Thursday, December 15, 2011

Panasonic Sport Headphones (RPHSC200K) are brutal

I do a lot of running, biking, and other active sports. I tend to do most of these carrying my IPhone 4 so that I can track my progress using app AllSport GPS (I really need to do a review of that app some day because I love it).

The only problem with this setup is that the earphones that come with the IPhone just aren't great for staying put when active. They are fine when loafing around but the minute that I start moving they are out of my head. I end up spending most of my activity adjusting them or putting them back in.

So, I decided that I would break down and buy a decent pair of sport headphones so I did some looking around online and perusing at FutureShop . My criteria when selecting headphones weren't elaborate. I wanted something with a reasonable sound spec and something that was in an in-between price range. My second criteria was based solely on the fact that I figured a cheap set wouldn't be any good but I didn't want to spend $100 on something that I would be beating around with outside.

I settled on the Panasonic Sport Headphones. At the time these were $59.99 + tax (they have since dropped in price). They were from a reputable company and met my criteria.

The performance of these has been less than stellar.

The sound quality is dismal. They have absolutely no bass output (despite what the package assured). They sound as though they are only half inserted (so I find myself constantly trying to jam them in further).

They sort of stay in when running but I still find they rattle out to some extent.

The volume control is laid out the same as a standard set of Apple headphones but the rubber coating makes them practically useless when active.

I would avoid these headphones. There are really no positive attributes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pram build - Step 8 - Exterior finishing

Once the interior was finished I flipped the boat back over and finished the exterior.

The first task for the exterior finishing were the runners. I made these out of 3/4 x 3/4 strips of spruce. I used the dimensions on the plans to space them out, applied epoxy and screwed them into the frame pieces.

Once the epoxy cured I used a plan to share the front edge of the runners so that they slopped flush at the front edge.

I finished up sanding, filling, sanding, filling and more sanding until the bottom was fair and smooth.

I applied the same primer and yellow boat paint to the bottom of the boat. I used 3 coats of paint.

I applied a name to the back (because every boat deserves a name!) using black paint. I chose the name Mâthos since my sailboat is named Salammbô and Mâthos was her lover.

Once dry I fitted the remaining hardware (cleats and oarlocks) as well as adding a bump rail to the gunwales. For the bump rail I used 1" rope tie wrapped to the gunwales.

I am exceptionally happy with how Mâthos turned out. She is a very good rowing boat, pulls very well behind the sailboat and is remarkably stable. I can fit my family of 4, our dog and a days supplies in her and still have 6" or freeboard (approx 645lbs). I wouldn't want to go out in rough water with that much weight though! I've had her with one other person in heavy waves with no issue at all. A very dry tender.

I have also purchased a small 30lbs thrust electric motor to use on the back of her and it works very well for ferrying us out to the mooring with no effort.

I would highly recommend John Gardner's "A plywood Pram". The instructions in his book are a little sparse but the boat comes together well. If you attempt a build of the boat and have any questions about how I did something, please ask. I'll answer the question as best I can and update these pages as appropriate as well.

I would also welcome additions/amendments to my instructions. This has worked out well with my loft bed plans. Collaboration with a couple of builders has made the instructions much more useful.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pram build - Step 7 - Interior finishing

Once the seats and gunwales were dry I set about cleaning up the interior. I used thickened epoxy to fill in any gaps, voids or holes. Everything was sanded once the epoxy set.

I also used this opportunity to install a ring on the bow. This will be used for towing the tender so I wanted it to be sturdy. I was also impatient on a Sunday and didn't have access to a real piece of hardware. I used an old shackle and epoxied it in place. Seems to work well.

Once everything was cleaned up reasonably well I finished the interior with a coat of oil based primer and oil based boat paint.

I wanted to finish the interior first so that I wouldn't scrape the bottom paint later on in the process.

Once everything dried I flipped the boat over for exterior finishing.

Next Step

Pram build - Step 6 - Seats and Gunwales

Once the epoxy work was completed on the outside I unscrewed the boat from the supports and flipped it over. I removed all of the extra bracing and build forms. The boat sits well on the 2x4 building jig so I've continued to use that as a working platform.

The next step was to complete the seats and install the gunwales. First the seats:

I used 1x4 stock that I had previously ripped out of 1x6 spruce to frame the seats.

I built the simple frames as shown in the pictures.The front and back seats were built off of the existing mold pieces at station 1 and 5. There were built to be filled with foam and sealed. The middle seat was built open so that items could be stored underneath.

For foam I used primarily some pool noodles. I cut them into shorter pieces and crammed them into the spaces as tightly as I possible.

The top of the seats are made out of 1/4 plywood. Everything was glued with epoxy.

