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Major Royalex repair?
Posted by: old_user on Oct-21-12 9:29 PM (EST) Category: Canoes
Hello, first time poster, long time paddler.
I've been paddling mostly solo a Penobscot 17 in some downriver WW races and Class II-III with some occasional IV drops (often not successfully). I have been looking for a shorter solo for river running and to make the WW more enjoyable. I just acquired a used '88 Mad River ME. It's just the kind of canoe I had been looking for and I was very excited to find it. I was leary of the condition of the royalex. The owner said it was mostly stored inside but some summers (whatever that means)it was stored under a shade tree by the water. I looked at the hull pretty carefully and didn't see any signs of obvious delamination or fatigue. The worst the hull had were some minor gouges and the usual scratches:
Anyway, I bought it happily. It is otherwise in very good shape and came with some servicable air bags and knee pads. I have subsequently built my own pedestal, redone the lines, varnished the thwarts and carry handles, and moved the center thwart. So, I took it for my maiden voyage on my local Class 2-3+ run that was raging from recent storms. Everything was going great until I hit this:
Now the side of my new boat looks like this:
So, after my initial heartache, I've thought about repairing it. I've read a lot here and elsewhere and it seems like a several layers of s-glass or kevlar fabric using GFlex insides, plus maybe another one or two layers outside could fix this. However, then I started worrying that the royalex might be compromised on this old boat and it might not be wortht it. This was the first impact I gave the boat, but to be fair, it was a very big impact that sent me swimming. I'm not sure my much newer Penobscot would have faired any better. So, before I spend a lot of $ and time fixing this I want some advice whether it's worth repairing it. I'd hate to have this happen again next time I hit something in the river.
If I should repair it, my questions are these:
1. Kevlar or S-glass?
2. How many layers inside and how many outside?
3. Should I cut away all the broken royalex and tape some cardboard over the outside of the hole (with wax paper) and begin the repair from the inside, OR should I straight all that broken stuff out and tape it temporarily to be part of the repair?
4. For a hole this large, how far beyond the cracks should I extend the patch.
If the answer turns out that I should plant peonies in it, please help me find a similar boat. You would really make a downtrodden paddler feel better. I'm in Maine, for what it's worth.
thanks for the help!
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- Major Royalex repair? - old_user - Oct-21-12 9:29 PM
Posted by: old_user on Oct-22-12 12:26 PM (EST)
Here are a couple close-ups of the break and layers:
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Posted by: openboater on Oct-22-12 1:57 PM (EST)
I usually don't chime into the repair questions here too much (I do canoe/kayak/SUP repair for a living), but felt I need to add my two cents.
I fear for the overall integrity of the Royalex. She looks awfully brittle and my gut tells me if you repair these wounds, you will encounter the same type of damage when next you bang around in the river. The tough thing about Royalex is that you can ALMOST NEVER tell from looking at the hull how good the sheet is. Some sheet will never cold crack, some will, some sheet will get brittle (like yours), some never will, etc. When you hit that rock that caused this damage, the hull should have not reacted like it did. If I did the repair, it would cost $340+. For me, the only stuff I use is a Plexus product (MA550) which costs a lot of $$$$$$. There is NO guarantee that the rest of the hull won't react the same way when it gets hit. This canoe should be left to a life of fast water, easy rapids, or a flower bed.
Sorry, but I feel your safety is more important that hoping that the canoe will survive the next hit. Email me if you want to discuss this further.
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Posted by: Lanky189 on Oct-22-12 2:10 PM (EST)
My heart broke when I saw those pics. What a shame. I love my ME. If it isnt salvageable, I would be interested in your endcaps.
My condolences once more. Glad you are ok and able to share the tale however.
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Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Oct-22-12 4:51 PM (EST)
25 years ago people said Royalex tears couldn't be repaired. But there was a guy named Jim Booker, who was a professional welder in the Amherst, MA, area, who had figured out how to weld Royalex rips and tears. He repaired my ME that way -- though the tear was not as bad and multi-directional as yours. He claimed the weld was stronger than the original material, and I never had any reason to doubt that.
Booker used to paddle with the Berkshire Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Even if he's not available any more, surely there are other welders who have figured out the process for Royalex.
