Third Class Today and Some Hanging Around

I took the third kayaking class today from REI. This was a smaller group, only 4 of us plus the instructor, Matt. He did a good job teaching us bracing and edging. Being still somewhat new to kayaking these terms weren’t something I was familiar with so I learned that bracing is essentially slapping the water with your paddle when your about to go over in an effort to push you back upright. Edging is what it sounds like. Tilting the kayak on edge and paddling. It lessens the amount of kayak in the water making it easier to paddle and quick to turn. This is very common, we were told, for those getting in to white water and such. It can also be useful to make it easier to paddle. How fortuitous as we got most of the way down the lake when a big wind came up producing, for the small lake, decent sized waves. While practicing the edging I had my paddle in and started going over. Unfortunately with it in I had nothing to brace with and ended up wet exiting. Having learned and practiced these a few weeks ago I did it quite well and using the assisted method I was back in my kayak in literally a minute or two at most. So we then paddled across the lake, parallel to the waves and then turned and had to go into them/the wind all the way back to the launch point. It was a great workout and when I was up on edge I could feel a bit more speed. I won’t say it was easier as this is still a new paddling technique for me but with time and practice maybe it will come more naturally.

However, honestly I really don’t think I’ll utilize edging that much but bracing in waves is something I can see definitely taking advantage of. After class I got measurements on the 57″+ cockpit of the Pungo model. I determined where leg/knee clearance would be for me and pretty quickly figured out that I need 36″ from seat back to front of the coaming. Add in the distance from seat back to the rear of the coaming and that will be my size. Roughly 39″-42″. Width wise the small cockpit of the Tsunami model I used was fine at 17″ but I’ll probably stick with the 18″ on the plan specification.

Over the last week or two I did a lot of cockpit and sprayskirt research. A very valuable site is which has a LOT of cockpit dimensions listed on their site. I went through literally every brand and model and recorded a good sampling of width/length dimensions from about 30″ up to just over 50″. The Bear Mountain Resolute calls for a 30.5″ x 18″ cockpit. The Old Town Cayuga has a 42″ x 19″ cockpit according to however according to an old 2008 PDF (the Cayuga is discontinued) page 6 and an mention on REI’s site it lists the cockpit at 40″ x 16.5″. Any of these dimensions should be fine for me. Using a site like Seal Skirts I can enter the make and model so I put in the Old Town Cayuga 110 and it said that I need a standard sprayskirt of their sizing 4.2. So this tells me that as long as my cockpit is around the same size that I will have no problem finding a spray skirt.

I was also busy this week ordering more of the supplies like the fiberglass and epoxy among other things. When those supplies get used I’ll discuss them. For now the other item I got is the Harken Hoist I mentioned last time. I looked into other ones and the Harken model seemed to have the highest lift. Many had fairly long hooks and such that you anchored to which loses storage space above the door. The kit seems a bit light for what you pay for it but I found pretty much all good reviews and while I could have cobbled together pieces and done something similar for less, that would be hours more research and shopping and frankly I’d rather put my time towards the kayak and not into lifting methods.

The install was pretty easy. Use a 2×6(not included) to anchor to your rafters then everything anchors to the 2×6 and to your wall. The hardest parts were ensuring I was putting the lag bolts into the rafters and trying to tie off the lines at a consistent height. I still don’t have the line lengths perfect but it’s good enough for now. Once I have the kayak shell and not just a beam to work with I can get a more accurate length. When I first tried raising the beam I ran out of room when the block and tackle mechanism ran against the eye bolt. To fix this the lines were retied shorter. The beam still tops out below the door but this is partially because I’m lifting what amounts to a 2×4 instead of the full size 25″+ kayak. The larger size will take up a lot of slack and should sit much higher although I may still have to adjust the lines a second time.

While the lag bolts should be sufficient, for an extra measure of safety I plan on putting long through bolts from the 2×6 through the ceiling and into a second board on top of the rafter joist. This second board can be screwed into the rafter from above for an added level of anchoring. It may have to wait for a cooler day as normal summer days are 130+ in the crawl space attic and the conditions up there are such that it can get dangerous fairly quickly.

A quick video showing the system ready for use.

Strong Back (or is it Strongback) ?