Before assembling the seats I liberally applied wood preservative to the inside surfaces. Since the inside of the seats might get damp I thought it would help prevent rot.

The gunwales were very simple to assemble. I simply used 1 1/4"x1" strips of spruce. These were fastened with screws and glued with epoxy. I glued the gunwales on longer than necessary and then cut them off after they had dried.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pram build - Step 5 - Hull pieces and epoxy fun

Drafting and cutting out the hull pieces was an aspect of this project I wasn't looking forward to. There is very little on the plans around the hull pieces. While it is possible to draft out the pieces, that would take a long time and would be difficult to do accurately. I decided to cheat instead... and it worked!

First things first, splicing the plywood. Unless you can get 10' sheets of plywood (we don't get it around here), you are going to need to splice together two pieces. The easiest way to do this is to simply butt the pieces together, tape and epoxy one side, wait for it to dry, fill and tape the other side and you're done.

Since I didn't plan this part in advance, and I didn't want to wait for the epoxy to cure, I decided to use a temporary method and join the pieces with a piece of 1x4 screwed to one side. Later on, once the pieces were assembled, I re-did the butt joint properly with epoxy and tape and removed the butt block.

Note: If you search for "scarf joint" on Google you will find all sorts of complicated ways to join plywood. I've used the tape method with a lot of success. I'm not sure why people bother with cutting delicate angles and other complicated methods...

Once I had my joined plywood these are my cheater steps that I took to cut out the hull pieces:

  • First I cut the plywood in half (and 10' long) so that I had 2 sheets of 2x10. The two bottom pieces fit on a single 8' sheet. 

  • For each piece, I simply took the 2' wide sheet and temporarily screwed it onto my frame pieces. I crawled under the piece and traced out the shape of the frame on the plywood. I unscrewed the piece and used a jigsaw to cut it out. Each piece was screwed back in place. I repeated this process for each of the 4 pieces. It worked great!  I used screws throughout the project, even though the author recommends nails. I prefer working with screws, no better reason. 

  • Once all of the pieces were screwed in I used thickened epoxy to fill in any gaps that remained between the pieces. Each joint was then fiberglassed with 4" tape and epoxy. 

A note on epoxy, for thickening epoxy I use a variety of materials. I do like to use the fancy West System fillers when it comes time to fair or do small fillings. For everything else I usually use sawdust. It's cheaper and does a good job filling but it's a little harder to make smooth.

Pram build - Step 4 - Installing chines and keelson

Installation of the chines and keelson is a little bit finicky but isn't too difficult.

I used spruce 1x6x10 as stock and ripped them into 1x1x10 strips.

These are the steps:

  • Trace notches onto bulkheads in each position shown on the plans. I fully notched the bow and transom pieces as well since those notches would be covered with fiberglass tape (and paint) later. This would make life easier now without affecting the finished look. If you are doing clear finish you will probably want to only notch halfway into the bow and stern pieces so that the ends aren't sticking out.
  • Next I used a jigsaw to notch out each piece. 

  • I dry fit each spruce strip to make sure that it was fitting well and adjusted as required.

  • Finally I epoxy glued each strip into place.

  • When the glue had dried I planed each of the strips so that they were flush with the adjacent form piece. At the bow the amount of planing required was more significant. 

  • Finally I adjusted each of the forms slightly to bring everything into proper alignment so that it looked reasonably fair along each line. In retrospect this would probably be easier to do before gluing the pieces on but there was enough play in the strips to achieve fairness.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New home for loft bed plans

I recently received some great feedback on my original loft bed plans. To make them easier to find and navigate I have created a new, more permanent home, for the updated plans here:

Please reference this new location for the most up to date version of the plans. If you have your own contribution to this page or any other of my posts, please send them to me or add a comment. I really appreciate the feedback!

Also, I appreciate any linking to the plans. Spread the URL around!



Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pram build - Step 3 - Assembling bulkheads

Once the bulkheads are framed the next step is to actually mount them on the building jig. I used 1x4 planking to mount the bulkheads but anything of reasonable size can be used. I cut my planking to 2' but that's actually longer than required. 18" is probably lots for these.

The height of the bulkheads above the building jig isn't on the plans directly but can be derived from them. This took me a little bit of time to figure out initially. To save you the same effort, here are the table of values for these heights. The last column has the values of interest, the others are for reference. All measurements are in inches (and fractions of inches):

Here are the steps:

  • Install the 1x4 vertical boards at each station. Make sure that they are square to the jig. I offset the boards by 1/4" so that the bulkheads would sit exactly at the station mark.
  •  Next I installed a temporary baseline from end to end of the jig. This was used to validate my measurements against the plan measurements (since they are mostly done in relation to the baseline.) I used a simple piece of string strung between both ends at the baseline height (2' 21/2"). I also used this as a guide for centering the bulkheads as I mounted them.

