Sunday, 31 January 2010

Lights, Camera, Action

After looking at FMC Dove’s blog from a couple of weeks ago, Andrew showed a photo of a new chimbley he had made and after writing the blog on chimbley chains, I got to thinking that it was about time I put the fittings onto a chimbley I made for Minnow last year but never finished. One of the big advantages of being the Manager of an engineering apprentice training school is that I have the full range of engineering facilities at my disposal, fitting, fabrication, welding, machining and a group of more than willing staff (tool makers-welders-fitters-pattern makers etc.) at my beck and call, as well as the 30odd 16 to 18 year old apprentices!

Anyway after starting the day with a bit of ‘home improvements (she who must be obeyed) having bought a new central spotlight fitting for the kitchen in our bungalow. Our existing brass three spot light fitting had gone on the blink as while replacing a blown bulb, part of the internal connectors fell out.

Why is it that whenever you start one of those easy ten minute jobs there are always problems that turn it into a major event?

To start off with, after removing the old fitting, when I came to fit the base bracket for the new one, the holes were at vastly different centres and so did not line up with the timbers I had fitted for the old fitting behind the ceiling.

Put old shoes on to go down the garden to the shed.

Fetch ladders from down the garden shed.

Spend next half hour moving all the gardening equipment over wintering in the garden shed to get to the ladders.

Remove old shoes and put clean shoes back on.

Set ladders up in hall at half height

Climb ladders to open loft hole.

Climb down ladder.

Extend ladders to full height to gain access to loft.

Roll loft insulation up from round light fitting timbers.

Remove and reposition timbers to suit new fitting bracket.

Climb back from loft, close cover, change shoes, return ladder to shed, change shoes back again.

Screw new light bracket to ceiling

Wires in new light much shorter than old wires, need to pull more wire through ceiling hole but it is held in position with a cable clip, in the loft. –shoes-ladder-loft-remove cable clip-down ladder-pull cable through. Hurrah light now ready for fitting. The new light has a smaller base that old light and as the kitchen ceiling has just been painted- ladder-emulsion paint-brush-paint ceiling around revealed area to match existing painted ceiling-wait for paint to dry off a bit-(swimbo’s hairdryer) fitted light-turned on-works OK-jobs a goodun.

By now it was about 11.30am and so I spent the rest of the day until 4.30pm fitting the three brass rings, chimbly chain hook and handle on Minnow’s new chimbley.

The chimbley fitted with it's bits and bobs standing outside the 'garden shed' which contained the ladders! In this picture it looks like it is smaller at the bottom, but it is a trick of the camera as the taper is the other way.
The finished chimbley.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with taking Minnows newly acquired Klaxon horn apart and removing the dozens of layers of paint to get a decent surface in readiness for painting. After much scraping and sanding I had all the old paint off and proceeded to re-assemble it.
Before, as bought

After a day of sanding

First coat of green

Just remains for me to finish painting it and to get the ‘apprentices’ to finish off the new handle and the mounting bracket. More pictures as work commences, until then, as always

Don’t bang ‘em about.


Saturday, 30 January 2010

Steerers at risk

I read , with great sadness, the other night, of the inquest into the death of another holiday maker on their first canal holiday on the Oxford Canal. It put me in mind of the death of another ‘first timer’ at Alrewas in recent years. This got me thinking about some of the things I have seen over the years, especially recent years, which have me cringing with fear at the foreseeable potential for accidents.

Why don’t working boats have seats/handrails round their counter? And I think the answer is straight forward.

Why did working boatmen stand in the hatches and not on the counter to steer? And I think the answer is straight forward

Why did ‘passengers’ always stand on the side gunnel of a motor boat and not on the counter? And again I think the answer is straight forward

It has taken 200 years for the working narrow boat to reach it’s stage of design, from very crude early beginnings, through horse boats, steamers, motor boats, giving rise to what we now accept as a fairly universal basic design with company/builder variations. So to answer some of the questions I set, with, as always my answers and views.

Why don’t working boats have seats/handrails round their counter; When any craft goes into astern, its tiller can, and does strike things both above and below the water line. The result of this. as we know from 200 years of working practice, is for the tiller bar to be violently swung round to its full arc taking anything or anybody with it. If the boat is fitted with one of these rear handrails/seats, this then hits the steerer around their thigh height tipping/toppling them straight off the back end of the boat and into the cut. If the boat is in astern this usually would result in entanglement around the propeller. To make matters even worse these hand rails, in a lot of cases are also deemed to be seating fitted with wooden tops, which encourages the bad practice of positioning the steerer between moving tiller bar and the cut.

Why did working boatmen stand in the hatches and not on the counter to steer? First of all you can not safely steer a traditional design narrowboat from off the counter as you are in your own way, if you have to pull the tiller bar over towards you, you are in risk of pulling yourself into the cut, or, for the same reason as described above I don’t know when this trend started but now you will see lots of boaters, sometimes even including persons operating working boats(just watch the antics of some of the people in charge of working boats operated by societies/trusts/trippers etc, (usually ‘houseboat’ owners themselves)) standing on the counter at the side of the tiller bar, some even with their partner/colleague standing the other side.

Why did ‘passengers’ always stand on the side gunnel of a working motor boat and not on the counter? The steerer of the motor boat has enough to think about and do without having to be careful of not pushing their ’passenger’ into the cut.

And so to my conclusions and advice!

1. Boat builders, please stop fitting boats with these handrails/seats for if this practice continues to be used we will see the continued, unnecessary deaths of people, especially those with little or no experience, who end up being tipped into the cut and ending round the blades.

2. Boat owners who have these hand rails/seats, my advice is have them cut off they are an accident waiting to happen.

3. Always stand in the hatches to steer. (Apart when the need arises such as handling rope work etc.)

4. Steerers, never allow anyone to stand on the counter of your boat while you are travelling, make them stand at the cabin sides.

5. If you have the need to sit down while steering, have a semi-traditional boat with seating in a suitable position

Accidents will always happen even to the professional, there have been many cases where boat people, who were born on the boats and worked their whole life on the cut ended up dying in some tragic event. Like the boatman on the BBC’s recordings ‘Narrowboat’ “I had my first wife killed in Birningum, left me with seven, going down Camp Hill locks, er was stepping onto the boat and her foot slipped and er dropped down between the boat and the wall, fractured two of her ribs and moved her heart, she lived about six hours” or well known character Georgy Page who’s wife fell off the forend of their pair coming out of The Cape locks and went under the boats and he ran over her. So while I realise that accidents can happen, it wont be long, if these deaths continue, that actions will be introduced which will signal the death of the canal system as we know it, with hand rails around all lock sides and life jackets being compulsory and -----it goes on and on.

