Thursday, December 29, 2005

Keel Strips

Well it's been pretty slow on the boat lately but just before heading out of town for Christmas I got the two strips on that run down the center of the bottom of the kayak forming the keel. These strips are regular bead and cove strips and they both face cove out. Thus, the bead had to be cut off of both strips (since I had my router set up as jointer I used that to take 1/8" off the bead) then the strips beveled such that they mated together flushly despite the changing angle of the keel. The bevel was cut with a small block plane. The angle is quite flat in the middle of the boat but gets increasingly sharp towards the bow and stern. The strips meet at a near 45 degree angle near the ends. The strips along the sides of the kayak eventually came to a point where they were meeting each other more on the side than on the ends. In other words, the strips being added to the side were more on the bottom than on the side. The strips added to the side are cove-side up and thus the strips along the keel line had to be rounded on a taper at the tips in order to fit into the cove.

With the keel strips in place, I have now started to add strips to fill in the two crescent shaped gaps on either side of the keel. Since I now have a cove facing towards the keel on the outermost strips, and a cove facing away from the keel on those strips adjacent to the keel, the strips being added not only need to be tapered but they also need to be rounded in order to fit into where the coves come together. The meeting of the two coves creates gap between the strips beyond what is seen. Thus the tapered strips must extend into this gap. Add to this the fact that I have to get it just right at both ends and it must be exactly the right length and it seems a bit daunting. Regarding the length, because the taper is on such an angle, removing a small amount from the taper can make a big difference in the length. Thus, I err on the side of having my strip too long and once both ends fit well, I plane or sand small amounts off until the strips snaps into place. The first couple of tapers were a bit tricky to get right but I think I'm getting the hang of it. In fact I went back this evening and re-did the first strip I did, tossing the old one (actually the taper fit perfectly as the next strip so I just had to cut it a bit shorter and put a new taper onto the other end). In the photo at right which shows the tapered strip fit into place you can notice a gap at the left of the photo at the tip of the tapered strip. This was my first attempt at fitting the taper and was the one I went back to fix.

The first two tapered strips filling the bottom go along the sides, one on each side of the keel. The next two strips have been fit to run adjacent to the keel strips. The subsequent strips will alternate fitting along the side or the keel. I now have 4 strips cut and tapered to fit, ready to be glued in. I'll wait with that for another day since I have to warm up the shop and keep it warm for a period so I want to be able to do as much as possible during that time.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Journey of Wood

One thing I have yet to discuss in any detail is where the cedar wood came from. For quite some time now I have been thinking about building a boat and about a year ago my wife & I had settled on building a kayak. After viewing a number of kayaks built by local folks (thanks Gary, Morris, & Carl) we had decided to build one of the Waters Dancing kayaks, probably the Solace 17 or 16 EX. All we had to do was order the kit and I was just about ready to do so when I happened across a posting on the MEC OutdoorGearswap, a bulletin board for used outdoor gear. An ad was posted stating that the seller had "everything needed to build your own kayak" for an asking price of $450. The kayak in question was the 17' Guillemot, and although it really was not everything to build the kayak (no fiberglass or epoxy which are a substantial cost, nor varnish, closed cell foam, bungees, deck lines, nor any of the other items needed to finish the boat), it was enough to make it worth pursuing. For sale was enough pre-milled strips to build the kayak, and the forms, along with a copy of Nick Schade's book. It seems the seller (Piers) had them sitting in his apartment for some time and he had bought them off of a friend who had had them sitting around in his garage for some time. Where the original guy got the materials from was only identified as "a company" (or something to that effect). The problem was that the materials were in Vancouver while I am in Saskatoon (~1700 km, 1050 miles); however where there's a will, there's a way. A boatbuilder from the Vancouver area, Rod Tait of Orca Boats, hearing of my situation very generously volunteered to go have a look at the materials on my behalf. Here is what he had to say after viewing the strips:

I took a look at the strips and the forms. The forms are computer cut with center already cut out for internal strongback, all lines already on them and it appears that they have not been used. The strip are a nice chocolate brown and uniform in colour. The bead and cove is clean except for a few areas where there was some tear out during milling (perfectly normal). there seems to be enough to build a boat, but long lengths are limited. I am not sure if there is enough full lengths to build the hull and deck, so strips may need to be scarfed or butt joined, but not many if at all. The grain is tight with some knots which you can certainly work around. The wood will certainly look [good] ... with a few accents of a lighter wood such as yellow cedar or eastern white cedar.... I did take my camera, but the wood was in their house, so I politely declined to ask to take a pic. If you are interested, I think it is well worth the price. I think other builders will be envious of the nice wood.
Rod Tait.

