Thursday, June 30, 2011

More Boat Strength

I got my copy of Boat Strength in the mail.  Gosh, it's hardcover.  Editing has gotten looser than it used to be.  In cursory reading I found two mistakes.  Nothing fatal. Stuff like a missing hyphen when a word is broken at the end of a line and continued on the next.  Still, it indicates that other errors could lurk in places where it matters.  I'm nitpicking here.  15 years ago when I last had to deal with a publisher, the guy who was editing my book, The Aleutian Kayak was telling me how the publisher wanted them to edit more books every year.  Ideally, from the publisher's standpoint, editors could be replaced by computers. I think the publishers are now trying to publish books with minimum human input other than that of the writer and it's starting to show.
On to substantive matters.
As I suspected, kayak builders can dispense with a book like this, but if you want to build anything more ambitious than a kayak, this book might be of help.  Wooden boat building gets about a hundred pages.  Fiberglass, steel and aluminum gets the rest.  I suppose that if you wanted to build a kayak in steel plate, you might find some useful info in the metals section.  But the books has various nuggets of useful info, like what kinds of aluminum alloys can withstand salt water, in case you want to build a George Dyson Aluminum frame type kayak.

There are other nuggets of wisdom in this book, like the tradeoffs between weight and strength and cost of various materials.  For instance, aluminum is not as strong as steel, but is lighter so the strength of steel can be had by using thicker aluminum and total weight will still be less.  But then aluminum costs a lot more than steel and the savings in weight come at a cost of more money.  Nothing comes for free after all.
So, as I suspected, not a must have for kayak builders but a good addition for the library of someone with higher ambitions or a simple love of boat building knowledge.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strength of Materials

I just ordered a copy of this book and hope to report on it in more detail later.  I have read most of Dave Gerr's other book, The Nature of Boats and found that one helpful.  So I'm hoping that this one will be as well. 
Dave Gerr is a professional boat designer and explains the major issues that a boat designer has to deal with in easy to understand terms in the Nature of Boats. In this particular book, he gets into the details of how strong you have to make boat parts so the boat doesn't break.
Strength isn't much of an issue for kayak builders.  Long as you follow traditional guidelines the boats will be strong enough.  Most of the time, most kayak builders that I know want to make their boats as light as possible for ease of transport.  You can push that envelope all you want.  If a boat breaks, it's no big deal for the most part since you didn't put much money into it in the first place and with a skin on frame boat, breakage of frame parts is seldom catastrophic or life threatening. 
Not so if you build bigger boats.  More money is at stake and maybe lives and cargo and professional reputations, so it behooves the big boat builder to have some notion of how strong is strong enough. 
The book will soon be on its way and I will report on  whether any of the material in it will benefit the average skin on frame kayak builder.

Don't Let Others Plan Your Future

I've been reading the latest article at Low-tech Magazine. I read that kind of stuff because skin of frame technology is relatively low-tech and I'm always curious what other sorts of low tech activities people are attracted to. 
So, having explained that, let me get on to my main point which is other people's conception of what the future will be like and how to plan for it.
Low-tech mag imagines a post-carbon future, one where cheap carbon fuels will not be available. Whether you believe that a low carbon future is imminent or not is more or less irrelevant.  The point of low tech mag is to imagine how we would deal with it.  We can join in on that exercise whether we believe in a low carbon future or a future of ever increasing bounty.

So getting back to the magazine, their latest article focuses on bicycle powered gadgetry, like this bicycle-powered grinder.  Not a bad idea, really, assuming that in the imaginary carbon-less future you will have access to all the component parts you will need to realize this low-tech vision.
Now on to the scary part of this particular low-tech vision, using bicycle power to generate electricity.  This vision isn't scary in and of itself. Using one bicycle to generate electricity isn't all that bad.  I used to have a bike with a headlight that ran off a generator.  It made pedaling harder, but you didn't have to replace any batteries. 
Someone has imagined what looks to me something like the slave-galley of cartoons, rows and rows of haggard men in chains pedaling away for hours a day to generate electricity for someone else.  Here is the statement from the people who envisioned this scheme:
"electricity could be generated in large pedal powered electricity plants, and then distributed to houses, shops, public spaces and factories. This is more efficient than doing it in each house separately because you can do away with the batteries and still offer electricity 24 hours a day. Power plants would simply add more pedallers when demand is high (such as during peaks hours) and send them home when demand is low (at night, for instance)."
And who the hell would want to work at this job? Certainly not the guy who thought of it.  Imagine what your butt would look like after 8 or twelve hours of sitting on one of those milk crates.  Thank you, no.  I would rather have a post-carbon future without electricity if this is what it takes.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Wooden Boat Building Books

I've listed a whole bunch of wooden boat building books in my Amazon book store. Not that I'm interested in traditional wooden boat building all that much.  Traditional wooden boats weigh too much.  You either need storage on the water or a boat trailer and trailer storage to own one of these boats. 
But traditional wooden boats were powered by human power or wind and therefore had to be efficient and will potentially lend themselves to skin on frame construction by which almost any small boat can be made to come in under 100 pounds.
So, traditional wooden boat designs lend themselves to building in skin on frame.  There are certain limitations which you have to overcome or simply avoid, but since wooden boats were built by bending wood over a framework, the shapes of wooden boats are possible to emulate in sof.  You won't find any curves on a traditional wooden boat that can't be copied in skin. In addition to giving you plans of wooden boats, these wooden boat books also give you advice on what sort of environments these boats might be good for.
Maybe I'm a little too optimistic on the topic of adapting wooden boat designs to skin on frame, having only built three sof boats that were based on wooden originals and two of them boats with bark for skin instead of wooden planking, but still, I think the idea is a good one.
Only one major caveat needs to be mentioned.  Being lighter, an sof boat will sit higher in the water and have less momentum than its wooden skinned original, something you might have to correct with ballast.  But heck, as Pete Culler once wrote, experience begins when you start building.

