Tinkering School

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2014 Session A - Masters

Masters Class Epilogue

2014 Session A - MastersgeverComment

Tinkering School is built on the notion that given an interesting problem, real tools, real materials, and the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, children can do almost anything. I told the large team of tinkerers and collaborators assembled in the dining room at Elkus Ranch on Sunday night that we have built big things at Tinkering School, and we have built boats, but we have never built a big boat - let's make something big enough for all 17 of us, and sail it!

Over the course of the next six days, we designed, prototyped, and built a 16 foot long catamaran, with ninety six square feet of deck, eight paddles, twin rudders in a clever steering rig, eight benches, and a sail (all we forgot was a keel). In order to evaluate designs we had to estimate mass of the boat and passengers, and displacement. We discussed and analyzed many different solutions including a monohull, catamaran, trimaran, quartamaran, and pentamaran. As our ideas evolved, we discovered that what we really wanted was to build a boat that would have "buckets of yarr" - and that is exactly what we did.

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An amazing crew (left to right): Gever, Serena, Nova, Elizabeth, Gabriel, Yoel, Miles, Frannie, Elijah, Emma, Ben, Liora, Megan, Lauren, Evan, Josh, and Josh.

Day One - A Big Project Begins

Day Two - Thinking It Through

Day Three - Serious Progress

Day Four - The Longest Day Ever

Day Five - Today We Float, Tomorrow We Boat

Day Six - Setting Sail

note: in the word catamaran, 'cata' is not a suffix. The term 'catamaran' is a transliteration from Tamil, as I learned recently.

Day Six - Setting Sail

2014 Session A - Mastersgever1 Comment

After last night's late test run, we know exactly what needs to be done before launch. Reenergized, we set to work rewaxing places on the pontoons that had leaks. And, of course, the deck had to be made ready for launch- a team climbs on top of the trailer to mount the benches, the tiller stand, and the mast socket, so that when we reach the water, we will be able to slide the boat right in.

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Deck layout is of the utmost importance - after all, we intend to spend significant amounts of time onboard, and so we take a moment to stop and make a diagram, complete with moveable "benches" torn out of paper and drawn on so we can try different orientations.

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Miles and Gabriel use waterproof tape to cover the additional wax added to the seams- just one more anti-leak protection.

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A look at the deck layout of our ship- Ben and Lauren finish attaching the benches.

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Your Daily Goat.

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"All hands!" - After a quick lunch, we head back to the barn to load up.

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And we're off.

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It takes us all morning, but when the time comes, the long anticipated "T.S.S. Conundrum" (T.S.S. stands for "Tinkering School Ship") is lowered into the water for its maiden voyage by an excited group of tinkerers. Even after yesterday's successful hull test, we still can't quite believe that the ship is afloat and working.

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Named for the conundrum we faced in naming the ship - we couldn't reach a compromise between proposed names, the T.S.S Conundrum was named seconds before launch, to ensure we avoided the bad luck of launching an unnamed boat.

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Liora and Emma help with the lacings that connect the pontoons to the deck.

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The rudder team, Liora, Serena, Lauren and Nova, with Gabriel's help, attach the tiller. Out on the water, the steering works like a charm. IMG 2867

Megan, Elizabeth and Yoel enjoy the feel of the sea and the view from on board. We are off on a grand adventure.

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A little ways into the harbor, after settling in to the feel of the boat, we anchor to a buoy and raise the sail. Gever helps control the boom, surrounded on all sides by boat-riding tinkerers.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Megan wraps a towel around her life vest for warmth.

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Look! Our boat docks! We are convinced that our ship has proved to have buckets of yar (it was determined earlier this week that yar, the nordic for "sea-worthy and beautiful," comes in buckets).

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Megan and Lauren. Tinkering School forges the best of friendships.

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Despite not getting home until 9pm, the tinkerers adamantly advocated for the traditional campfire- it is, after all, the fourth of July. Fires at Tinkering School are like nowhere else- the group here gathers round to throw sawdust carefully into the fire, forming brilliant fireballs.

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All in all, it's been a long, successful, satisfying day. We finally quenched our fire at 1:30am, and went in for bed. Today, we successfully finished and sailed our 17 person boat - and those moments on the water sailing out own craft were like magic. As we get ready to set sail and head home from camp, we hold on to the magical moments - be they building, sailing, or making fireballs with sawdust and cooking spray in our fire. We, the masters, are unstoppable.

