Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nathan Rogers House Concert

I just found out today that Nathan Rogers is coming to my house in September! How cool is that!?!

Sorry, the player has now been disabled since it slows things down and can be somewhat annoying when it comes on too loud. Click the image to follow a link that will let you hear more of Nathan's great music.

Nathan Rogers is a folk rock musician out of Winnipeg. Recognise the voice? Nathan is son of Stan Rogers, nephew of Garnet Rogers.

Speaking of cool, if the embedded player, courtesy of CBC Radio 3, actually works, now that would be cool. (That seems like a few too many comma's for one sentence, no?) Let me know if it works for you, & if you hate the player or like it.

Edited to remove the embedded player on October 3, '07.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Carving on Deck

A long, long time ago I proposed to my wife. She wasn't really into engagement rings, so I promised to get her a kayak instead. Well, that never really happened like we planned and the money went towards other things. So, when I built this kayak which was to be primarily for her use, I decided to do something different on the deck. When we got married we had a set of wedding bands custom-made by local goldsmith Ken Paulson. The pattern used was picked from a book of patterns and had no particular significance at the time. When thinking of a personalized touch to add to the kayak deck, I had the idea of turning the celtic knot pattern used on our wedding bands into a carving.

The only problems were I didn't know how to carve or even how to draw such a thing. Well I managed to figure out both challenges and eventually carved into a block of basswood a modified celtic knot in the same pattern as what's on our wedding bands. The first step was to come up with a drawing. For that I employed a bit of software. It took a lot of manipulation and playing with the software, but eventually it churned out something that was in generally the right pattern. Although it wasn't perfect, that software-produced drawing gave me the layout and showed me how the lines had to cross in order to work and be a complete circle. I then decided what diameter the inner and outer portions should be and with some trial and error, eventually drew something that looked acceptable and with proportions I was happy with. In fact I only drew just over a quarter of the circular pattern as it could be rotated 1/4 turn and the pattern repeated.

With a template pattern in hand, I then turned to wood. I had purchased some basswood and some simple carving tools, and began by practicing in a block of wood. Once I thought I had the general gist of how it works, I turned my attention to what was to become the real thing. I cut a piece of the bass about 6" x 6"x 2" thick, a bit over-sized to fit my pattern. I then determined where in the deck the carving was destined to reside. I used the adjacent form from the kayak to trace a profile of the deck onto my 2" thick block of wood. With a block plane I planed the block down to match the profile of the peak of the deck. The bottom of the block I left alone for the time being.

I drew reference lines onto the block and used a pin to mark the center through the template. I then used graphite paper to trace the pattern onto the shaped block, rotating the pattern for each quarter of the circle. I then began using the carving tools to remove all material that did not belong. I gave the pattern some relief where the lines of the knots go over and under each other, and made the background space deeper. Thankfully, the act of carving proved to be not overly difficult (I have a new found love of bass wood). Once I had a carving that I was happy with, I used wood burning to add further depth to the appearance of the carving, creating a bit of shadow where one line goes under another, and a stippling effect for the background spaces. After a few hours work, most of which was completed at the dining room table while my wife was at work, I had something that I thought wasn't too bad.

With the carving complete, I then prepared for insertion in the deck of the kayak. The bottom of the block of wood was planed down (bass is so nice to work with) until the overall thickness was just over 1/4". The carved disc was then cut from the block using a circle cutting jig on my Dremel. The center was also cut out of the carved disc (I may have used a hole saw for that one).
To this point, if things had not worked out or I made a major slip up, I could have started over on the carving or given up and nobody would ever have known about it. The next step required a much greater degree of commitment to proceed. I cut the matching hole in the deck of the kayak, again using the circle cutting jig on the Dremel.

If it all went wrong, I might have had a water bottle holder instead.

Using the jig and Dremel to cut the hole worked OK, but the resulting hole was a slight oval due to the peak of the deck.

Initially, I was going to use a center disc of cedar cut from the deck but this proved not to work very well. Instead I used a piece of walnut to fill the center. Thin strips of walnut were also used to fill the gap around the outside of the carving as the hole in the deck was cut slightly oversize. This was done on purpose since the carved disc did not perfectly match the deck hole. If left as shown in the above photo, the imperfections would have been very obvious. Instead, I removed material in order to make a fairly even gap all the way around. As it is, it now looks like a design feature of a contrasting walnut border edging the carving, which goes well with the walnut center.

