Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

R.E.C. Rectifying the Course
by Cuban artist Kcho.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday

Most folks who want a boat get it one of three ways - they buy a new boat, build a boat, or they refurbish an old one.  Know it or not, any and all of these boats will require maintenance. (Well, perhaps not the plastic ones...)

Most folks would rather build a boat from scratch, than to repair or maintain an older boat.  Why is this, you ask?  Well, frankly, maintenance and repair can be a pain in the butt - however, only if you let it become a pain.

Maintenance is a whole lot simpler if you do it when the problems are small and easy to fix, not when you let them get out of hand and you have sun or water-damaged wood, broken parts, peeling paint or varnish.  The old saw, "a stitch in time saves nine" is really appropriate.

A good example is the varnish on a cedar strip boat.  If you let the varnish go, eventually, it will cause the sun's UV rays to damage the epoxy which leads to stripping the glass to get rid of cloudy and crazed fiberglass.  If you don't keep up on the finish on wood - particularly stuff like ash or cherry trim on a canoe, you'll get black marks that become particularly difficult to get out.  

If you let things go really far, things like broken ribs and planking can lead to a cedar and canvas hull losing it's shape, making the repair all the more difficult.

DON'T forget to do the maintenance!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday

Razor Sharp Chisel - $40.00

Many-toothed Dozuki Saw - $45.00

Fully Stocked First Aid Kit?  - Priceless

An event this weekend in class reminded me of the value of a well-stocked first aid kit.  One of my students had a minor accident with a router this weekend.  This particular student was passing the router from one hand to another while the router was running.  It is a palm router, so that's not that unusual.  What was unusual, was that for whatever reason - fatigue, simple inattention, or whatever - the student wasn't watching as this happened and nipped a pinky with the router. 

As a woodworking instructor, I know that events like this *can* happen, although it does upset me when it does happen.  What I do know, is that we'll be prepared for most incidents because the shop is equipped with a good first aid kit.  For a woodworking shop, this means more than a few band-aids.  We stress the importance of good procedures, set-up and safety in general, but what happens when things go pear-shaped?

Below is a poster that was produced by Fine Woodworking with a suggested first aid kit inventory and basic first aid procedures.  (Click to enlarge)  It contains an excellent basic list that I'd add a couple of thoughts to.  Since the article was written, clotting kits and bandages have become available as a result of treating soldier's bleeding in the field.  They would be an excellent addition.  An eye cup for eye washing and a CPR mask would also be nice to have.  I know I'll be looking at our first aid kit with a critical eye this week.

As you are thinking of what should go in your kit, think about the particular things you do in your shop that could hurt you or others.  While some of the most common things that people think of are cuts and potential amputations, some other common things are allergic reactions to wood dust and chemicals, debris in the eye, splinters, burns - both thermal and chemical, splinters, and broken bones or bruising from a kick-back.

With any injury that involves a cut, it is important that the wound is cleaned well with soap and water and anti-biotic ointment.  Wood isn't the cleanest thing around after being handled in the woods, sawmills and lumberyards.  If the wound becomes infected or you don't have a recent tetanus shot, make an appointment to see your doctor.  The follow up can be as much a life-saver as the initial treatment of the injury.

One final thought - most folks are not doctors or paramedics.  Keep calm and know your limits for treating yourself and others.   Use common sense and call the professionals in when needed.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Old School.

Ok, my French isn't so good, but this video is an opportunity to watch masters at work, doing what may soon be considered a "lost art".  With any luck, video documentation like this will save this information for the future. 




Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thursday Thought

Anyone who says they like portaging is either a liar or crazy.

- Bill Mason

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday

Sort of strange Tech Tip Tuesday, as the "tech tip" is about teaching.

The most important thing that you can do as an instructor is to realize that all students are different.  They come with different life experiences, preconceived notions, and abilities.  My students have had various degrees of woodworking experience from rank beginner to professional cabinet-maker.   Some have better visualization skills and some have better dexterity than others.  I'm always a little apprehensive during the first weeks of class as I'm trying to figure out what is unique to each of the students, learn names and instruct the class.

I've learned that people learn things differently from one another.  Some folks learn better by hearing about something. Some learn by watching the task being done  or seeing pictures of the process.  Some learn by doing the task hands-on.  Some need a bit of all three.  You need to know how that student "operates" to be able to best instruct them.

