Thursday 12 September 2019

Making A Wooden Backband For Your Kayak

Making A Wooden Backband For Your Kayak

Back support installed, seat is closed cell foam and is manufactured by our kit supplier Noah’s Marine.

The backband shown was constructed using three layers of 3mm [1/8”] marine plywood laminated on a simple mold then covered with ½” [12mm] closed cell foam. We have also made backbands from two layers of 4mm ply. The mold is made by cutting an arc into a piece of 2 x 6 and drilling holes in it to allow clamps to be used without them sliding around. Following these notes is an illustration used in some of our plan sets to help guide builders through the construction of their own backband. The blanks we make are 6” [15cm] tall and 24” [60cm] wide, which are then modified to suit the boat and the paddler, the shape being manipulated as required to get the desired fit, the narrower top of the one pictured allowed it to sit slightly higher.

Laminating the backband,’ F’ style clamps hold the pieces together and to the mold, the other clamps are in place to make sure that the other two pieces remain in full contact while the epoxy cures. Remember to cover the top of the form with tape so the part does not accidentally get glued to it.

When the blank is removed from the mold it is trimmed to width, [final width of the example is 16” [40cm], once cut to width it was shaped and finish applied. The finish in this case consisted of a saturation coat of epoxy, and three coats of marine varnish.
Mark the center before the backband comes off the form to establish a reference line to work from to ensure you make the backband symmetrical.

If you prefer your backbands to sit higher, scoop out the ends more, and/or making the backband narrower will allow it to ride higher as does lowering the top eye strap or raising the bottom two. I don’t recommend removing the upper eye strap entirely as it keeps the backband from tipping forward, interfering with entry into the boat.

Backband with hardware installed ready for installation in boat.

Three eye straps are attached using oval head machine screws these will be covered by the closed cell foam, (these were just lightly countersunk, too much will weaken the area under the head) the straps to adjust the backbands location are fastened in place at the same time, the dimensions we use are given in the illustration. Two more eye straps are fastened under the aft deck using short screws, using shockcord and the eye straps the paddler can control the location of the backband. In some cases the coaming riser construction may not be robust enough to hold screws run up through the deck, in this case wood blocks can be epoxied to the underside of the deck and the eye straps fastened to them or you could just hollow the middle of the wood block. When glued in place the channel formed by the hollowed block would take the place of the eye strap.

A  strap with a buckle is attached to the hip braces to allow adjustment of seat; buckle could alternately be mounted to the seat with the strap fastened to the hip brace, this also makes it easier if desired to attach the strap on the outside of the hip brace. Leave the part without the buckle long enough that you can easily grab it to adjust the backband.

Adjustment buckle on strap attached to hip brace, these can be made from the cinch straps that are sold for camping gear, look for a set with strong buckles, they are helping to secure you in place in the boat.

To cut the straps I use a soldering iron with a flat tip, this cuts neatly and seals the end of the straps to prevent fraying at the same time.

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Alternate Seating for the Vuntut Solo Canoes

Over the past while I have been experimenting with various seating options for these boats seeking a solution that allows seat adjustment to balance the boat as it is loaded. At the same time to eliminate the draw back of Velcro seat attachments, their ability to come loose if the boat is dumped, this becomes more of an issue as the Velcro ages. This has involved finding a way to use a canoe seat in the boat while keeping the seat low to maintain the boats stability. Not being a small guy my experiments have been limited to the 14 as that is the boat that I have here at the shop presently that fits me, these ideas will directly transferable to the 12 and could be used with some modifications in the 10, if you need more info send us a note; Many of the seat pads that can be purchased are in the range of 50mm [2”] thick, after using the boat a number of times with various seat heights I settled on a height of about 90mm [3.5”]. This is the height used for both the seat with the end pads and the seat mounted on runners, this height was picked as good compromise of paddling height, comfort and stability.

