by Ken Simpson - Fountain Hills, Arizona - USA

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In an effort to simplify small boat assembly (12 feet or less), a different method of construction has been developed that produces a strong, yet lightweight, structure.

It has been given the name of "Tape & Glue", derived from the items used.

The following provides an overview of this new process, with the intent of inspiring others to consider it's use in their designs.

Traditionally, boat construction utilized wood forms on which wood planks were fastened with screws, and made more ridged with gussets and stringers. Then came the advent of fiberglass, in which whole boats were constructed on a mold. This left the homebuilder in a quandry, stick with the traditional, or develop a new method. And that new method was "Stitch and Glue", where wood panels (plywood) were initially held together with wire stitches, and then the joint was epoxy filled and seamed with fiberglass cloth tape, epoxy or polyester coated. This proved to be very strong and durable, but heavy and messy. Not ideal for a small boat builder.

A new and interesting method has been developed for use in small boat construction, the Tape & Glue method, in which the boat hull is first assembled with simple homemade fixtures, the outer seams Taped with Duct Tape (or equivalent), to hold the structure together, and the seams glued with a waterproof wood glue. It should be noted that the boat designer must consider this process during the concept stage, as the various hull parts must fit firmly together for the process to be effective. The glue is allowed to cure, overnight preferred, after which the taping process begins on the interior joints. The tape used is a Polyester Woven Fabric, specifically designed for the roofing industry. It is lightweight, flexible, strong and waterproof.

The process involves applying glue to the desired joint, laying down a length of tape, and saturating the tape with glue, then smoothing the entire surface. As many as 4 laminations, or more, of this process could be applied to develop the necessary strength required for a specific boat design. For low load applications, 2 or 3 layers may be sufficient. Once the inside is complete, the Duct Tape is removed, and the process is repeated for the outside joints.

The end result is a strong yet lightweight structure, capable of moderate loads and abuse. If the boat is to be used in a harsh environment, the bottom should be fiberglassed for durability, just like any other homemade boat. The byproduct of the process is easy water clean-up (no messy 2 part systems), and ease of application (anybody can do it). The downside is, depending on hull design, possible joint fracture, if hitting a submerged object or mishandling occurs. This is remedied by the placement of skids or external stringers in key hull areas.

It must be noted that at this writing only one boat, a canoe, has been built using this method. It has performed well, with no failures of any kind, but further builds will be necessary to fully recommend the process in other configurations.

The primary purpose for developing this small boat assembly method was ease of application. Period. It is simple, clean, and when properly applied, rugged and dependable. What more could a homebuilder want?

For more information on this alternative process, please contact Ken Simpson.


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