  • I then marked on each of the verticals the height for that bulkhead. (using the values above)

  • I then mounted each of the bulkheads at the measured heights. I hung a plumb line off of the baseline in order to line up the bulkheads. 

Since the bulkheads and temporary molds are different sizes it makes the whole thing looked a little wonky when you get them mounted. I checked the overall shape by using a long thin piece of wood and laying it from end to end at various positions on the bulkheads. Everything seems to check out well. I did adjust bulkhead #2 down 1/4" to make sure it was fair. 

I'll cut off the extra bits of the vertical pieces once I've got my stringers in place. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pram build - Step 3 - Cutout and frame bulkheads

I won't go into any detail around cutting out of the bulkheads. That's pretty straight forward.

The framing of the bulkheads provides a decision point. There are a few aspects of this that are unclear in the plans and description in the book.

If you look at sheet 1 on the plans, it looks like only the bulkheads have trim around them. This kind of makes sense to me since the other 2 are only forms for the building process. For now I have decided to not frame the #2 and #4 pieces until I see that its required.

The other thing that isn't clear at this point is how the keelson, chine and riser strips connect to the bulkheads. Looking at the bulkhead layout on sheet 1,  it kind of looks like the bulkheads are cut out to accommodate the strips. Once I get the bulkheads positions I will explore this some before cutting notches in my nice bulkheads. Inversely, it does not look like the temporary forms are notched in this way. That seems odd that one would be and the other isn't. Time will tell. I'll update this section once I figure out the right answer (or at least an answer that works for me!)

Framing the bulkheads is straight forward. The plans call for 7/8" x 7/8" spruce but I have 1x8 cedar planks available. I ripped these into 1" strips for use. The actual framing was a little finicky because of the odd angles but it worked out fine. Approximately 1 hour to frame the 3 bulkheads.

Elmer's P9406 Ultimate High Performance Glue 2-OunceRather than epoxy, I used Elmer's Ultimate Glue (Polyurethane) to fasten the framing to the bulkheads. This project is my first experience with using this glue instead of epoxy so we'll see how it goes. The glue gets good reviews and it is certainly cheaper and easier to work with then epoxy.

Previous Step
Next Step

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pram Build - Step 2 - Layout bulkhead and form pieces

Doing the layout of the pram is the part that I was dreading the most. Although the plans seem to have all of the details required, they aren't exactly as easy to digest as plans that you can buy from most of today's designers.

John Gardner gives his drawings in a traditional drafting format. This means that, rather than having all of the dimensions where they would be most useful, they are spread sparingly across all sheets drawings.  While I understand the rational of doing it this way, it doesn't make it very easy for actually figuring out what to do.
Sheet 1 (Page 33)

I'm going to describe the steps that I've used to draw out the pieces on wood. If, like me, you aren't very comfortable with his style of plans then this might be helpful. Otherwise, you might want to skip to the next post.

Note: I've labeled each of the 3 sheets (to the left) with numbers to help with my descriptions. On the sheets in his book they aren't numbered.

Sheet 2 (Page 31)

John's plans give indications on sheet number 3 on how to nest the pieces on the plywood for the side and bottom pieces. He doesn't do the same for the bulkheads.

A quick look at the table of stations on sheet #2 provides an important bit of information. Four of the bulkheads/forms have half-breadths that are over 2'. Obviously this means that we will have to lay out the bulkheads width wise in the sheet of plywood. I only mention this because I almost started laying them out length-wise...

Sheet 3 (Page 32)
So, here are the steps I took. I'll only put the steps for station #1. The rest will be the same. Note that some of my measurements below will be in the format of x-x-x which represents x feet, x inches and x eights of an inch. All of the station measurements are in this format on the plan.

  1. First I used a chalk line to create a center line 2' 3 1/2" from the edge of the plywood. This is the distance of the longest half-breadth (station 3) as found in the table of stations.
  2. Measure, on the chalk line, from the edge of the plywood up the height to the chine height (4") and draw a parallel line. (This measurement is found on sheet #1)
  3. Measure across the chine-line the chine width.(1-2-5) Repeat on the other side. 
  4. Connect the chine to the bottom point on each side.
  5. Measure up the chalk line the distance to the top of the sheer. 1' 3 3/4" (This measurement is found on sheet #1)
  6. Measure across the sheer line the distance of the half-breadth of the sheer. (1-9-2). Repeat on the other side.
  7. Connect the chine to the sheer on both sides. 
  8. Mark the line midway across the bulkhead (the distance from the sheer to the top of the bulkhead). In this case 6 3/4" from the sheer.
Station 1 layout

With stations 1, 3 & 5 the bulkheads don't use the entire area of the bottom to sheer. As noted on the drawings on sheet #1. This means that you can overlap each of those stations on the plywood to save on material. It makes the layout look kind of messy but it saves a lot of wood. 

