Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Gear - Sleeping Pad

I have used the Thermarest Prolite Plus - Regular for a couple of seasons now,  absolutely nothing wrong with the sleeping pad but my youngest son totally destroyed his on canoe trip last year,  instead of buying him a new one, I gave him mine and went out shopping for a new one for me. 

This year Thermarest came out with a couple of new versions for the NeoAir series,   they were really pricy last year and I had heard mixed reviews on durability,  reviews for the new models seem good so decided to give it a try,  I went with a Large NeoAir Treker.   Gives a little more room on the width and the length and isn't tapered like the Prolite Plus, I found my legs always fell off during the night and was a pain (but can live with) and also it's over 2" thick and makes a difference in comfort. I liked the Treker over the standard NeoAir for a few reasons, but more important is the standard feels like chip bag and makes the same noise when you move around,  the material is more "plasticky" and just didn't like the feel. 

NeoAir packs up small, about the size of a 1 litre bottle and way smaller than the Prolites, I like smaller.  The only thing I don't like about the NeoLite Trekker is that it is manually inflated vs auto inflate which comes with the other Thermarest versions,  cuts down on bulk so I'm fine with it,  do miss the auto inflate though. 

Haven't been camping yet to try it out but did setup in my living room and spent the night on it over hardwood floor, VERY comfortable,  will let you know how it stacks up on trip in a couple of weeks but my intial impression is very good and happy wiht the purchase.

Site Link:

First Canoe Paddle

No clue why because I don't own a canoe but having carved first Greenland paddle, decided to take a stab at a canoe paddle,   getting better at it with each paddle and now know what to expect,  first don't use cedar, nice wood but way too soft and dents with just slight press of the finer,  going to switch to Cherry wood and found a local mill yard who can provide.  Next one will be way better. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Julie's New Ride

Not wanting to be outdone, Julie picked up her new Kayak from Sail outdoor store. Current Design Vision 150.  Excited that Julie has enjoyed it as much as I have, now we can both go whenever we want, no more relying on rentals and we have the next couple of weekends planned for a couple day trips before our annual kayak trip.

Here would be my assessment, great kayak, has wide front and rear hatches, smart track rudder system, larger cockpit, wider beam for more stability and plenty of room, storage capacity is nice for shorter kayak, if you think 15' is shorter that is and a perfect kayak for Julie.

Here would be Julie's assessment, I like the color because it matches my pink PFD and the seat is comfortable and you can tilt it to support legs.

I also had to build a second kayak lift to put both kayaks up to the ceiling.  Definitely easier the second go around.


Gear Update - Lighting

Went camping this last weekend and my trust headlamp appears to be defective.  I was using the Princeton Tec Fuel headlamp which is 70 lumen.  Light has been amazing the last 3 years and sad to see it go,  just seems to be some sort of short where the light won't always come on and then any adjustment causes it to shut off.   Time for a new one, and if you have been following along the last 3 years, you know I like gadgets, off to MEC I go...

Petzl MYO RXP Headlamp

Doesn't have the same battery life as my Fuel but I am ok with 50-100 hours on a set of batteries especially with the fact that this bad boy pumps out 160 lumen 77 meters on high and 97 with boost activated,  it also comes with two beam modes,  spot vs wide angle, wide angle is nice because it sprays the light in a nice pattern.   It is bigger in size though because the battery pack (4AA) is attached at the back, comfortable to wear, just takes up more space when packed. Not a big deal for me.


Black Diamond Apollo Lantern

I had a cool little lantern called the Guyot Design Firefly, basically a light that turns your nalgene into a lantern,  great idea but just lacks the light intensity to be useful for anything,  probably the only gear I have bought that didn't live up to my own expectations.  For the last 3 years I have been using a combination of headlamp and flashlight for lighting up the tent at night,  works well but do prefer something more suited,  picked up the Black Diamond Apollo lantern,  throws off 70 lumen on high and has a dimmer switch,  It can be hung from the tent or has these legs that pop out and makes it stand on it's own, like the Apollo moon lander, which is probably where it got its name.  Takes 4AA batteries and according to the spec you get 60 hours,  assume that is on low power though.  Haven't tried it yet in a real situation but should be much better.


Paddle Project - Step 5

Ah... final finishing,  started by sanding everything down with 80 grit sandpaper, then moved to 150 grit and then final sanding with 220 grit.  In between each step, I watered down the paddle to raise the grain out of the wood, then let dry before then next sanding.  I used a combination of a palm sander and sanding by hand,  I have the Black and Decker Mouse which has a curved attachment and that made smoothing out the rounded surfaces much easier,  easily done by hand though, sander just makes it quicker.

Once that was completed I used steel wool to polish up for the last step.  I didn't put any fancy tips on the paddle or epoxy, just finished oh natural,  using Tung oil, I brushed down the entire paddle and let dry for 24 hours,  did 3 coats of this and voila... done. 

