May 4, 2013

Canoe Building – Floatation

Bow Floatation Ready For S-Glass
This past week Kevin and I built the floatation chambers (for canoe #2, White Lightning). Floatation chambers increase the buoyancy of the canoe to ensure it will float even when completely water logged. The displacement of water alone will keep the canoe afloat with people and gear in it. However if you start taking on water or completely water log the canoe, you will not have enough buoyancy to stay afloat. This lack of buoyancy could get very dangerous on windy and rainy days. So to solve this problem we add more buoyancy to the canoe by creating air chambers at the bow and stern.


Inspired by Wenonah (a major Kevlar canoe manufacturer), we decided to build our flotations as a square step that fits into the bow/stern. This is contrary to how James Moran describes how to build the floatation in his book Building Your Kevlar Canoe: A Foolproof Method and Three Foolproof Designs. He describes building a tear-drop shaped piece of foam that fits in the top of the bow/stern and extends to the bottom of the canoe at roughly a 45* angle. When doing this method for the DragonFly (first canoe), it was incredible challenging to accurately shape the tear-drop and you lost more foot room for the person at the front of the canoe.


To build our “step” that forms a water-tight floatation compartment, all we need to do is cut a piece of foam that is our riser and one foam piece that is our run (horizontally). The process of cutting the foam was trial and error. We used a band saw to cut and then slowly cut the pieces to shape by take a little bit off at a time. We stuck the foam in the respective bow/stern end and used a wide (3/4″) felt tip marker to trace the shape of the canoe onto the foam. This allowed us to get closer to the correct shape with each cut.

Once we were at the size necessary, we made a back-cut at roughly 45* around the edge of the foam. The angle of this cut will face toward the inside of the chamber being created so you will not see it. The purpose is to allow for a tighter fit of the foam against the fiberglass/Kevlar from the outside of the chamber. Note that when the pieces of foam are in place they fit fairly tight. We basically wedge them into place.

From there a little bit of sanding to taste and you are ready to S-glass the floatation. OR you could take it a next step and build cup holders into them as Kevin decided to do. I will speak more to the cup holder in future posts.

Tracing the shape of the canoe onto the Riser foam.

Tracing Canoe Shape Onto Bow Floatation Foam

The shape of the canoe traced onto the Riser foam.

Stern Rise Foam With Shape Traced On It

Cutting the Riser foam on a band saw.

Cutting Rise And Run Foam On Band Saw

Test fitting the Riser foam and marking it again to trim it even closer to the shape of the canoe.

Stern Floatation Rise Foam In Process Of Being Cut To Shape

Tracing the shape of the canoe onto the Run foam. I am running the marker along the gunnel.

Tracing The Shape For The Run Onto The Foam

Almost completed bow floatation step.

Bow Floatation Almost Complete

The final bow floatation step completed and ready for S-Glass.

Bow Floatation Ready For S-Glass


Beyond the book Building Your Kevlar Canoe: A Foolproof Method and Three Foolproof Designs, another great Kevlar canoe building resource is


April 18, 2013

Canoe Building – Key Rib Measurements

Below are a few of the key installation measurements for widths and distances of the canoe ribs. These ribs help ensure the bottom of the canoe does not “oil can”; meaning it does not flex towards the inside of the canoe upon the weight of the exterior force exerted by the water.

Width of ribs
Rib Width

Measurement from inside tip of bow to the first rib
Bow to First Rib

Measurement from inside tip of the stern to the last rib
Stern to Last Rib

Rib height from the gunwhale (forward of canoe)
Foreward Rib-to-Gunnel Height

Rib height from the gunwhale (aft of canoe)
Aft Rib-to-Gunnel Height

Distance between gunwhales
Rib Distance Apart


March 3, 2012

How to do any and every thing

How I know how to wire our 3rd bedroom

How I know how to wire our 3rd bedroom

As I have grown up I have developed many sets of skills. The kinds of skills that many people reserver for professions like construction, web design, cabinetry, marketing, electrical, automotive, computer repair, web development, and many other thing of this nature. I have never thought much of it as they are all things I have learned to do over time. Of course by this I mean slowly and with a lot of mistakes. I am always astonished when people are taken back by my knowledge of so many topics. To this point I wanted to share the un-glamourous truth of how I have been to amass so many skill-sets.

Un-Glamourous Truth of How To Learn Just About Anything

  1. Research.
  2. Apply.
  3. Researching more.
  4. Apply more.
  5. Repeat until desired results are achieved.

Google, the public library, and friends in these trades or friends with theses skills are the closest thing I have to a “secret”. It all comes down to good old fashion reading and application. With my work in adding a 3rd bedroom to our house, I am having to study up on electrical wiring as it has been at least 7 years since I have done any electrical work. To be honest the research is slow. Every detail I uncover (“learn”) opens up new rabbit hole of something else I need to research and understand. The journey and achievement of a job well done is my motivation.


June 15, 2011

Canoe Mold Build Day 8

Filling spaces with mud

Filling spaces with mud

Day 8 we focused on finishing up shaping and sanding the mold. As I have mentioned before this step of the process is about care and patience. Take your time to get the mold just right as the canoe is going to come off as a complete duplicate of the mold. There is not going to be much flexing or twisting that will allow you to “correct” any oddities in the shape.


Due to the fact that Moran gives us the guidance of having up to a half inch of gap between the foam, we realized that mud was going to need a decent amount of time to dry at that kind of thickness. So in an effort to speed up the drying time and reducing cracking I started the mudding with a simple crack filling layer. All I did was filled the large cracks that I knew would take at least few days to dry. And I was correct, the larger cracks took almost 3 days to finish drying.

Another technique I used to avoid cracking in the mud was to add water to the premixed mud. Out of the packaging the mud is about the conistensty of cake icing. To get a smoother application and less cracking I added water to achieve a consistency of pudding. While this does increase dry time the decrease in cracking is well worth it since you will spend less time applying additional coats plus you will not need as many coats. There was no precise measurement of water I added, it was essential based on visual consistency.

Tripper Canoe Mold - First coat of mud

Tripper Canoe Mold - First coat of mud

Tripper Canoe Mold - First coat of mud

Tripper Canoe Mold - First coat of mud

Filling spaces with mud

Filling spaces with mud

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