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Lay Up Lowdown UNDERSTANDING BOAT AND BOARD MATERIALS


ROTOMOLDED POLYETHYLENE


ROYALEX


THERMOFORMED PLASTIC


FIBERGLASS ARAMIDS CARBON


TRADITIONAL MATERIALS


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Boats and boards made of poly are hard-wearing. Poly is also difficult to repair and it flexes, resulting in less glide through the water.


Manufacturing polyethylene watercraft involves dumping plastic pellets into a mold that is heated and rotated until the pellets melt and take on the desired shape. There are different grades of polyethylene offering different performance attributes.


Royalex is used in canoe manufacturing, often reserved for recreational and whitewater paddlers because of its durability.


To make a Royalex boat, vinyl, ABS plastic and a foam core are sandwiched together to create sheets that are heated over a mold to the desired shape. There are different thicknesses of Royalex available depending on durability and weight expectations.


58 Annual 2012


Thermoformed plastic is used mainly in the production of kayaks. It’s stiff and glossy like composite boats so it glides well through the water.


To make a


thermoformed boat, sheets of hybrid plastics are heated and laid over a mold like a blanket. There are different grades of thermoformed plastics with higher- end thermoforming technology ensuring a longer lifespan.


Fiberglass watercraft are relatively stiff and easy to repair. Fiberglass can come in a woven cloth, typically lighter and higher quality, or a loose fiber—often a less expensive option.


In manufacturing, an exterior coloring, stiffening and protective layer called a gel coat is applied to the mold. Next, the fiberglass is placed into the mold and impregnated with liquid resin, which then hardens.


Aramid is the generic name for the family of performance- oriented materials commonly referred to by DuPont’s brand name, Kevlar.


Similar to fiberglass, aramid boats are made with resin applied to fiber in a mold. Different manufacturers use different types of resins and molding processes vary— some use vacuum molds, some don’t use gel coats— impacting the weight, durability and expected lifespan of the final product.


Because it’s so stiff, carbon is a top performer when it comes to glide on the water. It’s also extremely light, making it faster as well as easier to carry.


Manufacturing quality carbon composites involves a complex balance of finicky epoxies and costly fiber weave. Most builders use vacuum molds to remove excess air and resin in order to achieve the lightest possible outcome.


Staying true to the roots of artisan- crafted canoes, kayaks and boards, manufacturers use wood structure and veneers, birchbark, skin coverings and even bamboo.


Boats made using these materials are best left for paddlers willing to take extra care, sacrificing durability for beauty and heritage. Weight can vary tremendously depending on material. Board manufacturers still count on wood as a reliable and highly functional material.


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