Making boats

The workshop has been up and running since July last year and in that time we’ve built three C1s, three Duets and a Demon.

The Duet construction is using vacuum bag from a wet epoxy layup. This has been very successful and we do keep optimising the process as we find better ways to build. The mold has been modified a few times to make the release easier round the gunwale rim, the laminate was curving round and required cutting

The epoxy resin is significantly stronger and stiffer than the polyester and we will reduce the build to two layers for the next boat. By the time the boat is joined down the centre line and the seat support flanges are installed, there is effectively an additional layer anyway, and it’s where the strength is needed. Together with the uni-direction ribs there is a supporting “skeleton”.

The Darkness C1s have all been resin infusion, again with three layers plus the join, ribs, flanges and separate gunwale rim, this is a strong boat. We have also refined the build process as we discover how to better position the composite fabrics, peel ply, distribution media and vacuum film to ensure a more efficient infusion. I still get apprehensive when we open the resin tap, but I never get tired of watching the resin “tsunami” as it wets out the laminate stack.

The picture below shows the different infusion stages and illustrates just how much work there is and the variety of products needed from the gelcoat, through the layup to the vacuum infusion and finished boat.

C1 infusion stages

We have infused one Demon and I have lent it to a crew to paddle the Waterside race series. It has won both Waterside A and Waterside B so far by staggering margins over the next placed Wenonah ICF boat. Being a bit slimmer than a traditional canoe, it is a bit more challenging to paddle in terms of stability and steering, but in the right hands it flies!

There’s a video on YouTube of Waterside A which features some of the Duets in the race, the second place ICF and The Darkness Demon. It is interesting to see the workload of the ICF compared with the Demon crew.

Now I’m in control of boat construction, I’m keen to look at alternative fabrics. To this end, I attended JEC World in Paris, an international composites show and exhibition. It was massive! I spent two days talking composites to likeminded geeks and nerds from some of the most prestigious companies in the industry.

There are so many fabrics and combinations to choose from, plus materials such as integrate peelply/distribution media from Eurocarbon, core materials from Lantor, gel coats from Scott Bader, resins from Wessex Resins, Innegra from Sigma and fabrics from G.Amgeloni to name but a few.

Carbon boat with interesting carbon weave

Carbon fabric samples – 1

Carbon fabric samples – 2

Carbon fabric samples – 3

Carbon fabric samples – 4

Carbon fabric samples – 5

also met with the UK National Composites Centre with whom I’m hoping for some support to test different product combinations. Some of the main suppliers were also interested in a joint venture when I suggested a C1 divided into quarters, each one made with a different laminate stack. This would really show off the versatility of their products.

I start the next Duet on Monday, it’s going to be two layers, one of carbon twill and the second of carbon/innegra, wet layup, vac-bag.

I’ve never been a fan of kevlar, it’s hard to cut, awful to repair, plus it absorbs water and goes brown with age. Turns out that there are some better, modern alternatives such as Innegra, Aramid, and Twaron.

The more I find out about the composite world, the more fascinating I find it. Can’t wait to get stuck in to pre-preg.

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