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Posted by: openboater on Oct-22-12 6:46 PM (EST)
makes for an indestructible repair. My concern is for the rest of the hull. I believe the Royalex itself has become brittle and will continue to "fall apart" against the rocks.
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Posted by: dougd on Oct-22-12 11:37 PM (EST)
If that were mine I would be off to the dump with it, no trust in that hull. I agree with Rob and he knows what he is talking about.
I do know someone in VT who has a MR Courier for sale for around 300$ if you are interested in that hull. I have one and love the way it handles. Shoot me an email if you are interested and I can contact the owner.
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Time to move on? What boat?|
Posted by: old_user on Oct-23-12 7:54 AM (EST)
Is there any test I can give it to see if the hull has any quality left? Someone on NPMB suggested taking a bat to it. I tried the blunt end of my splitting maul (because I don't have a bat) but I couldn't bring myself to really wail on it. Anyway, in my medium hits it bounced the way it should. I also tried flexing the hull all over and i didn't hear any cracking. I also took it to the Old Town factory and had one knowledgeable guy look at it and he thought it was probably okay. A friendly engineer at Mad River took a look at the pictures above (including the close-ups) and thought it was probably not worth risking it.
So, I'm conflicted. If there is a good way to really test the integrity, I'll consider repairing it, otherwise I'm leaning towards ditching it and looking for another boat.
I blew my play money for a boat between the boat itself and a bunch of outfitting supplies (which of course can transfer to a new hull) so I don't have lots of money for a new boat. In the 4 miles of Class II-III I paddled this boat I really liked it. Is it time to ask for suggestions for similar hulls that are newer and can be found relatively inexpensively?
Thanks for the suggestion about the MR Courier, DougD. The price is right but based on the specs I found I think it's somewhere between my Penobscot and the ME. I think I'm looking for a more playful boat, but one that can still track reasonably well on flatwater stretches. I'm pretty sure I want something in the 14-15 ft. range (i.e., not a more modern stubby WW boat). I see a fair amount of Mohawk XL-15's come up for sale but everything I read says they are great beginner boats, which usually means they get boring quickly.
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The Dagger Rival, though short, might |
Posted by: ezwater on Oct-31-12 10:12 PM (EST)
satisfy you. It is fairly round with low wetted area. There are good used Rivals available in Dagger Royalex, or you can get Kaz of Millbrook to make one in S-glass and Kevlar. However, the Millbrook version will need at least occasional repairs, though not as drastic as what you're facing. I think designer Bob Foote is paddling a Dagger Rival in the "Drill Time" video.
You can watch for a Synergy, though mine is now almost 15 years old and possibly becoming a bit brittle. Still, the Royalex on mine has seemed outstanding.
The new Wenonah ww canoe, a relatively conservative design, might be tolerably fast.
Also, the Mohawk Shaman is from a Harold Deal design which raced in the combined class, where it had to be good at both slalom and whitewater.
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okay, thinking about fixing it|
Posted by: old_user on Oct-25-12 8:54 AM (EST)
Thanks for all the advice. I'm leaning towards fixing it and seeing how it goes. My questions now are:
1. I have pushed the pieces back into their original plane and there actually aren't any missing pieces. I understand that normally for a crack, you would bevel the edges of each side of the crack so that the epoxy adheres not just to the outer layer of the hull but also to some of the interior of the royalex. However, if I put a large patch of kevlar and/or s-glass over this whole area, it would extend beyond any of the cracks and be adhering only to the outer surface of the hull. Is roughing it up with sandpaper enough or do I want to get the outer surface (inside the hull or outside) off entirely on the outer edges of the patch?
2. Back to the question about whether the hull should have done this in the first place. I feel fairly confident that this was really a puncture from the blunt end of the tree (not a rock), rather than just a bashing like would happen if I hit a rock broadside. Do you folks think royalex still should not have punctured if it weren't old and brittle?
Thank you, all.
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maybe a freak accident|
Posted by: pblanc on Oct-25-12 11:18 AM (EST)
but many of us have hit logs hard with Royalex boats and not experienced such extensive fractures. Obviously, the only way to find out is to repair the boat and start paddling it.
For bonding linear cracks it is definitely best to "gutter out" the crack using something like an old "church key" can opener as a scraper. In that event you are trying to maximize the bonding surface of the epoxy and diffuse the stress riser that occurs at the interface between the epoxy and the ABS. In your case, the cracks extend obliquely through the entire foam core and both solid ABS strata. My feeling is that beveling the cracks at the surface probably wouldn't gain you much, but you could certainly do it.
