Tag Archives: the shop

2010 Week 12 in Review

The green giant

The green engine paint for the Maris Pearl was a hit and the brighter lights make the engine room feel bigger, so we’ve gotten the go-ahead. We’ll clean and paint and clean again and see how much paint sticks and paint again until it’s done.

It sounds simple, but I see this as a commitment to a new color and a plan to maintain the color, rather than a one-time “paint job.” The engine will always shed some paint, so occasionally it gets touched up and after working on it, I always touch up the chipped parts and the new parts.

Update on the Lightship No. 83

We’re still working on the boiler plate documents for the Lightship RFP. They say it shouldn’t be hard, it’s all in the manual – an 800-page document.

Clear space!

With the Washington injectors for the Pacific Yarder sent back to California and an hour or two spent mopping the floor, my bench and the space around it is all clean. It’s good to have the shop clear – even though the void will fill up quick.

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2009 Week 53 in Review

“I’ll see U in B-U-N-A”

Well, the Viton packing we used in the Catalyst‘s injectors failed: it kept creeping in-between the stem and the packing follower, which made the stem and packing follower stick together like they were one solid piece. This in turn held the stem up and allowed fuel to pour out of the injector, which can lead to problems.

We might have been able to solve this by water-jet cutting the Viton to make a better fit, but there are too many other factors (the Viton might be squishier than Buna, it doesn’t use cloth like Buna does, etc) to really pin down the problem. So, it’s back to the drawing board, and Buna seals for now.

Enterprise for Sale

Nick wanted to remind everyone that there is an Enterprise for sale for those of you who need real power. The listing is here.

A WIW Re-Discovered!

I got a call this week from an engine collector who had been recently contacted by a fisherman with a Washington Iron Works diesel that had to move. Wow, what a find!

Washington Iron Works diesel engine from the fishboat NEW ZORA

The engine is from 1935 and was removed in 1965 and put in a Bellingham net shed where it sat until last week. The fisherman’s family was helping to clean out the locker and thought that before scrapping the engine, they should spend some time finding out what it is.

Back at Old Tacoma Marine, we were able to pull the Washington Iron Works engine card and learn more about the engine: it’s from a fishboat called the New Zora, owned by Anton Zorich and later the Burke Canning Co.

Washington Iron Works index card for the NEW ZORA

This is all very exciting, since there are so few Washingtons left: this makes sixteen, according to our list. The family and the collector are still deciding on its fate, but for now it’s dodged the scrapper once again.

Please email me with suggestions on interesting ways to use this Washington, or if you want to give it a good home.

Cleaning up shop

Yup – it’s all tidied up to start ’10 with a clean slate.

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2009 Week 52 in Review

A little work on the Maris Pearl

I did a little bit of clean-up on the Maris Pearl this week and got it all wrapped up for the year. We’re done for now and the boat will be in use for the next little while. The next project is the control head, yeah!

More parties, oh my God

First up this week was the Shop Party. Past shop parties have been passing a bottle of scotch around after the workday on Christmas in a defiant, Bah-Humbug way that I have always been partial to, because as much as I like to go to all the holiday parties, I like to work on Christmas Day.

Not this year, though – Brian the shipwright decided to throw a real holiday party. It was a cute gathering of our people and their friends and drinks. The highlight was the player piano. Many of you may be surprised to know that two of the four pianos in our shop are player pianos, where the pianist pumps pedals to make it play. I learned about ten years ago how much fun pumping the player piano while drinking can be, so I led the charge on that front (even if the scroll had to be taped onto the reel).

A piano shop?!? I thought it was a boat and engine repair shop…

Next up was Pacific Fisherman Shipyard, of which I am a share holder. Their holiday party true to form had more king crab than we could eat, but we tried. Thanks for the crown, Doug!

And next, the Maris Pearl‘s wonderful owners hosted a holiday party in Portage Bay, via the locks and Lake Union. It was a great trip, featuring Christmas carols from the Argosy boats, but those still couldn’t compare to the rhythm and melody from the big DMQ-8.

New research partner!

We meet with Neal from Ederer Llc, a crane manufacturing company that bought the Washington Iron Works crane division. It turns out that Neal has a few filing cabinets full of Washington Iron Works stuff he’s held onto for years, and he wanted to compare notes. This is really exciting for us at OTM Inc, because Washington Iron Works of course manufactured our favorite diesel engine line.

