Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

I built my NE Dory built as a first time builder over the winter last year, and took at out as a rowboat in the summer of 2017. Now I'm finishing up the lug rigging for next summer.

The manual is silent regarding the tiller extension finish. The NE Dory comes with an 8ft blank. I guess at a minimum it should be rounded off? Not much stress, so no epoxy and hence doesn't need the UV protection of varnish? Finish with tung oil? The photo in the manual has it squared off at the end that connects to the tiller. What about the other end?

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RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?


You're the builder, so you get to express your creativity any way you want to on this piece.

As far as the shape goes, one end has to be a secure connection to the rudder, the other a comfortable fit for your hand. Any shaping that accomplishes those goals is fine.

For the finish, that depends on how often you use it, how wet it gets and how you store it. It can even be unfinished if used occasionally and stored indoors inbetween sails.

Do a google image search for "sailboat tillers" if you need inspiration (if you leave out sailboat you'll get gardening tools).



RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

   I just rounded the edges and gave it a very slight taper. I was experimenting with using a spoke shave, so the radius are not perfect. But I absolutely love the look of my  first ever spoke shave job. I think it gives a fantastic rustic look to my Dory. Finished with about 4 coats of thing oil.

RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

I like the tung oil idea.  If it isn't plywood, I'm not sure there's much point in applying epoxy coating and, absent that, whatever ordinary wood finish you desire should work.  With our PMD, my son got all enthusiastic and epoxied the tiller along with everything else.  I ended up sanding that all away and giving it the tung oil treatment.  I like the feel under the hand.  Gave the same treatment to the tiller on our Menger catboat, as well.  It's a pleasant-smelling job to touch them up.


RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

   The directions for my Skerry said something like:  Shape until pleasing to the eye and hand.  I had a new (to me) lathe that needed to be initiated to my redneck engineering.


RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

   HOLY BUCKETS! Hooper, you are a genius.

RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

   A couple thoughts:

--I shaped the front 3' or so of mine in 6" sections, slightly rounded and then a section rounded a little more, so as your wet hand slides down the extension the shape goes back and forth between the amount of rounding.  Just gives me a little idea of where my hand is without looking.

--I did use a couple coats of epoxy, the varnish only because I am hard on boats and knew the tiller extension would get banged around and even ride on the rail towards the stern..glad I did

--Some of us have purchased the swivel from Duckworks to join the extension to the tiller...nice solid connection with no give yet totally flexible.

--Oh, and believe it or not  have found that depending on the stupid factor while sailing (read downwind accidental jybe) the tiller extension can take an amazing amount of load..others would know better but I say this only to suggest not whittling much wood off the extension.

Good luck!


RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

May I suggest wrapping the tiller with a Turk's Head knot instead of removing wood?  To Curt's point, there's nothing wrong with a nice, strong tiller and the Turk's Head knot has a long and illustrious place in nautical history.  If anyone needs to know how to tie one, I can help.

Image result for tiller turk's head

RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

Or if you need instant gratification, there's always Grog's animated knots., complete with videos and step-by-step animations, plus a jistory of the knot and its uses.



RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

   I have some info to share regarding use of a rattan pole for a NE dory tiller extension, and how I modified the rudder head to make a removable tiller arm.  Hard to do it justice without pictures. I haven't figured out how to insert them into these posts. Must they be posted online and use the URL image link?  Anyone care to offer guidance?

RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

   Testing a photo now.  Found a Lazlo hint that pointed me in the right direction for photo upload.  Thanks.

OK, it worked. So here is a picture of the rattan tiller extension. Quite flexible and strong and light. Bought it and an "extra duty" grade bamboo pole from a place in CA, both less then $15, plus shipping.  I chose the rattan as the best feeling option, but the bamboo would certainly work, and is now stored in reserve.  About 1.25 inches by 8.5 feet. And the seat back is an attempt to make sure my wife will go out for a ride.  A couple of extra hours (days) spent on that!  Down for sailing, up for rowing, but no tiller interference either way, even when handling end on the port side of the boat.

Now for pictures of the rudder head and tiller arm.  The arm is 1.25 inch dia. oak dowell, on one side of the rudder head the retention rope is put through a drilled hole across the diamter of the dowell, on the other side of the rudder head is a 1/4 inch dia circumferential groove just to make sure the lashing stays in place easily. Everything is very tight fitting, no slop.  The removable arm should facilitate much easier stowing. I added extra laminates of plywood at the rudder head and bored a hole through it, plenty strong.  Also glassed the rudder stock/cheeks about half-way down the rudder for strength.  You can see the glass line (looking carefully) and the "self-designed" rudder blade I made in the photo below.  I finished the kit kick up blade for comparison, but as a lifelong sailor of dinghies and big boats, I worried in advance over the "bite" I would have with the shallow kit rudder.

Waiting only the trailer and boat registration (TX) now to get this thing wet.

RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?


I wonder if you would be willing to repost the pictures of your rudder and tiller modifications.  I just bought a rattan pole for my tiller extension and I would love to learn more about your detachable tiller.  

Mopi Lopi 

RE: Tiller extension: how to shape / finish?

The first link will take yo to a picture of my Skerry's tiller with French spiral hitching.  I varnished my tiller, no epoxy.  The second link shows the end that connects to the ruder with a leather cover to keep it from rubbing on the gunwale.



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