Monday, January 31, 2011

The big bike build - part I

For the last several years I have been riding my mountain bike to work, it takes about 80 minutes along the Fish Lake Trail.  All my friends tell me a thinner set of tires would make the trip faster.  I suppose the quick solution would be to buy a set of tire and change them out on my mountain bike, however, anytime I wanted to mountain bike the tires would need to be changed out again.  My solution was to get a new bike, or more accurately, build myself a new bike from scratch over the winter months.  I bought a frame and front forks for a touring bike from Nashbar Bikes then a headset, stem and handle bars.

The first difficulty to overcome was to get the headset onto the frame.  The front forks have a ring at the base that needed to be filed down, I had to go to a local bike shop in order to find this out.  This was simple enough I bought a $10 file and worked it down until the ring for the headset seated properly.  The cups were a bit more difficult to install into the frame.  All the videos on youtube used a special expensive compression tool to install, usually any excuse to buy a tool is sufficient.  I decided to make my own compression tool out of a threaded rod, two, nuts and a slew of washer.  My makeshift tool worked pretty good once I used the proper alignment tool, a large monkey wrench used like a hammer, since I live in an apartment I am sure my neighbors did not appreciate this all to much.  The last step in preparing the front forks for installation into the frame involved cutting the pipe down to fit the stem.  Again instead of buying the expensive tool specifically for bike the local Bi-Mart provided an equivalent tool known as a pipe cutter, costs about $8.00.  If you can't tell I a bit of a penny pincher. I had to cut the pipe twice, the first time it was too long, always a better option than being too short, I would have had to buy a new set of front forks, and I really do not like spending extra money.

Just a historical note here, Orville and Wilber Wright were bike makers before they flew the very first airplane at Kitty Hawk.  The thought kind of makes me feel a little more adventuresome.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Danger does not equal Adventure

Every once in a while a video gets passed along that is at least interesting to watch.  This week a coworker forward a video of a young man kayaking over the Palouse Falls in the state of Washington.  I am including the link at the bottom for your viewing pleasure.  The Palouse Falls is 189ft and drops a great deal of water into a turbulent pool below.   The stunt was to ride a kayak over the falls into the pool below and survive, survive being the key word.

The adventure would be the exploration of this waterfall and the surrounding canyon but this young man's quest was for an adrenaline rush.  Adventure can include an increase in excitement and even a sense of danger but that is not the point of the death defying plunge to into the turbulent pool below.  What I would consider even more frightening then going over the falls, though, is the comment made to his mother over the phone to her voice mail, and I quote, "Hi mom, I am going to do a little boating...hopefully I will make it home tonight."  makes you wonder if he thought he would not survive the crush of water at the base.

So for your viewing pleasure:  Palouse Falls Kayak Stunt

Monday, January 17, 2011

Building The Pygmy Kayak - Part 2

What a mess
After sanding
After stitching the hull together I got to mix my first batch of epoxy.  With a little trepidation I pumped out the first batch like a chemist mixing his first batch of explosives.  Next I pulled the plunger out of the syringe and poured the concoction in, I discovered about 6 months later that I could draw it into the syringe like the doctor does and it makes a lot less mess.  The purpose of this first batch is to fill the seams between the stitched together pieces.  The next day it was time to cut and pull all the staples in the hull, what an exciting moment, seeing a boat held together only by glue.  What would be next, you guessed it, sanding.  And wow what a time commitment that was,  it took 5 hours to smooth out the mess created by running epoxy.  This is also where I should have followed the instructions a little closer, you see they are very clear about keeping the sander flat on the panels.  I discover that I could sand away excess epoxy faster by turning it on end, however, the 3/16" Okume plywood is three layers with a dark layer in the middle, it does not take long to sand through the top layer and expose the middle one.  I really did not learn this lesson until about the end of the project.
Moving on to the next step, putting the four coats of epoxy onto the exterior of the hull.  Keep in mind the second coat is the fiberglass cloth.  Temperatures outside had dropped below the 50 degree mark and were closer to freezing, I had no way of heating my unit except with a small space heater, entirely ineffective for heating a large empty space.  According to the instruction each coat of epoxy had to be applied within 72 hours of the last coat so that it would not harden up too much and the next coat would adhere properly.  The first coat went swimmingly, and I went home to let it dry for two days.  To put the fiberglass cloth on the first coat needs to be dry so the cloth moves around easily.  When I came back the epoxy was slightly tacky, but being as I had a time table and as we all know instructions are meant only as guidelines and not absolutes, I went ahead and put the cloth on.  The cloth stuck to the hull like bee's to honey and I never got it smoothed properly and thus I developed little wrinkles that would later have to be sanded out.  What I should have done was take the cloth off and go home.  The next two layer went on with out much of a hitch.

