Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Creating the Right Tool for the Job

My father encouraged me to always use the right tool for the job.  But what do you do when there is no such tool?  Well, then you make one.  At least that's what Jeff on s/v Pilgrim does.

(Jeff and Anne are completely reconstructing Pilgrim, virtually from the hull out - most of their work is far too extensive to include here, but I encourage you to visit their website to see it.)
Any wrench large enough to fit the packing nut on Pilgrim’s possessed a handle too long to fit into the tight confines of the hull.

Looking down the rudder shaft at the packing nut.

Deep gouges along the upper edge of the nut indicated a hammer and cold chisel were used to tighten the nut.  Curiously no such evidence of similarly brutal tactics use to loosen the nut are evident.  Could it be that Pilgrim’s rudder packing is original?

Rather than attack the nut with hammer and chisel, I elected to create the proper tool for the job.

Creating a plywood template of the ideal tool for the job.

Using 1/8” luan plywood and some trial and error I created a pattern for the ideal M382 rudder post packing nut wrench.  Once satisfied with the design, I transferred the pattern to a fresh piece of plywood

Transferring the rough, initial template to a fresh piece of plywood.

A query around the commercial fishing fleet portion of the boat yard yielded a free piece of sufficiently sized 3/8” steel.

Next stop Lindow’s Machine Shop on Hwy 70 outside of Beaufort, NC.  Yup that is right... a straight up plug for Lindow’s.  Fred Lindow, owner and sole employee, has many years of personal experience on sailboats.  He does excellent work at reasonable prices.  Fred transferred the template to the metal, and then used a band saw to cut out the wrench.

Wrench clamped in vice while I clean up the rough edges with a file.

Back at the boat yard, I cleaned up the sharp edges with a file and applied a few coats of red paint.

Ready to remove the nut.

Now possessing the right tool for the job it is time to remove the packing nut.

Happiness is having the right tools for the job.

The short wrench handle and awkward body position limited the torque I could physically apply to the nut.  Ultimately removing the nut did require striking the handle of the wrench with a mallet -far preferable to further damaging the nut with blows from a cold chisel.

Removing the old packing material.

Using a combination of picks and a small flat screw driver, I excavated decaying, flax packing from the nut.  Based on the condition of the packing material I would not be surprised if it is from the original 1979 construction.  I have little doubt it was leaking when submerged.

Close up of gouges along the upper edge of Pilgrim's rudder packing nut.

A few minutes with the bench grinder’s wire wheel and the packing nut cleaned up nicely.  Despite the deep gouges along the upper edge, I do believe it remains serviceable.

Next step is to lift the boat high enough for the rudder post to clear the hull.  Hmm – I wonder how much that rudder weighs?

Our Rudder Repairs and Modifications Photo Album contains additional images and notes from this ongoing project.

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