Ok so rant over and normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.


Thursday, 28 January 2010

More brass to polish!

As a result of this request on a fellow blogger’s blog regarding chimbley chains -------“I'm going to be cheeky and put in a request for Blossom to tell us about chimney chains... their purpose, origins and most importantly design and decoration.”-----I sat and thought about it, as it was a topic I had not considered before so here goes.

Purpose. That really is quite straight forward to explain. Due to low bridges, overhanging trees etc. chimblies regularly get knocked of the cabin top and into the cut where they sink very fast. By fixing the chimbly to the cabin top by means of a chain of some description, then if it is struck by an object it simply knocks it off and it falls to the length of the chain and usually hangs down the cabin side ready for re-fitting onto the collar. The chain is fixed at one end to the chimbley and the other to, traditionally, the brass loop off a horses harnessing which the reins went through, which is fitted to the cabin top, just behind the chimney collar.

Origins. Upon sitting and thinking of chimbley chains, I would say firstly that they can be grouped into four distinct categories.

1. Plain round curb iron chain

2. Plain heavy brass chain

3. ‘Gas mask bag’ chain

4. Modern decorative brass linked/chain as sold in chandlers.

What I am also going to say is really based on spending a night trawling through all the photos I have on my computer (mainly scanned from all over the place but only for my own purposes you understand!) The photo’s I have, range from the very early 1900’s right through to the end of major commercial carrying in the 1970’s. All photos I have looked at showing boats from before the 1930’s 40’s have plain iron chains being used for the purpose they were designed with no ‘decorative’ elements. This included steamers and their butties as well as horse boats, including No Ones whose boats, while being highly decorated in paintwork show no brass chains or rosettes on their chimblies. I have also found little or no evidence of decorative chain or rosettes on many other carriers irrespective of the period of the photo’s so one can assume from that, that the practice was not that common. Such companies as Shropshire Union Railway & Canal Company, Anderton C.C.Co, Mersey Weaver’s, Fellows Morton & Clayton all the photos I have of their craft simply have plain round iron chain.

It appears that it is not until the 1940’s and Grand Union boats, that the ‘tradition’ seems to have come to the fore. From this point on, ‘gas bag’ chains and brass horse rosettes are to be seen on the majority of boats, but not all with some still using the round iron curb chains, and with this being the case right up to the demise of virtually all long distance carrying in the 1970’s. I have found a few of such boats as Lucy and Raymond having large ring brass chain but without the rosettes.

Design and decoration. From this point of view if it is that someone wanted to also display rosettes on their chimbly, and remain traditional, then there is really only one choice and that is to go for a ‘gas mask bag’ chain. This makes the displaying of rosettes easy. Firstly it is normal to display one, or absolute maximum of two rosettes on your chain. When using gas mask clip chain it is easy as the brass loop on the back of the rosette is simply fitted over the hook end of the individual clips. For a standard length chimbly, you would need seven, possibly eight clips, and so for two rosettes you would hang a rosette on the first hook and the third hook. If you were going to hang only one rosette you would hang this on the second hook.

Why gas bag clips. As I am sure, most of you already know, but in case any one did not here goes. Paper manufacture is mainly concerned with the mashing of wood and other things into a wet pulp, rolling it out into thin layers then drying it out into paper. Other things included rag waste or at the end of the 2nd world war, in this case redundant gas mask bags. Only the cloth of the bags would be used with the two brass clips at either end of the carrying strap being cut off and ‘stock piled’. Dickenson’s paper mills at Croxley, at the time, were receiving their coal by canal, from the Warwickshire coal fields, and had a large ‘stock pile’ of these brass clips at the wharf. Put two and two together and you come up with ‘a chimbley chain’. It would not have taken long for this to catch on throughout the boating community.

Availability now. Occasionally this type of chain comes up for sale, but tends to demand a very high price, or if you keep your eye on ‘gas bags’ on Ebay the right type appear now and again for about £10.00 and as you need 8 (4 bags) £40.00 - a bargain.

Conclusions: Ok so what can I conclude or assume from this? It appears that brass chains and rosettes were only used after or about the time of the 2nd world war and that it appears to be particular to Southern boating stock as I have only seen a couple of Northern boats with them at that time, then as we moved further through the 1950’s-60’s & 70’s the more and more common and widespread the ‘tradition’ became.

Personally what I tend to do on Minnow is have my 'gas mask bag' chain with two rosettes hooked onto the top hook on the chimbley but I also have a steel welded chain, about half inch diameter links, which goes through the bottom 'handle' of the chimbley then on through the water can handles, then back through the cabin top ring then to itself and is connected with a small shackle. Thus enabling removal of chimbley and moving of the cans for low bridges, as well as filling kettles etc., but the steel chain is there to stop the chained items being swept overboard.

So Chertsey girl, and everyone else, there you are, my thoughts on chimbley chains. The rest is down to you, all I would say as I always do, if you don't like polishing brass then don't have it and stick to a plain round curb chain and a chimbley without brass bands, and certainly don't paint between the brass bands with red paint, unless you are a number one! So until next time,

'Don't bang 'em about'


Monday, 25 January 2010

The art of Graining (part 2)

In part one I described the tools and tips for successful graining but now here comes the hard bit.

Presuming you have gathered round you the tool kit described in the first part of this blog we are ready to start. Pour some of your mixed graining paint into the dish. At this point you need to decide whether you are going to use brushes or combs to grain this bit, and also what sort of effect you wish to produce.
Whether using a coarse brush or a comb to produce your grain, then start by using a suitably sized brush to apply an even thin coat of paint to the whole area, at this point do not worry about the actual effect that appears, just get the whole area evenly covered. Only cover an area big enough to complete within say 5-10 minutes, this may sometimes be governed by a panel size, in other words if you were going to grain your cabin top, do not try to cover the whole cabin top in one go as it would be ‘dry’ by the time you followed on with producing the grain) after the area is covered then we start graining. What follows is the methods used to achieve the listed desired effects.

Basic straight grain. Always remember what it is you are trying to replicate and think of the natural grain that might have appeared if it was real wood, especially the direction the grain would have flowed. Nothing looks worse that something grained in the wrong direction. Majority of the inside of a back cabin or cabin top etc. is usually straight grained, then mixed in amongst that are your fancy bits.
The bulkhead between back cabin and engine 'ole has been treated to straight graining to represent planking.

