Sunday, March 31, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday

In the better interests of time and the sanity of both students' and the instructor's fragile faculties, I decided to forgo the sewing of the skins that was used to build the kayaks last year was not the best option for skinning the hulls in this class.

So, you ask - how are we doing this?


The sewing class that was going on upstairs was interested to see how we were sewing the skins on the kayak and were somewhat bewildered and disappointed to find us stapling the fabric to the hull.  This isn't that odd, really.  When canvasing a canoe, folks use either canoe tacks or staples to fasten the canvas to the hull.  We're doing pretty much the same.

Note that we're not using just any staples - we're using stainless steel staples 3/8" long.  The fabric for the skinning is 8oz polyester from Dyson Baidarka & Company in Bellingham, Washington.  I like the way this fabric works, frankly.

The procedure is pretty straightforward.  With the boat upside down (or right-side-up if you're doing a deck...) we draped the hull with fabric and get it centered and aligned before we tack it in place at the sheer with thumb tacks.  We then take the staple gun and start to make a closely spaced row of staples through the fabric about 1/8" away from the top edge of the sheer in the middle of the hull about a foot long, pulling towards bow and stern to keep fabric taut.  We then pull the fabric taut around the boat and staple at 1/8" away from the sheer at the other side.  By closely spaced, I'm talking about an inch apart - sometimes less.

When we get near the ends, we cut down the middle of the fabric from the end of the fabric toward the stem, aligned with the keel.  I then seal the cut ends with a small butane torch - a very quick pass is all that is required.  We'll give you an object lesson why later...  The fabric is then pulled around the stem, stapling from the keel towards the sheer.  Excess fabric is cut away at the far edge of the stem and sealed.  The process is repeated with the other side of the fabric at the stem and then repeated at the other end of the boat. 

When the sheer and the stems have been trimmed and sealed with the torch to prevent fraying, we put a little bit of thickened epoxy over the stems to help seal them and to smooth out any bumps and edges.  When done, the boat looks like this:

Stems look like this:

Because this boat is a kayak, we'll put the deck skin on at the next class.  We'll then steam-iron out any wrinkles in the fabric before draining the water and setting the sole temperature to 450°F (with a digital meat thermometer) to shrink it a bit.  At this point, the skinning would be done for a canoe and the boat ready for paint.  In this case, it is a kayak and will get a deck skin, too.

Oh - I mentioned that I'd talk about why a quick pass with the torch is all you need.  The torch is VERY hot and I usually just sort of wave it past the cut edge of the fabric to keep it from fraying.  The student was doing this and may have had a momentary distraction or bit of inattention.  He got a surprise:

The surprise was a pretty large hole over the sheer clamp.  As you can see, we added a few staples at the sheer and the edge of the hole and put a bit of the thickened epoxy on it.  Fortunately it is in an area that will be covered by a rub rail, so it won't be seen and is high enough so that water will not be an issue.  WHEW!

More on the deck skinning in a bit.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday


Um, no.


Fix them.

Last weekend at class, I felt a little bit like I was being torn in several directions.  Because of the fact that I have two different boat designs being built in the same class and that due to absences, not all of the students are at the same point in the build, I found myself giving small snippets of instruction on an "as-needed" basis.   I usually like to keep the group together and to tell them about both the current step and what impact that step may have on future steps.  I don't like to only talk about the current step as it can be an opportunity for mistakes in future.

Some of the snippets included instructions to two students about how to cut the stems to mate with the inwales.  Another was to help one student cut stock for thwarts, rub rails and scupper blocks and to help set up the fixture we're using to cut nice curves into the ends of the scupper blocks.  In between this, I directed one student to my tool bag to find some artificial sinew.

This student had begun lashing the floors to his frames last weekend, but hadn't completed the task.  He needed to finish and had to have the sinew to do this.  What I'd forgotten was the fact that I had two different colors of sinew in my bag:

The color on the right is the one that he'd lashed the floors in with last weekend.  He'd gotten one and a half floor slats lashed in with the sinew on the right.  It stuck out like a sore thumb.  As this student didn't find the lashing to be an easy task, when I suggested that he should cut out the odd-colored lashings, he didn't want to remove them.   He considered it a small issue.

