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The Treasure Chest is a place to put those cool sailing, cruising, motoring, boatbuilding or boating tips you have. Send us your ideas... We just need a photo and a short description.

This time we have...

Cutting Rope

I have a Myrchin P300 knife. It's really quite nice. But the serrations are very aggressive. This means that

1. It catches in the rope if you try to cut rope.
2. I can't sharpen it very well (ymmv)
3. At the end of it all, I take 3 serious attempts to cut 8mm double braid.

I have a small Leatherman and it has a plain blade and a serrated blade. The plain blade will take an edge which cuts through 8mm double braid like it was wet tissue. The serrated blade, having shallow scallops, does the same, and is easy to sharpen. But it's fiddly to open, needing two warm dry hands.

So I got out my coarse diamond stones, and ground down the serrations on the Myrchin until they were less like a comb! Then I sharpened it (with a spyderco sharpmaker), and just because I could, I honed the blade on a cheapo cloth wheel powered by a drill with some polishing compound.

My Myrchin now cuts through the 8mm poly with callous disregarding ease. It sits nicely in my pocket, it has a pliers, and a locking marlin spike. And now it has the blade that I'd have put on it. It does not look nearly as scary as the original blade. But when your hands are cold, you are tired, and something is tangled, if you want to "untangle" it, you don't care much for how scary the blade looks.


Home Metalcasting

I am death on machines. Well, not really, but I never could repair the real complicated ones, with all the moving parts and bearings and whatnot. Outboard motors still baffle me. I know how they work, and am good with my hands, but I don't have "the touch". I still have that 15hp "Otasco" motor I got for such a good price. It has baffled me and at least two outboard mechanics. It's in the pile of scrap aluminum next to the shop, waiting to be melted down, though I haven't had the heart to do it yet.

"Melted down"? you say. Yes, my adventures in boat building have inspired me attempt other things.

I built a robot. Well, technically it's a CNC router, but "robot" sounds better. It even works, though I don't use it as much as I thought I would.

I'm building a milling machine, from scratch. When I say "from scratch", I mean it too. I'm casting the parts from scrap aluminum!

The interesting thing about all this is the fringe benefit for my boat. Entropy is getting all kinds of cast and machined parts. Oarlocks, all new blocks for the running rigging, portlights, cleats.

The really odd thing is that casting is a very cheap hobby. I have less than $100 invested in my furnace, and about the same in the sand.

The furnace is an old barbecue grill I recycled. (the top was aluminum, and has been melted down already). The grills went on the bottom of the cart for the furnace to sit on. The furnace itself is a couple of $5 buckets from Home Depot, lined with homemade insulating refractory cement. Basically some fireplace cement from the local brick place, mixed with some play sand and perlite, both from Wal-Mart.

The burner is an assembly of pipes from the local hardware store. I used a cheap air hose from Harbor Freight, with an acetylene regulator from my cutting torch. The propane bottle I had.

The crucible for melting the aluminum in is a piece of steel pipe cut from my scrap pile, with a plate welded to the bottom. As you can see from the picture, it is lined with what is called "kiln wash". This is some kind of clay solution, it helps keep the steel from oxidizing, and also keeps it from contaminating the aluminum.

The tongs for picking up the crucible were also welded up from scrap.

Built me a pyrometer for about $30, to take the temp of the liquid aluminum. Turns out aluminum is easy to melt, but not that easy to cast. If you pour too cold it doesn't flow right, and if you pour too hot, you get shrinkage, contamination, and gas problems. You can't tell the temp of liquid Al by looking at it like you can with most other metals, either. If you can see it glow, it's too hot to pour!

My biggest purchase was the special oil bonded sand. The sand wasn't that expensive, but you try shipping a 100lb box of sand! Though I had passable results using playsand and cat litter for "green sand", the finish from the oil bonded sand is SO much nicer.

Now, I didn't come up with all this myself. As with boat building, there are a ton of sites on the 'Net, and several egroups, dealing with nothing but home hobby casting. Some links:

I'm slowly collecting parts for the next furnace. This one will be for casting bronze. Maybe even for casting IRON. Hey, maybe someday I'll even fix the outboard!

By Richard Spelling

be sure and visit Richards Websites:

Be careful with casting as it can be very dangerous.

Ternabout's Boom Tent


Capt'n Pauley (Paul Esterle)
Freelance Boating Writer

Chinese Rig

You may have already seen this, but its interesting on a number of levels. I built and have owned and sailed a chinese rigged 26 and 30 footer, and no rig I've ever used is as interesting as the chinese rig. I still think it's the ideal rig for any number of boats. Its looks so low tech and funky, but its very sophisticated, and as you learn more about the operation of the rig it just gets more fascinating.


Tips from John Welsford

One was that when you mount the round screw-out deck plates on a seat top, you need at least a 1/2 " backing under the rim to prevent leaks developing.



Plenty of great ideas from John when he was at Port Townsend.

Tips for rigging and sailing Navigator here.

And John's talk on how he designed Scamp here.



Audio Books

Here are my suggestions for a couple free online audiobooks. They're in MP3 format, so you can load them on an MP3 player, or burn the entire book to one CD for listening on the go. These are from, a site with bunches of free books. Probably more sailing books on this site, but I just haven't found them yet. Hope other people have some similar sailing-oriented links.

The first is the venerable The Riddle of the Sands. Link:

The second is another classic,  Joshua Slocum's Sailing Along Around the World:

Bonus: Mark Twain's The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories has a thrilling story of shipwreck at sea and survival in a lifeboat. Go to this link and download items 14 and 15, which are titled My Debut as a Literary Person:

Gary Blankenship

A Good Dust Off

An inevitable part of boatbuilding and boat maintenance is sanding; my favorite tool is a random orbital sander. Even with precautions, I'm likely to wind up covered with dust and hence unwelcomed in the house. Here's a trick I've discovered and only takes a minute to get rid of most of the unwanted particles. First I brush the lose dust off my clothes. If it's warm, I wash bare arms and legs with a hose and then wipe down with a rag towel. The damp (not wet!) towel is then used to wipe down my clothes and removes almost all of the dust, Gets it out of my hair, too. If it's too cool to use the hose on bare skin, I use the damp down to wipe any exposed skin and clothes.

Gary Blankenship

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