For instance a panelled door leading to the engine ‘ole. The frames would be straight grained and you might choose to grain the panels with differing patterns or even straight graining but at an angle to the panel. If using coarse brushes it is important that as much paint is removed from the bristles as possible by wiping excess off on the edge of the dish. Now draw the brush over the painted surface in one continuous stroke across the whole length of the panel being grained. to produce fine lines in the paint exposing the lighter undercoat underneath and poof, there you have it. Don’t worry if you wobble a little for real wood grain has ‘wobbles’ what I do is on the next brush stroke I try to follow the wobbles of the last stroke and so on until the panel is grained. Don’t worry if after you make a brush stroke you don’t like the grained effect it has made as you can rework it over and over again. The process for using combs is very similar when once the area has been coated in the same way, thinly and evenly, the comb is placed onto the surface at one end and drawn across the surface in a continuous straight line to the other side under slight pressure. The result of using combs gives a much coarser grain than with brushes.
The horizontal & vertical 'frames are done with combs while the diagonal grain on the panels is brushes.

Edging One of the problems with graining a panel is that as you start and end the stroke whether with brush or comb, it can leave the outside edges a little untidy. To overcome this I have a couple small flat hogs hair artists brushes 12mm and 15mm which, after finishing the panel, I select how wide a boarder will look right and using that size brush, I wet it in the paint, wipe off the excess then proceed to run it all around the panel. The result looks very neat and gives a boarder to the panel.

This central panel on a door has been edged with boarders. The centre graining was done with a brush, while the outer frames were done with combs. Note how the ‘bent’ graining gives variety.

Knots These are knot used (oops sorry) they are not used randomly in the middle of anywhere but have to be thought about. They fit well when you for instance grain a cabin top or a cabin side where it has been skinned with plywood and you want it to look like planks of timber (see seams and joints). After coating the area with paint and before graining it, get a small artists brush, dip it in the neat paint left in the tin, and paint a small round or oval spot about 20 -30mm in size. Now position your brush/comb at the end of the plank with the edge of the brush/comb inline with the centre of the knot. Make your stroke across the surface in a straight line as usual, and when you get to the knot move round it like water would flow round an object in a river then return back to your original line and carry on to the other end of the plank. Now line your brush back up at the end and just overlapping the first line. Repeat what you did on the first pass, but this time go around the other side of the knot.

Two painted knots on some drawn planks.
Knotty grain For this we use the Speciality combs. Start off in the same way by painting the plank then use the comb in the following way. Place the comb onto the surface then we are going to draw it continuously across the whole length of the plank. The difficult bit is that as we travel across the plank we also change the angle of the comb on its curved surface back and forth, back and forth in a rocking motion as we travel. This technique takes a bit of mastering as it’s a bit like tapping the top of your head while you rub circles on your stomach! But with a bit of practice it can produce some very good effects. When done correctly you will see that the pattern in the grain has produced circles in the centre of the plank in places. These are ideal positions for a painted knot(not too many though). Just use your hogs hair flat brush to blend the edges of the knot into the grain then using your brush/comb blend into the outside edges both sides.

A panel that has been knotty grained using the speciality comb and painted knots, on a background of brushed graining which has also been edged.

Seams and Joints This is good way of producing what looks like a planked surface on perhaps a flat steel cabin top or cabin side. For this you will need cotton buds and a wooden straight edge the length of the board you are producing. The screws sticking out of the straight edge at each end hold it off the wet painted surface. Start by deciding how wide you want the planks then evenly split the panel up into the plank widths and place a small mark with a pencil at each end of each plank width. Only work on a width just over one plank at a time say one and a half. Cover this area in exactly the same way as before, then use brush/comb/speciality comb/knots etc to produce the desired effect.(I like to alternate methods used to produce different ‘grains’ on a plank now and then) Line the straight edge up with the small pencil marks, then dip the cotton bud into the paint to ‘wet’ it then carefully run it along the whole length of the plank. This will wipe off the paint revealing the undercoat but at the same time deposit a thin dark line at either side. Unfortunately if you mess up and don’t get the line straight it looks a mess and you can’t repair it, just have to re do the whole plank again from the start. After this, paint the next section and repeat for this plank, remember to vary your planks, when graining your second and following planks you have to brush/comb right up to the seam you have just done being careful not to go over it.

Minnow’s cabin top that has been straight grained and split into planks. (sorry about the black marks, soot of the Bolinder)

By using a combination of differing graining patterns, quite effective planks can be achieved.

Grained roses These are not roses at all, but I don’t know what they are called, just a decorative featured grain I suppose. These look good in the centre of a flat plain panel. Simply grain the panel with straight graining as normal, then get a 1” paint brush and working from the centre of the panel outwards place the brush on the surface and rotate it to give a circle of grain. Now place the brush on above the first circle and repeat, then below, then at sides etc until you build up the desired effect. I also use a smaller brush for the outer circles.

A panel with grained roses in the centre of brush graining edged with a comb boarder.

Figured graining This is a type of graining that is commonly seen on real oak timber panels, but it can be used whatever graining colour you are using. It looks like small flecks in the timber which usually radiate on a panel. The effect is achieved by again using a cotton bud and after the panel has been grained, the cotton bud is just lightly flicked across the surface in arced irregular patterns

The bottom panel on a door with figured graining around the brass handle ]

Odds and Sods. Sometimes through experiment you can come up with some other effects which can fool the eye such as false panels, doors, openings etc. The only limit is your imagination.
A flat door which has been paneled then just circles drawn in the centre then a detail of a 'peep hole' painted on with small brush and neat graining paint.

That all folks these are the basic methods that I’ve used over the years all I would say is don’t be frightened and have a go. If you are unsure then paint you some practice panels of scrap wood/plywood/hard board and try it out. Take it from me it is very satisfying when finished and you look back and admire it.
Well there you are the rest is up to you. Practice, experiment but most of all have fun and enjoy it
Don’t bang ‘em about

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A Much needed fix

At last a chance to go and play with Minnow. Got up, cooked breakfast, prepared vedge for dinner, went to fetch extra vedge from shop, then left Dawn doing housework and went off down the boat. It wasn’t so much I had got anything particular to do, it is just that I get withdrawal symptoms. I do have a whole list of things I need to do but it needs better weather for these jobs and so I just comforted myself by being there. I suppose the main reason for going down was to get some photo’s to finish off the second part of my current blog on graining.
On arrival, I opened everything up, including the bed ‘ole, then went into the hold just to check on the rain water level in the hold. I always cloth the hold up during the winter while Minnow is at her moorings just to keep out the rain, even so there was about 5” of water and it was just level with the top of the false floors. I have a small gulper bilge pump under the false floors up against the back cabin which soon made short work of it.

