My all-around kayak is the Borreal Baffin P1. It behaves well in rough water, there is lots of storage space, robust, and it rolls like a dream. But perfect, it is not. Long, wide, and a beast to carry. I cringe by the thought of lifting it onto the roof rack solo. I am 169 cm / 64kg, practically a midget by Norwegian standards, and my car is a X-trail. Therefore, one year ago I started searching for a more lightweight boat. Due to covid, good deals on the second-hand market were- and are far in between, and also being smaller than the standard male, there is just a tiny number of boats available to begin with.
So why shouldn’t I build one? I saw three alternatives: The coolest would be a strip built Black Pearl from Thomasson design, alternatively a shrinked stitch-and-glue Shrike Too would also fit, but I balked at the thought of working with epoxy and fiber, particularly unappealing is the part of grinding excess epoxy. Third alternative would be skin-on-frame. So I built a Cunningham/Peterson Greenland.
At first, I loved it, even though directional stability at speeds lower than 5 km/hour are non-existent, it drifts to starboard on flat water and it is a struggle to keep on course even with a slight breeze from sides. Speed is highest with wind in my face. With a skeg, directional stability was manageable, at the cost of maneuverability. The deal-breaker was that intermidiate level rolls are hard. Hand rolls with the Baffin is no problem even with bad technique, but with the Cormorant even balance braces feel impossible. My love was broken, so my search for the perfect kayak continued. Since I used the videos from Cape Falcon extensively during my build, it was naturally to cash out for a full course.
This blog is going to show quite a few jigs. As a mechanical engineer working in manufacturing, I know the value of jigs when precision is needed for repeated tasks. This is especially true when working with motorized machinery, where a slip of a few milliseconds can ruin a part that has taken hours and hours to make. In “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance”, Robert Pirsig states that motorcycle maintenance requires peace of mind. I believe that that also applies to woodworking, and peace is difficult to achieve when using noisy machinery.
I am trying hard to avoid falling into the trap common to a lot of men my age, which is to disregard any instructions and insisting on doing it in some special way. I am paying good money for this course after all. Therefore I wanted to do everything according to the instructions, down to the 16th fraction of an inch, probably to the despair of Brian.
The only deviation from the instructions was adding a morticed foot brace. When making Skarven I made a story stick documenting the position of deck beams and ribs. This is one of the really good suggestions by Cunningham in his “Making the greenland kayak”. When making one for the current build, it was obvious that the foot brace would be 10 cm forwards of my feet, and a rib exactly under mye heels. To give some space for adjustment, the foot brace was set approx 3 cm in front of the expected position. The rib was moved 5 cm’ forwards. Rib length wasn’t adjusted, I intended to this after bending.
Talking about inches… How many satellites needs to fall down before you Americans do the sensible thing and adopt the SI system like everyone else? Even the English have done so. After all, you have everything else in common, except, of course, the language.
During the last kayak build, the basement workshop was dominated by the kayak skeleton for months, making other work challenging. This time I followed Brians advice of getting all supplies before hand giving more flow in the building. Some times I was itching to get started, but when the building started I was glad supplies were at hand. That was especially helpful when milling the wood. Since I don’t have the space for storing and using stationary wood machinery, the work needed to be done outside. Setting up everything in the garden takes time, so doing everything in two sessions was satisfying.
Skarven was built with Norwegian pine. It wasn’t easy to get knot free, straight grained wood, but I managed. During the last year, due to the bark beetles in Canada and Europe, lumber prices has sky rocketed, and availability is difficult. The easiest was actually to buy imported cedar from the US, white ash from the same source. One would think that importing wood to Norway is like selling sand in Sahara, but not. So almost no Norwegian wood in this kayak. The upside is that the weight will be lower.
All in all, the ripping was done in a day. The ash went straight into the kids outdoor tub.
Then to the fun part, the building. Last time I did the deck beam mortises by drilling. Time consuming, tedious and low precision. With a router jig, it was done in no time. Note the stop jig, making all mortises exactly same length.
Then the rib mortices. Again, I made a stop jig. A bit time consuming to make the guide plates exactly the same length, but wery satisfying to have rib mortises exactly equal down to sub mm precision.
In the spring, I cut down some a straight, knot free ash. Regrettably, when I split it, it became clear that the growth has been very slow, especially the last five years. From earlier experience, it was clear that it would be a waste of time trying it. Recently I learnt that the summer wood is far stronger than winter, opposite compared with pine and spruce, which explained the trouble from last time. The ribs will be kiln dried, imported white ash then. They have been soaking now for four weeks, and have sunk to the bottom of the tub, so I guess they are good to go.
Bending went remarkably smooth. No breakage. The first three ribs came out unsatisfactory though. Difficult to center the bend. I redid the three, putting a big fat mark on the center of the rib to have a good reference. I was perhaps a bit overzealous and broke no 1and 2 halfway through. The V-shape came out nice and symmetrically so decided to keep them, just filled up with PU-glue and tied the splinters down thight with artificial sinew.
Before skinning, I made a paper template for cocpit cover. Far easier to do this before assembly.
Now for the skinning. Previous kayak was skinned with nylon from extremtextil. Stay away! The skin unraveled while stitching and the holes were too large to be bridged with paint. I had to fill the holes with some gooey stuff similar to Tech-7. Worst was that holes opened after half a year, requiring even more gooey. This time I used skin from Anders Thygeson at kajakkspesialisten:
He has also put out some great videos on youtube:
The colour was added by mixing a tiny amount of powder with water. I was really disapointed after the colouring. The colour came out uneven and weak. After applying varnish, however, the result wasn’t too bad. I would have liked a bit less translucency, but thats just details. Varnish BTW was just inexpensive urethane alkyd-based from the scandinavian favourite, Biltema. Previous experience is good. With extreme mistreatment like running over rocks, it rubs off over the keel, stringers and hard seat, but on the unsupported areas, it is remarkably resilent. This is another good reason not to add seat and foot slats.
Note that the handle straps are already added. That way, the kayak can be hung from saw horses and both deck and hull can be varnished in one go.