An inscription on a bench on the T.S.S Conundrum. For us, Tinkering School is reaching for our dreams. Can we build a giant boat? One that can carry us, and stay afloat? Yes. Hold fast to your dreams, and you can achieve anything. IMG 2870

Day Five - Today we Float, Tomorrow we Boat

2014 Session A - Mastersgever1 Comment

We woke up this morning ready to get to work - even though we've been behind schedule, we still want to test this afternoon - and that means waxing all four pontoons, building four more oars, and finishing the rudder/tiller steering system.

After breakfast, Gabriel and Yoel share Gever's iPad in order to get a look at the blog - after all, we've accomplished a lot these past three days, and it's fun to think back. And look at pictures.

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We head up to the barn to set up a waxing station inside to wax the pontoons. Everyone gathers around to move the pontoon to the makeshift saw horses (Ben, Yoel and Josh's benches repurposed) to examine the side we're about to wax. How many tinkerers does it take to move a pontoon?

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An unfinished hull. The ambitious goal to place an entire, floating boat in the water by 2pm. If anyone is up to the task, it's us.

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And so we set to work. Working in parallel, discussing the most efficient ways to go about the task, the barn bustles with activity. And we are able to move forward on all four boats at once- repairing loose lacings done past 10pm last night, cutting the backs for the pontoons, and above all, waxing.

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Gever, Liora and Frannie discuss waxing techniques, sharing the knowledge Elizabeth and Frannie gained yesterday when they waxed the oars. So we take an oar out to study- the good strokes and the bad- and thus, we learn from each others past experience. So goes Tinkering School.

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Frannie slowly strokes wax onto the bottom of a pontoon.

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Waxing is a team effort. Frannie, Lauren, Elizabeth and Josh work together, sharing a hot bucket of wax.

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Hands of a Tinkerer: Serena tightens a loose wire stitching to (hopefully) better keep the seam of the boat together.

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Megan peers out from behind the pot of wax. She's stepped in to help the waxing team get the pontoons done in time. Lauren, too is hard at work as always. Today, waxing is her forte.

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An interesting technique evolves among those elite waxers. Excess wax, it is discovered, can be recovered and returned to the pot for future use by running a pocket knife lightly along the waxed part of boat. Megan uses her knife help in these efforts.

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There is a perfect temperature for wax coating. This is achieved by reheating the pot frequently. And to ensure we don't run out, more wax is added. Pontoons, we learn, require quite a lot of wax.

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But the waxing isn't the only thing to be done. Ben and Elizabeth cut out paddle blades for more oars.

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Because our difficulties sourcing canning wax, our supply angel Robyn brought us candles, which when painted onto the pontoons give them a nice, watercolory look.

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Candle in the melting pot.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: the reliable Miles.

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The waxing team discovers that shaved off wax makes wonderful, curling roses when placed right.

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The morning light turns our barn into a cathedral of tinkering.

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Hands of a Tinkerer: Elizabeth is agile and adept with the angle grinder.

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Frannie uses the heat gun to ensure the wax has seeped into the wood everywhere, making as tight a seal as possible.

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Oar handles have to be perfect, because the sail may be a little bit small. Elizabeth has worked in some way on all nine of the paddles produced this week.

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The tinkerers have taken over the cameras today (and the blog - thanks Serena), and we have almost two thousand new pictures to sort through tonight. Evan caught young Josh in a digital shootout.

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Before lunch, we thought that we would be pulling out of Elkus Ranch at 4pm. That was our goal. We worked through lunch in shifts and at 4:45pm we were finally loading the trailer.

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"All Hands!" becomes a frequent refrain as we move all of the boat parts out of the shop. The mast will stay behind because we just don't have time to figure out the rigging today.

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Liora puts line-routing holes in the boat deck so that we can tie the pontoons to the deck and keep them in place while we are sailing through high waves.

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The true size of the deck becomes apparent as we get a better perspective on it.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Elijah expresses the joy we all share for the imminent launch of our boat.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Evan has been running errands and keeping a ready hand for the trailer packing team.

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Hands of a Tinkerer: Elijah and beetle.

