Things to do in Limousin ‘Heart Break Town’

Looking for something interesting to do with all the family in the Limousin? How about some Western Theatre French style?

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Take a ride around Heart Break Town on a horse drawn carriage.

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The carriage is made from an old car!

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Go back in time at Heart Break Town. A different pace of life

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Get made up as an Indian

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Nicolas show you how to make a bow and arrow using just basic tools

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It’s all done by eye!

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‘Magic Cloud’ will entertain you in an Indian style

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Step inside a genuine Tipi

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Story telling and magic show inside a Tipi

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Beautiful horses everywhere

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The make up stand in the Indian Village

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One of the horses gets a manicure (hooficure?)

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Plenty of horses in Heart Break Town

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The actors arrive…

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Indians attack

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Great riding skills

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Much galloping

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The riders…

If you would like to learn more or visit check out their Facebook page. They are in Fontcaval, 23190 Lupersat

Traditionally baked French organic bread

For me there’s nothing quite like picking ripe fruit from a tree with your own hands and eating it on the spot. For some reason it always tastes better than the fruit you buy in a market or other shop. The same is true for fresh baked bread. There’s nothing quite like it. What could be better? Well I’ll tell you, organic fresh baked bread that has been baked in a real traditional bread oven. Add fresh laid eggs and salted butter and you have one awesome lunch. Simple but delicious. In fact delicious doesn’t quite do it, there must be a better word to describe such a wonderful indulgence.

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Even before the loaves are cooked you just know they are going to be GOOD.

It might be an indulgence for me but it’s work for Virginie and Yannick. On a bright sunny and very warn July day in La Creuse in the centre of France it’s no joke to be loading a brick lined traditional bread oven with dried twigs and branches until the whole oven is evenly heated to over 400 degrees Celcius! Virginie’s day began at 05-00 and the bread finally came out of the oven some 6 hours later.

Once the oven is up to temperature, the ashes are removed and the stones are cleaned down. The bread, made from organic flour from just a few kilometres down the road is placed inside in neat rows and the metal door is sealed to keep the heat in. What do you think they use to seal the door with? Yep, you guessed it, some bread dough rolled up! Very clever. This is such a natural product that there is no waste, even the dough used to seal the door gets eaten by their aged dog Banjo. He loves it and it might just be the secret to his long life.

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It’s a labour of love. Maybe that’s the secret to why this bread just tastes better than any other that you can buy anywhere.

After just 35 minutes the door comes off and the bread is removed. The smell of fresh baked bread makes you hungry. Even though I had vowed not to eat another thing after my meal the previous night (when I was invited to share a beef bourguignon but that’s another story) I could not resist Virginie and Yannick’s offer of eggs and bread for lunch. I was not disappointed. Amazing how such a simple fare can taste so damn good when the ingredients are of such high quality and so fresh.

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Loaves going in to the oven. The door is sealed with dough and 35 minutes later the most delicious bread comes out.

Virginie works with a type of co-op where artisans sell their wares at local markets. Of course this bread is not cheap how could it be? But I think it compares very well with the best bread you can buy anywhere else especially when you consider that it doesn’t go stale or mouldy for ages. Naturally I had to buy a loaf and although it’s huge I dare say it won’t last very long. It’s just not possible to have just one piece. It’s deadly. So good.

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After 35 minutes these beautifully browned loaves are ready for eating. It might be an old and primitive way to bake bread but the end result justifies the effort. No question.

A 50 km round trip for a loaf of bread might seem extreme but it’s worth the effort and anyway Virginie and Yannick are lovely people so any excuse to go and say hello is welcome! My only fear is that by the end of a summer here in this beautiful neck of the woods I am going to be 20% heavier than I was in the springtime. Oh well, it will have been worth it!

If you happen to be in La Creuse and want some awesome organic bread baked the traditional way you can find them hard at work on the weekends in a little town called Sannat not far from Evaux les Bains. Worth the trip! ninyan@hotmail.fr

Stunning French mill for sale

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‘Come and eat with us chez nous’ said my new friends Jean Francois and Cristelle. Nothing could have prepared me for where they lived. My jaw dropped and my eyes opened wide. I was speechless, those who know me know how rare that is. I was simply blown away.

Let me try and paint a picture if I can. We drove down small roads through stunning countryside, rolling hills splattered with brown cows, through forests of pine and along narrow lanes so little used that the centre of them was green. After a while we broke out into a clearing, over a bridge. ‘We’re here’ said Henri, park anywhere.

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Towering over their granite house is a viaduct, an extraordinary structure which is now condemned but it’s still imposing and makes an impressive backdrop. The sound of the river is constant, a wonderful white noise that immediately relaxes you and makes you start looking for a hammock to chill out in.

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The river is fed through various channels which can be opened or shut depending on the need it then runs under the three story mill house where its power can be harnessed to produce 12kw! of power from a massive cast iron turbine in the bottom of the mill.

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Way back in the 16th century the mill was granted unlimited and free use of the water in the river by the king of France himself. That law is still in force today making this mill an extremely unusual and unique property. The use of water in France is heavily regulated but thanks to this ancient law the owners of the mill can do what they like with it.

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There are no neighbours. All one can hear is the constant and soporific burble of running water. It is an absolutely stunning spot. It’s about as close to heaven as we mortals are ever likely to get.

Jean Francois and Cristelle had a calm, peaceful and laid back demeanor and I can completely see why. I suspect I would too if I lived in such an amazing place. Over baked oysters! I asked why they wanted to sell and it’s easy enough to understand, with the kids grown up and flown from the nest they are looking for a place a bit smaller.

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Over the years they have done an extraordinary amount of work to the place and it is in excellent condition inside and out. Jean Francois is a surveyor so you just know the property has been restored not only well but to all the French norms. Cristelle is a remarkably talented interior designer with a unique touch which really makes their house a home.

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Personally I think they are mad to sell the place but I do understand. So how much will it cost to own this absolutely awesome and unique place? They are asking 1.2m€ which is a pittance for what it is. Sure, there are cheaper places in the region but how many mills like this do you think there are? And how many of those are for sale? Answer: None!

What an incredible family get away home this would make or perhaps a gite or perhaps the original mill could be reinstated. There is so much potential especially with unlimited use of the water running past. The river runs all year around. The house gets sun all day long.

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In this ever more crowded and noisy world places like this are fast becoming extremely desirable. I’d buy it myself but I’m about 1.19m€ short! Jean Francois and Cristelle are super people and willing to discuss all reasonable offers. They are in no hurry and I can understand that too. I’m not sure life after such an awesome place will ever be the same.

