Petestack Blog

10 January 2018

The Lindsay System Chanter and MakerSpace

Filed under: Music — admin @ 7:09 pm

Conventional Scottish pipe chanters have a nine-note diatonic scale. This is true for all the main types: the Great Highland Bagpipes and their various smaller derivatives, the Border Pipes and the Scottish Smallpipes. There are thousands of good pipe tunes using just these nine notes, and many great composers and pipers who’ve remained eternally satisfied with that limitation. So why do some of us want more, and isn’t that a bit arrogant for those (like me) who’ve not even got full control over what’s there?

Well, it’s not quite that simple! Border Pipes have historically been able to get some extra range by overblowing, with a (natural?) capacity to produce chromatic notes through additional forked fingerings developed and refined by modern makers. Some accidentals can also be produced on the GHB (Great Highland Bagpipes), and some of our very greatest recent pipers (e.g. Gordon Duncan) have exploited their possibilities. Some Border Pipes (like my Garvie set) have keys for extended range in lieu of the reed compromises necessary to get the same notes by overblowing, and some SSPs (Scottish Smallpipes) also have keys for extended range and/or accidentals. To which it might not be too much of a digression to add that modern Irish Uilleann Pipes and Northumbrian Smallpipes have also evolved considerably from their respective ancestors in terms of range, keys etc.

Now the nine-note chanter is standard in Scottish piping and (quite properly!) likely to remain so. Nobody’s trying to replace it, but some of us are naturally excited about complementing it. While there are many great native (nine-note) tunes for it, some of us just wince at the number of octave-folded or chromatically-altered notes spoiling imported parts of its repertoire, some have come to the pipes from other instruments with more notes, and some are simply inspired by the creative possibilities of Scottish pipes with extended range and/or chromatic capabilities! Some, like the hugely-talented Callum Armstrong in collaboration with pipe maker Julian Goodacre, are doing really exciting things with double and triple SSP chanters, extended-range, overblowing, keyed SSP chanters and even rapidly-tunable/switchable drones. Others, like Donald Lindsay, have approached the challenge from different angles, with Donald’s Lindsay System Chanter utilising clever design to be a 3D-printable (as well as conventionally-buildable) keyless two-octave instrument with some chromatic capability. And Donald’s system, for its very simplicity and reproducibility, is the one I see as a potential ‘standard’ for the typical player (like me) itching to get their hands on a set of extended-capability SSPs.

A few years back Donald ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to launch the original run of Lindsay System Chanters, but development continues and now he’s hoping to record an album at Watercolour Music featuring the instrument in stimulating group contexts with a starry list of collaborators. So he’s back to Kickstarter and looking for backing at MakerSpace : Donald WG Lindsay & Friends : Album. I’ve committed to the price of a chanter (which will need further adaptation for my missing finger if I want the low D, which of course I do!), but you can pledge as much or as little as you like… ‘rewards’ range from keyrings to multi-packs of albums and chanters, but for me the real reward would be in helping Donald bring this very special chanter design to the prominence it so richly deserves. He’s also running a competition for new tunes for it with the winner to be included on the album, but I’m rather looking forward to being able to try my entry on my own Lindsay System Chanter! So I’m inspired, and perhaps this wee blog piece might help to inspire others? I hope so because this campaign needs support with just 21 days to go and this chanter really is the greatest thing since sliced bread (in SSP terms anyway)!

8 January 2018

Spray-on ice!

Filed under: Kinlochleven — admin @ 10:21 pm

Spray-on ice, Kinlochleven-style… discovered too late to photograph yesterday, so back with the camera this morning and again with tripod just before dark. The tripod was only used for the afternoon videos (because the handheld video was bugging me when checked at lunchtime), but the later stills were also shot with smaller aperture because some of the first set I’ve not used here seemed a little blurry in the wrong places. I was working against time on both occasions, so just had to take what I could get, and what you see is all pretty well straight from camera (I have the RAW files for the stills, but nothing currently installed to process them).

21 November 2017

Constructive progress

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 9:25 pm

Three weeks of construction and renewal with no real associated destruction to show here!