Two words or one? Don’t know and an internet search shows wide spread usage both ways. I’ll try to pick one and stick with it. Today’s posting is about building the strong back. From start to finish (including pictures and documenting) it took about 5 hours.

First, let’s start with the tools I used. Not pictured is a bench top band saw. I also used a cordless circular saw (shown later) with an edge guide, some larger spring clamps and a box of 1 – 1/4″ screws, something I had left over from previous projects. The rest of the tools I used are shown below.

First is a low angle block plane from Lie Nielsen. Quite a number of fittings will require slight adjustments to boards and strips. I do not own a small plane so ultimately this is something I probably would have purchased even if I wasn’t building a kayak.

Next is a Japanese style saw known as a Ryoba. This double sided saw has both ripping and cross cutting teeth and cuts on the pull stroke. They’re relatively inexpensive and very easy to follow a line compared to a “western” style push saw. I got this earlier this year for a different project and find it’s my go to saw now.

The third picture is some general tools. Cordless drill, counter sink bit, pencil, sharpener, tape measure and combination square. Nothing special here.

Fourth is a bunch of clamps. I already have larger spring clamps and got these four inch clamps mostly for temporarily clamping the strips to the forms. A cheap bulk set, again nothing special, just enough to do the job.

Last is a fresh quart of Titebond wood glue and a smaller dispenser bottle. Trying to control the larger bottle is not easy and the opening doesn’t allow for fine control on the narrow strips. The smaller bottle allows you to cut the spout to whatever size you want. I went with the smallest cut I could to get a relatively fine line of glue.

Let’s get on to the project. The strongback is essentially a straight solid surface that your forms mount to and allow for the alignment of the forms and then hold them in place during the building. I had already designed the forms to have a 2″ x 4″ hole in the middle, that when placed on the strongback, would align the forms in the correct positions.

To start, I cut a bunch of 4″ strips from a sheet of 1/2″ plywood and then since the plywood is technically slightly less than 1/2″, I cut some oversized 1″ strips. (2″ gap – ~1/2″ left side – ~1/2″ right side = ~ 1″ space)

There was one problem immediately apparent (and anticipated). The CNC cutting process uses a round cutting bit. This means that it can’t get into the corner and thus you end up with rounded corners. You can see this below in that the two 4″ pieces don’t sit tight to the sides.

This is easily rectified by running the block plane down the corner a few times to round it over slightly. Now the boards fit tight.

I could now fit in the slightly over 1″ wide strips to effectively create a beam. I screwed the 4″ pieces to the 1″ pieces being sure to stagger the joints and also screwed a reinforcing board (inside) across each joint. The screw heads were counter sunk to avoid interfering with the forms when sliding them in place. Reviewing the drawings and plans, it shows station 2 through 15 would need to mount to the beam. From one station to the next is 12″. So, 15-2 = 13. Thirteen times 12″ (3/4″ form, plus 11 1/4″ space) = 13 feet. My beam needs to be thirteen feet. I actually made it 13′ 6″ with 3 extra inches on each side. It won’t interfere and helps to provide an anchor point for the stern and bow.

I used some left over pieces from the strips to make a mount for the beam. In some strongback designs you build a long narrow “table” like structure. Sometimes this is even on wheels. However as mentioned before, I want to use the garage as a garage too so I don’t want any semi-permanent structure to support the beam. Instead I’ll use a couple of saw horses to hold the beam and the mounts are designed to attach to the saw horses allowing the beam to “float” in place held only by gravity. This will let me easily attach the lift lines to pull it up and out of the way when I’m not working on it.

The last bit step was to start shaping the bow and stern boards. First I had to cut a tongue in them that will slid into the beam. I’ll eventually have to add some narrow boards on both sides to pad it out for a snug fit, but for now I just wanted it to fit in the beam. I also had to take them from flat tops as I drew them to the actual sloped shape that they should be. This was a bunch of calculating, a bit of estimating and some band saw and hand saw work. The curves are not final, just close to the line. I’ll clean them up another time.

Form 1 is too narrow to fit on the beam, but it can fit on the bow form. I notched both forms to allow for a slip fit placing it at the correct height.