As a teacher, you will also need to recognize that you don't know everything.   It would be pretty arrogant to assume that you did as nobody really does - even the experts.  Sometimes you have to say, "I don't know", "Let me think about it" or "Let me do a bit of research".  It's more important to find the right answer than to worry about looking stupid and giving and off the cuff answer that isn't right.

The first year I taught I was pretty nervous as I really had no idea how well or badly certain things would go.  I had some teaching experience from college and summer camp work, so I understood how to organize and teach a class and I knew my subject matter, but I still had a bunch of questions running around my head about how things would work.   It gets better with time.  The more you teach a subject, the smoother it gets - the first year will not be as smooth, but as time goes on, the benefit of experience is nothing to sneeze at.

I learn more from my students than they do from me and I think most good teachers recognize this.  What I mean here is that I learn things to teach my students two ways.  The first way is by watching the types of mistakes they make and try to tailor my instruction  for the future to avoid these mistakes.  As there are probably an infinite variety of mistakes out there, I figure I'll learn a great deal. The second way I learn from students is that they bring different experiences to the class from the outside world. Often by the questions they ask and methods they suggest we all learn something new - even if it's not to do something that way.

You have to keep yourself focused on the goals at hand - in my class, we build sawhorses and strongbacks, but the goal of the class is to learn to build boats.  Are the strongbacks integral to that process?  Yes - so we go over that in class in pretty good detail.  Are the sawhorses?  Well, not really, so that becomes a group project that is more focused on "production" - knocking the work out - than the lessons of building a sawhorse.

Another basic rule of teaching comes from the Silver Fox:

"Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em.  Tell 'em.  Tell 'em what you told 'em."  Pretty simple - you can't expect students to get things the first time.  They will learn best by hearing, seeing, or doing something repeatedly.  This is how they gain experience.

One last thing.  Have patience.  Lots of patience.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

So, what kind of candy did you get?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thought for the Day

The only place where "success" comes before "work" is in the dictionary.

                                                                                               - Vince Lombardi

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday

Non-Traditional Skin-on-Frame design may be converted from other more traditional designs relatively easily.  The easiest designs to convert are those that have faceted cross-sections.  For someone looking for faceted designs, existing lapstrake and stitch-and-glue designs would be good candidates.   Round-bottomed designs - like traditional canoes tend to be -  can be converted as well, but there is a little bit more trial and error in creating the "flats" along the curve, because you want the stringers to be "fair" curves along the length of the boat.

 Lapstrake Boat

 Stitch-and-Glue Eastport Pram

There are some caveats, however. 

You need to plan for a design where the facets are not very wide - if they are, you may need to break up the "panel" into a smaller width.  By "wide" I mean panels more than 10" or a foot wide.   If the fabric panels are wide and the fabric isn't tight enough, it can sag under water pressure - perhaps hitting a frame - which will slow the boat in the water. 

The other main caveat is that the stringers don't want to have lots of force applied to the hull in the "up" and "down" direction.  This is particularly true of the gunwales or the sheer clamps on the boat.  Excessive forces can cause the hull to bend with more rocker - the fore-and-aft curvature of the hull that is reminiscent of the shape a rocker on a rocking chair - or hogging - a reverse bend where the middle of the keel is higher than the ends.   The other issue is that the hull can distort from the forces.   These forces applied to the hull can be minimized by pre-bending, laminating stringers to the curve, steaming the stringers to shape.

There are some other minor concerns.  One is fabric width.  You may want to be able to build the boat with one single piece of fabric so you don't have a seam at the bottom.  This may not be possible and you may have to stitch multiple pieces of fabric together, but this isn't a disaster or an impossibility. 

