How do YOU cut chine or other notches?

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by adt2, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. adt2
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    adt2 Senior Member

    So I am working on my first build, and it comes time to let the chines into the stem. The builder's guide included with my plans shows a picture of a beautiful joint with straight joint lines and flush-fitting pieces all around.

    I clamped my chine in place on the building jig, pushed it up close to the stem (which had already been temporarily installed), and traced the chine's location on the stem material. Unscrewed the stem and went to work with a couple of fine-tooth saws and some chisels.

    An hour or so later, the bottom end of my stem looks like my kid ran over it with the lawn mower. I know epoxy doesn't require well-fitted joints, and the joint gets backed up with a couple of large-ish screws, but just on principle alone I'm having a hard time putting this piece of lumber back on the jig. Seriously, it looks like Ray Charles did it at night.

    Flipped the stem and repeated the process for the other side, thinking maybe it would get easier with repetition. No such luck. Looks like Ray walked Helen Keller through the process.

    The area will be totally covered up, nobody will ever see it again after planking, and between the epoxy and the screws I'm sure the joint is sound....but my pride is wounded.

    So my question is, what is the proper way to do this? In principle, it doesn't seem like it ought to be that hard, but clearly there's more to it than meets the eye. Just wondering how some of you with more experience do this.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. DCockey
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    DCockey Senior Member

    How sharp are you saws and chisels? How frequently do you sharpen them?
     
  3. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

    I sometimes use a router and a template when I need very tight precise cuts.
     
  4. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

    That leaves only the curves in the corners to cut out.
     
  5. adt2
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    adt2 Senior Member

    The saws are new (or nearly so). The chisels are sharp, thanks to a fancy sharpening machine I bought at the woodworking show last year.

    I guess what I'm curious about is the method used by others; what steps do they take, in what order, to accomplish this task? I'm curious because I've got to start on the chine notches at the transom tomorrow. Again, they'll be covered by other wood and backed up with screws, but still - I'd like to figure out how to make a pretty joint. Maybe it's just lack of repetition?
     
  6. hoytedow
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    hoytedow Carbon Based Life Form

    Practice makes perfect. You will improve. Try it on scrap first.
     
  7. Petros
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Petros Senior Member

    I have been playing with home made wood boats for over 40 years, and I still can not make those petty mortice joints you seek. I have the same experience as you do, no matter what method I use, no matter the wood or tools available; so I gave up.

    I will now redesign the joint so either I can use a power tool like a router (in a jig or table) or a table saw, etc. or put a dowel or large screw fastener through the joint. I think hand forming square mortices are for the fanatics, and totally not necessary using power tools. the problem of course is that the joint has to be redesigned, which can become a creative challenge in itself. So you have to break the problem down into the properties of the materials, the tools you use and the function of the joint. It is totally silly to make furniture fine morticed joints on something that will never been seen, and with some careful consideration you will find you can make perfectly good joints with power tools, even if unconventional from "traditional" woodworking type, if you simply rethink the purpose of the joint.

    You have to consider the direction the joint is loaded and avoid end grain damage to the joint. the best is cross grain loading of fasteners or doweled joints, and try and provide generous distances to the end grain.

    For example, I have built many skin-on-frame sea kayaks. these take steam bent ribs morticed into the lower edge of the gunwale. The books show someone tapping a chisel into the bottom of the gunwale to make perfectly rectangular mortices for the rib ends. I could never accomplish the clean holes shown in the pictures, they would always split or tear, or at best come out really ugly (and frankly scary since this joint is what holds the hull together). I tried a number of alternatives, none satisfactory until I just use a router on a router table with a few blocks as guilds. I drill a 1/4" hole at one end of each mortice slot, and than use the router to elongate the hole for the 1" width of the ribs. I leave the mortice with the router tool rounded ends, than I just round if the corners of the ends of the rib so it slips into the oval slot. Much cleaner and faster than anything else. Stronger too.

    A similar problem shows up on putting deck beams into the sides of the gunwales, the books show nice square mortices going into perfect fitting square holes in the gunwale. I just clamp everything in place with no motice, and drill a round hole through both members and insert a same diameter dowel with waterproof glue. It is actually stronger since there are no square corners. It looks clean and not a single person has notices that it is not a "traditional" joint. It only takes a few minutes to get a tight fitting, attractive and structurally strong joint as compared with using a chisel.

