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About Cathead

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  • Birthday 09/08/1979

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    Missouri, USA
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    Ecology, history, science, cooking, baseball, soccer, travel

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  1. I love the lace curtain idea, that's a neat way to obscure the view while being more visually interesting. If you can get all that done with one hand, feels like I ought to be getting more done with two!
  2. John, The large wheels provided the necessary leverage for controlling the rudder(s), run manually by lines from the pilot house (if you look closely, you can see the ropes wrapped around the wheel's axle). As I understand it, American vessels eventually converted over to steam-powered steering, meaning the wheels got a lot smaller when mechanical leverage was no longer relevant, but Arabia was built well before that development. I wish I knew more about Australian steamboats, but is it possible they developed later and thus started out with non-mechanical steering and thus small wheels? For reference, here's a photo of the Arabia's original tiller and the block that held the ropes from the wheel way up in the pilot house: The other end pokes out of the stern to hold the rudder: Mark, I owe a clear debt to Kurt and Alan Bates for the clear diagrams and information they provided on pilot houses, as well as Brian's Chaperon which I consulted closely given the awesome job he did on a detailed pilot house.
  3. Thanks, popeye! This week's accomplishment was finishing the pilot house, which ended up being a fun little mini-model that I documented in a fair amount of detail. It was nice to take a break from the larger model and just focus on this one feature. I put a lot of detail into this since it's a visual focus point of the whole vessel. First, I built the wheel by laying out very thin strips of wood on double-sided tape and carefully fitting in braces around the circumference. When I liked what I had, I painted it. It's not as clean as if I'd bought a similar-sized one from Syren, but I liked doing it myself and its slightly rough style fits the rest of the model. This thing was super-delicate and I almost didn't get it off the tape in one piece. I then mounted the wheel in the pilot house, slotted into the floor the way all steamboat wheels were: Next, I built the windows using the same very fine strips and a lot of careful cutting and patience: After painting, I carefully glued sheets of clear plastic to the inside. My first attempt, I apparently used too much CA and it crazed the plastic, so I very carefully scraped the plastic off with a razor blade and tried again. I actually couldn't believe I got away with that, I was sure the window frame would shatter. The second time stuck with no crazing. I then added various internal details to the pilot house before gluing in the windows and door: Details include a small wood stove, a basic spittoon, a small bench, the hinged "bridle" that pilots used to hold the wheel in place if they needed to step away (next to the wheel at right), and two pull ropes for engine control. I ran these on criss-crossing lines as shown in various sources. The glue dried on the left-hand one a little weird; I'm saying a breeze is catching it through the open front window. The rods the lines are hanging off of are belaying pins from an old kit; the handles are parrell beads from same. There are a few other very small controls that could be added, but this thing is tiny and you'd never be able to see them clearly through the windows, so I decided this was enough to capture the proper feel. For a size comparison, the Chaperon model is in 1:48 scale while Arabia is in 1:64; this pilot house is ~1.5" to a side (~3.5 cm). At the front, I added the hinged/swinging shades that could be used to close off the normally open pilot house front during bad weather. Once I was happy with the internal detail, I added the rafters and the roof, which I made using the same masking-tape technique described in a previous post. This roof needed to be held down securely; three rubber bands took care of the edges but the top was bulging up too much, so I balanced a rock on it. Looks like she's bringing home a major geological sample from the Montana gold fields! And here's the finished pilot house with roof and stove chimney. I guess it's not 100% finished as I still need to add whistles, but it's close enough to move on from for now. This was really fun. Hope you like it.
