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Thread: Geodesic Airolite Boats

  1. #1
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    Default Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Good morning, Wooden Boat Forum! My name is Larry LaLonde and I'm the new owner of Geodesic Airolite Boats. After almost 40 years in business, Bette decided to retire in October and graciously agreed to sell me the business. I've built several of Platt's designs and a couple of my own, including an SOF Adirondack guide boat and whitewater kayak and worked with Bette for several years before buying the business.
    I contacted the WBF administrator in advance to make sure I didn't cross the line between promotion and guidance and, having read the forum for many years, I'm sure you guys will let me know if I do that!
    The goal of this thread isn't to sell plans or kits, there's an advertising section for that. Rather, I'd like to start developing a "knowledge base" of experienced builders. In the past three months, I've been contacted by dozens of new builders seeking advice and experienced builders with suggestions, modifications or improvements. Those two groups should have a place to get together and I'm hoping the WBF is the place, a clearing house for suggestions and brainstorming about materials, adhesives, tools, shop tricks, jigs, hull coverings, hull finishes and pitfalls to avoid.
    Any suggestions about how to proceed or information about other forums or user groups that might need to be revived would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Larry

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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Good news. Good luck.

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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Sounds great. It's my sense that there is a growing interest in skin on frame boats and we've certainly seen efforts here on the forum to apply the technology beyond kayaks and canoes. I've seen the most useful information come out of the build threads, where there's discussion about specific details of the build or materials use as the project progresses. If you could encourage some of your builders to record their projects here -- with lots of pictures, of course -- I'd see that as the most helpful contribution.
    -Dave

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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    +1.
    If you don't know where you're going, you might not end up there.-Yogi Berra

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Love the idea. I recall the first articles about various geodesic boats - a very communal do it yourself time. It looks like not only had Geodesic Airolite built a business model on that generous sense of community but with you has found a way to continue and enhance that wonderful spirit. Finastkind.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Thanks Ian, that's the idea. I know Bette well but never got the chance to meet Platt. However, I have boxes of sketches and correspondence and can tell he was very involved with the building community, regularly communicating with many builders and going to boating events to exchange ideas. Bette readily admits that she didn't have the knowledge to carry this on and the community has certainly begun to lose touch. As a paddler and boat builder first and a business owner second, I'm hoping to fix that.
    Thanks for your support!
    Larry

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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    That's awesome Larry! Congratulations and thanks for continuing the effort! There are several SOF build threads in here https://www.google.com/search?q=wood...hrome&ie=UTF-8 and if you can get new builders to add to this knowledge base I'd think it couldn't help but to reinforce your idea of a dedicated SOF community Looking forward to seeing what shows up

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    I built one, and liked it!

    Best of luck!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Hi Larry,
    Your boats are very interesting. Has anyone used aramid fabric on the bottom for increased cut and abrasion resistance? Some waters demand a hard use material.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Hull covering and sealing is one of the main topics of discussion with my customers, along with wood type. Platt put a lot of effort into testing alternate hull coverings based on the 3.7 oz fabric but reading through his materials he never really hit on one he liked. It's one of the topics I'd like to get into a dedicated forum as I know people have used ballistic nylon and many other combinations. I've tried several alternative finishes that are very promising that I'd like to share with other builders. I'm new to this so can someone suggest the right place and right way to get the discussion started?
    Thanks,
    Larry

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    I was going to say welcome to the forum Larry, but it appears that you've been a member for almost 7 years already. Welcome anyway!

    I can't think of a better way to prompt discussion than to start a build thread. If you make a point of discussing alternatives at every step of the process you will surely hear lots of opinions and, hopefully, promote the sharing of lots of experience. Starting a hull that has, as far as I know, never been built SOF and running it as a collaborative build would bring out the best in everyone involved.

    I designed and built a very successful hull for my son back in '94. I call it Christopher's Dory and have posted some photos as well as the plans here on the forum. I'm certain that it would be a great boat done SOF. If you would like to go ahead with what I've suggested I can send you a copy of the plans and we can all take it from there.

    rowboat 076.jpgScan 120580000.jpgrowboat 077.jpgshop 005.jpg

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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Thank you again Scott for making it so easy to post photos!

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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    I'm new to this so can someone suggest the right place and right way to get the discussion started?
    Just go to the "Tools, materials, techniques..." section and click on "Post New Thread." I've covered three SOF kayaks, one with the light aircraft dacron, one with 8 oz. polyester, and one with 8 oz. ballstic nylon. None is ideal, to be sure. I like the nylon best for it's strength, but experiments are needed to find a really good seal and finish coat. I did a sample with spray-on Flex-Seal gutter sealant, which looks promising. But this discussion should pick up on your new thread....
    -Dave

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Where are you located, Larry? Did you purchase all of what remained of Platt's inventions and inventory? His 'StretchMesh', for example? http://gaboats.com/bio/inventions.html
    "It's a pirate's life for me. Savvy??"

