The Terry Thomas Sign

Terry Thomas Sign

What I did not need is another excuse for slowing/stopping progress, but I’ve found a ripper. A fall while off-trail bushwalking in October 2017 apparently tore a ligament allowing bones to rearrange themselves in my left (dominant) wrist. The condition is called SLAC wrist, or the charming “Terry Thomas Sign”. I’ve always loved the pantomime villain Terry Thomas played in some of my favourite movies, he was brilliant.

At the time I ignored the hurt, but during 2018 it got worse so I pursued a gradual escalation of medical intervention. That ended with an attempted reconstruction in November 2018. Once into the wrist with his knife, the surgeon discovered too much arthritis to proceed. Apparently the left wrist is riddled with it, quite a mess. There are also signs my right wrist may also be arthritic. The Doctor didn’t want to risk pulling it all tightly back together, when it wasn’t going to fit. So he set about performing an arthroscopic cleanup.

The medicos think the heavy fairing process did a lot of the recent damage, and I’d have to agree. I could never sustain fairing with a torture board for long, and was sore for days afterwards.

The whole thing has left me feeling pretty down and rapidly aged. It turns out I can’t do it all, being a part-time boat builder when I spent a life as a desk jockey has consequences.

I am writing this in March 2019 feeling about as recovered as I will be from the arthroscopy and news of the reality. I am feeling better in myself now, I’ve reconciled how I can progress with the build, I have also made real progress, I’ve changed out some tools, and learned a few new techniques which I will share in future posts.

I have also embraced some help from friends and I am deeply touched by their support.

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Do not collect tyre weights for your lead ballast.

(please note, this is a catch up post, I’ve not been on blogging this past year)

One day mid 2017, I deemed the hull of the sharpie fair. Which it isn’t (in my mind). But it’s fair enough which is fair-enough. Frankly I was sick of the machine I had created that turned epoxy and lightweight filler into dust for my vacuum. It was time to move on.

I had been visiting my local tyre purveyors, namely the lovely folks at Bridgestone Select Norwood, to collect tyre balancing weights, I had hundreds of kilograms, which when added to what Robert Ayliffe (my lead faerie) has gifted, got me to the magic 480-ish kgs. So I went foundry hunting.

This exercise lead down a pricey path. I got the first quote for casting the tiles at over $150 per tile from a leading local crew. And this took six months to get the quote! So I chased down a little gem in Bowden, such a striking throwback to when a factory playing with seriously heavy metal sits amidst dense housing. The Bowden crew wanted over $3000 to do the casting. They cited the cost of electricity, but after touring the premises, I reckoned the cost of site clean up will make the running cost insignificant. They are virtually gutter to gutter with residential, and the feeling that their days are numbered was overwhelming.


It’s one of those sad realities of a city growing up. I spent much of my youth in Brompton at my Grandparents’ place around the corner from this factory, and I loved the blend of industrial and residential. But like Trump and kindness, it just incompatible.

For a moment I considered doing my own casting, thinking about blending my own residential with industrial. And I would have got away with it if I hadn’t been thinking…


When looking further afield for an alternative, I called on Callington Cast Iron, and met with Jim who quoted me $35 per tile to cast, that would total $455…Quite a difference from over $3k. Just in-case he had second thoughts, I delivered all of my lead as quickly as possible.

More lead at the foundry

After a week went by, Jim delivered me some news. The tyre weights are useless. Hardly any lead in them, and what can be extracted is not worth the effort…

Bullet biting time. I had to buy lead from a scrap dealer, I hit the phone and found the best price is $4 per kilogram at KCM Metal.

KCM Metals - king of lead at the right price

Knowing you have to spend the money, you should get on with it and smile. This is meant to be fun. Thankfully KCM was a joy to deal with, the owner has a good sense of humour and runs a great little business, I hope he is getting rich, it’s a dirty business in every way. I especially love the T-Rex he owns. We should all have a large pre-historic killer nearby on a leash.


Two trips with the van, and much cash parted with then back to Callington Cast Iron: Initially I gave Jim thirteen styrofoam ‘plugs’ that were to be used in a lost casting method, where the molten lead would vaporise the foam that was packed in casting sand. This produces the best shaped tiles, with square sides. But because of the trouble with the tyre weights, he chewed through a few of these. Jim talked me into making a wooden plug, which would need tapered edges to remove from the sand. Not ideal, but workable.

So by Autumn ’18, I had lead tiles in hand.


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Goolwa Wooden Boat Festival 2017

Here are some photos from the 2017 Goolwa Wooden Boat Festival.

Posted in Epoxy, Friends, Robert Ayliffe, Uncategorized, wood work | Tagged , | 1 Comment

On worry.

Or do I mean procrastination? You have read many posts about sanding and fairing, and this is one more, potentially the last (for both our sakes, I hope so).

You put the faring batten on the hull, you look for deviations of more than a few millimeters. You do this in all planes. You argue with yourself what is ‘a few millimeters’. You run your hand around feeling for divets, you mark them as you find them. You fill with epoxy mixed with light-weight filler for sanding, you mistakenly vary the mix slightly from time to time, you save money with some water effected, lumpy filler. You vary the application process attempting to speed things up (troweling ridges vs multiple coats). You sand with varying electric devices, balancing the felt divets with the eyeballed fairing batten results.


Sometimes you over-sand, sometimes you under-thicken the filler. You eventually realise that everyone is correct, this is only a job for hand sanding with a long/torture board. You fight that concept. You plan to hire a fairing team. You can’t find any money for the hire of the team. You wonder where they work and how to find them. You look for more information on fairing. You beat yourself up about not being able to complete this ‘simple’ task that is holding everything up.

You try again on the long board. Your lack of upper body fitness is obvious. The rotten left shoulder bites back. You give up. You beat yourself up and try again. You end up aching and frustrated and the hull appears no better. You ask advice, you get your work inspected, you get varying answers. Everyone is telling you (the truth) that it is a personal decision.

So, you bite the metaphorical bullet, and spend four days hand sanding.

And it now looks and feels pretty good.

It may be fair now!

Posted in Epoxy, norwalk island sharpie, Shedcam, Tools, Uncategorized, wood work, wooden boat | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A friend wins the Rough and Ready

At the Goolwa Wooden Boat Festival, Rough and Ready Race 2017, my new found boat friend, Paul Cleaver, won with his brilliant design and build.

The side wheeler punt, Punty McPuntface swept around the buoy, elbowing out all comers (including loud Americans), to take a victorious bow.

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So many tips!

If you are prone to help videos, and general boaty building information, you absolutely must watch ALL of these videos on this fab YouTube channel, Tips from a Shipwright.

Shipwright Louis Sauzedde is a wonderful personality, and incredibly skilled with his hands. I would highly recommend watching the full series on building the work skiff, 30-ish episodes from timber yard to water.

Link to the show’s website:

Prepare to get lost!

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My god months pass!

I have been doing everything. Including boat work.
Just letting you know, I’m alive and happy, the boat is looking fair and is progressing. My career as a blogger and social media magnate has waned at the expense of some focussing.

Some key points:

  1. I killed Robert’s Festo sander (gearbox).
  2. I killed my Metabo sander (bearings).
  3. I had Robert’s sander’s gearbox replaced and it’s as new, but still patina riddled.
  4. He took it away (apparently he had to use it…sheesh!)
  5. I brought a new one, he paid for it.
  6. I am buying his old one off him. Bingo.
  7. I went to the Hobart Wooden Boat Festival.
  8. I have been sailing (see below video).
  9. I also have been sanding.

Here is a video by the wonderful Paul Cleaver of our little West Lakes sail together.

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