Thursday, December 12, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayak Construction - more frame photos

Yesterday I set up the frame of the EA kayak and gave it a second coat of linseed oil.  With the keelson blocked in and the deck upright, it is easier to see what the boat will look like when finished.  Supposedly, the finished boat will not trim with the waterline parallel to the keelson.  The keelson will in fact sit lower in the front than in back. But we will see. 
Nose forward view accentuates the upsweep of the deck forward of the cockpit.
View from the back shows the downward slope of the deck at the steern.
And one more view from a slightly lower angle.
At this point, I find myself wondering what this boat will turn into and how it will behave.  This is of course one of the compelling things about building a boat of a kind one has never built before.  Invariably, there will be some disappointments and in time, pleasant surprises as well.  Still, if nothing else, the curved lines of a boat are delightful to look at.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayak Construction - Blocking in the keelson

My last post on the EA kayak, probably should be called EC kayak for Eastern Canadian kayak, mentioned that I blocked in the keelson.  But I didn't have any photos yet.  Now I do. 
This view shows the pieces of two by four that hold the keelson at the desired distance from the deck. Pieces of rope hold the chunks of wood in place.
Here's an overview of the entire assembly.  I installed a block of wood at each deck beam.  I usually do this since when I install steam bent ribs; they push up on the keelson and distort its shape unless I lash the keelson down very securely. But in this case, the ribs will be flat and exert no pressure on the keelson and so would not need all this blocking. I kept the keelson pretty straight.  Regular EA kayaks have some upsweep near the stern to let the kayak turn into the wind when the hunter is approaching game.  But for recreational kayak, turning into the wind is an annoyance and not an asset and so I have chosen to keep the keelson straight.
Here's a view of the setup for an EA kayak. The rib blanks have been inserted into their mortises and await bending.  The height of the ribs will be judged by eye and the keelson won't be added until all the ribs are in place.  This is probably more efficient than what I am doing if you know what the bottom profile of the boat should look like.  I imagine they bent a few key ribs and filled in the rest for a smooth transition between them.

The Yurt Gets a Door and other improvements

The sixteen foot yurt has lived for over a year without a door.  But now that it has a stove, I discovered that the yurt loses heat quickly without a door.  Actually, I already knew that, but since my improvements on the yurt tend to be on a just in time basis, having a source of heat made a door imperative.  The first stab at a door was to just staple some pieces of vinyl banner to the door frame, but in a wind they were practically useless.  So the next step was to build a door with a wooden frame, something more substantial that would actually keep the drafts out.
The stove, blazing away.
The stove pipe now has a hat which keeps the rain out of the pipe but the smoke hole needs some flashing around the pipe so the tarp that covers the hole in the rain doesn't get melted by the heat from the stove pipe.
One of my neighbors at the shop has donated a chair, a mockup for the console/chair for the boat he is building.
And here is the new door, a wooden frame with a piece of plastic banner stapled to the front of it.
And here is a view of the door from the outside. Love that shanty-town look.
Closeup on the latch mechanism. The string goes through a hole on the top and another on the bottom.  When outside the door, you pull the top string to pull up the latch or the bottom string to pull the latch down. 
By the way, the yurt has now withstood 65 mile an hour winds and survived.  Little by little, small improvements make it a better structure.  Surprisingly, the most challenging task was how to keep the roof in place since wind going over the top of the roof creates a vacuum which wants to lift the roof cover up and then blow it off.  An improved tiedown system did the job.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayak Construction - Interlude

Yesterday I blocked in the keelson on  the inverted deck of the kayak in preparation for installing the ribs.  I am now at a crossroads where there are a number of ways to construct the ribs.  Not knowing exactly what the shape of the bottom of the kayak should be since I have never built this type of kayak before, I have to come up with a way to do this.  I can think of any number of ways to proceed but would like to go with the aboriginal scheme of shaping the ribs, whatever that is. 
Zimmerly is of no help here. His article in Sea Kayaker gives you the exact dimensions to cut the ribs to.  This only works if you also shaped the deck exactly like he instructed.  Since my deck is not shaped like his, his dimensions will do me no good.
I could do the ribs the way I normally do them, that is, steam bend them which would produce rounded chines and a slightly rounded bottom, but I want to go for the flat bottom and hard bends in the ribs approach that is more common for the EA kayak.  I guess I will just have to experiment and see what happens.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayak Construction - Doweling and lashing the deck beams