One item that should not be ignored - for any boat building -  is that you need to have the correct scantlings for the boat.  Scantlings are the appropriate dimensional timbers for a given size of boat.  This would include the right thickness of plywood - typically 1/2" for small boats - and the correct stringer cross-section.  The boats that we're building have stringers that range from 5/8" square to as big as 1-1/2"x 3/4".   Boats that are designed for paddling - such as a canoe, pirogue or kayak - will have structural elements such as decks or breasthooks, thwarts, floors, coamings and the like to help keep the shape of the boat.  Boats designed for rowing or sailing have other concerns.  For sailing boats, they need to hold their shape when the forces of wind and water are applied to the centerboard/daggerboard and trunk, rudder, mast partners, and mast step.  Rowing craft need to have a strong enough seat and gunwales/oarlocks to resist to forces applied by the rower to the hull.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

This One is for Tom Jackson

So, this past weekend, my DW flew to the UK for a milestone birthday for her Mum.  (One doesn't disclose the age of a lady, of course.)  It was an excellent opportunity for the family to be together and while it would have been nice to have been able for the whole family to go, it's just a bit prohibitive to fly a family of 4 to the UK for the weekend...

At any rate, DW was planning on flying Icelandair to the UK as the price was very good.  The other concern was that she was able to obtain a re-bookable business class ticket for a good price in case she needed to re-schedule for whatever reason.  There were a few nice perks to this, including use of the airport lounges and a bit better seating, but I keep reminding her that she shouldn't get used to it...

The one thing about flying on Icelandair is that the flight hub is Reykjavik's Keflavik International Airport - actually located down the coast in Keflavik, so the flight that she took to Manchester airport in the UK had stop-overs in Iceland.  On the return leg, she had some time to kill and wanted to pick up some things for DD, DS and myself.  She chose some t-shirts.

This is where Tom Jackson fits in.

The man both edits and writes for WoodenBoat Magazine and really looks the part of a Viking.  Ironically, he wrote an article in issue 206 about a trip he took from Dublin to Denmark on a reproduction Viking longship.  He's a powerfully built man with a salt-and-pepper beard and a quiet thoughtful demeanor and good sense of humor, actually.

One of the last times I saw Tom, he was wearing a WoodenBoat T-shirt with a Viking proverb on the back : "Bundin er b├ątlaus mardur." - literally - "Bound is boatless man."  Being that the front of the shirt is the WoodenBoat logo - a Viking longship viewed bow on, I figured he'd have loved to get his hands on both the shirt my DW brought me back and the bag it came home in:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

Must be a member of Congress...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday

So, now that you've decided to build a skin-on-frame boat, you're looking for instructions and plans, aren't you?  Let's take a little look around at some of the plans that are available:

Traditional Build:

Most books for traditional skin-on-frame boat building generally target kayaks or canoes.  If you look around the internet, you'll find instructions and classes for building things like coracles, umiaks, basket boats, kayaks and canoes.  Not really all that difficult if you're looking.

If you're going really "Old School", David W. Zimmerly's Qayaq: Kayaks of Alaska and Siberia has some neat drawings and images of traditional kayaks.  It would be for an advanced builder to interpret things from the sketches in a way that fits the individual paddler.  You have to keep in mind that the Innuit used body measurements - hand spans, cubits, and the like to make their boats - they were tailored to the builder.

Some more up-to-date books to build versions of the Greenland kayaks are written by Christopher Cunningham and Mark Starr.  Cunningham has written Building the Greenland Kayak: A Manual for It's Construction and Use while Starr has written Building a Greenland Kayak.  Both are excellent books and I recommend them highly if you intend to build a traditional kayak.

While Starr and Cunningham's books are both very good, I'd have to rate Robert Morris' book Building Skin-on-Frame Boats to be excellent - it delves deeply into the build of kayaks, but also talks about other type of boats including prams, canoes, and umiaks in the back of the book.  Morris owns Brewery Creek Small Boat Shop in Vancouver, Canada.  He appears to have been strongly influenced by Zimmerly's research and writing - which is a good thing.  The book is out of print, but if you can find it, borrow it or get it at your local library, I highly recommend it - whatever method of skin-on-frame you intend to try.

Qajac USA, the American Chapter of the Greenland Kayak Association also has an excellent listing on their website of resources information for builders including books, weblinks, and video - check it out here.

For canoes, Hilary Russell of the Berkshire Boatbuilding School has done more than most to bring about the building of small skin-on-frame canoes in the tradition of Rushton's small double-paddle canoes.  Sometimes he works with sawn woods, sometimes with natural materials - typically willow.   He offers plans, kits, parts and a book - Building Skin-on-Frame Double Paddle Canoes as well as classes.  The boats are lashed frames with steam-bent ribs and Nylon or Polyester skins.  He also had two articles in WoodenBoat Magazine on the buildling of one of his boats - that includes plans - in WoodenBoat issues #205 and #206 - available from the WoodenBoat Store as PDF downloads.   I met a woman this summer while out paddling who had taken  his class and built the boat she was paddling - a beautiful specimen, to be sure.  I'm still tempted to build one.

