Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chesapeake Light Craft's Open House--A good day out.

Yesterday was Chesapeake Light Craft's annual Open House.  CLC manufactures well designed kits for plywood canoes and kayaks and more recently cedar stripe small craft as well.  Along with showcasing their various kits with holiday price reductions, CLC also hosts a number of useful demonstration seminars on various aspects of boat building during the open house and, although most of what's presented is elementary, there's always a trick or two to be learned plus the opportunity to ask questions and closely examine boats in different stages of completion makes spending the day worthwhile.

CLC is located in Annapolis, Maryland about 20 minutes  from my house.

Here are just a few examples of the many different kayaks which CLC offers in kit form.
Seen in the staff break room...
"Cocktails, anyone?"  A new addition to the CLC line up is the "Cocktail" class racing hydroplane.  This little boat is based on a design from the 1930s and has become something of a local obsession on the East coast.  The rules are fixed around this hull shape and allow an 8 hp engine for skippers weighing more than 180 lb or a 6 hp engine for skippers weighing 180 or less.  The boats have a top end speed of about 20 mph and one of the guys who works at CLC said that these boats are "stupid fun".  One of my Moth Boat buddies is lusting to built one.  Although CLC's kit version is still a work in progress, enough prototype boats have been built to hold a few races this past summer.  I believe that plans are available separately.
The engine on this one is an Evinrude.
Here's a Cocktail under construction. 
This is a strip-built "Nymph" design canoe.  Although difficult to seen in this photo, this canoe has a significant amount of tumblehome in the shearline.  In the background one can see a building jig and set of station molds for a kayak.  Just to the right of the bow of the canoe are a stack of novel, at least to me, spacer blocks for locking the molds in place along the jig's strongback.  I'll come back to this point later in the post.
One of the co-founders of MAS epoxy was on hand demonstrating basic glass sheathing techniques while extolling the virtues of his line of products opposed to those of his competitors.  MAS claims that their epoxy wets out glass cloth better due to lower viscosity than other brands and also does not produce a waxy amine blush during the curing process.  It did seem to saturate the cloth with less trouble than I've had with other brands.  I may have to try it the next time I run out of goop.
A new to me tip is to use a small piece of peel ply on the stem to get the wetted out cloth to behave and not wrinkle and pucker as it sometimes does.  The slippery peel ply cloth is easily removed from the fiberglass surface once the resin has kicked off.
Meanwhile back at the kayak building jig, Joey, one of the CLC staff, demonstrated a novel way to lock station molds in place without needing screws or other fasteners.  The U-shaped wooden spacers are built to the exact lengths required to position the various molds at the correct distances along the strongback with the last spacer being locked in tight with wedges.  The main advantage of this system over cleats and screws is that it's easier to get the finished hull off the jig by knocking out the wedges and thus freeing all the molds instead of struggling to remove screws which may be hidden by the built up boat.
Positioning the molds
Adding the wedges to lock the spacers and all the molds in place.  He demonstrated the tightness of this system by picking the stongback up off the jig and turning it upside down.  Nothing moved. 
There was a lunch break before the next demo and I went outside to walk around.  A well known specialty bicycle shop is located just a few doors down, in the same block of warehouses as CLC but sadly they were not open.  Interestingly, the original owner of CLC sold that business to it's current owner and then went into the custom bicycle business.  I've done business with Chris Kulczycki in both ventures.
After the lunch break there was a quick and dirty demonstration of the hollow grind sharpening technique for plane irons and chisels.  After this we were treated to a tour of the wood working shop.
This machine takes flat boards and mills them into 1/4" strips complete with bead and cove edges in one pass!  Those who have done the labor involved with making "canoe strips" would be suitably impressed.
David feeds a 3 1/2" cedar board into the machine on this end...
and ready to use bead and cove edged strips emerge from this end--amazing!  Note that there is no odd piece of wasted wood as there probably would be if doing this by hand with a table saw and router.  Also, the edges were all perfect.
Next up in the tour was the CNC (computer numerical controlled) cutter with a vacuum table which can accommodate multiple sheets of plywood at a time.  This machine allows CLC to produce their high quality kits at reasonable prices.  The kits for the Nutshell pram and the Shellback dinghy which Wooden Boat Magazine sells are produced for them by CLC.
David took a junk sheet of plywood and quickly set up the machine to cut out the shape of a monkey.

Voila!  In addition to cutting out components for their own kits, CLC will do custom cut work provided that the design is formatted so that their computer can read the file.  The designer of one of the hydrofoiling Moths here in the local area has taken advantage of this resource for the pieces that made up the vacuum bag molds for his boat--it ain't cheap however...
The final session of the day was a demonstration of varnishing over cured epoxy surfaces.  I picked up a couple of useful tricks but, operating under the "if you've seen one you've seen 'em all" principle, I didn't bother to take any photos of varnish drying.  At the end of the day I found some useful cut-off pieces of marine grade ply in the bargain bin and also bought a scrap piece of an adhesive-backed, foam non-skid material called "sea dek" which CLC uses in some of their kits to try out.  So, the day ended with your diarist in possession of useful information and bargain priced stuff--what's not to like?!


  1. I like the Cocktail. I grew up in a 14' Speedliner with a 15-horse Johnson. I still have a small early Arkansas Traveler with a Merc dockbuster. Stupid fast.

  2. My boat building buddy is hot to build one but since he's a Moth Boater I know he's too Scotch to spring for the CLC kit and instead will buy the plans from the Cocktail Class web site:

  3. Ya know, if I got rid of the bicycles for a awhile I might have enough room in the Growlery to build a boat.

  4. Now you're talking! Actually, do both. Hoist the bikes into the raffers and clear the decks for the building jig. When spring comes you can ride super classy bikes to the boat club when you put your racer over board for a quick blast.

  5. Yes! Each year's open house is V. cool. I'm glad I made it the year I went. Sadly, other commitments have stood in the way since then.