All that was left was to slip the forms onto the beam. This required a few passes with the block plane at the tight spots, but otherwise wasn’t difficult. I cut out a 11 1/4″ spacer block so once the first form was positioned I would just lay down the space and slide the next form against it. Repeat for the rest. Now at this point I did not attempt to fine tune the alignment of the forms, nor are they permanently attached (screwed to the strongback) as I still have some clean work to do and I simply don’t have space for the entire strongback with forms yet. Once I order and install one of the lifts mentioned in the previous post I’ll go ahead and re-assemble the forms onto the strongback and get everything aligned and screwed together. So, on to the gratuitous photos…

The design is 16′ 6″ kayak. I measured the assembly I put together and I’m at 16′ 5 1/4″. With the strips in place and the bow and stern hardwood keel strip added I should end up within an inch of the designed length which is more than close enough for my purposes. My last kayak class is coming up and I need to order the lift before much else can happen so it could be a week or two before the next posting.

A Mock Up and Some House-keeping

To get a feel for the appearance, I did a mock up today. Basically I stuck a simple 1×4 in the mounting holes and set the whole thing in the drive way to see what it would look like. No effort was made to ensure proper spacing or alignment. This was just a “let’s see what it looks like”. Although given the two board lengths I used, it shouldn’t be that far off from the finished length.

The bow (right side) needs to be trimmed down and shortened as does the stern and form #1 needs to be notched to fit the bow. There actually is a form #0 but it was so small that I’ll just make it by hand and fit it to the bow. I don’t remember if there was a similar form #16 at the other end or not. If so I’ll need to make that one too. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to get the strong back assembled and start to mount and align the forms to it.

However this brings me to house-keeping #1. The work will be done in my garage. I like to keep our cars in the garage. It’s only a 2 car garage. So, some how I’m going to have to try to accommodate 2 cars and a kayak build in space designed for only 2 cars. Ultimately when the kayak is finished I’ll also need to store it when not in use and recommendations are to keep it out of the sun. Our shed is no where near big enough so keeping it in the garage looks to be the solution. But how you might ask?

Using a ceiling mounted storage system I believe I can get it up over the door (just barely) and this would work for both the build when I’m not working on it and the finished kayak.

The space above the door is at least 19 inches. The deepest point on the Kayak is about 12″ plus coaming, so around 14″. This leaves about 5 inches to work with. A company called Harken makes a system with various weight ratings. I believe the lighter 45lb model would be enough but just in case I’m considering the 90 lb version. It is designed to mount to your ceiling. You then have four ropes that strap around the kayak and all go to a single pulley that you then raise/lower from a single rope. On this YouTube video, it looks like you lose about 3 inches due to the eye bolts and the 2x mounting plate. So I have 5 inches, I need 3, that leaves me 2 inches to spare. Should be more than enough.

Now I’m not sold on the Harken unit/brand yet as I need to research alternatives, but from what I’ve seen so far I know I at least have this option available to me.

House-keeping #2. I should mention and provide links to the the building method I am planning on following. Nick Schade is a well known name in the hand built kayak circles. He owns and runs Guillemot Kayaks and has produced many YouTube videos. For a relatively quick view (only a few hours in total) the Petrel Play strip built with staples is a good warm up series. However the Micro Bootlegger Sport 70 video series covering many hours (I’d estimate 20+) is an amazing how to series from Nick covering literally every step of the way from buying lumber all the way through the final paddling of the finished product. In this series he builds using a staple-less construction method with hot glue as a temporary fastener and uses beveled strips, not bead and cove. Both of these are methods I will be employing in my build process.

At the end, I expect much of my build process will be very similar to Nick’s, although I also am working in the deck design which I haven’t seen in his videos so it’s not entirely a duplication. Of course most strip built kayaks (and canoes) all follow more or less the same process, just with various builders employing their own preferences or adaptations to keep the project within their skill sets and to match their design ideas.

Got the Forms

I’m happy to say I was able to pickup the forms today and they’re just about exactly what I expected.

I kept them simple, just the outline as drawn in the early CAD posting along with an alignment slot in the middle where they will fit over a beam and a number so I can be sure they get mounted in the right order. One of the final forms I did not have cut as it was too small to be effective (I’ll cut/shape it by hand) and I had the second one cut but it was too small for a center mount so I’ll have to notch to fit the bow form. Also the bow and stern are intentionally oversized at the moment. I’ll do final shaping and fitting as I assemble the forms on the strongback (beam).

