Thursday, May 29, 2008

Major Milestone!

Don't get too excited just yet, there's a lot of sanding and varnishing left to do, but this is still a huge milestone in the kayak construction!! No more epoxy. No more scarf joints. And I have to say the boat is looking sharp. Sure, there are hardened epoxy drips and uneven surfaces, but that's what I'm working on next: sanding the exterior of the entire boat. I'll go through three courses of sandpaper grit (80, 120 and 220) to work the epoxy smooth and flat. Once that's complete, I varnish the boat, let it dry, wet sand, let it dry, varnish, let it dry, wet sand, let it dry, varnish, .....  on and on. I hear five coats of varnish looks amazing. 

Until then, here's a toast to getting this far.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rafting Trip

I didn't progress much the past few days, we were out of town for the Memorial Day weekend on a rafting trip in northeastern Oregon. I can't complain too much that I didn't work on the kayak as I was meandering down the John Day River with Leighann and eight other fun people. Here's a teaser photo and a link to my photos from the trip:

Still needing to make progress for my end of June deadline, I did spend an hour in the shop this evening working on the hatch openings and coaming. As you can see from the photo below, the hatch opening rim is not stained; I thought this would be a nice accent that's revealed only when the hatch covers are removed. To prep for the epoxy sealing I did today I used my new cylindrical grinder attachment to smooth the hatch openings. 

Here's the hatch rim which will be this color for the completed boat.

Here's the coaming after a second coat of epoxy. I will probably put on a
third and final coat for extra protection.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sanded and Stained

I tried to tackle the coaming sanding with a sanding block and sheer strength, that lasted about 20 minutes and resulted in sore muscles and little progress. Then I bought this:

A sanding drum and sand paper sleeves that slide onto the drum. The drum is then chucked to my cordless drill. WOW. It was the best $9.00 investment I ever made. I plowed through the tough layers of epoxy and wood with little effort, saving me hours and hours of frustrating hand work. 

The result was a smooth coaming but one that needed to be stained again. No big deal. Here's the final sanded and stained coaming:

I have also been working on the hatches concurrently with the coaming construction. In the last post, you'll remember, I strengthened the hatches by gluing supports to the underside of the deck. The next step for the hatches was to epoxy to the hatch rims to the deck exterior. The serves as a lip to help seat the hatch cover and maintain a water tight seal. Here's the forward hatch rim getting ready to be clamped down in place.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Coaming" Along

Here's an illustrated walk through what I have been up to in the kayak shop:

Here's how the coaming looks after taking off all the clamps and sawing off
the excess inside deck area. Looks great but there's a TON of sanding where
all the sandwiched layers are now exposed.

This is the forward hatch cutting guide. First I find the center line (pink string)
and then position this guide and trace around it onto the deck. I follow this 
guideline with the jigsaw.

You can see where I drilled a starter hole for the jigsaw blade to start from. 
Drilling and sawing through the deck was just a little nerve-racking.  

In this photo of the aft hatch you are looking at the reinforcement plywood
that I glued to the underside of the deck to strengthen the opening.

Here, once again, lots of clamps. This time they are securing the hatch
reinforcement layers as the epoxy cures.

Finally, as you can see from this photo, the current state of the kayak seems to 
be in pretty much disarray. Sawdust is covering every surface. Used rubber gloves 
scatter the floor. Discarded sandpaper is thrown about. Rest assured, this will all 
be gone soon enough.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I've got a fever...

...and the only prescription is: more clamps!

Today I glued the coaming and coaming spacers to the kayak cockpit. Sounds easy, of course. And it was, for the most part, straight forward. Here's the play by play. First I stained the coaming to match the deck, but that was simple and took about 2 minutes for the stain to dry because it's 95° in my back yard today. 

After marking the centerline of the boat, I knew where the coaming spacers had to go. These are the unstained pieces of wood in the photo and are used to raised the coaming above the deck so a spray skirt can be stretch over it. I coated each of these spacers with thickened epoxy and then nailed down the tips of the spacers along the centerline fore and aft. On top of the first spacer I glued and nailed a second. On top of the second spacer I glued the coaming. 

This is when the clamps come out. To bend the coaming to the contours of the deck, it's imperative to use as many clamps as possible, and c-clamps are better than spring clamps because of the added pressure they can apply. A good supply of both were in my shop.... I thought.

As I worked my way around the coaming, clamping every few inches, I began to realize that the c-clamps I have were too small in a few critical places. Basically, the depth that the clamp could slide laterally was too short because the excess deck in several places obstructed the clamp from reaching all the way to the coaming. OH CRAP. So, here I have wet epoxy that curing fast on a hot afternoon and I need bigger clamps. I have never driven to the hardware store so fast. 

I sped home with deeper clamps and tightened them into place, epoxy satisfyingly oozed out of the joints, as it should. Saved the day!

Here is the coaming and the spacers getting ready to be brushed with 
thickened epoxy.

This is the final clamping job. You can see spring clamps and c-clamps. 
Notice on the near side where the grey c-clamps are how much deck area the
clamp had to span to make a grip. The smaller blue clamps worked great in other
areas, but not here. After the epoxy is dry the next step is to cut away the excess 
deck on the inside area of the coaming.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Extreme Kayaker Chick

Look what pulled into our driveway yesterday afternoon! Yes, that's Leighann looking pretty happy with herself next to her new kayak. I can't tell if she's more excited about the new boat or the fact that driving around with it on the car makes her look like an extreme sport chick (which she is, by the way).

