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Old 14-06-2016, 13:30   #1
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Floating Machine Shops

I accidentally fell into the full time live aboard then cruising businesses when I decided to stay aboard the boat through the onset of the worst of the hay fever season because an unsympathetic partner would not practice mitigation strategies which interfered with her housekeeping routine. After a few months of living on the boat I discovered the partner was at the root of most of my physical and mental health problems and decided to become a permanent live aboard.

The permanent cruising started after spending a winter aboard the boat in SW Australia. I decided that I would sail N to warmer climes and during the voyage found that I did not need to work because I did not need much money and was enjoying a life style which kept me out of contact with people I neither liked nor respected.

What does this have to do with floating machine shops?

Having pursued a very busy family and professional life I found the cruising life style did not provide quiet enough intellectual stimulus. In addition I have always been one of those poor tormented souls who like to try out new ideas. Consequent to both these factors I started making modifications to things.

Things went OK for a few years as I could get by with hand tools and when I needed more facilities could generally wait until I visited my old land home (I had residual customer commitments I felt obliged had to still service) where I enjoyed fairly extensive workshop facilities. However as the service obligations dwindled away and the modification bug bit deeper I discovered a need for more extensive engineering facilities aboard the boat.

The first acquisition was a mill/drill. This allowed me to start making my own sprockets which was more readily achieved with a rotary table and dividing head - those of you who have experienced this type of curse know where it goes from there.

One of my projects was a wheel drive unit to replace the plastic monstrosity which chewed up a $40 belt every time I was a bit slack with adjusting out excessive weather helm. Although I could drill out the holes for the circular profile auto timing belt I could not machine the alloy billet back to the proper OD. An extensive search lead me to discover that the old small backyard shed machinist had all died off in regional Australia and I had difficulty finding anyone to make the part I required. Consequently a small lathe was required.

I don't know how many of my fellow cruisers have tried to cohabit with a machine shop on a stretched 36' boat but it's not a pretty picture, particularly the swarf in bare feet bit.

Advancing age, a dampening of the over-adventurous spirit and the onset of extreme laziness has obliged me to change from the existing steel boat to fibreglass. The new boat is an Island Packet 40 and the fit out is fairly nice and I am a bit reluctant to degrade it by installing a machine shop.

My questions are these:

Has anyone else out there gone through a deprivation such as this
and how extreme were the withdrawal symptoms??
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Old 14-06-2016, 13:47   #2
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

I recommend you consider getting your hands on some computer drafting and 3D modeling software and learning how to use them.

It can be very satisfying to design things in the virtual realm then send others your drawings for them to sweat and bleed over.

Don't have to have a 3D printer or a machine shop to have things 3D printed or machined, just the software to design them.

http://www.shapeways.com
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Old 15-06-2016, 18:08   #3
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

balsa is fun to work with.. kites, planes, boats...
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Old 15-06-2016, 19:48   #4
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

Quote:
Originally Posted by RaymondR View Post
I accidentally fell into the full time live aboard then cruising businesses when I decided to stay aboard the boat through the onset of the worst of the hay fever season because an unsympathetic partner would not practice mitigation strategies which interfered with her housekeeping routine. After a few months of living on the boat I discovered the partner was at the root of most of my physical and mental health problems and decided to become a permanent live aboard.

The permanent cruising started after spending a winter aboard the boat in SW Australia. I decided that I would sail N to warmer climes and during the voyage found that I did not need to work because I did not need much money and was enjoying a life style which kept me out of contact with people I neither liked nor respected.

What does this have to do with floating machine shops?

Having pursued a very busy family and professional life I found the cruising life style did not provide quiet enough intellectual stimulus. In addition I have always been one of those poor tormented souls who like to try out new ideas. Consequent to both these factors I started making modifications to things.

Things went OK for a few years as I could get by with hand tools and when I needed more facilities could generally wait until I visited my old land home (I had residual customer commitments I felt obliged had to still service) where I enjoyed fairly extensive workshop facilities. However as the service obligations dwindled away and the modification bug bit deeper I discovered a need for more extensive engineering facilities aboard the boat.

The first acquisition was a mill/drill. This allowed me to start making my own sprockets which was more readily achieved with a rotary table and dividing head - those of you who have experienced this type of curse know where it goes from there.