The picture to the left shows a canoe seat with pads on the ends allowing the seat to be removed when not in use and spreading the load, otherwise the load would fall on the ends of the seat frame putting point loads on the hull. The draw back is that this does not eliminate the seat falling out if the boat is inverted whether inadvertently on the water or for carrying, secondly while this method does work it still puts a noticeable load on a small area of the hull also while it can be moved the fit changes as the seat changes position. If you plan on using a fixed seat position this is a good solution, I would do two things first; add an extra layer or two of glass an inch or two larger that the end pads to help distribute the load onto the hull, second; use the end pads in conjunction with the glass to help spread the load, the pad should be full as in the picture not individual pieces on the ends of each cross member. Glue the seat in place with thickened epoxy checking that it is level as you do so. To find the width of the seat required you can pick the width off the plans or from your molds, cut the seat about a ½” longer than required to allow some fine tuning of its fit in the boat. In the next option shown, the seat is trimmed to fit with the ends just beyond the runners.

The seat I am presently using has a pair of runners on which a canoe seat rests, the runners allow the seat to be adjusted depending on the gear that is loaded in the boat, they also spread the load over a larger area of the hull than the previously mentioned seat. Our runners are manufactured from cedar and result in a seat height of about 3.5” [90mm]. The seat is held down using brass large headed, quick connect bolts run through the seat frame into brass insert nuts set into the runners.

The most difficult part of making these runners is shaping the bottoms to match the changing curvature of boats where the runners will be placed, the exact position used is determined by the width of the seat you choose. If you are building the boat one way is to make patterns from the molds, measure out from the centre line and make a pattern as wide as the runner base, shape the runners using a block plane. Some of the initial shaping may also be done with a band or table saw, set the saw up to match the shallowest angle and cut with the blade just touching the edge that will remain. Even if using patterns mark and sand the area on the bottom of the boat where the runners will be located so that all fitting is done in the same location in the boat. During the fitting it is a good idea to sit the seat on top of the rails from time to time to ensure that the rails are not just level front to back but side to side and to each other, the seat also helps you check that the rails are parallel to each other.

The rails I installed are 24” [610mm] long and 3” [75mm] tall cut from standard big box store cedar 2x material, the measurements will vary depending on how far out from centre you place the rails, this will be dictated by the seat you choose, be aware of the seat height as it affects the boats stability, as your positioning in the boat is the largest factor in its location. The sides of the runners where tapered by running them through the table saw so the sides were sloped leaving a 1” [25mm] wide top, do this before you shape the bottom, so the piece is stable when you cut it.
Seat was placed with its aft edge about 4” [100mm] in front of the thwart, 93” [236cm] aft from the top of the stem, the boat sits level in the water with this positioning.

Once the rails are shaped to fit the boat and ready to install I rounded the ends and routered the edges, as can be seen in the pictures the rails are notched to take the ends of the seat, this will keep the seat from moving much even if lose a fastener or damage the insert nuts, leaving it at least serviceable until repairs can be made. As you can see there are five notches allowing for three seating positions, two seat positions would likely be enough but that is up to you, it would also save a bit of weight, the runners shown added about 3 pounds [2kg.] to the boat. The runners are sealed with epoxy, when that is cured, sanded and installed using epoxy thickened to a mayonnaise like consistency, the area where the runners are to be set is taped off, do this with the runners set in place so you will know exactly where they need to be placed. I used weights set against the inside of the runners, just touching them to ensure that they could not move while the epoxy cured. The weights, three per runner were set one at each end and one in the centre this helped when cleaning up as one could be moved and any excess epoxy cleaned up without too much fear of the runners moving. Scrape around the runner and pull the tape, once the epoxy has cured to the point that the runners are held in place run a small fillet around the outside of the runner.  Set the seat in place once cleanup is complete with a small amount of weight on it to help ensure that the tops are flat and will meet the bottom of the seat, it gives one last chance to make sure the mounting points are square to each other.

Notch spacing was set up based on moving the seat half the depth of the seat, while the notches were cut before the rails were installed, they were not drilled until after the rails were glued in place. This was done in case of any slight misalignment's, if everything was drilled before installation this would lead to difficulty inserting the bolts in some of the holes. Mark and drill the seats first to take the bolts, then use the seat as a template to drill the runners, I drilled the pilot holes for the insert nuts slightly undersized from the recommended size due to the softness of the cedar, to ensure the insert nut had a good bite into the runner. Don’t get careless with the drill it is not that far down to the hull especially at the front end of the runners where most of the shaping took place. Drill the aft end of the seat first then the forward side, to drill the next set move the seat ahead one set of notches drill these then move forward to drill the final set of holes. Seal the holes and insert the nuts, make sure you check that the holes are deep enough to take the bolts, by dropping them in with the seat in place before the insert nuts are installed.

