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Cutting the Shape

Fig. 6 (??)

     Cutting the profile shape, and cutting out the half-breadth shape later, involve taking off a good deal of wood. If you have a steady sharp-bladed band saw, you can easily saw out the shape just outside the outer edge of the line. If you do not have a band saw, you can set the block in a vise and take off the wood with a very sharp drawknife.

     A very good vise for this kind of work is shown in Figure 9.

     Editor's Note: A photograph of the vise (Figure 9) is missing from Rob's manuscript, but we have retained the text describing it.

     This vise stands well above the bench and gives you plenty of space to work unobstructed with tools around the model. Although you may not be able to find a vise of exactly this style, similar models are available through hardware stores and tool companies. L. Francis Herreshoff suggests that the best height for the vise is when the top of the jaws come just to your elbow when you are standing up straight.

     The drawknife is as important as the vise. Make sure the drawknife is very sharp or else this work will be messy and tiring and you will risk more than usual danger of splitting out too much wood instead of cutting through the material. Again, leave a small amount of wood outside the line and protect the block in the vise between two pine pads.



Stock photo of a drawknife

Fig. 7 Drawknife section

     Herreshoff is enthusiastic about the drawknife. "The best tool for these first heavy cuts is a drawknife, and as the work is securely held in place you can do a great execution with this tool. Not only can you rip off enormous shavings, but with a little care you can cut down to about an eighth of an inch of the scratched deck line."

     Note:  At this point, five paragraphs of the manuscript have been omitted. They discuss details of the drawknife such as optimum size, the bevel of the cutting edge, the importance of sharpening and how to do it. Rob's photo of the drawknife is missing, but a stock photo is shown. His drawing of the ideal cross section of the blade, based on one by Herreshoff, is also shown.

     "Cutting the Shape" continues:

     After you have cut out the profile, leave the model in the vise, smooth down the deck surface and make it square with the back of the model. The best way to do this is to cut a [sanding] block of wood and shape its bottom to match the profile curvature of the deck profile. Shape the top to fit your hand comfortably. By using this with various grades of sandpaper, and using a try square to make sure the deck stays square with the back of the model, you can smooth the deck surface quite accurately and quickly.

Fig. 11 Half-breadth template Oak holding block

Getting the Half-Breadth Shape

     After the deck is smooth and square, there are two ways to get the half-breadth shape onto the model. The first is to cut out the half-breadth template, set it on top of the model, and trace the shape onto the model (Figure 11). Use a little rubber cement to fasten the template temporarily to the surface of the block. You will see that the half-breadth template is actually a simple projection of the half-breadth plan and, because the deck is curved in profile, when the template is pressed down onto the deck surface it is a bit short. This produces some inaccuracy in the shape. If the sheer of the boat is not too great, the error introduced by the template method is not very large, and this is the most direct method to use when you are beginining modelmaking. 

Note: The second method of getting the half-breadth shape onto the model, mentioned at the beginning of the paragraph, is not present in the manuscript.

Shaping the Model in the Holding Block

     Once the model block has been cut to profile and half-breadth shapes it is time to hold it in the vise for shaping with a holding block which will be fastened to the back of the model. Two views of this block are shown in Figure 13.  This block, a Herreshoff idea, is essential for holding the model in the proper working position: either upright at 45 degrees to either side or by opening the vise wide, at right angles to the vise. The holding block should be made of oak without any check or cracks.  

Note: The procedure for drilling holes for two 3-inch screws in the holding block has been omitted. These screws penetrate the model to hold it fast.


Fig. 16 section template


     Now that the holding block is fastened securely to the model, the real work of shaping can start. First, trace the transom shape with the transom template onto the transom of the model.  (A photograph of this step is missing from the manuscript.) Next, starting about one third of the way forward from the transom, use the drawknife to cut away the excess wood to approximately 1/16 inch from the traced line. These beginning cuts will be easiest to make if the model is held at a 45 degree angle. After the wood at the stern has been taken off, it will be time to take off some toward the bow. Start at the point of greatest beam, and working toward the bow round off the corner of the block to a shape that approximates the turn of the bilge for the model, changing direction when you see that the grain has changed. Because of the curve of the hull, you must work from the point of greatest beam and cut either toward the bow or toward the stern. The first time you make a model you may want to use the templates to gauge the shape of the boat after every two or three cuts.

     Once you have cut away a moderate amount of wood you must start using the section templates (contained in the Centerfold shown earlier) to guide the cutting. Check the location of the section lines which have been marked on the back of the model and squared across the deck, and try to fit the midship template to the model (Figure 16). You will be able to see where more wood has to be cut away. It will not be possible to fit only one template at a time because the wood will have to be shaved off on either side of each section line. Therefore, after every few cuts, try fitting several of the templates to make sure the wood is being taken off properly all along the model. Use the drawknife until the templates begin to fit roughly from the sheer line to the apex line. In the latter stages of this work you may want to use a wide (2-inch) flat paring chisel. 

     Once the templates begin to fit roughly, you will be wise to switch to the spokeshave in order to get smoother, finer cut. The boat for which templates are provided here can be done entirely with a spokeshave from this point. However, if your particular model has any reverse in the sections, as most sailboats do, one or more gouges will be necessary. For this work, Herreshoff recommends an inside-sharpened paring gouge, although if that style is not available to you, the more familiar outside-sharpened gouges will certainly work. For most of this work, except where the reverse curves are very sharp, a gouge about 7/8 inch wide with a radius of approximately 8 inches will work quite well.

Fig.17 - 3 section templates


     As you work the model down closer to the template shape, you will find it more tricky to judge where the wood should be taken off next. At this point, rub the inside of the templates with a little blue carpenter's chalk or a soft pencil lead, fit the template up against the work in the proper location and move it just a little. The chalk or pencil lead will be left on the high spots of the wood and you can shave off these high spots. Repeat the process until the templates are almost fitted. Since the sanding is going to take off some wood, you will have to stop using the spokeshave or gouges before the sections are taken all the way down to the final size and shape (Figure 17). If you start to get tired or impatient, go away and let things rest for a while. Then come back to the job in a fresh state of mind.