It All Began…
It all began with an order for a goldenrod NC17 Quest. I started as I always do, spraying the gel coat. When I sprayed the gel coat for the deck everything went to plan, or so I thought. After laminating the deck and waiting for it to cure, we pulled the deck out of the mold. Something had gone sideways with the pigmenting of the gel coat. Either I hadn’t mixed the pigment enough, or the gel coat had varying viscosities. It’s the same problem, really: the pigment isn’t uniformly distributed in the gel coat, so it has spots that are a darker shade of goldenrod. I can’t use this deck for the custom order kayak.
I reset and sprayed the gel coat for the goldenrod deck again. This time, I spent a lot of time mixing the pigment into the gel coat. I was aware that I was using the last of a pail of gel coat and that if the problem was it had thickened I may not be able to adequately mix it together and I would have the same dark spots as I had before. If I could make it work, it would save me time because I didn’t have any more neutral gel coat at the shop. We laminated it, waited, and then we pulled it.
The Results Are In!
It didn’t work. It had fewer, smaller, dark spots, but they were still there. Also, one of my eyebrow hairs had decided to become a permanent resident of this deck. Upon further inspection, it appears one of my eyelashes also abandoned me for the deck and it was joined by a flake of teal gel coat that I have no idea where it came from. Clearly, this won’t do.
Third Times the Charm
On the third attempt, I got my perfect goldenrod deck.
But this isn’t the story of that kayak. This is the story of the two decks that didn’t become that kayak.
Is It Upcycling?
When we have parts like these two decks that are imperfectly good parts, or as we call them, “blem” kayaks, because they have cosmetic blemishes, we store them. When we have enough blem parts to make a kayak, we assemble them. I’d rather build these blemished parts into a kayak than throw them away. Just because the finish isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it will paddle any differently than its unblemished siblings. Is it upcycling if I make it into what I intended it to be? Maybe not, but it is certainly less wasteful.
The First Goldenrod Blem
So the first goldenrod blem is done. I used the first deck that has more dark spots (but no hairs). The hull came from a different order; it is a blem because it has a small dark streak in the tail. This sometimes happens because the gel coat is applied with a brush in the tail of the 17s and 19s. Because we install the bulkheads before we pull the hull from the mold, and we install the bulkhead hatch before we install the bulkheads, and the customer this hull was built for wanted a bulkhead hatch, this kayak has a bulkhead hatch. The red seat and coaming are not blems; I just happened to have them at the shop. We sometimes make popular color seats and coamings in between working on custom kayak orders.
Perfectly Imperfect Blem Kayaks
Generally speaking, we don’t build kayaks on spec. We are a custom sea kayak manufacturer, so we are nearly always building each boat to a customer’s specifications. But when we find ourselves with imperfectly good parts, we don’t want those to go to waste. We put together “spec” boats from those blem parts during the down-time between the steps of the custom kayaks we’re building. That’s why you’re unlikely to see very many ready-made boats in our shop. But we are always glad to give these parts a new life.