After that I set about taking the pictures of the graining that I wanted. With that out of the way, I took the crocheted cover and the copper kettle off the top of the Guidwife and black leaded it. Jobs like this and polishing brasses I find a great chore, but find that the end result far outweighs the effort required, not a philosophy supported by Dawn. Her philosophy is “I don’t do brass”. As I was buffing up the black lead, I felt the forward swill of an approaching boat, sounded like a proper engine, a Lister twin or something similar, so I went out into the hold just to see. It was a new build boat called ‘Moore Jam’ it was not a boat I have seen before as I would have remembered as the ‘A’ of Jam was a jar of jam. I did not recognise the couple on the back end either, but as always greeted them as they drew level with the normal “ow do” we then went into the normal 30 second long conversation as they past, mostly about the ice but as he was going off he turned back and shouted “ have you fixed that Bolinder yet?” I responded with “yes, was out boating all last year!” He waved and left. This then got me thinking- what does every single person on the cut and their dog know about the trouble that Minnows Bolinder was causing three years ago when we bought her. So I thought I would take this opportunity to tell the world
Whilst I must admit at the beginning when we first bought her, it had me pulling my hair out but after ‘fiddling’ undertaken by Joe Hollinshead, and continuous tweaking by yours truly, It starts, runs and performs fine given the odd occasional ‘throwing a wobbler’ and ‘having a tantrum’ . This, I think, is only to be expected when you’re running an engine that is a 73 years old lady. Anyway that was my two hour ‘fix’ over and time to head back home as the Sunday roast would be ready (I was hoping)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Art of Graining

Firstly let me say, I thought I would introduce this blog based on what I know. What follows is only my opinion (based on what I have experienced, heard, done) I am not a painter, I have not received any training, I am simply someone who has basically, over the last 50 years, self taught things like painting traditional flowers and landscape scenes as well as graining, by watching, listening, questioning others but most of all by practicing – and practicing – and practicing .
Graining paints come in a variety of ‘colours’ to suit all types of wood that you are trying to replicate, including tints like Mahogany, light oak, dark oak, pine, pitch pine, ash etc. Myself I use Ratcliffe’s graining products and my personal choice of tint is Light Oak. Graining of surfaces, as well as making the timber look like better quality wood than the pine planking used for the internal fittings also covers a multitude of sins. Nail heads-splits-knot holes- graining does a very good job of hiding them.
I have heard lots of people in recent years talk about scumbling, I can honestly say that I have never heard this term used when describing the decorative paint process used to roughly represent wood grain in back cabin’s, I have always simply known it as graining, although the paint itself is called scumble. With a little practice and some basic tools, it is possible to produce most of the patterns I will try to illustrate and describe.
Before I start there are a couple of really important basic ‘rules’ that will make a great difference.
1. Always prepare the surface well especially if you are going to use graining combs as they glide over the surface a lot easier giving a more realistic finish, for if you keep stopping and starting and hesitating with the travel of the comb the result looks like what it is. Someone rubbing prongs over a wet painted surface.
2. Always give the surface a minimum of two coats of the graining undercoat, even is the surface looks like it has covered well after just one, the second coat makes the surface more silky and the combs/brushes glide a lot easier.
3. When you paint the back cabin in graining undercoat, make sure you also paint a piece of scrap timber (a piece of plywood is ideal) this you can use to try out your graining paint before you start.
4. Always allow plenty of time between undercoating and graining, no matter how tempting it is to have a go, even if the undercoat feels dry. Due to the high amount of white spirit used in the graining paint it will ‘pull’ the undercoat if applied too soon. I always leave at least two weeks between undercoating and graining.

In this picture the graining paint is starting to pull at the undercoat.

The tool kit required for graining is quite simple, cheap and easily assembled. It consist of brushes, combs, cotton buds, large glass ‘pickle’ jar, dish big enough to dip your 4” brush in, white spirits, straight edge, loads of rags.
Brushes. (graining) A selection of stiff bristled brushes to cover a variety of widths ranging from ½” to 4” . Recommend the cheapest brushes possible like these value packs they sell in B & Q or Wickes etc. which have very stiff and coarse bristles. (For painting the undercoat use a normal decent quality paint brush)

Graining Combs These come in two types, metal and rubber.

Metal combs. These are getting harder and harder to get hold of they consist of a thin spring steel sheet in various widths (1”, 2”, 3”) and are about 4” long. The one side has a series of regular sized slits resulting in the teeth of a comb about 3” long.

By drawing the toothed edge across the painted surface it scratches the grain on it. Personally I think metal combs give a ‘scratched’ surface and I much prefer soft rubber combs which are easier to grain with and give a much softer finish.

Rubber combs. These are much the same as metal combs except the teeth are much shorter, only about 6mm. The other beauty of rubber combs is you can easily make your own. All you need is a sheet of soft rubber about 2-3mm thick. Using a strong pair of scissors or even a Stanley knife first cut it to the size you want (1”,2”,3” wide by 3-4” long, then cut a whole series of vee nicks along one edge about 2mm wide with 2mm gaps in between.. Try and keep the nicks all about the same size and equal distance apart to make a standard comb. Make another set now with slightly bigger nicks, say 3mm, then a set 4mm. I also have one that’s about 5” wide and the nicks gradually get bigger along its length from nicks 2mm wide up to nicks 8mm wide. (These sketches are not to scale the rubber between the nicks on the smallest size would be much smaller, only about 1-2mm)

Speciallity combs. These are for producing grain patterns that are found in timbers like pine where the grain follows around each side of a knot hole etc. They are like a block of rubber or plastic which has a curved working surface with circular, concentric ridges on it. These can be bought from places like B & Q , Wickes, Dixons etc.

Cotton buds. These are used for putting the seams and joints in flat panels such as a metal cabin top of plywood lining of a back cabin where you want it to look like planks. Used in conjunction with the straight edge.

Large glass ‘pickle’ jar. Used for mixing your graining paint in.
Dish. This is to hold the graining paint in when using it and has to be big enough to dip your 4” brush in.

White spirits. To be used for thinning the graining paint. (as well as washing brushes.

Straight edge. This consists of a straight piece of timber about 25mm x 10mm and what ever length you need to draw a line on, with a wood screw about 15mm from each end srewed into the wood with the points sticking through about 10mm. I usually fix a small block to the mid point on the same side as the screw heads as a handle. I will explain how this is used in the techniques section.

Ensure the surface to be grained is dry and preferably fairly flat and smooth ( although you can grain over very rough surfaces, the graining combs, brushes glide better over a smooth surface.)

Nothing special about this as it is just like painting with any normal paint, just give the whole area two good coats and don’t forget the practice piece.

First of all mixing. Graining paint is more like a paste and if you try to use it straight from the can or even with not enough thinning (hence the practice timber you painted when undercoating) it dries far to quickly not giving you time to work the grain and ruins the graining effect, far too thick a contrast between the lines in the graining as well as being far too dark a colour.

