Wood tiller??

Discussion in 'Sunfish Talk' started by mixmkr, Jul 2, 2016.

  1. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    I've got the original wood tiller (ash?) and wood tiller extension, connected with a 1/4 x 20 screw....what was there when I became the new owner of my '69 fish.
    This morning I went sailing and the wood tiller had a slight bend in it, under force at times. Probably 15kts+ wind...just starting to whitecap decently...but actually not that choppy... on Kentucky Lake. I was fearing busting the tiller. It wasn't bending a lot, but it wasn't remaining perfectly straight....since it is such a long affair. The tiller extension connection has to go as well. The screw threads where gladly sawing away at the hole in the tiller.
    This is the first time I was getting in wind over 15-20 kts at times in THIS boat, so it became apparent, easily about an hour into the sailing.

    Ok... I've got plenty of stainless bimini tubing to make a metal tiller and some smaller stuff for the extension. Is this necessary?? I can't see spending $250 at APS or similar...and I don't race so legality isn't an issue.

    What are some solutions and am I going to eventually break the tiller like a toothpick? I'm an experienced big boat sailor, marine tech on cruising sail boats, but just revisiting the sunfish, after only sailing them in my childhood, 40+ yrs ago. So....I like heeling, pushing things...and riding on the edge of excitement. IOW, there are going to be tiller forces for sure.

    also...what about my wood rudder blade and dagger board? They're both coated with West Systems epoxy and I keep them out of the sun when not in use. They seem decently strong, but I don't need to bust things and actually feel comfortable making new fiberglass ones from scratch to save a couple hundred bucks or more. I do it for a living, but not sure of the sunfish limits. Compared to a 40ft Beneteau Sailboat, things seem pretty under rigged...granted a small daysailor
     
  2. fhhuber

    fhhuber Member

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    I've never seen original wood tiller in good shape bend under any normal loads on a Sunfish. I'd just get a 1X1 of ash, oak or mahogany and make a new tiller. (poplar might even work but won't last as long)
    Maybe the Bimini tubes would work, but I'd want nice rounded caps on the tube ends.

    The extension is needed for letting you sit further forward in the boat. Changing balance fore and aft helps with steering upwind vs downwind.

    To deal with the screw sawing at the wood I'd get slip-fit brass tube over the screw and epoxy the brass into the wood then trim off flush.

    The daggerboard and rudder will show severe rot issues before failing.
    You'd be surprised how rotted out the dagger was on my Vagabond and it was still working. (just finished making a new one from mahogany with a large lead slab at the bottom)

    Actually, 1/4 inch paracord is probably strong enough for any line on the Sunfish... but would be hell on your hands, especially for the main sheet.

    If not racing you can make just about any modification you want.
     
  3. JohnCT

    JohnCT Active Member

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    For the screw thread issue just get 2-2.5" long bolts, with the first 1" or so unthreaded, then there are no threads in the hole and you just cut them to length. I do that with all my bolts.
     
  4. beldar boathead

    beldar boathead Well-Known Member

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    I can assure you after many years of Sunfish racing in all conditions, the wood tillers bend in a blow, and I have never seen one break. I think FHhuber sails a mini fish. They have smaller sails and a small centerboard so the rig doesn't get as much power and thus less tiller bending. That said, it sounds like you have a lot of weather helm. Read my response in this thread as to how to cut down on it. Need advice for replacement or alternative fix for my tiller | SailingForums.com. The aluminum straps connecting the rudder and tiller bend too. A common solution is to use two straps per side.

    Wood rudder bless in good shape can split lengthwise if you tug on the tiller to pop it up, so always lid the rudder up with your hand.

    You'll be much happier with a universal joint on a somewhat longer hiking stick. Aps and Intensity sell them.

    Sunfish are really well built and it is not uncommon to see an all-original 1960s boat still going strong, so don't worry about the fittings.
     
  5. beldar boathead

    beldar boathead Well-Known Member

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    Btw, do you have the original 1969 rudder setup with bronze parts? If so, that tiller has to be at least two inches wide at its widest spot. How could that be bending?
     
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  6. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    Actually I have the newer style rudder set up but as you can see, part of the old gudgeon is left on the deck...I guess to fill the alum trim space in the back!!! Anyrate...the tiller straps on the rudder head also "flexed" slightly too....but I have some stainless straps to fix that.
    What I ended up doing was put a "female" bolt head on the underside of the tiller...pressed in to fit the hole thru the tiller. Then I added stainless straps on both the tiller and extension, that won't allow the connecting bolt to wallow out, as that 1/4 x 20 bolt goes thru 1/4" holes in the straps, into the "female" bolt head on the underside. So...the tiller has a "sleeve" in it now and the top, the new strap. The tiller extension has the strap too. Nylon washers between the tiller and tiller extension. The 1/4 x 20 bolt has lock-tight on it, so it won't come out of the female "bolt head" on the bottom side of the tiller.