While I am very happy with them there is still some work I need to do. For example, not every curve was smooth (aka fair). This is a result of my drawing not being perfect and not of the cutting. The CNC process simply follows what line data it is provided with.

Not so fair of a curve

In the above image you can see the subtle angle on the right side. This should be a smooth curve, although as this is also the stern it might actually end there on the design. I’ll be able to judge when I get them assembled. These were made on 3/4″ MDF however the strips when curving should lay nicely against them so I’ll do a little beveling of the edges to get everything to fit with a tighter placement and on the bow and stern I’ll need to bevel them down so the strips can meet at a point instead of dangling in space as a 3/4″ straight edge would force them too. More on this in a future post.

If you need any CNC router work done and/or want your own forms, well once you have your CAD files drawn up, I can definitely recommend Chicago Router Works in, of course, Chicago. Ask for Matt as he was VERY helpful in working with me on this project and the price was definitely fair. They are at 6625 W. Diversey (just east of Oak Park on Diversey). The address is a building with a “Radionic” sign on the front. When picking up your job, go around to the east side about half way down and you’ll see a small sign for Chicago Router Works.

Got the Wood and Soon the Forms

Well I decided to stick with my newest design concept using the previously posted image as the basis with some modifications. Since those red patches are in front of and behind the cockpit I’ll have to decide on a cockpit size before starting to fill in the wood on the deck, otherwise when I cut the opening it might ruin the look by intruding into the design areas.

While I’m actually pretty close on the cockpit size, it isn’t final. I think I have a size that will work but I want to “test” it at my next class in a few weeks. I can sit in that Pungo model and use a paddle placed at the measurement I’m thinking of and see if my knees fit better. But I’ll save that discussion for another time.

Back to the wood. I stopped at my local Owl lumber and was surprised to find that this time they now had Western Red Cedar as part of a new small softwood section. For a few minutes I was going to throw my plans away and switch back to cedar but upon going through literally every board they had, all were pretty knotty and it just didn’t make sense to change again.

So I stuck to the original plan and bought Basswood, Spanish Cedar and Walnut.

Each 2x piece will yield many strips all approx 3/4″ x 1/4″. Ideally you are looking for quarter-sawn grain on the strips which means that some of the cuts will need to be carefully planned to try to get this… or at least as close as possible.

Let’s examine the Spanish Cedar piece of wood. Looking at the end grain allows for a good examination of the grain direction. This first image is the raw wood as it came from the lumber yard. Can you tell which way the grain runs?

Spanish Cedar end grain

For illustrative purposes I loosely drew in the approximate grain direction in red to make it clearer.

If you couldn’t tell from the picture, here you can see that on the left end the grain is nearly vertical while on the right side, with the surface reflecting flat sawn, the grain is almost horizontal. Let’s examine in the next image some cutting options.

If I cut 1/4″ strips off the board, then in the yellow sections the grain will yield nice quarter sawn boards. However on the left side, the boxes in green show that my grain will end up as flat sawn on my strips. While technically there is nothing wrong with this, the appearance will be not as nice as it could be. Any ideas on how to rectify this?

On the right side I can cut vertical 2″ strips, then turn them on their side and cut in half yielding two 3/4″ strips. But on the left I have to be more creative. As shown here, first cut a 3/4″ piece off of the blank (in green), then turn that piece 90 degrees and slice off the yellow boxes yielding quarter sawn pieces.

Approximately half way across the board I’ll stop with the 3/4″ pieces and switch to the 1/4″ slices for the rest of the board. The end result will be a bunch of strips, all with as close to quarter sawn grain as I can get. I’ll work through the Basswood the same way.

Also, as the strips come off the saw I will bundle them back into their original shapes and number them so I could, in theory, reassemble the original board. This isn’t some organizational OCD thing, but rather so when I start splicing the shorter strips into longer strips and then laying the longer strips out into the planned pattern I can ensure better color and grain match to help minimize seams.

Hopefully this week I’ll be able to start cutting the strips and I’ll try to have some pictures if not videos of the process. Also I’m supposed to pickup the CNC cut forms near the end of the week. Getting that first strip placed isn’t too far away now.