The Naiad Voyages

Mark Austen

2019.02.17 - New Tiller

I bought some things back from Naiad in order to sand them down and give them a coat or two of varnish and the tiller was one of these. When I started the job I realised that the tiller was falling apart.


You can see the centre Oak veneers delaminating from the Sapele at the heel...


...and the same thing is occurring at the other end although it is not so easy to see here. This is probably due to the Oak not being a particularly easy wood to glue due to the tannin. Now I could try to fix this but that is not an easy job, in fact it would be a bit of a bodge in that I'd have to clean up the joints and then try to force more glue it to the gaps and at the end of the job there would be no guarantee that it would be any better.


Naiad came with two tillers, a plain one and a posh one. This is the posh one with some lovely rope work at the steering end. It is of no use to Naiad as it stands but I thought that if I cut off the posh, straight end of this tiller and the good heel end of the current tiller I could join the two pieces together with a spacer and get a posh new tiller as a result.


Here are the two good pieces form the tillers. You can see that I have moved the rope work forward a little and this is for two reasons. Firstly it will give me space to work on the join and secondly I will slide it back down to overlap the join a few millimetres to hide it away.

A straight butt join would probably not be particularly strong so I drilled a hole in each end and inserted a length of 10mm stud in each.


The spacer piece will have matching holes and the resulting joins, when glued up, should be pretty strong.


I laminated a spacer from some Sapele veneers then planed it on all four sides and cut it to length.


I cut a short length of the 10mm stud and ground a point on one end.


One end of the new tiller was clamped in a vice and four ice-cream sticks clamped around the top to locate the spacer.


The pointed stud was inserted into the hole, the spacer then slid down between the ice-cream sticks and carefully positioned and then the top end was given a whack with a wooden mallet.


The result is a dimple in the spacer where the hole needs to be drilled.


Like this. The marks are to ensure that I get the spacer the correct way up each time as the hole is not dead centred in the end of the pieces.


The joining stud was put in place...


...and the spacer mounted on top to ensure that it all worked as expected.


This was repeated with the heel end of the tiller.


And here is the resulting tiller dry fitted. It is about 1/2" longer than the old tiller but that is not going to be a problem as the length is not critical.


The three pieces were glued together using thickened epoxy, ensuring that plenty of epoxy went down the holes so that the studs are also glued in place. I left the tiller standing like this until the epoxy had hardened a little as laying it down on a flat surface would distort the tiller due to the thicker heel end and the rope work on the other. Once it was stable I brought it inside and stood it next to the Rayburn to finish curing.


Here is the new tiller with fully cured epoxy.


The spacer piece now needs to be sanded so that it matches the same of the two end pieces.


The tiller, now shaped, hanging in the workshop with the first coat of varnish applied. I'll need to be a little careful here to ensure that the varnish is not too cold when being applied as it goes lumpy if that happens. I think I'll be moving the tiller up to stand beside the Rayburn again after about 12 hours as well as the pot of varnish so that both the wood and the varnish are warmed up for the next coat.

If all goes well there might be some good sailing weather on Saturday morning and I should be able to get the tiller ready for then. I hope so, I can't sail with a tiller!


And here is the tiller in action. I've not moved the rope work back to cover the join as yet as I want to give the varnish time to harden. If I move it back too soon it will become embedded in the soft varnish and difficult to move again.

So I nice new tiller.