When using this seat with a back-band, make sure that the back-band is cinched up tight to give you a solid base when paddling. At the present time I am working on a removable, solid seat back when the experimentation with it is complete, I will post an article on its construction and make up a plan sheet with a full size pattern.  

Friday 9 November 2018

The Lookers

With my sincere apologies to Melanie Safka and her song, “Look what they’ve done to my song, Ma”

Look what they've done with my park, Ma
Look what they've done with my park
Well they made it a backdrop for selfies
And turned it upside down
Look what they've done with my park

You may need to go get grandpa to help you with the song reference, it does after all date back to days of yore, when even I was young. 

For fun I looked up the web cam at the Visitor Centre in Algonquin Park, this is one of the few years we have not been able to spend a few fall days in the park, so to make myself feel worse about not being able to get away thought I would take a quick look.  What I saw was nothing unusual, people heading out on the deck that overlooks the park behind the centre. I have been out on that deck many times myself, I noticed a difference, a large portion of those who headed onto the deck seemed to be more interested in seeing themselves than the surrounding park.

The procedure seemed to be head out, spin around back to the park, adjust pose and clothing, fix hair, arrange any others involved in the enterprise, take selfie(s).

Step two check that you are shown in best light with the background just as you had envisioned it, if not repeat step one until you have ‘the’ shot.

Next you may think is to go back over to the railing and take at least a passing glance at the scenery arrayed before you while facing it, this it seems is not logical, the park has at this point served its purpose, background. No, the next step is to hustle back into the building never looking back, leaving one to speculate that the highlight of the trip is not actually being there but getting pictures posted so everyone will know you were. Even more importantly increase the volume of traffic your post has driven to your site (web not camp), blog or, well you know, with a bit of luck you might go viral.

It is good to get people into parks as it should help them experience the natural world and  to an increased appreciation, leading to a desire to care for and protect it. The thing about being selfie driven is that there is no experience of the place, it is simply backdrop in an ongoing story (theirs), to be replaced in an hour, or a day but change it must, traffic is fickle and must be driven. (there is a phrase that would not have made sense when the song was written) The entire experience could be replaced by Photoshop and a Google search, or one of those backgrounds’ photographers use, just roll it out when you need it. All they want is something new to fill in the background, the rest is irrelevant, and they remain unconnected, the rest could disappear, as long as there is background  they will never know the difference.

After I wrote this, I saw a story about a group looking to raise funds for the care of a historical building, and they said one of the difficulties of preservation was “Trying to turn people who stare into people who care.” Very much the same thing, the need to get people to move past casually passing through to involvement, or at the very least interest in the continued existence of those things that serve as the backdrop. 

My hope is that when passing through these places that when/if you stop, make it more than background, take a moment, or many, soak in your surroundings, even learn about them. Seeing them only as a setting for pictures has it all upside down, yes it makes awesome background, but they are so much more.

Friday 8 December 2017

Displacement, Weight, Capacity, and that Sinking Feeling

Recently when asked about one of my canoes and how much it will carry I responded with the numbers I usually give, the boats displacement at various sinkages. I give the displacement at three different depths. For the canoe that I am currently finishing up; if the boat is loaded to sit two inches [5 cm] down in the water it displaces 109 pounds [49 kg.] (for reference approximately, weight of boat plus large pack), at 3” [7.6 cm] it will displace 193 pounds [87 kg] (boat plus 150 lb.[68 kg] paddler), at 4” [10.2 cm] it displaces 284 pounds [129 kg].