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"All Hands!" is the call once we arrive at the harbor and unpack the boat. It is now 7:15pm, not the 4pm we were hoping for, and that makes this the latest test run of a Tinkering School project - ever.

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Boat preparation at sunset.

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Portrait of a (embattled) Tinkerer: Elizabeth is steadfast despite her many injustices (poison oak from playing with a farm dog, cut finger from whittling, cut finger from slamming finger in door, miner's lung from jigsawing nine paddle blades).

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Lauren is all dressed up for the first test run.

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Megan is happy to climb into the trailer and help with the complicated rigging and pontoon-retention system we have invented.

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First touch of the sea. The stalwart pontoon team with help from Josh, Nova, and Emma, lowers the first pontoon into the water. Will it float?

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The first leak is discovered.

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Light and lively in the water, the stern section of the pontoon floats peacefully in the slip.

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With one section in the water and much work to be done, the lowering of the second section hardly rates a glance from the ever-focused Lauren.

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Two in, two to go.

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A few brave souls shed their shoes and enter the cold waters of the Pacific.

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Being the lightest, and youngest, as is our erstwhile tradition, Lauren and Megan are sent to the hanging deck to align the stern sections of the pontoons.

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"I have to admit," says Miles, "I'm really attached to these pontoons."

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8:30pm: with Megan and Lauren onboard, the boat floats! The sections of the pontoons are joined and secured to the deck cleats - it is a success! Now, how many of us will it hold?

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"All aboard!" We clamber on.

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It floats! It's an honest to goodness boat. We are careful to regard this as a "hull test" so that we don't have to name the boat yet (although a concerted effort was made to dub it "Pine-Tiki" by the pontoon team).

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Hull test complete, we disembark and dismantle our boat. We will take it back to the barn to address the leaks that have been discovered.

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It has been a great day. We are exhausted, hungry, and exhilarated. Dinner happened at 10:30pm (the latest dinner at Tinkering School ever) and at 1:51am the blog team calls it a night.

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Day Four - The Longest Day Ever

2014 Session A - Mastersgever1 Comment

Wednesday, the nemesis of tinkerers everywhere. Our schedule (see earlier post) says that we are sealing the pontoons with wax today, but...

It's this kind of day - we just don't know it yet.

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Liora and Serena and Megan and sometimes Lauren (who is still visiting every team that needs help) are starting to work out the details on the mast.

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Your Daily Goat.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Evan needed extra sawdust protection (we all did, there was an unprecedented amount of cutting today).

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Nova is one of the best listeners.

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Miles takes the lead on the pontoons, also known as "floaty bobbers" (and sticks with it until long after dinner) in order to try and get us back on schedule.

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As per our erstwhile habit of repurposing donated paragliders, the sail team carefully dissects a wing to make a sail - an activity that would send any pilot into a conniption fit.

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Liora examines the internal organs of the wing and discovers a perfectly good velcro belt.

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Megan works to salvage as many of the paraglider's lines as possible.

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Jigsawing the oars puts saw operators faces very close to the sawdust spraying out of the tool.

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The jigsaw leaves a very sharp and splintery edge, and the oar team (Frannie, Evan, Elizabeth and Lauren) set to work with knives, rasps, and sanding blocks to address the problem.

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Evan diligently carved away at every single oar to keep the production line going.

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Gabriel puts his Opinel to work.

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The first meeting of the sailmakers knitting club gets down to business.

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After consulting with the deck team, the bench team realizes that there is a problem with the mounting system they had planned and sets about revising the benches so that they can be easily screwed to the deck.

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This is what a good water-tight lacing looks like.

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The first stop on the way to the Ranch House for lunch is the hand-washing station - no dirty hands in the kitchen.

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We wear the goggles so much, we sometimes forget that we have them on. Megan remembers just lunch is served.

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Hands of a Tinkerer: Megan attaches mast rings to the sail. This will be the first non-sticking sail to mast solution ever at Tinkering School.

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Hands of a Tinkerer: Lauren (who does everything) is right in there too.

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Elijah carefully drills holes for the seam lacing that will keep the pontoons watertight.

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Gever had to climb up the barn wall to capture the amazing hive of activity in the pontoon manufacturing plant.

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Still hard at work on the pontoons, the unstoppable Miles keeps the production pace brisk.

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Every boom ever made at Tinkering School has posed a few problems - this one is no different. Luckily, Liora and Serena of the sail team have a (new) plan.