Sorta Traditional Build...

No listing of kayak building resources for skin-on-frame boats would be complete without the seminal classic, Baidarka: The Kayak by George Dyson.  George and friends built a variety of baidarka - including some massive sailing versions in the '70's.  These boats are not wood framed, but are framed from lashed aluminum plate and tubing and skinned with nylon fabrics - basically a high-tech twist in terms of materials on classic designs.  George is still very influential in the skin boat world and owns Dyson, Baidarka & Company in Bellingham, Washington.  George supplies a significant portion of the Nylon and Polyester fabrics used to skin boats today.  My students and I purchase our fabrics from him.  A nice gentleman to deal with with broad interests and a depth of knowledge.

Bridging the gap again is Wood and Canvas Kayak Building by George Putz. It's a unique, slightly homespun book and could perhaps use some updating in terms of skin materials.  In particular, the use of a "truss" system along the sides of the boat along with "floors" very similar to the construction of larger sail boats is unique.  Well worth a read if you find it.

I'm torn about where to put this one.  Geodesic AiroLITE boats designed by the late Platt Monfort and still offered by his family in the form of both plan, kits and partial kits are really a bit more high-tech than most "traditional" methods.  He used steam-bent ribs in his designs and lashed stringers to them.   He then used Kevlar "diagonals" to ensure that the boat's frame stayed rigid.  The skins and skinning methods were really borrowed from the aircraft industry and are a bit unique to skin-on-frame boatbuiding.  There are a wide variety of plans offered including paddling, pulling and sailing craft.  The thing that's special about the Geodesic AiroLITE boats is their impressively light weight.  A gossamer 12 foot long canoe can weigh as little as 14 pounds.  Truly impressive.

Non-Traditional Builds:

I would do a disservice to the history of non-traditional skin-on-frame boats if I didn't include Percy Blandford.  (Some information on this website.)  Percy designed skin-on-frame kayaks that were very popular in the UK from the '30's to the '70's including the PBK10, PBK14, PBK 20 and PBK 27.  He also wrote a book called Canoes and Canoeing - now out of print.  They were very popular with Scouts in the UK.  Plans are available from   Most, if not all of the designers offering plans below, owe some credit to the efforts of Mr. Blandford.

Tom Yost has taken what Percy Blandford did and ran with it.  Tom offers a website of free designs and building instructions on his website, Yostwerks.   The offerings on the website include boats with plywood frames, wood stringers and PVC skins.  Other offerings include folding aluminum and plastic frames with PVC skin and inflatable PVC boats.  The designs have evolved over time and some of the older designs have faded away.  There is also a Yahoo! group dedicated to Tom's boats.  All of Tom's work is well worth looking at, but I'd recommend skipping the PVC skins to save weight and look at Nylon or Polyester.

Dave Gentry of Gentry's Custom Boats seems to have started on his path with Yost designs and evolved into his own with an impressive selection of kayaks, canoes, pulling and sailing boats.  Dave's offerings seem to be expanding on a regular basis.  He offers both plans and kits at his website and offers classes at the WoodenBoat School along with other locations.  This year, my students will be building three of Dave's designs including his Chuckanut 15 kayak, IGO canoe, and Annabelle sailing skiff.   His building tutorials that come with the plans are quite good and a nice addition.   I'm looking forward to the time when Dave writes a book on the subject.

S. Jeff Horton of Kudzu Craft offers skin-on-frame kayaks, canoes, pirogues and pulling boats.  He offers plans, kits, parts and two books - Building Fuselage Frame Boats and More Fuselage Frame Boats.  My students will be building three Stonefly canoes from the first book - we built a total of eight of them last year.  Overall, Jeff seems to specialize in the kayaks, but the other offerings are interesting.  The instructions tend to be somewhat simplistic in the book, but are still a very solid offering for someone who wants to build their own boat at home.

In next week's Tech Tip Tuesday, I hope to discuss the idea of converting existing designs to skin-on-frame designs.