For those who don’t know the Limousin area of France I can tell you that a more beautiful area can scarce be imagined. Secluded but not isolated. Welcoming people and stunning countryside and wildlife. If you love nature and peace and quiet you will feel very much at home.

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Please email info@woodenwidget.com and I’ll be happy to pass on your enquiry to them. I wonder who the lucky new owners will be.

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Dometic HS2460 hob sink review

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When I was designing the Slidavan I needed a small stove and sink combo. There wasn’t much of a choice for the small size I needed so it was an easy  decision to buy the Dometic HS 2460 sink and two burner hob.

It certainly wasn’t cheap at nearly 300€ especially for what it is, a piece of pressed stainless steel and a couple of fittings. But as there wasn’t really anything else in the size I wanted I decided to buy it anyway. At least it would be good quality and well made for that price.

Right up front I have to say I have rarely been more disappointed in a product or more appalled by a company’s pitiful after sale service. I can’t even say service because there is none. A more shocking example of incompetence would be hard to find.

Clearly Dometic has grown too big and it has become inefficient, the people who work for them obviously don’t care about their work as a consequence. Harsh words? Judge for yourself.

When I unpacked the hob I noticed that on each hob a screw was missing. I searched in the box and found a couple of small pieces of threaded metal. I took the burners apart and what I found was that one of the screws had sheered clean off. There’s only one way this can happen and that is by a poorly trained person who assembled it using way too much force. The screws are tiny. They only need doing up, they don’t have to be tightened so much that they sheer! That’s just shoddy assembly.

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Missing sheered off screws, flame coming out the screw hole and a small of gas. Not very safe really.

The fact that this glaring fault was not noticed by quality control demonstrates a complete lack of care and understanding. The stove is basically unusable as gas escapes from the screw hole and is poorly burnt so there is a smell of unburned gas. Hardly what you want in a small well sealed space. It’s dangerous, there’s no other word for it.

No only that but because the burners are not working correctly the flame has blackened the bottoms of all my pans which means that soot ends up on a work surface and then on my clothes so thanks Dometic. One ham fisted assembler, a blind person on QC and I am put in danger and my pots are black.

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It’s not the bottom of my kettle that’s curved, the grill the pans sit on is laughably bowed and when I move about the caravan they rock on the hob. It is extremely annoying and the sure sign of a product assembled with no care.

This is just the start. One of the most annoying things about this stove is the way the pans and kettle rock on the hob. Why do they rock? They never rocked before on my Force ten stove. They rock because the grill they rest on isn’t even vaguely level. As I move about the caravan the pans rock and it’s extremely annoying. And all because of shoddy design and assembly.

Why is the finish coming off the metal grill already? I’ve only had the thing a month so I can expect that to go rusty in time.

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Paint cracking off the grill part already.

One of the knobs is very stiff and hard to turn, it makes it extremely difficult to regulate the flame.

The rubber grommets fitted to the grill are pointless, or at least the ones on my stove are? They are supposed to pop into the pressed stainless top but some ham fisted (oh did I say ham fisted again?) assembler forced them into the extremely sharp holes and tore the skirt of the grommet so it cannot locate. Absolutely pointless.

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I fail to see the point of grommets that don’t fit in their holes. This one has been forced and is now damaged. Pointless.

Shall I mention that the manufacturer’s name printed on the top is already wearing off? I couldn’t care less if they have their name on my stove but it’s just another indication that this stove has been built down to a price. It’s cheap. It’s all cheap. I know caravan stuff needs to be light but come on Dometic, it has to last a few years too.

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A few weeks old and already the name is wearing off. I couldn’t care less about that but it is yet more proof of how poorly made this stove is.

So generally I’d have to say I am pretty disappointed with this stove and as I have to look at and live with these faults every day I am annoyed every day. 300€ is a lot for a piece of stainless with some knobs on it.

But what is worse than all this by far is the dreadful service I have (not) had from Dometic. Like most companies who do not want their customers contacting them they do not supply an email address nor a phone number just a stupid form (I hate forms) to fill out.

So I duly filled out the form and wrote my message. Did I hear anything back? Did I f***. Nothing annoys me more than a company who gladly takes your money and then ignores you. It’s just completely unacceptable. So I wrote again. What more can I do? This time I was annoyed and I actually did eventually get a reply.

Of course, no word saying they were sorry for the hassle, just a short rude email asking where I am. 1 out 10 so far. I replied and then heard nothing. Eventually I got a reply saying that my message had gone to Mexico hence the delay. I cannot say I am surprised. Dometic have clearly got so big that they are inefficiency personified. Absolutely pathetic. That was the last I heard.

A month has passed and I am no nearer to getting any kind of intelligent response from them. All I wanted was for them to send me two small screws and a couple of grommets. It would have cost them practically nothing and would have kept this customer happy but they couldn’t even manage to find my message or say they were sorry so I don’t hold out any hope at all that I will be able to get the spare parts I need.

It’s a joke. Pure and simple. If you are thinking of buying Dometic and like me you don’t have much choice then check your stove over very carefully before you buy it because if you have a problem you’ll just have to live with it because there’s no way of getting any sense out of Dometic which when you think about it is incredible really since they have no excuse to not receive your email as it’s a form on their own website!!

So as usual in these situations I fixed the thing myself. I found two screws, they don’t screw in because the old part of the screw is snapped off in the casing but the do at least stop the unburned gas from escaping and blowing the roof clean off my caravan. I threw the grommets away as there is no point them being there if they cannot be fixed in place. I cleaned the bottom of my pots and life goes on.

Since Dometic are incapable of helping me, despite taking my money I decided to write this review so that others can make an informed decision before spending their hard earned money on one of these weak, poorly assembled and designed stoves.

The sink is fine but there’s not much to a sink is there?

Completely pathetic. Absolutely inexcusable service (or lack of it) and a shoddy product. Really not much to recommend is there? One of the most disappointing products I have ever bought and without question the WORST after sales service of ANY company I have ever dealt with in over thirty years. Shameful. Absolutely pathetic.

Designing the Slidavan telescopic caravan

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Design is such a fascinating subject. So much can influence a design, from the thoughts and experiences of the designer to the things that either they or the marketplace dictate. Often there is legislation to consider. All of these things can have a massive effect on the end result.

More even than this though is the aspect of practicality. This is at the very heart of design. For me it’s the overriding criteria for a design. Of course I don’t mind if it looks cool or funky at the same time but I find that if you design something practical so that it just works it’s easy for people to understand and a simple working functionality is clear for everyone to see.