I would probably just clean the foam core well using denatured or isopropyl alcohol and allow it to dry well. Don't use acetone or MEK as it will dissolve the foam core. I would coat the exposed foam core with a coat of epoxy applied with an "acid brush" just before mating the surfaces and then use clear plastic packing tape to keep the surfaces aligned on the side of the hull you are not working on. If you use G Flex you have a working time of 45 minutes or so at normal temperatures. If the shape of the canoe does not look fair, you may need to use a sheet of thin plastic or stiff cardboard on the outside of the hull to maintain shape. I have sometimes been successful holding a stiffener in place against the hull with cam straps, but it depends on the curvature of the hull.
G2d who posts on this forum quite a bit feels it is important to remove the vinyl layer from the Royalex before bonding cloth to it and does so with a sharp chisel. His theory is that the bond of the vinyl to the ABS layer of Royalex is weaker than the bond of epoxy and cloth to the exposed ABS would be. I understand the reasoning, but I don't do that. I have seen quite a few fiberglass patches applied by others to Royalex boats delaminate, but I have never seen them take the vinyl off the Royalex when they do so. So I just rough up the Royalex surface with something like 80 grit paper and clean it well before bonding cloth to it. You can use acetone or MEK over the solid part of the ABS as a cleaning agent if the exposure is brief, because it doesn't soak in as it would in the foam core.
After bonding and fairing the hull inside and out with thickened epoxy, I would probably take the time to reinforce over the cracks with strips of cloth about 2-3 inches wide. If you are using fiberglass, you can feather the edges nicely by sanding. Aramid (Kevlar) does not sand well as it fuzzes up, but if you use peel ply over the cloth when wetting it out and remove it when the epoxy is still green, you will get a nice smooth edge. If you do this, try to cut your strips on the bias at whatever angle is necessary so that the fibers in the strips will cross the fibers of your large patches at around a 45 degree angle as that will maximize strength.
After reinforcing the joined pieces with cloth strips, it should be a pretty straight forward matter to apply your large patches inside and out. That will give you a two layer repair over the joined cracks inside and out.
Obviously, you could use E-glass instead of S-glass to save a few bucks, and you could use fiberglass instead of aramid on the inside to save a few more. In my view, your time is going to be the biggest investment in the repair, so I would pay a few bucks more and use the stronger materials. You would not need to completely fill the weave of the aramid cloth on the inside of you didn't want to. You would want to do so on the outside before painting so as to get a nice smooth surface.
Don't use aramid on the outside of the hull as it fuzzes up when abraded.
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If it were not old and brittle, it might|
Posted by: ezwater on Oct-25-12 11:54 AM (EST)
have punctured, but the puncture would have a different appearance. Proper ABS/Royalex behavior is to show a more plastic puncture. It's a bit like comparing how a bullet breaks glass, and how it breaks metal.
It may be no coincidence that yours is an old ME, and the one that showed brittle shattering on the upper Conasauga was an old ME. Apparently neither had experienced a tear or puncture before. There may have been a batch of Royalex blanks used to make MEs back then, that had more than usual susceptibility to becoming brittle with age.
I don't have wide experience with plastics, nor with Mrs. Robinson either, but one plastic I worked with for years was definitely ductile when new, and grew brittle with age. I could restore ductility by heating and allowing slow cooling, which is annealing. Sorry I don't know how to anneal an entire canoe.
You should also check the foam between the ABS layers, and see if it has become stiff and crusty. Originally it is hard but somewhat ductile. One guy who used to post all the time on pnet was Eric Nyre. He claimed that exposure to water or moisture would eventually make the foam layer stiff, and weaker.
E-glass is OK, if you get into it. Kevlar inside, usually, and glass outside. Review West's technical writing on repair of fiberglass. But you don't need to dish out Royalex very much for repairs. Patches: largest go on first, and so on down to smallest.
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Jim Booker weld job - nice find|
Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Oct-27-12 8:02 PM (EST)
That's the welder I mentioned in my previous post, who fixed my ME.
If you read the text, Booker has welded back together a Royalex canoe that arrived in three separate pieces.
I know nothing about welding, but I believe Booker uses sticks of ABS to do the welds.