I insisted.

I decided to use this as a teaching opportunity to show another student how to lash the floors to the frame.  With the three of us lashing the floors in place, we not only replaced the odd-colored lashings, but we completed the whole floor in no time at all.

 People often wonder why I push them to fix what they consider small issues.  The reason is simple - they're things that I think people will notice and that the builder will regret at a later date.

I'll repeat - there really aren't any shortcuts and if you can fix a mistake, do it!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday

Ok, I lied a bit...  Not too much tech here.

A former student of mine is building a Solo Portage designed by Rob Macks of Laughing Loon.  It's a nice boat and he's doing a beautiful job - as usual.  We cut strip for it a while back and he got way-layed by "real life" in the mean time.  Recently, he got back at it and was ready for a little help applying fiberglass this winter.  About a month or so ago, we glassed the outside and this past weekend, we finished applying glass to the inside of the canoe.

Glassing is one of those jobs that's much better with extra hands.  When one of you is sticky with epoxy, the other can be mixing resin, trimming or getting supplies.  When you get tired, you can swap off.  It's a good way to do the job.

When we got done, the boat looked like this:

Since then, he's trimmed the boat to the sheer lines specified by Rob Macks and it looks nice:

After we got done, we had a little fun.  My student lives in the hills and there's still a bit of snow up there.  (Nearly 3 feet on the ground!)  He suggested we might like to go snowshoeing when we were done glassing.  DS who came along on this trip and occupied himself with my iPod Touch while we were spreading epoxy, was really very, very patient. He was also very excited to get out on his snowshoes that he got for Christmas this year.

It was a nice warm day and the sun was shining.  There were tracks in the snow of wolf or coyote and porcupine.  It was just warm enough that you could smell the forest.  You could hear snowmobiles running trails in the distance.  The views were fantastic:

It was a great day.  There should be more days like this!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Made Your Plans Yet?

(Click on image to visit website!)

Friday March 15, 2013: 10 - 6pm
Saturday March 16, 2013: 10 - 6pm
Sunday March 17, 2013: 10 - 4pm 

Portland Company Complex
58 Fore St.
Portland, ME 04101
Phone: (207) 775-4403 

My Nemesis, We Meet Again!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tech Tip Tuesday

Sometimes, perfect is the enemy of the good.  This could have been one of those cases.

We deviated at little bit in the method that we used to apply the gunwales to the canoes in my class.  I discussed this in my last Tech Tip Tuesday.   When we constructed the first tapered gunwale samples, we did this at the front of the boat.   When looked at the gunwales at the rear of the boat, we discovered a small issue.  At the 2' form near the stern, the width of the frames was such that the gunwales had a slight hour-glass curve to them.  Some of my students absolutely panicked when they saw this. 


No.  Not horrors - calm down a bit.  Think.

We solved this issue by tapering the inside edge of the gunwales instead of the outside.  This minimized the hourglass look to nearly nothing.  The boats will look fine.   Is it "perfect? - maybe not.  Is it good?  Yes, it's very good.   Some of the students were ready to try to figure out how to remove the 2' frame from the boat now that it's bonded and screwed or pegged together.  This, however isn't necessary.  We've solved the issue until the point where I can make some minor tweaks to the design.

In future, I will change the form design to totally get rid of this concave curvature - the image at the beginning of this post shows the comparison.  On the left is the original design.  On the right is the design as we've modified it for width.  Not a massive change, but a good one.

So back to the original point.  Some of the students would have let perfect be the enemy of the good in the building of the canoes, slowing down their build and clouding their judgement and causing them to question their confidence to achieve "perfect".   By not doing this, we've stayed with the "good" and will continue to move along.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Full House...

This is what I like to see...  Lots of work going on.

Makes you smile a bit, no?