The carving was glued into place, supported from underneath by temporary supports (ie sticks) hot-glued to the underside of the deck. The edges were eased and the carving gently sanded along with the rest of the deck in preparation for fiberglass. The carving received a pre-coat of epoxy in order to fill in some of the relief of the carving and then was glassed along with the rest of the deck. During the fiberglass wet-out, some bubbles were still trapped in the relief but their effect was minor. Prior to the fiberglassing the underside of the deck, the bottom of the carving was planed & sanded flush with the rest of the deck. Two or three extra layers of 4 ounce glass cloth were applied to the underside of the carving and the immediate area just to strengthen & protect this spot. The end result was an inlaid carving that is slightly raised above the deck but cannot even be felt from underneath.

In the above photo, the carving along with the rest of the deck has been fiberglassed and the fiberglass sanded to a dull finish. The photos below were taken after another fill coat of epoxy was applied to the deck.

Finally, below is the finished product, dubbed the "engagement kayak."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Facts & Figures

  • Kayak Design: Guillemot
  • Kayak Designer: Nick Schade
  • Length: 17'
  • Beam: 21"
  • Waterline Length: 14.7'
  • Build Start: October 2005 - setting up strongback and forms.
  • First Strips On Forms: ~Nov 8, 2005.
  • Point I Thought I Was Practically Done: June 29, 2006 after joining the deck and hull from the outside.
  • Point I Realised I was Nowhere Near Done: December, 2006
  • Completion: June 2007.
  • Official Launch Date:June 16, 2007
  • Total Time: 20 months with some interruptions.
  • Woods Used: Western Red Cedar (hull & deck), Alaskan Yellow Cedar (bow of deck), Ash (stems), Walnut (accents on carved deck insert), Basswood (carved insert on deck), mahogany (hook for paddle park and inner stems), Pine dowel (grab loop holes), Birch plywood (bulkheads, cheek plates, coaming), unknown plywood that looks like mahogany (moby latches).
  • Finished Weight: 42lbs fully fitted out, according to the bathroom scale.
  • Amount of Epoxy Used: 1.5 gallons (approx.) West Systems
  • Biggest Challenge: Taping inside seams then getting them smooth all the way to the stems after the epoxy had fully cured.
  • Pleasant Surprise:Working with Alaskan Yellow cedar is very easy, and it smells nice too.
  • Things To Do Differently Next Time:
  1. Build internal and external stems a la Ted Moores
  2. Move the front bulkhead aft at least 4" to increase hatch volume and decrease cockpit volume & wasted space.
  3. Mill my own strips, or ensure the quality of the milling.
  4. Don't use duct tape on the edges of the forms to keep the strips from sticking to the forms (it doesn't)
  5. Don't use the waxed masking paper to prevent epoxy from sticking where you don't want it to (it doesn't).
  6. Use fiberglass tape for the inside seam rather than strips cut from the regular cloth.
  7. Make the moby latches stronger, there's a surprising amount of force on them when they snap closed.
  • Things I'd Do Again:
  1. Plywood coaming & riser. I wasn't sure the conventional method was best so I came up with a method using 1/8" birch ply that worked well for me.
  2. Create a design on the deck &/or the hull that breaks up the stripping a bit, reducing the number of finely tapered joints and making things easier in the long run.
  3. Carve an insert or inlay. I had never done it before and it turned out to be fairly easy & makes the boat totally unique.
  4. Use the internal strongback, mounted on an external strongback with wheels. Gives a secure and stable set-up. and creates a long narrow table which is a great place to keep tools handy.
  • Atypical Features: Carved deck feature in the same pattern as our wedding bands, birch plywood coaming, "swoop" pattern of light wood across the bow & pin stripe down port side, moby hatch lid hold-downs, built on a "schade-style" internal strongback, supported on a "Moore's-style" external strongback.
  • Tools Purchased For Kayak Building: Honing guide, glue bottle/spreader, saddle square, cornering tool, cabinet scrapers & case, carving knife, carving tool set, carver's saw (for cutting the cockpit hole, but a jigsaw with good blades worked better), fine cut jigsaw blades, rasp & blades (worked well), collapsible bottles for varnish, HEPA filter for shop vac (a very worthwhile purchase), latex gloves (turns out I might be allergic to latex now), many disposable brushes, radiant heater.
  • Best Cheap Tool: A tie - the paint scraper and a $2 stamped metal small plane bought at a garage sale. Once sharpened properly, the paint scraper worked wonderfully for removing high spots, bumps, drips, runs, edges and excess glass/epoxy. The little hand plane just fits so nicely in the palm of my hand and it works very well for trimming strips and all sorts of other things while stripping. If I had lots of money, I'd upgrade to a Veritas apron plane. The microplane rasp gets an honourable mention.
  • Tools To Buy Next: Better sharpening stones, dust collector with cyclone (but I probably won't). I'm sure I'll think of lots more when I start the next one.
  • Money Spent: Not sure. About $1200 for wood, forms, fiberglass cloth, epoxy, varnish, glue, staples, cordage, etc. An uncertain amount went to electricity to heat the shop, tools, sandpaper, and other incidentals. Plus there was the paddle float, paddle, cradles for the roof rack, etc.
  • People That Were a Big Help: Rob, Martin, my wife, Andy, Rod Tait (without whom I wouldn't have gotten the wood or the forms), Cory (my cousin that brought the lumber & forms from B.C. for me), and of course my daughters. Plus, everyone over at the Kayak Building Bulletin Board and the Bear Mountain Boats Forum for all the ideas, motivation, advice, feedback and problem solving.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Back in June we had the "official" launch of my wife's new kayak. We borrowed a cedar-strip voyageur "Sainte Anne" canoe from Martin Bernardin for the occasion and had some friends & my in-laws join us. The kids really enjoyed the voyageur canoe, and my wife & I really enjoyed taking turns in the kayak. It was a beautiful Saturday evening for our paddle. Our original plan was to paddle on Sunday after having brunch at the Berry Barn. However as Sunday approached the forecast got steadily worse (the forecast was correct and we received 4" of rain in the ensuing storms). Thus, we scrambled a bit and left Saturday late-afternoon instead. We started from Fred Heal canoe launch on the South Saskatchewan River, about 20 km south of Saskatoon and paddled back to the city with a supper stop on a sandbar island along the way.

