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  1. #1
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    Default It's not 'just carpenry' when it's on a ship .... yes?

    I'm looking for some insight from people 'in the know'

    I've gotten into an argument with my cousin about woodwork on ships. It spawns from this article/video:
    Rick Mercer - Shipbuilding is Complicated, Hiring Canadians Is Not

    My comment was: carpentry isn't 'just carpentry' when it's on a ship. Maybe they HAVE to import labour. Are there any qualified shipwrights in Canada? Where are the qualification and accreditation centres? Are the Canadian shipwrights willing to move to work in a different part of the country? (it's worthy to note Alberta, the province mentioned in the article, is a completely landlocked province with a few large lakes. Not a large seafaring culture)

    I was told I was being obtuse and there are plenty of carpenters in Canada.

    Am I being obtuse? I'm a data analyst so I have no idea. Is 'installing paneling and flooring' on ships something simple or does it require a specialized marine qualification?

    Thank you,

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  3. #2
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    Shipwrights are a trade on its own merit.

    There is timber bending to be done one older style ships and boats.

    Most carpenters only do straight work. Angles really confuse some and throw in graduated curves and some could be completely lost.

    Other carpenters would likely pick it up quick

    DaveTTC

    Turning Wood into Art

  4. #3
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    "Ship Carpenter" is indeed a trade in its own right. Even metal ships employ ship carpenters, working in metal, owing to the traditional name.

    Many years ago, pre-internet, I inherited a peculiar tool from my late father - a wood stick with two brass blades hinged at each end. The blades had different lengths. Its only clue was the title "Lufkin No. 42." I contacted Lufkin seeking information, and was told it was a "ship carpenter's bevel." Large wood timbers used in ship frames often have compound bevels. When fitting the parts together, the measurements are transferred from the ship-in-progress to the shop. The different blade lengths enable the carpenter to remember which bevel was which.

    Cheers,
    Joe
    Of course truth is stranger than fiction.
    Fiction has to make sense. - Mark Twain

  5. #4
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    There are several different types of "ship's carpenter". In the golden age of sail, there would be a master, who literally could rebuild the ship, had it befallen a rock or something, as he organized the crew into the various duties that would be necessary. This master would have had one or several apprentices of various skill levels, typically depending on experence. You see, back then you broke stuff fairly regularly, like topmasts, yards, booms, sprits, gaffs, etc. Most "ships" had enough spares aboard to completely rebuild the typical "consumable" items on the boat, which would be the spars, rails, bulwarks and assorted other items. On a war ship, they would carry more spares, for obvious reasons, because after a battle, they might have to very well replace a whole transom, cutwater or stem, as well as the sticks and rigging. Each area became more and more specialized as ships became more complex.

    In modern times, the term has been boiled down to the fellow or crew that maintained the boat. An all steel ship would have a skilled welder/fabricator, working in the carpenter's shop. They used two basic divisions of carpenter - rough and finish. The finish guys naturally did the pretty stuff and often worked in the paint and varnish shops as well. The rough gang would tend the major structural stuff.

    Yep, Canadia has a rich and long nautical heritage. A modern "shipwright" is usually a master ship builder. I'm a shipwright, I guess, but mostly because I'm old, cantankerous and look the part. The term now is a skilled boat builder, though some still specialize in large wooden craft, it's a dying craft and not a lot of replacements are coming up. Lastly, yes you can be qualified and quantified for the trade and it is quite specialized. I recently finished up a lapstrake sailboat. A buddy that has been a fine furniture and cabinet maker for decades, can't understand how I made it, though he watched much of the process. He marveled at the curves, bending in wooden element after wooden element, the various approuchs I used to insure it would remain watertight, etc. He was no wood butcher, but he had trouble imagining it all, let alone trying it. I challenged him to try give it a go, but he insisted he'd hire me, reminding me to remember my cursing to high heaven one day, as I broke a piece I was trying to bend around the cockpit. I'm no Canadian, but I'll defend the role anyway, as there's not many of us left. I own several "ships bevels" most home made as required.

  6. #5
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    Glad to know my logic is working.

    My thoughts were, there were 3 overarching differences between land and marine environments that would make the work itself inherently different.
    1) compression and extension. As a ship goes over a crest it'll bow, maybe only a little bit but the stresses are there and in the trough it'll cup. Any wood and metal work have to keep the constant pressures in mind.

    2) Pitch, Yaw and Roll. Any installations must be secure in all directions and any equipment must be safe to use in rolling conditions and maintain a safe state throughout.

    3) Conventions. There are different building codes both evolved over time and because of the above environmental differences.

    This means a land based carpenter thrown into marine construction could through ignorance build things that fail structurally, be unsafe to use and fail inspection.

  7. #6
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    There are "building codes" in ship construction. At least two I'm aware of. More stringent than building construction - think about constant earthquakes.

    "Bow" and"cup" are called "hogging" and "sagging," respectively.