    It is my opinion that if the native Alaskans had power tools to build their kayaks, they would have used them. Only a fanatic thinks the copying obsolete methods of construction is somehow a good thing. these same fanatics will use polyester skin with two-part polyurethane covering, somehow they do not see this as incongruous. IF they want authentic they should go kill a walrus with their bare hands, strip the skin off with a sharpened stone and use it raw on their kayak. And try to ignore the smell on warm days (and avoid the authorities and possibly jail time).

    Unless you are building museum quality replicas, go easy on yourself and work out joints that can be done with hand held power tools. These are inexpensive (sometimes less than the cost of quality hand plains and chisel sets), are faster and will result in excellent joinery if you change the details so it can be made with modern tools.

    good luck.
     
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  8. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    New doesn't necessarily mean sharp. I slap any new handsaw I buy in a saw vise and give it a good going over. I reset the teeth, hit them with a file, and slide a whetstone lightly down each side to finish dressing the teeth. That last little trick alone will save you a lot of ragged cuts... but it won't compensate for teeth that are irregularly set to begin with.

    I also sharpen new chisels. In fact, I even sharpen brand-new utility knife blades.

    I'm not a fanatic; it's just that you aren't normally going to get a truly sharp mass-produced tool straight off the shelf.

    And speaking of utility knives: you'd be surprised how often I use them, especially when first starting a precision cut -- for example, laying out a notch. I like a plain old classic Stanley fixed-blade knife, because there's no wobble in the blade. And a lot of the time I use both hands on the knife, so I have push-pull control..

    edit: That little trick of dressing the sides of saw teeth with a stone also helps Skilsaw and table saw blades cut smoother.
     
  9. waikikin
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    waikikin Senior Member

    Scribing your cuts in with a blade is a great tip, I get apprentices to do that & also cut a small shoulder to the waste side of the cut with a sharp chisel- saves a ragged cut & gives a good "start" to the cut, they're usually a lot happier with the work after that. All the best in your endeavours from Jeff.
     
  10. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    That's the phrase I was groping for: scribing the cuts with a knife first. Thanks for saying it better than I did.

    It's saved me a lot of grief. So has using both hands, so the knife doesn't get away from me.

    On sharpening tools, I remember some author (maybe John Gardner?) commenting that whenever boat shops hire a house carpenter, the first thing they usually have to do is teach him how to sharpen his own tools. I guess that's because they never hired a house carpenter raised by my dad or my granddad..... :D
     
  11. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    Hmmm... I was just rereading this thread, and realized there's a very good chance I'm the only one here who owns a saw tooth setting tool. Hell, there's a possibility I'm the only one who knows what one is, although I hope not....:p

    On the other hand, I may be wrong; maybe I'm plowing old ground. But I'll run over the basics for those who are interested.

    'Set' on a saw tooth is how far it leans left or right from being plumb with the body of the blade. Saw teeth are set to cut a kerf in the wood a little wider than the thickness of the saw blade; otherwise the sawdust wouldn't clear and the blade would bind in the cut.

    So if there isn't enough set the blade will bind; if there's too much or it's uneven the blade will cut raggedly, and be harder to hold to a straight cut.

    The tool used for that on woodworking crosscut and ripsaw blades has a squeeze grip, like a pop riveter. You slip its business end over every other tooth going one direction, squeeze the grips, and voila! the tooth is pressed against an anvil to the proper angle. Then you turn the saw around in the vise, and do the other half of the teeth. Obviously, the tooth set is adjustable for different saw tooth sizes, and different types of saws.

    Most new blades nowadays are reasonably within bounds on their initial set, so a setting tool isn't really necessary unless you have older, hard-used saws. But the teeth can still use a little filing to sharpen them, and dressing with a stone to even them out. Just a bit of dressing can sometimes make a surprising difference in how smoothly they cut.
     
  12. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    I use a band saw.
     
  13. adt2
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    adt2 Senior Member

    Well, that sounds like quite a trick. Myself, I haven't figured out how to cut a stopped mortise using a bandsaw.
     
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  14. troy2000
    Joined: Nov 2009
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    Had to give you rep points on that one...:D
     

  15. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    Ya, well I do it way back in the process when it's still easy to do.

    The question was "How do YOU cut them..."
     
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