The Pallasboy electric carving

Mark Griffiths

One year has passed and I am back at Meitheal Mara. It had taken two weeks of hand blistering work getting our Pallasboy replica to this stage, however, if we intended to test the boat theory the vessel would need at least another week of hollowing out in order to achieve the correct specifications of the original. The team agreed that the work achieved to this point had already given a unique insight into the crafting of this remarkable artefact. We had already experienced first-hand the skills needed to first produce the tools and the vessel. The trials of working with large sections of green timber, the limitations of basic woodworking tools and the shear physical effort involved in creating an object such as this had all been well documented. The week needed to hollow out the remainder of the interior using hand tools was valuable time we would rather spend on the next phase of the project, so for this reason, we somewhat reluctantly agreed to follow in the footsteps of Bob Dylan at Newport and go electric.

Electric carving cutters have become hugely popular in recent years. Far more precise than the small chainsaws used before, these disk cutters, with their tungsten carbide cutting tips, are capable of removing vast amounts of stock quickly and cleanly. Simply fit the carving disk to a standard angle grinder, adjust the tools guarding to give maximum finger protection and then cover your body in as much dust protection as you can.

Doing my best to ignore the fine airborne dust, the work proved extremely satisfying with its repetitive flow and effortless results. I couldn’t help wonder how simple the crafting of the Pallasboy would have been if we had used this tool from the outset. If asked which involves a greater degree of skill, the cutting disk or hatchet and chisel, I would have to say the disk. It is un-refined and coarse, yet it takes control and concentration to remove timber at this speed while keep the form and line true.

After just a day and a half the vessel was as close to the original as we could hope to get. The sides had the sensuous internal curves we had seen on the original, and each end had a vertical sweep to the base. From the start there were concerns as to the consequences of removing such a large amount of structure from the inside, and the effects this could have on the shape of the vessel, and the splits that had appeared. One positive outcome of the year our replica had spent in the controlled environment of Cork museum was that its moisture content had stabilised somewhat. We would have to wait and see how our Pallasboy would react to its new refined shape.

One last task was to fill the large splits that had opened at either end of the vessel. After some research we had decided to use a marine product from West Systems. Its Number Ten filler/adhesive was now available in a mastic style tube, with an initiative nozzle that mixes equal parts harder/adhesive as it flows through. This proved extremely effective, overnight it set to an opaque light green, and was so hard I had to use the cutting disk to trim it flush.

With the Pallasboy now ship-shape and ready for its river adventure the group took a well-earned break and headed off to one of Corks most atmospheric bars. Huddled around a small table, with the sounds of half a dozen traditional musicians drifting up the stairs, we enthusiastically discussed and planned the next stages of this fascinating project with newest team member Orla-Peach Power.

[Video below. In order to get a high resolution picture make sure to click on HD in bottom right of window in full screen and select one of the options to suit your viewing device].

The Pallasboy Hollowing from Brian Mac Domhnaill on Vimeo.

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