None of these numbers tell you what the boat weighs, this boat has not been weighed yet so let’s use a nice round number that is in the right ball park, say 40 pounds [18 kg]. The canoe weighs the same in all three of the instances above, regardless of loading. Displacement varies depending on what you put in the boat, plus the boats weight. Keep this in mind when adding gear to your boat, something that those who fish seem most prone to do, every bit of gear you add subtracts from the live weight (you, passengers or fish it should carry). If a boat weighs 40 lbs.  [18 kg] you weigh, say 150 [68 kg]and you gear for a day trip, including yourself, a paddle, PFD, other safety gear and lunch weigh 7 pounds [3.2 kg], that means that a boat will need to displace 197 pounds [89 kg] to float you and your gear, you can then based on the information above see that this boat is going to float about 3” [7.6 cm] into the water.  

Displacement is simply the weight of the volume of water that the boat must push out of the way to float based on the weights as listed above, fresh water weighs 62.4 pounds per cubic foot, salt water weighs 64, or 1,000 kg/m3 for fresh and for salt water 1,024 kg/m3.  Think of it as the size of the hole you make in the lake or river, in the case of the boat in the example it is a cedar/epoxy lined hole.
To make anything float the object that is to float must displace more than it weighs plus what it is carrying, which is why a flat piece of steel sinks, but if you beat it into a boat like shape it will float. For the example above, the boat, and it does not matter what shape it takes, must displace 3.2 cubic feet (.09m3) of fresh water (3.1 of salt water) to support the load. The shape will not affect the amount of water that must be displaced the shape will affect stability and how the boat moves through the water but not the volume of water displaced.

That brings us to capacity, I use the Transport Canada method as published in TP1332E Construction Standards for Small Vessels as found in section where the very simple method to find a canoes displacement, is the point where the vessel has 178 mm [7 inches] of freeboard, this is referred to as the ‘recommended maximum gross load’. This is measured at the lowest point of the sheerline.

Freeboard is the distance between the water and the top edge of the hull, the sheer being the top edge of the hull. That number for the boat used for illustration purposes in the first paragraph is 172 kg. [379 lbs], it is that simple, but this only applies to canoes, and yes what constitutes a canoe is defined in an earlier section of the publication one that sets the length to beam ration which changes with the canoes length, (4.25 m or less max beam 1/3 of canoe length, 4.25 to 4.9 m - 1/4 of length, over 4.9 m – 1/5 of length) additionally it sets the maximum transom width at 45% of the canoes width. Different boat types naturally have their own standards, and these are further divided based on length and whether they are over or under 6 meters [19.7’].

Another number used is the pounds per inch immersion or PPI, for those using metric terms kg/cm, the number given is based on the boat floating on its designed waterline, this is simply the waterline used in the design drawing. For the boat being used as an example it was 4” [10.2 cm] at which point the boat had a PPI of 96 pounds which is 17 kg/cm, when the boat is floating at this depth it will take 96 pounds to sink it one inch or 17 kg to sink it one centimeter. Those of you who look at the numbers in the first paragraph will notice how this does not match up with the numbers given. The reason for this is that the number changes with the shape of the hull so it will different for nearly all sinkages (unless you have a boat that is box shaped), but it does give a good indication of what happens as you load the boat. For information’s sake this boat would displace 502 kg (1100 lbs.) to the point at which the water reaches the sheer.

The above numbers show you there are some boats that are sold as power canoes that are in fact small power boats from a legislative point of view, and may have had their capacities and horsepower calculated differently. Unlike power boats the horsepower/kilowatt ratings for canoes are selected from a chart based on boat length and not found by calculation. 

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Finding Your Balance

Many kayakers head out in their boats seeking a sense of inner balance, but those first couple trips in the spring (for those of us who have to deal with hard water winters) can be a challenge. It is not a sense of inner balance that’s missing its actual physical balance that is missing, the transition from the office chair to the kayak seat can be interesting due to the kayak having significantly less stability. There is a simple way to eliminate this and that is the use of a balance stool, these can be constructed to challenge any paddler by increasing the rocker in the stools base. This is also a good project for anyone thinking of buying or building a kayak why not be ready when the boat hits the water, no surprises, look like you have done it before, from day one.

This blog is also written for those who have experience only in rental and other kayaks that are short, fat, and where choosen for their job because they where completey suited to an application where the majority of users have no experience whatsoever in a kayak. The change is then made from a boat which is 30+ inches [76cm] wide with a flat bottom to a rounded, or V bottom boat, that is 23" [58cm] wide and find that there is a significant difference in stability, that they were not entirely prepared for, with the stool you can be ready. If you find yourself in this state don't be discouraged if it takes a few attempts, much more comfortable in the denon the stoool than on the water in the spring. 

