Friday, July 29, 2011

Essential tools for boat DiY

"No posts, what's he been up to?" I hear you all ask.  Well, just because I'm not posting doesn't mean I'm not doing stuff.  Quite the reverse in fact.  One of my periodic assaults on the garden at home  (machetes, flame throwers, pick axes - that sort of thing), research into my Grandad's activities in WW1 at the National Archives, and stuff like that.

I've also been doing tiny bits of DIY, fixing things that don't work or are broken, and that brings me to today's subject.  Tools.

The problem with owning a boat and a house is that whatever tool you need it's always in the other place.  Some things are cheap enough to have one at home and one on the boat (e.g screwdrivers), but others like power tools have to be shared.  Larger items like my trusty old workmate (no not Rick, I mean the Black and Decker thingy) have to live at home and be temporarily moved out to the boat when I need it there.  (Although that could still apply to Rick I suppose).  And then there's all that stuff on the shelves in the shed.  Boxes of screws, tins of paint, etc.  they can't all live on the boat all the time.

For anyone contemplating spending a lot of time on a boat, here is my list of essential, useful, and useless tools, starting with the most used and most essential.

1. This first item has had a great deal  of use, although it is shortly to be obsolete because of a move from analogue to digital. It's a  plastic tube with a brass point at one end with a tiny ball at the tip.  Can you guess?OK, it's a pen for signing cheques. From now on a debit card.  This can solve most mechanical problems, and is even necessary in DiY work to pay for all the parts, materials and other tools you need.

2. A lot of  screwdrivers.  In my experience you need at least two of every sort because they can disappear in seconds.  You put it down to find a screw and then five seconds later, it's vanished.

3. A lot of spanners.  They don't disappear quite so often, but every time you want to undo a nut, you need a different type.  I can never understand why half the nuts on Herbie's engine need AF spanners and the other half need metric.

4. Things to mop up unpleasant fluids.  Despite my best efforts, the engine bay floor seems to periodically need ghastly stuff mopping up. Rainwater mixed with canal water from the stern gland mixed with grease from the stern gland, or oil and (lately) diesel dripping into the engine tray. ( Reminder , I must reseat the fuel filter which is leaking diesel.).  These fluids are slimy and smelly and spread too thinly across the floor to be pumped out.  Solutions are a) cheap disposable nappies, b) cat litter (messy and bitty), c) a mop or sponge-ruined forever in ten seconds, d) rags. Whichever you use have a plastic bag ready to drop the disgusting thing into.  Also remember to wear really old clothes.

5. A voltmeter.  This is really a social tool  to give you a source of conversation with other boaters. Unlike at home where everything is 230 volts or something like that, voltages on boats go up and down like yo yo's according to the state of charge of the battery, how many appliances are in use, how long or how thick cables are.  Sticking a voltmeter across stuff will give you some numbers.  Of course you may not know what they mean, but it'll be an endless opportunity for discourse with boating pals.  It might even help you to refrain from ruining your expensive batteries.  Remember though that analogue voltmeters that you may have on your instrument panel are vague indicators of the presence of some volts.  Forget any numbers on the dial, they are only there for show.  You might as well think of a number at random.

These are the essential tools which you will definately need.  After that collect what you like, but understand that whenever you come to do a job, even if you have a hundred tools, the one you need won't be there.  The same goes for screws, no matter how many different sorts you collect, you never have the right one. Then it's off to Wickes or B&Q with Number 1 above.

Now for the most useless tool on a boat.  Can you guess what it is?  Answer tomorrow.

1 comment:

Halfie said...

A few years ago the "Bargee Bill Prop Cleaner" was being promoted, and our boat syndicate decided to buy one (for about £90). This looks like a battleaxe which you're supposed to shove down your weed hatch to remove whatever might be obstructing your propeller. I tried it once. It was useless. There's no substitute for getting your hands wet and feeling round the prop. With that thing you're literally poking around in the dark.

Or what about the thing for getting stones out of horses' hooves? (Unless you're a member of the Horse Boating Society, I suppose.)

I don't know. Laminator? Sheep shearing machine? Ball joint splitter?