Monday, April 29, 2013

Wood Cleats

So, I was talking with my friend Chuck the other day... You know Chuck, he built a Chebacco, which I have had the pleasure of cruising on, in the San Juan Islands. He also built a Ness Yawl.

But now both of those boats have been replaced by two deep draft, fixed keel cutters. Chuck loves cutters.

We'll get into the details about his cutters another day. I'm scheduled to crew for Chuck on a 400 mile open ocean trip, north from Newport, Oregon to the Salish Sea, in July. Unless we get side-tracked to Hawaii or something.

Suffice to say, each of these boats is traditionally built and could, by all appearances, be among the relics of the nineteenth century. Chuck is also a keeper of history.

Because I'm known to have a stash of old, hard to find hardware, and because I'm selling the stuff off, Chuck called me and asked if I have a matched set of Herreshoff cleats. As a life-long scavenger / recycler of old boats and boat parts, I can tell you, this is a difficult request. To top it off, he wants them in polished bronze.

Now we're talking about pure gold.

I know he has his heart set, so I didn't mention the wood cleats I've been making recently. But to me, these varnished, handmade hardwood accessories are more salty than a casting.

The one I really like is a tiny thumb cleat I was asked to make as a duplicate of an old original, the belay cleat for a sprit sail. It's made of a hardwood called Appeton, which has a lot of natural oil and is strong and durable. It's just two inches long and appropriately sized for 1/4" to 3/8" line.

Try it yourself - it's very therapeutic.


Baydog said...

When I was five, wood cleats were the norm. Then these crazy aluminum contraptions came out and started to corrode, and I said, 'who's putting salt on these?'

momist said...

Much as I love the appearance of wood cleats, one once let me down badly and could have cost me my life. I replaced it with cheap and cheerful hot dip galvanised steel.

Brandon Ford said...

Nice cleats Michael! I'm a fan, as you know. 200 years ago boat hardware was usually made from hard wood. It worked then and it still does... if it's made and maintained right. A beautiful wooden cleat outshines the best metal one any day.


The Unlikely Boatbuilder said...

Momist: you just have to be careful in your wood selection. The obvious wood -- teak -- should be avoided. Not strong enough. White oak dries out. Last year, I asked some of the wood guys at Mystic Seaport and they recommended Live Oak. I've got a few big chunks of it and will be replacing my white oak cleats with bigger live oak ones.

But the main thing is, they're fun to make.

doryman said...

It's hard to beat galvanized hardware for strength, that's a fact.
I would not use oak, though. Think of firewood - what is the most difficult wood to split you can think of? That's what you want. As I said, I use Appeton. Black Locust would be even better.

Scott said...

What are your thoughts on Pupleheart? I've got one finished and a couple more started, but still tell me if there is anything wrong with it. They are fun to carve, but then I feel guilty for not doing something I "should" be doing...Oh so many of those things!

doryman said...

Purpleheart is an excellent wood for hardware. Quite a challenge to work with. And it smells good.