In the image above, the top 3rd of the section does not get used but it is required for layout to get the right angles.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pram Build - Step 1 - Build the Jig

Building Jig
Step 1 of the pram build is to set up the building jig for the project. Actually, truth be told, step 1 for me was to clean up my garage/workshop/storage area so that I can fit the project in. They say that cleanliness is next to godliness. If that's the case, my garage is the devils playground.

Anyways, this step is very straight forward as described in Gardner's book. I simply set up two 10 foot long 2x4, on edge on two saw horses, 22 inches apart (on the inside), squared them and secured them together with horizontal 2x4 on the underside. I also fastened them directly to the saw horses to keep them in place during the build.

Time spent (not including 3 hours of cleaning time!): 1/2 hour

I hope it all comes together as quickly as this!

Once the jig was built I marked the station lines on the jig and squared them across both sides.
Stations on building jig

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Recipe: Chickpea "fish" cakes

Chickpea "fish" cakes


These patties are good when placed on sandwiches or by themselves as a substitute for fish cakes. They don't really taste the same at all but that was the concept that I started with.
Anyways, here goes:

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:

  • chickpeas rinsed, drained and mashed -1 Can
  • onion minced   -  1/4
  • red bell pepper minced   - 1/4
  • celery seed - pinch
  • curry powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Eggs - 2
  • mayonnaise - 1 tbsp
  • Olive oil - as needed for frying

Mix all ingredients together well. Make into patties. Heat oil in pan and fry until golden. It only takes a couple of minutes per side.

I used my patties in a baked sandwich with avocado, thin sliced apple, lots of jalapeño,Havarti cheese and honey mustard. Very tasty.

Published: March 11, 2011

John Gardner - A Plywood Pram

After losing my Roar2 (still not sure what happened to it) this past fall, I have decided to build a replacement tender. I looked briefly at buying Zodiac style boat but thought that would be a bit of a cop-out.

 So, I started looking for a good tender design. I enjoyed Jim Mchalak's Roar2. It was a fun build and it rowed great but it wasn't the best fit as a tender since it was long and a little tipsy. After much searching I've come full circle back to a book that I already own by John Gardner called "Building Classic Small Craft". I really like the look, and ease of building of "A Plywood Pram" (Page 30).

I really like browsing through John Gardner's designs in his book but they really aren't that easy to understand the steps in actually building the boats. (what can you expect when you get 46 plans in a $20 book.) I have a feeling that there will be a fair amount of figuring-out that will be required throughout this build. Rather than everyone having to go through the same figuring-out during their build, I'm going to document the build in a fair amount of detail in the hopes that it will make somebody else's life easier if they take on the same project.

So, grab a copy of the book, and follow along in my build. Hopefully it will get you through your own as well.

Follow all of the associated posts (as I get them written) by browsing the label "pram".

Step 1: Build the jig

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chrysler Canada - Certainly no Subaru Canada

Four years ago, 6 months into our new-to-us Subaru Legacy, our Legacy blew a head gasket. If you've experienced this problem you know that it is a major problem and cost. In fact the cost was estimated at over $3000. At the time our Legacy had 140,000km on it and was 40k out of warranty.

We took it to the dealer for repair with the expectation of having to foot the entire bill. We were amazed, two days later, when the service guy at Fox Subaru called us and told us that Subaru was going to cover the entire bill. I had no expectation of this and would have begrudgingly paid the entire bill myself. Fox went out of their way to try to get me a deal. To this day I have nothing but positive things to say about Subaru despite the fact that my Legacy continued to have other mechanical problems (including a second head gasket!)

Fast forward to Christmas 2011. Coming home from a Boxing Day party our Torque converter went on our Jeep. This manifested with it slipping out of gear, going up a hill, and never returning. We had the Liberty towed in to the nearest Jeep dealer (Dobson Chrysler).

The service at Dobson was actually pretty good. They kept me informed, they were pleasant and they fixed the problem. The total cost was $2600.

This was the second major problem I had on the Jeep in just over 5000km. A full Turbo rebuild in October wasn't exactly cheap. However, this time, I was (only) 5000km over warranty. I called Chrysler hoping that they might help me out considering the problems I had and how close it was to warranty. Alas, they called me back and wouldn't do anything to help.

So, lesson learned? Subaru helped out way beyond what would reasonably be expected and Chrysler wouldn't do anything when (I think) it would have been reasonable.

I still enjoy driving my Jeep but I'm just not sure I would buy another. I wonder if Subaru would take it on a trade??