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All of the laminated tillers I've seen are laminations of ash and mahogany.

Nothing is going to be a perfect match, so if you have oak, that's about as good as anything.
 

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Here is a dumb question for those of us who don't know anything about tillers:

Can you continue to steer the boat in an emergency if the tiller breaks off just behind the extension hole? (At the place where you want to make the repair?)

If the answer is that you cannot continue to steer the boat, then I would replace the tiller. Otherwise, if a repair fails, you can still steer the boat home and then replace the tiller.

@Quickstep mentioned "oak" above. There are two major types of oak: white oak and red oak. I would use white oak for this exterior use. Red oak is porous and not as suitable for outdoor use.
 

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The answer is yes, however, the shorter the tiller, the less leverage you have.
It has been my experience that the manufacturers give you only as much tiller as they can get away with. Again, it is a leverage thing - too long of a tiller the greater chance of breaking. In a bad storm, even a quick squall, it may take all you have to pull on the tiller handle. Shorten that and you may find yourself in serious trouble. So if the tiller breaks, you have much less leverage. Now that is assuming a clean break. If it breaks and splits, you have an even shorter tiller and a really bad surface to hang on to,
The teller at one end is controlled by you. On smaller sailboats such as this, the other end of the tiller is connected to the top of the rudder. Sometimes there are a series of pulleys or gears involved, but usually on larger boats. Larger boats usually have steering wheels however, in the system fails, there is an emergency tiller stowed away. Never had to rely on that yet.
 

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That wouldn't be off of a Chrysler sailboat would it? Almost 50 years ago I worked for a company that made the tiller handles. We would laminate strips of ash and honduras mahogany in a mold to get the shape and then sand them to the finished handle.

I think your best fix would be to make a new tiller handle. If you have a bandsaw you could cut out the needed shape from a 4x4 and then glue strips of wood between. If you just want to patch it I would mortise a area about 1/2x 12" area centered with the bolt hole and then glue in a piece of wood with a waterproof glue. Then shape it and sand off the finish off the entire handle and finish it with a marine grade spar varnish.
 

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Just out of curiosity, if I try to fit in a Dutchman – what kind of wood would you suggest I use ?
You would hard pressed to make anything match so I would just use what I had laying around. I think the fit is much more important than the wood in this case. I don't know your skill set but if you can't make it a good snug fit and have some gaps this is one place I would use epoxy.

I use Titebond III on most everything but it must be a good tight fit to work. Epoxy will handle small gaps much better.
 

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If you want to make one yourself, for a 22' sailboat, I would even consider a single piece of straight grained white oak with NO defects. The only weak point would be where it gets bolted to the tiller. It's up to you to determine if you could ever pull hard enough to snap it. Just a thought. Make it a little thicker than what you already have. Can be cut on a band saw and edges rounded over with a router.
If you dont have a band saw, you can put a taper on with a table saw and make a tapering jig. Just dont taper from end to end. where the tiller attaches to the rudder, go bach straight for approx 12" then start you taper from there to the free end.
 

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I would make a new end for it, make a significant half lap joint onto the remaining tiller. I would also wrap it in fiberglass cloth and resin for added strength. You are at the furthest leverage point on the tiller, would really suck to snap the end off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #28 ·
Hey Everyone - Thanks again for all the responses and suggestions. You were correct about the condition of the tiller. Once I removed all of the rotted soft spots, there was a significant gap. I’ll be investigating getting a replacement. That said, I did attempt a repair on the existing tiller and provided some pics below. It’s still curing and I’m going to sand it a bit tomorrow and see how it looks. I have a nice firewood stack out back and I found some white Oak that was already cut to the correct thickness – I tried using the band saw to splice in a piece (not a perfect fit). The cracks that you see in the picture are superficial, the Oak was solid. I then used the T88 epoxy – I did two pours to get it fully covered. It feels very strong, but I have no idea whether it will hold. I think the fiberglass idea would probably add a lot of strength. I have to seal a few pieces of marine plywood with Gluvit, so I might add a coat of that once I’m done sanding.
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Appreciate all help.
 

