Or: Getting Your Ducks in a Row 

Inspired by my WoodenBoat School course on boatbuilding, I decided it made sense to loft the next boats that I plan to build. Lofting is the art of drawing full-size patterns of the entire boat in several views, such that you have all the curves fair and the measurements correct before you start cutting wood. It is an arcane science at best, but Greg Rössel, my instructor, made it look pretty much insane not to do it. Here is Greg showing us how to lift lines off the lofting to make perfect forms. (Note lofting ducks in lower part of photo.)

First thing I needed was a place big enough to loft. Since my book warehouse has gotten so dusty due to the collapse of the book market, I figured I should multi-task that space. Voila, a 4′ by 19′ lofting table with a lifetime supply of river books beneath it.

The next thing I needed were some lofting ducks–essentially lead weights that hold battens in place for the purpose of creating perfect fair curves. Turns out there are only a couple places in the world that sell lofting ducks and they run around $35 – $45 apiece, and I wanted a dozen or two. That would get pricey in a hurry. Further web searching brought up two things–instructions on how to cast your own ducks, which was tempting, and an outfit that paints them like ducks:

boatsofwood.com which I found inspirational. (This site also has a good picture of how the ducks are used.) Thus began a week or so of part-time goofing around at the newly founded and short-lived Fretwater Duck Foundry. Here is how to make about $1200 worth of ducks for about $100 and a bunch of messing around.

Carve a pattern duck out of an old two-by-four.

Get a bucket of lead tire weights from Double-D Tire Coral.

Fire up Dan’s steam-bending blaster.

As the steel and bits of rubber float to the top of the melting lead, rake it off with a slag-rake (made from finish nails and a scrap of plywood).

Meanwhile, make a box of damp sand, make some duck molds with your pattern, and get ready to pour.

Spray paint them, drill them for their brass points–made from 1/8″ brass rod, and glue in the points.

This next part is key: invite a bunch of friends for Thanksgiving weekend and have a big tamale party. Meanwhile, lay in a supply of hobby paints and brushes.

The rest is magic:

Starting with Daffy Duck (at about 5:30 in the picture):

Daffy Duck

Virgin of Guadalupe
Pato Corto Corrientes (Chilean Torrent Duck)
Hopi Blue Corn
Bowling Pin
Blue-footed Booby
Dory van pulling dory
White Pelican
Guinness Bottle
Belted Kingfisher
Eared Grebe
Whooping Crane
Great Blue Heron
Schizophrenic Wood Duck / Ibis
Jameson 12-year Bottle
another Great Blue Heron
American Flamingo
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Whale with barnacles
Corn goddess
Flat-nosed Rainbow Trout
Acorn Woodpecker
Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Many thanks to Lora, Jim, Andy, Kate, RJ and Terri for their magnificent renditions.