Stitching and gluing deck
The next step was to stitch and glue the deck together, this is another fun stage because now the final look of the boat is taking shape.  I had gotten better at avoiding the sharp edges of my wire staples, or maybe it was the work gloves I had purchased.  Taping the deck to the hull insured the deck kept the proper shape and then more epoxy was applied and allowed to dry.  Outside of the need for sanding it looked almost good enough to put in the water.  But I definitely had a long ways to go yet and certainly more errors to make.  But that will be the subject of part 3.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Building The Pygmy Kayak - Part 1

10x20 Storage Unit
Last winter, out of a need to keep myself occupied, I decided to build a Kayak.  I had built a boat before, a 16 foot sailboat from a $25 set of plans, it was touted  as a $200 sailboat, in the end it cost me a great deal more and did not come out quite as planned, nothing was straight.  I had been wanting to build a canoe but the cedar strip idea, while both romantic and industrious, was a bit over my skill level so I chose to purchase a kayak kit.  After some research and pricing I decided to go with the Pygmy Pinguino Sport, a 13 foot long recreational kayak that was designed for the ocean and very stable in the water.

Epoxying panels together
When the kit arrived I was very surprised and delighted at how light the box was and how thin the wood pieces were, 3/16".  My first problem, however, was where would I build my boat  I live in an apartment and there is no space within the complex to build.  After several visits and phone calls to rather unexcited storage unit managers I found one that not only was excited but gave me the unit, a 10x20, at half price.  I moved in with all my tools and set up a shop.  This was October and the temperatures were still mild, meaning about 50 degrees.  This is important as the winter was coming on and temperature can drop in the Northwest.  The first thing to accomplish was to put the panels together, the panels are cut from 8 foot pieces of Okume plywood and the boat is 13 feet long.  I layed out everything got it all epoxied together just as the instructions stated, well that is not quite true, one of my panels slipped in the process and I ended up with a 1/16" problem. Not a very auspicious start to a grand project.  

Stitched together hull
The next step was to drill holes in each panel at 6" on center so that they could be stitched together, probably one of the easiest steps and it went off without a hitch.  After the holes were drilled I set aside a whole Saturday to stitch the hull of the Kayak together.  This by far is one of the most exciting parts of building this boat, progress came fairly quickly, I took 8 hours to stitch the entire hull together then I sat back and admired the days work and nurse the gouges and scrapes the wires I stitched the boat together with had left.  I will continue this story at a later date in Building the Pygmy Kayak - Part 2.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What is Adventure

Fossil Hunting in Republic, WA
This week I was reading another blog called Whittaker Writes, the author, Leif Whittaker, is the son of a famous Mt Everest climber, Lou Whittaker, and an Everest climber himself.  He made an interesting and I think well thought out point about what adventure is.  Adventure is an exploration of anything new to you, whether it is a walk down a new street on your way to the grocery store, the building of a new boat, or the exploration of a trail you have never been on.  Adventure does not require seeking the extremes of outdoor exploration, places yet unknown and untamed.  Yes that can be an aspect of adventure and men still seek to find fulfillment this way, like the man who just completed a two and a half year walking journey from the head waters of the Amazon to the sea, how we do love to read about and fantasize maybe even romanticize those adventures, but for most of us life and limb is not worth sacrificing for a footnote in the annuls of the Geographical Societies Library.  

I once read the book, "Voices From The Summit: The Worlds Great Mountaineers on The Future of Climbing".  It is a collection of interviews of some of the worlds greatest climbers, such as Sir Edmund Hillary, Reinhold Messner, and Yvon Chouinard.  The conclusion to the book, though, is that adventure requires the exploration of parts yet unknown at the risk of ones life.  However, for those of us without the desire to risk our lives in the pursuit of adventure, trying new things and seeing new places is an excellent alternative.