Native Art at the Alaska Native Medical Center

The largest assemblage of contemporary Alaskan Native Arts and Crafts that I've seen is not at any museum but at  the Alaska Native Medical Center, ANMC. If you go there, find the elevator. Take it to the top floor of the center, then look for the stairwell.  Walk down and you will find displays in the stairwell as well as on every floor.  Lots of wonderful stuff. Everything from model sleds to dolls to beadwork to ivory walruses.  And there's a gift shop.  You should check for hours if you actually intend to buy something. According to a friend, their prices are considerably better than commercial galleries.  Not cheap by any means - This isn't 1930 but good values are to be had and the stuff is top quality, no painted rocks or spirit catchers.

2011 Urban Unangax^ Culture Camp in Anchorage

Should you find yourself in Anchorage during the week of July 7-13 stop by the Urban Unangax^ Culture Camp at the APIA headquarters.  Lots of stuff going on, including Mike Livingston, John Petersen and myself building traditional kayaks. Don't stop by on Sunday because nobody will be there. But any weekday or Saturday we'll be there.
Check out the video for an overview of the doin's.
Check out the APIA Web site for more info on the APIA.
The APIA headquarters is at 1131 East International Airport Rd.
Anchorage Alaska 99518

Friday, June 3, 2011

Deep Thought

I created a subject category in my Amazon book store called "Deep Thought." I thought it might be worth explaining what I mean by Deep Thought. 
First off, I should disclose that Deep Thought, (deep thought from now on - I hate typing upper case) is not my concept.  One of the news sites that I follow occasionally groups various articles under that category. 
What is now called deep thought is what used to be called thought.  But with the advent of the internet and infotainment, what passes for thought has degraded to a melange of received wisdom, prejudice, rants and simple running of the mouth. And so, legitimate thinking of any kind had to be promoted to deep thought.  Well, OK, I'll play along.
So why would a kayak builder need deep thought?  Well, it comes up for me whenever I feel the need to justify the building of kayaks with traditional technology.  Why, my detractors ask, would you restrict yourself to building kayaks, an outmoded form of technology with more outmoded technology?  The true answer, "because it appeals to me," isn't particularly satisfying to most people.  So I feel compelled to explain in terms of some sort ideas that they can relate to. Or at least, I can try to snow them with so much academic falderal that they go away quietly.

The question of why use one type of technology rather than another is one that intrigues me.  And it's one that leads me to thermodynamics and complexity a subject covered by Ilya Prigogine in his books. I'll get back to this topic in some future post.  Since it requires thinking rather than just typing, it may be a while till I get to it.

Then I have also listed Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac under Deep Thought, not so much for the deep thinking as for sentimental reasons because Aldo Leopold's cabin was near an island in the Wisconsin River where I spent a good number of summer weekends camping and swimming and fishing.  I have read the book, but it was a while ago and I can't remember any deep thoughts from it.  Will have to try again.

Finally, more deep thinking by a man named Rod Swenson. Rod has published a number of articles, some available HERE that answered some nagging questions I had about thermodynamics, specifically entropy which is all about a trend away from order and life, technology and culture which are trends toward order.  This again relates to the topic of technology and what makes one kind of technology better or more successful than another.  I will get back to this topic as well, but here's a quick teaser:  The deciding factor of which technology wins at any given moment according to Swenson is the law of maximum entropy production.  The winning technology at any given moment is the one that most quickly uses up available energy in a given environment.  Again, more on this at a future time.  And in case you're wondering, is skin on frame building technology the one that best burns available energy?  The answer is no.  But I think it's more complex than that, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Further Kayak Musings

In the process of selecting books for my Amazon sub store on this blog, it became apparent to me that I wasn't picking any stitch and glue or strip building books.  It became apparent to me that I have no interest in that sort of thing.  What I like about skin on frame building is its spontaneity.  Want a wider boat? Pry the gunwales apart with a longer stick, and so on all along the way.  You make changes on the fly.  Strip and stitch and glue seem to take more planning and forethought.  Not a bad idea to decide what you want to build before building it, but for a guy like me who has no real schooling in boat theory and hydrodynamics, the seat of the pants approach is more appealing.  There is also an excess of epoxy and fiberglass and sanding involved in strip and stitch and glue building, at least for my taste.  I'll leave these things for others. 

Skinboat Journal Store

I've added an store to my blog.  It's a subset of stuff that Amazon sells.  For now it's mostly books about kayaking and boat building that I have read and found to be useful.  I intend to add tools and other kayak related hardware.  Stay tuned.  If you buy something from Amazon by way of my store, I get a small percentage.  Ha. Not quite enough to retire on I'm sure. 

The only downside to this scheme is that I can't add my own review for store items except directly on the Amazon site.  So you get to see my opinion on an item along with all the others.  The reason I mention this is that for the most part, I only list things that I recommend but in some cases, I list things as examples of stuff you should steer away from.  So if an item falls into the steer away from category, I would like to have some way to alert you to that fact.  Maybe I'll create a steer away from sub category.