It turns out that not only does Neal have a lot of microfilm with blueprints of engine parts, but he has deciphered the pattern of the reference numbers that makes the collection useful. This is really exciting, because the engineers at WIW labeled everything, from photographs to technical drawings, but it’s like a secret code unless you know the key.

Our first trip to Ederer was short and sweet so we didn’t have time to find out how many diesel engine drawings are on the microfilms, but we plan on getting together again soon.

Annual Board Meeting

OTM Inc’s annual board of directors meeting was held Christmas Day, as it has been since incorporation.

Annual OTM Inc Shareholder Meeting

Highlights this year included: a switch to sapphire gin (no JD), a decision to not produce a year-in-review publication (it’s too much work), and a slight increase in health coverage for officers. Other items of business included affirming that employee salaries remain the same, other insurance policies will be renewed, the shop lease will be renewed, beer backs ordered, and the advertising department will be pressing more size-small girly tank tops.

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2009 Week 41 in Review

This week at Old Tacoma Marine, we cleaned all the Catalyst parts we pulled off last week. We broke them all down, then put the oily parts in the hot tank with a heated lye solution and an agitator for a few hour. Then we washed the parts off with water and then with solvent, and then some of them got blasted with glass beads until clean and others got wire-wheeled and the brass got polished.

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2009 Week 39 in review

We spent this week puttering in the shop, reviewing Lightship notes, and gossiping under the roll-up door – an important process for transferring important information – and playing the antique player pianos coming into the shop these days.  Here’s Dan playing one of the many lined up by the office:

An update from Indian Grave Pumphouse

I got from the Indian Grave Pumphouse, saying if they leave engine #3 shut down for a few days, then they have to go and bleed all the fuel lines to make it go again. From here, it seems like the things that could be causing it are: leaky injectors, leaky pumps, or leaky fuel lines. More on that when we hear more from Illinois.

A visit to Forks

On Friday, Brian the shipwright and Shannon the VP of Northwest Seaport and I drove out to Forks to inspect the lumber cut for the Lightship #83’s new deck. We arrived at McClanahan Lumber just before noon and checked out the two beautiful piles of milled fir cut to order for the Seaport:

The ends were waxed to keep them from drying too fast and cracking, the few knots are on the lower side so the caulking won’t touch it, and the planks were cut to leave minimum sap wood – the outside few inches of the tree that gets included on a few planks; it looks lighter when viewed on the end:

We got some good news, too: the sawyer said that there’s no need to rotate the planks as they’re drying. Shipwrights, stay tuned for more about the Lightship deck project in the coming months. Finally, thanks to the McClanahans for lunch and amazing blackberry pie.

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2009 Week 24 in Review

OTM Inc spent most of this week working on the Arthur Foss‘s Washington, but first:

Update on the Lightship #83

Following our successful preparation of a Preliminary Engineering Report two years ago, Northwest Seaport has asked OTM Inc to submit a bid to serve as project manager for the Lightship Rehabilitation. We assembled our project management team and had our first meeting at the Northlake Pizza Tavern to discuss how to effectively perform the duties outlined by the Seaport. The meeting went well (and it was $2/pitcher PBR night!) and we’ll have the bid in early next week.

More Restoration Workshops?

Brian, the Ocean Bay Marine Inc shipwright and OTM Inc shop partner, has been working with the Seaport on assorted projects since 2007, and he’s really interested in doing public classes like Diesel Engine Theory, only with wood stuff rather than engines. I met with him this week to talk about I got the engine programs up and running. Trouble is, it takes a lot of time and effort to develop programs like this. I told him to be patient and persistent, and offered to talk more any time. I hope he gets something going – the Arthur is a great boat for people to learn on.

Work on the Arthur Foss‘s Washington

The Shop is now plugged with Washington parts from the Arthur Foss. After last week’s exciting Session One of the 2009 Diesel Engine Theory Workshop, I loaded all the parts we took off Cylinder Four into my truck and brought them to Ballard to be cleaned, tested, painted, oiled, lapped, and set as needed. This includes the fuel injector, the intake and exhaust valves and valve cages, about half the intake manifold, some couplings from the exhaust manifold, the rockers and rocker arms, the push rods, and pieces of the water cooling system. Pretty much all of my work space is covered with Arthur parts, but it’s great.