Think of it as a rocking horse for adults, and best of all it is simple to construct,inexpensive and can be constructed in a half hour, and requires few tools, a jig or band saw, six screws, a square, and eight feet of 2x 8. If you make your stool 2” [50mm] shorter than I did you will only need six feet of 2x8, the length will depend on how tall you are, what is the distance from the back of the seat in your boat to the foot pegs this will guide you as to the required length. (My stool is 50” [127cm] long and I am 6’ 3” [1.905m] tall as a guide if your boat is not close by) When looking for a suitable piece of lumber look for one that has no big knots or faults, particularly in the longitudinal, you really don’t want it to break if you are sitting in the middle of the stool, and it is easier to cut smooth curves for the rockers if you are not contending with knots.  

Cut the 2x 8 into three pieces, two pieces 12” [ 30.5cm] long for the rockers, and a longer piece to suit you for the top. The two pieces for the rockers need to be laid out with a notch on top to accept the longitudinal piece and have the bottoms curved to make the stool unstable. The stool in the pictures has a 1.5” [3.8 cm] in the bottom you can always increase the curve later to increase the challenge or until it feels like your boat or even a little less stable than your boat to really challenge yourself. Note how I drew the curve a ¼” [6mm] up from the bottom, this is to help ensure a smooth curve on the bottom of the rockers, a flat spot would defeat the purpose of the stool, and cutting close to the edge makes it easy for the saw to break out of the wood leaving a small flat on the bottom.

Layout the curve on the bottom by marking the centreline on the 12” [30.5cm] pieces and put a mark up each edge 1 ¾” [4.5cm] up the edges, join these marks to form a smooth curve, with a batten. The batten can be anything that is smooth, straight, and flexible, hold the batten so it touches the marks on the sides and pull the centre down to the bottom line and draw in the curve. This task will be easier with some one to help hold the batten. 

The notch on top needs to match the 2 x8 mark half the width to each side of centre and the depth of the 2x8 then draw in the notch, all that’s left is to cut the two pieces for the rockers. As always when you cut; cut on the waste side of the line this should give you a nice tight fit in the notch.

Assemble the three pieces, making sure the end rockers are square to the centre longitudinal. Join the two pieces using three-inch-long #10 or 12 screws, with the heads countersunk into the longitudinal.

If you are new to kayaking the first step is to simply get used to balancing yourself, it will not likely take long. Once you get used to that try turning your upper body as if you where checking out what that paddler just behind you is up to or you wanted to make yourself heard when speaking to them by turning in their direction. The next step is to grab a broom or length of dowelling and go through the motion of paddling, now you are on your way to finding the outward balance so you can concentrate on finding some inward quiet and balance.

Monday 2 May 2016

Class Time

We have been looking at the possibility of offering classes to help those who want to build a boat but would prefer to do so with some guidance. After some serious searching, finding space that would allow us to do so economically has proven that if we were to follow the same model others are using that doing so would be difficult.

This has led to a new line of thought, I have the shop which houses my office and which I use to build the prototypes for our new models, while it is not large but is sufficient to build one boat at a time. Interested in taking a class on an individual basis, one instructor and a builder with a helper if so desired?

This approach has some advantages, you do not need to purchase tools you may never use again, the focus is only on the boat you are building, and you don’t have to wait until the boat you are interested in building is being offered in a classroom setting somewhere. The class you book is your class alone, building the boat you want, this offers you much more flexibility when it comes to timing as you do not need to wait for six or eight like minded individuals.

 Another advantage, we will be able to offer in this setting is we can customize a design to suit your needs, or you can have a custom design drawn and then come here to put it together. We may even have what you are looking for drawn in the computer and just have not had time to build that particular model to date. This is something that is not possible to do in a class setting. There will in these cases be a design fee but these will be kept to a minimum as full plans and building manuals will not need to be developed as we will construct the boat together.

