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Choosing Your Canoe: Materials

9:03 p.m. on May 18, 2011 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Choosing Your Canoe: Materials"

From natural birch bark to modern composites, a wide range of materials are used to build canoes today. Each has its advantages and disadvantages and no one material does it all well.

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/articles/choosing-canoe-materials.html

10:11 p.m. on May 18, 2011 (EDT)
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ALthough they not as common modes of construction for canoes as for kayaks, there are also skin-on-frame and stitch-and-glue (plywood-fiberglass composite) constructions out there. Both are relatively easy/fast ways to build your own, at least on the kayak side (I have built two stitch-and-glue kayaks from kits and a skin-on-frame from scratch). And let's not forget folding canoes!

12:41 p.m. on May 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Hi BigRed, In the series of articles, I purposely omitted some of the less common materials and types of construction to purposely reduce confusion. Certainly there have been skin on frame canoes, there are also I-Cs and the original, dug outs. Folding canoes are there and have been for over 100 years. Of course, are folding canoes actually skin on frame canoes and since they are stiffened by inflation, are they also hybrids? Also among the variations are the log canoes of Chesapeake Bay and certainly various other types of sailing canoes, and paper canoes. Neither did I mention that in Europe kayaks are called canoes. While stitch and glue is not uncommon in kayak construction, I only know of one or two in canoe construction. Conversely, I don't know of any kayaks that are strip planked. Finally, there were the Willits Brothers of Tacoma who built some very beautiful canoes that were essentially cold molded.

7:33 p.m. on May 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Yeah, I realize that you're talking mostly about canoes (and not so much kayaks) that you can buy rather than than build, but it does seem like Pygmy's S&G canoe is a worthy craft, and I think Morris' SoF book has plans for at least one canoe. Honorable mention?

Is "strip plank" different from "stripper" construction? If not, then there are some gorgeous strip kayaks out there: Guillemot kayaks and Rob Macks' Laughing Loon boats -- but you must be aware of those already? Some of them look too beautiful to paddle!

2:53 p.m. on May 20, 2011 (EDT)
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BigRed, There is a difference between strip planked and stripper in the modern usage. The former refers to boats built by BN Morris and other builders in which the boats were essentially built carvel planked, but without caulking. There were also clinker built canoes as well. This series is for the commonly available canoes, and for beginners.

12:54 p.m. on May 21, 2011 (EDT)
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BigRed, I should add that there is some argument on the term "strip planked". To some, it is the same as "stripper". While the latter is somewhat of a modern slang term for "strip planked" boats built of thin narrow strips of cedar or other wood, glued together and then covered with(usually) fiberglass and resin, for many of us "strip planked" refers to the boats built in the late 19th and early 20th century that were built like wood and canvas canoes, but instead of canvas, the planks were fitted tightly and tacked down with canoe tacks, just as with the planks on wood and canvas canoes. On these boats, ribs were employed, and the planking was wider and thicker than the modern strippers.

12:07 a.m. on May 22, 2011 (EDT)
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For expedition canoeing I'd choose Royalex. I had a beautiful Kevlar canoe get a cracked stern keel in Ontario while coming down a fast stretch on a side creek to the French River.

 

I repaired it but was VERY careful of rocks after that experience.

2:03 p.m. on May 22, 2011 (EDT)
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300winmag, Royalex is one of the most common materials for expeditions. However, there are kevlar layups that are as strong as Royalex and lighter. There are ww playboats being built in Kevlar laminates, and some very tough expedition boats in Kevlar laminates. I have a Hemlock Eagle in an expedition Kevlar layup, as well as a Clipper 14 Prospector in Kevlar/Duraflex a proprietary layup. Hellman also makes very tough Kevlar laminates.  With any laminate it is the laminate schedule that determines strength, not just the material used. A Kevlar boat can be made 20% or more lighter than a fiberglass boat of the same design, but it will be no stronger. I am surprised that even a lightweight Kevlar boat would crack as easily as yours obviously did. What kind of boat was it?

5:24 p.m. on May 22, 2011 (EDT)
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Sorry for disappearing for a bit. Those pesky tornadoes took down the high lines and also the redundant high lines (high lines are those huge power cables). Not where I live, of course, we had almost no damage. But our power was shut down and was redirected to cities. And then one of our mares had trouble foaling....