Take the 2CV, a simpler more practical car could hardly be imagined and yet this tinny, slow little car caught the imagination of the world. But you can be sure, no matter how cute it was, if it couldn’t get you from A to B then it would have failed as a design. I’m not saying the Deux Chevaux was a great car but no one cared about that because it simply worked and this simple fact is enough to endear people to a design.

In designing the Slidavan I confess I focused pretty much exclusively on practicality. The bottom line is, it’s all very well designing a fancy caravan with a nice flowing aerodynamic shape but it just adds complication to the build and the fitting out and at the end of the day you still have to drag this massive lump through the air at great expense and some trepidation. Woodenwidget is all about offering plans that allow anyone to make a boat, bike or caravan. If the initial design is too complicated then the plans will be too.

If I couldn’t make the Slidavan aerodynamic, I could at least make it reduce in size when it was being towed, this makes much more sense to me. If you can make the caravan the same size and height as the tow car you can cut down on drag massively.

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Working on the practicality aspect again it seemed to me that the best way to get maximum interior volume and ease of build was to use a simple box shape. You get more in it and fitting out the interior is made much simpler as every angle is square. Ok, so a box is not great looking so it needed a simple way to disguise it. The answer was a curved roof.

This is perhaps the most complicated part of the Slidavan but it’s worth it because it puts a round shape on the top of the box which isn’t much I know but that one curved surface makes all the difference and draws your eyes away from the boxyness of the design. The curved roof also looks lovely when you are inside. What better than to look up and see curved varnished beams spanning your little home.

There is also a practical reason for having curved beams and that is because it is a good way to get extra headroom without paying a penalty for it. By lowering the sides, it helps the box to be longer, more rectangular and less like a cube. Again, it’s just a small thing but all these little things add up.

Curved beams, although a little time consuming to make, give so much to the design that it’s worth the extra effort. In any case, the end curves are cut out of the panels so don’t need beams and there are just a few in between and as they all share the same curvature, only one gluing jig is needed.

The down side to a curved roof is the difficulty that it brings to adding holes or hatches which are designed to go only on flat surfaces but quite honestly not having holes in a roof is a very good idea for lots of reasons. As nice as it might be to lay on your bunk looking out at the stars through a big hatch, the truth is condensation will form on a cold night and there is nothing more unpleasant than having a big cold drip of water in your ear at three in the morning. Ask me how I know.

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Also by curving the roof it reduces the chances of leaks as water cannot rest, it has to roll off. It does make using the roof for storage a bit more complicated but it wouldn’t be hard to make a simple framework over the whole lot if you wanted to. Solar panels are now available in flexible form so they could be laid over the top easily enough.

The Slidavan has two large windows, one in each side and another in the door at the rear so plenty of light comes in. There isn’t really a need for a hatch in the roof and since most of the heat is lost from warm air rising it seems to me that a hatch is just a good way of letting heat out of your space on a cold day.

All in all, not being able to put a hatch in the roof did not seem to me to be much of a sacrifice considering the advantages and great look of a curved roof somewhat reminiscent of a bow top gypsy caravan or a classic wooden yacht. One final advantage is the fact that a cloth roof is also very light and it always pays to reduce weight the higher up you go. It improves stability on the road.

The design, as all good practical designs often are, was born of necessity. I wanted a simple place to camp but I wanted comfort and space but nothing I saw on the market did anything for me. Everything was too big or too heavy. By researching caravans I discovered the rules and laws. What I discovered was that there are no special requirements for trailers under 500 kilos. They don’t even need brakes!

Normal caravans are so heavy that they need to be licenced and controlled. Your insurance will go up, you need special mirrors and you’ll drive so slowly that you’ll drive other road users quite mad. But what if you could make a caravan that weighed less than 500 kilos all in? Well, there are a few out there but they are all expensive, the cheapest I saw was about £4000 and it was just a cheap fibreglass moulded shape, too big to tow and yet too small to stand up or cook in. Some of the more expensive small caravans I saw were as much as £12000 but they had the same problems.

Teardrop campers seem popular, I suppose because they are small and relatively aerodynamic but there’s only a bed and if you want to cook, you have to go around the back. Maybe these caravans are designed for Africa or Australia or other rugged places where it never rains. Well I’m from Europe and it rains here so any caravan I wanted had to be big enough to stand up and cook in.

Obviously I considered a camper van but they are so expensive to run and they just sit there most of the year doing nothing which is a pitiful waste of money and resources. Plus they cost a fortune to buy and if they’re small enough to be economic to use, they’ll be too small and compromised inside.

Having discovered the laws about trailers it led me to thinking, why not make a lightweight caravan that simply bolts to a cheap naked trailer? So I began looking at ways to build a simple and light caravan. Having a simple box shape means making it couldn’t be easier. All I had to do was come up with a light and structurally rigid way of doing it.

The simplest, cheapest, lightest and easiest way I could come up with using easy to find commonplace materials was with was a sandwich of plywood over panels of extruded polystyrene to create a rigid, lightweight, tough, cheap and yet well insulated structure. One thing you do not want in a small space is condensation and this is why caravans are more comfortable than tents, because they are insulated.

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Here you can see one of the interior bulkheads being assembled. Note the wooden framework with the extruded polystyrene between the battens. A batten needs to be fitted everywhere a fastening will go. Another sheet of 3mm ply will be glued to this to complete the panel.

The down side to this system is the need for a very large and flat surface to make the panels on as twisted panels would stop a smooth telescopic action and the top section might jam. The other down side is that the framework needs to correspond to the window cut outs and interior pieces like bunks.

The first problem was easy enough to solve. The floor panel is large enough to use to assemble and glue all the other panels on. So long as you get the floor level it is easy enough and since the floor is made directly on to a square and flat trailer chassis it’s all good. As for positioning the interior framework well that’s just a question of pre planning where everything is going to go. Another big advantage to this system is that you really don’t need much space to build a Slidavan, although you do need a doorway wide enough to get the caravan out after it’s made! A single car garage is quite adequate.

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Here a panel is being glued. Weight is added to hold it down while the glue sets. The white panel with the curve on it is the jig for the roof beams. It is there to help add weight to ensure a good glue bond.

Experience comes in to design as well and having lived on a boat for over a quarter of a century I have learned a thing or two about small space living so I ought to be able to come up with a comfortable and yet practical interior design. The Slidavan is minimal and traditional in design. A bunk each side with the floor in the centre of the caravan under the highest part of the roof of course.