Monday, September 30, 2013


 So, one of the questions I get asked is, "Why should I build a skin-on-frame boat?"

Well, why not?  They're inexpensive to build, lightweight, durable and have a long history.

Skin-on-frame boats have been built for a long, long, time.  Some excellent examples can be found over at Bob Holtzman's Indigenous Boats blog - I encourage you to take a look.  Examples include the baidarka and umiak of the Innuit people, qajac of Greenland, the curragh of Ireland, the coracle of many different places, but well known in the British Isles. There are also the so-called basket boats of Southeast Asia, 

For the most part, I'll refer to the building methods involved here as "traditional" skin-on-frame boats.  The frames were made from either lashed or pegged frames.  The wood might be just bent green branches, or highly worked parts with mortices, steam bent ribs and the like.  Bending of parts may be accomplished by simply bending green wood, chewing to weaken fibers before bending, boiling, or steaming.  Skins might be just that - animal skins of one form or another.  Skins might also be the bark of trees or woven cloth that has been treated or sealed to be waterproof - often with mixtures of pitch and/or tar or animal fats.

While some people distinguish birchbark canoes and cedar and canvas canoes is distinctly different build methods, I'd say that generally, they fall within the realm of skin-on-frame boatbuilding - just a bit different because of the frame, really.

Then we get into some more modern methods - "non-traditional" skin on frame construction.  Because of the similarity to some aircraft construction, it is sometimes referred to as "fuselage frame" construction.  This really seems to be a relatively recent innovation, although I'm sure there must be more history than I'm aware of.  This build method generally involves plywood for frames and stringers of some sort to form the longitudinal members.  Skins are usually fabric - canvas, nylon or polyester treated with paint, polyurethane or varnish.  Frames may be joined by adhesives, pegs, fasteners or lashings

Tomorrow, we'll get into some resources for plans.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Monday, September 23, 2013

Decisions, Decisions - or Why a Little Experience Matters

In picking designs for a class, I very often have to take into account the lowest common denominator - in this case, the inexperienced paddler and woodworker.  The difficulty here is to pick something that satisfies everyone - a truly difficult task.  I want a design which is safe to use, easy to build, but broadly aesthetically pleasing.

So for my current class, I've picked three distinct designs for my students to build.  I think that's pretty generous, all-in-all.  For the instructor, to have students building 8 different boats in some unknown combination of these three different designs is a challenge.

S. Jeff Horton's Stonefly Canoe :

Dave Gentry's Chuckanut 12 kayak :

Dave's slightly larger Chuckanut 15 tandem kayak :

When presented with these options, students will sometime say that they want to design their own boat.  Unless you're a naval architect on the side, I tend to discourage this. 


Take for example this little beauty found on Craigslist which I think is a better than average version of a builder-designed boat:

It made me wonder if the design inspiration came from the '80's classic video game Asteroids:

That's not to say that every beginner is going to design an awful boat, but that's the way things tend to go.  It takes experience to design a good-looking boat that's structurally sound and behaves well functionally for the paddler in terms of speed, stability and tracking and turning abilities that's light in weight.  It also takes somewhat of an artist's eye to make an appealing design as well.

I'll also get students who decide that they're going to alter an existing design in some significant way - length, width, depths, overall shape, etc. without ever having paddled the boat in question as it was designed.  Very often this can have unexpected results and I generally tend to discourage doing this as I want the student to complete a boat that looks and functions nicely.

I'll also have students who decide they want to sign up for a particular class - in this case, a non-traditional skin-on-frame boat-building class where we use plywood frames with long wood stringers between the frames.  They will then ask if they can build a traditional skin-on-frame boat with steam bent ribs.  Some will go totally off-book and want to build a caravel or lapstrake boat.  Sorry, not in this class - perhaps in a future class offering, but we're building non-traditional skin-on-frame boats right now.  If you want to build a skin-on-frame boat, I think you'd have a great time in my class, but building by another method is just too much of a distraction for the instructor and the rest of the class.

Some will also ask if we can convert an existing design for another build method to the one that the class is offering, which is generally possible, but takes some serious time and effort to prepare on the part of both the instructor and the student - along with being an untested build.