One of my projects was a wheel drive unit to replace the plastic monstrosity which chewed up a $40 belt every time I was a bit slack with adjusting out excessive weather helm. Although I could drill out the holes for the circular profile auto timing belt I could not machine the alloy billet back to the proper OD. An extensive search lead me to discover that the old small backyard shed machinist had all died off in regional Australia and I had difficulty finding anyone to make the part I required. Consequently a small lathe was required.

I don't know how many of my fellow cruisers have tried to cohabit with a machine shop on a stretched 36' boat but it's not a pretty picture, particularly the swarf in bare feet bit.

Advancing age, a dampening of the over-adventurous spirit and the onset of extreme laziness has obliged me to change from the existing steel boat to fibreglass. The new boat is an Island Packet 40 and the fit out is fairly nice and I am a bit reluctant to degrade it by installing a machine shop.

My questions are these:

Has anyone else out there gone through a deprivation such as this
and how extreme were the withdrawal symptoms??
I hear you. A mill and lathe on a 36' boat is quite the achievement.

I have my TIG and all the hand tools I need. I tend to design (in 3D) to avoid the need to machine as much as possible. Trying to get affordable machining done in the bay area is impossible. (Too many stupid artists who will pay a fortune for anything.)

I developed and used 3D printers nearly 30 years ago. Once we have decent 3D printable materials and the means to amalgamate them with minimal power then I can 'print' 3D models on the boat. Once this problem is solved then the need for mills and lathes is over.

With a background in materials I cant even predict when this will occur.

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Old 15-06-2016, 19:57   #5
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

Left brain
I am in the chartering phase of moving to live aboard, I have a fully equipped automotive diy shop here in MN complete with TIG. How do you manage to run it from the boat. I was wondering what I could bring along with me...
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Old 15-06-2016, 22:02   #6
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

I once dreamed of welding up a 15 foot X 30 foot barge with a full shop below the main deck and a big genset to power everything. Barge would have a large indentation in the transom that would accept Panope's bow. Both vessels connected together with HEAVY bolts. Combination may have reached 4 knots with no wind.

The idea would be to then roam the waters of the PNW inside passage peddling fabrication and repair services.

The plan never went beyond a simple sketch that I tossed out long ago.

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Old 16-06-2016, 23:10   #7
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

Thanks for the replies folks.


I think I will try to keep all the stuff I have but change my work habits.


When I bought my first small lathe I put it in a box and stored it in the wet gear locker (unfortunately that then gave me a wet gear storage problem but that's the way things go on a boat) and can probably do something similar on the new boat. If one is going to muck about in the realm of ideas one needs a few tools of the trade.


Over the years I have been able to do quiet a lot of good Samaritan stuff with the lathe, refurbishing blocks which can no longer be replaced because they have gone out of production, skimming the commutator on an autopilot motor etc. The last job I did for myself was machining SS flanges and polly bushes and a thrust bearing to implement a combination thrust bearing/seal to stop taking water through the rudder stock gland. It is very handy to have.


On the CAD stuff, I started out with TurboCAD version 5 and the last one I bought was version 15. Unfortunately they keep changing the operating systems and stop supporting old software so now I try to use freeware as much as possible. I am familiarising myself with LibreCAD at the moment. The 3D stuff is very tempting but too finicky for an old bloke who learned his geometrical and perspective 56 year ago.


I also fiddle with electronics and if I was asked to recommend a hobby to other live aboards would suggest this. One only needs a small toolbox of stuff, it's fairly clean and a handy skill with all the electronics on a boat these days. The Arduino and Raspberry Pi stuff is fascinating and very low cost.


I can't get rid of the sewing machine - it's too handy to have. Same with the inverter welder - I use it to weld together anchor chain and even to supply DC to crank the engine and have used it as a high ampage battery charger.


I'm beginning to think we should supply the boat builders with a list of the stuff we need and have them design around that.
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Old 27-07-2019, 14:47   #8
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

Hello fellow maritime machinists!

I just stumbled across this thread while doing research on FMS-789, and old Army barge that served as a Floating Machine Shop in Vietnam. But that's just part of my day job as Port Captain of Seattle Maritime Academy in Seattle, Washington.

But what really caught my attention was that you all are discussing exactly what I've been working on in my home shop aboard our sloop-rigged 1972 Spencer 53.

