Well, here we go again. Bitten by the kayak building bug and just can’t stop myself, hehe. I have always liked the look of the East Greenland kayak and of all the kayaks in Harvey Golden’s book Kayaks of Greenland, my (unbiased of course) opinion is that it’s the prettiest. Harvey, we’re waiting for the second edition!
So, first day was ripping Cedar day. A friendly helper is nice to have for long planks. Also, if your brain melts from imperial measurements, a few post-its with mostly millimeters can help 🙂
Day 1 was finished off with taking and marking measurements, eager to get started on my fourth skin on frame kayak to be. I am still to sell one, they all have different personalities and are hard to let go.
I had kind of forgotten that I needed to thin out the gunwhales in order to not carry too much ballast around the seven seas…or something. So I went crazy on day two, Christmas Eve, with the electric planer and then had to redo the deck beam measurement lines. Plane nice. measure twice has always been my motto (not). Oh well, gotta love learning by doing! Building a kayak is like a Christmas present by itself.
My overhand router was all set up with the angled foot and all so it all went smoothly. After first getting acquainted with the router again with the help of some scrap wood, I think I spent less than half an hour mortising this time. It all went so fast I forgot to take one single picture of it from within the zone. The pics below are from making and pegging the deck beams. Couldn’t resist popping in one of the December sunset from our beautiful kayak club. Never gets old, that sunset thing… Although this picture is probably taken at 3 PM.
Ok so I snuck in to the workshop to steam and glue the coaming before rib bending day as Brian likes to call it. I call it Inferno day, btw, go figure!
I also probably got caught once or twice with the electric planer, string (not tangas unfortunately. Would’ve made a good laugh), block plane, sandpaper or the scie japonaise in hand. It almost doesn’t count, since I was at the club for actual kayaking and just couldn’t help myself for an hour or two in the workshop for extra kayaking pleasure 🙂
If it makes any difference I steamed and glued the coaming with a Tuiliq (kayak jacket) and neoprene booties on! I’m also experimenting with a laminated fir Masik and i cooked a heavy duty oak stick for one too. More on that later.
So, day 3…and a half
It’s never too late to give up. Or is it? I ran out of Red Cedar and it’s expensive and hard to come by over New Year’s Day here in Stockholm so I figured I could make stems out of plain ol’ Spruce. Made ’em, fitted and wasn’t satisfied with the weight! Turns out the same stem plank from Spruce is 250g heavier than the Cedar I had. Half a kilo or two pounds is just not acceptable if you can avoid it, I thought.
So I dug around at home and in the workshop. Found some half as**ed Cedar planks which I laminated, electrocuted (planed) and pegged together. Did what it took to make them work. You can call me Dr Frankenstein. The stems above are the perfectly good ones I threw away.
Day three and three quarters
Finally some rib steaming to be done. I even brought lunch with me because this was going to be a long day. Little did I know…The oak I had was cut down last winter. It seemed ok when ripped and wrapped. I even soaked it or kept it wet, but to little avail. It was mostly brittle and no matter if I steamed it 5 or 15 minutes it was pretty hard to work with. I think I steamed twice the amount of ribs I needed and almost all of them had small but troubling cracks somewhere. Now, I might have bought new rib stock but I just don’t have good sources close to town. I think Oak is durable enough and I’ve glued all the cracks since. The day after I even re-steamed a couple more ribs so it’s at least close to what I need at the moment.
Day three… and seven eights
Hmmm. Stacking up a lot of days because of the ribs and the redone, laminated stems. You may spot the lamination as a prolonged keel in the middle pic. Anyway, once the lashing starts, all ribs feel strong and the kayak stiffens up instead of that floppy 2D gunwale frame.
So, I mentioned earlier I had a few experiments going on for this ol’ barge. Here below are the laminated and the massive steam bent oak Masiks I’ve made. I did the steam bent one as an experiment last spring. Think I cooked it for more than 40 minutes, the formula being roughly 1h/inch. In front is just a plain piece of straight oak. I didn’t like the grain of that one.
Anyway, the steam bent Masik har close to perfect grain since the bend is not sawn so I will try to thin it out to see if I like it.