Anyway, I bent a 17' Grumman Canoe in half on some Class IV water on the Upper Gauley near the New River Gorge in W. VA. The next day I took my Mad River Kevlar solo open, cane-seated canoe on the same run. Tore up my skid plates, but nothing else was damaged. I figured I just got lucky or the Mad River really did ride high on its shoulder, making it pretty slim. I've always found Royalex heavy and not nearly as responsive as Kevlar canoes. My only modification was to two skid plates, side-by-side and to run them the  full length of the keel.

I've only had a demo paddle in almost still water with a proprietary system of adding several extra layers of Kevlar at so-called vulnerable points. It may been X% stronger but it tracked miserably.

We spent the third day wrestling the Grumman out of the river and then alternately jumping up and down in it and heaving baby boulders into it until it vaguely resembled a canoe again. The "leader" (as such) was one of the guys I worked with. After he ran Great Falls in a C-1, I refused any further adventures where he in charge. This guy didn't just have  a risk-gene, he had go-full-out- till you die-gene.

I've never paddled or even seen a Kevlar boat which weighed less than a fiberglass job. What's it like to paddle one?

derjoser

8:53 p.m. on May 22, 2011 (EDT)
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derjoser, which Mad River open solo? I'm a little confused by the need to add continuous skid plates. Usually, skid plates are added only at the ends, and on my Outrage X, which is now quite long in the tooth, I have not added plates yet. Because of their substantial rocker, playboats usually don't have wear issues and require skid plates as a normal course. Boats with flatter keel lines, especially tandems do have wear issues. One needs to be aware that the more material one adds to the keel at the ends, has the same effect as decreasing rocker. They also will slow a boat down. Depending on usage, the kevlar that many builders supply is often overkill IMHO. I usually use a thinner material to keep the weight down. As far as extra reinforcement, quality builders will use a laminate schedule that adds reinforcement during construction. Clipper, for instance, will put a layer of kevlar in the ends, even on their fiberglass canoes.

Kevlar boats weigh less than their fiberglass counterparts. A white water kevlar laminate will be perhaps 10-15% less, a light weight laminate will weigh significantly less. In rare cases, a white water kevlar laminate might weigh nearly as much as a light weight fiberglass counterpart, but the strength will be world's different. It is important to understand a builder's laminate schedule and design criteria. Otherwise, comparisons are very much apples and oranges. A light kevlar boat will, of course, have a much livelier feel than it's heavier kevlar counterpart.

2:50 p.m. on May 23, 2011 (EDT)
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For an example of the weight savings of kevlar laminates, as well the apples and oranges that every laminate is different, take a look at Millbrook Boats. Kaz has been a national champion in white water more times than anyone else by far.

http://www.millbrookboats.com/

12:56 a.m. on May 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Erich said:

derjoser, which Mad River open solo? I'm a little confused by the need to add continuous skid plates. Usually, skid plates are added only at the ends, and on my Outrage X, which is now quite long in the tooth, I have not added plates yet. Because of their substantial rocker, playboats usually don't have wear issues and require skid plates as a normal course. Boats with flatter keel lines, especially tandems do have wear issues. [snipped]

 Hi Erich,

I honestly don't recall the name of my Mad River solo. It's 14'3" long and dates from the late 1970s-earlier 1980s. Early Kevlar. I added my gerry-rigged skid plates after misusing the canoe for 15 years. It never had anywhere near the rocker of more modern solo boats; it was basically configured along the lines of the Explorer.

Adding the skid plates seemed like my only option: I'd torn up the gel coat badly enough that, despite regular maintenance, it looked like only bondo would fix it.

Since I'm now ancient and have one forearm and wrist that is held together by a metal implant, I rarely use it for anything demanding. I'd love to someday get a newish play boat though I'd honestly probably use it on flat water or very mild whitewater.

You are so right about the wear on flatter keel lines. My Mad River Northwoods (same era) needed skid plates almost immediately.

Thanks for all the information -- I learned a lot.

derjoser

10:07 p.m. on May 25, 2011 (EDT)
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derjoser, you are very welcome. Your boat sounds like the MR Guide, which was renamed the Freedom. I've paddled them, and they are OK, but I would not say they are good at anything above Class 2. They are very wet in moderate to large Class 2 waves(two to three feet). They are also a little slow in flat water. I consider them somewhat of a compromise boat. There are other designs out there that I think perform better in both areas, particularly some small tandems, and the Super Nova from Novacraft.

Regarding your thoughts on a playboat. Playboats, as you know, have extreme rocker, even the more tame ones. I would not recommend anything that calls itself a playboat for your intended use. There are a number of small solo tripping boats that would perform better on flat water and still be capable of white water to Class 2+, the Clipper 14' Prospector being one example and the Hemlock SRT being another.

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