Monday, April 28, 2008

Deck the halls

Over the weekend I installed the kayak decks, a process that was very rewarding; curved plywood, hammering nails, a boat that looks like a kayak and no longer a canoe.

There are two deck pieces and they meet in the cockpit area, this makes installation of the decks much more manageable. Basically, the steps involved are this: 
1. Coat the underside of the deck with epoxy. 
2. Brush thickened epoxy along the sheer clamp (rails) of the boat, which is where the deck and boat contact.
3. Place deck (wet epoxy down) in position and use car tie-down straps to cinch the deck down which not only holds it in place but curves the deck in to place.
4. Hammer brass nails though the deck and into the sheer clamp every 3 inches. 
5. Flip the boat over and fill the gaps between the deck and sheer clamps with epoxy. 
6. Repeat for forward deck.

As you can see the deck panels are actually larger than the boat, this also helps as alignment is not as critical. There seems to be about 2" of overhang all around the boat, which I will be trimming off in the next step. 

Where the two deck panels meet in the middle I trimmed off the overlap and nailed the deck down, making a nice flat joint. This is further reinforced with a small piece of wood glued underneath and bridging the two decks. 

This is the back deck just before nailing.

The fore deck held down with straps and partially nailed in place.

The junction of the two decks. I trimmed off the overlap.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kayak Demo Day

Yesterday a local kayak retailer, Alder Creek Kayak, put on a kayak demo day at a lake just north into Washington. It was an opportunity for anyone to come out for free and try any boat they had there (including canoes) as well as learn tips and techniques during hourly, casual lectures. The weather was amazing, about 68 degrees and sunny, so there was a great turn out. I was actually impressed with how many boats they had and how many people were paddling around.

I hopped in a few myself, mostly the Wilderness Systems kayaks as that's a boat that Leighann is considering buying to keep up with me on the water. Alder Creek has a couple 2006 models that are discounted, so one of those could be in her future. From what I could tell, they are super comfy and pretty stable boats. 

Here are a few photos from the event.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Foot Braces

I didn't know this was the next step in the manual, I thought I was going to launch into putting the deck on, but it makes sense to prep the boat for foot braces before the deck gets in the way. These aluminum tracks attach to the inside of the boat and allow for adjustment in the position of the foot brace forward or back. 

The preparation is pretty simple: I marked the location of the rails, drilled two holes for each through the hull, then applied epoxy to a strip or 3" fiberglass fabric that goes over the holes (but will be under the rails) and act as strength reinforcement. Once the epoxy has cured I re-drill the mounting holes through the fiberglass and epoxy. That's it. 

The final installation of the foot braces comes at the very end. Now, on to the decks...!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Deck

The next big step is to put the kayak deck on and in order to prepare for that there are a few things I have been doing to get ready:
1. brushing epoxy on the bare wood of the deck beams
2. sanding down the end pours so they are flush with the deck surface
3. gluing the scarf joint of the forward deck panel

I'm waiting for the epoxy from these previous steps to cure, I'll put another coat on the deck beams, and then this weekend I'm going to install the deck!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thank You Sponsors!

A very special thank you to my cousin Katie and my parents for adding to my GetLost Fund! Thank you guys for helping buy tools (and maybe cold beer or two at the end of the day).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Close Shave

I spent the better part of today in the garage working on the boat and I had a great time. Time just flew by. The bulk of the work was planing down the sheer clamps to the proper angles to allow the kayak deck to attach flush with the side panels. The kit came with two plywood templates that are used to determine the proper angle of the sheer clamps, the first template is a 16" radius that is used for the bow section of the boat and the second template, a 49" radius, is used for the aft section. You can see in the photo the deck beam (which I installed 2 days ago) which is a 16" radius, and is a good example of how the curve of the deck needs to be translated to the sheer clamp. 

The second task, after the sheer clamp planing, was to do the "end pours". Basically, I filled the bow and stern tips with epoxy to add strength and impact resistance, and further down the road I will be drilling a large hole through the hull and end pour to thread a rope to use as a carry loop. The end pour set up is pretty tricky, at least the way I decided to do it. In order to keep the epoxy from simply flowing down into the bottom of the boat I had to construct a temporary dam out of thick paper and packing tape. The area that I was working in is very tight and confined and getting the dam wedged in there was a challenge. Reinforcement with more packing tape is definitely critical in keep the epoxy contained. The stern dam seemed to be holding up when I came in for the evening, but I'm weary the bow dam might be breached. Hoping I don't find a pool of epoxy in the bottom of the boat in the morning. I built up the dam more, it should hold. 