Some more fitting and measuring. The height from the top of the keel to the top of the coaming is 17.5cm or close to 7″. Even though I’ve used the same coaming form for all my current skin on frame kayaks, this fit is by far the tightest due to the kayak’s height. Maybe I’m just stuffing myself full over winter or something… Ever heard of a Corona Coaming? The oak Masik is still a little too fat too so there is room for improvement, planing and sanding that is, although not a lot. I will have to put on the Borat-kini and grease up when I try it out. I’m dead serious! Almost… I figure if I can lay back in a standard Anas Acuta, this one must work too, right?
Oh, by the way, the brown tint on the laminated Masik below is a distilled Vinegar and steel wool acid dye I made for a laminated paddle project. It’s dirt cheap and you can mix it up as you go. When oiled it turns into a rich chestnut brown.
Is it day four yet? I think we may have passed day four long ago to be honest, but I think this would be day four if I had worked whole days. This weekend I had scheduled a navigation course and some ice skating with friends. I haven’t taken a class in navigation for 35 years so it was about time to freshen up the knowledge or acquire some more. Many practices have changed during those years but it’s good to be using analog tools for a change. Yeah, you can see a Greenland rope scheme behind the map. Allunaariaqattaarneq (oh, the spelling). A18q for hipsters…
After six hours of interesting fun and a little brain activity, I cycled to the workshop to finish up some oak work. Out came a double lip coaming, a now bevelled, steam bent Masik and endplates for bow and stern. As you might have guessed already, I am not particularly meticulous about my work, but more of a gung-ho “craftsman”. No one seems to notice the difference and I get to have fun!
Brian’s coaming jig is still good after four kayaks and another couple coamings for friends, slightly modified. More on the coaming later.
Well, attaching the endplates can be scary. Sawing away on a perfectly good gunwhale… then drilling, pegging and block planing way too close to the lashings to be comfortable.
When pegging and gluing the front one someone alone in my workshop forgot to clamp it properly and created a huge “crack” under the plate. Not pretty. If you keep it a secret, you can probably glue the cracks too, clamp it down hard and cover it up with tight stitches for the skin.
Needless to say, I’m writing for a friend and no animal got hurt during this installation.
In order to charge up some energy into the system for finishing off this build, today, Sunday I went ice skating with friends again, this time on Drevviken. In the afternoon we went kayaking on another lake. Some of us were not fully charget yet 🙂 Below is a vid of my kayaking friends Julijana and Martin, walking on water.
Woah, haven’t blogged in a week but been in the workshop a few hours every day. So what is it now, day 18 or six? Well, ummm…
Fitting, adjusting, scary sawing and oiling day. I suppose it’s the same for everyone but I want to share this little (unsafe) tip: I put my band sander in a vice and it was relatively easy to tune in a perfect angle for the footbrace while holding the piece of wood. You have to make your piece a little wider first so there is something to sand off. Actually, I changed my mind later and used a Cedar footbrace instead of this one in fir, both of which fit perfectly. The extra footrest piece I screwed on heeding Brian’s tip should have fit well too, but I forgot. (UPDATE: After test paddling I took it off)
Moving on. Nothing here to see in the bottom right picture with the oiled frame and a rib gone missing.
Made a mess of the Masik pegs, but who’s watching under the skin? Ahh, you are, hmm, my hammer must have been Faulty. Lucky two out of three is ok, right? Right? It will be glued in place by the skin and should hold more than I can kick it I suppose. If not, I will let you know.
Note to self: always make shure holes in Oak are wide enough for he dowels.
Oh, and I ran out of Chinese Oil after two thirds of the kayak was finished. Tried some water based outdoor oil for porches which was pure cr*p! I didn’t realize Cedar was so thirsty for oil…
Another note to self: always buy enough good, quick drying oil if you’re in a hurry to finish your kayak.
Random happy day of the New Year
Thank you Liz and Brian for the deck lines! It was way more than I expected, thank you thank you thank you 🙂 You even included some artificial sinew you sneaky you 🙂
Skinning day one
To make things more interesting I chose to sew on the nylon skin outside this afternoon. It is amazing how badly you grip needles with bare hands in minus (Celsius) degrees. Let’s just say I spent 20% of the time looking for a needle or thread in what little snow there was. Yayy!
Oh, our days are still barely over 8 hours long so I worked with the kayak club’s flood lights for the last part. Even more interesting action threading a needle! Forgot my phone machine camera thingy at home so the two images below are taken by my kayaking friend Oscar.
