Skin is On

After a few trials and errors I finally sewed the skin on my sof kayak. It only took two years of the kayak hanging under our deck in order for me to start the process. I guess I’ve been busy. A bachelors degree, half of a masters degree, and a new career will do that to a guy.

When I first started to sew the skin I had a lot of troubles. I decided to use the method show by Cape Falcon Kayak. I bought 8oz ballistic nylon from George Dyson in Bellingham, which was an interesting trip. The first step was sewing the end pockets, which was easy.

The problems started with the cutting of the nylon fabric. I put a strip of wood down the middle of the deck but i found that the nylon moved a lot while cutting. I virtually had no idea where I was cutting the cloth. Next time I do this I will tack the skin to the gunwales before cutting.

My first attempt at sewing the main seam was pretty bad.

I then made calls for help across the internet. I decided to continue with whip stitches but I would soak the nylon while sewing, thereby giving me more cloth to work with and allowing the skin to tighten immediately after drying. For the most part this worked well. I still managed to have a couple of wrinkles along the sides of the hull. I don’t know if this is common or not, and how much it will affect the paddling.

There is some bunching in the center of the cockpit, and I assume that will not be a problem for when I stitch in the coaming.

I’m still a bit hesitant in coating the kayak with polyurethane. I don’t want to spend a lot of time and money coating the kayak in case one of the following fails:

  • little holes caused by the stitching, will they get sealed?
  • are the wrinkles going to cause problems?
  • will the seams hold?

The Canoe is DONE

I finally really finished the canoe today! I hadn’t coated the inside of the canoe until this week, but timing and weather made it happen. Our garage is full of stuff now so I decided to spray S3 wr-lpu outside. It worked fine, especially since I wasn’t shooting for a perfect finish. I sprayed 3 coats, put the seats back in, and shazam! It’s all fini. I think we’ll take it with us when we go visit my folks. Maybe we’ll do a float done the Columbia River.

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César’s Bark Canoe

César’s Bark Canoe is a fantastic NFB (National Film Board) film from 1971, produced by Bernard Gosselin. It captures César Newashish, a 67-year-old Attikamek of the Manawan Reserve north of Montreal, building a canoe solely from the materials from the forest, including birchbark, cedar splints, spruce roots and gum.

Freedom 15 Launch!

Last weekend the family and I launched the Freedom for the first time. It wasn’t quite “finished” in that I hadn’t varnished it yet, but I wanted to wait for the weather to cool a bit before spraying the urethane. And check out that paddle in some of the pictures!







Chipping at the Freedom

After I installed the decks, I concentrated on finishing the outwales, seat placement and thwarts. The outwale install was okay but I had a couple of issues. First, I had some gaps between the cedar hull and the ash outwales. This was just cosmetic near the top surface, and I filled them with epoxy + wood flour.

Each end of the outwales was screwed through the hull and into the deck. I used a fostner bit to counterbore the outwale. Using brass screws is tricky because they are soft and need a larger pre-drill so that it doesn’t bind before the threads catch into the deck. I used some birch dowel to fill the counterbores. I would have preferred walnut dowels but I didn’t know where to get any and I didn’t want to make them.

Next I worked on hanging the seats. I simply followed the guide from Canoecraft and didn’t come across anything unusual.

Before finishing the seats I had to replace the hardwood dowels in the corners of the caning with softwood. I shaped a bunch of tapered dowels from cedar using a Japanese rasp.

One big “oops” was when I realized that I had forgotten to remove the masking tape from underneath one of the outwales when I glued it to the hull. That meant that I had to cut and scrape a whole bunch of blue tape that was epoxied to the hull. Yuck.

For painters holes, and for attaching end ropes to the canoe, I decided to use bored dowel. I bought a 1″ birch dowel from Lee Valley. I then used a 1″ spade bit to drill through the hull. The area was wet out with thickened epoxy and the dowel was slid through the hole. Once set, I used a 1/2″ spade drill bit to bore through the dowel. The fit was pretty tight between the hull and the dowel and unfortunately on one side of the hull the fiberglass/wood was stressed and displaced when the dowel was inserted. I’m not sure if there will be any last effects, only time will tell.
painters hole

Finally I varnished all of the thwarts and gunwales. I was really pleased with how the decks and gunwales turned out. The thickened epoxy I used for gap filling between the outwales and hull was a non-issue. The varnish made the wrc turn a very dark brown, which really complements the lighter gunwales that sit on either side of it.

Started the Seat Caning

I started caning the stern seat last week, and so far it is going fine. I’m using the instructions from Gilpatrick’s book “Building A Strip Canoe,” and his descriptions and photos are very good. So far I’ve finished doing the vertical and horizontal strips, and 1/2 of the first diagonal strips. I’m not entirely clear on how some of the cane pieces are going to be tied off but I suppose it will work out in the end.

sanded and varnished
I sanded the frame to 220 grit and varnished with a MiniWax Spar gloss finish. I tried a few different things to pass through the holes but I didn’t have the patience to coat all the holes with varnish…

1/2 finished the caning
1/2 finished the caning on the stern seat

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