Bluenose Canadian Schooner

Counter Shaft Assembly

December 31, 2016

Day 274

With the deck structures complete, it is time to move on to the various bits of machinery.  The Bluenose has a windlass up at the bow that is used to lift heavy stuff (anchors, etc).  The engine (located in the engine box I built earlier), drives a winch assembly.  That assembly is connected by a drive chain to the counter shaft assembly, which contains gears that turn the windlass.

I’ve decided to start by prepping the counter shaft.  This can’t be glued in place on the deck until the windlass is in place, but it should be a much simpler part to make than the windlass.  Should be.

The counter shaft is made up of a few cast metal parts provided with the Model Shipways Bluenose kit.


The assembly is basically a rod with two gears on it, and the stands will support the rod.

As with all castings, these need to be filed down and cleaned up some.  This is where everything went to hell.

My counter shaft assembly broke.  The ‘rod’ is very thin, and this cast white metal is very soft, so breaking this was probably inevitable.

The easy fix (and what most people do here, as most builders of this kit have had the same problem) is to simply cut off the remaining bits of the rod, drill holes through the gears, and slide them onto your own rod.

However, I just got a Proxxon MF70 milling machine, and I’ve been wanting to try it out on something ‘real’.  I decided to try milling my own replacement gears.

I made my gears out of aluminum, using a 1/4″ diameter aluminum rod I picked up at a hardware store.  I cut a short length of the rod (maybe 2″ or so), and secured it in a rotary vise.

I used a 3mm milling bit to remove some material and give the gear its general shape.


I moved the bit over some, and cut a second area away.  The part in between will form the gears.


To make the teeth, I switched to a 1mm wide bit and cut across the surface of the aluminum.  The rotary vise allowed me to make a cut then rotate by a specific number of degrees, then cut again.  I decided to make a cut every 45 degrees.

Once the milling was done, I cut the gear free from the aluminum rod.

The end results turned out pretty good.  It isn’t perfect, and it is a little more ‘bulky’ than the one provided by the kit, but I think it looks cleaner and crisper.


This thing is really small, which makes it even more impressive that I was able to mill this from aluminum at home.


Of course, that assembly had two gears, and I started with the bigger one.  I repeated the process for the smaller gear.  On the smaller one, I started by removing some material from the outside of the rod to make it smaller, but after that the process was basically the same.


The teeth on the smaller gear didn’t come out straight.  I think I didn’t have bit perfectly straight and aligned with the piece.  While it is very noticeable here, I don’t think it will be noticeable once this is painted and installed.

With replacement gears made, I’m ready to assembly the assembly. I had to make the holes in the gears larger because I couldn’t find a smaller bit.  Since the stands already have small holes, I don’t want to use a bigger rod as that would require enlarging the holes.

To solve this, I used a thin rod with the stands, but I’m slipping a larger tube over it.  The gears will be attached to the tube, and the tube will be cut to the width of the assembly.


The gears are slipped on to the tube, and the tube is slipped onto the rod.


The entire assembly is ready for a test fit.


The next steps will be to glue the gears in place on the tube, glue the rod into the stands, and paint everything.

However, these gears need to line up with the windlass.  The ones from the kit would have lined up easily (they were made at the right size), but since I’ve made my own parts I’ll need to get the windlass in place so I can position these gears correctly.

So, the entire counter shaft assembly goes into a parts bag and gets set aside until I get some progress made on the windlass.