Kids longbows

My eldest daughter asked me if we could make a bow and arrow for her. She’d done some designs and wanted to make them.

We watched some videos on YouTube on how to make bows and had a go. The first attempt broke.

Broken bow. Wood wasn’t great and was too thick when I test pulled the bow.

So we tried a different approach. I’d cut down an Ash sapling in the garden a few months ago – we’ve got Ash trees at the bottom of the garden so we get saplings growing everywhere. The top of this was about the right stiffness for a bow. So we cut off a suitable length and started work.

Trimming the side branches with an axe – watch those feet!

There are some key design points to making a bow. Any wood that is weak enough to bend is likely to break, so the idea is to trim the wood in such a way that it is still strong, bendy but doesn’t break.

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Oar repair

The oars supplied with the Wanderer (Custard) are 6′ long. Much too short for good rowing but easy to stow and thus fast to access. As described elsewhere fast access turns out to be the most important requirement for oars – for fendering off and close manoeuvering when things go wrong.

I have another set of oars supplied with the green boat (Owl). These are 6′ 6″ but I haven’t used them much:

  • They are too long for the low gunnels and high thwart of Owl – it is hard to get the blades out of the water.
  • The handle of one is damaged.

However they are a very good fit into Custard and the extra 6″ will help with rowing. So a bit of tidying up was in order.

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Wanderer aft cleats

One thing about sailing with small children is that you want to tie up to a jetty if at all possible. This means having usable cleats. It is possible to tie off to the traveller but having cleats is easier.

However, I don’t want the cleats to catch on the mainsheet or other ropes, This means they need to be somewhere out of the way. The best option appears to be to feed the rope through the handhold at the back of the side decks and forwards onto a cleat under the side deck.

I made up two plywood panels – one for each side – and attached the cleats using T-nuts. I’ve also added some spare T-nuts for other attachments, one spare cleat (it is always useful to be able to tie things on) and a clamcleat that will take string threaded through the scupper on the transom – this can be used for a foothold rope or for attaching the tent.

Reverse of the panel with T-nuts fitted. The T-nut recesses were sealed with thinned varnish.
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Free-standing mast: Wooden Mast

I like making things in wood, so it is worth working through the design of a wooden mast.

A mast needs to be as light and thin as possible so large defects in the wood such as knots cannot be allowed. This means most wood in the retail market in the UK isn’t suitable. I eventually tracked down two suppliers: Robbins Timber and Sykes Timber.

There are a few types of timber that could be used, but when availability of the necessary grade is taken into account it comes down to two:

The figures for Douglas Fir are as follows:

  • Sitka Spruce. This has the highest strength to weight ratio of any wood so is the traditional wood for boat spars. However it is expensive, a bit soft and not as strong as…
  • Douglas Fir. A bit heavier for the same strength but cheaper, harder (less chafe from yard and battens) and stronger for the same size.
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Wanderer dinghy centreboard repair

My Wanderer is about 40 years old. The centreboard isn’t the easiest thing to inspect or get out, plus it is deep so hits things. Overall the condition was fine but the tip had seen better days. The wood was starting to go soft where it had been immersed in water without any varnish. I probably could have just varnished it but being me I wanted to fix it up.

My experience with the rudder meant that I didn’t want to try fibreglass tape and epoxy. Instead I thought I’d try some iroko on the leading edge and tip.

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Wanderer dinghy rudder

In a previous post I added an iroko bush to the rudder. I also wanted to reinforce the leading edge and bottom of the blade. My blade was showing scuff marks where it had hit things.

I initially tried putting fibreglass tape and epoxy onto the leading edge:

Fibreglass tape covered in West System epoxy

The problem was that it looked horrible – probably due to my inexperience with fibreglass tape. The rudder is very visible and I want it to look nice.

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Wanderer centreboard pivot bush

Making the bushings for the centreboard. This has an iroko bush fitted to the centreboard, pivoting on an acetal bush around the bolt. The acetal bush serves two purposes:

  • It acts as a spacer in the centreboard case, ensuring that the centreboard bolt cannot clamp the centreboard too tightly. This makes stopping the centreboard bolt leaking simpler.
  • It provides a nice surface for the iroko to move on.

Note that the hole in the acetal bush is countersunk – hopefully this will make it easier to get everything aligned when it is fitted.