Sheaves, pins, bindings and cheeks

So it proves as hard as ever to spend time down at the boat and what little time I do spend there seems to be taken up with clearing the latest storm debris or propping up the lean-to that is a bit lean-too-much. Chester took great delight in discovering a couple of plump little field mice nesting in the anchor chain box as I moved various bits of boat from the leaky shed to the new, less leaky bowshed. Despite this lack of progress on the fabric of the boat I’m feeling more organised down there and have been working my way steadily through the process of making blocks. Traditional blocks for a yacht of Flamingo’s age are readily available from several sources. They are miniature works of art, and consequently are prohibitively expensive. Faced with a cost of about £1700 for 15 blocks I resolved to make my own. No one seemed to be able to supply the various components in the exact size I wanted so it really has been a ‘from scratch’ mission.

These Davey & Co blocks would set you back about £115 for the single and £140 for the double!

I decided to use Delrin (a very dense, acetal plastic) for the sheaves, stainless steel for the bindings and pins, and luckily father had some lengths of Iroko, poor mans teak, going spare for the cheeks.

For the sheaves, the method was saw the rod to lengths, face them off on the lathe and then, with a purpose made profile chisel cut the groove. A little sanding bobbin from an old Dremmel came in handy to sand out the tooling marks.

The bindings are 20mm x 3mm stainless steel flat, bent around a former in a jig made from scrap angle iron. As you can see it took a few test runs to get them to come out an even length. More test runs were needed to get the cold forging of the bends right. I tried hot forging it but ran into the classic problem of, too much YouTube watching (thanks Torbjorn, not enough experience or skill. No matter how much I pounded and swore at the hot metal nothing would persuade it to form the shape I wanted and the roar of the gas forge lends a sense of urgency, almost panic to the whole process! Cold forging, though louder and harder work was infinitely more controllable, at least in my amateurish hands.

Eventually batch producing parts came to an end and it was time to assemble and finish the first one as a ‘hot’ prototype, ‘hot’ meaning if it worked out and I was pleased with the result, I’d use it, if not, I could excuse myself on the basis that it was ‘only a prototype’.

The pin is peened over one end to stop it working it’s way through and then held in place with the penny that will be screwed on. The stainless steel bindings are cold forged at the bend enabling it to move on the shackle more easily and thicken the material where it will get most wear. The pennies are a batch of 1930 (year of her build) ones I bought online, the original blocks had the monarch’s head facing out but I rather like the idea of Britannia facing out, trident and shield in hand gazing out to sea.

Every now and then I am joined briefly in the workshop by one of my offspring with their usual inquiry; ‘wotcha doin’ dad? (shades of Leo Goolden here with his “hey Pete, what are you doing”) My answer is usually, making a jig, or making something to help make the jig. This invariably causes raised eyebrows and the comment; “What… you’re making a thing, to make another thing, that isn’t even the thing you’re actually making….?” exit stage left, shaking head at sad old man covered in sawdust.

I’m so misunderstood… sobs quietly into dusty rag…..

Of course, all the jig making and batch production experience means I can now reproduce lots more blocks to the same design, though given the time it all takes I doubt I’ll be setting up the Flamingo Block Emporium any time soon!

Getting organised in the new Bowshed.

After reinforcing the downhill side of the Bowshed where the legs are longer, therefore a bit more flexible and storm Bella had taken her toll, I installed some shelving and a workbench. Moved the rudder and companion way steps from the damp leaky lean to and swapped the slightly too short aluminium ladder for a slightly too long wooden one. The new one is ex GPO (giving a clue to its age) and weighs so much I can barely lift it. As such it is a completely impractical tool, so far better to conscript it to a life of stationary service at the stern.

That’s it, looking forward to sunny lockdown free days filled with the sounds of progress……. 🙂