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Welcome The Raven (long)
By:Frank Malinowski
Date: 8/3/2001, 1:46 am

Welcome the Raven


How did you celebrate turning fifty?

Pre Boat Part:

For my wife a couple years ago it was easy. She wanted to stay at a fancy
hotel, the Fairmount in San Francisco. So stay there we did and it was as
wonderful as she wanted. Oh, and she got a Miata to replace her aging Honda Civic.

So my birthday was coming up and she wanted to know what I wanted to do to celebrate. A party? A trip? No, I told her I wanted to build a kayak. This came as a bit of a surprise as she could count the number of minutes I had spent working on things in the garage in our 8 years of marriage. Not to mention that one could barely walk into the garage, we actually added
shelves and there were boxes everywhere.

It was also a surprise in that my wife has seen me as not particularly
handy, except for computers. I will happily work on a computer, take it
apart, add things and change things. I like the hardware side a bit more
than the software. I have used computers since my first IBM XT (and its 5 successors) in 1986 when I was on the internet.(I actually do work for NASA). But in 1993 I became really involved with Macs at home, first a Performa 450, a Powerbook 180 and later a Starmax which is upgraded to the hilt and within 10% of the speed of my wife's G4 Titanium Powerbook. I also help maintain the computers at my son's school.

And I do enjoy working on cars a bit although systems have grown too
complicated for a lot of home alteration. I have a 1992 Ford Taurus SHO the engine is so complicated they might as well have welded the hood shut. But the 1985 VW Westfalia camper can be counted on to give me a challenge every now and then. It keeps me greasy and taught me to swear in German.

But this boat idea was something else. Now I come from a long line (well
father & grandfather and two brothers anyway) of non-professional but capable woodworkers. That gene or those learned skills never seemed to rub off on me. As a kid I was more interested in media, electronics, reading, school and anything else away from my dad's workshop. It seemed my dad could make anything out of wood. My dad died years ago but I treasure some of his wood carvings. My grandfather’s ancient vice sits virtually unused on my work table, it must be 100 years old now.
Before WWII my dad had built a birch bark canoe and my father in law had
built a canvas on frame kayak before going in the service. Now it was my
turn. I studied the net, read several books and took a lot of mental notes.
There was a lot to like about wood boats, they are light and can be
customized to an individuals proportions. I could go for plans but when I
looked around it seemed like there was not a lot to be saved but not getting a kit. When I added the time to get the wood and the trouble cutting it and the chance that any mistake would make the cost over the kit it was an easy enough decision. The decision was to get a stitch and glue kit.

Boat Part I, Selection:

But which boat?

I looked at the CLC and Pygmies primarily. I talked to a fellow who had
both. And I talked to ones that had specific models. I looked over beautiful
models at kayak demo days. A few years back I had visited Pygmy Kayaks in Pt. Townsend, WA and tried several of their boats. I did not remember much except that they were pretty, light, did not handle the chop especially well and the big ones, the Queen Charlotte I think, were way too big for me. I felt blown around a good bit and preferred the stability of my sit on top kayak (Aquaterra Prism w/rudder) or my folding kayaks (Folbot single & double). But I searched the models and decided on an Osprey Standard. I had looked at the Arctic Tern and even talked to a couple fellows who built them. I just think they were a bit too large. I was going to do mostly day paddles. If I were going on an expedition I would probably use my folding kayak as it can carry 600 lbs. of stuff, be sailed and it would take a tsunami to turn it over. But for day stuff it was slow. I preferred the 15' 8" length as that was about all I could fit into my very small garage.. Also I suspect my wife would want to paddle it sometime and a larger boat would be even more of a problem for her 5' 2" frame and light weight.

So around my birthday last year (Oct 200) I placed the order. Some time in
November it arrived and promptly not much happened. I cleaned out a corner of the garage and built a 16' X 2' platform to put over the three saw horses I put together. In December I started gluing the butt joints.

Now, the only really useful advice I could provide would be the very long
story of "what I would do different if I ever build another boat". Right off
it started very slow as I could only do one side off two or three but joints
at a time. This is not an efficient use of epoxy, a lot was wasted.. The System 3 stuff with the pumps really works but makes too much for small applications. The few times I tried mixing the proportions without the pumps everything went wrong and I got to sand it out and start again.

Time went on and there was precious little progress. Not until May of this
year did I start to drill out the holes and stitch the wood pieces together.
So I really consider my serious start time to be May. An organized person
could have done all the previous work in 2 or 3 days of time and just a few
hours in effort. But having a workspace that was 16 ft X 2 ft is a limiting

Boat Part II, Construction:

But I finally did get into it and started drilling the holes, stitching the
wires, putting in the cross frames, and gluing the joints Then the wires
came out and the epoxy process started. Most folks reading this know the
process or steps involved. I glued the seams, glassed the outer hull,
glassed the inner hull, taped the inner deck and glassed the outer deck.
Sounds easy and fast but it wasn't for me anyway.

A particularly difficult point for me was the endpour/hull mating to the
deck. (Pygmy does an endpour at the time of the hull and deck joining not at the end of the assembly). I had matched them once with a good bit of
tugging and pushing. I added a few extra wires beyond the minimal two in the process and the overall alignment pretty much came into place. But when the endpour step came the epoxy expanded so fast and so hot that the hull & deck would never merge. I scooped out some epoxy mixture, applied a lot of clamps, added more hull/deck wires and got a rough approximation of the
necessary alignment but not as neat as before this critical step. Eventual
application of filing, sandpaper, and epoxy applications from later steps
resulted in an acceptable product but three really was a potential for a
more perfect union.

