Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who would have thought polyester could look so look good . . .

Admit it, when you hear of polyester your mind flashes to images of 1970's leisure suits. You know, the kind that Herb Tarlek wore on the sit-com WKRP in Cincinnatti. How can something look good when made of 100 poly? Simple, if you're using 8oz cloth to cover your skin on frame kayak. And even easier when it has nice lines like the Disko Bay. Read on and all will be revealed!! 

As per Dave Gentry's advice I went with 8oz polyester from George Dyson of Dyson, Baidarka & Company in Bellingam, Washington. Within hours of contacting George via email, he had my fabric on the way via post. Using foresight, I decided to order enough fabric to do two boats (Betcha' can't build just one). Somehow George managed to fold and fit all that cloth into one small box and I paid the same cost of shipping as it would for enough fabric to do a single boat. Hats off to George for some of the best service I've received with online ordering. It was too bad that my order was shipped just prior to the national postal strike as my package bounced all over North America trying to get delivered. But I digress!!

I'm not sure about other fabrics but this poly seems really tough. It's a pain to cut with scissors and/or razor blade knife as it tends to unravel. Using a hot knife (no, not THAT kind of hot knife) works great if you have one. I've been cutting it with scissors/razor blades and cauterizing the frayed edges with a small butane torch.

After draping the poly over the frame, I used (you guessed it) Schedule 40 clamps to hold the fabric in place while I did the rough cuts.

Schedule 40s at work on the bow portion of the boat.
After trimming the fabric, I began stitching it up using a simple running stitch. I used a hemostat to hold the already-stitched fabric while I moved on along the seam.  Initally I thought of using dental floss to stitch the seams but was having trouble finding unwaxed (Waxed would cause adhesion problems with the paint used to seal the fabric). A number of years ago I was really into stunt kite flying and I knew I had some Dacron line laying about somewhere. I managed to dig it out and it worked perfectly for the stitching.

It took a few hours, over two evenings, to drape, cut and do the running stitch on both the fore and aft decks. It was not as tedious as I thought it was going to be. I simply flipped on some music, had a beer at the "ready" and got into the "sewin' zone"!!
Stitching up the aft deck

Aft deck running stitch complete.

Stern shot showing the nice lines. 

Aft deck - yet again. Seam is straighter than as shown in this image.
Preliminary testing of fit around the cockpit area. Getting a tight fit will not be a problem.
Move on to  fore deck and repeat . Working above the deck stringers just ahead of the cockpit.

Fore and aft deck running stitching completed. The true shape of the hull finally emerges. I'm a happy camper.

With the seam held with the running stitch, it was time to follow up with another stitch designed to create a tighter closure to the seam. This one was a little trickier and more time consuming.  The idea is to roll the fabric down tight and hold with an overhand (?) stitch. The result, when pulled tight looks like a braid.

Cheryl came up to be with me as the kids were downstairs watching TV. It was a Saturday night and we had a bottle of wine open. I was having trouble doing the roll and stitching so we devised a routine. Cheryl would roll the fabric and hold it while I would follow up with the stitching. It worked like a charm. We'd do a bit, stop and have a sip of wine. Do a bit more. Give the fingers a break. Have a sip of wine. Repeat. Within 2 hrs we had the aft deck completed.

So, Cheryl and I spent the early part of the evening paddling on the bay and later that night we worked on my new kayak while enjoying a few glasses of wine and a few laughs to boot!!

Great teamwork!!

Working our way to the stern.

Cheryl putting her sewing skills to work on the stern.

The aft deck completed. A good night's work. And still some wine in the glass - even better!!
On Sunday evening I found that I could, indeed, do the rolled stitching myself so I proceeded to work alone.  In a matter of hours I had the fore deck completed. Sorry no pictures but it came out pretty much exactly like the stern - you get the picture?

Stay tuned. Up next is painting and affixing of the cockpit coaming.



  1. Looking great Sean! I use a different stitch and #10 duck canvas, but that's what makes everyone's qajaq personalized, isn't it?

  2. Can't wait to see it floating on the sea!

    Tony :-)

  3. Michael: I built a couple of SOF back in the late 70s and I used cotton duck. Boy, that stuff could suck up the paint!! But when it dried it certainly shrank up nice and tight!! Poly is pretty easy to work with - it stretchs a bit and what wrinkles are left over can generally be removed with an iron. The final stitch I used was pretty easy and that is why I went with it. Seems to be working out OK.

    Tony: Soon. Very soon!!