Placid boatworks manufactures its hulls, floatation tanks and composite seats using a proprietary system known as "vacuum infusion." Why? Because it’s healthier for our Adirondack Mountains, our neighbors, our customers and ourselves (we've cleaned up 90 percent of our air emissions over the process most small boat shops still use - hand lamination). And, vacuum infused hulls are stronger and lighter than their hand-laid counterparts.
Initially, we mask-off the top of our molds and spray a low-emission, cream-colored gel coat, covering the waterline footprint of the canoes. This waterline scuff patch protects the fabric from abrasion damage and hides most incidental scratches. It is also easily repairable. On "skin-coated" boats where the fabric and resin constitute the outer surface, scratches are much more than cosmetic; they abraid the structural fabric and compromise the laminate (you may have seen how yellow aramid composite boats "fuzz" when the stems are abraided...). Boats with skin-coated bottoms tend to be shorter lived, becoming "pinholed" in just a few years with sun, weather and wear. Fine for racers who tend to replace their boats every few years, but not good for most folks. The waterline patch also gives an immediate, visual, trim check. When a Placid pack canoe shows more of the scuff patch at the stern, move some weight aft!
Secondly, we apply transparent gel above the patch. The gel protects the initial carbon laminate layer and, again, allows easy scratch repair. This above-the-patch coat may be selected in clear, emerald, sapphire or cabernet tint to personalize your canoe and increase its beauty.
After applying the waterline patch and tinted upper, multiple carbon and aramid (we use quality materials like Dupont's Kevlar® or Teijin's Twaron) sheets and shaped pieces are precisely placed in the mold. A bag is positioned over the fabric and sealed to the outer edge of the mold. A vacuum is then applied that pulls a measured amount of vinyl ester resin through the layered fabric components, perfectly wetting the entire hull.
The benefits of this process are multiple. The single vacuum "pull" and resin application to a mold purged of oxygen greatly reduce resin, laminate and processing material waste (compared to hand lamination or traditional vacuum bagging) and virtually eliminate release of noxious fumes. The resulting hull is lighter and stronger than a hand laminated hull because all voids and styrene inclusions are eliminated. Vacuum infused tanks and seats are then bonded into the hull.
For those who like numbers: Hand laminated SpitFire hulls (bare, with no outfitting) with tinted gel coat weight 16.5 lbs. with tanks installed and the same vacuum infused hulls weigh 15.5 lbs. With VARTM, our 12’ SpitFire cloth content went up 24 oz., resin use down 40 oz., and total part weight down 16 oz. Our fiber to resin ratio improved to ~1:1. VARTM parts are of higher and more uniform quality, stiffer, stronger and lighter than contact laminates.
An environmentally friendly process that produces a lighter, stronger, stiffer, more uniform laminate with zero voids. All good.
The design of lamination schedules is both a science and an art. Placid Boatwork’s goal is to develop rugged but lightweight laminates that are stiff. Flexible laminates that "oil-can", or flex under load, slow the hull in the water and increase the possibility of breakage when rocks or beaver dams are inadvertently impacted. A good laminate will be of light to moderate weight, yet offer good abrasion resistance and be easily repairable.
Our epoxy vinyl ester resin is chosen to match modulus of elasticity to our carbon and aramid fabrics, maximizing material performance for high strength to weight ratios. The laminate is a symbiotic hybrid, combining the stiffness and abrasion resistance of carbon with the tensile strength of aramid. Behind the carbon blanket, we insert carbon partials, then aramid partials, to reinforce stems, bottom, quarters and seat stations.
Each solo pack laminate includes 15 carbon and 16 aramid pieces; kneeling and tandem laminates include more. Placid pack canoe bottoms are stiff - they do not flex, or "oil can," under power. You can step anywhere in the hull without worry. Light, stiff, flexible, and incredibly strong, Placid Boatworks laminates are the finest available.
Feb. 4, 2011 - Independent Test Results from Atlantic Testing Laboratories
Of 61 VOCs (volatile organic compounds) canvassed down to a 5 ppb (That's parts per BILLION) level over a 2.5 hour period in the front two office spaces in the building we work out of, only 4 registered at all - this while Placid Boatworks was building a boat and spraying gel coat in a mold. VOC monitor inside mold while we were infusing a hull read "0". Bear in mind, office space #2 was until recently a hair salon. Here's the breakdown:
Office Space #1
Office Space #2
OSHA PEL (ppm)*
.131 (1 / 7,634th of PEL)
.384 (1 / 2,604th of PEL)
.038 (1 / 10,526th)
.058 (1 / 6,897th)
Methyl Ethyl Ketone
.017 (1 / 11,765th)
.029 (1 / 3,448th)
In case you couldn't tell, we're extremely proud of our clean technology and the manner in which we make the best paddlecraft found anywhere. Our test results from the New York State Division of Health and Safety are equally impressive! It's not just you who demands a safe, clean, top-quality product manufactured in the most environmentally conscious manner - we do, too!
*OSHA permissable exposure levels (PEL) in ppm (parts per MILLION) - 8-hour time-weighted average ND = Non-detect level