Then came the sanding. As I understand it the only thing worse than putting on too much epoxy is putting on two little. Well I didn't have that problem. Maybe I put on two or three times more than some expert because I spent many, many hours with a ROS and paper from 60 grit up to 240, with plenty in the lower range. I have heard that an hour or two with a ROS (Random Orbital Sander) and an hour or two by hand should be enough well I expect I had an actual time of 20 hours of sander on boat and maybe as many by hand as well and I was barely starting to hit fiberglass. My wife wondered how there could be any wood
left with all the sanding and my neighbors came by to admire the work and
assure me that they didn't see any need for more sanding, such a fine
looking finish but I suspect they just couldn't put up with all the sanding
And the boat does look good---from 10 feet away, just do not get close. I
have probably made every error possible (except for basic alignment) and
maybe a few more that I have no way to describe. I wanted a 'perfect'
furniture quality finish and I rapidly settled for a 'well I'm going to be
bashing it into sand docks, rocks and shells so what the hell' finish.

Boat Part IV, Paddling!!:

This part, the most important part, I will fill in shortly am arranging to
take my wife & son and any interested guests to witness the launch and first paddle this weekend and I will post it and a picture here.

Boat Part, Constructive Suggestions:

If I were ever to do this again I would find a space to lay out all the
pieces and glue the butt joints at one time. Second I would find a process
to measure out correct proportions of smaller amounts of epoxy. Third I
would pay more attention to which piece of wood would end up on the outside
of the hull for reasons of looks and protective care from scratches and
bumps. I spent a lot of time sanding and caring for wood that would never
see the light of day so who cares if there is an epoxy dribble or scratch there?
Another thing I would do is find some way to mount the cross frames with
either much less glue or use some kind of glue that I could more easily
remove the residue. I would spend a lot more time on the hull/deck marriage. I would mix less epoxy for the endpour and maybe do something to slow down the cure process for this part. I needed more time. A lot more time for this step.

Boat Part V, Modifications

The boat is fairly stock Pygmy Osprey STD with a couple extra pounds of
epoxy. The first and only significant change was to mount the footpegs on
the inside of the hull before joining the deck. I avoided drilling holes
through the hull. I built up a wood strip and glued the pedal base to it.
Looks and works well. I expect that really large size feet would miss the
extra inch of space but it works as well as the normal mounting for my size nine feet. I did not add hatches. This will be mostly a day boat for me. I am accustomed to air bags and have them already so I am not worried about basic flotation. I did add a small eye hook on the inside of the bow and stern and put a light nylon line through it when building the hull. This will allow me to pull bags all the way to the front and rear of the boat and will secure them as well. This will help with trimming the boat as well, being able to get weight the far points of the boat.

I decided on the name RAVEN from my exposure to the Northwest Indians. As I understand it Raven is a playful even a 'trickster' god. I am hoping that the tricky part applies to the construction process and the playful part to paddling trips. If I find the right image I will put a design on the hull or deck. I don't know how to stencil it but that is not a priority.

I suspect I will change the seat. I have never found a seat I really like
that comes with a kayak. I have 2 sit on top kayak seats, two from my Folbot folding kayaks and a couple from elsewhere. I like the idea that the seat bottom is inflatable but I do not like the feel of the Pygmy backband on my back. This I will play with until I get it the way I want. After the boat and the paddle the next most important feature for me is a seat and I will make it work.

So welcome the RAVEN, I wanted a better finish, one my dad would be proud of. I know I will feel his presence with my family when I launch this weekend. It looks like the boat will function very well. Its taken me almost 50 years to start my woodworking lessons, as late as it is my dad would be proud of that.

Messages In This Thread

Welcome The Raven (long)
Frank Malinowski -- 8/3/2001, 1:46 am
Raven = Wisdom
!RUSS -- 8/4/2001, 8:25 am
funny thing happened at the barbers the other day
Pete Notman -- 8/3/2001, 4:29 pm
Mine has plenty of soul *NM*
Tony -- 8/8/2001, 2:13 pm
Re: Welcome The Raven
Rob Macks -- 8/3/2001, 1:09 pm
Digital scale for measure
Tony -- 8/8/2001, 2:12 pm
Re: Digital scale for measure
Pete Rudie -- 8/12/2001, 6:48 pm
Re: Digital scale for measure
Tony -- 8/15/2001, 1:22 pm
Re: Digital scale for measure
Pete Rudie -- 8/16/2001, 3:01 pm
Re: Marking epoxy pump shafts
Shawn Baker -- 8/3/2001, 6:27 pm
Re: Marking epoxy pump shafts
Bill Sivori -- 8/3/2001, 8:26 pm
Re: Marking epoxy pump shafts
Rehd -- 8/3/2001, 9:25 pm
Syringes *Pic*
Bill Price -- 8/4/2001, 3:24 am
Re: Congratulations and Safe paddling! *NM*
Shawn Baker -- 8/3/2001, 10:57 am
congratulations on completion . Enjoy! :) *NM*
Paul G. Jacobson -- 8/3/2001, 2:49 am