Kayak Building Part 3 – Inserting the Frames

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This post is Part Three of a multipart blog . . . Read Part One here,  Part Two here.

In the last blog, I completed wiring panels 1-3 of the hull.  Dan took a quick look and noticed that one of the panels didn’t align exactly to the butt joint, so together we loosened some wires and adjusted.  One of the great advantages I have is that Dan knows all of the details.  The alignment was only about 1/16″ off, but because the panels are cut to precision, if you follow the directions exactly, everything matches up – exactly.

Another tidbit from Dan, the panels are made from high grade marine mahogany plywood.  Specifically 4mm, British Standard (BS), 1088 Okoume plywood.  Dan described how plywood is made, basically by peeling layers off the logs and gluing the layers together while alternating the sheets for added strength.  The marine grade guarantees that the wood has no plugs or voids. I did a bit more research and found that it has 1.5mm plies and is balanced.  Basically, there is a center ply with an equal number of veneers of the same thickness on each side.  If you’re interested to learn more about this wood, read The History of Okoume Marine Grade Plywood.

It was Tuesday, and I was going to head to the lockmaster’s house after work to wire panel #4.   I realized Tuesday morning that I forgot to cut the rest of the wire and bend into staples.  So, I grabbed the wire and cutters and headed to work.  Tuesday afternoon we hosted the fifth graders from Worthington School for “Shadow Day”.  Worthington Elementary School is our partner in education, and in addition to Shadow Day, Woodcraft prepared a great video for the kids to watch to learn a little bit about our company.  We had eight kids in our department, and during the 20-minute video, I asked the kids if anyone wanted to help bend staples.  Everyone raised a hand high!  I cut the wire and the kids went to town bending the staples over 1/2″ pieces of wood that we gathered around the office!


Day 11: 4/24/12: 2 hours.  Dan met me at the house, and we started to wire panel #4.  He quickly pointed out that the staples should be bent with 90° angles,  flat like a staple, and many of mine were rounded.  He said the flatter the wire, the easier to get flush with the panel.  Again, another detail that I would have missed.  We made sure before inserting each wire that we re-bent the wires.

When panel #4 was complete, and the butt frames adjusted, we inserted the bow and stern temporary frames.  The frames were inserted at the measurements that we marked earlier in the process, before the panels were wired together. The directions are very specific: the placement is either aft or foward of the pencil lines.  Dan marked the “aft” and “foward” places on the panels for the bow and stern frames – handy for me!  The frames are shaped so the panels align exactly to them, like sides on a hexagon.  I drilled more holes in each frame and more holes in the panels.  Then, I wired the frames to each panel and made sure the panels were pulled in tight to the frame.  This ensures that the shape of the boat is correct.

Wiring the frames to the panels requires longer wires than I cut for the staples.  I did leave some wire left uncut, but not enough.  So – I guess I would have been better off completely forgetting to make staples that day.  I ran out of wire and called it a night.


Day 12: 4/25/12: 2 hours.  Before heading to the lockmaster’s house, I bought more wire in the floral section of a local craft store.  With wire in hand, I continued to work on the panels.  Dan stopped in for a quick inspection (so far so good) and a review of the next steps.  He left and I started on the small bow and stern end frames.  I had to read the “aft” and “foward” part of the instructions several times and compare to the other frames – hopefully I got it right.  Since these frames were smaller, I thought it would be easier – I was very wrong!  The end frames are inserted at each tip of the boat, which creates a very small area to work.  After I inserted the frame, I had to estimate a place to drill the holes in the panels that would be on each side of the frame.  Maybe there is a trick to this, but I ended up with a few holes on each side that didn’t work, and I had to drill more.  Next I had to thread the wire through the two holes in the panels and one through the frame.  Because the space was so tight, and there were so many other twisted wires in the way, I had a really tough time.  I kept getting poked with the wires – looked like I got in a fight with a cat when I was finished.  My guess is that most people with bigger hands could only do this with pliers.  Now that I’m done, I’m sure Dan will show me the trick that makes it easier.


Day 13: 4/26/12: 3 hours.  Working at an offsite location means that I have to have every tool and piece of scrapwood with me or I can’t finish the step.  Well, I got to work and realized I forgot the driver bitscrews and scrap plywood for the step I was working on that night.  The product managers are getting used to me by now as I trotted down to their area at 4:00 on Thursday.  I described the process and what I needed, and before I knew it, they cut five pieces of plywood, gathered a square driver bit, an assortment of screws and a level.  Yes, it’s extremely handy to be working at Woodcraft during this process.  Thanks again, Pete and George!

Tonight I was solo again at the lockmaster’s house.  The instructions say that once the frames are in place and tightened, you should tighten the rest of the wires in the boat.  Dan advised me on Tuesday that when I tighten the wires, that I should do it symmetrically.  He said that the first boat he built, he tightened one side at a time, and when he was done, the boat was skewed to one side.  I started at the keel and then went up one panel on the left, then the same panel on the right.  I also made sure the panels were aligned correctly and the seam was smooth as I tightened.


Next I had to attach a top piece to three of the frames to bring all the frames up to the same height.  The piece I was attaching was flat on top so the boat will be level when flipped over.  The top pieces for the frames come with the kit, and they fit to the frame like a puzzle pieces.  I needed to attach each piece to three frames in the boat by screwing a piece of scrap plywood to both pieces.  I was happy to use the HIGHPOINT square drive screws because I brought that product line to Woodcraft in 2008.  At the time, I tested the fasteners, compared to other products, and drilled through many materials.  So you would think I’d be a natural at this simple task.  (Not So!) I drilled the pilot holes as Dan suggested, but I used the small 1/16″ drill bit that I’ve been using for the wire holes.  Then I replaced the drill bit with the driver and selected the small screw.  I quickly realized I needed to clamp the boards together.  Then, about halfway way through, the bit lost the hold of the screw.  Hmm, time for another quick lesson.  I ran down to product development the next day to find out what I did wrong.

Check out Part Four to find out!



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