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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Urban Boatbuilders in St. Paul has been building SOF canoes for 6 to 7 years now with ballistic Nylon and PU. The framework scantlings are almost the same as Platt's. We use steam bent oak ribs, cherry rub rails and breast hooks and pine for most of the rest. The process started with a more heavily framed SOF canoe and an Aerolite canoe. The durability of the light skin on the Aerolite was concerning and keeping the Kevlar tight enough to do any good was a problem. In the end, we skipped the Kevlar, used the ballistic Nylon and found that the boats were somewhat heavier, but very durable.

    Navydog, the polyurethane coating is where you want (and have) the abrasion resistance, not the fabric. Once you are abrading fabric, you are in trouble. The way that I would try to slightly increase the abrasion resistance is by adding 2-3 weight percent fumed silica to the PU. That will not thicken it much, but will let you apply it a little thicker without runs. Mixing with enough shear is the part tha worries me. From what I have read, to get the thixotropy you need, it takes more than vigorous hand mixing. Cut resistance is excellent with ballistic Nylon. Kevlar would be better, but the cost benefit ratio is questionable. I think Kevlar (aromatic Nylon) would swell and shrink a lot like the aliphatic Nylon, so a 4 oz Kevlar skin vs 8 oz Nylon would be an interesting project. [EDIT: Swell and shrink BEFORE applying the PU coating. This is beneficial to getting the skin tight by wetting it before stretching it over the framework. You can't really stretch the cloth, but it swells when wet, and shrinks back as it dries, so it winds up nice and tight.]

    Gib, I played with the offsets to Christopher's Dory and a Cole Adirondack Guideboat in Freeship a few years ago. I am no expert with the software, so take the results with a grain of salt. The Kaper resistance for the guideboat was only slightly lower than your design. For the same resistance, the Cole would do 5.1 mph to 4.8 for Christophers Dory. That was for speeds near, but not exactly 10lb of resistance, so not exact. In small boats, a few inches here and there is big, so for the larger, more stable C.D. to come that close to the guideboat, well that is impressive. The difference might be significant in a race, but at the end of a 10 mile run on a reasonable outing, the only difference is that the crew in your boat might be more comfortable.
    Last edited by MN Dave; 01-08-2018 at 03:13 PM.
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    QUOTE..."Gib, I played with the offsets to Christopher's Dory and a Cole Adirondack Guideboat in Freeship a few years ago. I am no expert with the software, so take the results with a grain of salt. The Kaper resistance for the guideboat was only slightly lower than your design. For the same resistance, the Cole would do 5.1 mph to 4.8 for Christophers Dory. That was for speeds near, but not exactly 10lb of resistance, so not exact. In small boats, a few inches here and there is big, so for the larger, more stable C.D. to come that close to the guideboat, well that is impressive. The difference might be significant in a race, but at the end of a 10 mile run on a reasonable outing, the only difference is that the crew in your boat might be more comfortable."

    I love reading that Dave. I've been trying to get people to build that boat for years now, to no avail as far as I know. I guess I just don't have the big name to add credibility, can't blame folks for being cautious. I don't claim to be a naval architect, I guess I just got lucky taking what felt right from existing traditional hulls and applying them to my specific needs at the time.

    Since then I've built 2 offshoots and have been delighted with both of them, one at 20' with rounded frames and the other at 21', both with somewhat different ratios of widths and heights to length.

    It would be more than just interesting to see how it compares to the guideboat as SOF. My estimate is that it would beat the pants off of it, especially if they were both 2 up, with more stability to boot.

    Here's hoping.
    Last edited by Gib Etheridge; 01-08-2018 at 03:39 PM.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    done2.jpg17 Frame done.jpgboatonbeach.jpg

    Thought I'd post a couple pictures of my SOF guideboat. I posted these on the forum a few years ago and the boat has gotten a lot of use since then. I've been rowing guideboats for many, many years and this one is very fast and stable. Not sure how it compares to the other hulls you've listed but it's a great guideboat!

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    I'm a semi-retired snowbird, spending the winters in Georgia and summers in the Adirondacks. Fortunately, the business fits into a large trailer and I have plenty of room at both locations to set it up and run it. I got the inventory associated with the online business and all of Platt's documentation about his inventions. The man had a busy mind! The only things I got other than that were a Cricket 12 and Blivit 13 that Platt built. The boats are stunning, he was a very talented boat builder but only built about 10 according to Bette since he was constantly moving on to other things. I have pictures of a 42 foot boat that was built using a couple of his hull building creations but Bette doesn't know what happened to that boat. Anyone here know?

