What is Geodesic
Airolite Construction? It is a simple, inexpensive, low-tech,
forgiving system utilizing some exotic
materials. The sequence consists of building a simple rugged
wood framework, braced with triangulated KEVLAR® roving strands.
This tough basket-like frame is then covered with Dacron. This
is a first cousin to sail cloth; except it heat shrinks. It is
a super-weight, airplane wing covering type of fabric, used on
Obviously Dacron covered boats are not bullet proof...they must
be treated with some respect, but not pampered. This is a tough,
resillient material that will take quite a beating from rocks
and snags; however it cuts fairly easily with a sharp object like
a broken bottle. This has proved to be no problem. Carry some
Duct tape and DON'T WORRY! You can easily make a permanent repair
at home. There is little reason for repairs; instead of dragging
your boat over barnicle-studded rocks, you simply pick it up (with
one or two fingers) and carry it out of harms way. There are a
number of stories about how these boats have survived abuse due
to the resilience of the framework.
The construction technique is fun and educational, requiring
only simple tools and limited space. There are many advantages
for the home builder. The materials are inexpensive, and there
is no need for elaborate forms, lofting, spiling, planking, sanding
and fairing epoxy, ect., associated with other boat building methods.
There are no messy operations involved.
Plans include: A comprehensive instruction manual with Vendor
and Material List and full size patterns, which are transfered
to corrugated cardboard for the station molds (cheap luan underlayment
ply is sometimes used as an alternate). These are set up on a
light weight box beam strong back, made with 1x6 boards top and
bottom with corrugated sides. The semi-completed project is portable,
facilitating a number of boats being built in living rooms.
In an effort to tickle everyone's fancy, I've designed a whole
fleet of Ultra Light Cartopper Boats testing various ramifications
of this technique. Some of the boats have plywood bottoms, which
adds another facet to the possibilities. Theoretically, it is
possible to do larger boats; but I feel this defeats the basic
idea of boats that one person can handle and carry on a car.
A first time builder can complete the simpler designs in 3-4
weeks of spare time. You will be facinated to learn new techniques
(like heat shrinking). The steps are well described and easy to
master. You will probably find the project so facinating that
you cannot leave it alone until it is completed. On the other
hand, there is no anxiety of working with sudden kick over resin
with the aspect of all or nothing, if you goof the mix!
A number of highly successful school projects say that the difficulty
is not too high. It is difficult to express the feeling I get
when I receive photos of a bunch of kids building boats from my
designs. There is a growing list of people claiming this system
is a great way to learn the basics of boat building.
A 70 minute Video is available that opens with a short sequence
of the Classic12
under sail. It explains the different steps unique to this process,
such as KEVLAR® and Dacron application. Partial kits are available
to simplify procuring the special materials unique to this construction
(they have no wood - get it locally).
a Partial Kit you will need: Access to a table saw equipped with
a good sharp combination hollow ground planner blade. (Sears 8"
@ approximately $10.00). A Black & Decker carbide, thin kerf
PIRANHA blade is an ideal choice. A supply of clear, straight,
grain wood, selected Spruce, White Pine, Hemlock or Fir (dimension
stock will do fine). If you have small knots, cut between them
and do some scarfing. You may need to get an extra board. It will
still be inexpensive.