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The door at the back is just obvious. I don’t know why caravans so often have a side door. How can you load a bicycle or a sailing dinghy in from the side? The Slidavan can carry from 100 kilos of extra weight so why not use it to transport your toys at the same time?

How to raise and lower the telescopic top took a little while to work out. I thought it would be nice to have an electronic top that went up with just the flick of a switch but there is no easy way to do this and it adds weight, cost and complexity. Far better to have a simple separate system that is not attached to the caravan at all.

There was a caravan from many years ago called a Hi-Lo and it used a hydraulic cable system which lifted the four corners and I am sure it worked very well but the complexity and weight ruled out such an option for the Slidavan. I had to find a better way.

As the Slidavan is symmetrical it made sense to simply lift the upper section from the centre. So one of the curved beams is placed centrally and a lifting device placed directly under it. I couldn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work so I set about experimenting. At first I used a simple 10 mm threaded bar but the threads were too fine and after a few operations it seized up. That would never do. Whatever system I came up with had to be reliable.

These days it’s possible to buy almost anything so I did some research and found what is called a leadscrew. It’s basically a threaded bar but with a greater pitch and squared off threads. It is designed to handle large loads. It’s exactly the kind of thread that you might find on a car scissor jack. I had hoped to be able to use and modify a car jack as they are easy to find and cheap. However the lift of the Slidavan’s upper section is 700 mm and no jack I could find had that kind of range. 

So the final lifting mechanism is a 12 mm diameter leadscrew with a 3 mm pitch. That means that for every revolution the upper section would lift 3 mm. A bronze nut was bought along with the leadscrew as it is much less likely to gall. This was fitted in to a wooden tube and cross brace. The whole lot operated with a battery powered drill. A thrust bearing is needed to take the force and the weight and this came from the head race of a bicycle. Perfect.

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It takes a couple of minutes to set up the lifting mechanism and less than a minute to raise the upper section the full distance. This is fast enough for anybody. Once the upper section is up four bolts are fitted to hold it in position and the lifting mechanism is then removed and stowed under a bunk. The lifting mechanism weighs just three kilos which is very light considering it is lifting about 100 kilos.

The overall length of the Slidavan is logically dictated by the length of a sheet of plywood but of course not every country uses the metric system and although the sizes between Imperial and Metric plywood is similar is isn’t the same so the plans had to take in to account the fact that Imperial ply is 62 mm shorter. Oh the demands on the designer. But no worries, I would never want to alienate anyone from building a Slidavan so even if you use Imperial materials you can still build yourself a Slidavan.

So with all the design issues solved it was time to make a Slidavan. I bought a new naked trailer from a French company called Norauto. It cost a very reasonable 500€. It has a track of about 160 cm so I would build the Slidavan over the wheels. They also sell a wider version so if you wanted you could build a Slidavan and place it between the wheels. It does mean that the Slidavan would be a bit narrower but of you were looking to go off road the extra stability that the wider trailer offers would be perfect.

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The building of the Slidavan was straightforward. You can make a panel a day so it would take nine days before all the panels were made. Since it doesn’t take that long to make a panel it made sense to laminate a roof beam a day to save time.

All of Woodenwidget’s designs are light weight. There are a lot of good reasons for this. Using less weight means less materials. Less materials means less waste and lower cost. When you’re making a folding dinghy you want it to be as light as possible otherwise it just makes handling it a pain. A caravan can be heavier but you will still pay for a cavalier attitude to weight reduction. Every single thing that goes in to a Slidavan adds weight. A screw might only weigh a fraction of a gram but multiply that by 1000 and suddenly you’re looking at a kilo or two. It is quite shocking how quickly the weight adds up. So it just makes sense to keep this in mind right from the very start of the design process through to the end product.

There are loads of other considerations of course. How would the gap between the panels be sealed? How would the top section be held to the bottom during transporation. One by one these issues were solved always by first looking at the lightest option and only accepting a heavier solution if a lighter one could not be found or would not function correctly.

In the end the Slidavan structure including the full interior came in at just 200 kilos which isn’t too bad at all. The trailer weighs about 100 kilos so the Slidavan has an unladen weight of about 300 kilos. The law states that you can tow a unbraked trailer with a gross capacity of 500 kilos so 300 kilos leaves a massive 200 kilos of payload if required. However not all cars are able to tow this much weight.

For example, Bernie my trusty Panda 4×4 1.2 litre with just 65 hp is allowed to tow 400 unbraked kilos so that reduces the pay load to 100 kilos but that is still an awful lot of gear and in any case it would be far better to put stores and such like in the tow car and try and leave the Slidavan as light as possible.

Towing the Slidavan is a doddle. You can feel the extra weight when pulling away and going up steep hills but otherwise it’s all too easy to forget you’re towing a caravan! But as the Slidavan is no wider or higher than Bernie if I go for a gap with the car I don’t have to worry that the Slidavan won’t fit. On the road you can zoom along, even through the bends. The low centre of gravity keeps the Slidavan following like a trusty Spaniel. Not once has it felt even slightly dodgy. Even at speed on the motorway. Even being passed by big lorries is no problem. It hardly moves at all. It’s very reassuring. I have been blown about more in other cars without a trailer.

Theory is all well and good but the proof is in the pudding as they say. I have no idea what that means but it sounds good. Proof that tucking the Slidavan in behind the tow car comes in many forms. From the excellent stability under all conditions and from the way the front of the Slidavan stays clean while the rest of it can get quite dirty especially in the rain. But the best proof of all is the barely noticeable increase in fuel consumption

Since I have owned Bernie I have never managed to average better than 7.4 litres per 100 kms (or about 38 mpg) the Panda 4×4 was never a very economical car with it’s lofty stance, fat tyres and 4 wheel drive system but after 1000 kms of varied driving I was surprised to see that my average had barely increased to 7.7 litres (36 mpg) and that’s not just towing the Slidavan that’s with a well loaded car. I would have expected a slight raise in consumption just carrying the extra weight so it looks like the Slidavan hardly affects fuel consumption at all which is fantastic and sure proof that the concept is sound.

One thing I did do which may have made a large difference was to move the Slidavan closer to the car than a normal trailer or caravan. For some reason there is always a very long gap between the front of the caravan and the back of the car. I was not sure why this is done but perhaps for two reasons. One, to give more articulation when going backwards and two, so that you can open the tailgate of the car without it clobbering the caravan.

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What I can tell you is that I can still easily open the tailgate and even on full lock going forwards in the tightest circles the Slidavan does not get close to the car. And as for going backwards, well why bother? When your caravan is so light, why not just unhitch it and move it by hand? It’s too easy. I believe it is because I moved the Slidavan closer to the car that the fuel consumption is so good. Because it’s so tucked in it in effect becomes an extension of the car. Of course there is skin friction but the bulk of the air is deflected by the car. Result.