    Cheers,
    Joe
    Of course truth is stranger than fiction.
    Fiction has to make sense. - Mark Twain

  8. #7
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    My grandad was a shipwrights. I learnt enough to be useful, then built two wooden boats both of which are still afloat and one of which I took a long way offshore. Like most the way across the Pacific offshore.

    My response to said article is as follows: the average carpenter is certainly capable of doing this work if he's smart enough to know what he doesn't know and is under constant expert supervision during his new apprenticeship in shipbuilding. Certainly while unskilled he or she will have enough prior learning from their associated trade to e useful. Without this however the question that must be asked is as follows: can this person build a kitchen cupboard that will continue to float despite being rolled around in the bathtub for 100,000 hours?

    if they can do that they should be good to go.

  9. #8
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    There are two lines of discussion emerging here and some separation is in order. The design of dynamic structures, differ greatly from static ones and this is where yacht/ship design can vary considerably from land based projects. In engineering terms it's a matter of course, though for the laymen, possibly a bit more difficult to swallow. These differences can affect everything from material choices, through design parameters to adhesives and fastener considerations. For example, there are several construction grade adhesives available that are highly regarded, such as "Liquid Nails" or other polyurethanes. These are fine for hanging paneling on your grandma's family room wall, but being intended as a static adhesive, it's elastic modulus isn't well suited for the marine environment, even though it is waterproof.

    The other deviation is the requirements of a marine carpenter and how these might differ, possibly as much to require a specific certification. In reality, small craft have no such requirement, in the USA, though some places around the world do, such as EU certification (CE). It's only when vessel sizes get large enough that commercial ventures, can be expected that certification comes to play. Just like the USA, in your country how a vessel is to be employed will affect how it needs to be built. Steel hulled craft will need certified welders, just as wooden hulled vessels will need acknowledged/recognized shipwrights and carpenters. This is also true with the design elements, whereas an appropriate and inspected/signed off on set of variables must be met, or the project is on hold, until they are. This is just like land based project where a "red flag" has to be corrected, before any work can resume. The reasons for these constraints are obvious, ensuring things are built to minimum standards, so folks don't have to swim back to shore, from places farther out than they can. This is always a consideration in "unnatural environments". This is a legal term that describes anything, device, building or structure that will place a human in potential risk. Flying along at 35,000 feet is an unnatural environment, so any mishaps need to be well anticipated. The same is true of a new elevator design for a 40 story building or being 50 miles off the coast of Tasmania. In either case, you're just not going to survive a "worst case scenario", so engineering and other choices need to be in place to offer the best set of options, just in case the worst does occur.

  10. #9
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    Additionally and to address the land based carpender's conversion to shipboard, some would do fine, while others would scratch their head. Let's take the clipper City of Adelaide. A timber framer would likely find a home, if a significant learning curve about many things, while a wooden frame house builder, would (likely) just be overwhelmed. The timber framer would know what a scarf is and could cut one, though is usual 2 or 3:1 ratio wouldn't be close to the 8, 10, 12 and 14:1 ratios we'd use on Adelaide. A house framer might know what a scarf was (maybe), but his interpretation would involve butt joints in "sistered" pieces, not the typical tapered and often locking scarfs used on this ship. Both would have issues with steam bending, spiling and using tools like the "joggle stick", but with some training could pick it up.

    The joggle stick is an ancient tool, dating back to the building of the earliest of ships. You see, up until a hundred years or so ago, very few of the labor force could read, so tools were developed that required no reading, no tape measures or rulers, not even a set of plans. The joggle stick permits a builder to "pickup" a set of shapes, regardless of how odd, curved or complex, transfer them to a "marking board", so the "joggled" space can be reproduced or fitted. Picture a bulkhead, a big one, say a few meters tall and several wide, that goes from one side of the ship to the other, between two decks. That's a big hunk of cardboard to try to trace something on. Enter the joggle stick. You lightly tack a plank, roughly, but by no means precisely within the space. Next you place the joggle stick on the plank, aligning the tip, on a point of reference along the edge of the proposed bulkhead position. The area of the uniquely shaped joggle stick that lands on the marking board is traced with a pencil, then the stick is moved a bit and another tracing is performed. This is done all around the space, making dozens of traced marks on the marking board. The board is removed and taken to the shop, where the bulkhead is to be made. It's laid over the bulkhead stock and the same joggle stick is placed in each of the tracings. On each placement of this stick an "X" is placed at the point of the stick, where it previously touched the perimeter of the space. Eventually you've drawn the outline of the bulkhead, pretty darn precisely I'll add and it can be cut and checked for fit. No tape measure, no plans, no reading writing or mathematics, just a stick and a pencil. Now, we could also do this with a laser scan, but hey, this is a low budget operation and the guys can't read!

    My point is there are some things they'd just have to figure out, some will have an easier time, based on previous experiences, but you also don't need to be a rocket scientist, just a good woodworker or craftsman. There are significant differences in tools, techniques, fasteners, methods, materials and approuch, but all within a reasonably skilled person's abilities.
    Joggle.jpg
    I include this sheet with all my plan sets, about the joggle stick.