In the previous post we looked at cutting and installing all the deck beams.  I chose to temporarily nail them in place.  While the method I chose is not traditional for this type of boat, it works well enough and is quick.  The Eastern Arctic method is one of digging shallow divots in the sides of the gunwales and pointing the ends of the deck beams to fit into the divots. See the Zimmerly Sea Kayaker Article for details on how this works. The main advantage of this approach is that if you don't have steel tools, it is an easier way to do the joinery since it doesn't require as much precise cutting.  The lashing which comes next holds the ends of the deck beams in their divots.  This method was also apparently used in Greenland until contact with whalers made steel available to them.  East Greenlanders also used the divot method.
The following photos show some details of my hybrid approach of doweled deck beams and traditional running lashing. Doing lashings like everything else in kayak constructions can be done in a number of different ways.  Aside from the lashing patterns themselves there is also the local vs. the running lashing approach.  Running lashings seem to be favored where the lashing material is rawhide.  Where string was available, lashings were more likely to be tied off at each joint.  Another factor in the decision of which way to go was the strength of the lashing material.  Weaker string would take multiple turns at each joint which favors tying off the string.  Running lashings favor a stronger binding medium like rawhide since a break of the lashing anywhere along its length would make the whole run unravel. 
This lashing runs left to right.  The string goes into a hole in the gunwales under the deckbeam to the outside of the gunwale.  Then it goes up in another hole in the gunwale and exits at the top of the gunwale.  Next it goes through the deck beam, loops around the string coming in at the left and heads off on the right.
This shot shows the lashing moving from deck beam to deck beam. The lashing material is tarred seine twine a little under an eighth of an inch in diameter running through 3/16th inch holes.  The tarred seine twine is stiff enough so that it can be pushed through the holes without the need to additional tools.
A view from the outside showing both the dowels and the lashing coming out of the gunwale at the bottom and then heading right in again above.  Note that one of the downsides of dowels and this lashing scheme is that you have to be careful not to drill through the dowels when making the lashing holes.

A view of the lashings from below the deck beam.  The lashing makes its way through the gunwales and comes back again, taking off to the right after looping around its incoming arm from the left.
And finally, a side view of the arrangement.  Note that the deck beams sits about 3/4 of an inch below the top of the gunwale.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayak Construction - adding the deck beams

Construction progresses.  After I set up the deck, I started adding deck beams.  They are temporarily nailed in place 3/4 inches below the top of the gunwales. 

Before starting to add deck beams, it is a good idea to stabilize the deck by lashing the ends together and also doweling the two sides together so they don't shift with respect with each other which would cause asymmetry in the deck.
The deck prior to pegging the ends and dropping in deck beams.
And here, at the end of the day, all the flat deck beams are trial nailed in place.  You could of course dowel all the deck beams in place as you go but trial nailing them lets you do some last minute adjustments in deck shape before committing to more permanent joinery.
The last two deck beams to be added are the two curved ones just fore of the cockpit.  Shaping them is more time consuming than shaping the flat ones.  Unlike the flat deck beams which are mounted 3/4 inches below the top of the gunwales, the curved beams are mounted flush with the tops of the gunwales.  A batten is temporary clamped in place to show the curve that the deck stringer will take.  The beam just in front of the cockpit will elevate the front of the coaming 4 inches above the deck.
And here is a view down the length of the boat with all the deck beams in place.  The number of beams, coincidentally is less than in a traditional boat to keep down the overall weight of the finished boat.
And just before I started adding in the two curved deck beams, I had a crisis of faith about where the widest part of the boat should be.  Seemed like it wasn't far back enough.  But then I checked back with the drawing in Arima's book on EA kayaks and it appears that my placement was OK.  Seems that the original for this adaptation was a demo boat done for a Canadian museum and was shorter than the type usually is because available lumber was only 16 feet long.  So a shorter version with a slightly more forward beam was built.  In any case, the first boat of a type is never just right and gets modified when the second one is built.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayak Construction - Shaping the Deck

I've got the deck of the Eastern Arctic Kayak (EAK) set up.  Beam is something like 29 inches at 90 inches from the stern. I figured that the first three feet of the boat weren't in the water so I would put the widest part of the boat more or less in the middle of the part that was in the water which worked out to be at about 90 inches from the back.
View from the bow end. There's a windlass just back of the bow to pinch in the sides. Aside from the coils of rope that hold the ends together, three spreaders fix the shape of the deck.  The middle of the three spreaders fixes the beam.  The other two spreaders widen the deck by some amount fore and abaft the middle spreader.
Here's an oblique view of the deck, this time from the left rear toward the bow.  The bow rises and the stern drops.  The deck turned out pretty symmetrical, something that sometimes takes some struggle to achieve.  But I cut both gunwales from the same piece of lumber that had been laying outside for about a year, giving it time to stabilize from its green state when I bought it, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that it turned out.
And I forgot to mention in the previous post on shaping the gunwales that I backed up the Gorilla glue with some stainless steel screws. My experience with Gorilla glue is that it isn't that strong given the kinds of surfaces that I glue together, that is, unless the two surfaces being glued are both smooth and in good contact, you don't get a very good bond.  Hence the screws.  I could have driven some dowels in there too, but screws seemed just a bit faster and I had a box of them and wanted to try and given that the pieces of the gunwales do not need to move relative to each other, rigid joinery is OK
When it comes to something like the gunwales, what matters is the shape and not the details of how the shape is achieved.  I used to think that these things needed to be done in a traditional manner like with doweled scarfs and no glue or screws, but then doweled scarfs were not particularly traditional anyway.  Much of what we think of traditional kayak building technology evolved in post contact times, that is, post contact with European traffic which introduced both new materials and tools.  The only truly traditional part of kayak building is to do the job the best you can with the tools and materials available to you.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayak - Reconstruction, sort of