Skinning day two
After the zig-zagging I had to stop and give my hands a night’s rest. I thought with such hairy palms and all, cold hands wouldn’t be a problem… and now my tongue goes black too, hehe. Or is it fingers when you’re writing?
After crushing some pieces of coal I mixed them with polyurethane to test a natural kayak black. The poly in the picture below is quite non-viscous and goes through the cloth easily. This one has a potlife of three hours and is comparably dirt cheap and smelly. Don’t know if I’ll use it and will experiment some more first.
UPDATE AND SPOILER: I used it and I am sorry for it. DO NOT USE THIS PU!
Ever reacted to the sudden stop when your band saw blade weld pops. I dare you not to blink! I still have all nine and a half fingers left 🙂
Two extra deck loops need to go in the back. The West Greenland kayak I built in 2020 has limited storage too. Easier access to lunch when hopping ashore is nice so I made an avataq-like storage bag for it. These loops will come in handy for attaching an upcoming version of it. Stay tuned for the Spring!
By the way, here’s a wide angle time lapse of your humble author sewing on the coaming on skin day two. Friends and dog Wilma included. To get good tension I first made the coaming a little on the narrow side. Then I sew it on ever so slightly to one side and clamp it to the other to get it right in the middle with good tension. It could be you can get just as good tension in the skin not doing this, but it could be worth a try. You could also probably mess it up, but there’s nothing like cutting the threads and starting anew, right? I heard some people use a carpet puller. Haven’t tried one of those myself.
Coating day 1
Since I decided to use my own dirt (cheap) colors and a polyurethane with a long pot and settling time, I decided to let coating day be at least three days (UPDATE: it took more than a week). It says on the poly tin it can be coated over many times and even after fully cured, which is good news. I could only do two layers on the bottom today. Potlife of two hours is soo relaxing! Or was that due to the fumes?
Anyway, the kayak turned out a nice dark coffin brown, mixing burnt Umbra with charcoal 50/50. I stole the charcoal pieces from a party grill at the kayak club, by the way. Don’t tell!
As you probably can see, the coating finish is not at all like Skinboat’s shiny goop which Brian uses and I would rather too. I need to apply a number of layers to get equal thickness, it settles with bubbles and it stinks. You have to roll it on with a proper (HEPA filter) mask and it’s still stinky. I went outside every ten minutes to breathe without the mask. Can’t work on other stuff in the workshop while it dries. Bummer. The reason why I am trying this goop is I need something bought locally on a whim and buy extra without having to wait a month or more (!) for Corey’s shipping or pesky Swedish customs clearance of American products. And yeah, the link may or may not be sarcasm 😉
If you have any tips for a coating as good as Skinboat’s, do tell!
UPDATE: Yes, Europeans rejoyce! After much research I have actually found a totally new, high tech, not-so-toxic PU goop which is just as easy to work with as Skinboats’. The only caveat is it must be purchased in large batches, but I did and I am able to ship you some 😉
So, another couple of layers and we’re good to go, right?
Coating day 2
Fuy, still stinks.
Coating day 3
Sticky icky stinky.
Coating day 4, stormy Sunday
No more coating day
Well, umm, decklines day then. With the lovely leather straps I got from Liz and Brian and a few kayak’s worth of previous experience, I thought this would be a breeze. However, you always have to cuss and sacrifice a little skin to the kayak gods in order to get the straps through the holes in the gunwhales. Either way, worth it! I remembered a curse from an old movie, The Gods must be crazy which is “sonofamalaka” or something (son of an idiot? Malaka is idiot in Greek i think) which at the time made me laugh like a madman in the workshop 🙂 Maybe the fumes are not vented out yet…
I had rounded the straps in holes made in a broken rib and waited with oiling them until they were in place. I thought the sealing glue would work better if I did, but it probably made no difference. The oil could’ve possibly helped pulling them through, I don’t know.
Also, I want to mention my (lack of) technique or the polyurethane in combination with earth colors gave the skin bubbles/bumps everywhere. I tried with a 300-ish grit paper, sprayed water and they easily went away in a few strokes with the paper. Now the skin has freckles but that’s ok. If I feel inspired I might give the bottom another layer. We shall see.
