Tibor’s W. Greenland kayak

Ok, this seems to be a longer process than I thought and it’s good not to be in a hurry. I think I spent more time on researching and sourcing wood and tools than I will ever be building the kayak. How about that? Sound like a control freak to you? Well, researching and paddling is fun too so that’s what I’ve been doing during my summer vacation.

I’ll chip in a bunch of variables in the building process and hopefully get to learn a lot. Didn’t have many tools when I started out, but got everything handheld by now when I am starting this build blog. Unfortunately I won’t have nice table machines on my apartment’s balcony. Would buy, but no space!

Instead of red cedar shipped to Sweden a gazillion miles, I will try to use some locally sourced wood, fur and spruce. To save work I bought fur and spruce planks more or less the right dimensions and also a couple of wide Ash planks which looked like a nice grain. I stuffed around lumber for half an hour with the help of the seller. The beauty of it is, if it doesn’t work, I get to build another kayak (and use imported wood)!


Making a paddle

So I actually never seem to have the right tools or materials. I guess you have to build a few boats to get into it properly. With the tools I had recently bought I started making a paddle as free time therapy. At least I got some practice with the circular saw and electric planer! I also made all the mistakes Brian was telling us not to do in the vids. Oh well, the spruce plank cost me the equivalent of $3 and the computer free therapy I needed was good 🙂 So what if it breaks?


All in good form

I thought making the forms would be easy and straightforward but I couldn’t wait for my square and straight edge order to arrive so I winged it with the help of Pythagoras. It mostly turned out ok. A month later and the little block plane in the order still hasn’t arrived! Instead I borrowed a 70yrs old Stanley from my neighbour Danny and sharpened it with a brand new stone. Thanks for the tip Brian!

In the process of making the forms I got to learn how wide a Sharpie mark is, how hilarious it is to be a plunge router noob out of control, how strong wood glue actually is and how little of it you need. I also tinkered with router settings and got to warm a router bit some… Then I test bended some fir and it didn’t crack. No steaming. Also scary to do the first time. How do you like the coaming jig sun clock? Or is it a scull with spikes?


Starting the build

There are probably always slight modifications you have to make depending on what materials and tools you have at hand. I for one am still waiting for a table saw and fresh oak. After the first few days of fixing the forms my build kind of stopped. I know, I’m soo slow in this process, but it needs to be relaxing for me and definitely not stressed.

With Brians vids I learned how to do many things without prior practice. Like how to put a hexagonal steamer tube in the box…well ok, maybe not that, but how to laminate bent wood, how to use a Japanese saw (my muscle memory still wants to push it and it goes boiioing) and how to power plane, among many things.

I also learned some things that were not in the vids, like how to glue your deck beam firmly to the form, how to not take a selfie, how to break a screw inside the gunwhale and how cold Swedish autumn can be, standing outside not actually doing much physical work. It’s very unlike kayaking or biking 🙂

I know, I should have put the bow and stern wedges on at a later stage and the stupid screw wouldn’t have made it there, but hey, there’s a fair bit of chaos in my head anyway now trying to remember all details from the vids.


Mortising, kerfing and lashing

All those were new expressions to me in English just a few months ago and I am happy to say I know what they mean now. Imperial measurements however, I do not. The author Malcolm Gladwell discusses in his book Outliers whether kids of some Asian tongues learn math faster because their languages have a less complex structure for numbers. Well, Imperial measurements are for me unnecessary complex and a convoluted way of taking precise measurements. Well, what the h**l, I memorised some anyway. Never thought that would happen.

Anyways, here are som pics of my practise mortices, the deck beams setup, kerfed ends, a duck, some kayaking friends I hung out with over the weekend, my router wedge and lastly, when disaster struck!

Pushing the gunwhales apart I missed the mortise and bent the deck beam upwards which resulted in a cracked gunwhale. Being not so shy I wedged the spruce open again and pushed glue in. We’ll see if she’ll hold.


We be steaming

A friend called today after I had failed just about any steaming time for my Ash ribs and the big bending day tomorrow. I agreed on bending all the ribs today to show the process and have some fun together, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, turns out quite a few ribs can crack, while most of my ribs that didn’t crack let themselves be re-steamed surprisingly well. I had checked for all ribs to fit into the mortises, but then let them soak for two days. Clever. Every one of them were too wide and I had already put half of them into the steamer before I realised.

Nevermind, here are some photos of today: Pretty clear Ash, Gregor’s table saw, stacking rib material, the first crooked ribs in the kayak, then re-steamed and finally the rib morgue. I will probably have to steambend some more ribs or re-steam to flatten the bottom, but that’s another story. Hope you enjoy.

To be continued…


View posts by Tibor
Web developer from Stockholm, Sweden. I like to paddle just as much as I like sleeping outside.

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