The water tank is now pretty well done just pending coating the outside, enlarging the top hole for an inspection hatch and fitting of further necessary fittings:

The original void in the cockpit bulkhead is now less void than before:

Most of the main cabin hull surfaces I spent that hundred hours stripping have now been much more rapidly epoxy-coated. These might yet also get painted with an appropriately durable paint where they’ll remain visible (e.g. under-bunk lockers), but will again be covered by soft linings elsewhere (e.g. above bunks):

And the ugly truth of the rotting bow well has been revealed; holes where the drains meet the floor have probably been letting water in since the boat was built, but have now been fixed. There’s still further cosmetic work to do on the outside and rebuilding from the inside, but the paths for water ingress should be gone. Might add there must be other Impalas or similarly-constructed boats with this problem (something only discovered on Fly because I was stripping out all the linings), but someone else will find their rotten bow well when they put their foot through it sailing!

Well floor cleaned ready for repair:

And with two layers of glass cloth epoxied over offending holes and all (sporadically crazed) corners:

29 October 2017

Bow well cover

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 9:06 pm

Today I built/rigged a cover for Fly’s bow well so we’ve got shelter to get it dry and sort the problems. Can’t say I like it, but it’ll probably work till the next gale, then who knows…

Might need to brace the ‘legs’ if they get wobbly, but trying it as you see it first. Have also considered whether I’ve brought the tarp back far enough, but wanted to avoid unnecessary crawling to access the well as well as fold this oversize tarp to keep eyelets at its new ‘corners’, so we’ll see. There should be ample protection from anything bar almost horizontal rain from the north, the tarp can still be adjusted or extended backwards on the same frame and we’ve also got the possible alternative of additional flat cover on the deck when not actually needing the well doors open.

26 October 2017

Friends in Need

Filed under: Music — admin @ 10:25 pm

Text straight from my YouTube video…

Made this wee video in January (nearly 10 months ago) to show friends on Facebook and hadn’t intended it for public consumption when it took me two days to pluck up the courage even to post it there, but took another listen the other night and thought ‘why not?’

Sometimes I write songs, though not for me because I’m not a singer! This (tiny as it is) is probably my favourite, written for a Kinlochleven High School mini-production of ‘Kidnapped’ in November 2007 and sung by two offstage girl singers as a kind of Greek chorus at the point at which a sick David and Alan quarrel and make up. The cue lines from the book are:

“Alan,” cried I, “what makes ye so good to me? What makes ye care for such a thankless fellow?” “Deed, and I don’t know,” said Alan. “For just precisely what I thought I liked about ye, was that ye never quarrelled:— and now I like ye better!”

Afraid you have to make do with my voice here because no-one else has sung it for years, but I still liked it well enough to try it myself. The balance could be better when it’s just straight-from-camera on a tripod at the end of the piano, but I was actually playing much quieter than it sounds and at least you can still hear the voice!

Lyrics (also by me):
Angry words may cut you deep
And quarrels make you cry,
But though true friends can make you weep
They’ll still be standing by.

Bitter though your mood may be
At times of needless strife,
Your friends in need are friends indeed
And surely friends for life,
And surely friends for life.

20 October 2017

More taking apart and putting together

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 10:17 pm

So what’s been happening to Fly in the couple of months since my last blog?

Well, for about the first month of that, quite a lot of glassing in of the new bunk tops (basically Twig’s job with me doing some of the mixing etc.) and further forecabin paint stripping (my job… ugh!). Then not much over late September and early October as we were both separately away and/or busy with other things. But things are picking up again now with a fresh bout of activity starting with further water tank developments…

What’s happened in the two photos above is that, after all that effort designing a straight-sided water tank to fit and calculating volume/angles, both quotes to get it made up in polyethylene were silly expensive. So we decided just to make use of the shape of the boat and lay up a glassfibre one in place, with the first photo showing my handiwork stripping back further surfaces to bond that to and the second its front wall tacked in place by Twig. When finished, it’ll all be glassed and gelcoated inside with no wood surfaces left.