I have started the construction of an Eastern Arctic Kayak based more or less on the information provided by Dr. David Zimmerly in various articles.  Zimmerly's own reconstruction is, as he states in his article in Sea Kayaker Magazine, a composite of various designs.
My own construction is in turn a variation on Zimmerly's interpretation. 
Major deviation for me is that I did not want a 22 foot kayak and so shot for something more like 17 feet long and lighter in weight,  hoping to keep is under 50 pounds rather than ending up with a 65 pounder.
Step one is the fabrication of the gunwales which for the Eastern Arctic Kayak are a good deal more complex than two straight boards I normally use for building Unangan style kayaks.
Whereas Zimmerly built his gunwales from two lengths of 3/4 by 5-1/2 boards scarfed together, I started with a 16 foot two by four that I ripped down the middle giving me something like two 5/8 x 3-1/2 x 16 boards which I then built up to approximate the Zimmerly design.  Lots of clamps and Gorilla glue in use. I used Gorilla glue rather than epoxy because Gorilla sets up faster and is easier to clean up than epoxy and less hard on tools.

Here the nose piece goes on.  The design I am copying has the gunwales more or less flat up to the front of the cockpit, then rising from there forward.

After the glue has dried, I faired the lumps out of the top of the gunwales resulting in something like the above.

Here I am using a spline to draw the part of the bottom of the gunwales that I intend to remove.

And here's the whole thing with the top faired and the bottom scooped out.  The gunwales are made to rise amidships because normally, when you bend them, the middle drops down.  The rise counteracts that drop to give you a more or less flat deck.

And some additional rise at the bow to help the bow stay out of the waves.

And that's how it looks faired and trimmed.

And finally, the long view.

I am thinking I probably overdid the midship rise in the gunwales by at least an inch, but I'll stay with it since it doesn't affect the bottom of the hull at all.  Sometimes it is good to go with one's mistakes just to see how much harm they do to the proper functioning of the boat.  After that you can speak with authority on why the way you did it was not a good idea.  Still, you have to admit that what I ended up with looks pretty cool.  And by the way, when you do gunwales that are 3-1/2 inches deep, you don't need fancy lumber since small knots don't affect the structural integrity of the end product by much.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayak - Historical Construction Photos

I have some historical photos of Eastern Arctic kayak construction.  I have no idea where I got them.  But here they are.  Mostly what I want to comment on is the fact that while these photos don't reveal all that much, they do reveal some general specifics about Arctic kayak construction methodology.
The most important revelation to me is that these boats were built without the benefit of any sort of building platform other than what looks like pretty bumpy ground.  What this means is that in order to get a symmetrical boat, the builders had to rely on the parts of the boat itself to achieve symmetry.  The deck, once built became the building platform for the rest of the boat.
This boat frame appears to be almost done.  The builder appears to be doing some trimming with a hand saw, or maybe he is just using the deck of the kayak for a saw horse to cut a piece of wood.
Meanwhile, a little earlier in the building process, this builder has inserted some rib blanks into their mortises.  Bending and trimming the ribs remains to be done. 
Women are covering a finished frame in canvas.  It looks as though they will have some canvas left over.  The fact that they are using canvas indicates that this photo was taken very near the end of the era of kayak construction.  And the building site is remarkable for its ruggedness.  No nicely swept floor, strictly open air.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Killed the Kayak? Aleut Version - Akutan, Alaska

Akutan, Alaska is an island in the Aleutians and once a place where people paddled kayaks as a part of making a living.  Nowadays the biggest industry on the island is a fish processing plant.  Trawlers scrape the bottom of the ocean for fish and bring them to the processing plant to have them turned into product suitable for sale in the lower 48. The Aleut population of the island actually has very little to do with the fish plant other than extracting rent from them.  Still, the kayak as a tool for hunting, fishing and whaling is no longer in use.
The fish plant at Akutan.
Photo courtesy of Kurt Schmidt

The big  rusty things are doors on a trawl. Picture a net like a large sock with one of these doors on either side sliding along the bottom and funneling fish into the sock.  Nothing escapes.
Human added for scale.
Iron weights hold the bottom of the net close to the bottom of the ocean.

Bye, bye Akutan Kayaks.

What Killed the Kayak? Aleut Version - Sand Point, AK

Sand Point, Alaska is home to one of the larger fishing fleets in the Aleutians.  The pictures below show the boats which have replaced the kayaks of the Unangan (Aleut) hunters.

Good bye, kayaks.