almost 50 years later, he is back in Building 28 where his boat building career began!

Bill Lawton

Bill Lawton

Check back for more profiles on the rest of our RELIANCE team.

Finishing the Boom

We’ve finished our the basic construction of our boom and will put it aside until we’ve completed fabricating the sail track and casting all the fittings that go onto the boom.

As shown on the accompanying sketch, the original boom was fabricated metal, with steel plates riveted over rings and angle iron stringers. Rivets were ground flush so in our scale they would not appear. Much of the boom was a “straight stick” of 21″ diameter; with common upper and lower plates (shown as B-1 which were 14″ long and rolled half round). It would appear that this simplified construction. The top halves overlapped the bottom halves, while the ends were butt-jointed together and fastened inside and out to straps with rivets. As mentioned, these plates were also riveted to rings and stringers. I imagine that they must have made a jig or tool to buck the inside end of the rivet, but would appreciate any insight from our readers. I cannot imagine there was anyone small enough to fit inside these rings and the 21″ diameter pipe! Typically, there were four rings equally spaced 3’6″ inside each section of plate and plates were jointed half-way between adjoining rings. Top and bottom plates were alternatively arranged to minimize weak points.

We should note that mid-May 1903 after a month of sailing, NGH added 3′ to the boom ( and 18″ to the gaff) and had the sails recut.

We built our boom of “Lawton Steel” named for our chief woodworker; hence wood made to look like steel. We laminated two 20′ long douglas fir 1″ x 4″ planks together to make a top and bottom. From a fifth plank we cut two 1/2″ strips which we glued a little proud of the edges of the second lift of the bottom half. Thus, the final shape would be of five planks and almost square in profile.

We routed out the insides of each half to give us walls of 1/2″ in thickness, which we believe to be strong enough but as light as possible. After shellacking the inside hollow portion we glued the halves together. We marked lines on the square profile to represent edges for an octagon and then planed these to perfect octagonal profile. Next, we knocked of these edges and sanded until we were nearly round. At this point we created our overlapped upper plate joints with thin strips of basswood, filling in as necessary with Bondo. Thin basswood strips were also added to represent the butt joint straps. We painted our boom with several coats of primer, sanding between each coat until we achieved a metallic finish.

We’ll put on a final coat of paint, but for now our boom hangs in its rack awaiting completion of the many cast fittings that’ll be attached later.

Sketch of Boom

Sketch of Boom

Boom being sanded to look like metal

Boom being sanded to look like metal

Boom after plating seams added

Boom after plating seams added

Boom after plating seams added

Boom after plating seams added

Boom rounded to shape

Boom rounded to shape

Tim does final sanding on boom

Tim does final sanding on boom

Keith planing octagon shape to boom

Keith planing octagon shape to boom

Keith knocks corners off the octagon

Keith knocks corners off the octagon

Squared boom is made into an octagon

Squared boom is made into an octagon

Bill takes Squared boom to an octagon

Bill takes Squared boom to an octagon

Hollow halves glued together

Hollow halves glued together

Ready to be glued together

Ready to be glued together

Insides have been shellacked

Insides have been shellacked

Bill Routs out other half of boom

Bill Routs out other half of boom

Routing out hollow boom half

Routing out hollow boom half

RELIANCE, The Hope of America Afloat

Saturday April 11, 1903

The excitement about the forthcoming launch of the new cup defender had been building for days. The usually quiet little burgh of Bristol took on a holiday atmosphere with bunting and flags decorating its streets and homes. On Saturday, a sunny clear day with moderate winds, thousands arrived by special trains until in the hour before launching, the wharves for half a mile on either side of the Herreshoff south boat shed were literally black with people. In the water more than one hundred small craft, the majority occupied by newsmen or photographers, were grouped on either side of the marine railway.

Doors of the big shed opened for ticket holders at 5 PM and at the appointed hour of 5:30 RELIANCE, on her cradle, was slowly lowered down the ways. Just as she started, the sponsor Miss Nora Iselin broke the traditional bottle of wine with a hammer saying: “I christen thee RELIANCE and God bless you. Success.”

She floated clear some ten minutes later to the cheers of the crowd and the tremendous screeching of whistles from the assembled steam yachts, the crew tender SUNBEAM and the US Navy torpedo boat CUSHING. Thus began the illustrious career of the greatest of the America’s Cup yachts.

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We Have the Hull!

On March 21st we received our hull and main mast! The hull weighs in at 800 lbs and the mast at 100 lbs. I am told that at our 1/6 foot scale Reliance should weigh 1,750 lbs fully massed, but fortunately we don’t intend to sail her.

We placed the bowsprit, boom and spinnaker pole on the hull along with the wheel, binnacle, after hatch, and several cleats so you can appreciate how she’ll eventually look. So enjoy the pictures as much as we’re enjoying working on her.