The next photo below shows more rotting wood (surely the last!) discovered under external glass-work. This is a false floor in the starboard cockpit locker (viewed from port), but, unlike the rotten bow well, we can just cut it out and leave it out because it’s non-structural (no port equivalent) and presumably only there as a base for the petrol can we’ve not carried since converting from outboard in a well to inboard diesel:

Two more photos to finish a very matter-of-fact blog, and here you see more bulkhead stuff. The first shows the companionway bulkhead facing removed to tidy up and refit properly (so yet more normally invisible glassfibre on show there) and the aft bulkhead (lit by the lights) stripped off so we can get the wood permanently protected. The dark vertical line on the starboard side (left as you look at the photo) is an original void in the original (not marine) plywood which needs repairing. The second photo shows the exposed edges of the main bulkhead facing now sealed with epoxy filler to remove moisture traps just where you don’t want them:

And that’s about it for tonight. Twig’s going to be back doing the water tank and other glass-work and I’ve got yet more paint stripping to do as well as building a mini-shelter for the bow so we can get to work on the well without being totally at the mercy of Lochaber autumn precipitation. But some still distant day next year, when it’s all done and I take this boat sailing again, it’s going to be knowing that many developing or incipient problems unlikely to be unique to my Impala have been properly eliminated and this boat’s structurally as good as (and in some ways actually better than) new! :-)

22 August 2017

Constructing again!

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 7:17 pm

So Twig’s been here yesterday and today, and Fly’s starting to go back together at last! Yesterday’s main job was to fit the new port bunk top, but not yet to glass it all in…

And today’s was to fit the starboard one and make a start on glassing in the port one, which you see here fully bonded on top but not yet underneath, though he did get the forward face of one of the damaged supporting mini-bulkheads (invisible here) rebuilt…

So next steps will be to finish the bonding and mini-bulkhead repairs from below, though it looks likely that I’ll be attacking the forecabin again before Twig’s back to do that. On which note, we did look again at both bow well (where the damaged wood’s now dried out enough to suggest that rebuilding from the inside may yet be possible) and water tank (where we’ve concluded that my first design fits fine even if taking my dimensions as exterior and allowing for 8–10mm polyethylene panels all round reduces its volume from 54.05 litres to a still-acceptable 46.32). So I’ve now to get the quotes for construction from the two places we know to do this kind of work and we’ll take it from there, but it’s been a happy Monday/Tuesday because (apart from 2016’s new windows and 2011’s forehatch) we’re now rebuilding for the first time since all the damage was done! :-)

18 August 2017

Good tarps and bad tarps

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 8:41 pm

Tarps on boats typically cause as many problems as they solve. They obstruct access, rattle in the wind, risk rubbing the boat if in contact with (or lashed to) the hull, and don’t shed snow unless carefully framed to do so. So while Fly was necessarily under full tarp cover for a while, I didn’t really like the arrangement… and hated it when those Alkathene hoops buckled under the snow they couldn’t shed and loaded up the tarp over squashed tarp frame!

So I don’t normally like tarps on boats, but what I built this week is good (to allow work with the main hatch open any day and shed snow if I leave it up). Started Monday evening and finished tonight in equally gash, midgey conditions…

Now you can see it’s not your average tarp set-up at all… more a proper little roof for which I’d actually considered using proper little roofing but just happened to finish with a tarp instead. It’s strongly built (starting with the A-frames in my workshop, then everything else screwed together in-situ), steeply pitched (45°), and the tarp’s securely lashed to frame, not boat, with a ‘door’ at the top of the ladder easily opened and secured by a couple of half hitches in a dedicated short length of rope.

So what more could you want in the ‘good tarp’ world except perhaps an equivalent, smaller shelter to help with the bow well job? And, while we could move this one at some stage and support it up there somehow, I think I’d prefer to leave it where it is through the winter and build another to fit… and you know I’ve still got some wood from a false start on Monday when I guestimated and cut the A-frame pieces for this one too short? ;-)

12 August 2017

Forecabin fun

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 8:46 pm

With work (yes, the ‘day job’!) looming on Monday and no chance of a fifth week full-time on Fly, I’m not going to get the forecabin fully stripped this holidays, but it’s getting there…

Interesting to compare the bow well to a week ago. While the rot’s dried out a lot with the removal of the old linings previously hiding it and preventing it doing so, the way it tracks along the corners above the stringers has me once more suspecting external (rather than internal) causes and guessing we’ll probably have to cut out most of the floor after all to repair it properly. Another interesting observation visible in the ‘bow’ photos is the clearly original nature of the paint up the topsides, where the overlap of hull-to-deck join and paint in places can leave no doubt that the hull was painted internally up to a certain level before the deck was bonded on. Not that it makes any difference now, with said paint flaking over much of its area and mostly coming off along with (or at least quite easily with) the glue, which must come off to get good surfaces to stick the new linings to. And the white paint (of unknown origin) below bunk level likewise all needed to come off in preparation for a more durable solution having been the flaking bane of my life over several sailing seasons.

