If you had to guess which of the many parts of the Dove would be the first to be milled up, you might think- the keel? stem? stern post? Think smaller. Back in March we felled some Ash from Elf captain Rick Carrion’s farm up in Cecil county. After unloading onto our mill we cut slabs at dimension specified according to the various widths of the aforementioned parts. The pieces would then be cut to their length to dry in our solar kiln for 2 months, eventually making their way to dry storage in cardboard boxes until this week. These are the Dove’s 200 or so blocks, dead eyes, and bulls eyes. For those of you unsure as to what a block is, it is the wooden shell which creates the “pulley” in the ships rigging.
We’ve been focusing this week primarily on the single sheave blocks in 1/2”, 5/8”, and 3/4” as these are the most common with 35 or so of each. In order to make such a high quantity in a timely manner its important to work out a production assembly style process. We begin with wood cut to dimension, we then cut the pin hole with our drill press, the mortise for the sheave with our slot mortiser, the blocks profile with the band saw, the chamfer with our router table, and finally the score for the strop with gauges and rasps. The product will then rest in a vat of pine tar and linseed oil for some months.
Certain aesthetic details are inspired by the archaeological study of blocks from the Vasa, a Swedish ship launched in 1627, lost closely there after, and excavated in 1961. Block typology varied significantly during the 17th century region to region, sometimes with vary rounded nearly circular shapes, other times the blocks were hardly anything more than just that- blocks. We also see specific types such as fiddle blocks found more frequently in places like the Netherlands and less frequently in England. Fiddle blocks create a double block with sheaves in tandem rather than side by side, because they are used less frequently and because two single blocks can be siezed together to create a fiddle, I suspect the English found them less versatile. The Vasa blocks inspired our shape, a more rounded style, as well as our chamfer degree and the hardness of the chamfer’s edge. The sheaves of the Vasa blocks would leave the line proud of the block, that is, vulnerable to chafe. For this reason we have made our sheaves smaller. A smaller diameter sheave can be harder on the line, but considering our modern line material (polyester or polypropylene) we are within a safe sheave to rope diameter ratio.
After completing the single blocks we will move on to dead eyes, bulls eyes, double blocks, and any other specialty blocks. More posts will appear as we progress in our process.
Till next time