What to make a new tiller out of?

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What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby fatjackdurham » Mon Sep 18, 2017 3:47 pm

What kind of wood should I make a new tiller out of? I leaned to hard on mine and it cracked. Must have been rotten.

I don't know if I can buy teak from Bone Cheapot. Can I use oak? Like in the old days?
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby GreenLake » Mon Sep 18, 2017 4:24 pm

I thought ash was the thing for tillers.... because it's supposed to be a bit springy and hold up well to the kinds of loads you put on a tiller.

Oak: there's a difference between red and white - red being inferior when it comes to rot. Ash is supposedly not all that rot resistant, but read on.

Speaking of tor: a tiller would be perfect for preserving by epoxy encapsulation with a varnish layer (PU). Reason is that it's a simple shape and you can get to all sides of it. That means teak (oily) is definitely not what you want, but you could consider some not so rot resistant hardwoods, because you'd seal out the moisture.

Also, this plays well with laminating a tiller from multiple strips of wood if you can't get a single piece. However the DS tiller works well using a single piece because it's straight.

Mine has a kind of rivet through it where it widens to form the fork. A thick wire (copper? bronze?) hammered flat on each side over a washer. Idea was presumably to counteract a tendency to split along the grain - that has worked well.

Those are just a few quick thoughts, but you might find
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby rnlivingston » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:10 pm

Over the years, I've made a lot of tillers. I mostly use alternate layers of ash and mahogany like the professionals use. Because the laminating process is what gives a tiller its' strength, you can probably use almost any woods. I've used white cedar, white oak and even some maple from an old table. Anything I make out of wood for boats, I coat with epoxy and varnish.
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby GreenLake » Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:54 pm

A laminated tiller would sure look nice.

There's strength and there's strength. For a tiller you normally don't want "brittle" strength; that said, laminates may well have a bit of extra, so that may not be as critical. Clearly, many professionally done tillers are laminated.

I don't know whether mine is original, but it's single piece and looks like ash to me. If not original to the DS, it's still professionally made (note the detail I mentioned). It held up pretty well, but after varnishing a few times I tumbled on the epoxy coating and that's made the coating much more durable (varnish doesn't crack over epoxy, because the wood no longer swells).

From my experience I would say that single piece tillers also work. (Btw. in addition to the rivet going horizontally through the shaft where it starts to form the fork, each end of the fork has a smaller rivet, vertically, in an attempt to prevent the fork from splitting from the force of the tiller pin. Nice thoughtful details. ... Lamination might make these last ones redundant, because if the fibers are angled as in plywood, then some would resist this very splitting. But even in a laminated rudder there isn't anything that strengthens the base of the fork.)

Reason I'm slightly questioning the provenance of my tiller is that it may be just a bit longer than typical for the DS. (That question came up eons ago in some context here). I like it, because it extends the seating positions from where I can use it w/o tiller extension. It's important to not limit the ability to swing up, sometimes I need to swing it up to get across. Best not to rig any downhaul in such a way that it locks the tiller in the down position...
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby TIM WEBB » Tue Sep 19, 2017 12:25 am

I gave up on wooden tillers after going through two brand new ones in less than ten years. FL climate was just too hard on them. Made one from SS tubing around the same time I built the new rudder head. Too bad I didn't get to use it very many times before TRW had to go back to her PO ... <pout>
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby GreenLake » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:51 am

Sorry, Tim, love the feel of my wooden tiller. Would always want to find a way to make that work.

I'm sure Jack knows what will survive in his climate.

Just a PS: I've read somewhere of someone using or better, adapting, an actual pickax handle for tiller. Not sure about the length, and how to fit it to a DS rudder (which needs a fork for the tiller, unlike some other designs) but the type of wood would be about right.
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby fatjackdurham » Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:20 am

My tiller doesn't need a fork. Must be a DS1 thing.

Using a pickax handle, brilliant! That is totally what I will do!
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby GreenLake » Tue Sep 19, 2017 1:24 pm

Oh no, now I started something. :shock: :shock:

About the fork: there are rudder heads that are just like flat boards, with a tiller that creates a fork around them. Let's the tiller swing up, which is nice. (Actually swings all the way around until it's parallel to the blade for storage). Then there are rudder heads that have a channel into which you insert a tiller. Obviates the need for a fork, but usually means the tiller can't swing up (however, when at the dock, it's easy to pull such a tiller out with the rudder still hung). For storage, you have two pieces.

I have both designs on different boats, but one is not a DS.
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby TIM WEBB » Tue Sep 19, 2017 9:15 pm

I believe Team Bunny Whaler in last year's R2AK had an axe handle for a tiller. And they could actually take it off and use it on an axe if need be!
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby GreenLake » Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:13 pm

TIM WEBB wrote:I believe Team Bunny Whaler in last year's R2AK had an axe handle for a tiller. And they could actually take it off and use it on an axe if need be!


Now, if the axe head doubled as their anchor, that would be serious repurposing :)
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby baggywrinkle » Sat Feb 24, 2018 1:53 pm

Thanks ! This helps as I'll someday be in the tiller building business. Just one. Small business.

I like how the flip-up version can make life a bit easier when tacking.
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby GreenLake » Sat Feb 24, 2018 9:29 pm

I can't imagine sailing with a fixed tiller. (Well, I have done it, but it's not my favorite).

I have another boat where the tiller slides fore and aft. That works well for that boat, also because it's smaller so you can actually reach the transom (so the tiller doesn't ever get completely out of reach).

Friends of mine just lost a tiller on the water. They were dousing their spinnaker with a downhaul line. When that parted, the helmsman who was pulling that fell backwards onto the tiller and broke it. There they were on the water, with the spinnaker wrapped around the bow and no tiller.

So, anything you do to make that tiller a bit beefy is a good thing...
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby baggywrinkle » Sun Feb 25, 2018 11:50 pm

I like an oar and an oarlock and an oarlock socket ready to go in case the rudder gets broke or lost etc.

A couple weeks ago I helped a friend move a neglected 45' Peterson a few miles under tow. The steering gear failed as we approached harbor. Although under tow, we really needed to steer. I went below to the aft cabin, put the emergency tiller on the rudder post, and took orders from the cockpit. We did ok, all the way in to the dock. Good thing that tiller was on board.
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Re: What to make a new tiller out of?

Postby GreenLake » Mon Feb 26, 2018 2:34 am

On my boat I, my first attempt would be to use one of the paddles.

If the tiller breaks, there may be enough of the rudder head left to allow lashing a paddle to it and continue home that way, using it as a tiller.

If its the rudder blade that snaps off, I'd try lashing a paddle to it pointing down. Would be less area but could work OK except in strong or very weak winds upwind. In strong wind, there may not be enough area and the lashing may not be strong enough to generate enough force to hold the boat, in very light winds, the less efficient paddle may generate too much drag.

If the rudder rips off, I'd do something similar to and oarlock: tie the middle of the paddle of to each corner, so there's a fulcrum and keep it at 45 degrees. Might work in conditions where it's not too heavily loaded.

Final thing to try would be to use both paddles. Lie one flat across the transom pointing out over the side. Lash the other one so it can go vertically down the side, like the old steering oars on viking ships. Secure the horizontal one by sitting on it and it might work. A paddle, being symmetric, would be "balanced", so needs less force turning it; if it requires more force to turn than you can muster with the handle alone, try lashing the tiller extension to the handle.

Key is to always bring a bit of spare rope...and paddles.

(Had to paddle my DS recently for a bit over half a mile - doable but not enjoyable - we got about 2 knots of boat speed.)
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