Friday, December 16, 2011

Deck the Hull... Fa-la-la-la-laa

Here in no particular order are some signs of progress...

I have admitted previously to having second thoughts on my deck design on account of its myriad of unanticipated challenges.

...of course, the unanticipated nature was simply a matter of my inexperience and foolish notion of having to make something special. Even some rather "ordinary" design would, in fact, have looked quite splendid on this fabulous kayak.

For better or for worse, I will complete what I started and will chalk the outcome up to gaining a boat-load of experience working with cedar strips. Whatever it's eventual appearance, it will paddle like a Night Heron and that's job one.

Anyway, in the process I have gotten reasonably good at getting a tight fit on the easy pieces which do not require extraordinary clamping maneuvers or major bending and twisting.

With a simpler design I would have had finished the deck a long time ago.

But here I am, still plowing away - decking the hull - as it were.

Okay then, I am trying to take a quasi Zen approach - "being in the moment" and "enjoying the journey" - with splinters, dust and sticky fingers - it seems to be the fa-la-la way.

A building meditation in cedar!

In fact, during moments of pause I have given some thought to what I might build after the Night Heron has been completed.

In case it has not yet become totally self-evident: a nascent shipwright I be!

I should pick a fully strip-planked boat, for example the microbootlegger which is another one of Nick Schade's designs.

There are many other tempting sleek sea-kayaks such as the Petrel - 100% strip planked. But I'd rather build something in which my wife would feel comfortable. This last season we had some promising outings on rented kayaks.

If I select a straight-forward design, the lines of the boat itself will be high-lighted. On the microbootlegger this would work very well. 

In the course of my deck building efforts so far, I have arrived at one definitive conclusion: the ideal builder of boats would either be an Octopus or else one of those Hindi Deities with a myriad of arms encircling the gilded torso.

Alas, (happily) I am neither!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Will to Bend

Preparing the strip to do the unthinkable - bend!
The earnestness of cedar planking begins into the will to bend - or not to bend - as the case may be.

Honestly, if I knew then what I know now, I would have settled on a much simpler design - at least for a first attempt at cedar stripping the challenging deck of  this model.

Don't get me wrong, I still like the design a lot BUT - the 3-D reality of the Night Heron deck is d-d-daunting.

Since my design requires a number of shorter, bendy, warpy and twisted strips, I am finding myself resorting to

Preparing to bend
sneaky tricks...

Blowing Steam

blowing steam...
and brute clamping force...

...each of which can be quite persuasive when deployed judiciously.

One word of praise for the invention of the Quick-Grip clamps which can be tightened with one hand alone while holding the strip to be clamped in place with the other.

I would not want to do this job without these neat tools - unless, of course, I had a second pair of hands to assist.

This thin curved strip needed hot steam - a lot.
I broke five strips on one particularly challenging section before I got one piece that agreed to submit to the required twist and curvature.

I admit to contemplating a fresh start.

It was a bit discouraging. Alas, in the end persistence, keeping cool and a touch of ingenuity overcame inflexibility.

Clamping a short whiskey plank

I basically made up two types of clamps which were necessitated by the  fact that none of the standard clamps could be applied to exert pressure on the part in question.

One quasi "clamp" is a fairly small triangular piece of softish cedar (left over from my Greenland paddle) which I essentially tied around the hull and deck using a small purchase system allowing to apply substantial pressure.

The other clamp of sorts consists of two 4' long 1x4's standing on either side of the kayak. They  are held in position on the floor with a simple adjustable rope. They reach well above the kayak deck line where they are tied with another type of purchase to allow strong pressure on the sheer of the boat. I found this type of clamp necessary since many of the bend cedar strips tend to continue to press outward on the sheer.

Unfortunately, the manual as well as Nick Schade's two otherwise very helpful books do not delve much into the dirty detail of working with unusual designs and shorter strips or extreme curves.

In addition to the forms around which you construct the strips, I hot-glued some stringers at strategic locations in order to ensure that the deck curves were maintained where there were no forms to hold on to.

Capping off the dark wood with a thin strip has been a challenging task.
 Necessity is the mother of invention. And so it goes and I plug along.

I guess this is what builds experience - eventually.

One thing has become quite obvious to me - I don't have it yet. But in the meantime, I am learning every day new aspects of how wood does not like to behave.

Okay, I do not have the fancy power tools either. I could definitely use a table saw... but then, I really don't mind learning how to saw a thin strip length-wise into two halves. I've actually gotten quite good at that.

I am making progress but still concerned about the ultimate outcome.

If it is not going to look wonderful in the end, why bother, right?!

Time will tell.