  4. I started working out how best to build the hurricane deck (also known as the roof of the main cabins) and quickly realized I would need to work out exactly where, and what size, the hurricane deck cabins would be. That, in turn, meant I needed to do the same for the pilot house on top. So I changed plans and started building the rest of the superstructure first, since once that's in place it'll be easier to build the remaining decks around it. Above are the hurricane deck cabins. I made them exactly the same way as the boiler deck cabins, so didn't take any new photos of the process. The blocky beams are a special support structure for the pilot house, which I built as a separate unit that can be slotted into place, like this: Doing this made it a lot easier to work on each piece separately and will be especially helpful for adding lots of interior detail to the pilot house. Below is a shot of the pilot house removed, showing the interior bracing that slots into the beams atop the hurricane deck cabin. Next up, I worked on the hurricane cabin roof. Because this deck has some curvature to it, I used scrap pieces of scribed wood (scribing side down) as this takes a curve easily. This roof/deck would have been covered in strips of tar paper. Kurt Van Dahm's digital book on building Chaperon has a nice tip on how to simulate this, using strips of silkspan attached to a surface with matte medium and painted; it looks quite realistic. Having neither on hand, I made up my own adaption. I cut strips of masking tape to appropriate widths, smeared wood glue thinly on the roof surface, then carefully laid the masking tape strips with just a tiny bit of overlap at the seams. As a bonus, the moisture of the glue made the wood warp just about perfectly for the required curve! Below you see an upper and lower view of two such pieces; the lighting makes it hard to see the detail but hopefully it's clear enough. I used masking tape on my Bertrand to simulate the metal cladding on the chimneys, and it looked really good when painted and has yet to budge (I didn't even use glue that time). So I was confident it'd work here. After painting, the tape has a really nice rough texture and just a little bit of crinkling that looks pretty realistic. I trimmed the tape on all sides, then cut the pilot house gap out of the forward piece and test-fit them. Look closely and you'll see that I screwed up. I measured the width of the cut against the outer walls of the cabin, not the slightly narrower pilot house itself. After some roustabout phraseology, I quickly decided I could apply the old modeller's trick of "add useless but benign detail to cover up a mistake" and glued two thin strips of wood to either side of the pilot house, filling the gap nicely. I like how this looks (note that this is only a test fit). The masking tape has a good texture and you can just see the seams. I'll use the same technique for the much larger hurricane deck once it's laid down. In the meantime, there's a lot of pilot house detail to make, including some very small-paned windows (not sure how I'm going to scratchbuild these, especially if I want "glass" in them) and a proper wheel (I want to try the method used by Brian for his Chaperon, if I don't like the results I'll order one from Syren). I think I'll try and finish the pilot house next, so that this whole assembly can be attached permanently before I start building out the rest of the hurricane deck. Not my original plan, but it's working out fine. Finally, on a separate note, as a treat for my 40th birthday (actually tomorrow) we spent last weekend in Kansas City attending the big Irish music festival there and doing some other fun things. I thought some folks would be interested in seeing the ASB Bridge over the Missouri River. This is a pretty unique design (I think there's only a few others in the world) using a double-deck setup in which the lower level (carrying rail lines) raises by telescoping into the upper level (carrying cars and streetcars), allowing river traffic to pass without disrupting the upper deck. It was completed in 1911 and still carries rail traffic, though a newer road bridge was built just to the east in 1987 to carry road traffic. Just upstream, another active rail bridge: Shipping on the Missouri River is very minor these days, but rail traffic in KC is alive and well; the city's riverfront trail is a great place to set up for train-watching while the river rolls by. In these photos it's still pretty swollen from the heavy spring and summer rains; you can see a big jam of woody debris against one of the bridge piers. The Arabia sank less than 10 miles upstream from here.
  5. Cool, sorry to condescend as you already knew that. Also just noticed you changed your username, confused the heck out of me for a minute.
  6. So glad to hear this went well! Great job on working this out. Looks really nice. One other small note that I learned the hard way, when you're presoaking planks and clamping them to dry next to planks that are already glued, make sure they're not too wet. I wipe mine down first with a rag. If they release some water, that can wick in under the previous plank and soften the glue with rather frustrating consequences.