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Young Josh pre-threads the wire laces in so that the pliers team can come along and twist them tight.

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Elizabeth seems undaunted by her first finger cut of the day (later she will cut the exact same finger in a door, just on the opposite side of this cut).

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Hands of a Tinkerer: Lauren fits the eye bolt into the end of the boom.

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Liora loves her big wire ring.

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Four fully wax-sealed oars, and the prototype/backup oar.

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Your Weekly Flower (thanks Frannie!).

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Ben is ready for the trailer ride (no running boards on the van this year) to the big pantry for more dinner supplies.

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It is quite possible that there is no other person on the planet that enjoys riding outside of a vehicle as much as Young Josh does (but Lauren would give him a run for his money in that department).

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Dinner happened. The list of things still left to do before we can test the boats is longer than we would like, so we head back to the barn for a marathon work session.

Starting with the beautiful and very hydrodynamic pontoon prow.

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Miles. With a boat. Again. Undauntable.

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There are four half pontoons that will be fastened together to create two whole pontoons. The production teams are cranking them out.

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Hard working teams deserve delicious dessert. Tonight we are treated to strawberries and pound cake with "Frannie's Goop" (sour cream mixed with brown sugar).

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We started the day at 8:30 in the morning, and the last teams left the barn at 10:30 in the evening. No whining, no cranky-pants, just full steam ahead all day and into the night. This is why we love Tinkering School - it is more fun to work than to sleep.

Day Three - Serious Progress

2014 Session A - MastersJoshua RothhaasComment

Tinkering School has some tried and true traditions. For example, we have always under-captioned the photos, but our new blog technology doesn't seem to like that, so in true tinkering spirit, we are making it work with what we have. Please enjoy the over-captions to follow. Similarly, we have always let the tinkerers choose their own camp names and used those in the blog. This has caused some confusion off and on over the years, particularly with the extended family. Unless critical to a story, we will try to use the more well-known family names this summer. "Do Not Step on the Deck" - this is how we start our second day; with a giant work-in-progress covering most of the boy's room floor. This is the deck of our gigantic boat - 8' by 12'. And, "We Will Make You Rebuild It". Not meant as a threat, just the pragmatic truth of the reality that if you break the deck there will be no boat - and Emma and Yoel are certainly not going to build it again.

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With breakfast behind us, and Josh headed north to get our long-promised trailer, we head back up to Barn One, site of so many Tinkering School memories for this cheerful crew of tinkerers.

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The "Plantoon" team, Gabriel, Miles, and Elijah, get back to working out the manufacturing process for the four pontoons that we need for the boat. These four identical pontoons will be arranged in two pairs to create two 16 foot hulls.

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Ben ponders the eight benches that he, Josh, and Yoel will have to build over the next 48 hours.

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Frannie makes a valiant effort to convince the paddle team, with Elizabeth, Evan, and Lauren, that the blade of the paddle should really be 18" tall.

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The mast socket that will be fastened to the deck (as pictured earlier) turns out to be a somewhat tricky design challenge.

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The paddle design requires us to cut a slot in the end of a 2x4. Gever decides that it's a tricky enough bit of cutting that he'll have to take the reins (much as he dislikes to do so).

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The cut is a success - hooray!

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The Plantoon team has discovered that the bottom of the pontoon is half an inch too big and must be evenly trimmed down in order to get a tight waterproof seal.

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While Liora finishes the design of the mast socket, the rest of the team, Megan, Serena, and Lauren, build the mast sleeve that will be fitted into the mast socket. It's complicated.

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Lauren and Serena get their weight behind the butts of their cordless screwdrivers in hopes to avoid having to pre-drill the 2x3's they are assembling.

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Frannie and Evan work out the details of the first paddle prototype.

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Josh is pitching in on the bench project, which with eight benches to be built, requires many identical cuts.

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The many hands of Tinkering School. The chopsaw is getting a workout today. As an aside, we played "Pancakes or Waffles", aka "The Sacrifice Game", tonight at dinner, and in the game, the chop saw was sacrificed to keep waffles in existence (only to lose waffles to lightbulbs later).

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Frannie puts her new Opinel pocket knife (the official pocket knife of Tinkering School 2014) to good use taking the sharp corners off of the paddle prototype.

