After covering rusty vehicles in a previous post, I had planned on doing a story on kayak maintenance. My chance came after a particularly rough week of video filming in the Everglades resulting in a nice hole right on the keel of my Hobie Revolution. My idea was to make a quick patch, but I am lucky enough to know a metal and plastic fabricator, Lucas Cesario.
|Hard use will result in holes|
Lucas is the creator of the Swivel Stick. It’s a really cool and useful device that puts the Power Pole Micro Anchor to shame. What I didn’t know is Lucas also has an extensive history in plastics and Plexiglas. He offered to perform a more extensive re-hab and plastic welding to the Revo, and I happily accepted.
|Lucas using the Swivel Sticks|
My Revo is actually a loaner from Estero River Outfitters. It’s older and has been used and abused for most of its life. While inspecting the hole, it was apparent that most of the plastic on the keel was gone, a result of being dragged over the course of years. Merely plugging the hole wasn’t going to be an option, we were going to have to build up the area for a lasting fix. The bottom of the hull has also seen its share of abuse at the hands of oyster bars, rocks and what must have been the Kraken, judging by some of the deep gouges.
|Years of Rough Use|
|Some of the deeper gouges|
Lucas started by thoroughly washing the hull with a stiff brush and soap. This was to remove any surface dirt. After drying, he used a chemical cleaner to remove deeper dirt and stains. Already the Revo looked far better and Lucas was just prepping. The real work began with the next step. Lucas began working a razor blade over the entire surface. He kept the blade straight up, perpendicular to the hull, and scraped lightly. This removed all the tiny plastic “threads” from the fine scratches that can create drag on the hull. This was very meticulous work and went slow. This smoothed out those rough edges and produced some plastic “powder” that we saved for later use on the hole.
|Washing her down|
|Chemical cleaner application|
|All cleaned up|
|Details with the razor|
After leaving the kayak to warm up in the sun for a while, Lucas began using the heat gun. This is the type of work that not just anyone should do. Using a heat gun on a kayak can suddenly and without warning leave you with a pile of useless plastic. Lucas took his time and frequently stopped to use a water mister when the plastic began to get too hot. The idea is to heat up the hull just enough that the fine scratches disappear. They kind of melt together, leaving a smooth surface. The larger, deeper gouges won’t fill in, but will reduce in size. This probably took the longest time as Lucas had to stop frequently to let the plastic cool. Slowly, Lucas worked his way back to the keel. “You will never be able to make it like new, to get rid of all the scratches, but we can make it a whole lot better”, Lucas said. After a quick going over with superfine sandpaper, it was time to tackle the hole.Lucas let the plastic set and cool off for a while. When it was ready, he sanded off the rough bulk into shape. Then he used a rasp to file the plastic down even with the hull. Sandpaper finished the fine shaping and blending till one area ran smoothly into the other. If we had used the same color plastic there would be no way to tell there had been repairs. Lucas advises to keep any scraps of plastic you may have from installations or any other drilling. These can be used later for patches.
For this step, Lucas brought out some more specialized
tools. Butane torches are able to generate extreme heat on very localized
spots. He began with placing some of the plastic shavings from earlier into the
small depression created from the hole. The shavings melted quickly under the
heat of the torch and filled in the hole nicely. It also became evident that
the keel was too thin to leave. The kayak had been dragged many times on the
keel and as a result, the plastic was almost paper thin in that area. Lucas
quickly came up with a plan to rebuild the keel with leftover plastic from
other custom kayak projects he had completed.
The plastic was cut and shaped to fit the affected area.
Aluminum tape was placed on the inside to prevent the heated plastic from
falling inward. Lucas cut a long thin strip of plastic to use similar to the way TIG
welding is done. He began by heating a small part of the edge of the work area while
simultaneously heating the new piece to be “welded” on. As the two were joined,
Lucas would place the thin strip on the new joint, stirring the melted plastic
together while melting the strip into the mix as well. He began with a small
circle to build the keel to the same height, then started the same process again on top of
that, over a larger area. As he worked, the thin plastic of the keel would give
way as he kept working toward the front. Every half inch would cause another to
fall in, but Lucas kept working along until he could find plastic thick enough
to hold the new plastic. After about 5 inches he was into a good foundation and
finished bonding the plastic together.
|Working with the heat|
|Slow going with the heat gun|
|Look who stopped by...Josh Harvel!|
|Butane torch kit|
|Filling the hole|
|Shaping the new keel|
|Sanding and beveling the edges|
|The plastic version of TIG welding|
|Cooling it down|
|Building up the keel|
It goes without saying that if you attempted this at home with absolutely no prior experience, there is a good chance the result will be catastrophic. Lucas is a professional and does stuff like this for a living. He can restore a kayak that has seen hard use, adding a few more years of life, or to clean it up for a sale allowing you to get top dollar for your kayak. Either way, if you are in south Florida, you can contact Lucas at lucasLMDesigns@gmail.com to see if his particular set of skills will suit your needs. Also, check out http://landmdesignsinc.com/ to see Lucas' creation, the Swivel Stick. It's the best kayak anchoring system out there, bar none!