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Here is a source for that page|
Posted by: pblanc on Oct-28-12 3:58 PM (EST)
This web site has a lot of information regarding repair of polyethylene and Royalex or Royalite boats. Not all of the links work.
Jim Booker's work is discussed. Links are also given to use of cloth and G Flex for repairs, as well as the ABS/Acetone "paint" method that some have had good luck with (my results were pretty marginal).
Quite a few folks have successfully repaired cracked polyethylene canoes and kayaks using inexpensive thermal welders or even by simply melting PE sticks into cracks with a propane torch. To my knowledge, very few have attempted weld repairs of foam-cored polyethylene or Royalex boats.
Years ago, I was half-owner of a battered Blue Hole Sunburst II canoe previously owned by Carrie Ashton. Someone had "welded" an ABS plate to the bottom of that boat to repair a hole under the pedestal. It looked as if a piece of ABS cutting board had been used, and it certainly didn't look very elegant, but it apparently had been durable. I have no idea what method was used to bond the ABS material to the Royalex or who did it.
If you read through the material regarding the Royalex welding method that Booker used you will find that it involved some pretty expensive stuff. Wasn't a problem for him, since he was a welder by trade. But the average individual who attempts this is probably looking at some significant up-front expenses (although a cheap welding unit sold by Harbor Freight was mentioned that was judged to "probably work") as well as a learn as you go experience. Unless, of course, you are fortunate enough to find someone experienced in Royalex welding repair that already has the equipment. Forget about Jim Booker though, as he doesn't do it any more.
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just sand it off|
Posted by: pblanc on Oct-31-12 11:47 AM (EST)
Use sandpaper to take off the wax paper residue. You want to sand it down flush to the hull anyway so your cloth lies down across the joints as cleanly as possible. If you have any cracks visible from the outside that are not completely filled with epoxy, support the hull on its side so that these are facing skyward and fill them in with small amounts of G Flex, using a thickening agent if you have one. Cured G Flex sands quite nicely.
In future, I think you would have better luck using clear plastic packing tape over the joints. G Flex sticks to it less and it you press it down well, it doesn't allow nearly as much epoxy to seep out under it.
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Take the S off of https|
Posted by: dougd on Oct-31-12 5:20 PM (EST)
and we won't have to cut and paste it into a browser. Just a hint as I having been following the links.
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Sorry - fixed it.|
Posted by: old_user on Oct-31-12 7:56 PM (EST)
Sorry about those links. The one above is fixed and has the whole album.
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wetting out fabrics|
Posted by: old_user on Nov-06-12 9:00 AM (EST)
I started the cloth patches last night. I did the fiberglass on the outside first, using one layer as recommended above. It went reasonably well but I have a couple of questions:
1. The GFlex is pretty viscous and doesn't wet out the s-glass as easily as I had imagined. Should I warm it up beyond room temperature to get it to flow better?
2. I used very sharp sewing scissors for the s-glass and it cut easily but I kept losing fibers from the edges so the net result was that the edges tended to have fibers in one direction. This was made slightly worse each time I scraped the viscous epoxy towards and edge. How do I minimize this?
3. I was planning to use the same scissors for the kevlar, which I think is generally a no-no. However, I don't plan on doing this very often and my wife hasn't noticed that I took her fancy sewing scissors yet.
4. I'm doing this in my unheated shed. I have a closed-system space-heater that I've put next to the repair. I've hung a thermometer from the rafters and in the general vicinity of the repair it stayed above 60 last night, despite outside temps of 25. It was still a bit tacky this morning so I left the heater on for the day, too. The GFlex says it will still cure down to 40, so I think I'm okay, even though it was tacky today.
5. Should I consider putting another layer of just epoxy over the s-glass patch once the first is all dry? This will allow me to feather out the edges a bit better without disrupting the edges of the s-glass itself, I think.
I'm planning to do the kevlar on the inside tonight, so any thoughts on these questions would be helpful!
thanks for the ongoing help, everyone...
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Posted by: pblanc on Nov-06-12 10:45 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Nov-06-12 2:09 PM EST --
G Flex is more viscous than other epoxies such as System 3, MAS, or West System 105/205-206. I have found that it wets out 6 oz/yd fiberglass or aramid cloth just fine as long as you are applying only one layer at a time and the working temperature is not too cool. The trick is to be patient and let the cloth take its time taking up the epoxy. Don't be in a rush to force it into the weave. Fortunately, G Flex has a pot life of about 45 minutes at room temperature (longer at cooler temperatures) and an even longer working life so you have time.