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Answering Questions on the Topmast Post

Several people have recently asked how the telescoping topmast worked. 8’4″ of the 58’3″ Sitka spruce topmast resided in the mast when fully erected. I have enclosed a sketch of how all this worked. A sheave at the butt of the topmast and sheave in the mast provided the mechanical advantage for the 330′ long 3/8″ diameter P.S. 19 steel topmast heel rope. The mast was fabricated from rolled steel plates riveted over rings and stringers. The top 24’8″ of the mast was tapered so the topmast was kept in place with lower and upper bearing rings. A fid resting on a ledge in the mast and kept the topmast in its erected position. Interestingly, the fid slot in the topmast was through the parabolic hollow section of the topmast, rather than through the solid portion. I wonder if this parabolic shape help better spread the load for the hollow topmast?

I also enclose pictures of the team shaping the topmast into its 13″ scale diameter. These pictures go with the earlier topmast posting and complete the basic construction of the topmast.

telescoping topmast operation

telescoping topmast operation

Getting ready to plane square topmast into octogon 1

Getting ready to plane square topmast into octogon 1

Octogon shape marked out and being planed by Bill

Octogon shape marked out and being planed by Bill

Bill planes topmast to octogon shape

Bill planes topmast to octogon shape

Topmast brought to round shape by planing edges and then sanding with long box

Topmast brought to round shape by planing edges and then sanding with long box

Topsail club after sanding

Topsail club after sanding

Topmast

We’ve discussed the topmast before, but it is time for an update. You’ll notice on the topmast sketch ( photo 1) that this spar is not the usual barrel stave lay up. That may be because it is a constant 13″ o.d. its full length. We decided to follow Capt. Nat’s drawing as best we could to gain insights into his methodology. It turns out that it really is an easier approach than the barrel stave approach! We also found that working in sitka rather than Douglas fir is easier but the saw dust is much worse.

RELIANCE broke her topmast during a Defenders’ trial race in June, 1903, and the mast was changed from douglas fir to sitka. While douglas fir is stronger, sitka is lighter and Iselin commented that the 2nd topmast was 23% lighter than the original. This was done to put less pressure on the fid which held the topmast in place. (You’ll note in the drawing that the fid actually pierces the topmast in the hollowed out portion of the topmast.)

The topmast is hollowed out to a diameter of 9″ at the ends and 7″ in the middle; again Capt. Nat was taking out all weight he could while maintaining required strength.

The Topmast was a telescoping topmast fitting within the fabricated steel mast, and as you see there is a heel rope sheave at the bottom of the topmast. One end of the wire heel mast rope was fastened inside at the top of the mast, then lead down through the heel rope sheave and up to another sheave mounted at the top of the mast. The wire was then lead down to deck level for hoisting and lowering the mast. The above referenced fid kept the topmast in its erected position. There were slots in the mast and topmast and a shelf inside the mast on which the fid rested.

Photo (2) shows us first planing edges of our block of sitka flat, then ripping our eight scale 5″ x 5″ planks which were then glued into pairs for each side. We then routed out quarter round scale 7″ diameter hollow with taper to 9″ hollow at each end for each side. We used a ramp in the middle to raise the router from 9″ depth to 7″ depth. Afterward, each side was mitered with 45 degree edges (4, 5).

We first attempted a simple glue-up jig approach but found it unwieldy, so we quickly wiped off the glue and with all-hands on deck, including Kyle who we borrowed from the mentoring program, built our second jig and glued the four sides together. This second jig had ledges that conformed the the shape of the sides as shown in the sketch (photo 1) while keeping required pressure on the sides and then the top when finally closed up. As you can see in photo it was a mad dash to recover from the first attempt and to get all four sides glued at once!

Photos show the topmast sides curing in the jig and then after being removed. Drawings show us planing off the excess on each side to get our square shape. Note the templates in the foreground which we used to get the octagonal outline at each end and along the sides, and the round template for final shape. The next pictures show us planing our topmast into octagonal shape. Each set of edges we take off gets us closer to roundness. Finally we were ready to use our long board to sand the topmast round.

Still to go are steps final sanding, shellacking and varnishing of the barrel, shaping the cone at the top and adding the truck, sheaves and fid slot, but I’ll save these for a later post.

Topmast Sketch

Topmast Sketch

Planning edge of topmast planks

Planning edge of topmast planks

Cutting 45 angle to topmast sides

Cutting 45 angle to topmast sides

Four sides ready for glue up

Four sides ready for glue up

First attempt at glue up

First attempt at glue up

Building jig for 2nd attempt

Building jig for 2nd attempt

Close up of jig and glued up topmast

Close up of jig and glued up topmast

All hands mad dash to glue up all four sides in jig

All hands mad dash to glue up all four sides in jig

Topmast curing in its jig

Topmast curing in its jig

Glued up Topmast popped out of jig

Glued up Topmast popped out of jig

Topmast in its cradle with templates in foreground

Topmast in its cradle with templates in foreground