Friday, October 10, 2008

Get the lead in

I mentioned earlier (below) the centerboard for the sailboat I'm building. This has the same effect as the vertical tail of an airplane: it helps keep the boat stable. Since I'm building the centerboard from wood, it will actually float if I don't add weight to it somehow. Plus adding weight will help it ballast the boat.

How to add weight to a centerboard? Easy, just carve out a big hole and pour in molten lead.

I have neither a desire nor suitable pots for melting lead. How about steel? Not heavy enough. Concrete? Too messy. Stone? Come on, I'm not making a stone boat. Okay, then, back to lead.

And then I hit on the answer: lead bullets! Off to the gun shop! (Of course we have gun shops in town. This is Virginia.)

GUN SHOP WORKER: Gotta question?
SETH: [not staring at the wall of assault rifles] Yeah, hi, do you have lead?
GUN SHOP WORKER: Sure, we got bird shot and whatnot. [waves at a box of shotgun shells]
SETH: No, I mean, lead shot, all by itself.
GUN SHOP WORKER [Stares at shells. Stares at Seth]: There's lead in them shells. You could cut em open to get out the shot if you want.
SETH [wonders about the result of sawing through a shotgun shell]
SETH: Thanks, anyway.

Next stop: the fishing store. Which is also, naturally, a gun store.
SETH: Hi, do you sell lead fishing weights or shot or anything?
CLERK [looks up from doing something with tweezers to a detached bird wing]: Sure do!
SETH [thinks: Jackpot. Follows clerk.]
CLERK: Here y'are, man. This what you need? [points to small bag of fishing sinkers.]
SETH: Perfect! Now that's what, a 4-ounce bag? Okay, I need forty-five pounds.
CLERK [wishes he was back working on bird wing]
CLERK: Of lead?
CLERK: You should try the gun store, man. I mean another gun store.

The solution, it turns out, is dive shops, since scuba divers use lead weights to keep themselves from floating to the surface -- exactly why I need weight for my centerboard! Soft diving weights -- neoprene pouches full of tiny lead pellets -- are just right. Now all I have to do is buy twenty of them, spill out the lead beads, carve out a hole in the centerboard (brow-furrowing mathematics of lead weight and volume), mix the beads up with some epoxy to hold them all together, and slurp it all in.

Good thing I'm not melting lead, that would have been a real hassle.


Stina Lindenblatt said...

Now this explains why you knew so much about boat building for your novel, The Turning Away. Like they say, write what you know.

S R Wood said...

Hi Stina! Yes, I seem to have a hard time keeping boatbuilding out of my stories. You should have seen how much there used to be in there.