The paint has to be thinned using white spirit. One thing you have to do is to make sure you have enough graining paint mixed to grain everything you want, for if you run out you will find it almost impossible to match the colour with the next mix. What I tend to do is have a very large pickle onion type glass jar, tip the whole tin of graining paint in it, wash the tin out with white spirits then add white spirits to about the same quantity. The best test is to position your practice piece you prepared earlier in the vertical position and paint a thin layer of graining paint on it. It should cover the surface very easily and evenly without being that runny that it runs down the surface, also it should remain workable for at least 20 minutes to half an hour. At this point you can also get a good idea of the final shade of graining you are going to produce.

Always finish off with at least two coats of a good quality clear yacht varnish – never use polyurethane varnish, especially externally.
I have now decided to do this blog in two parts as it is so big. Part two will conclude with the various techniques I use and some pictures of the finishes obtained. Cheers for now until part two but until then, as always
Don’t bang ‘em about

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Right in the sh*t

Carrying on from my last blog on night soil, and promising for those of you who do not know I would relate to where the word sh*t comes from so here goes.
Years ago, before the Industrial revolution and Britain becoming a mainly manufacturing based country; it was mainly an agricultural area and as a result required a constant supply of fertiliser, mainly in the form of animal dung. Britain itself did not produce enough ‘dung’ so vast quantities were imported from abroad in its dried form. (Less smell, lighter and easy to handle loaded into bails) Tons of dried bails would be loaded into the hold of sailing ships for transport back to Britain. A journey of several weeks/months at sea riding storms and leaky holds would result in the very bottom of the hold becoming wet or even awash dried bails of dung would readily absorb any moisture/water resulting in the cargo becoming much heavier and also the risk of fermentation re-starting resulting in the release of methane gas. Next person down the hold with an oil lamp and bang. Apparently several vessels were lost in this way and so, as a result the bails of dung would have warnings labelled on them stating ship high in transit which crew responded by stacking the dung bails high up in the hold where the chances of getting wet were greatly reduced. Over the years the warning Store High In Transit got abbreviated to just warning letters S.H.I.T. And so there you have it, and next time someone is talking a load of sh*t you can at least educate them into it’s meaning, or have I just been talking a huge load of C.R.A.P.

Just to finish off with here's a bit of black country humour:

Ayli was working at the sewage farm when he suddenly lost his footing and slipped in. "Elp, elp, fire, fire, gerra fire injin quick." Hearing his cries his pal, Aynuk called the fire station. In no time at all Tipton's fire crew responded. "Where's the fire then?" enquired the chief fire officer. "Theer ay one" replied Ayli "Burrif ard a shouted 'sh*t, sh*t, sh*t! yow wudenna terned up!"

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Night Soil Boats

I was reading an article referring to William Perry recently and it got mre to thinking ‘he had canal connections and might make an interesting blog’ so here it is.
William Perry better known as The Tipton Slasher, (1820-1880); born in Tipton in the Black Country between Wolverhampton and Birmingham, he worked on the canals but left it for prize-fighting. He became Champion of England from 1850 to 1857. He was finally defeated by the legendary Tom Sayers in 1857., William Perry returned to the canals. He died in1880 from 'lung problems'.
The Tipton Slasher was given this name later in his fighting career from the way his punches were known to cut and slash his opponents, but earlier he was also known also known as 'Capital K Leg' as a result of a physical deformity he had resulting from ricketts as a child.

He opened a pub in Spon Lane when he retired from prize fighting, it was called “The Champion of England”. It stood on a site by Chances Glass. He sold the pub and all his possessions to back himself in a comeback fight in June 1857 against Tom Sayers. He lost the bout after 2 hours of hard fighting. Loosing everything, he had to return to working on the canal.

The Slashers fighting career started early in life while working on the canals he regularly fought fellow boatmen on the many local canals in order to be first through the locks.
A statue stands in the town of Tipton, yards away from the canal at Tipton Green Junction, and only yards from his local pub the Fountain Inn. During his fighting career he trained under the acid baths in Owen Street. Some say he used to train with a Barbary ape. This is partly supported by the Black Country Museum who, amongst their collection they have “Objects range from the rare and unusual to the bizarre and include a stuffed Rhesus monkey associated with the Tipton Slasher.”
This all sounds very grand but a couple of points I’d like to make. When William Perry worked on the canals it was as a day boater, so none of the niceties of lace and plates and brass in a back cabin, but simple open day boats. He was not from boating stock as he was ‘off the land’ and this would have been looked on as quite a lowly form of employment with long hard hours and very little reward. Then there was the matter of the boats William Perry worked on. He worked on the ‘night soil’ boats, a cargo that put him at the very bottom of the career ladder. “What’s night soil”, I hear you ask. A little background information:-
Lets start by setting the scene, mid 19th century Tipton – large areas of terraced back to back housing – no sewage system/flush toilets. - No dustbins or council refuse collection – all houses cooking and heated with coal. A fairly typical set up would be a communal blue brick yard (called the ‘fode’) with out buildings including a ‘bog ‘ole (toilet) an ‘ess ‘ole (ash hole) and a miskin ( rubbish storage) this lead to the well known Black Country saying ‘To marry the miskin fer the muck on it, an get pissoned wi the stink on it’. Right back to night soil. Soil, because in those days you could not call it sh*t and night, because that’s when it would be collected so that people did not have to see or smell what was going on. In the middle of the night when everyone was asleep, the night soilers would come with their large wooden wheel barrows down the entry (covered passage between houses) and start by emptying the ash, of which there would be a lot, into the wheel barrow to be taken into the street where it would be tipped and arranged into a large circular band the centre of this circle would then be filled with the contents from the miskin, general household waste, and finally the contents of the bog ‘ole would be ladled out of the pit below the bog into the barrows and then into the centre of the ash circle. Finally the whole lot would be mixed as one mixes cement/concrete into a handleable commodity, and then shovelled onto tipping horse drawn metal carts. In turn these would be taken to the local night soil wharf where they would be tipped into open day boats for onward movement. Finally I hear you ask “what did they do with it”
Night soil

Euphemism for human faeces.
In many cities in the developed world human wastes used to be collected from storage tanks called privy vaults. The wastes were called "night soil" and were sold to farms as fertilizer. This practice continued until early in the twentieth century.
For those who don't know I will give the meaning of sh*t in my next blog, but untill then
Don't bang 'em about

Monday, 18 January 2010

Snubbers, Snatchers, strings and ropes

Making sense of some of the miles and miles of functional rope work that is used on a pair of working boats. I thought that being as I had written about the decorative rope work on working boats then it was only fair that I blob on about the working rope work. First of all the diameter of a particular rope will determine whether it is called a rope, a line or a string, smaller diameters are usually termed strings

Cross straps – two short ropes of equal length with an eye spliced on each end. About three inches shorter than the height from water level to the fore deck stud. Used for towing an empty butty where one strap is fitted to each towing dolly on the motor boat then they cross each other before fitting over the fore stud on the butty. Using cross straps eliminates the need for anyone to steer the butty apart from in tight situations such as making 90 degree turns etc.