While taking a ‘break’ from paint stripping today to sort other stuff and not kick up any more dust before Twig’s here to start fixing things, I put the dehumidifier back on board in search of optimum conditions for epoxy work in this currently not-so-dusty space. I’d thought of doing this last Tuesday when Twig was here, but left it because it needed a new piece of hose, we were busy and I’d wrongly remembered needing to soften the hose end with hot water, whereas that turned out to be an easy push fit today with the heat only necessary to fit the slightly narrower hose I’d had it on it before. And I really couldn’t have left it on board anyway with the dust I’ve been kicking up meantime!

But today’s real fun job (1000% more pleasant than stripping paint!) was testing shape(s) for a custom water tank. This has always been problematic with Impala Class Rules stipulating ‘Water tanks of a minimum 10 gallon capacity shall be carried forward of the aft keel bolt’ (on which note I have some hazy memory of this possibly previously having been ‘forward of the main bulkhead’?) and the only other obvious compliant space (below the galley) being a poor, narrow shape with difficult access. So we used to carry two five-gallon plastic jerrycans strapped in where I’m looking at putting a tank now (well, one either side of the longitudinal bulkhead), but I never liked that arrangement… except that proper tanks to fit are rarer than hens’ teeth! Hence some experimentation with a view to commissioning a custom tank, and it’s looking doable…

Now it can’t/won’t be as tall as you see here, but the bits of box I started with just coincidentally filled the space to the bunk top. Trying to keep the shape as simple as possible and need flat surfaces for manufacture, but don’t know which is better… blue dashes (cuboid with corner sliced off at a constant angle) or red (making the top the same shape as the base so neither are rectangular). Also struggling to work out capacity because I’m confuzzled by the maths, but looking for min. 45.46 litres (i.e. 10 Imperial gallons) and happy to go to 50 or 60 if I can get it, with third photo showing two 25-litre bins of polystyrene packaging tipped there by my mathematically-challenged brain. And perhaps I do like the red-dashed shape better though I’m envisaging reducing the top part of either (above dash level/polystyrene filling) by about half the height you see. Whatever, it’s a reasonable place for a tank, being low down in the boat and not too far forward of the keel, with 50–60kg down there not a huge deal when you also have the option of not filling it for the racing with the presence of the tank(s) rather than the water being what’s required!

Edit (13 August): What a complete dummy I am! The volume of the bottom part (red version above) is 1. 350 x 300 x 160 = 16.6 litres + 2. (350 x 300 x 380) / 2 = 19.95 litres, which makes 36.55 litres. Add 3. 350 x 500 x 100 (assuming X-height of 100 where the mock-up is 190) = 17.5 litres, and you get 54.05 litres, which is fine (NB my ‘25-litre’ bin above turned out to be somewhat short of the mark in taking just four-and-a-half 5-litre buckets of water). But you don’t want to know how long that’s taken me to figure out! :-/

8 August 2017

Destruction for construction

Filed under: Sailing — admin @ 9:18 pm

So we arrive at a major turning point for Fly, or what would be the turning point but for the late discovery of rot in the bow well. In a nutshell, the long-awaited last of the destruction (bar some new bow well preparation, which should be a much smaller job) before we start constructing again! So Twig was here today and, after going over the whole boat from stem to stern to look at what I’d got done and any new issues raised, we cut out what we’d left of the old bunk tops, and all’s set for him to get repairing the mini-bulkheads, glassing in the new bunk tops and starting to flow-coat the paint-stripped area when I go back to work (meaning that ‘day job’ thing rather than more boat restoration) next week. But, with no rest for the wicked after he left mid-afternoon with ambient conditions (open hatch on rainy day!) not being conducive to the epoxying we’d hoped to start together, I also got the freshly-exposed areas stripped clean, need to get the dehumifier and strip heater back on board so we’re better set for next week, and hope to spend the intervening last few days of my summer ‘holiday’ in the forecabin!

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