I haven't tried the paddle yet and while far from perfect, it was not a bad first attempt,  quite proud of it actually, certainly learned a lot and will do things differently on the second one for sure, highly recommend this project to people who just want to try it out, was quite fun.  Plus I now have all the tools.   Next one might be a laminated kayak paddle or just a regular canoe paddle.

Here is a picture of the finished paddle.

Paddle Project - Step 4

This is the part where you are supposed to mark off all the shaping lines on the paddle face, used as a guide for when you are shaping the final form of the paddle.  I found I messed up so bad on measuring during the first part of the build, trying to get these measurements equal on all four sides was just not going to happen,  for me I just marked the center line and then shaped by using my eyes to try and get as close as possible to what it should be.  I started with the paddle blades and used a finishing plane (small plane used with fingers) as this seemed to do the best for shaving and carving the paddle.  Measurements are included before and hopefully you will have better luck than I did on the first go around, again, for me, this was more an exercise to learn for the next one. 

I didn't worry about rounding off corners or anything, just wanted to form the basic paddle shape,  I recommend taking lots of time and doing lots of checks to make sure everything is even and proportional on both sides of the paddle on both ends as well.  The more time you take the better it will be when you finish. This is where knots in the wood really became a pain, the less knots the better and make sure you plane/carve with the grain, not against it.

Once you get the hang of it, it actually goes quite smoothly, definitely the fun part of the project so far.  Now how the hell do you round square wood?  This was the part I was worried about, never having done it before I just wasn't sure,  actually ended up pretty easy to do.   Just think of the shape you are carving and take little bits off at a time, for instance on the edge of the paddle, I shaved off the corner on both sides and then progressively worked inwards, after a number of passes it starts to round off,  harder to describe than to do.  End result is nicely rounded paddle blades,  same concept for the handle (just larger dimensions) 

And that's it,  a fully formed Greenland kayak paddle,  just needs finishing touches,  Here are pictures of the paddle after final shaping,  you will notice (maybe) that one side of the handle is slightly larger in diameter than the other side, damn knots, just didn't feel like trying to shave through the knot so left as is,  this was a test project after all.

Paddle Project - Step 3

Now time to finish off the paddle blank before the real fun begins (shapping the paddle)

First mark out the paddle form, I have included a picture below with measurements, mark off the base of the paddle 3 1/2" from the tip and then another line 1" - 2" from where the handle starts,  to make the transition from the handle to the paddle mark off 1/4 of the width and then draw a line from the handle to the line 1"-2" out, then a line from all the way to the end of the paddle using the line you put at 3 1/2" as the intersection point.  Shoul be fairly straight forward using the diagram below.  To draw the end of the paddle (curve) use a plate and just align the end of the plate and draw a half circle.  Do the above on both sides of the paddle.  This is where exact measurements from before will come back to haunt you, the lines need to be perfect on both side otherwise your paddle will all be crooked.  
Now get out that trusty jigsaw (or bandsaw if you have one) and cut out the paddle blank,  I found if using a Jigsaw, don't cut on the line as the blade is far from straight, I left a 1/4" inch space and then planed the difference down.  If doing what I did, make sure when planing that you keep an eye on the lines on both sides to make sure you are even, the more time you spend making it smooth the better, mistakes here will come back and haunt you, as I found out with mine.

Now your paddle blank should be complete,  for mine, I ran over the entire paddle, all edges and sides with sand paper to make sure everything was smooth.  Picture below shows my paddle blank completed and ready for final shapping.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Paddle Project - Step 2

Now I have the paddle board cut to size, next step is marking off the handle, this one is fairly straight forward, the length of the handle is the distance between the outside of your hands when your hands are hanging straight down beside you, think holding the paddle in front of you arms shoulder length apart then measure the outside palms,  in my case the handle length is 18".   First, mark the center of your paddle, in my case the center line is 42" (half of 84" length) mark the center line around all 4 sides, next divide handle length by 1/2 and mark on either side of the centerline, in my case,  9" on the left of center @ 33" and 9" on the right @ 51", as with the center line mark line on all four sides.

At the tip of each end, mark a line on the face of the tip so that there is a 1/2" section,  basically this is where the paddle will taper down to,  on each side make a mark at the same as a reference point for where you are going to draw the paddle line on the side,  turn the paddle on it's side and then using a ruler draw a line from the end of the paddle handle line down to the 1/2" edge,  it's like forming a V on the side of the paddle and this is will be your guide mark,  do the same on both sides of the paddle on both ends.   The picture below shows a cross section of what the above describes.

