Posted by: nwseaport | November 10, 2010

Wawona Artifacts Update

Just a quick update on Wawona: So far we have received interest and proposals for artifacts from several local maritime heritage organizations including Grays Harbor Historic Seaport and the Museum of the City of Anacortes Maritime Heritage Center. Keep them coming!

We have given several tours of the site, including one for Three Sheets Northwest. If you missed their coverage of the project, check it out here. The Seattle Times also did an excellent article that’s posted here.

There has also been a lot of interest from public artists and from craftsmen who have ideas for re-purposing the wood. To give a better idea of the quality of material we have, I took a small piece of the Douglas fir outer hull planking and cleaned it up in my own shop. These are the most accessible pieces, since they have very few iron fastenings. Because iron would rust over time, trunnels were used instead. These are wood dowels with wedges at either end. Boards were fit and held in place by iron spikes, and then drilled and fastened with trunnels. These iron spikes have mostly rusted away, of the four I encountered in two 6′ boards I only had to drive out one. The ends of the trunnels are still there, and lend to the character of the wood.

First I had to strip the paint, and I found two layers: copper bottom paint from the last thirty years, and a much earlier paint which is likely made from fish oil. A common paint for fishing vessels in the middle of the century was made from oil extracted by the canneries. Using a goopy organic stripper and a scrub brush the paint came off easily, revealing a weathered surface with raised grain and a slightly greenish tinge from the copper paint.

After removing the iron fastenings and drilling the holes out larger to remove any remaining iron oxide flakes, I put a 2′ section through the planer to see what the clean surface looked like. The earlier fish oil paints and a century of seawater penetrated quite deeply into the wood, giving the outer surface a rich caramel color.

Looking at the end grain shows this color extends about a quarter inch under the surface.

The inner surface of the planking, where it met the frames, has a quite different color. This would have been salted to keep it from rotting in the confined spaces between the frames. It was never painted. There is rot and insect action on the raw surface, but once a quarter-inch is planed off, a monochrome spectrum from pale cream to gray is revealed. In some places the pink of Douglas fir heartwood can be seen, too.

We are still giving regular tours of the site, and there may be a secondary deadline for proposals… keep in touch and keep the good ideas coming.

Emmett

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