Snubber – At least 90 foot long usually has a loop spliced on one end and a back splice on the other. Used for towing a loaded butty when on long clear pounds. When underway but not in use, locks etc. it is coiled and placed carefully on the butty deck with the end conveniently placed for picking up by the motor steerer in passing the butty deck.

Snatcher – Only about 25foot long and usually has a loop spliced on one end and a loop or back splice on the other. It is used for working a pair through a heavily locked sections of canal. Not to be confused with ‘snatching’ a butty when it is grounded, for this a snubber is usually used.

Uphill/downhill runners – 30ft long with eye splice one end which is fitted to the shackle on the anser pin and a back splice on the other. These are used to put a couple of turns round the strapping posts at locks to stop the boats forward motion. (brakes)

Top strings – About 16 feet long and 3/8 inch diameter, having a back splice one end and an eye spliced on the other with a hook fixed to it. The hook fixes into a ring fitted to the gunnel, then crosses over the top of the cloths/planks to a ring in the opposite gunnel which it passes through then returns up to the top where it is tied off around itself.

Breeching strings – Short strings about 12 inches long and 3/8 inch diameter with an eye splice one end and a back splice the other. The eye splice is fixed to the underside of the gunnel by means of a staple about every yard along both side of the hold. These are used for holding the rolled side cloths in position on top of the gunnel.

Girding strings – These are about 25 feet long and 3/8 inch diameter with a back splice one end and an eye splice the other. They are used between the cross beams and the top planks to secure the top planks in position.

Mast Lines -A rope that is used to open the bottom gates of a double lock when going down hill, called thumblining. It has a eye splice on one end and a back splice on the other and are about 20 foot in length

Tying strings – (Stern & Bows) back splice one end and eye splice on the other, long enough to reach from boat to bank and back or boat to boat and back with extra length for tying.

Back end rope – used for temporarily holding a motor boat enabling a single point for mooring whilst waiting for a lock to set etc.

Tiller strings – short strings fixed to the cabin top each side of the back cabin with a loop spliced in the end which is fitted over the end of the tiller bar to hold it in position if left unattended. Boatmen have been known to put the bows over to the side of a tunnel by putting the tiller bar into the tiller string and going down into the cabin and letting the boat’s bows ‘rub’ through.

Bridal string – A short length of rope with a loop over the front stud and the other end fixed to the tow line of a horse boat. On the straight the bridal does nothing, but when it comes to a very tight turn, the horse pulls the boat from the front stud instead of the top mast assisting it round the tight turn. Typically used on the twisty and turny Oxford canal.

So that’s about it. As you can see this involved quite an array of rope work and in all cases involved back splices and eye splices, so (Chertsey Woman) it is essential that one of the skills that all people with working boats must acquire is that of splicing. I feel another blog coming on.
Dow bang ‘em about

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Rockets, Turks heads, Ears and Donkey’s D**ks

The decorative rope work which adorns working boats has been developed over the last two centuries. While most of it is now for decoration, a lot of it started life with a practical application back in the days of horse boats. Nowadays some of that original usage has been lost.
I have heard say/read that a horse boat would get through a cotton tow line within a very short period, as short as a week in some cases. Just as a matter of interest I can remember a ‘rope shop’ just a short walk from the top of Wolverhampton locks in Snow Hill, where even as late as 1970 you could still buy tow lines of standard lengths. They sold the cotton lines, not by diameter, as you purchase them now, say 12mm dia, but by there ability to tow and went as one horse or two. One horse being half inch diameter and two horse being about three quarters of an inch.
Anyway back to my blog. As you can well imagine, most of the wear on a tow line would only be on the mid section where the rope rubbed on bridges, lock sides etc. as is clearly displayed by the scarring grooves worn in their brick or iron work. So when a tow line was worn out the first couple of yards from harness end and the last several yards from the Mast end would be practically brand new. This resulted in boatmen having many short lengths of brand new cotton line at their disposal and so to what to do with it. Obviously it would be used for generating the other ‘practical’ rope work required on a working boat such as mooring lines etc. but at some point, somebody must have washed and scrubbed this ‘functional’ rope work and so it became ‘decorative’. Now, some of these ‘decorative’ ropes can not be used for their original function as they would get dirty!
I am going to explore some of the most common decorative rope work. Here is a picture of a butty displaying most of the rope work I’m talking about.

Turks Heads, Swan’s Neck, Rockets, Ears, Hose webbing, Button fender.

First let’s look at their original functional uses:

Turks heads, these are just like a simple plaits like you would put in a girls hair using three pieces of hair strands ---- except there are no ends to these strands.

Turks head - Usually two on butty tiller bar
Ø To protect paintwork when placing on cabin top for lock work etc.
Turks head - around top of helms rams head
Ø To give added strength to rams head. and protecting from splitting where the tiller bar hole goes through due to excessive sideways pressure/leverage.

Rockets – more like Catherine wheels than rockets, this is where the ends of a string is coiled spirally around itself then tucked under its lines. (Incidentally both the Turks head and the Rockets, on a butty helm, should run horizontally and parallel to the water, not at 90 degree to the edge of the timber works as I’ve often seen.)
Rockets– around the bottom of the rams head
Ø The function of the Rockets are the same as the Turks head above.
Rockets on cratch and deck board.
Ø I think these are merely decorative versions of the top strings used to secure the deck cloth and the top cloths.

Swans Neck – a long fancy knotted section of rope running from the top of the rams head down to the tingles on the helm
Ø I believe decoration only.

Jump strings- go between the ring/shackle fitted to the butty’s helm top pintle and a hole which goes through the butty stern post
Ø To stop the butty helm jumping out of the pintles if it rides up on underwater obstructions.

Ears – a length of rope which has a fancy knotted section at each end, which is looped through the brass ring on the cabin top, behind the chimney collar (to chain the water cans and chimney to) and dangles down the cabin sides with ends of unequal length.
Ø Not absolutely sure, but I was told that they were for tying up the downhill runners, (a butty breaking system) to the cabin sides when not in use.

Mast dropper – about a foot long and hangs from the luby at the top of the towing mast.
Ø Young Charlie Atkins told me that this was used as a grab handle when climbing out of an empty hold (He also took great delight in telling me that it had a rather rude name referring to a Donkey’s sex appendage!)