Taking a look at the courses being offered here in Canada, which are often offered in conjunction with US firms, in US dollars and with a slightly higher tuition rate than the same course in the US. As I write this with the current exchange rate tuition is $850 US which is $1102 CAD. In addition to which they charge $200 US for shipping which equals $259 CAD. for a total of $ 1361 CAD. , there is also a charge of $450 US for a helper which equals $584 CAD. if you bring a helper the total comes to $1945 CAD.  In addition to this these courses require you to supply some of your own tools, some tools you will need to finish and care your boat in the future so you will need to buy these, others for many will be a onetime purchase such as the forty clamps recommended. These prices are in addition to the cost of the kit which in the case of the US providers is in US dollars, ours are in Canadian dollars resulting in further savings for you. If you are wondering the taxation will be the same as the courses are taking place in Canada.

The big question is then naturally course cost, a one on one course will be offered at $1,000 CAD and a course with a helper at $1400 CAD. These prices coupled with our much lower shipping costs (normally less than $100 CAD) coupled with the costing of our kits in Canadian dollars gives you the opportunity to build a boat at less cost and with more flexibility in timing than you can get with our competitors.

Should you know what you would like to build, and when, send us an e-mail and we can discuss the specifics of setting up a course for you. Not sure which boat you wish to build contact us and we can discuss the possibilities.

For our US friends as mentioned on the web site we are just a few minutes down the river from the Sarnia/Port Huron border crossing and about the same distance up river from the Sombra/Marine City ferry crossing. As this is written based on the exchange rate today tuition is just $772 US with one builder and $1080 with a helper.

Friday 12 February 2016

Splashing About In The Pool

This is not a series of thoughts about hitting the local pool in winter to learn new skills but rather spending time splashing about in the pool of learning and the feeling that you are slipping under. At the end of this note I will get back around to boats and building them, please bear with me as I wander in that direction.

Last year just as I was thinking about having the web site updated, the company that looked after my site folded and they did a good job of making sure the site stayed up and transferring it to a new host. The issues that arose where from the fact that the original company not only hosted the site, but looked after its content based on the information I supplied them in order to update it. The issues only came to light after a summer of designing and building new models preparing the plans, writing new content, and then contacting the new host to be told that they don’t look after content, just hosting.

Back to the pool, it’s at times like that where you suddenly realize that all the work you have put in, making you think that you were headed somewhere, was illusory. It turns out that in fact you where treading water, suspended, going nowhere, working hard but not making any progress.

The good thing about this was it gave me more reason to rethink the site and how it works. Over the years the site has been in existence one thing I always wanted was for it to be more responsive, to be able to alter it without having to write the content then pass it along and wait till it was my turn to have the updates installed. I also wanted it to be more user friendly, with our association with Noah’s you needed to get off my site and go to theirs to place a kit order, not real convenient.
With the new site the idea is to link each of the boats to the appropriate page on their site so you simply click the link and go directly to the page that contains the ordering information on their site. This should make it seem to be essentially one big site where everything you need is just a click away. To achieve this I decided to build the site with new content myself, this would leave me with all the files and the ability to modify the site in a timelier manner. 

What makes this possible is the use of a WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) site builder which means you do not need to be able to write computer code to build your site but for the most part you simply type in what you want. This by the way only works to a certain extent as you need at times when using things like Pay Pal or links to other sites to insert their code into your site to make them functional. Even this simple method of building a site at times has left me feeling like I was back in the pool, definitively in the deep end and floundering badly. I am sure the company that hosts the site must have when answering some of my newbie questions wondered how I even managed to turn the computer on in the morning.

Writing this has led me to think about the boats, their plan sets their construction and how easy it is to assume things which can leave others floundering. One of the things I noticed while going through this process was how in all our fields we tend to forget that those who are learning and those with no or limited exposure to what it is we do have no idea what some of the terminology and short forms we tend to use mean.

I guess what I am really trying to say is this dip in the pool has not been a bad thing, besides the expansion of my understanding of the electronic world, I will try to keep in mind what this experience has been like when plan sets are put together. If you are building from our plans and you think I am assuming knowledge you don’t have send us a note, it will make not only the process easier for you it may help clarify things for someone else down the road.