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4a. Aligning stations on a spine (strongback)

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Having threaded all the stations on the spine, builders may feel bewildered by all those stations just floating around. Where to start? How to get things aligned accurately and with the smallest number of steps?
Step one - Clamp the spine to the horses making sure it is plumb at each horse.
Step two - next screw down all wood blocks that the stations attach to. (see manual)
Step three - attach the bow/stern stations (as in the photo) making sure they are centered on the spine AND plumb! This is important since they will help to align the rest of the stations.
Use small wedges from scrap strips to make fine adjustments and hold the bow/stern firmly to the spine. When plumb, screw the station to the blocks as in the picture.
Looking from the other side. Two small wood blocks and a few wedges is all it takes to immobilize the station on the spine.
The vertical plumb of the bow/stern makes the centering of the stations easy and quick. Using a string is not strictly required but it is far easier than visual alignment especially for hulls with pronounced rocker.

Step four - Stretch the string so that it is about 1/8" above the middle of the kayak but not touching the stations. The jig in the photo consists of a large block clamped parallel to the side of the station and a small spacer strip that is half the thickness of the bow/stern station. This centers the string exactly over the middle of the 'knife edge' of the bow/stern.
Different view.
Step five - starting from the middle of the kayak (st. 10 here), center the station on the spine using a level and small wedges. Next, position the middle spine support (the A frame in the center) so that the station centerline is even with the string. Recheck the station for level and screw it to the blocks.

Step six - proceed station by station from the middle towards the tips of the kayak, leveling and fixing each station to the blocks.
The best way to proceed here is to align the station on the string first, put in the top screw, check the vertical alignment /level and do the lower screw.
This is how I do it.

Note: Try to avoid using plywood for the wood blocks. They often deflect the screw with the station making accurate alignment tedious. Wooden wedges are the best cure in situation like this.
Check the vertical alignment lines for each station before it is attached. This is about how it should look.

If some stations are still twisted, undo the bottom screw and force a small wedge between the spine and the station. This often fixes the problem. If the spine is too twisted you may have to chisel off a bit of the station particleboard to get it straightened.


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Last page update: 11 January 2020