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Thanks Dave, I'll get that started this evening.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Quote Originally Posted by MN Dave View Post
    Navydog, the polyurethane coating is where you want (and have) the abrasion resistance, not the fabric. Once you are abrading fabric, you are in trouble. The way that I would try to slightly increase the abrasion resistance is by adding 2-3 weight percent fumed silica to the PU. That will not thicken it much, but will let you apply it a little thicker without runs. Mixing with enough shear is the part tha worries me. From what I have read, to get the thixotropy you need, it takes more than vigorous hand mixing. Cut resistance is excellent with ballistic Nylon. Kevlar would be better, but the cost benefit ratio is questionable. I think Kevlar (aromatic Nylon) would swell and shrink a lot like the aliphatic Nylon, so a 4 oz Kevlar skin vs 8 oz Nylon would be an interesting project. [EDIT: Swell and shrink BEFORE applying the PU coating. This is beneficial to getting the skin tight by wetting it before stretching it over the framework. You can't really stretch the cloth, but it swells when wet, and shrinks back as it dries, so it winds up nice and tight.]
    Dave, Thanks for your reply. Actually I think cut resistance is a high priority, operating a boat in shallows around oyster beds will reek havoc on a bottom. I have a spot in mind with a lot of thin water and loads of beds.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    If the large boat Bette lost track of is the Ferra-Lite LF Herreshoff-inspired Mobjack hull he built in back of their house, I know what she's taking about and looked it over with him one day. But I don't know where it went either.

    I do know where the Puddle-Dippa molds went though, and believe the guy who has them would like to sell. http://gaboats.com/bio/
    "It's a pirate's life for me. Savvy??"

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Quote Originally Posted by navydog View Post
    Dave, Thanks for your reply. Actually I think cut resistance is a high priority, operating a boat in shallows around oyster beds will reek havoc on a bottom. I have a spot in mind with a lot of thin water and loads of beds.
    OYSTERS? Oh. Ouch. Well, there is always chain mail. So in your case, Kevlar may be worth a shot. Make a test panel and see how hard it is to cut. You can hardly get a screwdriver through the ballistic Nylon, but oysters can be awfully sharp. Pardon me for being picky, butt while a bottom may reek, havoc is usually wreaked.

    Gib, you should talk to our sponsors about selling plans. If I were going to replace my guideboat, Christopher's Dory would be high on my list. An article about your boats and shop would be interesting. Maybe a nice start to a whole series of short stories on Forum members' shops.

    Larry, I love that guideboat. Was the 42' boat this one? http://www.fer-a-lite.com/

    It would be more than just interesting to see how it compares to the guideboat as SOF. My estimate is that it would beat the pants off of it, especially if they were both 2 up, with more stability to boot.
    I could propose this to Mark at UBB. I know he would agree, at my expense of course. The boats would be built by and taken up to the boundary waters by a group of apprentices along with some SOF canoes.
    Last edited by MN Dave; 01-08-2018 at 08:17 PM. Reason: '
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Quote "I think cut resistance is a high priority". Too right, unfortunately. We have lots of fresh water mussels locally, and after one year's use, I had to replace the skin bottom of my Platt 12 foot rowboat with wood, in sheer self defence.

    Nice design, tows well, but if you are going to abuse the boat by running it ashore on anything but sand or mud, perhaps a skin boat is not the right choice. Duct tape makes a great (temporary) repair, though.

    Tony.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    QUOTE...."Gib, you should talk to our sponsors about selling plans. If I were going to replace my guideboat, Christopher's Dory would be high on my list. An article about your boats and shop would be interesting. Maybe a nice start to a whole series of short stories on Forum members' shops."

    There was a time when I had the energy to do that, but nowadays I'm entirely consumed by my desire to get back to the wolves for a 2 year stint this time and want to concentrate on that.

    I do think that's an excellent idea though, and it would be fun.

    Come to think about it I did send them a set once asking if they'd be interested in selling them. They never replied.

    I don't know UBB, or Mark, but go ahead Dave. If they're interested I'll be as supportive as necessary, including free plans.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Dave, that hull looks familiar but I don't have any finished pictures. It's 42 feet and, as far as I know, the only one built so, probably!

    Thanks for the guideboat comment. I'm very proud of that boat, both the looks and performance (at 44 pounds, it's a Ferrari compared to a 75 pound standard boat). If you are looking to perform some objective performance tests, I have a few different SOF boats that I would volunteer, everything from a pack boat to a 15.5 foot solo kayak to a whitewater kayak to the guideboat. I've been modifying Platt's hulls to make them more compatible with what a modern paddler might expect and I'd love to see how they stack up.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    I love the looks of Geodesic boats and have seen 2 of them in my area , in both cases the builders did amazing jobs and they are works of art .