The photos below are all courtesy of Rick.

Many hands make light work.

My wife takes the first turn in the kayak.

Kevin mugs for the camera.

Supper break.
My turn.

Rob took over duties in the stern while I took my turn in the kayak. The Sainte Anne canoe paddled beautifully. At 25' 10" long and a 51" maximum beam, we were expecting a bit more trouble. With an experienced paddler in the bow and stern it was very easy to control. We had some assistance from amidships but even without it, Rob & I had little trouble maintaining a good pace and maneuvering.
The girls certainly enjoyed themselves in the big canoe.

On the edge of town.

When I asked Martin about renting the canoe, I never gave the logistics of it much thought. I knew it had it's own trailer but I have no problems pulling a small trailer behind my car and thought this one would be the same. I was wrong. That is one heavy trailer (for Honda Accord anyway). In agreeing to loan me the canoe, Martin was also agreeing to loan the trailer and the van too! His only request of me was that the rig be made ready to go for his trip to the Yukon River Quest. Thanks Martin!

We've used the kayak a couple of times since the launch and are pretty happy but there are some bugs to work out, including a broken moby latch (there's a lot of power behind them so make 'em strong!) and some skill development.
As mentioned earlier in this post, we were had made plans to launch after a Father's Day brunch from the Berry Barn on Sunday. Originally I refused to alter the plan despite a bad forecast since the forecast is often wrong. However, as Sunday got closer, the forecast got worse. In our haste to change the plans to Saturday, I was unable to inform a fellow builder about the change. Thus, Andy (aka "Andy in SK") arrived at the Berry Barn despite the downpour. We had brought the kayak and our tandem canoe along because the weather didn't look too bad when we left home and don't mind paddling in a bit of rain, but the thunder and lightning followed by the torrential rain put a damper on those plans. At least I did get a chance to admire Andy's Razor Billed Auk. Like me, Andy built a guillemot first. Having established a list of things to differently on the next boat, he built the RBA designed by Nick Schade next. Wow, what a beauty. Loaded with features, it also sports an elaborate design in the wood. This long sleek boat looks like lightning just sitting on Andy's custom made cradles (a la Ross Leidy). After admiring the boat in a pounding downpour (the start of a 4"+ rain) we resolved to head out for a paddle together at a later date. We're running out of summer so we'll have to go for a paddle soon Andy!

p.s. I have a bit of a backlog of posts to add discussing certain aspects of the build including the carved inlay on the deck, the moby hatch latches, and the plywood coaming. The first of these (description of the carved inlay on the deck) should be ready to post within the week so check back once in a while.