Now basically you plane the wood down to the line, shave everything off the top and bottom on both sides of the paddle, from the paddle handle line back to the top, most important part here is to make sure the lines are perfectly straight and even on both sides using the pencil lines as a guide, this will form the basis of the paddle, any difference will show up instantly.   I started using a hand planer but was new with it and was difficult going, went with a power planer and made quick work of it,  double check on both sides that you are planing evenly no matter which method you use, takes time but go easy and with the grain and it will shape up nicely.

Having since learned to use the hand planer, because you get more control I would use that now for sure,  also double check by sliding a ruler across the paddle survace as the ruler will show gaps, show be equal across the paddle with now bowing or light showing through. Smoother you make this the better.  I have mine a quick sand once completed.

Now have a paddle blank and the fun begins...

Paddle Project - Step 1

Ok, thought I would include some details on how my first paddle is making out and comments on what I will do differently on the next one (this is my practice paddle)

Starts with a piece of wood,  I went with a 2x6 cedar paddle, wider than needed but have to have a 2x4 with as few knots as possible and a good grain.  2x4 is a challenge because trying to find one without knots is an exercise in futility and because 2x4's are generally cut from smaller trees the grain is usually the center, you really want the grain to be completely horizontal throughout the paddle because it makes shaping easier and the end result is more aesthetic. With a 2x6 or 2x12 you can usually find a 2x4 section that has fewer knots and a good cross section grain and then you can cut it to fit.

Next paddle, will go to a real lumber yard, not home depot and get a nice Western Red Cedar plank with NO knots (they come back to haunt you)

First step, cut to the correct paddle length, I don't have a table saw, band saw or skill saw, I marked up my section of board to a 2x4 and then used a jig saw to rip down the line,  obviously the cut was anything but straight so I then grabbed my trusty power planer and straightened it out,  this was a big  mistake, you can't fix a crooked line no matter what you do and the rest of my measurements from that point forward were off,  next paddle I will take it and get the section cut perfectly straight.

Now I had to measure paddle length, stretch your arms out as wide as possible (think I caught a fish this big) and write down the measurement, then add the distance from your elbow to your finger tips and add that to the first number, in my case ideal paddle length is 84", out with trusty jig saw and cut it to length,  again,  only have jig saw to cut and plane, crooked again but not so bad on the end,  would be nice to have good saw for these cuts,  next time either will pick up a saw or use hand saw with a guide block to cut it straight,  jig saw just doesn't cut it.

With all that done, I know have a blank to work with, onto next step

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New Hobby

Got it into my head to build my own Greenland Kayak paddle,  trip to the hardware store for all the neccessary "tools" because I am going to build this thing by hand, no power tools, with selection of block sanders, rasps and clamps in hand, I head home with a shinny new (straight) cedar 2x12 board with a nice section I can use for the paddle.  I clamp my board to the table, stand back and stare at it dumbfounded...  Now what....   Ok, I do have the plans and insructions but who am I kidding, I am so far from comfort zone I have no clue... 

Step 1, don't own many power tools, drill is about it, no table saw, no band saw, no skill saw, no jig saw and a crappy hand saw.  Say to self, "F this" I run out to get a jig saw and figure I will cut out the blank and then plane it down, instead of driving down the street and having it cut.  While I am at the store I know I need a new jack plane because the block plane will take too long, oh wait, power planer cheaper than the manual one, hmmm,  power it is..

I get home, hook up my Jigsaw, measure out everything and start cutting away,  easy as pie, just not straight,  get out my new planer and wow, the thing takes shape quickly and I have the rough outline of a paddle, and looks like a paddle, sort of...

Only thing less straight than my cuts would have to be the "straight" lines I drew for a guide, WTF, am I really that hopeless I can't draw a straight line between two points that were measured twice and used a damn ruler?  lines are straight yes, they just aren't equally positioned on all sides...  Requires a lot more block plane by hand to finish up the blank. 

Now onto the block planer, would think this is easy, the guys in the video just tear off the wood like it's made of butter, me, shit I can't even get the thing to catch the wood,  after about half an hour I finally start to figure out the adjustments and technique, call it a night.

My next phase will be to plane this paddle out as much as possible and then will start to carve the paddles and the handle... I have to figure this is going to take me much longer than expected, hope it turns out ok, because at this point, I have paid more in tools than I would have to go and buy one,  sort of defeats the purpose though...

Update when I have something to add...

First Trip - Denied

Totally sucks,  was all prepared for the first trip in the new Kayak,  took the day off, headed north on Thursday night, picked up some last minute food items and was all set to head out Friday morning, woke up to 60km winds, pouring rain and lightning, not a good time to be out on Georgian Bay,  spent most of the day looking out the window and waiting for a break in the storm, not to be.

Forecast was calling for much of the same for the rest of the weekend, so packed up Friday night and headed back to the city, dismal failure on all fronts.