  7. Keep your head up. Having people telling you what to do different can be discouraging, even if you asked for the advice. I've never used that brand of glue so I don't know, but one way to find out would be to make a small mockup of a plank and frame with glue, let it dry, then try alcohol and see what happens before you try it on the real model. I often use mockups to test things I've never done, before trying them on an actual model. It's a great way to learn without screwing up the real thing. You may or may not need to take all the planking off; even removing them from a few bulkheads going back could give you enough room to work if you're careful. Certainly better than undoing all the work as the rest looks good. I pulled mine off the shelf and looked at the hull near the stern. Far as I can tell, the planking follows a smooth, flowing curve into the transom, i.e. it doesn't suddenly change direction as it bends around that last frame. I think in a lot of cases, that's a good rule of thumb for fairing and planking; if you can clearly tell where a bulkhead/frame is by a distinct change in the hull's shape, it's not faired enough or something else is wrong. I'm sure there are exceptions and I'm not an expert, but it's a useful conceptual model. Post this on your wall, too! One of the strongest lessons I learned from MSW when I was starting out, treat each plank like its own model and get the plank to sit where it's supposed to with minimal extra help. Oh, and you know what's discouraging? Seeing you get to take a sailing trip while I'm stuck in the landlocked Midwest. Man, I miss sailing. I haven't had a tiller in my hand since 2004 or so. Enjoy your blessing.
  8. I see what you mean about the transom planks. I think you said you were bending the planks dry with an iron? I wonder if that's part of your problem, I don't think that'll get them fully formed. Ideally each plank should dry into its final shape, such that you barely need clamps when you glue them on, and dry heating may or may not achieve that. It's a pretty tight compound curve into the transom after that final bulkhead and they're going to want to spring back out of that (as it looks like they're doing to my eye) unless they hold their own shape. The compound binder clips you're using should be sufficient for this, they're all that I used (as far as I can recall) and were fine for wet bending. I wonder if you could use a similar trick here as for fixing the ribs (glad that worked out okay!)? Release the glue between plank and transom with some alcohol, get a brush or small cloth, wet down the end of each plank (past the last bulkhead) a few times with hot water until it seems pliable, then clamp it in place solidly with a binder clip. A hair dryer on high really accelerates the drying process and the extra heat also helps set the wood fibers. Although you have two down, I bet you could slip a clamp in under the inner ones while you redo the outer ones. It's worth a try, and would keep you from being tempted to rip off the planking entirely. It probably makes sense to address this, as trying to force those planks into a proper shape later could end up with trouble as wood doesn't like staying where it's forced. I think a good rule of thumb is, if a binder clip won't hold it in place, it's not ready to be glued and needs more bending and setting. Finally, I wonder if you could fair that last rib (or its bulkhead) a bit more? From the angle of the photo you gave, it looks like the planks come off that rib nearly straight at the camera, with very little angle slanting them into toward the transom, making the last bend extra-hard to achieve? I can't tell for sure, but that's how it looks in the image. All this being said, you're doing great on most of it. The forward planking looks good, especially the angle on the garboard plank and its successor, as that can easily end up too sharp and produce difficult angles.
  9. That's a tough decision to make, Mark, but it seems like the right one. In the end most of our projects will be somewhat ephemeral; we build them for ourselves and for our loved ones, so much of their value is in the process and the appreciation. If having it with her adds some joy to her life, then you've made the world a better place. Must really hurt to give it up, though. Thanks for letting us be part of the journey.
  10. Sorry, what I meant was, if you lay a few planks laterally along all the ribs (the way they'll eventually be installed) and clamp the twisted ribs to them, does the stiffness of the planking help straighten the rib out or does it stay twisted such that the rib hits the plank on edge rather than on a surface? If they'll happily twist back when clamped/glued to a plank, it shouldn't matter. If they have to be really forced to meet the plank's surface or won't go at all, you probably do have to do more. Just using a clamp alone won't tell you, what matters is how they interact with a plank, so I thought it might be worth a test. Either way I think the rewetting is worth a try, though I don't know if it'll work. One thought on leaving them and just fairing, consider that once you remove the bulkheads, the ribs will be really visible. So even though fairing the outer surface will eliminate the twist up against the plank, from the inside (as the final model will be viewed) it'll be really obvious that some ribs are weirdly twisted because you'll see their inner surfaces non parallel with the hull and they'll look oddly trapezoidal with the fairing on one side.