    Will 3.7oz dacron work ? Yes but .... it simply is too thin . The one kayak I used the 3.7 oz on suffered a tear along a chine when i scraped over a barnacle covered rock , it was in calm water and a regular kind of event that happens in the course of using a kayak . It was a slow leak but showed that the fabric is not up to any kind of real world use . I used Flecto Water-Based Varathane , several coats which doesn't add any appreciable abrasion resistance . I have built a dozen SOF kayaks with various fabrics for skin coverings and coatings .

    The coating system that I would try on my next SOF boat is one that I think Dave Gentry developed and is highly recommended . You choose a skin , for kayaks and canoes 8 oz to 10 oz polyester or nylon are most commonly used and work well , you can use heavier from 12 - 15 oz . George Dyson sells a wide variety weights and weaves for skin boats . Ok you have the boat skinned up ready for the coating , first apply Loctite's PL Premium 3X polyurethane construction adhesive then once that is dry you paint it a few coats for UV resistance - refer to this link for more CRITICAL information http://www.kayakforum.com/cgi-bin/Bu...yester-tested/ down a few posts Rich D mentions thinning the PL Premium 3x with mineral spirits for easier coating , I'd do that .

    This two step system of using the PL Premium and then a regular exterior paint ( I'd use satin , not gloss ) for UV resistance , is cheaper and reportedly as tough as the more expensive coatings that some use .

    Maybe it's worth a shot using this method with 3.7 oz dacron and it could substantially increase the durability . ( Personally I like the 8-10 oz polyester or nylon )

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Would it work to coat ballistic nylon with epoxy then lay a layer of Kevlar in the epoxy?

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    probably but Bill Hamm is one to ask , here is a somewhat related post http://www.kayakforum.com/cgi-bin/Bu...nd-feet-suppo/

    I think guys have mentioned kevlar and skin on frame boats before but it is very rigid where skin on frame boats seem to work best if everything gives a little especially the skin .

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Quote Originally Posted by Gib Etheridge View Post
    Would it work to coat ballistic nylon with epoxy then lay a layer of Kevlar in the epoxy?
    No. It would work to coat with polyurethane (PU) and lay a layer of Kevlar on with more PU. A polyurethane coating is much more elastic and very tough. Epoxy is typically brittle. A toughened flexible epoxy is no match for a PU for elongation, impact or UV resistance. I f you coat a single layer of fiberglass with epoxy, it will break easily, but won't with PU. I want to hedge on saying that it will work. The ballistic Nylon is a tight weave that may act like a peel ply when laminated. I would have to try it to be certain, but I am afraid that if you catch the edge of the Kevlar layer on a sharp rock, it might peel to some extent. I would save the weight and just use Kevlar for the whole thing. It is an ugly sallow color though.

    Frankly I think the Spirit Line on ballistic Nylon would stand up to most oysters and any freshwater mussel.

    I have only used Spirit Line polyurethane. I don't remember what George Dyson sells, but I gather it is very good for the purpose. I would not fool around with PL construction stuff. It is no where near as elastic. Kevlar fiber is much stiffer than Nylon, but the stiffness of the coating has a major effect on overall stiffness of a coated cloth. There are some PVC and Hypalon coatings made for inflatable rafts that would also work. Sdowney(?) liked Sanitred PU concrete coating for boats that was a tough PU with lots of elongation. I would strongly recommend that you stick with a proven material here such as Dyson's stuff or Spirit Line. You need a good combination of elongation, peel, tear and tensile strength with hardness in the high Shore A to low Shore D range.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom M. View Post
    Corey's goop is called Spirit Line two part polyurethane. Apparently it was developed specifically for coating SOF kayaks. It is exceptionally flexible and insanely durable. A SOF kayak with Spirit Line's poly and a proper frame resists impact loads better than any glass boat, and I'd wager better than a glassed stitch and glue boat as well. However, puncture resistance, like scraping across oyster beds, is lower. But really, its incredibly rare that a SOF boat with Spirit Line goop suffers a puncture. In fact, I've never heard of it. One doesn't often run into a reef made of razor sharp knives, yet I believe that's what it would take.
    The little double chevron symbol next to the name is the link to the thread. I closed the window already.

    Mark is the director at UBB, urbanboatbuilders.org/
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

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    Default Re: Geodesic Airolite Boats

    Quote Originally Posted by MN Dave View Post
    Pardon me for being picky, butt while a bottom may reek, havoc is usually wreaked.
    W

    Well one never really knows what will show up when you post from a phone. I've had much worse things happen.

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