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With full safety gear in place, Megan is ready to get up to productive mischief (not that she has ever done anything actually mischievous - that we know of - at Tinkering School).

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Elizabeth gets a helping hand from Gever as she cuts out the first paddle blade with the jigsaw.

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The deck team consults with Gever about how to handle a weak spot in an already installed sheet of plywood.

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Precision is everything on the pontoons, which have to have waterproof seams and withstand water pressure when the boat is fully loaded - with 17 tinkerers and collaborators. Elijah is up to the task (and "awesome" he says from behind the blog writers).

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Ben has been tireless in his bench-building efforts. The field of bench legs and other parts surround him in the back corner of the barn the bench making team has claimed for their own - conveniently located next to the chopsaw.

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The morning bustle starts in earnest- suddenly, there are busy tinkerers everywhere - the barn is bursting with activity.

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The deck team works with Gever in shoring up that weak spot.

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A scene from Wes Anderson's new movie, The Tinkerer's Dilemma.

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Your Daily Goat.

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The paddle team takes a break from the paddle to try out the new mini-bench on the front porch.

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Joey, the 14 year-old puppy, came to visit the shop, much to everyone's delight.

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As often happens at Tinkering School, the tough problems sometimes lead to decoration breaks. The pontoons are getting very well decorated.

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Because the pontoons (also known as hulls) are posing many complicated problems.

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Meanwhile, at the back of the barn, Ben builds benches.

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The steering team, Nova, Serena, Liora, Megan, and Lauren (who is pitching in on every team), has got a plan.

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Nova and Liora make the holes in the rudder plates

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The rudder team is working out the techniques for lacing the rudder plates together.

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Lauren (who happened to pitch in on the paddle team just as the paddle was being finished) proudly shows off the finished product (that Evan put sweat and blood into shaping).

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Two scraps of wood are stitched together to prototype the connection we'll need on the underwater seams of all four pontoons. That's a lot of wire twisting...

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All hands on deck- literally. It takes 17 Tinkerers (all of us) to move the deck for our boat out of it's place of origin.

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This deck is enormous, gargantuan, huge. IMG 9795

Many hands, light work- even when it weighs 500 pounds. We can make it levitate!

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Evan examines the placement of the deck - leaned against the house - an decides that it'll hold.

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Then it's back to the barn for an afternoon of building.

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Tinkerers at attention.

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Lauren demonstrates her talents with the tape measure by pulling Megan's safety goggles off her face from a distance of 38". Exactly. The origins of "measuring tape fishing" start here.

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Then Megan takes her safety goggles to the work for which they were destined - cutting out the pieces Liora designed for the base of the mast socket.

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Evan uses the jigsaw and a makeshift sawhorse to cut out the paddles for oars.

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The jigsaw sings as it's put to work - so many cuts to make - we like to think it enjoys its work.

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Josh, caught off guard.

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The pontoon team stops their work to teach the bench team how to make precision cuts with the circular saw, even loaning them the custom saw guide they've been using. The great thing about one big project is the amount of inter-team cooperation we've had - because we all have the same goals and plans in mind, the team structures are less rigid and people tend to flow from group to group.

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Not all ongoing tinkering projects are boat related. Nova, Megan and Lauren take a break from sails and rudders to build a wifi stand- to better bring the blog to our readers.

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Six benches down. Two to go. The bench team has progressed in leaps and bounds.

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End of day clean-up party! With all the progress of the day, we are excited to head up to dinner (and showers), happy in the knowledge that we are (pretty much) on schedule.

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As always, you can find full resolution images here.

Day Two - Thinking it Through

2014 Session A - Mastersgever1 Comment

So, you want to build a boat that will carry 17 Tinkerers? By our estimate, we collectively weigh 935 kilograms - almost a metric ton. Then we made some wild guesstimates and decided that the boat would weigh about 250 kilograms, for a total of 1185 kilograms, which, wait for it, is approximately 2607 pounds. Put another way, that's a little more than a cubic meter of salt water (1.2 cubic meters if you would like to be as precise as Serena, who is helping out again on the blog this week).

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We start the morning with a rousing design session where the first concrete ideas about the boat come together. Hull design evolves from mono to cata- to tri- to quatra- and even to quinta-maran solutions.

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We gather outside, long after breakfast, our brains addled by too much nebulous design consideration, pausing enjoy Lauren's many Tinkering School knives (four!).

