Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Canoe & A Kayak

Another in the ongoing saga of moving things off of my very soon-to-be-deleted Geocities site. Originally published online 3 or 4 years ago.

I built two boats in my garage in the spring of 2005. First was a Chesapeake 17 stitch & glue kayak based on the plans in the book The New Kayak Shop by Chris Kulczyki of Chesapeake Light Craft. The kayak was constructed of 1/32" birch plywood, "stitched" together with cyanoacrylate glue (aka slow-drying crazy glue). The hull was covered with a single layer of ~6 oz. fibreglass and the deck and cockpit sealed with epoxy. The second boat was a 17/6 Redbird canoe based on plans from the book "CanoeCraft" by Ted Moores. The canoe as I've built it is some sort of cross between cedar strip & dugout canoe construction. The hull was first made of cedar "strips" and the interior of the hull subsequently carved out. Again, the outside of the hull was covered with one layer of fibreglass and the interior sealed with epoxy.

OK, if you haven't yet looked at the pictures below you're probably wondering what the heck I'm talking about. The boats were 1:12 scale models. Barbie can paddle them, but that's about it. (Actually I was disappointed to find that Barbie doesn't fit in the kayak - her hips are too wide. Maybe I should steal one of my daughter's barbies and use various power tools to administer some cosmetic surgery to make her fit - all in the name of getting a nice photo.) I made these boats as toys for my daughters and as "fun" little projects. Another reason for building these boats was to practice techniques (stitch & glue construction for the kayak, carving was used for the canoe). The kayak was a PITA and I'm not sure I would attempt another (at least with a normal size boat your pieces are big enough to hold properly). It was very tedious to get the thin plywood panels (cut with a scissors) to line up just right and to stay in precisely the right orientation until the glue dried (clamped with binder clips, tape and my fingers - which often became a structural part of the hull thanks to the glue). There are bulkheads in place so that the bow and stern compartments are fully sealed so it won't fill with water and sink. The kayak is very strong and should stand up to a fair bit of abuse.

As alluded to above, the canoe was made by first gluing together some scraps of cedar. I then pasted onto this block outline drawings of the canoe copied to the correct scale from the book CanoeCraft. I then used the drawings as a guideline to cut the general canoe shape out of the block using a band saw. With the rough blank cut, I used a spokeshave to carve away anything that didn't look like a canoe. This was very easy and went well. I'm sure it doesn't share the same lines as the original canoe design it is based on, but it still looks pretty fair and it is just a toy. I once tried the band saw to remove a bit more material, but ended up slicing into the canoe and had a patch I had to repair. I find that often I don't save any time by using the power tools, I just create a mess to repair. With the outside of the hull carved, I used a gouge to hollow out the inside. Carving the interior of the canoe was much more work and I never did get it perfect (it's just a toy after all). There are three reasons this portion of the carving did not go well: 1) I had only one gouge to use with a fairly narrow width (I opted to purchase one good tool rather than a set of multiple mediocre tools); 2) I did not sharpen the gouge after purchasing it (though it was still plenty sharp to cut me very easily when I slipped); and 3) I don't know what I'm doing. All three of those factors can only improve with time.

The picture below shows the plywood panels of which the kayak is constructed. The hull (bottom) is composed of 4 panels and the angle where they meet at the side is called a "hard chine." The presence of a chine gives particular handling characteristics to this style of boat with it's own pros & cons. The deck is curved over a masik or deck beam located just ahead of the cockpit opening. I constructed the curved deck beam by steam bending strips of 1/32" plywood and forming them around a spray can. Once dried, I glued the strips together, again using the can as a form. This laminated beam was then sanded smooth on the sides and cut to fit and glued to the shear clamps (strips of wood where the hull and deck meet, not visible in these photos).

As a sad conclusion and 2009 update, my kids have lost the very tedious to build kayak. I really hope it turns up again sometime, but it's been missing for a year or two now so I don't expect to see it again.