May 22, 2011

Canoe Mold Build Day 5

Kevin and I’s approach on the this project has been a 2-part strategy. Part one is that we meet weekly on Wednesdays to work on our canoe, and between our weekly meetings we each pick up relevant supplies and tools for our next meeting. Last week we had to cancel due to scheduling issue so this past week we doubled up. Day 3 and 4 were Monday and Wednesday. With foaming taking longer than the single day we thought it would we figured Wednesday would be our big day of completing the foaming. As Wednesday wrapped up and I realized this was not the case a feeling of incompleteness started shadowing the week. Not to mention with just 24-hours until church there was a definite deficiency in spiritual carbs [See Is There An App for That – Grow]. This set me up for day five of the canoe build being Friday night. I was compelled to complete the foaming by the end of the week

Day 5

Foaming complete after 3 days of work

Foaming complete after 3 days of work

Late in the evening Amy and I decided to team up and finish the foaming. As I mentioned before the foaming is a two person operation so her help was essential. Plus she had prior experience as on day 4 she did help Kevin and I by holding pieces for us. In a short 2 hours Amy and I filled in the final top section of the stations/strongback with foam. It was awesome to see the entire frame covered in foam. Plus Amy is now officially apart of the canoe build with two nights of service under her belt.

Next Steps

The next step in the canoe building process is to sand the foam. As we sand the foam to an even and consistent surface we will be determining the final shape and countours of the canoe. This will definately be a time consuming endeavor as this is where we need perfection in our work. Once the foam is sanded a few thin coats of drywall mud will be applied and then it will be time for the fiberglass.

KEY LEARNINGS

  • Amy is an amazing wife (okay maybe I knew this already).
  • Friday night foaming with the woman you love is awesome.
  • I need to be more patient with the canoe building process.
~Nathan

Canoe Mold Build – Day 3, 4

Days 3 and 4 of canoe building have resulted in most of the mold being complete, or should I say we can at least “see” the canoe. All in all I would say that the foaming of the mold is taking much longer than I though. Kevin, Amy (yes she joined in too), and I have almost 30 hours into the foaming of the strongback and stations. Based off the book it seemed like in 4 hours Kevin and I would be able to square away the foaming, but I was wrong. We encountered many challenges along the way.

Bow/Stern Installation and Truing

Strongback alignment

Strongback alignment

We left on on day 2 with the stations attached to the strongback and the bow and stern built but not attached to the strongback. Attaching the bow and stern is straightforward as they both have vertical and horizontal square marks which you line up with the T shape of the strongback. The bow and stern attach to the front and end of the strongback, they do not go on the top of the strongback like the stations. Attaching the bow and stern is as simple as aligning the marks and attaching with a few screws.

Next we stepped into the alignment of the stations and bow/stern. The goal here is to ensure that all of the stations and the bow/stern are aligned to help create a straight uniform canoe mold. Failure to do so can result in a crooked canoe, which is not going to make a very good sea going vessel. To ensure alignement we attache a string from the stern to the bow. Next we look at the square marks that are on top of the stations (we put these marks there when we transfered the drafting templates to the plywood) and ensure they line up with our string. If they do not align, then we unscrew the station from the strongback and shim it until it lines up. We go up and down the strongback doing this as needed to each station. We also want to ensure that the bow and stern are both vertically plumb. In all honesty I am not sure that Kevin and I did and I have reason to believe our bow may be “off”. More to come on that later as Kevin and I uncover the issue.

Once all of the stations are aligned with the bow/stern on the stongback, and the bow/stern are plumb we tack a small strip of wood (.75″x.25″x16.5′) from bow to stern to ensure the top of the stations do not move as we start applying the foam. This strip of wood will be removed once we get towards the top of the stations with the foam. Kevin and I tacked the strip in using a brad nailer which worked great. Moran suggested using small nails which would work also, but if you have access to a brad nailer it really speeds up the process and reduce the likelihood of moving the stations out of alignment when hamming the nails in.

Foaming

The foaming process seems simple on the surface, but comes with many little gotchas that can be avoided with a little forewarning. Cutting the foam is simple work for a circular saw with an adjustable fence and a few 2″x4″s. While simple, cutting the needed 3-4’x8′ sheets of foam does take about an hour. The goal is to cut 1 5/8″ strips of foam in a trapezoid shape. This shape allows us to lay the foam over the curves of the stations and allow space for the glue to squeeze out.