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Your Daily Donkey

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In the barn, we set to making cardboard prototypes and dealing with some of the early onset realities of building a really big boat. For instance, plywood can be bent in any one planar curve, but not two.

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These realities send us back to the drawing boards to iterate the design further before cutting wood.

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Miles and Lauren compare and contrast two strong hull designs. After much discussion, we concluded that Miles' design would work best in our quatamaran dreams.

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Josh attempts to replicate the V-relationship of the hull- and remind us again that we can't magically bend plywood in all directions. This involves much gesturing.

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Lauren engages in an animated conversation with Gever, discussing the possibilities or her curvy design. Gever takes a look at her model, pondering.

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Portrait of a Gever: Thrilled in the midst of the immense brainstorming, progress and bustle of the barn. And look- there's Josh cubed.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Elizabeth ponders the ramifications.

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As we move through the morning, the hull team moves off to discuss the details of the design, while the main group stays to think about other aspects— starting with the deck. unable to decide on size, we decide we'll simply have to try it out. "Everyone climb onto the luan! Squeeze!" We quickly realized 4' by 8' was much to small.

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All aboard! We get the first try of our new "deck-to be" once we work out that 8' by 12' is much more comfortable.

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Our propulsion plans call for oars as a back-up to the sail we hope to build- so of course, we have to check to make sure they fit.

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The new tool walls have been great. The team gathers round to come up with a plan for the week. Josh 2 came up with a great marker holder, and so the sharpies are within grabbing distance- perfect for instant brainstorming tools.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: J-cubed, Respect.

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As the hull team works to figure out how to get the curve right, they turn to diagrams. And math. Yes, that actually works at times.

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Our ambitious schedule goals- we intend to wax the boat by Wednesday afternoon, to make sure it's waterproof by Thursday, when we hope to test.

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Portrait of a tinkerer: Elijah, the look.

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Lunch on the porch- an inside glimpse at what we eat at Tinkering School. Today, paninis (spell-checked by Gabriel).

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And, your daily goat. Did you think we'd only get you the donkey?

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Lauren and Nova add the tape manager to the tool wall- one of a growing number of modifications as we tinker with this new storage.


IMG 9288 Josh and Miles lean down to examine something- them and that team have been working on hulls all morning, and now return to it.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Megan's boundless enthusiasm.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Elijah in Red.

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Nova, Megan and Liora are excited to finally start cutting out the pieces for the rudder- they've been working to design the steering and sail for the boat all afternoon.

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Elijah holds the template they've been using to precisely cut each of the bottom pieces for the four hulls they intend to build.

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The hull team- Josh, Elijah, Gabriel, and Miles, setup to make a straight cut with the circular saw- two sheets at once. The guys make good human clamps- holding the board down for a great straight edge.

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The rudder team (Liora, Megan, Serena, and Lauren) take Gever through the designs they came up with while he was away on a shopping trip- a discussion later, we'd worked out how to keep the rudder attached to the boat so that it wouldn't slip off.

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Portrait of a Tinkerer: Because Megan.

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The hull team has come up with a complex labeling system for each of the components.

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Serena starts the fabrication of the twin rudders that will grace the stern of the boat. The difficult design problems are mostly solved(ish).

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Miles, Elijah and Gabriel assemble the first floaty bobber- a process that involves attaching the gunnels.

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And the floaty bopper coming together....

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And Elizabeth, manufacturing tokens from a eucalyptus tree and a sharpie for tonights game play.

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Portrait of a Collaborator: Nova brings quiet focus.

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The deck crew is determined to get back on schedule- they hit a set back when we realized the scale of our project was so large that we actually wouldn't have been able to move the deck out of the barn once it was completed. In the search for a flat surface, they claimed the boy's bedroom for workspace.

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And forty minutes later, Yoël, Nova and J-cubed have the top of the deck screwed on - that takes a tinkerer's determination.

Tonight's blog hand crafted into the wee hours in a collaborative effort between Serena (who did most the hard part) and Gever (who had the key-strokes memorized for the tedious bit).

As per our erstwhile habit, full resolution images are available here.

