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October 2005

Cedar Strip Kayak Building: Stripping the Stern of the Shooting Star

Stripping the stern on the Shooting Star cedar strip kayak. Photo Copyright ©2005 Andrew Elizaga

After several false starts and experiments I finally started stripping the stern piece of my cedar strip Aleut kayak, the Shooting Star.  The stern piece is the most difficult part of the entire building process for this particular design, because of the sharp compound curves involved.  I ended up throwing out the designer's recommendations and making up a different method on my own.  There were a lot of options I needed to choose from: wide strips or narrow; cove and bead or rolling bevel; steam bending, boiling, or using the heat gun; staples or hot glue; stripping one side at a time or both sides at once.  There are several ways of achieving the same result. Any particular method should give good results as long as it follows a few rules: The strips must lie tightly against the forms.  The strips must be glued tightly against each other without gaps.  One must be able to remove the forms from the strips easily afterwards without stressing the exterior layer of fiberglass and epoxy.

In the end I decided to use narrow cove and bead strips, bent using the heat gun, using a stapleless technique that uses hot glue, bungees and clamps.  With the heat gun I bent the each strip carefully so that I didn't need to force the strip to follow the forms.  Unlike steam bending or bending with boiling water, bending with the heat gun does not result in any "springback" so that the strip will maintain its shape once it is bent.  Also, the strip can be immediately glued without waiting for it to dry. I decided to strip both sides at the same time, because that would also take care of joining the halves.  That meant building the stern form like a miniature boat oriented upside down on a little "strongback".  My thinking was that with this method even if the halves didn't perfectly follow the forms, the errors would most likely be symmetrical.


Cedar Strip Kayak Building: The Shooting Star

Strongback construction. Photo Copyright ©2005 Andrew Elizaga

I've started work on my first strip-built boat, a 16 ft Aleut style kayak designed by Rob Macks called the Shooting Star.  Officially I started work on September 1st, when I got around to opening all the boxes in the kit from Newfound Woodworks and building the strongback out of the wooden crate that the strips came in.  Before I started I cleaned out and painted the garage and moved all the other kayaks into the backyard.  I spent a long time just shimming up the strongback legs to get it perfectly level end to end and side to side (although some say it is not that important, I don't want to mess this up!)  I epoxied the strongback to the concrete floor then reinforced that with Liquid Nails.

Today I started to assemble the bow piece with hot glue after spending the last couple of days carving the individual pieces.   The hardest part is trying to get the pieces so they are perfectly symmetrical side to side.  A traditional crooked knife is invaluable.  Most of the time I just eyeball it, maybe use some dividers.  Compared to building a skin-on-frame, where everything is hidden under the skin, this is more rewarding, because I know that all the woodworking I do will be visible.

Bow piece construction, cedar strip Shooting Star sea kayak. Photo Copyright ©2005 Andrew Elizaga

West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium Roll Off 2005 With Leon Sommé and Dubside!

West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium Roll Off. Photo Copyright ©2005 Andrew Elizaga

The highlight of the 2005 West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium for me was the "Roll Off".  I don't know if that was the formal name for the event, but it was the Greenland rolling demo with Dubside and Leon Sommé, from Body Boat Blade.   When I took the 5-day kayak camp with Leon and Shawna Franklin in May, Leon told me that his goal was to be able to do all the Greenland rolls with a "Euro-blade", and it looks like he's gotten close to getting them all.  Dubside started the "Roll Off" paddling a bright orange Ocean Kayak sit-on-top, then switched to another short fat plastic tub, then finally to his black Feathercraft Wisper.

West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium Greenland Rolling Demo 2005 from Baby Seal Films on Vimeo.