The final step of the day was to install the small  bow deck beam, which is similar to the cockpit deck beam, but just smaller. This piece is held in place with thickened epoxy but no screws. 

Friday, April 18, 2008

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

(Check it out, over there just to the left. I have a GetLost Donation Fund. No pressure. Just pointing that out to you! ;^)

It's funny how instructions that seem short and straight forward in the manual are much more involved and prone for mishaps. I just finished installing the curved deck beam across the width of the boat. This beam will add support for the deck as well as help structure the curvature of the deck once it's installed.

I won't get into too many details  but there was a lot more sanding and fine tuning than expected to make the beam fit just right. There was also a trip to my favorite (cheap) hardware store to purchase a screw head countersink. And then multiple trips in and out of the house (opps, I forgot my camera. oops, I need my headlamp. oops, I need a mixing container...) 

So the deck beam is now installed. It's held in place with a 1.5" brass wood screw counter sunk into the hull and through the sheer clamp and into the end of the deck beam, plus some epoxy to add extra strength and structure. I'm letting this set overnight to harden. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jurassic Park

100 million years from now scientists will be able to extract the DNA from this ant mosquito that had the unfortunate luck to wander into the wet epoxy. I found it encased, there forever. One less mosquito!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Roll On, Roll Off

Here's an idea of what I have been up to for the past week:

I've been applying multiple coats of epoxy to the exterior hull with a foam roller. The goal is to put thin coats on, enough to eventually fill the weave of the fiberglass so I can no longer see the fabric texture. Here's an illustration of how the fiberglass weave becomes filled with epoxy over multiple coats.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

No Runs, Please.

Just back from an epic 2 hour epoxy-fest in the shop where I coated the exterior hull fiberglass with epoxy, one of 3 coats. The method to get the best, even coverage is to pour a little bit of epoxy on the boat and then spread around the glue with a tiny plastic squeegee. Here's an image taken from my instructional video to get the gist:

By doing it this way I gradually spread the epoxy evenly and worked the glue down into the fabric fibers, and it works very well. It's definitely a little more challenging to work the epoxy into the side panels as gravity makes it run a lot faster, I was constantly trying to keep epoxy from reaching the floor. Down towards the bow and stern I applied epoxy with a brush (for control) and then worked it smooth with the squeegee. 

I'm crossing my fingers that no epoxy runs develop over night, as I noticed when I was working on the inside of the boat. Annoyingly, I would head in for the night with everything looking great only to discover the next day that runs had shown up. I took extra time this evening to really smooth out any spots that looked suspect. Cross my fingers. 

Here are some photos of the first coat from tonight, I love seeing the wood grain come through!

Silver Ghost

After three passes with progressively finer sandpaper (80, 120, 220) the kayak is now super smooth. It's nice. All the copper wire nubs are smooth and the panel seams are rounded over. It's ready to cover in fiberglass.

Here you can see the long piece of fiberglass fabric that I have draped over the boat, smoothed flat with my hands. It's important to work out the wrinkles and kinks before pouring on the epoxy. It's pretty cool how the fiberglass starts to conform to the contours of the kayak, especially along the bow curves. In this area the fabric weave allows the fiberglass to stretch unequally, letting it round the corner with out folding or kinking the fabric. 

At this point it's ready for me to start covering the fabric with epoxy, which I plan on doing tonight...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Dust Storm

Today was a dedicated kayak construction day. I started early by picking up various sand paper grits (80, 120, 220) from Lowes and launched right into sanding the hull exterior. In addition to smoothing out the plywood another big component of sanding is rounding over the junctions where the bottom panels meet the side panels to create seamless transitions. 

Rounding over the seams only gets you so far, though, because the seam where the two panels meet will still have valley. It's important not to round over too much as this would cut into the wood significantly. 

You can see from this diagram the valley between the two panels. In this example, the outside of the boat is the side with the twisted copper wire. I previously had removed all the twisted copper wire. So to help create the rounded seams I filled the seams with epoxy thickened with wood powder (same concoction as the interior fillets). For neatness I masked the seams prior to spreading the paste into the seams. That's what you see here....

I pulled off the masking tape right after the seams were filled. I'm going to let the epoxy harden over night and then it's back to sanding smooth and rounding over.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Last night I flipped the now ridged kayak over and clipped off all the twisted copper wires as close to the hull as possible.