One and Done

Progress. I got one strip on before deciding that was enough for today. Also because I only had one strip ready to go. Looks like I’m going to need to glue up a handful of strips if I want to do more than one per day.

To start I wrapped each form in tape to avoid accidentally gluing the boat to the forms at some point. Also because I want to glue the boat to the forms in a few selective areas but also have it release easily. For the first time I’m using the hot glue gun from Surebond and the corresponding glue sticks to help hold things in place.

Most of the efforts today went to shaping the stems to support the first few strips and to get the rest of the stem at least close for the remaining strips. As I progress I’ll need to fine tune the bevel angles on them. Once they were shaped and taped back in place I put the mini holders in place to hold the strip and put the first one in place. It fit well so I glued it at the bow to the poplar stem and then glued it at each station to the forms using hot glue so I could “knock” it loose later. Notice how it isn’t flat against the form but rather touches at one edge. This is normal as the sides are not perpendicular to the forms. I could have beveled the forms too but it shouldn’t be necessary as long as the strip touches the edge. For the front half of the boat it should be the forward edge and the back half the rear edge. The middle few forms actually do almost completely touch the strip.

Since hot glue sets up in just a minute or two at most I was able to check and any spots where it didn’t stay attached to the form I re-glued. The mini holders, in some cases, were inverted and used to pull the strip tightly to the form and hold it in position while the hot glue set up. When necessary more than one clamp was used to keep everything aligned and tight. This is the second use of the holders, acting a clamp extension to exert pressure in towards the form, and/or up or down on the strip.

On the stern the strip simply was not going to make the bend from the previous form to the tip of the stern so I let it lay naturally. Later on I can fill in some short angled pieces to complete the curve.

A couple of remaining clean up steps involved trimming the overhang at the bow and stern. It was not intended to be a perfect cut but rather just enough so the opposite side strip would be able to lay naturally and not hit this strip. Later this whole area will be cleaned up via cutting and/or planing after the stripping is mostly done so the outer stems can be attached. I also removed any hot glue squeeze out (in the photo below at the top of the strip against the blue tape) as this would interfere with the next strip.

Wrapping Up and Moving On

Today was a day for completing some of the tasks that still needed doing and then moving on to the next phase in the process. I started with cutting up the Spanish cedar board. Due to the grain on it I sliced off two 3/4″ pieces, then turned them to cut out the strips. The remainder of the board was sliced into the 2″ x 1/4″ pieces and then those were further trimmed into two 1/4″ x 3/4″ pieces. Basically the same process as yesterday. Being as the cedar is a different color, once again I saved some of the saw dust (aka wood flour) for filler later on in the process.

I was about to start cutting up the last basswood board but thought it might be good to see if I need to or not. By my off the cuff calculations I would need around 900-1000 linear feet of wood to construct the kayak. However when I searched to see if this was consistent with what others used, I found a formula at CLC to calculate the necessary amount of strips. Essentially the formula is ((length in inches X widest point in inches)/144)*18 to get the total number of feet. In my case, 16’6″ = 192″ + 6″. I rounded to 200″. The widest point is just over 25″ so I used 26″. This yields 200 * 26 = 5200. Then 5200/144=36.1111. Finally 36.1111 * 18 = 650 linear feet of wood. Substantially less than what I had calculated.

Counting up what I cut so far I get the following:

  • Walnut 1/4″ x 1/8″ – 140′ +
  • Walnut 1/4″ x 1/4″ – 70′ +
  • Spanish Cedar 1/4″ x 1/4″ – 35’+
  • Spanish Cedar 1/4″ x 3/4″ – 320’+
  • Basswood 1/4″ x 3/4″ – 670’+

So for the main 3/4″ wood strips I have in excess of 990 linear feet. If the estimate formula is correct I have more than enough. If my calculations were more accurate then I’m going to be short and will need to cut that remaining piece of basswood at some future point. Since it’s a nice chunk I feel the best course of action is to wait and see. Cutting it is relatively easy if it does end up being needed.