So the Slidavan looks cool, tows well, doesn’t increase fuel consumption particularly and is good at speed on the motorway. What is it like to live in? Well I have been traveling and living in the Slidavan for a few weeks now and I must say it is a very nice place to spend time. One day it rained all day. And I mean it rained. Did I care? Not a bit of it. Totally dry and warm. The double glazed windows didn’t even steam up. With its high attractive ceiling you don’t feel cramped or claustrophobic at all. Everyone who sees the Slidavan say the same thing and words like: Massive, spacious and huge are used.

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This amuses me no end as the Slidavan is a very small caravan but it doesn’t feel small. This is partly because of the high ceiling which runs the full length of the cabin and the large windows which let in a lot of light but also it’s because the front panel is painted white. The white panel was done so that it could be used as a 60” projection screen! But another advantage is the way it reflects light around the cabin.

Lighting is achieved by a strip of LEDs hidden behind the forward beam. You can’t see the strip and the light it gives off is excellent and because it reflects off the white wall it illuminates the whole Slidavan very well. The white wall also adds a feeling of spaciousness while the wood panels offer warmth and ambience. It’s a nice contrast.

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The bed is luxury epitomised. Each single bunk is easily wide enough to sleep on but if you want a massive, spacious and very comfy double bed simply drop in the two seat backs between the bunks. Now you have a 1.6 m wide bed six feet long.

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There is a table which attaches to the forward mounting bolts and is very strong and stable. It can be removed in seconds by undoing a couple of wing nuts. The galley area is on the left hand side. It’s nice cooking by the double stable door and looking out. There’s a sink and two burner hob all in one fitted and it’s more than enough.

If you want you could fit another work top on the other side but I decided to leave it open and fit a small shelf instead. As it turns out it was a good move. It gives more options. If you wanted a shower you could hang a curtain and use that area. Or you could put a cold box or a chemical toilet there. There is no shortage of storage in a Slidavan with massive space under each bunk. It’s fair to say that you’d probably exceed the gross weight long before you filled up all the cupboards.

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Along the way everyone is fascinated by the Slidavan and perhaps a little jealous too. After all they have to crawl along towing their one ton (or more) caravan. They need a bigger car, wider mirrors, their caravan needs special insurance and a log book plus caravans are one of the most disliked forms of transport on the road. They simply cannot go fast, they can’t go up hills, they can’t drive down narrow lanes, they can’t go off road and they are a nightmare to manoeuvre. None of these failings apply to a Slidavan that’s because on the road it is a small trailer yet in the campsite it is a spacious, comfy and fully insulated caravan. Truly the best of both worlds.

So if you want a Slidavan you’ll have to make one. It would make a great winter project in time for adventuring the following summer wherever you want to go. With its high ground clearance, narrow stance, light weight and low centre of gravity you could take a Slidavan to places no one would dream of taking a normal caravan!

It takes about 200 hours to build a Slidavan and if you buy all new parts it might cost about £3000 to make. That’s a fair chunk of change but see if you can find anything even half as good to buy for double that. This is cheap caravanning! One of the things that has quite shocked me is the sheer cost of a caravan and the equipment you need. I thought yachting was expensive but caravanning is not so far behind. So the Slidavan and a small tow car is one way of reducing the costs enormously and if you buy secondhand parts you could reduce the costs dramatically.

To learn more or buy plans please visit woodenwidget.com and if you do buy plans we will plant five trees on your behalf.

Happy camping

Gradulux venetian car blinds

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The sun is brutal in the Med and any car left outside will suffer from sun damage especially the interior. The rear screen on the Fiat 850 sport is very angled so the sun beats in mercilessly. A simple though ugly way to protect the seats is to cover them but it’s far better to stop the sun coming in in the first place.

Many sports cars use a slatted black plastic cover that fits over the back window and it can look very cool. The Lamborghini Miura has and it looks great. This might look great on a 60s supercar but somehow it didn’t seem to be quite right for the Fiat.

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It occurred to me that I could make my own set of louvres but while researching this I came across a few pictures of an old French product from the 60s. Further searching revealed that Gradulux blinds were still made by a little company in Perpignon in southern France.

Their website is simple and there isn’t too much useful info to look at and no way to buy online but there is an invitation to contact the company. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I emailed to see if they made one for an 850 Sport. To my surprise I received a prompt reply. The price with tax and delivery was about 150€ which is not cheap but there is no way I could make something as nice for so little so I ordered one.

Being an old school company without credit card facilities meant I had to send a cheque in the post! Something I had not done for a very long time. About ten days later a small package arrived containing all the bits needed to fit your blind in your car.

Depending on the size of your back window there are two or four vertical supports to fit to the rear window. It’s dead simple as you just pop the end of the support under the window rubber at the bottom and then slide the top tab in. This simple system is surprisingly effective. Then the bent metal slats are popped in to the rests on the supports. Simple. It took all of five minutes to fit the blinds.

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They look really nice and can be adjusted so that they do not restrict your rearward vision at all. The blinds cannot be closed completely as you can with a similar blind in a house but they can be orientated in the opposite direction enough to be able to cut out headlights behind you.

It’s too early to say whether they will rattle with a window open at speed but the slats are well fitted and the vertical uprights are stiff to move without any play. There is no reason why they should make noise.

As far as period mods go, the addition of a Gradulux blind in the back window is a good one. It looks pretty rad and best of all keeps the sun off the seats and heat out of the car but if you want one they sometimes come up on Ebay for the Citroen DS or you’ll have to do it the old school way and send a cheque but somehow even this seems appropriate when you consider the product.

Leica M9 after seven years

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Hard to believe it was over seven years since I bought my M9. When I bought it I felt pretty sure that I would be happy with this camera for the rest of my life. It was all I ever wanted from a camera, it was basically a digital M3 which was my previous camera. How do I feel now after seven years of ownership?

The M9 is still, even today a fantastic camera. It will always be a fantastic camera. Some moaned that you could only take a few frames at a time and the ISO was pretty poor. All this is true but I learned photography back in the film days when you had to wind the camera on by hand and multiple shots where impossible without a motor drive. As for the ISO well in the old days you had to choose your ISO and stick with it. Even the M9, basic as it is still offers many advantages over a film version.