Valve cages from the Arthur Foss

We spent most of the week getting all these parts stripped down and ready for the class to work on. Crystal, OTM’s mechanic, worked with me to clean engine parts, and she also serviced the Arthur‘s generator. I also hired on Sterling the future towboat captain to get ahead a little, since I’ll be heading out to Qunicy again next week.

We also spent a lot of time getting the cylinder head off. Following last week’s class, one of the head nuts just would not come off. We tried oil, fast heat, slow heat, paraffin, and hammers, but it wouldn’t budge – it destroyed two of the output drives for our big torque multiplier (don’t worry Brian, we ordered new ones). Then I talked with Dan, who said to get a slugging wrench from Pacific Industrial Supply (they’re in South Park now). I went and got the wrench and we strapped a comealong to it real tight, then wailed on the wrench with a really big hammer. It finally did the trick – the head nut came loose in about three blows.

using a slugging wrench to remove a stubborn head nut from the Arthur Foss's Washington

Even with all the head nuts off and a serious strain on the lifting straps, the head was not going anywhere. The engine is more than eighty years old and all the minor leaks and corrosion over that time had caused the head to become one with the cylinder and studs. Crystal and I had to use sawzall blades to cut through all the corrosion in the seam, then we hammered dozens of little wedges in to pry it loose.

freeing the cylinder head on the Arthur foss

After a lot of hammering, it finally came off with a little tiny “pop,” and we winched it up. The Arthur has the biggest size of cylinder that Washington Iron Works ever produced. Its cylinders have an 18-inch bore and are really, really big. We estimate the heads as weighing about 2,200 pounds. As we lifted the head off cylinder four, I pictured it as a wrecking ball until we had it secured it to the deck.

After that excitement, we spent the rest of the week cleaning more parts, until…

Diesel Engine Theory Session Two

Early Saturday, the Diesel Engine Theory class all met at the Shop.
We spent the morning cleaning parts using wire wheels, sandblasters, hot lye, needle guns, flapper wheels, belt sanders, hammers and chisels, acid baths, solvent, 409, rags, and fingernails.

cleaning the exhaust system with a needle gun

At lunch time, we all headed down to the Arthur for hamburgers and salad prepared by chef Kim in the sizzling-hot galley.

We spent the afternoon cleaning the bigger pieces still on the boat. We cleaned the piston with scrapers and flapper wheels, then cleaned out the piston ring grooves using a broken ring with a handle duct-taped to the other end. This gave us a tool exactly the right size and shape to scrape out all the gunk clogging up the ring grooves, and there were plenty to go around.

We also cleaned the threads on the studs that protrude from the cylinder. I decided that the best way to do this was to run the nut up and down the stud using lots of valve-lapping compound. This gritty mixture machines off the rust and dirt and makes sure to keep the threads the right shape. The downside to this process is that it’s painfully slow, but the students all did a great job – especially the TAP guys.

We also pulled out the rod bearing. The babbitt is cracked up, but not too bad considering that it’s been at least 40 years since it was last re-poured (and probably a lot longer than that).

rod bearing on the Arthur foss

We’re not going to have it re-done this time; a full chapter in one of my diesel repair books is dedicated to running on cracked bearings. It says that as long as there aren’t any holes in the babbitt larger than a dime, you should be okay. The number four rod bearing babbitt is mostly just cracked, with only one little hole that’s way smaller than a dime, so I’ve decided that it’s okay for now – especially since we run the engine so lightly these days We’ll plan on re-doing the rod bearings after we service all six cylinders.

Last and most tiring, we used the ball hone to clean up the liner. It was agony because our ball hone is 16″ and the Arthur‘s cylinders are 18″, so we had to swirl it around to get the liner cleaned and patterned correctly.

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2008 Week 29 in Review

An update from the Duwamish

The Worthington Company (1-800-892-6189) does not have any parts for the fireboat Duwamish‘s air compressor. They do stock a lot of parts for old air compressors, but this one is very old and rare. We’ve decided that the best option is to make new valves. One should be made with a grade 8, half-inch washer, machined and lapped. The other should be made with a small piece of sheet metal the same thickness as the original, lapped perfectly flat.