Reviewing what I have prepped (from the bottom up in the following picture):

  • Outer stems and Inner stems
  • left over pieces of cedar
  • left over pieces of basswood
  • 1/4″ cedar
  • 3/4″ cedar (4 bundles)
  • 1/4″ and 1/8″ walnut (longest and darkest)
  • 3/4″ basswood (4 bundles)
  • spare wood (2″ basswood, 3/4″ basswood, 3/4″ cedar)

I brought the kayak down and placed it back in the cradles on the saw horses and then setup my portable work bench that I made a few years ago. If you like it, I made it (with some modifications) based on this cart plan I found online. The woods are painted plywood and cherry. The drawers have a positive locking when closed. You need to push to release and open them. It moves around like a “2 wheeler” utility cart. When ready to work the top folds down and a lower shelf is placed to lock it all in position. The T-track trim allows for additional “top” pieces to be slid into place using matching fitting bolt heads and twist lock handle. With the two extra tops I built I can do a 13’+ long bench or a T or L shape. For now I’m just using one piece to give an almost 9′ long workbench.

I checked the alignment and it’s still good. The kayak strong back was flipped over so I could start working on the hull first.

I forgot to get pictures of the sanding of the inner stem pieces. They were sanded to the line and the curves were smoothed out. These pieces were then laid on the bow and stern forms, traced and the the forms were cut to allow the inner stem to fit. Once nice feature of the Japanese pull saw is the ability to cut a curve.

Next a center line was marked on the stem piece. In order for the strips to sit properly and meet at a point the stems have to be shaped to a wedge shape. It doesn’t have to come to an exact point but should be close. I started to plane down both sides until I had what I felt was an approximate shape. I added the bow and stern pieces to the strong back, flipped the entire framework over and then rechecked alignment. So far so good.

As promised, it’s time to discuss the reasons for keeping the strips in order. There are a few. First is if you plan to book match the strips. Basically alternate them and flip them over so, like a book, one side mirrors the other side. Basically in order A, B, C, D becomes D,B,A,C. Essentially you put down one strip. Take the next, flip it and put next to the first. Take the third and don’t flip and put on the other side of the first. Take the forth, flip and put on the other side of the second and so on. Probably easier to describe with a picture.

The other reason is if your strips are not long enough to make it fit in one run. In this case any variation in grain or pattern or color may show up where one strip meets the next one as an abrupt line. To make it transition from one to the next with almost no visible line you take strip one, flip strip two and connect the ends. This way both came from the same spot on the board and should be very close in matching both grain and color allowing for the splice to all but disappear. Again, let’s see a picture.

For the basswood sections of the hull it’s the grain matching that I’m looking for to make multiple pieces look like one long continuous piece. When I get to the deck with the cedar areas, no area should be longer than a single strip so I intended to go for the book matching look. Both reasons necessitate that I keep track of the strips order as they originally were.

Putting this example into practice, I used a Japanese dovetailing saw to cut a scarf joint after clamping the two pieces together. Any clean cutting saw would work fine. By cutting both pieces at the same time you end up with a joint where both halves are going to be a perfect match. A test fit with the clamps shows it to be nearly invisible. Once the new longer strip is in place on the kayak and scraped/sanded the joint should disappear to all but the most close up careful inspection. I wrapped the off cuts in tape to use as alignment blocks, glued the joint and clamped it all together.

If you remember, in an earlier posting I made these square sort of C shaped pieces. Now I’m going to use them. Clamping each one to the form right at the sheer line (where the deck and hull will meet) I now have a trough to hold a strip. There will be another use for these later on. The first strip was loosely placed in the grooves and checked for alignment. A quick to reveal itself issue was that the planing I did at the front ended up in a slightly rounded shape preventing the strip from sitting tightly against it. I’ll have to take off the inadvertent rounding and continue to test fit the strip. Since this is the first strip and pretty much everything else goes up against it, getting this one close to perfect is a requirement. I’m going to save the final fitting of this strip for the next work session.