Lastly, we'll have students who decided to look a little further afield for a design being offered in the same build method, but that we don't currently have plans for.  This is a little bit more do-able as most of these designs have at least been prototyped by their designer and built by other builders - takes some of the pressure off of whether the student can build a successful boat.  It takes a little bit more work on the part of the instructor to get up to speed with the intricacies of that particular design, but usually isn't a disaster.  For example, I had an experienced cabinetmaker build a beautiful cedar strip kayak in a cedar strip canoe building class without it being a disaster.

So, if you come to sign up for my class and see me cringing slightly when asking me if you can make changes to what is being offered in the class in terms of methods and designs, now you know why!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Arrrr, Matey!

Fear ye not - it's September 19th - International Talk Like a Pirate Day, ye scallywags!  We'll be teachin' ye how to parley with the meanest of them!

To help ye with yer task, we've brought ye the finest instructors:

...and the best instructional materials:

Just remember, the day will be too short, mateys!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tempus Fugit

Another summer seems to have vanished like a sugar cube in a cup of hot coffee.   I suppose I got to paddle quite a bit and visit with friends and do interesting things, but it still seems altogether too short.  When I was a kid, it always seemed that summer went on forever.  I wish it still did.

However, this brings the start of wonderful things.   Like sign-up for a new year's class of boat-building.  After exhibition last June, I had a list nearly three pages long of people who were interested in the boat-building class.  I put together an email regarding class registration. (which was yesterday...) and about the class itself and sent it to the people on the list.

I figure that we usually get maybe 5% of the people who were interested at exhibition to actually show up for registration - if I'm lucky.  When I was driving to registration, I could see that all the side streets around the school were almost completely full of parked cars.  As I turned down the street the school is on, there were students waiting in a line that stretched down the sidewalk from the building to the street and down the sidewalk along the street.  It was only 9:00 AM - registration doesn't start until 10:00 AM, but is first-come, first-served in order to be fair to everyone, so people come early.  Sometimes really early - with a chair, a book, a cup of coffee, snacks, determination and apparently - a strong constitution.  It felt a bit like an Apple iPhone launch.

The lines for woodworking and boat-building as well as a few other classes run from the side of the building and ran all the way to the parking lot and back to the dumpster.  As I took my paperwork into the building and prepared to bring the skin-on-frame canoe downstairs as my "calling card", I was approached by a woman who was clearly distressed.

"Are you the boat building instructor?"


"Is it true?"

"Is what true?"

"That this class is for returning students only."


"That's what the sign says."

"No - that's not true.  It's open registration.  I don't have returning students."

I went and checked the sign with the class listings that showed students where to wait to register.  The sign clearly had an asterisk and a notation beneath the class name that said, "Returning Students Only".  I grabbed a marker and crossed that line out in a big hurry, let me tell you.  It was a clerical error from using an old class list.  I have no idea how many students saw that sign and went home without finding out if this was true.  I was beginning to sweat that the class wouldn't run because people left after seeing the sign.

Because of the way that the school runs, there are minimum enrollments - 8 people is the minimum for my class to run.  It's also sort of the maximum class size, too - I only have room to build and store 8 boats.  If each person decides to build their own boat (like last year's class...) I have the minimum number of people and the maximum number of boats - a precarious balancing act.  Fortunately for me, ten students registered and are planning to build 8 boats.  Two couples have decided to build a boat together and the other 6 students will build their own boats.

So, if anyone DID see the sign and go home, I apologize.  While I'm not responsible for the error, I still worry that people missed an opportunity.  If you did, please comment on this post or otherwise get back to me - I'd like to know.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Bit Like Wild Kingdom

I was half-expecting Marlin Perkins to pop out from around a corner tonight.  We've got quite a bit of wildlife that passes through our yard from the very small (field mice and voles) to the rather large. (black bears, deer)  Most of our wildlife tends to be mid-sized - like the squirrels, rabbits and the occasional skunk.

This past weekend, I didn't manage to get the lawn mowing done as it seemed to rain pretty much all weekend.  So, with all the rain we got, the lawn definitely needed a good mowing.  I decided that when I got home from work tonight, I'd hop on the lawn tractor and get things done. 

Firing up the mower, I started to make my first pass around the yard.  As I came around the front and headed towards the garden, I could see something in the grass, sitting there.  As I got closer, I saw that it was one of the rabbits that hangs around.  It was staring at me with mouth agape.

