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.

Just Finished Class #2

I took my second kayak class today from REI. It was called Kayak Rescues and Recoveries and basically involved working with a skirt that goes around the coaming (cockpit lip) and seals you in while sealing out water, waves, etc. It was a more serious class than the last one in that we intentionally overturned our kayaks in order to “simulate” an accident or problem.

Again one of our instructors was Uma from my last class and then a new one, Joe who as the rumor goes, lives in the boat house at Saganashkee Slough. Actually he said he just lives near there, is involved with running the boat house and spends a lot of his time there. If lived that close I probably would too. Both did a great job!

We started with “t” assisted rescues and then moved to self rescues before making a hasty return to shore with the appearance of an approaching storm. We each intentionally dumped our kayak over, had to remove our skirt under water, slip out, return to the surface, then gather up your paddle, kayak, etc. and meet up with your partner who would then help raise and empty it before flipping over and bracing it so you could climb back in. The self rescue was similar but you had to do it on your own with the aid of paddle float.

First time in I got a nice nose full of water (yeah, that was pleasant, not) and even though I knew what to expect it was still a bit of a shock, especially as the water was murky enough as to not allow you to see what you were doing. Fumbling upside down while holding your breath is not the most fun experience. Regardless within 5 seconds I made it to the surface. The second attempt was better and the self rescue was even better in that I was up in under three. The down side was that I scraped my shins on the inside edge of the coaming as I was extricating myself. At least the first two times. The third I had a better technique and didn’t scrape.

This injury tells me (along with the fact I had to more or less sit on the deck to get my knees in) that the cockpit wasn’t large enough for my size. For me I found this very good (other than the scraped shins) as it will hep me in determining the size of the cockpit on my kayak.

We were in Wilderness Systems brand kayak again. This time I believe it was a Tsunami 145 (14′ 6″ in length) which has a 35.75″ cockpit length. With the seat back position, when seated this leaves about 30″ to work with and given my 6’2″ frame, there simply wasn’t enough room to bend my knees in the seated position to get in.

For reference, the Pungo 140 I had last time has a 57 1/2″ cockpit length. (according to my tape measure). It was basically open down to mid shin.

So I need to find a happy medium. I don’t want the really big 57 1/2″ but 36″ (30″) apparently isn’t enough. I’ll have to do a bit more investigating and measuring but I’m thinking something in the 42″-45″ size will probably fit me well. My final class is in a few weeks and I’m at least a few months from even needing to finalize the coaming size as I’m still picking out wood let along actually starting the build. Of course I’ll need to find a skirt that fits or work with one of the companies that makes them custom if there isn’t a stock size I can use.

Final Design – I think

After looking at many designs and ideas and settling on at least three or four over the past few months, I’ve been rethinking my design given the wood choices. I did some internet searches based on using primarily basswood and found mostly favorable responses. The biggest negative is that it will weigh more than cedar but most comments were estimating 4-6 additional pounds. Compared to the weight of the plastic kayaks I will still be substantially lighter so I think basswood will be my primary wood.

During my searches I found this conversation with the following image, while this is not of the kayak I am building, the lines, in general, are close enough that the pattern should translate across.

I really like the pattern on this and it would work well with basswood as the primary and limited amounts of spanish cedar and walnut. My interpretation of this design would result in:

From part line (where the deck (top) meets the hull (bottom)) going down:

  • 1/8” strip of walnut
  • 3/4” strip of basswood
  • 1/4” strip of spanish cedar
  • continue on down with basswood

(optional, I may stain the bottom half in which case the entire hull would be stained basswood)

From the center line out on the deck (front decorative panels):

  • 3/4” strip of basswood
  • 1/4” strip of walnut
  • spanish cedar filling as necessary
  • 1/8” strip of walnut
  • 1/4” strip of basswood
  • 1/8” strip of walnut
  • continue to part line with basswood

From the center line out on the deck (rear decorative panels):

  • 3/4” strip of basswood
  • 3/4” strip of basswood
  • (maybe a 3rd strip, probably not)
  • 1/4” strip of walnut
  • spanish cedar filling as necessary
  • 1/8” strip of walnut
  • continue to part line with basswood


vertical – basswood, lip – walnut and possible spanish cedar accents

I’ll spend a day or two to think about this but if I do stick with this design then the wood purchase will be coming up soon. I like the idea of the basswood which is very light and almost no visible grain which will make splicing boards together easy and the seam should all but disappear in the final product. It also minimizes the use of the cedar, to the point that a single board would be enough and it wouldn’t have to be overly long either. Walnut, while heavy, contributes less than a board foot with the decorative strips and just a small amount more for the coaming, again a negligible amount of weight gain.

How Much Wood would a Wood Kayak…

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m in the suburbs of Chicago. We have a few really good lumber sources here. Owl Lumber and Hardwood Connection are two of my go to places. Pretty much anything you’re looking for they have. Well, except for most softwoods including Cedar.

Cedar (Red, White, Yellow) from the “West”, Alaska, “East” and other such location references is the most commonly used wood. Now I can run to the big box store (Menards, Home Depot, etc.) and easily get Cedar in pretty much any length, however it is full of knots. Usually you use a clear wood, one without knots, for the strips. My go to wood shops don’t carry Cedar and the big box stores don’t carry the right kind. So, now what?

A lot of research and I found a place in Chicago called Harry’s Lumber Co. That advertises clear Cedar. I contacted them and confirmed that they do carry clear. In the next week or two I hope to get there and see just what they are offering.

However before I found Harry’s I was looking at alternatives. I’ve seen Basswood, Pine, Redwood and others mentioned. I stopped at Owl and after finding they don’t have Cedar I perused through the rest of their choices. What you want is a relatively “light weight” wood. Sure you could make a kayak out of Oak but it would be very heavy to carry around and getting it into/out of a body of water will be a challenge. Having basswood in the back of my mind I lifted a few pieces and they were pretty reasonable in weight, had longer lengths and I could find pretty much knot free wood. Nothing else there really jumped out until I came across Spanish Cedar. It had a very nice red coloring to it, any knots were very tiny (small enough to be considered knot free) and it was quite light. I bought a small board of Basswood and Spanish Cedar for experimenting with and a really nicely quilted/flame maple which I intend to use in very small areas as an accent piece.

As of right now I am still undecided as to the wood and probably will be until I check out Harry’s. I like the Spanish Cedar but the name is deceiving as it’s actually related closer to Mahogany rather than Cedar. Being as such it’s a rain forest tree and I’m a bit concerned about the source(s) of it. On the other hand clear Cedar mostly comes from old growth Cedar trees, again a source I’m not thrilled with either. So, I may end up going with Basswood and staining it to get the red color as it is a local and plentiful tree. Another possibility is changing my design idea from a darker red colored kayak to light colored with a few red accent lines. Or maybe a stained Basswood hull, non stained Basswood deck and a few Spanish Cedar accent strips in there.

I did some internet research and found many images, the three below are the closest to the ideas of what I’m thinking of. The one in Red is the color I was originally aiming for and the Spanish Cedar would easily produce this. The light deck is closer to what I’d have with Basswood and you can see the person who created this one has a nice accent strip feature down the center line. The last image reflects a combo of dark lower and light upper while still including the accent strips. At the moment something along these lines is where I am leaning but still undecided.

The images are from: ???, here and here. If the first image is your photo, please let me know so I can provide credit/a link.

Over the next week or so I’d like to settle on my wood choice(s), visual design and start making those purchases. In the mean time I’ve started to pickup some basics like glue and spring clamps.