Button fender – hung from the end of the tingles on the butty helm
Ø Originally to protect the helm when in locks etc.

Hose webbing – Lengths of old fire hose which is cotton and rubber lined, when scrubbed comes up white. A length is fitted around the butty helm tingles and another over the leading edge of the cratch
Ø Again I think purely decorative.

All the decorative rope work I have described above is made from one horse cotton tow rope which, when scrubbed with a good hard scrubbing brush and just clean water, every day, comes up snow white and looks a treat. If it’s not scrubbed then it looks a mess and why bother having it on a boat if your not going to keep it white. My feelings are the same for brass (portholes, mushroom vents, chimbly bands etc) if your not going to polish it then either don’t have it or paint it! Mushroom vents look just as nice painted in quarters with red-white-blue-yellow.
Producing this rope work is simplicity itself requiring very few skills to be acquired, for instance: Ears, swans neck, mast droppers, jump strings are all made using one knot over and over again. It’s called a crown knot and in another blog I might be tempted to explain how to do it along with Turks heads and an ocean plait.

Wouldn't touch it with a barge pole!

Just to keep my hand in, so to speak, while I wait for an improvement in this weather so I can get down the boat and do some real work, I thought I would produce a new cabin shaft for Minnow. (seeing as I snapped my very old cabin shaft last year whilst out boating and using a cabin shaft for one of it’s true purposes, which I’ll explain.

Cabin shafts should be made the correct length so that when working downhill on narrow locks, the motor boat can be almost stopped as it leaves the tail of the lock and the steerer can, whilst standing on the counter, poke the point of the shaft in the end of the balance beam and push it shut then transfer to the opposite bottom gate balance beam and shut that one in the same way. On some older balance beams, certainly around the BCN. the ends of the balance beams have a rectangular piece of timber fitted to them for this exact practice as can be seen on the Wolverhampton 21 where they also bear the shaft point marks where they are still used by some. (me included) Alternatively the lock wheeler can carry the cabin shaft and open/close offside gates without having to cross the lock for if like my Dawn you won’t step across the gap between the one closed gate and the opposite side then you have to walk all the way round the top gate to get to the other gate. Beware however on metal balance beams such as some of those on the Trent & Mersey when sometimes you have to get a purchase on something on the beam. It was on the Wolverhampton 21 last year when I was returning single handed down this flight from the working boat gathering at the Black Country Museum that I managed to snap my old cabin shaft closing bottom gates. Luckily there was nobody about to see me almost go in the cut as it snapped.
Another use I have seen them put to is closing ground paddles by placing the point behind the ratchet and rotating the shaft, thus causing the point to be moved away by the curved hook of the shaft thereby raising the ratchet and allowing the paddle rack to free fall. Although I have never tried to replicate this method.

I was browsing in B & Q the other weekend looking for some PVA wood glue to repair one of our dining chairs that managed to get one of the arms broken off at Christmas lunch when by chance I spotted a rack in the timber section which contained many different wooden mouldings including round dowels which went up to 1 ½ “ in diameter and 8foot long. OK about a foot short I thought but that will make an ideal replacement. And so that was carried round to the checkout and purchased. ( I wasn’t bothered about the price tag as Dawn had given me the money to get the glue!) This was taken home and down in the garden shed I got to work on it with firstly a really good serrated kitchen knife (that’s alright Dawn works Saturdays and she will never know)(Oops she does now!) and proceeded to cut a round taper on the last four inches, finishing this off, to get a good fit in the shaft head, with a wood rasp. When completed, the head was hammered onto the shaft and a wood screw put in through a hole in the blade to secure it to the shaft. Now for then other end and this was rounded off, again using true engineering tooling (serrated knife and rasp) then finished of with sand paper. Now for the painting. The shaft head was painted black whilst a foot of the opposite end was painted green. This was followed by masking up from the end of the red to the black head with four sections spiralling along its length which were then painted red, yellow, blue and white. The whole job was then coated with two coats of good quality clear yacht varnish. I would have posted a picture but it is on the boat as I write so I will have to post one later perhaps
Dow bang 'em about

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Hatches, cratches, soap ‘oles and bed ‘oles

What follows is a mish mash of bits and pieces to do with the cut. It’s a mixture of terminology, miss-used terms and finishes off with a few of the unwritten rules of the cut. I know that there are those out there who disagree with some of them but I can only tell you what I know, have learnt, have been told, after being in the company of boating stock over the last fifty years.

Canal terminology
Let us start with some of the common items found in, on and around a working boat. Some of the named items are fairly self explanatory on the other hand some are stranger.

Monkey box – a small wooden box with a sloping lid which fits exactly on the back end of the side bed in a back cabin. Used for the storage of oddments including cleaning materials. I read recently that this derives its name from a popular brand of old brass cleaner

Soap ‘ole – the small slotted open compartments formed between the inner and outer timbers of the back end of the back cabin, again used for storage of odds and ends including soap! Cleaning materials, Brasso and of cause windlasses.

Bed ‘ole – When not in use the cross bed is raised to enclose the bedding within this recess.

Pigeon box – The ventilator on top of the engine ‘ole which has sloping sides and usually small brass portholes.

Biscuit tin – As above but this is the flat square type typically found on Joshers

Ticket draw – A small draw positioned just inside the cabin top on the left hand side of the back cabin, designed to hold the toll tickets collected by the boatman during the current journey so that they were at hand when asked to show them.

Back end rail – The curved bar and sliding ring arrangement to be found on the front of the engine ‘ole. A line is usually spliced to the ring offering easy single point mooring.

A bridal – A short length of rope with a loop over the front stud and the other end fixed to the tow line of a horse boat. On the straight the bridal does nothing, but when it comes to a very tight turn, the horse pulls the boat from the front stud instead of the top mast assisting it round the tight turn. Typically used on the twisty and turny Oxford canal.

Some common Miss-used terms.
Below are some of the commonly used, or should I say miss-used terms. These typically make my hackles rise when I hear them.

Roof – working boats do not have a roof, houses, sheds and factories have a roof! A working boat has a cabin top

Cratch – People call the triangular board on the front of a working boat, which supports the top planks a cratch. The cratch is actually the complete tent like structure. The triangular board is actually a Deck board.

reverse – astern, you travel backwards or stop a forward moving motorboat in astern.

forward – ahead is used for going forwards.

