Installing the Rudder

Day 218.

With the completion of the rudder, pintles, and gudgeons, it is time to install and mount the rudder.

This should be easy, but it took two tries.  My first attempt, which happened right after my post on building the rudder, failed miserably.  I ended up pulling the pintles and gudgeons off (scrapping them), and doing a bit of damage to my hull and rudder.  The damage was patched with filler and paint, and the pintles and gudgeons were remade from scratch using a revised method.  My post on the pintles and gudgeons documents the second attempt, which ended up working.

What went wrong on my first attempt?  Alignment.  The pintles are mounted to the rudder, and the gudgeons are mounted to the sternpost on the hull.  Since the pintles have pins that fit into the gudgeons, and they are very small (0.032″ in diameter), the alignment has to be exact.

On my first attempt, I glued the pintles onto the rudder while the rudder was off the ship.  Then I held the rudder in place and marked the locations for the gudgeons on the hull.  I set the rudder aside and glued the gudgeons in place.  That didn’t work – the alignment was off, and every attempt to correct it just resulted in more glue and damage to the hull.

So, I worked on other things for a couple weeks (like nameplates and scroll work), regrouped, and tried a different approach.

Here’s what I started with after repairing the rudder, sternpost, and rebuilding the pintles and gudgeons:

The parts for the rudder installation.  The ship (obviously), the rudder, the pintles, and the gudgeons.

I know that simply gluing things on isn’t going to work.  To make this work, I need to be able to hold everything in place while I adjust the positioning.  I also need a way to physically attach the pintles and gudgeons while the rudder is being held in place.  That’s the only way to ensure the alignment is right.

So, gluing isn’t going to work.  If I’m holding the pieces on the ship, I can’t remove them to add the glue.

How was this done on the real ship?  These parts were bolted on, which is why I drilled holes in the pintles and gudgeons (to simulate bolts).  What if instead of just simulating bolts, we actually use them to mount the pieces?

The first step was to get the pieces temporarily in place.  Since I had shaped the pintles and gudgeons to fit specific places, they were already pretty snug.  I just reinforced them with a little tape so they wouldn’t slide around.

I did this with the rudder off the ship, and I put the gudgeons in place as well.  The pins on the pintles were clipped to ensure that there was enough clearance to lift the rudder up and out of the gudgeons.  (This is why the notches on the back of the rudder are taller than the height just the pintles and gudgeons.)

I added a piece of tape that goes around the rudder to keep the gudgeons from sliding off the pins.

Then I put the rudder in place, and positioned the gudgeons.  Again, since these were shaped already, they had a pretty snug fit.  It actually held pretty well already.

The pintles and gudgeons holding the rudder in place, without any glue or pins.  The tape keeps things from sliding around.

With the rudder in place, I started securing them in place.  For each part, I used a pin vise with a #64 drill bit and drilled through the holes on the part and into the wood.  I took care to not drill through the other side.

After the holes were drilled, I cut short pieces of brass rod, dipped them in some CA glue, and stuck them into the holes.  I gave each one a firm press with the end of a metal file to make sure it was completely seated into the wood.  As the rod goes into the wood, a small amount of CA glue gets squeezed between the strip and the wood, further strengthening things.

After drilling holes into the wood to match the holes in the strips, brass rod is glued in to form the bolts that hold the rudder in place.

I did one piece at a time, drilling the holes and adding the pins, since each piece locks the assembly down a little more.  By the time I reached the last couple, things were feeling very solid.

After the glue dried, the ends of the brass rods were snipped off.

The completed rudder, with working pintles and gudgeons.

Once everything was done, I gave it two quick tests.  First I made sure the rudder turned.  If it doesn’t turn, then all this work was wasted and I should have just glued everything in place with fake pintles and gudgeons.  The rudder turns.  Great success.

Then I tried removing the rudder.  Since the pintles and gudgeons are functional, I should be able to lift the rudder up slightly to pull the pins out of the gudgeons, allowing the rudder to be removed.  That worked.  And as a bonus (and much to my relief), it was easy to put it back on.

So that completes the rudder assembly and installation!

And that means I’m just about done with the hull, which is a pretty big milestone.  According to my plan, after this I’ll be working on deck structures (cabins, skylights, etc), which are a completely different kind of project than I’ve been doing so far.