Yes, you can warm G Flex and it will reduce the viscosity but it will also reduce the pot life and working life so I would try a couple of other things first. If you have an accessory lamp on a cord put a 100 Watt bulb in it and lay it or hang it under the part of the hull you are working on several hours before you apply your cloth. You might be able to put your space heater underneath the inverted hull if there is a good bit of space between it and the Royalex. Obviously take care to avoid overheating the hull. You can also use a hair drier or heat gun to gently warm the part of the hull you are applying cloth to before you put the cloth on the boat and wet it out.
Fiberglass cuts easily with regular scissors. Aramid does not. I have been successful in cutting aramid cloth with scissors but it does dull the scissors and gives your hand a work out. Some people lay the cloth on a cutting board and use a razor knife to cut it.
All woven cloth will tend to fray as you cut it and wet it out. You will get better at minimizing the fraying as you gain experience. If you are cutting rectangular patches on the warp (along the line of the fibers) be careful to cut exactly along the line of one of the glass fibers to minimize the number of transected fibers that will be susceptible to fraying. Patches cut on the bias actually are less prone to fraying along the edges.
Like a lot of folks, I will cut my patches slightly larger than I want the end result to be and then remove a couple of strands from each side before applying it knowing that they will probably fray anyway. The fibers that are left "sticking out" from the patch are easily sanded off after the epoxy is cured.
As you wet out the cloth start applying your epoxy in the center of the patch and rather slowly progress out to the edges. As you apply epoxy to the cut edge very gently dab it on without dislodging the fibers along the edge and let the fibers take up the epoxy before working that part of the cloth very much. Try not to work the cloth in a direction that separates fibers from the edges of the cloth until the epoxy has become tacky enough to hold the cloth down.
You might find that an inexpensive, disposable, metal handle "acid flux" brush is a good tool for applying the epoxy to the cloth.
It generally takes at least 2, and often 3 applications of epoxy to completely fill the weave of the cloth. With each successive application the cloth will take up progressively less epoxy, however. You might not need to completely fill the weave of the aramid cloth on the inside but you will want to do so on the exterior if you want a smooth surface. At cool temperatures, G Flex may take longer than overnight to cure. If you let the epoxy fully cure before applying another coat then you should either wet sand the cured epoxy or wash and rinse it to remove the amine blush which could interfere with bonding of the fresh epoxy.
I will often feather my patches after the wetting out process before filling the weave of the cloth. As long as the epoxy is cured, or nearly cured, you won't disrupt any fibers in the cloth as long as it was properly wet out. I usually do this by wet sanding with water proof paper using something like 180 or 220 grit. After the cloth weave is completely filled I wet sand again down to maybe 400 grit (or finer).
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Posted by: latremorej on Nov-07-12 8:14 PM (EST)
I like to stretch a piece of saran wrap over the glass. Then I wet the squeegee and press out the extra epoxy. I tape around the repair first so when the excess is pressed out it stays on the tape. The wrap helps the weave stay in place. I pull off the plastic then the tape while the epoxy is still in its "green" state. (Stiff enough but still tacky). This leaves a nice clean edge on the repair and minimizes drips and sanding. Just my humble opinion as I have only done it twice on royalex :)
I would also buy a bit of red dye to add to the epoxy. Nothing you do will match it perfectly as the boat is old and somewhat faded but it will help make the repair less noticeable. The more dye the brighter the red will turn out in my experience. West Marine sells dye in the epoxy aisle.
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repaired and paddling strong!|
Posted by: YankeeSnowman on Jun-02-14 12:12 PM (EST)
I thought I'd check back in and give an update. Despite some of the generous advice here and elsewhere, I decided to repair the boat. A year and a half later it's still going strong. I've done quite a few Class I-III+ runs in it and have not had any issues yet. I've even had a few hard hits in the area with no problems. I ran Seboomook-Roll Dam yesterday at 850 cfs and the boat was solid (although it's always been a pretty wet boat in the front).
I plan to keep paddling the ME until something worse happens. Thanks again for the input.
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