Turning Big Boards into Sawdust

Today I turned large boards into sawdust… oh and some strips too.

The goal was to cut the four large boards (3 basswood and one spanish cedar) into the strips for the kayak. After 4+ hours of work only two boards were cut but since the processes is somewhat time consuming I’m not complaining. Hopefully tomorrow I can complete the cutting of the other two.

Yesterday I picked up a couple of in feed/out feed support stands from Harbor Freight. The link is to Amazon but if you have a local HF you can get the exact same thing for about $4.50 cheaper each. They are pretty light weight which on the in feed side was fine but on the out feed side the board had a tendency to push these stands a little bit each time. Two large bricks behind the legs solved that problem. I also went to get a piece of ash for the inside stems but decided on poplar instead. It was lighter in weight and being on the inside, it is mostly used as a landing place for the end of the strips to attach to. The hardness of the ash and the extra weight should not be needed.

I started and ended with working on the stems and in the middle cut the strips. For continuity I’ll start with the strip notes first then the stem notes.

The setup is pretty straight forward. In feed to support the board, out feed to support the board as it leaves the saw. Feather board to keep it tight to the fence and a push stick for that last few feet of each cut. To begin I sliced off the edge of the board to get a straight clean face for riding against the fence. I probably could have run it across a planer to get the same affect but for these strips, the table saw was sufficient to get it close enough. Once it was straight I then set the fence for a 1/4″ cut and ran the board through. As it was nearly 2 inches in thickness a slow feed was required. Optionally I could have done it in two or more passes with raising the blade after each pass but the wood was easy enough to cut that one slow and steady pass worked fine. Before cutting each slice I labeled it. First board, first side is “A” and first strip is “1”. After cutting it off I flipped the strip and labeled the other side “B1”. Next strip is A2/B2, etc. There were also registration lines put across the board just in case I missed labeling a board. The registration lines would let me put the pieces back in the same order after cutting. The second board was C/D.

After all the 1/4″ by almost 2″ strips were cut from a board the fence was reset to 3/4″ and the strips were run through twice. Once with the “A” face against the fence and again with the “B” face against the fence. This would yield two strips. Below is a video of this process. As each strip was ripped I grouped them into an “A” pile and a “B” pile.

Each set of strips was re-assembled back into order and then wrapped with stretch wrap to keep them together and in order. Since tomorrow’s cutting will be essentially a repeat of today’s work I’ll discuss why I’m labeling, organizing and keeping the strips in sequence then. I also saved all the narrow pieces that were off cuts just in case I need a filler piece or decide to incorporate these into access strip areas.

While cleaning up there was a LOT of sawdust in the table saw. Some went into our compost bin but I also saved a full bag worth of it. This will probably be used later as filler either for minor dings that occur during building and/or as an additive to the epoxy. When it needs to be used I’ll discuss it further, for now I’m saving some.

Initially I glued up the bow stem, then while it was drying did the above strip cutting. Afterwards it was dry and set so I removed it from the form, trimmed both and used the inside to create an outline on the poplar board. I then extended that line about an inch and a half. The resulting shapes were then cut out at the band saw to yield the inner stem pieces.

The cut was short of the line. Tomorrow I plan to sand these down to the line and trim the forms to fit them. The remaining two boards will be cut into strips and if all goes well I’ll finally have all the prep work done and be ready to move on to actually applying the first strip to the kayak. Another big looming issue is the cockpit size. I have a good idea on the size but I need to draw this out, print a full size pattern and then use that to work on the placement of the deck boards. More on this at a later date too.