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What you should also be checking out is do you still have enough leverage left to steer the boat if this joint fails. Also should check out CrusiersForum.com. There are a lot of sailors on that forum. Many have had broken tillers in the past. See what they think of your repair. It might work for a 22 foot sailboat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
I'll check that out.

I'm pretty confident I would still be able to steer the boat, I would only lose 6.5" off the tiller. I still think this thing will most likely find itself mounted to a wall in my basement next to the wooden oars. We'll see. I'm going to investigate the replacement tiller that was suggested the other day
 

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Hey Everyone - Thanks again for all the responses and suggestions. You were correct about the condition of the tiller. Once I removed all of the rotted soft spots, there was a significant gap. I’ll be investigating getting a replacement. That said, I did attempt a repair on the existing tiller and provided some pics below. It’s still curing and I’m going to sand it a bit tomorrow and see how it looks. I have a nice firewood stack out back and I found some white Oak that was already cut to the correct thickness – I tried using the band saw to splice in a piece (not a perfect fit). The cracks that you see in the picture are superficial, the Oak was solid. I then used the T88 epoxy – I did two pours to get it fully covered. It feels very strong, but I have no idea whether it will hold. I think the fiberglass idea would probably add a lot of strength. I have to seal a few pieces of marine plywood with Gluvit, so I might add a coat of that once I’m done sanding.
View attachment 427266 View attachment 427267 View attachment 427268 View attachment 427269
Appreciate all help.
You could always use the old tiller as a template to have one made.

When the company I used to work for made them they made them laminated for strength. It would have been much cheaper and easier to make them out of solid wood. I believe if you found a woodworker that was a grade above novice they could duplicate what you have. They are very simple to fabricate.
 

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I was going to suggest you make your own. Use the one you have as a template. A piece of white oak that size prolly wont cost more than $12 - $15. Guessing yours is roughly 2x4x72?. I made my own for a 25 Catalina out of solid white oak and never had a problem with it on the MIssissippi Gulf Coast. White oak is not that expensive.
Just make sure it is all straight grain with zero defects.
 

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it appears from the photo the wood did not "fail" - it rotted out.
considering the consequences of "Look Ma! no tiller!" - there's no fix I would trust.
a complete rebuild is in order.
I replaced my broken tiller by ordering a universal one with similar measurements. Jamestown is a good nautical supplier.
 

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For you non-sailors, here is what we are talking about.
This is a photo of the boat I got off the internet. We are looking somewhat downward at the rear of the boat. The seating is bench style apong the sides. In upper part of photo we see the outboard mounted on a bracket. moving down a tad, there is a dark spot. That is the upper part of the rudder. Connected to it running left to right, the horizontal thingie, that is the tiller. The piece looking like it is forming a triangle, which it is not, is the extension for the tiller (Black-white-black). It fits in a socket in the upper top side of the tiller. This is where the broken part in.
When sailing. you will be seated on either of the built-in bench seats. Depending on weather and sea state determines whether or not you will need the extension gripped in the left portion of the black-white-black extension rod.
I know its hard to tell angles from a photo but here is my take anyway. If the tiller breaks at the socket while under sail, he will have to shift his hands to the left. By looking at the bench seats and considering the swing tiller in an arc, he will most probably have to move his body to the left. By looking at photo, there dont seem to be a whole lot of bench seat to the left because of the rear seating which is not used during sailing. So this puts him in an awkward physical position for steering. Like I stated earlier, the manufacturer doesn't normally give you more tillar than you need. Not just because of a money thing, it's an ergonomic thing. When pulled back the tiller would would be in your space.. Extensions are not normally used in any boats larger than this and also generally not used except in racing
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That patch you made has no real strength to it, the grain of the oak is in the wrong direction and there is not enough lap to the joint for any glue strength. Basically you just have a gap filler. A proper patch will have the grain oriented the length of the tiller and have several inches of overlap with the old wood for side grain adhesion. I agree the whole tiller needs replacing though I would recommend hickory for its tool handle strength if made from domestic wood.
 
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