Preparing for the Sobre las Olas job
The Sobre Las Olas‘s cylinder relief valves were sent up to me last week so that I can overhaul them in my shop. First, I tested a few with a high-pressure nitrogen tank to see what pressure they were set to open at. Many of them were actually over-tightened, some of them leaked, and some were completely plugged with soot. I disassembled them all down to the component parts and started cleaning:

I also found that the Sobre has used two different types of relief valves, the old style with a big bell and a brass adjusting screw, and the newer model that’s much smaller and has an exposed spring. Machining and lapping the old style way too much work; since there’s no guide, I would have had to make something that would fit in the body (in contrast, the new valves have a guide about an inch above the seat). Luckily, Dan had nine of the newer style in the shop, so I chose to overhaul them instead. This also makes all the Sobre‘s valves the same style and therefore interchangeable. As with all the engines I work on, I try to make all the parts the same so that the spares really are spares.

Even using the newer style, the valves were still tough to seal. The seats were all very wide and had lots of pitting. Most required me to narrow the seat by using a five-eighths reamer with a straight end. I ran that down to bring the top down, then I used a tapered reamer to widen the opening. I did this until all the pitting was gone. A few took machining to create the 90-degree edge for the valve to seat in. After that, I lapped them all, set the spring pressure to an opening pressure of close to 800 psi, tested them using nitrogen, and finally set the spring again for exactly 800.

The good ones held to 800, then make a “chatter” sound as the pressure is increased over 800. The bad ones leaked or gradually opened at 800, making a “squish” sound. I spent hours fussing with them until they were all tight and most chattered. Some were still a little squishy, but much better than they had been. I also grabbed a new water collection manifold from Dan’s shed. In the middle of the night before we left, Lia and I nailed together some crates and packed everything up:


I flew out at 0730. I’ll write about the trip next week.

Responsible boat brokerage

I don’t plan on ever owning a boat bigger than my yacht (a 10′ aluminum skiff), but if I did, and then I wanted to sell it, I’d pick my broker carefully. He or she would need experience, knowledge, and a realistic view of ownership to find a buyer capable of taking care of the boat, and the patience to resist a quick easy sell to the first person willing to sign the forms.

From what I’m seeing these days, though, this selectiveness would really limit my choice of broker. A service that should be o honestly match a buyer with a seller to smoothly transfer ownership of a boat seems increasingly hard to find.

In my experience, many brokers take the easy way of selling a boat: they find a sucker who will eat up the vision of gloriously standing at the helm of their very own yacht, which only needs “a little” repair to make that cruise to Baja. Of course, we all know how these stories end (or you should, if you’ve been reading this blog).

Now, I’m all for suckers getting what they’re due (is there a better way to learn than to screw up and have to fix it?), but not when it’s at the expense of the boat and of my reputation. With brokers who just sell this dream, anyone who is asked to survey or repair the boat becomes the enemy. The broker will just keep weaving a dishonest dream of “oh, she’s in great condition – and a bargain!” and the proud new owner will get mad at any mechanic or shipwright who breaks the hard truth to them. Those of us in the marine repair business are the ones who have to crush the dreams of proud new owners, while the brokers walk away with the cash and find more suckers.

If you’re looking to buy a boat, you start being a responsible boat owner before you even step into the broker’s office. You should research what it takes to maintain a boat (old, new, wooden, steel, whatever) and figure out how much you will really be able to do on it. You should figure out the price of moorage, insurance, fuel, and maintenance to determine how much boat you can handle, and then you should start shopping. Talk with other boat owners, get invited on a cruise, and ask to come down and see the boat during it’s annual dry dock period (yes, that means that a boat should get dry-docked every year — not just when you can afford it).

Once you’re ready to buy and are talking with brokers, insist on an independent survey of any boat you’re interested in. Use specialized surveyors for each part of the boat (one for the hull, another for the engine, and another for the rig) to get an informed report on the boat’s condition. Question the surveyors—read the books and take the classes to learn enough to tell when someone’s being honest and when someone’s trying to sell you extra work.

My goal and Old Tacoma Marine Inc’s goal is to increase awareness of the superior comfort, reliability, and efficiency of boats with heavy-duty diesels, so that the boats they power are maintained and the owners feel good about their investment. This ultimately keeps me employed, and saves neat old boats from being scrapped or broken just because they were built before 1950. Bad deals or boats sold to those without the poise, guts, or means to take care of them destroys the boats, the engines, and my profession.

OTM Inc Weekly eBay Auction

This week’s prize from the OTM Inc shop is an Enterprise valve:

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