Now with this new boat in the garage next to my boat, it's only sparked me even more to get my kayak finished. I can't wait! It does not help that the weather in Portland today will be 96°. I wish I could be out on the water.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pop Quiz

It's time for a quiz. I'm debating the color scheme for the deck hatches and coaming ring, it's time for reader participation. Look at the two photos below that I have doctored in Photoshop. Which do you prefer? Please vote!

Stained hatches and coaming.

Varnished hatches and coaming.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

True Colors

This morning I laid down the fiberglass and first layer of epoxy on the deck, and let me tell you, the stained wood looks amazing! I was hoping the color and richness of the wood would start to show through after the first coat, and it sure did. The fiberglass for the deck is applied in two pieces, the overlap between the two pieces is around the cockpit area, and should be invisible as I put more and more epoxy layers. 

Here's the deck fiberglass in place, waiting for the epoxy.

And here's the stern section after the epoxy has been applied. The wood is really showing through nicely, though you can still see the texture of the fiberglass. As I add more layers of epoxy the texture will disappear. 

On a down note, I had to order more epoxy today, an unexpected expense. The kit comes with the necessary amount needed to build, but apparently that's for people who know how much epoxy to mix up an never waste any along the way. Sigh. Oh well, at least I know this boat is going to be water tight, with all the epoxy I put on this thing. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

PIMP My Boat

In an effort brought on by my creative desire to customize my boat, I applied a stain to the mahogany deck. This was not undertaken lightly. I had always wanted to do something different to the boat, it's the designer in me. My dream for a while was to figure out a way to apply or paint fluid lines across the hull and deck. That seemed daunting on my first time out. Then I stumbled upon this photo:

I love the simplicity of the color, a warm side panel and a darker deck. Wonderful! So, I set out to replicate that. I researched varnishes. Studies stains. Toiled over brushes. My greatest breakthrough came just a couple of days ago when I posted the above image on the CLC Boats (where I bought the kayak) builders forum website looking for advice. I found out that I needed to stain the wood prior to laying down fiberglass and epoxy onto the deck, which ironically, was exactly the point I was at in the build. 

I also learned from the forum what kind of stain I needed use (NOT oil based), how to apply it (with a brush or rag) and how to even out the overlapping brush marks (super fine steel wool). All of this cerebral knowledge did not  make the process any less nerve racking, though. 

To prepare, I masked the edge of the boat so no runs would escape me. I visualized what I needed to do. I re-read the forum tips. I sacrificed a small lamb to appease the Staining Gods. Screwing up the deck was the last thing I wanted to do. But, everything went pretty much as I expected. The deck is now covered with stain, in some places heavier than others. But that's okay, because I can use the steel wool to even things out. And, apparently, when the fiberglass and epoxy go down, it will even out even more. 

Here's the before:

And the after photo:

I'm sure the down the road the color will even out and even change as I add epoxy, fiberglass and, as the final steps, layers of varnish. But at this point I'm pretty happy to have a custom kayak.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

First Paddle, But Not Mine

"At last the anchor was up, the sails were set,
and off we glided. It was a sharp, cold Christmas; 
and as the short northern day merged into night, 
we found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, 
whose freezing spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor."
– Moby Dick

Perhaps a bit dramatic, but it's very exciting to announce that Leighann is buying a sea kayak!! Today's amazing weather inspired us to go down to the kayak shop on the Willamette and test paddle the Wilderness Systems Tempest 170. She loved it. Well that, and coupled with hours of research, talking to kayak experts, one lost craigslist posting and hundreds of online reviews, this is the one!

A "dry" run in the new kayak.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Hatches

I've come down with a little bit of a cold and the thought of slipping the respirator over my face makes my sinus cavity throb. So, I have been taking it easy, working on a few steps that don't require lots of filtered air. This weekend I started preparing the deck hatches. These will ultimately cover the hatch openings that allow storage access in the fore and aft areas. 

The hatch covers are pretty simple to put together. here's the illustrated version:

This is the bottom of the aft hatch cover with 3" fiberglass cloth 
waiting for epoxy. The fiberglass adds extra strength but mostly 
helps to hold the curve the hatches will have.

Here you can see where the hatch ribs go. The contact side of the 
rib is slightly curved (to match the deck) and will bend the hatch 
cover when everything is clamped to dry.

This is the forward hatch cover and here you can see more clearly 
the curvature the ribs impart on the plywood. The clamps hold the 
bend and the ribs in place as the epoxy cures. I should be able to 
remove the clamps tomorrow and the curve will remain.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tailored Fit

Since the epoxy joining the decks to the hull had cured, my next step was to trim off the deck overhang and clean up the edges. You can see the hand saw I used in the photo below, carefully following the line I traced along the deck using a guide. Once the major excess was sawed off, I used a block plane to take the deck wood down to the hull while also imparting a nice, rounded edge. To further smooth out the bumps and edges I passed over everything with the sander. 

This is a Japanese hand saw, the teeth are angled 
so the cut is made on the pull stroke.

More and more a kayak every day!