After Rod's comments, how could I not buy it? I pursued it further and ended up purchasing the materials and Rod again came to my rescue by picking up the strips, forms and book, and bringing them back to his shop in Port Moody, a service for which he charged me his "consulting fee". From there, the only obstacle was figuring out how to get the pile of materials 1700 km to the East. That's where it's sometimes good to know a truck driver. My cousin Cory Richmond graciously agreed to pick up the strips the next time he was out that way with his truck and had both the room and the time to accommodate my extra load. It took a few weeks but in June when Cory was on his way home after dropping off/picking up a load on Vancouver Island, he stopped in at Orca Boats to load up my future boat. From there, the materials made their to Saskatchewan and into Cory's garage in Warman, about 1/2 hour drive from my house. (I still owe Cory.) I was then able to transport the strips (a bundle of 3/4" x 1/4" strips, some as long as 19') home by tying them to an extended ladder secured to the roof racks of our Honda Accord. From there they found their way onto the shelves of my garage where they could recover from their ordeal for the next few months until I began my project.

As Rod stated, the strips are mostly a dark brown in colour, with a few being a bit lighter. They were not quite long enough for full-length strips in the longest regions of the boat so about 12 strips had to be scarfed (just the 2 at the sheer) or butt jointed. I haven't touched the 19' long strips that Rod added to the pile; they will be incorporated in some fashion into the deck. The bead and cove on most of the strips is OK, but a few strips seem to be cut unevenly & or had the milling of the cove less than perfect (which may be normal). In all of the strips added thus far to the boat, I have seen only one knot (which I have left in place because I like the looks of it, but I hope it won't give me grief when it comes time to scrape/plane/sand the hull).

Well, there you go - now everybody knows where the wood came from, or at least now you know pretty much what I do about the subject.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Up and Over

Well I'm now into the process of rounding the fairly sharp corner at the chine where the strips transition from the kayak side to the bottom. Here is the boat as it looked after adding another two strips to this side this evening. Some of the other photos below are taken prior to this addition. The ~15' long bungee cord is my attempt to minimise gaps between strips in the region between forms. The glue residue that shows up bright white in the photo is not quite as bad as it appears here.
The prominent gap seen in the photo above to allow for the insertion of a cheater strip as described in an earlier post was filled this evening. It was actually fairly easy to get a strip planed down to fit. Now I just have 5 more cheater strips to get into place.

The photo below shows the kayak side after 6 strips per side, bringing the strips in this region right to the point where I have to make the sharp curve to the kayak bottom.
I may have a problem developing at the stern. Where the strips meet it is apparent that the strips on one side of the kayak are ~3/16" higher than on the other, illustrated in the next 2 photos (same spot, different angle). I'm not sure if this is really a problem or not; I fear that it may cause problems down the road when I'm trying to fill in the bottom and have things look even.

Rounding the chine while maintaining a tight joint without gaps is giving me some troubles. Since the bead and cove on these 1/4" thick strips were cut with a 1/4" router bit, the strips really only fit together perfectly if there is little angle in the joint. (For more on bead & cove of strips, go here.) The more angle there is, the more that the inside portion of the cove gets in the way. Some strip manufacturers and commercial builders use a slightly larger radius (5/16") bead & cove which allows the strips to better fit together around a tight curve. Recently 5/16" radius bead & cove bits became available to the home builder and after my experience the last couple of nights, I think that this would be pretty helpful in areas where the curve is tight.

Since my strips are now more horizontal than vertical, my bungee cord is no longer really pulling the strip down tight against the previous strip. This is in a way confounding the problem described above. Thus, some small gaps have formed as seen in the photo below (taken with a light shining behind the strips to better show the gap). Part of the problem might be that the cove on some of these strips was really shallow. I used a round rasp to put a better cove in, but it may not be enough. This won't affect the function of the kayak but it will probably soak up a bit more resin and anyone who chooses to stick their head inside the boat and wear it like a hat will see some sunlight. I'll probably fill the gaps with a mixture of sawdust & epoxy to make them a little less evident, but it'll still add a couple of grams to the boat (an issue if there are lots of gaps).