Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wax On: The Philosophy of Sewing a Kayak


Bee`s wax and string for a baidarka frame
Anders unravels with me the way of the kayak backwards in the process. Last week we started with painting and sanding the canvas and paddling. The time since then was an intense and Karate Kid like exercise in doing things as best as I can through sewing canvas and lashing together finished ribs and stringers of the kayak frame. One of my first lessons, WAX ON, always wax the linen string we use to pull tight the canvas and hold strong the kayak frames. The wax keeps the string together while holding it tight. This helps it act like the tight whale baleen of ancient kayaks.

New canvas
We took the canvas of an old children`s Greenlandic kayak that had been used as the sign for Kajakespecialisten. Under the old canvas was a strong frome that needed only minor repairs. We stripped it,  oiled it, and replaced some parts to the frame which you will learn all about in later posts.

The fresh white canvas is much like the state of mind one should be in while building a kayak, as Anders shows by simply being. It is clean and fresh but of substance. We keep the workshop clean, focus on one thing a time, keep our wood fire stove going and stretch the canvas across the kayak, bottom first.

Stitching up to the cockpit
We sew a single seam up the middle top of the kayak, pulling together with uniformity. Each seam is important to be in the right place and pulled tight. It must at the same time totally focused on that stitch, while keeping in mind the entire line of the kayak. We fold the two ends and sew it back onto itself.

The work of building a kayak strengthens ones hands. Just from pulling string through canvas and making lashings tight, my hands are tougher. We are building a long racing kayak from the Aleutian Islands, modeled after a skin covered treasurer in a Russian museum. The last few days I lashed all the ribs together to stringers and the keel (which run the length of the craft). I lashed more than half when I realized I had done them wrong, not deep enough groves into the wood to keep them from rubbing the canvas. A deep breath, we waxed new string, and I would lashed one, remove one, lash one, remove one, until I had erased my mistakes.

Up the seam
Meanwhile, I`ve started working on a kayak from scratch.  I pulled the first two pieces of the frame out of a woodpile. and set them next to the newly sewed kayak. Over the next few weeks I`ll meet what I am learning in reverse, right in the middle. Anders shows me bit by bit, one thing at a time. He tells me the most important is to do you absolute best, even if the guy next to you does twice as much. I do my best and am learning to make it a habit. Even if it is just waxing a little string. Wax on.

Ready to be painted


8 comments:

  1. One of my first lessons, WAX ON, always wax the linen string we use to pull tight the canvas and hold strong the kayak frames. The wax keeps the string together while holding it tight. This helps it act like the tight whale baleen of ancient kayaks. click here

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