Slow Progress, But Still Progress

Took Friday off of work to hopefully start cutting strips… didn’t get to it until Sunday due to our friendly postal service (who actually are friendly and pretty much the opposite of all the postal jokes… quick, efficient and reliable). They decided our brick mailbox had sunk over the years and was now too low to be regulation height. Hate to admit it but they were right. It weighed over 1000 pounds and in the last decade or so had sunk almost 7 inches into the ground! My wife picked out a wooden one online and I spent two days making it along with learning a new “finishing” technique known as shou-sugi-ban (plenty of youtube videos showing how). Basically taking a torch to wood and then sanding it. Fairly simple process (although time consuming) and pretty amazing results. If (when) kayak number two is built I just might consider finishing it this way.

Anyway, I got that done late Saturday afternoon so Sunday was dedicated to kayak work. I started with some utility steps. First I took a piece of hardwood I had laying around, cherry I think, and cut a grove in it just over 1/4″ in width and then sliced it into approximately quarter inch pieces. I won’t go into why now, just that these will come in handy later on.

I suppose now would be a good time to mention the new tools and materials brought into the mix. There are a number of schools of thought on how to cut strips. For very long boards (16’+) that some people get so they can have single strips, they use a long bench (or the strong back itself with a sacrificial board) and then rip off the strips using a circular saw with a fence. Of course this works on shorter boards too. The other common method is to use a table saw. Since I’ve got one and none of my boards are over 9 feet, I’m comfortable using it and decided on this route. So, a table saw (I’ve got an old Delta but if/when I need to replace it a Saw Stop is a no brainer), a Magswitch quick release feather board, some plastic wrap, a roll of floor protector paper, a drill press (again an older model Delta bench top model) and a larger (around an inch and half or so) Forstner bit. Also I used a variety of clamps that I already had on hand. Some spring clamps and some small bar clamps. Blue painters tape was used as a glue shield and will be used for a lot more later on.

To begin with I found a longer piece of hard wood, cherry in this case, that I had on hand and decided to make my stem pieces out of it. The color should be similar to the spanish cedar when completed, but will darken a bit over the years too. These have to be bent and you’re not going to bend a 1″ or larger board so first task is to slice this into 1/8″ thick pieces and then cut these pieces into a longer piece for the bow and a shorter one for the stern. One of them split however the remaining pieces are still more than enough so I just discarded the split one.

I need to attach these strips to the forms and also need a way to clamp them in place. Some holes drilled in the forms provided this.

To test, a single piece was bent around the form. It was having trouble making the tight radius and I was concerned about breaking it. To help I wet the piece down. A few other options would be to steam it or to use a hot air gun on it. In this case I was lucky and simply getting it wet gave it the extra flex I needed. The pictures illustrate the use of the clamps and the holes.

I did a test with all the boards at once next. Wet them down, applied clamps, etc. It was much harder with all of them. I found this out the hard way when my back was turned. A loud snap followed by the sound of pieces of plastic falling. As a result of the broken plastic clamp I dug up my metal bar clamps and mostly used those instead. Much stronger. After allowing this to sit for a few hours, the clamps were removed and the wood had already started to take the bend.

The next step is to glue the pieces together and place back on the form. I verified they were dry first and then a liberal coat of glue was put on each strip, they were stacked together and with a bit of coaxing I finally got them clamped in place. With the glue acting somewhat as a lubricant they want to shift around while clamping. Of course the whole time you’re racing against the open time (how long until the glue starts to set) of the glue. I left them for a few hours to setup up and then checked the assembly and found it was holding the shape pretty well. After the photo was taken I clamped it back in and will leave it there until the next time I can work on it.

While this was drying I started on the strips. The walnut was first as it was a relatively small piece and I needed all 1/4″ x 1/4″ and 1/4″ x 1/8″ strips which will be used for accents. Over all the cutting went well with only one 1/8″ strip breaking and unfortunately also getting caught up in the blade and thrown back in a kick back situation. I had enough left over walnut to re-cut that strip. Essentially the block was ripped into 1/4″ thick lengths, then each piece was turned on side and 1/4″ or 1/8″ strips were cut off of it. The resulting bundle is not intended to be used in any particular order so I just gathered them and used stretch wrap to keep them together.