Here is a link to one of my earlier "Sailboat Machine Shop" video tours:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gtRo2W0UICM" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

At this point I've crammed the following into my shop:

- Atlas 618 lathe with OXA QCTP
- ShapeOko2 3-axis CNC router with 12k spindle, aluminum bed, air blast, cyclonic dust collection, and an Aluminum extrusion/Lexan enclosure with e-stop and feed hold/resume.
- Pocket NC 5-axis CNC mill
- PrintrBot Simple Metal 3D printer with heated bed
- Craftsman 9" drill press with quill lock (I'd like to swap this out for a drill/mill)
- 4x36" belt/6" disc sander
- 0-12" material stock holding bins x15
- 13-24" material stock holding bins x2
- Craftsman auto-locking "Grip latch" tool box under desk (for-aft)
- Machinist's toolbox from old Boeing 747 assembly line for metrology gear (athwartships)
- Stereo microscope (for fine inspection of endmills, drill, etc)
- OA torch with Smith-Little torch (and the bigger cutting torch)
- Berzomatic TS8000 MAPP torch
- Hakko FX-888D soldering station and custom ball-joint helping hands
- Other miscellanious stuff: Two Orion 22 RC sailboats, a Richardson twin (independent) screw tug boat, rock tumbler/parts polisher.

Anywho, I have this cursed personal kunundrum of not being able to afford a house here in Seattle, so until I have the ability to expand my available space I'm just going to practice maximizing the capacity of what I have.

I personally am a bit of a gear nerd, and less of a creative person, so while I'm really impressed with what other people will make with super basic tools, I have this fascination with expanding my shop capabilities well beyond what I will likely ever use in a production or money-making capacity. I'm just fascinated with systems and machines, and like any collector the weirder and older a machine is the more I tend to feel the desire to own it.

That said, with only so much space you have to pick your battles, and the last hard decision I had to make was between the 5-axis mill and an HTP 221 tig welder. Since I was looking to get a new job (potentially as a machinist for the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab) at the time, I thought adding some 5-axis experience wouldn't hurt, and the Pocket NC takes up quite a bit less space in my shop.

Anywho, I'd love to see more folks contribute to this thread, so if you've got any shop updates, ideas, projects to show off, or a "shop tour" feel free to post-away! : )

Happy making,

Danny
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Old 28-07-2019, 04:45   #9
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

Ha awesome. I don't have any machine tools onboard but i have a full shop at home. 14x40 lathe, Bridgeport, TIG, horizontal bandsaw, torches, benders, surface plates, inspection tools etc..

My dream is to have a boat with standup engine room space to be able to have a mini shop onsite
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Old 28-07-2019, 05:59   #10
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Danny.
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Old 28-07-2019, 06:27   #11
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

Same conundrum; different vein here
After 40 some years as a carpenter/builder, I find it difficult to "lose" so many of my tools.I
I, too have considered a "trailer" barge lol Fortunately my needs may be met by one of those duffles full of different cordless components
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Old 28-07-2019, 06:37   #12
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

Is anyone using an inverter TIG or smaller wirefeed welder onboard?
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Old 28-07-2019, 12:44   #13
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

I carry around a 200 amp ac/DC Tig welder , ran off a 3000 watt invter. With 2 huge 300cfm argon tanks . Works great for small stainless projects , I also had a banner made for the side of my boat that says "welding and diving" I fly this flag when the funds get low.
I also drag around a tubing bender and all the other tools to go with it .
Mini Mill and lathe are next .

Downside is weight and room. My 53' boat feels like a 32' boat. Although Im also dragging around 2 babies , a dog , wife and a bunch of other crap that nobody needs
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Old 28-07-2019, 14:33   #14
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

When we were in Moorea a 38' center cockpit boat registered in Oz came in. The owner's were on the final leg of their around the world cruise. To say they were doing a leasurely circumnavigation is a bit of hyperbole as they were in their 10th year. The guy was a diesel mechanic and the aft cabin was his machine shop. Can't remember all the tools he had but one was a fairly good sized lathe. His skills were in demand wherever they went and often found themselves staying in a port/anchorage for more than a year.

The guy was obviously good with his hand. The boat was a stretched copy of Hannah's Tahiti Ketch that he and his wife had built themselves. The workshop was planned into the boat's design from the beginning. Interesting that the boat was wood as steel seemed like a much better building material for someone with his talents. Seem to remember that the wife was also good with her hands and worked in canvas.
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Old 28-07-2019, 14:51   #15
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Re: Floating Machine Shops

Thanks Islander53. I missed where Raymond said he uses an inverter welder too.
Seems like bending and welding SS and tubing would be a nice sideline.
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