  11. How set are they in that twist? If you were to lay and clamp a few planks against those twisted ribs, would they straighten sufficiently? The two support each other, and it's possible they'll work together as you assemble the actual hull. Also, as the twisting all seems to be far from the keel, you could consider rewetting the twisted ribs locally (like with a small piece of damp cloth) and seeing if you can reset them with a plank iron and more clamps. There's no important glue nearby that the water would affect.
  12. Brian, you may be able to hire a mill instead. We do all the timber work ourselves but hire out the milling because we only mill 1-3 times a year and don't feel like storing and maintaining a 30' trailer the rest of the time. Our folks just drive down in here with their portable mill, blast through a pile of logs in a day or less, and leave me with a big stack of lumber for projects (or sale in some productive years). Check various online listings or forums, I bet there's someone with a portable mill in your region. As for weather, sometimes it's the other way around. I'm a northerner who doesn't care for hot, humid summers but will spend far more time outdoors in the fall and winter, especially doing timber work. But the days are short enough that long evenings happen anyway, so there's that.
  13. Mark, I'm sorry to hear this. I do want to thank you for sharing all that you've done thus far, so many of us have learned so much from you. Whatever choice you make down the road, you've helped so many people by sharing this that the project is already a wonderful achievement.
  14. So if you're wondering why it's been three weeks since an update, it's partly because I've been working on another wood project: a cedar chest to wool sweaters and other moth-prone treasures. This is made from Eastern Red Cedar cut & milled on our property; if you look closely you'll see some chatter marks from the bandsaw mill that I couldn't get fully sanded out (I don't have a planer). Mrs. Cathead actually likes it that way, as a reminder that it's from our place and not just random wood. It's been sucking up a lot of my project time but is finally done. But with that done, it's back to the Arabia. I finished all the walls for the main cabin, including "glassing" them with clear plastic and attaching pieces of scrap red felt from Mrs. Cathead's sewing supplies for curtains (i.e., viewblocks to the unfinished interior). I added handles to the doors in the same way as on the main deck (by drilling in small pieces of black wire) and drew on hints of hinges with a fine-tipped market. So here's what she looks like with the outer main cabin walls permanently installed: I have to say, I think she looks pretty cool. Next up is starting to install the more delicate supports for the center clerestory windows and the various roof beams; this will tie into building the upper paddleboxes. In other news, there's a new steamboat build log to check out if you want: Tom in NC is giving a new twist to the classic Chaperon kit by re-imagining it as a prohibition-era den of vice. Also, while researching a question in Brian's Chaperon build, I discovered that newspapers.com is a great resource for finding contemporary news clippings about steamboats. For example, here are two notices about the Arabia's sinking that appeared in the Louisville (KY) Daily Courier and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Note the time delay for news in those days; she sank on September 5, 1856, but the Louisville notice appeared September 10 (with a September 9 byline from St. Louis) and the New Orleans notice appeared on September 17. We'll see if progress is more steady for a while with that cedar chest out of the way. As always, thanks for reading.
  15. This was my first wooden boat/ship kit and it's great for learning. Large enough scale to not be too fiddly and simple enough construction to learn without getting overwhelmed. Seems like you're off to a good start. When you're bending thin frames like this, it helps to look at the grain of each piece. Some may have a clear weak point or knot that will make them extra likely to fracture if you place the stress in the wrong place or direction. Noticing these places and rotating the frame 90° to keep the bend from following the grain can be enough to save it, or you can move its location so that such a weak place doesn't fall on the maximum curve. I just went back and checked my log, where I wrote that 5 minutes in boiling water worked great in combination with a planking iron.

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