2014 Session A - Masters, Day One

2014 Session A - MastersJoshua RothhaasComment

Today was a nice slow start to what is predicted to be an incredibly audacious and difficult week. We've picked a project we honestly think may only be possible with the combined skill, and rapid adaptability of the alumnus attending Masters Session. But before we get to that, despite all being alumnus, we haven't met each other. In fact, no one at all has met every single person. Gever and Megan didn't cross paths last year due to him being out, Josh and Serena have only been ships crossing in the night.

So we talk about heady things, tell riddles, practice on the chopsaw and get to know each other.

D7K 2622 We pondered a rather horrific detective riddle wherein someone set the stage with too little information, and we all have to guess and ask questions to get to the bottom of the mystery.

We also wrestled with but have not solved the "google marble problem". Frannie layed out the problem for us. You have two glass marbles that will break at a given height (the same height for each of them). Your job is to determine highest floor can drop a marble from without it breaking. In the process you may break both marbles, but once you break them both you can no longer collect information. You are in a building with an infinite number of floors and your objective is to write a procedure or algorithm that will let you find the answer as fast and efficiently as possible.

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D7K 2624 This year we have also decided to try and make our own shirts. We got ourselves some sun activated ink and some printed stencils to see if we could make something lovely.

D7K 2626 Evan sprays his shirt with the inkodye.

D7K 2630 Josh and Josh -yes, we have three Joshs this week- start working on their shirts

While we wait for our shirts to set in the sun, we get our new Tinkering School knives, learn the rules of safe knife use and practice whittling. The key tenets of using a knife are simple. Think about the knife; it should be sharp, it should be locking. Thinking about your body in space; cut away from yourself and sit or lean against something for stability. Think about your surroundings; make sure no one is in your blood bubble.

D7K 2635 Everyone enjoys some shade as they space themselves out to whittle.

D7K 2641 Portrait of a tinkerer: Gabriel reflects on the state of his whittled stick.

D7K 2643 Portrait of a tinkerer: Frannie makes a pointy stick, a universally popular whittling project.

After some time in the sun and with our shirts done cooking and now in the wash we head into the barn for tool training. Tool training in the Masters session feels a bit odd. Everyone has done this before, and done it exceptionally well. But it is key to make sure we are using the same procedures and signals and have a unified language. Chopsaw procedure has evolved gradually over the years. We can always use some brushing up on the tools, just to get us on the same page- and as a bonus, they're always fun to use.

D7K 2686 Miles takes a go at the chopsaw and executes perfectly.

You can head to our flickr and catch a photo of almost every camper (a few are out of focus and a few campers were out) using the saw.

After the chopsaw, we head back up to grab dinner - pulled pork, salad, and plum cake.

Dinner conversation was distracting enough to keep us from taking pictures, so we'll have to leave that to your imagination. Josh (the collaborator) lead us in a debate about extraterrestrial life, as we pondered whether we were alone in the galaxy or the universe, how to define intelligent life, and why, if they did exist, we hadn't heard from our alien neighbors.

After much begging from the excited and experienced tinkers, Gever got ready to announce this weeks project- for the first time, instead of building something aimed for a single person or a small group to ride, we'd build something that could carry all 17 of us. Something that had "Yar"- the nordic word for a ship that had a sort of elegance- that would move through water and hold up. Yes, we're going to build a boat. A big boat. And of course, that means we have to head to the barn to plan. The rush to clean up dinner has never been quicker.

IMG 9078 Portrait of a Gever (the species of camp founding collaborators): Gever concentrating as he drives a van full of energetic campers up to the barn.

IMG 9080 The doors open to reveal a trunk full of a peculiar type of cargo- tinkers! Everyone bounds out and helps unload the sheets of plywood.

IMG 9093 Elijah has discovered the barn cat and crouches dow to investigate.

IMG 9099 Frannie picks up our new friend, and Gever breaks off from our boat brainstorm to discuss the possibility of fleas. "Just don't take it with you to bed," he asks, and so the matter is settled.

IMG 9103 And, in the the true make-it work fashion we love at tinkering school, Josh and Liora ask for Serena's help in opening the gate by using the camera flash as a flashlight- naturally, some interesting shots occurred.

IMG 9110 And so we return to Tinkering School, the masters settling back in here, at the barn, ready and eager for the week, the excitement tangible. And it's only right that we end the night the Tinkering School way- card games, guitar and blog writing at the dining room table. Yes, we're off to a good start.

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