UPDATE: I sanded and gave it another layer. And then another. And then some. Regretting my choice of PU…
So, paddling day up next? The kayak is so tight I can’t use real winter boots and clothes but there is probably some indoor rolling practice around town I can join to try it out. Today is -5 degrees C and the sun is out. A casual person might also dress lightly but wear a Tuiliq, bring icepicks, a friend and a spare paddle…
Ok, time, logistics and finding open water proved to be challenging today so I used my CFK West Greenlad kayak on a small paddle around town with a friend. Thank you Julijana for the clip and images!
First paddle of the EG kayak day
It floats! Today I finally got around to paddle the East Greenland kayak for the first time. With a tight cockpit fit like this I couldn’t use my regular summer neoprene boots so I got to use my waterproof socks. They worked.
So how’s the kayak for paddling? Well, we had some wind driven waves and passenger boats whooshing by. When our path, the wind and wake would coincide it was a lot more fun than I had imagined this kayak to be! It isn’t very sensitive to cross winds and even if it wants to broach with the wind and waves, it’s easy to turn back, you don’t have to struggle very much. The nose dives in and the deck gets submerged but that’s mostly just fun in small stuff. I might have overdone the kayak’s rocker a little bit, but I have a faint memory the stringer heights were up to spec, so not exactly sure where that happened. I may have stretched the nylon too much at the very beginning of the skinning process and then the PU added shrinkage(?). When paddling, it tracks reasonably well, but turns just as well when I stop paddling. The harder I paddle the more it goes straight when the bow and stern waves climb up the kayak.
It is lightweight, accelerates and cruises without effort, turns easily with edging and without, is tight to get in/out of, looks pretty and is fun to paddle if you’re not a beginner.
For rolling, I am quite comfortable it will do what I want it to. Wasn’t so vain in front of the camera today I forgot about the brain freeze when rolling a couple weeks ago. There will be plenty of time for that soon enough.
I did something questionable today
It felt like gnawing my foot off! Man’s gotta lower his Isserfik sometimes (the deck beam behind the cockpit). The video below not only shows me killing my baby, it has the standing video syndrome too! Maybe this horror movie better be censored by Liz & Brian? 🙂
I used 3″ stainless wood screws. Was planning to use two smaller screws on each side but the beam fit quite well so no need. Predrilled, had a few drops of polyurethane glue and the hole is countersunk by gripping the Fir Isserfik really well. Was a little nervous about that. Now that I know, I would lower the router hole by up to one inch for the rear cockpit beam. In a pool I tried many quick wet exits and reentries and it’s in fact less of a hassle than before.
Lowering the deck beam certainly helped for laying back over the rear deck. Here’s a short clip from last Wednesday showing when it doesn’t help no matter how well the kayak is performing 🙂
The right stuff
After just a few paddles the poor thing has already taken a good spanking on rocks. This is the result of not having a high quality polyurethane and not protecting your baby! So, after a decent scrubbing with 280 grid wet paper, there’s already a new layer of coating on the underside. Will bring picture to class tomorrow, promise!
The kayaks here are (from the left) my friend Greg’s brown CF West Greenland scaled up, a reddish multi chined experiment I made last summer (original plans from Bryan at Paddlinglight.com) and to the right, my new tar-like tinted CF East Greenland. I think the coating finally turned out ok. See the ropes in the background? Next time I’ll have a picture of someone practice A18q (Allunaariaqattaarneq) in the background. Greenland rope gymnastics.
Too little kayaking action over the winter (barely once a week!) but now the ice is breaking up. I filmed from the kayak too but this clip from my friend Piotr is better. If you think I look stressed and stiff, you’re right! The water is half a degree above freezing 🙂
And here’s a hand roll
The kayak has some tracking issues as you see it above. I may have stretched the fabric too much longitudinally to get too much rocker or mis-measured the ribs front and aft. Most likely, however, is the combination of that plus either too much volume behind the cockpit or I should have placed it further back. There is a sweet spot for the center of gravity compared to the center of byoyancy. I totally missed it.
So, how do I know it’s the kayak and not me? I Paddled it for 9 months before I made up my mind. Tried loading some cargo in the back and every time it behaved nicer. I also made a too shallow Masik for advanced rolling, so that needed to change.
To be continued…