Next time I plan to glue up the pieces for the bow and start cutting the basswood strips. Most of the basswood is fairly consistent on grain so it’ll be mostly straight forward cutting. I’ll put together a better sequence of pictures at that time since they will be reflecting the majority of the strips and sizes that will be used.

Aligning the Forms

Today showed little visible progress but actually was quite productive in the prep work category. The goal was to get the forms permanently on the strongback since I could now lift it out of the way. While in previous posts I showed the forms on there, they were just slid in place and not aligned or all consistently spaced out.

I stared with attaching a small nail on the center of the tip of the bow and stern. A string was attached to both and pulled taut. Sighting down the string I was able start to check the forms for alignment. To ensure I was viewing the right spot I used a pencil to put a line right at the peak center point of each form.

Some small dowels were inserted along with a few screws to pull the bow into alignment. Once the bow and stern were straight the forms were next. They each fit fairly tight to the strongback but being wood, the strongback is not as rigid (straight) as an aluminum beam could be (but a heck of a lot cheaper) so there is some adjusting that needs to be done. When a form is out of alignment it’s pretty obvious.

The steps to align a form are not difficult. First I look to see just how much it has to move. If it’s off just a tiny amount there may be enough play to adjust it. If not, then I use the block plane to shave off a little bit of the beam where the form goes. I don’t shave the whole beam, but rather just the corner areas that are tight to the form. When a little is shaved off the form can now rotate just a tiny bit. I recheck alignment. If still not good I repeat until the form can turn into alignment.

Once the form is aligned you need to some how keep it that way. To start, I cut a bunch of small blocks. About 3/4″ x 3/4″ from some scrap lumber. A spacer block of 11 3/4″ was used to determine the next form placement, that was slid into place and then the spacer block was moved against the form. These blocks were then aligned perpendicular to the beam with a combination square and two screws were used to hold them to the beam. The form was slid tightly against the block, turned into alignment (if necessary) and then two screws were used to attach the form to the block.

The process is repeated for each form until all are in alignment.

By far most of today’s work was in aligning the forms but I also fixed my first mistake and started to plan and do a bit of the shaping. The oops was the placement of form #1 on the bow. As I stated, the prior alignment of the forms was just a “let’s see how they look” and I should not have mounted #1 yet. After doing the precision placement of each form I found I was about a full inch off. So a new notch was cut and the waste piece was glued into the previous notch. It isn’t really necessary but helps a tiny bit with structural integrity, especially as a backer block for the narrow bit that was left. The top point of form one should be even with the pencil line when form 1 is finally aligned.

The bow and stern will end up with an inner and outer stem or keel. I plan to use the bow and stern forms to create the outer keel, then with the outer as a template, create the inner and then finally trim off the part of the form where the inner will go. The reason for the inner stem is to have a place that the strips can be glued to. You can’t attach them to the form or the form would never be removable. The stem itself will just sit against the form but not be attached to it. The pencil line is an approximate estimate of about the size of the stem.

Finally the bow and stern have to be shaped to match the angles of the eventual stem (comes to a point) and the surrounding and overlapping forms. So the top has a small point in the center that has to be formed at form 2 and 1 and then it should curve over to a point at the tip. You can see this somewhat in the drawings and the video demonstrates the approximate angles that I’ll need to move the plane to cover this area. The final image is my first shaping and sanding. When I can shape all the way to the point I’ll finalize this rolling bevel, but this won’t be until I have the stems made.

The angle of the plane will go from pretty much vertical to almost horizontal to match the top of form #2.

At this point I decided the 90+ temperatures were quickly sapping my energy so I’d clean up and call it quits for today. This was my first try at using the lift to raise up the kayak forms. I’ve still got it sitting below the door but this is fine for now as it clears my car. The straps could have been placed a bit better too but this will work itself out as the kayak starts to take shape. Standing back and looking at it and I can already see my completed kayak hanging there.