Outer Island Project: The Sequel

Page 3


This probably should've been discussed way up front at the beginning of the project, but you get what you pay for around here.

I shop for wood year 'round, whether I have a project going on or not, because it's not always easy to find good clear suitable lumber with nice color variations. I'd guess that maybe one in five visits to a lumber yard actually results in a purchase, and even then sometimes it's only one board.

I don't care what the dimensional size of the lumber is, I'm just looking for good clear suitable wood with as little waste as possible. If there's a bonanza of good stuff, then selection is based on lightest and darkest colors, and lightest weight.

This involves sorting and sifting through stacks and stacks of lumber, and it's done just as you fear; there's no easy way to do it. I am careful to leave the stacks as neat, or neater, than I found them not only out of common decency, but also because inconsiderate jackasses cause many lumber dealers to prohibit hand-picking due to chaotic messes left behind.

After milling into finished strips that are ready to use, each board is bundled and taped to maintain color consistency. Note the nice color contrasts; it's all western red cedar found in home improvement stores.

I got the idea for a pneumatic staple here: http://www.kayakforum.com/cgi-bin/Building/index.cgi 

Jury is out on how I like it, but all indications so far are that I shall call it a keeper. In the meantime, it's wicked fun to take target practice on the trash can. You can go through some staples getting carried away, but I'm not worried; the smallest package of staples I could find contains like ten billion, and cost less than fifteen bucks. A small price to pay for relieving tension by pretending you're shooting at a lumber stack messer-upper dude.

Update: It's a keeper, no question about it. The staples are slimmer and daintier than hardware store staples; very little pressure is required to fire 'em, so is a lot easier on the ol' carpal tunnel syndrome and makes placement more accurate. The rows of staples are planted very consistently and the crowns stand proud of the surface perfectly thanks to the added brass space, which makes their eventual removal much easier. 

The acid test for tools around here is: if something were to happen to it, would I replace it, and if so, how quickly? Answer for the air stapler: yes, and promptly.

Porter-Cable Model US58T2 Upholstery Stapler.



When you enjoy Eskimo rolling as much as I do, no way can you have just a plain-jane bottom on your boat. I mean, there needs to be something for peanut gallery loiterers to look at when you're hanging out upside down. Also, the woodworker in me can't help but see all that available real estate as a blank canvas. So . . .

Ever since I saw this picture several years ago I've been impressed, and, in a word, been wanting to shamelessly rip off the great idea. It's an elegantly simply-stated pinstripe design that speaks to me, so now's my big chance to have a similar one of my very own. I wish I could give credit to whoever posted it on the Guillemot KBB, but dang, it was a long time ago and I have trouble recalling what was for breakfast this morning.

In the best tradition of boat builders who shamelessly rip off other boat builders' ideas, I modified mine ever so slightly slightly so I could act like I'm halfway original. I kind of pinched the ends to make it look more tear droppy . . . but to tell the honest truth, I still like the original better. Oh well.


 Since it's a rather subtle feature, I want to make sure the wood used for the stripe is of maximum contrast.

I thought of walnut first, for a nice chocolate-dark stripe, but there were problems: I want the selected wood to be lightweight, since that's my obsession and this boat is intended to weigh less than forty pounds, and also be soft enough to match sanding characteristics of the surrounding cedar and avoid humpy-lumpy issues. Basswood fills the bill nicely, and being at the polar opposite end of the color range isn't a problem with my medium-hued cedar background.

Then, I started out wanting a 1/4"-wide strip so the feature would stand out boldly, but it turned out to be too thick to take the bends necessary. After a bit of "R&D", 1/8" was settled on. At this point a philosophical debate might be entered upon as to whether I was forced into settling for something other than what I had envisioned, or if I took a more artistic approach and allowed the project to whisper its own desires into my ear, and I was being sufficiently open and sensitive to receive the messages. Probably the former, but the latter sounds better. Anyway, we're getting a 1/8" wide pinstripe feature. Here it is being laid out.


And here it is being filled in with strips.

If you look carefully in the upper left of the photo, you can see straps laid over the hull, and a gallon jug of epoxy dangling from it. There's one on the other side as well. It's doing the same thing as discussed and illustrated here on my Merlin Canoe pages, ensuring that all strips lay snug to the forms with extra vigilance owing to lack of continuity due to the feature patterns.


Here's another way of ensuring same, when conditions permit. A bit of scrap strip is simply nailed to the form while bridging the two shores. It is pulled out after the glue sets, so the ensuing strips may be laid in its place.


Fitting Strip Ends

As with all else in boat building, there's infinitely more than one way to skin any particular cat. The following - and the preceding, for that matter - only represents my way. As always, do whatever works best for you.

Here's the deal: we want to make the square end of the strip fit in the pointy slot. There's lots and lots of this to do in strip building, so may as well get used to it.

And get used to it you will, for there will be ample opportunity to practice. Those first few may take some time to get  looking good, but you'll soon be needing only a minute or two for the job. Be prepared to experience a lot of fun and satisfaction in becoming skilled at it.

Take care to line up the strip accurately, just as it will be installed, then mark the "toe" and the "heel" of the taper with tic marks. Always think of the two points as the toe and heel so you can talk to yourself intelligently.

That last note may sound a little strange, but come on, it isn't like building your own kayak out of ten million little strips is the epitome of normal. The fact that you're studying this makes it pretty clear that you're slowly, inexorably, losing it, so just relax and enjoy the ride.

I often use the end of the strip as the toe mark, but only when the wood is clean and undamaged. Here, I'm backing off a little way to ensure good wood condition all the way to the extreme point.

Play a little game called Connect The Dots.
Cut outside the line. Cutting inside the line can lead to colorful verbosity that family, friends, pastors, neighbors, etc., might possibly disapprove of.
Here's the freshly sawed-off strip held in place. If you get a magnifying glass and look at your screen real close you'll see there's a slight gap at the bottom of the joint-to-be. At this point I begin talking to myself, and say things like "okay, let's trim the toe end, about halfway to the heel."
And then I work the toe end and leave the heel alone. Using terminology to self like this helps a great deal keeping it straight in my head which part of the taper I need to tweak as I shuffle back and forth between boat and workbench.

It's always great fun to find you've inadvertently taken a bit off the wrong end, speaking of things that can lead to colorful language usage.

Nuthin' to it. This particular operation took about one minute.

Notes on marking wood: There are two common mistakes greenhorn cabinet shop apprentices make over and over: Applying too much pressure to the pencil when making measurement marks, and applying too little lead when marking out guide lines. When marking to a ruler or tape measure, begin drawing the tic mark lightly, with very little pressure with the pencil point, and gradually apply more to darken it so it's easily seen. The effect is sort of like delicately brushing the mark on. This avoids the frequent problem of having the pencil point bumped off course by grain ridges, saw marks, and things like that. When tracing around a pattern, or drawing along a straightedge, go over it several times so you leave a firm, distinct, dark line. Wimpy faint lines lead to oh-shits on a regular and consistent basis, so make 'em crisp, dark, and very visible. An old draftsman's technique for consistently sharp lines is slowly rotating the pencil as line is drawn, keeps tip from flattening and widening.

In all cases, avoid using such pressure that the pencil plows furrows into the wood surface, for somebody shall have to sand them out eventually. Go over it several times instead, and "paint it on". If the lead in your pencil is too hard to make a dark line without getting all groovy about it, trash it and get a softer one.

I prefer Pentel mechanical pencils with .7 mm size lead in HB grade lead for shop pencils. Pencils and lead come in a single package at Office Depot, et al.

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