So, two weeks after starting some progress is evident. I have discovered the joy of Cabinet Scrapers. The ever helpful yard manager and Jamie (Luthier middle son) both advised against my buying a belt sander, ‘like a butchers knife in the wrong hands’ said Mr Yard Manager when I asked his opinion. I understand his point of course. Such a machine in the hands of a VI person, such as myself, would have any self respecting craftsman reaching for the wood filler and invoice book!
So I ordered a selection of Cabinet Scrapers from Axminster Powertools and they arrived by return of post. Fantastically simple invention, just a hard sheet of steel. With the help of a burnisher a small edge is put on and boy do they work. The varnish comes off in sheets, well small curly sheets at any rate.
Although they are very effective, they really make my arthritic hands hurt, so undeterred, another visit to the Axminster website provided me (again by return) with a Scraper Holder, a little plastic and brass gizmo that holds the tool at the correct angle and relieves the pressure on my poor old thumbs. Still hard work but if a jobs worth doing…
So after what felt like 10 years, the Gaff and the Bowsprit were duly stripped of old varnish. There were a lot of black marks under the varnish that I am told is mould growing due to defects in the varnish. These were treated with Oxalic Acid and a household bleach. I guess this will kill the mould, but in any case it leaves the wood looking a lot healthier. Following the instructions to the letter I applied the first coats of International Schooner varnish. This is a traditional varnish that I am informed is one of the easiest to get a good finish with.
Here is the bowsprit with three coats, carefully sanded in between, and looking a lot better I think. The trouble is, with my visual problems everything looks good to me, so I have to keep pestering Mrs BS to tell me how I am doing!
My ever helpful Yard Manager told me to leave a week or two between the final coats to let the layers harden, so I have put the bowsprit and Gaff up the left-hand side of the stairs for now 🙂
The next big job was figuring out how to set about the boom. As mentioned earlier the boom is too long to keep in the lean-to. It too has been living up the stairs! The only solution it to carry it out of the front door and round the house to the path and work on it in the open air. So progress on the boom will be very weather dependent.
First job was to remove all the fittings from it. I have no idea what most of them are for. Three cheek blocks, umpteen cleats, a couple of D rings and so on. I guess that I will have to put them all back on and work out what they are for later.
Working on the boom is going to be a pain in the nether regions, dependent as it is on good weather but I suppose this will be the case with the mast too, so I will have to learn patience. I have heard of it but am not sure how to do it.
Finally, the ironmongery was a problem that I have been pondering. Originally galvanized but painted black by a previous owner I did not fancy spending hours scraping and wire brushing. So a quick eBay visit and I found my old favorite, Caustic Soda. I used to use gallons of this stuff to clean machinery parts in my previous life as an agricultural mechanic. A strong solution in an old baking tray and all the metal fittings washed up as good a new. A word of warning though, the Caustic will attack the galvanized finish so keep an eye on it and remove if it begins to fizz!
I have just realized that this blog on blind sailing is becoming a blog on VI boat refurbishment! Sorry. There is no way out of this but to leave the blog alone until LJ is back afloat. You never know, it may inspire someone to buy a tired old boat and get stuck in, on the other hand it might put others off. Any way, I promise to get back to sailing as soon as I can. Promise.