    Oh...goofy-ness...I put a plastic battery strap holder on the underside of the tiller...so the bolt head won't scratch the deck anymore.

    Maybe "jury rigged"...but all free.
     

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  7. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    oh yeah...I don't tug on the tiller to raise the rudder. I did read that splits the blades. Both my daggerboard and rudder where in pretty rough shape when I got them. So I sanded them quite a bit and epoxied them with West Systems. If they ever bust, I'll just build new ones out of glass.

    and...my ash tiller definitely was flexing. Reducing weather helm is a great suggestion. I did have a tad, but in comparison to say like a J24, it was much less noticeable. Move the center of effort forward .... ha!!... drill a new mast tube 4" forward !!! So...I can still bend under the boom and leave it higher!!!

    the pic is where the gooseneck and halyard where set... admittedly the gooseneck was pretty far forward... 16 inches or so...and the boom off the deck about a foot
     

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  8. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    yeah...if you remember...I was the guy in the other thread that epoxied alum backing plates under the deck, for all the fittings.... cut the bottom of the boat to gain access, vs butchering the deck (I'd never match the "dirty" gelcote again...and I've been doing gelcote for over 30 yrs). I can see busting masts though and those little spars like to bend too. I've sailed Capri 14.2...but other than that...Colgate 26, J22,24...which are in a whole different category... Then the cruisers.... the wind dies, you fire up the diesel.
     
  9. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    and thx Beldar.... you've had some great replies...very helpful
     
  10. beldar boathead

    beldar boathead Well-Known Member

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    . Masts used only in fresh water are not as likely to break as those used is salt water. When they break they generally break at the gooseneck or deck.

    With the gooseneck at 16 inches and the sail a foot off the deck you'll get some helm. Could either install a new mast step or try moving the gooseneck to 20 inches or so, further if needed

    The bendy booms and gaff are super- beneficial when it gets windy as the boom bends as you sheet in to flatten the sail. The gaff abov the mast bends some too to spill air.
     
  11. Charles Howard

    Charles Howard Member

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    As has been pointed out Sunfish are pretty tough boats. You don't see too many broken maststeps on sunfish. Masts don't break much as Beldar has said. The ash tillers will bend a lot and don't break. Set up in important to get the boat balance correct. This is a good article http://www.starboardpassage.com/SP/How_to_rig_a_sunfish.html. Having the booms flex depowers the boat in stronger winds. Do a search on Jens in the forums to see how to depower for really strong winds. Sunfish race in gusts over 25 mph.
     
  12. Light and Variable Winds

    Light and Variable Winds Well-Known Member

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    "Free" also, would be to shorten the tiller by 1-inch at the rudder end, then drill two new holes devised to raise the tiller off the deck.

    Look up "deck rash" in Search.
     
  13. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    thx Mr Wind
     
  14. mixmkr

    mixmkr Active Member

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    MANY thanks to all the replies. This is a good forum for answers. As mentioned, I didn't sail this boat hard as a kid...then got into cruising, displacement boats. Having very limited experience on the world's most popular boat actually, I wasn't really aware of spars bending, tillers, etc. I'm guessing my '69 has seen a gust or two and being a boat of that age has shown how rugged these fishes are. I'm a kid again with my boat. It's been great and something I can easily clean in 5 minutes...unlike a 40 foot Hunter :-D
     
  15. tag

    tag my2fish

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    I like that sail pattern!
     
  16. Light and Variable Winds

    Light and Variable Winds Well-Known Member

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    Deck rash:

    I was about to shorten my tiller to drill two new holes, when I noticed that the bolts had been "staked", and wouldn't permit easy removal. 'Also noticed that the aluminum areas that contacted the rudder cheeks were worn. Checking my personal metal-scrap supply, I found metal strips that came off a discarded windshield wiper blade would be a good fit to restore that worn area.

    Using a fast-curing waterproof glue, I bonded two strips using Multi-Grip. (Epoxy would've been better).

    Arrows show the cut and ground ends.


    Photos 11212016 53049 AM.bmp.jpg

    When I'm back to my Sunfish keel repair, I'll let you know how that worked.
     
  17. Light and Variable Winds

    Light and Variable Winds Well-Known Member

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    I had the problem of the screw sawing at the tiller, but didn't have the brass sleeve suggested. My particular tiller is made of three parallel pieces of wood. :confused: So I cut away about an 1½" of the center piece, ground a piece of red oak to fill the cut (oak from a shipping pallet), and epoxied + clamped + drilled it for a ¼" bolt.

    My most-used Sunfish is getting a metal extension for the tiller, so I'm moving the original wood Sunfish tiller extension over to my oldest, least-used, tiller (mentioned above).

    I didn't care for the relatively sharp edges of the exposed bolt head, so I ground down a ¼-inch stainless bolt, and swaged a male "snap" fitting onto it. When a cover is made, one female snap can be installed to engage the end of the tiller. :)

    Photos 122017 75244 AM.bmp.jpg

    ("Swaged" = "hammered").
     

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