Friday, October 21, 2011

Well, we'll see...

I always tend to describe myself as being like a 40 watt bulb - I'm not necessarily the brightest, but I won't burn out prematurely like one of those fancy extra-bright halogen ones...  So, being the Bear of Little Brain, I have been in my Thotful Spot again.

While I love teaching my cedar-strip canoe building class, there are some concerns.  Chief among them is the cost and duration of the class - it is about $600-700 for materials and takes at least four, 14 week class sessions (time and $$$ both being a factor here...) for most students to complete a boat.  This makes the class too expensive, and quite a commitment in terms of time.  Also, it requires a bit of woodworking experience up-front or more build time to learn those woodworking skills.  It's not that they are particularly difficult to learn, it's just that the skills need to be acquired - and that takes more time.  

I'm looking to do something different.

I have several goals.  I want to be building boats that will be...
  • small and lightweight
  • inexpensive
  • quick to build
  • less demanding of builder's skills
To that end, I've been working on some Thomas Yost style skin-on-frame kayaks to gain more experience with this sort of building style.  Another person who has taken this idea and run with it is Dave Gentry.  He's got a variety of nicely done skin-on-frame canoes and kayaks and has done both reproductions of classic craft as well as some of his own designs.  I could definitely see doing some of his designs in a class like this.

After building the Yost-style kayaks, I've learned some things that I don't like about Yost's building method.  It's difficult to get the patterns square and perpendicular.  I did, however come up with a solution to this issue and would be comfortable to be building a boat like this in class.  Still, I'm a canoe guy - I like kayaks, but prefer to paddle canoes.  So, I've been working to develop a design of my own.

The image below shows the germ of the idea.  It is still missing some critical features, but the majority of it is there.  These are plywood stations for a non-traditional solo skin-on-frame canoe. 

They can easily be copied by a relatively inexperienced woodworker from master patterns using a router and a pattern bit.  It's a 13' long asymmetrical solo double-paddle canoe.  It's about 28" wide, has slight rocker, a little tumble-home to the sides and a shallow arch for a bottom.  The thing that I feel makes my design a bit different is that I'm using the stations themselves as the fixturing to assure that they are square and perpendicular to the main axis of the canoe.  After the stringers have been installed, the 'frame' part of the stations will be cut free from the 'fixturing' part of the stations to release the boat for finishing and skinning.  I'm even toying with the idea of integrating grab handles into the last two stations for carrying the boat (by two people...).  I'm concerned that even with the light weight of the canoe, a bit more or wider material would be desirable for comfort.

I have some more design work to validate the shape's stability and am working on a 1/2 scale model to figure out the construction details.  I think this is going to be interesting!

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