Foam Cutting

To cut the foam set the blade depth to penetrate about a 1/16″ below the depth of the foam and set an angle of 8*. Lay a couple 2″x4″s on the ground. You will set the foam on the 2″x4″s to cut and give the foam strength as you gentle walk down the foam while cutting. To get the trapezoid shape you will make a cut going direction “A”, and then you will flip the sheet of foam over on the 4′ edge and make a cut in the oposite direction (B) on the opposite edge. As you repeat this operation of flipping the foam and changing the direction you are cutting from your will create strips that are a trapezoid in shape. You will need about 2.5 sheets of foam cuttup for a 16.5′ version of the James Moran’s Tripper canoe.

Foam Installation

Foaming up the strongback

Foaming up the strongback

The installation of the foam is where the foaming process “got out of hand” time wise. Glueing 1 5/8″x1″ strips of foam accross a frame of .5″ plywood is not as fast at one would think. As this is coming from a former custom cabinet maker who is being assisted by a fellow current custom cabinet maker and licensed contractor (Kevin). So technical skills sets with the tools and materials was not exactly the challenge. Our challenges fell into a few categories: tools, twists, not enough hands.

On day three we had a single generic Tool Shor (a Menards discount brand) glue gun. This glue gun had three forms of operation (it was a single setting unit): not hot enough to melt the glue, too hot of glue which melted the foam, and the right temperature of glue. This right temperature of glue was like a rare mythical beast like the Loc Ness monster. It was spotted so rarely that it’s existence was constantly in question. This left us playing a game of force the cold glue out and how much foam can we melt as we attach. Plus the hotter glue had us spending a lot of our time just holding the foam in place while we waited for the glue to set up. The takeaway here is to buy a two heat setting gun to give you some form of control in regards to the glue temperature.

Day 2 of foaming complete

Day 2 of foaming complete

Day four we greatly improved our foaming operation. Kevin picked up a second glue gun, and more importantly one with two heat modes. On day four we truely found our groove with foaming. Both armed with low quality glue guns we attacked the strongback/stations/bow/stern with foam and glue resulting in being about 90% complete with the foam operation. The most difficult part of the foaming process was dealing with the twisting of the foam from the first/last station to the bow/stern. Towards the top of the canoe the twist was light and not much of an issue. But as the foaming operation moved up the canoe (remember the canoe is upside down as we build it) towards the bottom of the canoe the twists became more harsh, and the hot glue was having issues hold the foam to the bow/stern. On these hard twists we ended up using large amounts of glue, held the pieces for a longer time to allow the glue to set, and at the most harsh twists we used pieces of foam that only spanned from the bow/stern to the previous station.The fact of the matter is this is very challenging and will require you to excersize patience as you learn how to make the foaming of the bow/stern happen.

All in all the canoe molding is looking pretty good. We are almost done with the foaming which will then lead us into the sanding of the foam to create the final *perfected* shape of the canoe.

Key Takeaways

  • Alignment of the stations/bow & stern is CRITICAL!
  • Ensure the bow/stern are plumb. This is also CRITITCAL!
  • Foaming is a long process. Be patient. Plan to spend 2o hours on this process.
  • Definately ask a friend, spouse, neighbor, or child to help applying the foam.
  • Either ensure you have a good glue gun or ensure you have two lower quality glue guns.
  • Remember to have fun, you are building your own canoe!

 

~Nathan

May 8, 2011

Canoe Mold Build – Day 2

Thursday night Kevin and I brought together our separate work assignments to cut the stations and assemble the strongback. Kevin mentioned that when it came time to start connecting all of the points laid out by the book (James Moran’s Building Your Kevlar Canoe) on the drafting paper that a fishing pole was more useful than a French Curve as was recommended by the book. Beyond that he mentioned that drafting out the templates for the stations took a lot longer than he thought. He spent about 3 hours drafting the two sheets that each represented one half of two separate sets of stations. Keeping in mind Kevin has experience and college training in drafting, it would likely take an inexperienced guy like myself a few hours more. Food for thought.

Kevin cutting station template

Kevin cutting station template

We spent the evening transfering the paper templates to the 1/5″ plywood and then cutting out what became the stations. The templates are pretty cool in that they only represent one half of the piece you are cutting. First thing you do with the plywood is mark a centerline. You align the paper template to the center line, and trace the shape onto the wood. The you flip the template to the other side of the centerline and draw the other half. Wala, you now have a fully traced station on your plywood. Some quick work with the jigsaw, and you are ready to make the next station.