  11. #10
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    Thank you! I love learning about these things and you guys are wonderful. Par, your wisdom is not wasted on me
    Having the fog of ignorance pushed back, is a wonderful feeling.

    Unfortunately it was wasted on my cousin. I tried to relay some of the information from here and it wasn't well received...
    I guess some people are entrenched.

    Oh well, I think it's pretty cool

  12. #11
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    I run into this both in and outside the industry. Some just like to buy into something, be it a concept, principle, technique, material combination, etc. and they just for the life of them, can't see past it or evolve beyond their exposure.

    One in particular I deal with regularly, though not as much in the last few years is penetrating epoxy, it's properties and it's uses. Initially marketed as a waterproofing solution, this stuff was hailed as the next cure all for wooden structures and was heavily marketed as such. The idea was because of the chemical formulation, it would penetrate deeply into wood and its cellular structure, sealing it from moisture ingress. Wow, cool stuff, no rot, no moisture gain and lose and the accompanying dimensional changes associated with this, etc. I like many started using it and bought into the advertising hype. Being the nature cynic I tend to be when things appear to be to good to be true and having seen this sort of thing happen previously, I sought out industry testing and hello, testing wasn't showing what the advertising hype was suggesting. So, I performed my own tests and got similar results. I've done these tests several times over the last few decades and each was the same. The net result, the amount of penetration does absolutely nothing for a waterproofing system, as it's all about the quality of the coating, not the depth of penetration. In fact, several lawsuits sprang up, forcing one manufacture to change it's name, to more accurately reflect what its product was. In spite of the industry and independent testing proving penetrating epoxy formulations aren't waterproof (not even close in most instances) the industry has many that still cling to the belief it is. I can recite the chemistry and the physics why it doesn't work, but the advertising fluff has them in an arm lock. About 10 years ago, I made it a personal mission to dispel these myths, but to this day I still receive an occasional bonehead, that can't get over their inability to grow.

    As an engineer, one needs to keep up with all sorts of things, as I'm sure you know. Techniques, materials methods, tools, products, etc. all change, as does methodology, approuch and concept too. You have to stay up to date or you'll fall behind, which may not be a bad thing, except for those that might want to follow in your path, who will be less than well equipped, if a prodigy. As a craftsmen, you have the same obligation to your client base. Even if you're using old school methods and techniques, do you toss the circular saw in the trash and pick up a broad ax? Or do you expand your skill sets (in this example) to include both, if only to save some time and improve accuracy when appropriate for the job.

    I'm now getting old enough to be considered a curmudgeon, but I hope I'm never to old to learn and more importantly evolve, as a result of the new stuff I've garnished. Maybe your cousin is one of the non-reading laborers in the workforce and doesn't need to understand anything else, just how well the few bolts he must install, while on the factory assembly line, he can do in the time allotted.

  13. #12
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    Default The joggle stick!

    Every single woodworker needs to know about this tool.

    The post by PAR made no sense, so being in need of enlightenment I went to google.

    Pow!

    You MUST watch this: Refit Dufour 35 - Tick Stick - YouTube

    I cannot beleive such a thing isn't widely known about, especially as this will easily solve fitting of difficult shelves in wonky kitchens for example.

    WATCH IT!!!!!!

  14. #13
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    While it has not being mentioned, what use would a spirit level be when working on a floating vessel? As the vessel heaves and rolls you might as well toss the spirit level overboard. On a land base structure, a spirit level or plumb bob are useful for horizontal and vertical structures.

  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodPixel View Post
    Every single woodworker needs to know about this tool.

    The post by PAR made no sense, so being in need of enlightenment I went to google.

    Pow!

    You MUST watch this: Refit Dufour 35 - Tick Stick - YouTube

    I cannot beleive such a thing isn't widely known about, especially as this will easily solve fitting of difficult shelves in wonky kitchens for example.

    WATCH IT!!!!!!
    I like the idea of the notch. Just a little more to get your refference stick / gauge nack in the right spot. May just notch my stick next time im scribing something that needs it

    DaveTTC

    Turning Wood into Art

  16. #15
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    This tool has several names and it's a lot easier to understand if you watch someone use it, than to describe it. On complex shapes it can be damn tedious, but it is effective and accurate. You have to have a notch or other way of making the stick "unique" so it can be repositioned in the same place. It's also important to have a relatively thin piece of stock for the stick. If trying to make really precise fits, a chisel shape on the point of the stick can tune things up tighter.

    A bubble level isn't commonly used on craft at sea, but water levels can be. These are usually not much more than a length of clear tubing, filled with oil, which reacts slower to boat motion. The ends of the tubing commonly have a larger glass or plastic tube attached, so you can see the line. These tubes are plugged, until needed, as it works on atmospheric pressure.


    Then there's the mechanical method of "self leveling" a bubble glass. It's a counter weighted pendulum like device that holds the bubble glass and cheap self leveling laser levels use the same technology. Of course, in a small boat bouncing over a steep chop, these are all worthless, but who is trying to use a level in these condisions.

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