Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ready to Strip?

The terminology strip planking ("stripping" for short) strikes me as a bit odd. Gosh, one's imagination might run amok about the possible meaning! Generally, stripping implies the removal of something... paint... clothes... packaging...whatever. So here we have strips of wood - duhhhh (!) longish pieces of wood that have been stripped away from the henceforth bare-naked tree - well, okay - it'll be stripped down to nothingness.

Strip planking refers to a boat construction technique whereby strips of wood - thin planks - are laid side by side to construct a surface shell of the boat. It could be the "skin" of the entire boat - hull and deck - or in the case of the hybrid kayak, the deck only.

Forms in place - ready to strip plank
So, once the stitched hull was glassed inside and out, the forms had to be installed at one foot intervals. These become the temporary inner skeleton around which we will lay the ceder plank deck.The forms are covered with plastic tape so that you don't accidentally glue the cedar planks to the forms. The planks must be bent, coaxed, finagled and convinced by force and cunning to take on the sweeping contour of the kayak deck.

As suggested by my Night Heron guru at CLC Boatworks, Joey, I obtained a cheap clothes steamer from Sears in order to inject warm moisture into the cedar planks thereby providing them with greater pliability - albeit temporary. Another weapon of choice is a heat gun as well as many clamps, some judiciously placed weights, an ample supply of patiences and (oy!) - an amiable arsenal of expletives - the latter was not mentioned in the instructions.

The strips are secured along the forms in one of several ways. The simplest and quickest method is to use a staple gun. The designer in fact expressly recommends its use. A somewhat less efficient but perhaps cleaner method is to use brad nails. The indirect securing of the strips by means of clamping and wedging the strips to the forms will result in the cleanest look, however this is the most tedious method.

Had I opted for a design with many long strips, I might have opted for the cleanest option. However, my design will require many strips and I am therefore going to utilize brad nails when the strip needs to be secured to the forms. The stapler comes in handy when I want to wedge a strip and I can quickly staple the wedge next to the strip.

Obviously, the trickiest areas are those where the sweeping shape of the deck or the curvaceous design require the greatest deviation from the natural (straight) state of the plank.

You start with the sheer plank, the one that runs directly along the hull and meet at bow to stern. Several strips had to be scarfed together and then shaved a bit more narrow in order to get a sufficiently flexible, continuous sheer strip. According to my design I also needed to insert a thin dark strip at the bow and stern.

The next step typically is the king plank which generally runs along the center line of the deck. In my design there is no continuous king plank, however, the three component plank runs toward the cockpit a good bit of the way from bow and stern.  So, that was my next step.

Since my plan requires many shorter strips, curved pieces (all the while adhering to the larger shapes) I have to plan carefully and give a lot of thought to the sequence in which I should add planks.

I used very thin masking tape to lay over the forms the outline of the shapes. I'll have to remember to remove them or cover them with plastic before the glue has a chance to bond to the tape.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Symmetrical Asymmetry

The shape of a sea kayak invites a symmetrical  deck design - it is the obvious choice. After all, the long hull is designed with longitudinal symmetry... and I have seen some absolutely gorgeous mirror-like deck plans.

The doodle which now is awaiting realization

Also, I would expect a symmetrical design easier to build - unless it were an intricate mosaic - but perhaps a bit less imaginative. Anyway, as I was doodling on my sketch pad trying out various ideas, my mind continued to gravitate to asymmetrical deck lay-outs.

Finally, I came up with a sketch which I liked - that is "on paper". Within an asymmetrical shape there is a quasi front-to-back inverse symmetry. "Quasi" because the cross-section of the front deck is very rounded whereas the back becomes quite flat.

The lightest cedar strips will be used for the background upon which the cocoa and light brown strips form two irregular bands which intersect in front of and behind - thereby wrapping around the cockpit. The bow as well as the stern will have a very thin dark strip along the center line. 

Great Blue Heron
The general idea: an abstraction of a heron's beak.

Night Heron
To follow up on the previously posed question why I thought that the Night Heron sea kayak might more fittingly be called Blue Heron, I am happy to introduce as evidence a picture of each... and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Without a doubt, two exceedingly beautiful and elegant birds!

 ...and I am certain that the boat's designer, Nick Schade, had a definite reason to name this design "Night Heron".

...perhaps the elongated feather from the nape of the Night Heron's neck provided the inspiration.

I don't want to bore you with the concept of broken symmetries but to my eyes this design would satisfy the aesthetic appeal of this idea. I say "would" with caution and some trepidation because I am really not sure yet as to whether or not I have the necessary skills (and tools) to do the job. This deck design adds a significant element of challenge.

I hope I won't mess up too many pieces but I'll take my chances.  I can already anticipate that problems of bending the wood. It will not only have to bend as seen in 2-D but there will also be significant curves in 3-D.

I will report on my efforts to persuade the strips to bend.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Form and Function

The Pungo is overseeing the construction process with some envy.
As part of the construction project, I've found it necessary to improve my work space. So, I constructed a simple work bench as well as a small work platform next to the hull.

The work bench along with some plastic sheeting form a fairly effective separation between the one remaining parking space in the garage and my work area.

With the hybrid method, the hull panels are constructed within external forms which help to maintain the shape before the hull form is epoxied into a stable shape.
The deck on the other hand is constructed by laying the cedar strips around a series of internal forms which define the deck shape.

These forms are temporarily hot-glued into the semi-completed the hull.

Here you can see how the cockpit apron will be fitting on the forms... but we are not ready for that. I just laid it in position to assist in visualizing the deck design.

Once all of that is accomplished we still have to secure some scrap pieces of wood into the inside of of the bow and stern along the sheer.

Ah, my first carving job!
...with many more to come.

Finally, we'll mark onto the forms the center line of the deck. I then laid over the marks a thin line of masking tape which will facilitate the process of transferring the intended design from 2-D onto a very curved 3-D surface.

Now we are ready to strip. Well, hold your horses! Before you begin to strip, you need to have a plan. Unless you are some improvizing boat building genius, you won't want to play this by ear.

CLC offers three shades of cedar strips.

You can tell CLC by percentages how much of each you would like. Of course this will depend on the specific design that you have worked out... plus a bit of guess work.

Even if you calculated it out the last square centimeter, you would be hard pressed to predict how many strips you might break while trying to bend them into shape or simply mess up carving them incorrectly.

I requested one third of each shade.

Next up: The Design