Nathan cutting station template

Nathan cutting station template

To get the template for the next station you cut a section off the template for the previous station. So the first station you cut is the largest and each subsequent station gets smaller. In the image below you can see Kevin and I cutting out the templates for our next stations.

Since Kevin and I were tag teaming this operation he took one station template and I took the other, and we went to work knocking them out. We found that tracing the templates and then cutting the plywood was quite efficient as opposed to tracing and then cutting back-and-forth. In a couple hours we had all 14 stations cut out and were ready to setup the strongback.

Kevin cutting out a station

Kevin cutting out a station

Assembling the strongback was straightforward. Since our canoe is going to have a finished length of about 16′, we needed to subtract about 31″ from the strongback as the bow and stern are attached to the ends of the strongback. The strongback is built from two 2″x6″ pieces of lumber screwed together to form a “T”. The horizontal 2″x6″ is used to straighten out the vertical 2″x6″. Achieving a perfectly straight strongback is essential to ensuring your canoe is straight. Our horizontal 2″x6″ was warped on the face edge, but fairly straight on it’s sides. This meant that as we screwed it to the vertical piece we would straighten out the face warp. Our vertical 2″x6″ was the opposite; it was warped more on the edge. In essence we performed basic wood grading for building a structure where square is important. Kevin used a tape measure to center the vertical 2″x6″ as I screwed the horizontal 2″x6″ down. We went about every 16″ down the length of the strongback to achieve a strong and straight strongback. A hand full of 3″ screws later and we had our strongback. I had built the legs myself on day one of building so all we had to do is attach them to the “T”.

Strongback built with a station sitting on top

Strongback built with a station sitting on top

Strongback assembled I went to work attaching the stations. While you would normally attach the bow and stern at this point, due to the late hour and the desire to hit certain checkpoint of completion I decided to attach the stations. Simply put we did not have the time to finish the bow and stern before Kevin had to take off and I wanted the night’s construction to end with a visual of the final shape of the canoe. Kevin and I started by marking out the spacining between the stations on the strongback. Since we shortened the Tripper canoe from 18′ to 16′ it was neccessary to change the spacing of the stations.

Chalk line snapped and squaring 2inch by 2 inch block

Chalk line snapped and squaring 2inch by 2 inch block

Once we laid out where the stations were to be placed we snapped a chalk like across the top of the strongback. This line allowed us to help ensure the stations were centered on the strongback (or at least with the other stations) which is key to a straight canoe. Once we had the chalkline I went to work screwing 2″x2″ blocks onto the strongback which the stations would screw into. As I screwed the 2″x2″ blocks down I used a straight edge to position them to ensure they were perpendicular to the strongback. The chalk line ensured the stations were placed in alignment with each other, and the squared blocks ensured that the stations where aligned with the strongback.

Next I went along the strongback attaching each station accordingly using 1″ screws. From here out next steps will be to attach the bow & stern, and run a string across the top of the canoe mold to ensure that all of the stations are properly aligned.

Strongback with stations attached

Strongback with stations attached

Canoe taking shape

Canoe taking shape

 

 

~Nathan

May 2, 2011

Started Building the Canoe Mold

Station drafting

Station drafting

Sunday afternoon commenced the first day of actual canoe construction. For the past 3-weeks Kevin and I have been meeting to discuss and read about the process, tools, and materials. We have learned a ton, and have a lot more to learn. This week Kevin is focusing on drafting the stations (think of as a rib cage for the mold) to paper, and I am acquiring lumber and rough cutting the stations. I also went ahead and created the legs for the strongback (the backbone of the mold).

On Wednesday we are planning to meet at which point we are going to cut out the stations from the drafting drawings Kevin is assembling, and we will assemble the stations onto the strongback. All in all by the end of the week we should have the frame of the mold complete.

Rough cut stations and strongback legs

Rough cut stations and strongback legs

Key Learnings

  • Hacking up some lumber is a great way to end a weekend. Garage smells great, and since it was only rough cuts all the parts turned out perfect.
  • Kevin and I’s weekly meeting with action items between the meetings is going well and driving results.
  • We are actually building a canoe. This is going to be LEGEND……..wait…for…it……..DARY!
~Nathan
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