From the Shop- Fitting the outfitting.

If you’re coming from a whitewater canoe with thighstraps, getting the bulkhead outfitting dialed in can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be.  The Blackfly saddle is designed to be a (too) tight fit for most people because its easier to carve it out than to add to it, so some cutting and carving of foam is required.  This week, I’m sharing some of my tips, tricks, and strategy.

The starting point.
The starting point.

Tools of the trade
Tools of the trade

A few basic tools are needed: something to cut with, and something to carve with.  I like:

A hacksaw blade with the end wrapped in duct tape.  This is nice for making curved cuts, since the blade can flex a bit.

A drywall saw or a serrated bread knife.

A Shurform scraper for carving down the foam

60 grit sandpaper for carving and finishing.  It helps if you have something cylindrical to wrap it around for carving out the knee holes.  I used a piece of cardboard tube, i’ve also seen people use the small propane cylinders from you camp stove.

Let’s get cutting.  Go slow and test the fit often.  I usually do my outfitting in street clothes, since it’s about the same amount of bulk of wearing a drysuit.

1:  I start by cutting out where the inside of my thighs hits the saddle, rounding off the corners of the saddle

cutting out the thigh area
cutting out the thigh area

2:  The second step is to rough out the knee holes.  This is where you want to go slowly and test the fit often, carving out where you feel pressure.  I prefer to start here, so that I know I’m fully in the outfitting, rather than cutting out the back of the saddle first.

Cutting out the knee holes
Cutting out the knee holes

3:  Once I get the fit about how I want it, I’ll clean it up with the Shurform scraper to even things out.

cleaning up the cuts with the Shurform
cleaning up the cuts with the Shurform

4:  Once I feel like I’m all the way into the knee blocks, there’s still a little bit too much pressure on the back rest, so I’ll carve a little bit off that, but I’ll usually take most of it out of the knees.  Some people like to take more out of the backrest, it just depends on your size and shape.

Take a little off the backrest
Take a little off the backrest

5:  I’ll use the sandpaper on the cardboard tube to further clean up and smooth out the finish on the areas I’ve cut.

Further clean up with sandpaper
Further clean up with sandpaper

6:  A crucial step:  vacuum all the foam shavings out of the whitewater canoe.

We don't want those foam shavings in the river.
We don’t want those foam shavings in the river.

7:  Paddle the canoe, test the fit, and repeat the above steps as needed.  It usually takes me two or three trips to get the outfitting really dialed it, but once it’s right, it’s a thing of beauty.