For about five minutes I thought about buying the 240 but it’s heavier and wider and the M9 is already bigger and heavier than an M3 and as far as I am concerned, at the limit of what I am prepared to lug about. The video option was interesting but in the end it made much more sense to buy another camera that I could use for video, so I bought a Sony Nex7 for that and kept the M9. No regrets.

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Over the years I have had a few issues. My first body was a very early production model and it would not work with the 21mm 3.4 lens I had despite their claims to the contrary. Leica couldn’t fix the problem, something to do with the tolerances of the lens rather than anything wrong with the camera but they did me a very good deal. They replaced the body and offered me a new 21mm 1.4 in exchange for my old 21 if I paid them just 1000€. Which I did of course and that 1.4 was an astonishing lens and I took some fabulous pics with it.

Since I have had the second body I have had no issues at all and full marks to Leica for standing by their product and seeing me right regardless of the cost involved to them. I am not an influential pro, just a lover of quality and I like the fact that I was treated with respect despite this.

A year or so ago I noticed that the new and much smaller 21 mm lens I had bought new was rattling. There was play in the lens body. Not good. It did not seem to affect the end result but I was worried that the whole lens would fall apart if I didn’t send it back.

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So thanks to my friendly Leica dealer the lens was sent back to Leica for repair. I did not expect to have to pay anything as I’d bought the lens new and there was clearly a manufacturing fault with it. I thought I might as well send the body back for a clean at the same time.

Today I got the news that Leica have not only repaired the lens for free but have also changed the sensor and cleaned and adjusted the whole body free of charge. All I have to pay is the cost of the shipping. Now this is what I call service.

Many people complain that Leicas are expensive and it’s true, they are, but there is a very good reason for it. Leica take care of their customers and I have always found them to be very generous and helpful. You are paying for a quality product on the one hand and on the other you are paying for a quality after sales service. It is very refreshing to me that Leica stand by their products even if they are over seven years old.

Nothing has broken in all that time and the small issues I have had have been dealt with efficiently and I have never been charged. This is really quite something in this day and age. The whole camera is still in excellent condition and there are a few places where the black paint is wearing through to the brass underneath but I like that. A little patina is no bad thing.

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So after seven years I can report that I am still delighted with the quality of the pictures from the M9. I still love using the camera and Leica continue to take care of me as a valued customer. Why would I use any other camera? The longer I keep it, the better value it becomes whereas if I was changing cameras every few years I’d be losing money each time and would other manufacturers be so generous repairing and maintaining one of their products once the guarantee had run out?

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again. The Leica M9 is a bargain. Not to mention the fact that a quality product with a long life is way better for the planet than a poor quality disposable one.

Thank you Leica for making the camera of my dreams and thank you for looking after me and my camera now and in to the future. Long may it continue!

 

Update Jan 20 2017

 

So Leica have launched the M10 to add to their now very confusing collection of rangefinders you can buy. The good news is that finally the size of the M10 is now pretty much the same as the old M3 and the weight is about the same. This is great news.

It’s also slightly cheaper and has a simpler layout and live view and it’s also possible to fit a digital viewfinder on the flash hotshoe which does open up many options. There’s no doubt that the M10 is a more versatile camera than the M9 but there is still nothing about it that will let me take better pictures. For me, any added complexity simply takes away from the ability to take a quick picture. While you’re messing with options or buttons you may have missed the shot.

The bright lines are now created by a bulb which is all well and good I suppose but there’s something wonderful about the M9’s natural light system and using a mobile phone you can now control the camera from afar using its built in wifi! I ask you.

There are some nice touches of course, I do like the ISO knob which goes where the old film rewind was on the M3 and I like the more magnified viewfinder too and it’s great looking and has been weather sealed although obviously the lenses are not but that said, many is the time I have used my M9 in the rain and have never had an issue.

Had this camera been available when the M9 came out I might well have bought one and I cannot deny there is a temptation to have an M10 and I have no doubt that it would be a fantastic camera with its bigger sensor and smaller size but it still doesn’t tempt me away from my M9. Perhaps if I was a pro I would be very interested in the higher ISO and ability to shoot more frames but for me it just doesn’t make sense.

There are a couple of things that would put me off and one is the fact that the longest exposure the M10 can do is 8 seconds. What is that all about? And for some reason the camera takes well over a second to boot up. Is this progress?

But I’m nit picking. Of course I’d have one! But despite this camera’s awesomeness I am still more than happy with my M9. For me, for how I use it, it’s all I need but I am pleased that Leica have not lost the plot and are somehow walking that thin line between being contemporary and holding on to the tradition and values that spawned the M series all those years ago very well. Well done Leica.

Ghisallo wooden bicycle rims

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20” wooden rims as fitted to the Hoopy wooden bicycle I made the wooden valve covers and they turned out to be one of the most popular features on the whole bike. If you want a pair, you’ll have to make them yourself. Strangely Ghisallo don’t sell ‘em!

When I was looking for the right wheel for the Hoopy wooden bicycle I wanted something special. I had seen that there was a company in Italy who made rims but it seemed mostly for racing bikes with 26” wheels. They also made wooden rims for a Brompton which has a 16” so it stood to reason that if they can make a rim as small as 16” then surely they could make on in the 20” I needed.

There didn’t seem to be a 20” option on their site so I contacted them by email. Despite being in Italy I was able to communicate well with them as my contact Ugo has excellent English. He informed me that it was possible to make a 20” rim so we began discussing the details.

The rim is available in two widths, a narrow one at 27mm and a wider one at 31mm. There is also the option to have a carbon fibre insert in the rims. This is an essential option which allows you to put some serious pressure in the tyres. Without the carbon there is a chance that the rims could split.

There are six different colours for the finish. I chose a natural finish for my rims and I am glad I did. I was worried that the pale natural tone wouldn’t be dark enough but after just a little exposure to daylight and they soon darkened down to match the bike frame.

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Ghisallo can also build you a set of wheels and we discussed the options here too. In the end I chose a 74 mm wide Brompton front hub and a Sram 2 speed auto hub for the rear wheel and stainless spokes. Other options are a wider better quality front hub and a rear coaster brake single speed rear hub.

It took a few weeks from deciding on all the options until the wheels arrived. They are really fabulous and as a wood worker I can fully appreciate the skill and thought that has gone into these rims. Not only that they seem very light to me. I weighed the front wheel without tyre and it only weighed 700 grams which I think is pretty light regardless of what material the wheel is made of.

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On the wheels I put 2” wide 20” tyres and the end result not only looked right but was exceedingly comfortable and smooth. How much of this is down to the fat tyre, the wooden frame or the wooden rims I cannot say but the overall effect is very nice. Firm and stiff and yet not harsh. Everyone who rides the bike is always surprised by just how comfy the Hoopy is to ride.