I could almost hear the leporine gasp escape the fuzzy beggar's mouth.  "You're going to cut that?  I was going to eat that..." 

As I got closer still, the rabbit held his ground.

I stopped the mower - probably less than 10 feet from the rabbit and it didn't move - not one inch.

I waved my hands at the rabbit to shoo it away.  It didn't move - not one inch.

I got down off the mower and walked over towards the rabbit.  It didn't move - not one inch.

I finally got within about two feet of the rabbit before it finally took off and went underneath the deck where it probably sat watching in dismay as I cut away the tenderest tips of fresh grass, along with clover and blossoms.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Good advice from an unlikely source:

Ashton Kutcher at the Teen Choice Awards - give it a perusal:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday

I've posted a bit before about transporting canoes and kayaks and how I do it.   It's generally pretty simple, but I've seen some things of late regarding canoe and kayak transportation that could lead to potential horrors. I think deserve a little bit of attention.

While most people will carry one or perhaps two small boats on their roof rack, some people get a little bit ambitious:

There is not only a rack on that car but 6 - count 'em - 6 boats on top of that car.  Even little plastic whitewater boats like that weigh about 35 pounds each.  So, we're talking about 210 pounds and another 15-20 pounds of rack for a total of at least 225 pounds.  First, there are limits that the car manufacturer puts on how much weight you can put on your vehicles roof - usually somewhere around 150 pounds.  Then, if you're using a commercial rack, there's another limitation on capacity for the rack, too.   You shouldn't be exceeding the weight limit for either one.  If you are, perhaps it's time to look at a canoe or kayak trailer to tow behind your vehicle, or have a friend help you haul boats on their vehicle with you.  There's a few dangers here - one is damaging your vehicle, the other is overloading your rack and having the rack fail again potentially damaging your vehicle or having your rack and boats fall off the vehicle.

While I don't have a picture, here's another potential problem.  There is a car in town that has a beautiful Wee Lassie canoe made by Laughing Loon on a nice roof rack.  The issue is the canoe is mounted on the rack right-side-up.  While generally this isn't an issue what happens when it rains?  Yep - the canoe fills up with water.  Water is heavy - 62.4 pounds per cubic foot.  A bit of rain when the canoe is like this on the car can quickly overwhelm the weight capacity of the car, and rack.  Also if the boat isn't strong enough, you could damage the hull of the canoe, too.  Just a hint - a siphon is great for getting water out of a boat on your roof - reaching up to tip a water laden boat is something you don't need to do.  It's much simpler to carry the canoe upside-down.

Here's a similar situation - but a kayak:

Generally, this set-up is good.  there's a rack on the car roof, there's only one boat on the roof and it's properly oriented.  Notice the kayak's cockpit - it's open.  Like the canoe, it can collect water - albeit more slowly than a canoe.  A cockpit cover is a cheap and easy way to keep the inside dry.  Another benefit of the kayak cover is that it can help reduce drag and road noise.

Pay attention to the details.  Avoid overloading!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

You've GOT to be kidding me!

When we build boats, we're trying to build boats that are beautiful and functional in their own way.  Some are work boat finishes, some are varnish queens - it runs the gamut, really.  It's pretty rare to have a really awful looking boat.  While my students are building boats,  they are all way, way too critical of their own boats, but when exhibition finally rolls around, they are amazed at the ooh's, aaahh's, smiles and slack-jawed awe by the visitors who have come to see their work.  I think this is a great thing as it really helps build their pride in what they have done.

However, at the exhibition this year and at the WoodenBoat show at Mystic, I was disturbed to hear a refrain that I hear all too often.

"That's too pretty to put in the water!"


You've GOT to be kidding me!

The following quote is probably the best response to those who say that the boats are too pretty to put in the water -

A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.

                              -William Shedd 

The canoes and kayaks, rowboats, sailboats and motorboats that were built were to go places and do things.  While some rare boats certainly deserve to be put on display or held by museums, for the most part, boats are meant to be used.  Careful maintenance and repair can extend their lives, but boats - particularly wooden boats - have a finite lifespan.  

