Late last year I had the opportunity to visit the Pyranha factory here in the UK.
I had never been to a plastic kayak/canoe manufacturing site before so I did not know what I should expect.
The plastic used in the factory to create the kayaks arrives in powder format. For some reason I had always thought that the plastic would be in the form of chips or small pellets. The first misconception of the day was blown away.
The plastic is weighed out and mixed together in a cement mixer before being placed in the mould. If the boat is going to made from different colours then the different coloured powered will be added to the mould before it gets sealed and place in the oven.
The moulds have darker patches on them to aid in the heating process. More heat in key areas means that more plastic will end up there.
When a boat comes out of a mould it is allowed to cool slowly and is placed in a form to ensure that it is supported and doesn’t loose shape.
When a boat’s cockpit is cut the plastic is saved for testing. A small square of plastic is sat in a freezer and then subjected to an impact test. A weight is essentially dropped on the highly chilled plastic from a fair old height.
If the plastic dents then all is good. If it shatters then that associated boat plus all others of the same batch are scrapped.
I had always thought that scrap plastic was reused to create the seats and thigh braces within new boats. This turned out to be another misconception. Scrap plastic at Pyranha is sent off to a specialist company for recycling and ends up being part of something totally different.
All of the plastic outfitting within the boats is taken care of in-house. Pyranha even have their own CNC setup to help this part of the process.
Where at all possible all parts of the boats made within the factory. If they aren’t they are responsibly sourced within the UK. For example the broach loops and webbing handles are manufactured in the UK by leading climbing equipment companies.
All outfitting is carried out by hand. No fancy machines to be seen. This also ensures another level of quality assurance in built in within the system.
Pyranha tries to be as environmentally conscious as it possibly can. Plastic is recycled and even recycled materials have been sourced for packaging up the boats or padding up the shelving system. Even the foam Pyranha fish are made from waste material from a different company. Every little helps.
The big impression I got from the tour is that putting together a kayak takes a fair bit of work. From design through to outfitting the process is intense. The number of checks that each boat goes through before being dispatched is very impressive.
Many thanks to Mathew Wilkinson for the tour.