These are lovely wheels. A really lovely product that taken care of can last for years and years and certainly as long as any other kind of wheel. A hand made product can never be cheap, one must pay for quality. A pair of wheels fully built to my spec came in at about 600€, a lot of money yes but worth every penny and they certainly elevate the Hoopy from being a cool wooden bicycle to being a super cool one.

It is amazing how many people are surprised that it is possible to buy wooden wheels for a bicycle they are then further surprised when they discover they are not only beautiful but strong and light in to the bargain. If they have a downside it is that the finish needs to be maintained. It’s not such a big deal to remove the tyre and mask up the 28 spokes in order to put another coat of varnish on them.

All in all I am very happy with my wooden rims, they are light, strong and very very cool and they look amazing. Highly recommended.

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Wooden handlebar grips by Ghisallo. I removed the original leather so I could fit my own. They are hard but surprisingly comfy to hold. They need to be glued or screwed on.

There’s a lot more to Ghisallo than just wooden rims too, they also make rims in bamboo and a host of wooden accessories from hand grips to handlebars. Check out their site here

And if you want a set of 20” wheels like the ones on the Hoopy all you have to do is click here!

Check out this series of videos which demonstrate the process of making a wooden bicycle rim. Great stuff. Here’s part one. There are three videos to watch.

A very customised Fliptail 7

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Woodenwidget has been selling plans to build folding boats for over ten years and in that time many builders have been kind enough to share their attempts. It is always a delight to see how builders finish their boats. Some copy the plans exactly, even down to the same type of wood and fabric. Most personalise their craft in some way but do not deviate from the plans structurally but every now and then an ambitious builder lets their imagination run wild.

Alex is one of these builders. He owns a rather lovely small classic yacht and he wanted to try and match a dinghy to it. His emails were intriguing and right up to the end I had no idea what he was up to because he said he didn’t want to send any pics until the boat was finished.

So when I finally saw the pictures I was so impressed. He was worried that as the designer of the Fliptail I might be somehow offended by his modifications but nothing could be further from the truth. The pleasure I get from seeing what people do with the design is very heartening.

What you see below is basically the email I got from Alex with his comments and pictures which explain it all much better than I could.

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Hello Benjy,

As promised, some construction photos and final results of my Fliptail 7, "Foal", tender to my 19′ Ralph Stanley sloop, "Bucephalus".

First off, I want to say explicitly that none of the diversions I made from your plans were because I felt the design was in any way flawed. All the significant changes were because I’m fussy about wanting something aesthetically just so, or to fit her into her very specific role as a tender. Your plans were excellent, far better thought out than my modifications, and any difficulties I encountered in the construction were entirely my own doing, as would be any failures of the vessel as I built her.

The first big change I made, of course, was making her a peapod, double-ended. This was pretty straightforward: figure out the midpoints of all the longitudinal elements, backbone and hoops, and then mirror the bow section. For instance, two stems:

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You can’t have too many clamps:

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With the hoops, I went a little further off piste. I knew I wanted a concave sheerline, and the best way to accomplish that in this situation was to have hoops with a fair curve, and then angle them down slightly. So the hoops are a slightly different shape than the typical Fliptail’s; significantly, there is no absolutely straight section, they are curved throughout. They still start from the same principles and basic dimensions, though –and they still take a lot of clamps:

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Turns out you can’t get 10mm plywood over here. Even high end wood suppliers stock in 1mm increments up to 9mm, then jump to 12mm. For the sake of lightness, as well as because 12mm wouldn’t fit when folded up, I used 9mm okume. It turns out it’s pretty flexible stuff, when you’re sitting on it, but I think it’ll be fine. Again, I slightly tweaked her plan view, even beyond making her double-ended, to fit the differently-curved hoops:

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Given that she will be used in a salt water environment, all hardware is either brass or bronze. This includes 1/4"-20 bronze carriage bolts for the floorboard supports, since I didn’t have a full 10mm of ply to countersink for machine screws. (As an aside, reconciling your metric instructions to my SAE working habits and materials suppliers was a challenge in its own right):

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A minor change of detail, on the keel cheeks, to remove a sharp point:

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I couldn’t bear to let the offcuts off the ends of the hoops go to waste, and since I wanted something a little curvier at the ends of the hoops than the cedar wedges specced in the plans, to show the sheer better, I used the offcuts thus:

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Foal’s construction sequence has been considerably different from that you outline for the typical Fliptail. I have done a lot of pre-fitting of parts, since I’m detailing them differently, which means I need to assemble, disassemble, adjust, check the fit, and only then start varnishing and painting, once they’re shaped as I want them. The complexities of changing her to have a concave sheer made things even more difficult, as everything had to be assembled, scrutinized, and adjusted many times to be sure the curves were coming out right. It has definitely slowed the process, but I think the results are worth it.

To match her parent vessel, Foal is painted blue-grey inside, with bright trim.

Lower hoops in place:

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Stem detail. The oak bearing pads, laminated to the stem and sternpost, have their outside faces canted out about 6°, to angle the upper hoops downward and create the concave sheerline. Angling the hoops down reduces her freeboard by a couple inches, but the geometry also works to give her sides a bit more flare:

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Since I had the ash offcuts on hand, and it makes nice detailing when finished bright, the floorboard supports and upper hoop supports are of ash instead of cedar. Since the assembly process was slow anyhow, I took the time to laminate the brace-blocks onto the floorboard supports, instead of screwing them on, and shaped some curves to get rid of some weight and lighten them visually. I also glued a pad across the end grain where the lower hoops bear, to protect the end grain from splitting. In this photo, the bolts all have yet to get their nylock nuts, and be trimmed to length:

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Sternpost detail. I left the pads long to create a fairlead, either for a towline, for towing Bucephalus, or for rowing out a kedge, or taking a warp ashore for mooring or warping in. The hoops also sit an inch lower on the sternpost than on the stem, to enhance her sheer:

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Upper hoops in place, with temporary vertical supports to fine tune the sheerline. Angling the upper hoops down to create the sheer had the effect of flaring the sides, which angled the bottoms of the upper hoop supports inward, and in turn meant the floorboard supports needed to be shortened:

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You can see the 12° of "deck camber" a bit better here:

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Final vertical supports in place, but not yet varnished. There’s only so much you can do to add sheer to a 7′ boat, but from a little distance, she does have the tiny bit I had hoped for:

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I have an unreasonable hatred of barrel-bolts. To avoid using them, I instead shaped the heads of #6 screws on my lathe to remove the flare of the heads, and screwed them into the endgrain of the vertical supports. I then drilled into the floorboard supports and lined the sockets with open-ended Chicago screws left over from the floorboard hinges. The Chicago screws have a slight crown to the end, which provides both a strike plate for the screws/pins and a little more clearance to allow water to drain off. It takes stretching the fabric a bit to get the verticals into place, but they hold their position quite well:

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I also re-invented the detail of how to locate the floorboard supports on the lower hoops. Instead of notching the lower hoops, I drove a 1/4" oak dowel through the keel, to serve as a stop for the floorboard supports when they are swung into place: (designer’s comment: Normally a small flat is cut on the upper side of the hoop and the floor support locates in the slot. This is so that when rowing you can put your feet on the supports and force against them. I worry that Alex’s solution is not ‘idiot proof’ but so long as he is aware of the issue, his solution is fine)

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Covering the modified hoops went just fine. To match Bucephalus –and my other dinghies– I used dark green fabric for the bottom panels and white for her topsides. For sealant I used up a couple partial tubes I had on hand of both 3M 4200UV and 3M 5200, aka "demon snot". In keeping with her bronze and brass hardware, for salt water resistance I used 1/4" monel staples, for longevity:

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Foal together with Bucephalus’s "home waters tender", Toggle:

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For a rubrail I did as I had done on Toggle, and used a length of 3-strand spun dacron (1/2"), long-spliced into a loop. I first routed a 1/4" radius cove 3/16" deep into the upper hoop, positioning the cove at the top edge of the hoop so that the rope would stand proud of the wood both on top as well as to the outside. This is because I’ve found that when coming along side a larger boat in any sort of a chop, a dinghy will tend to sort of scoop its rail up and into the larger boat, not just bang against it sideways, so padding along the top edge is warranted as well. (Also, bronze nylock nuts are now in place.):

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With the cove shaped, I stapled the top edge of the topsides fabric into the cove, so that the fabric turned over the bottom edge of the cove. Ideally this will ease some of the point-loading against the staples. The rope rubrail then covered the edge of the fabric and is secured in place by 3/4" #6 bronze round-head screws: you insert the screw in between two strands of the rope, and then drive it *through* the third strand and into the rail, so that when it is driven home, the head disappears beneath the first two strands. Be sure to use round-head screws for this, if you try it: flat-head screws tend to frazzle the rope as you’re driving them. There are slight bulges where the screws are, but those tend to get less obvious over time:

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At stem and stern I left bights of rope long enough both to let the hinges work and to use as lifting handles:

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The aft bight is longer, to work as a sling for rowing out an anchor:

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To take the strain of lifting, the rubrail is also seized to the upper hoops close to the stem and sternpost:

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The sternline is just girth hitched to the stern lifting becket, since it’s unlikely to take much strain, or even to get much use, but for a little bit of "bling" the painter is girth hitched to a bronze captive ring:

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As for where to put the oarlocks, it turns out your written instructions were, for me, exactly right: they work well immediately abaft the aft upper hoop supports. With two people in the boat, each sitting at the extreme ends, that position even works (sorta; adequately) to row stern-first and keep the boat a little better balanced on her waterline. Contrary to what you indicate in the instructions (yet again!), I installed the oarlocks to the inside of the rail rather than to the outside: I lose a couple inches breadth of effective rowing position, but it removes any chance of dinging the boat I’m coming along side of:

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And Foal has now had a preliminary bout of sea trials. I don’t have any photos of her under way, as I was the photographer and could not both row and operate a camera, but here’s proof that she does float:

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She also makes a very tidy package, with a pair of 6′ oars. I’m still working out the best way of lashing her for stowage, so please excuse the painter and sternline macrame:

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I am happy to confirm that she is surprisingly stable, and rows far, far better than I had expected (even with the rowlocks just clamped in place). I admit, I expected her to handle like an overturned umbrella in a duck pond, but that expectation was completely unjust, and her handling is stellar. I think she will be an even better tender than I had hoped for:

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Many thanks for all your support throughout the build. Let me know, now or in the future, if I can provide any details of Foal’s build, or the suppliers of her materials, for Wooden Widgets’ library of information.

All the very best,

Alex

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Hoopy wooden bicycle

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The Hoopy lightweight wooden bicycle that you can build yourself.

Ever fancied building yourself a wooden bicycle? Well now you can. Woodenwidget offer the Hoopy, a funky, one size fits all, lightweight, easy to build wooden bicycle. Right from the start, the Hoopy has been designed to be as easy to build as possible requiring no specialist tools or materials.

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Unique internal crank keeps clothes clean and looks great.

The plywood frame weighs from just three kilos and although it might look complicated to build, it really isn’t. The frame can be marked, cut out and glued ready for varnish is just a couple of days with little more than a drill and a jigsaw.

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Gorgeous wooden rims from Ghisallowoodenrims.com Made of Slovenian beech. Wooden headlight and leather clad forks too.

The hollow frame has many advantages. It can be used for storage or even batteries and a motor for an electric conversion. No mudguards are needed. You can even cut your own designs in to it but the most unusual advantage is the central drive chain. No more greasy clothes or ripped trousers! It looks better too! The low shape makes it suitable for everyone as it’s so easy to mount.

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This Hoopy even has wooden dust caps for the valves!

About £100’s worth of new parts must be bought but the rest can be from salvaged bikes or bought second hand. With care, it should be possible to build a basic single speed Hoopy for about £250 but as you can see from the photos it’s possible to spend a lot more!

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Brass dropouts, gold chain, wooden pedals.

The seat height is fixed yet works for the majority of adults, a taller rider simply sits a bit further back on the long seat. But if the builder preferred a more tailored fit it is possible to adjust the seat height during the build. That same seat is very comfy and long enough to easily carry a passenger. Or even a small third one on the wide crossbar.

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You can even cut your own shapes if you don’t like the ‘hoops’

As bikes go it might surprise you. It’s very smooth, swift and comfortable especially with the 2 speed auto hub and wooden rims. It’s nicely balanced and going ‘no hands’ is no problem at all.

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This one has no cables and a two speed auto hub.

Plans are available from Woodenwidget and if you buy Foldavan plans, you can get £10 off any of the other plans. Woodenwidget will also plant five trees on your behalf. At just £30 the plans are extremely good value with 30,000 words, over 200 pictures and 130 pages. Plus a huge amount of extra info about woodworking, tools and varnishing etc.

To find out more visit Woodenwidget.com

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Even the back light is made of wood.

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Hoopies on the beach.