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Building the Ultimate Expedition Kayak

Setting up the Riser Blocks and Stations

The riser blocks and stations—aligned, leveled, and ready to go.

Once I finished my 30-minute strongback, it was time to set up the riser blocks and the individual stations that would become the mold of the boat. Here are my steps for going about this process, assuming you set up your strongback the same way:

  1. Measure and square all of the riser block attachment points off of the centerline that you drew down the center of your strongback. This will ensure all of your stations eventually get set up evenly spaced and in proper alignment to each other.

  2. Draw a centerline down both sides of each riser block. This line will serve as your reference line for aligning the riser blocks to the strongback, and for aligning the stations to the riser blocks.

  3. Install a riser block at each end of the strongback and run a stringline from the center of one to the center of the other. Adjust them until the stringline aligns perfectly vertical and level over the centerline drawn on your strongback. Ensure that the centerline on each riser block aligns perfectly vertical and level with both the stringline and the centerline on the strongback.
    IMPORTANT: Be careful you don't bump the stringline or allow it to snag on anything as this will affect its straightness. Ideally, the stringline should be slightly raised over (and not touching) the riser blocks. This can be accomplished by placing a temporary piece of strip atop the first and last riser blocks to raise the string slightly higher than all of the intervening blocks.
  4. Set up the remaining riser blocks by leveling the centerline on each block with the stringline and the centerline on the strongback. When in doubt, trust the level and the stringline above all else. If all the riser blocks align with the stringline and all the riser blocks are level, then all of the riser blocks should be aligned correctly.
  5. When you are convinced the riser blocks are leveled and aligned as perfectly as possible, take down your stringline and begin attaching the stations. Start at one end and work your way to the other end, stopping after each station to spot-check the alignment of the stations by sight.

  6. When all of the stations are attached, again set up a stringline and ensure that all of the stations are aligned and leveled correctly. Again, if the center reference line on each station is aligned with the stringline and each centerline is vertically level, then your stations should be properly aligned (assuming, of course, that you cut them accurately in the first place). Nonetheless, stand at each end of the strongback and sight along the lines to ensure they match up correctly.

  7. Adjust individual stations as necessary until the entire mold appears fair and level.

  8. Lay a scrap strip of cedar across the tops of all of the stations and use a level to ensure none of the stations leans toward one end of the strongback or another. Once leveled, staple the strip into the top of the station to hold the station and riser block perfectly level. Do this all the way from one end to another so that none of the stations leans forward or back along the centerline of the strongback. This will ensure constant spacing between all of the stations.

  9. Have a few friends hold a sample strip against the stations from bow to stern, at the approximate location you expect the shear-strip (the first strip) to be placed. This will help you visualize the curves of the boat better, and more easily check to ensure the forms are "fair" (aligned properly so they flow naturally from one to the next, without any bulges or dips).

  10. Adjust individual stations as necessary until the entire mold appears fair.

  11. Double-check all of your work for good measure. Adjust as necessary.

  12. Use masking tape to mask off the edges of each station to prevent the strips from being inadvertently glued to them during the building process.

Congratulations! Your kayak mold is now ready to be stripped! This is where the fun really begins as your kayak finally begins to take shape.


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