Finally what follows is some of the unwritten rules that developed over nearly two centuries of family life on the cut. These rules formed the core of the basic structure of the old canal community, which sadly today is missing with a lot of the working boat fraternity for either they don’t know, don’t appreciate or just don’t care. I learnt as a young boy in the 1960’s 70’s by hard task masters who, for instance, if you did accidentally step on their scrubbed white ash strips on the back end of their boat, would quickly give you some training from the training manual which, for some strange reason, was always kept inside the palm of their hand and was best dispatched via your ear. (an excellent learning process I can tell you)

Ø Always ask before you cross over someone else’s boat
Ø If you have to cross someone’s boat never cross the back end, especially a butty’s back end, cross at the bows or across the cross beams if its unloaded.
Ø Never stand on someone's cabin top unless told to.
Ø Never comb your hair into the canal. (You’ll go bald)
Ø Never look into the back cabin of someone’s boat even if the doors are open.
Ø Never get onto anybody else’s boat unless invited, no matter how well you know them
Ø Never step or stand on the ash strips on the cants of a boat.
Ø Never run
Ø Let the water and the boats do the work.

Well folks once again that’s about it for the moment as I want to leave this one with more to be included in a later post when I’m short of a topic.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Lace, plates and brasses

As I am not doing any boating, and very little work on Minnow at the moment I have very little inspiration to write. Unlike fellow working boat bloggers Andrew and Andrea on Dove, who appear to be battling on irrespective of weather or temperatures or that ‘Chertsey’ woman who can talk about anything, anytime! Myself I find it very difficult, in fact wonder why I even started my Blogfor even when I think of a topic to ‘blog’ I talk myself out of it even before I start thinking nobody will want to read that dribble.
So that brings me on to today’s chosen subject (background Mastermind Music) that of decorating a traditional back cabin. (You will note: back cabin – not boatman’s cabin as that’s a modernism)( Iv’e just thought of another blog topic on terminology) Quite a lot of people with both ex working and modern ‘traditional’ boats have plates hanging in their cabins, but how many actually know how to hang them in a back cabin, and while I do not profess to be any sort of expert, I feel that I did learn from one back in the 1970’s when I was decking out the new back cabin of my large Woolwich butty Bingley. Like many, I tied a loop of white ‘knicker elastic’ through the top of three or four of the slots in the chosen ribbon plate decided where I wanted to hang it, and screwed a small brass cup hook in that position then hung the plate on it. Next a second plate would be hung in the same manner on another cup hook, then, when all plates were in position, they would be tied to each other with further pieces of ‘knicker elastic. ( Or something similar) The result was untidy, random, had no order to it and left large areas of cabin sides showing.

One evening whilst sat in the back cabin of Bingley on our moorings at Tipton we heard a boat approaching from under the bridge ‘ole, both myself and Clive and Pat Stevens came out of our respective cabin hatches, to see that it was Roger and Jean Hatchard with Keith Christie’s josher motorboat Lynx and their small Woolwich butty Hyades. At this time the moorings were shared by myself with Bingley, Cliff Sherwood’s small Northwich motorboat Belatrix, his blue top butty Lynne ( being converted to a motor and a trip boat) Clive & Pat Steven’s pair of large Woolwich’s Battersea and Barnes, Keith Christie’s Josher Lynx, Glyn & Rose Phillip’s small Woolwich motor Aquarius as well as a steam dredger and a small iron iceboat.
Roger and Jean had come over to stop for a couple of days visiting Pat and Clive and me. Naturally, they were invited over to our cabin of the evening, along with Pat and Clive where we spent the evening chatting about ‘boaty things’ and consuming several pots of tea. During the conversation the topic of hanging ribbon plates sarcastically came up. Straight away Roger stated “Jean will show you if you want” and so the next night the lesson began. This involved the purchase of a ball of white cotton string to supplement the bag of lengths of vintage lace I’d got and my box of plates.
I thought I would share with you how I was shown to hang both ribbon plates and the lace in between them. This method can apply anywhere in a back cabin but I am describing the section of cabin side behind the range.
Start by sorting your plates into groups, types, size etc. have a good idea in your mind how you want to lay them out. See how many plates it will take to go across the area you are covering, then how many rows it will take from top to bottom of cabin side. In the case below five plates in a row and three rows

Remember that the top row of plates will be set down half the depth of your lace from the top. Screw a cup hook in at the top of where each column of plates will be. As shown below.

Hang each plate in turn with a length of string through the ribbon slots, ensure each string length is identical so the plates are all in a line. Then tie each plate to each other with short pieces of string going between the ribbon slots. At this point the row of plates will probably hang away from your cabin sides, don’t worry this will be fixed later. Then fix two more cup hooks at each end, above the bottom row of plates and at a height above the row of plates equal to half the depth of your lace. As shown below

And now to the lace. Start by tying a loop in each end of a length of string equal to the exact length between the two side cup hooks (remember this string has to be tight between the hooks. When you have this right (after a bit of practice probably) thread the string in and out of the top of the length of lace you have cut. Now put the string loops over the cup hooks. As shown below

The tight string along the top edge of the lace holds all the plates back close to the cabin sides. The process is now repeated with the next row up being tied back to the same cup hooks at the top. As shown below

This is then followed by two more cup hooks and another line of lace. As shown below.

And finally the top row is fitted in the same manner and the finished panel is as set out below.

Well that’s all folks, just to finish off here is a couple of photos of inside Minnow’s back cabin and her ribbon plates.

a a

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Thoughts of Summer Events

Have received this wonderful card from the Organising Committee of the Park Head Festival which, although obviously it is a ploy to get people to return to their event, I felt that it was an excellent gesture, as well as an excellent card, and reflects most of the things that this Festival committee organises. It is well worth the effort to attend as an enjoyable weekend is always guaranteed with lots of things going on for attending boats, including the now famous Duck Race down the Park Head Locks. Information can be found here :-

The arrival of this card got me thinking of Summer and boating and events that Minnow would be attending this year, for unless you are really brave like Andrew and Andrea Hoyle, who spent last weekend installing a new engine in their Ex-FMC boat Dove, there ain’t much more you can do at the moment. So hopefully this year we will be at :-

APL 3rd, 4th & 5th Historic Boats Gathering, The Boat Museum Trent & Mersey Ellesmere Port
MAY 2nd & 3rd Norbury Junction canal festival Shropshire Union Norbury Junction. 01785 284292

JUNE 19th ,20th,21st Middlewich Folk and Canal Festival Trent & Mersey Middlewich.

SEPT 11th & 12th Black Country Boating Festival,Dudley Canal Windmill End. 08708 504203

SEPT 18th & 19th Tipton Canal Festival Tipton Canal Tipton.

SEPT 24th,25th,26th Parkhead canal festival Dudley Canal Parkhead. 01384 236275

Hopefully, like at most of these events, I will have the chance of catching up with some of you and as those who know me will tell you, the kettle is always on so come over and introduce yourself and we’ll have tea and a talk.