Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fair to Middling

'Fair to Middling' is a phrase from farming to describe a range of quality of animals and produce. The loosely defined grades were 'good', 'fair, 'middling', 'ordinary' and 'poor.' So 'Fair to Middling' was in the middle leaning toward good. 'Fair' by itself, is also a verb - to smoothen or even a surface.  I got a little obsessed fairing the radius I'm working into the gunwale of the boat.  Obsessed in the best possible way.

Back in 1992, when Disney's Aladdin movie came out, the Ringling Bros. & Barnum Bailey Circus which is based in Sarasota, was using an Aladdin theme at their souvenir tables. The vendors wanted minarets and they came to us - a small plastics job shop in town. I built the mold for the onion top part of the minaret. The minarets were molded in halves which were then put together and stuck on top of a section of 12" PVC pipe with an Arabesque window cut out of it. The whole thing was topped
off with a fancy finial the circus people made; that included a door knob as I recall.

The difficulty came in the phrase "put them together." The two halves had to have the exact same contour on each side for them to fit together in the three dimensional minaret. I made a backbone and ribs out of carefully cut pieces of plywood and then filled and shaped with bondo. After getting a rough shape, I made a template to check the curves and carefully sanded and filled until the minaret was completely symmetrical. It was this obsession with symmetry that hooked me again.

I could only imagine, sitting at the tiller while crossing an ocean, during the second week at sea; among the albatross and the whales, my brothers;  with the deepest bluewater from horizon to horizon; and all I can do is stare at this little skip in the curve of the gunwale where I had done my repairs. So, I sanded and filled, and sanded some more. Then I carefully sanded by hand, filled the low spots, and worked the high ones. There is sixty five feet of gunwale down the port side, across the stern and back forward to starboard. I was making about 15" an hour and having to make two passes.

Then again, it damn near looks like it was built that way now. I have to say that it is coming along nicely - slow like sculpture - but nice.

Just in case you missed the musical allusion above. OK, the dolphins can make me cry.

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