The cedar strip and fiberglass canoes and kayaks that were built in my class were certainly built to be used.   What people don't know is that they're really much more durable than they might be led to believe.  I've dropped my canoe, banged into a metal railing with it, scratched it on rocks and gravel and other such indignities that a small canoe will be subject to.  But you know what?  I know how it was built and as such I know how to repair any damage.  Usual maintenance for this kind of boat is a wet sanding and a fresh coat of UV filtering varnish.  Maybe some new cane for the seat or a little polish of the brass or bronze bits.  When freshly refinished, many people would assume that the boat was new.

Nick Schade of Guillemot Kayaks was up at the WoodenBoat School last year with one of his kayaks.  As we prepared to go out for a paddle his shop assistant commented on how beat up the bottom was.  He commented that he uses his boats and will clean them up like I described above once in a while, but that he built the boat to have fun with.  From the scratches it was obvious that he did have lots of fun with it.

Still, just because you have fun with your boats, doesn't mean you don't cringe a little when you hear the formation of a new scatch.

Skin boats are a slightly different kettle of fish - they're still remarkably durable, but you do have to utilize some care - really sharp things are a problem, but for the most part, are surprisingly durable as a video in a previous post shows.  I've been amazed by the durability of these boats to take a beating and not show it.  I've launched my kayak on beaches with barnacle-covered rocks and debris, I've watched rocks deform the skin as I've passed over them in shallow water.  I've not had a leak or a significant scratch even though I don't "baby" the boat.

So, build a beautiful wooden boat or skin boat - and use it!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Happy National Canoe Day!

The Canadians have it right - on June 26th every year (or thereabouts...) - they celebrate National Canoe Day.  This event was founded by the Canadian Canoe Museum to celebrate the canoe which was voted by Canadians to be one of the Seven Wonders of Canada.

Being good neighbors, we here in the US should celebrate with them!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

A man's got to know his limitations.

...and one of our co-workers didn't remember that.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This fellow got his hands on a 17' long aluminum canoe that was in pretty nice shape for $200.  Not a bad deal, really.  A little cosmetic touch up and a few minor upgrades and he was ready to go paddling.  It didn't quite look new, but was in great shape.   So, he and another guy from work and the owner's most recent squeeze decided they'd like to take the canoe out - the question was, where?  The owner knew a paddler who was a guide who thought she knew a good place to go.

To be fair, I think the owner actually had an idea of his limitations.  He asked the guide to take them somewhere that was just a "nice paddle".  The problem was that the woman that he asked was actually a whitewater paddling guide.  She showed up with a plastic squirt boat and they put in on a well known local river that has timed releases for whitewater rafters and paddlers.  Did I mention that this was after a large volume of rain?

They were heading downstream at a good clip and had been on the river maybe 15 minutes when they didn't manage to take the path that the guide wanted them to. 


Pretty soon the three occupants of the canoe found themselves swimming in very cold water, trying to breathe and trying to retrieve gear.  (A cooler full of beer, if truth be told...) 

Broach - it's an ugly word.  Even uglier is what it means - when a boat broaches in whitewater, it's usually wrapped around a rock with the strong current keeping the boat pressed on the rock.  It can be very dangerous for paddlers that are trapped in the boat as you can be pushed between the boat and the rock - and you may be underwater.  The force of water on the surface area of a boat that has been broached is incredible - literally tons of force are applied to the boat. 

Sometimes you can use a paddle and pry the boat loose - other times you need to rig a block and tackle from shore to the boat to be able to apply enough force to remove the boat or at least turn it in such a way that the water actually forces the boat off the rock.  Ultimately, it is very important to get the boat removed so that it doesn't present a hazard to navigation to following paddlers or to leave behind a boat that will become trash in the river.

Fortunately for our hapless little group, some of the co-workers of the guide showed up with a paddling group and spent a half hour or so getting the canoe off the rock.  Here are the remains - and the pictures just don't do it justice:

Note the dents and wrinkles below and behind the boat's name : Seif Raida.   Yes, the name is sort of phonetic - "Safe Rider".  Now realize that Seif Raida is a brand name for condoms in Papua New Guinea.

No, don't adjust the vertical hold on your monitor - that is the new shape of the canoe.  There are popped rivets and torn aluminum.  You can see two of the thwarts laying on the floor of the canoe.  I might add that the boat was pried back into this "improved" shape from the shape that it was when wrapped around the rock.

One final parting shot of the destruction.

So, I have to commend themselves for doing the most important thing right - they were wearing their life jackets.