Gathering Supplies (2:30 Hours)
The biggest show stopper for most new kayak and canoe builders is the gathering supply step. Having to decide exactly what materials to buy, where to find the best deal, and how to get everything together in the same location at the right time is complicated.
For this kayak, I’m using left over glass from RAKA. I’m using 6 ounce E-glass on the outside and 5 ounce tight-weave E-glass on the inside. The open weave 6 ounce will wet-out more clearly than the tight weave.
The epoxy is from US Composites.
The dye is from Solar-Lux via Woodcraft.com. It is Blood Red.
I’m using KajakSport hatches, which come from Newfound Woodworks and from Seda. The Valley deck fittings are also from Seda ($1.50/ fitting with all hardware).
I gathered the rest of the supplies locally.
These books are a must should be purchased:
- The Strip-Built Sea Kayak: Three Rugged, Beautiful Boats You Can Build
- Kayakcraft: Fine Woodstrip Kayak Construction
- Canoecraft: An Illustrated Guide to Fine Woodstrip Construction
Drawing the Plans (4:00 Hours)
For this kayak, I modeled the craft in DelftShip Pro. Exported the 2D Polylines and 2D Linesplan to a dxf file (AutoCAD), then I imported them to Qcad and had them printed at the local copy shop. Because the local copy shop can only print 11×17, I printed only the station plans off and not individual stations. I then used carbon paper to transfer the lines onto the particle board. I also subtracted the thickness of my strips from the stations. I’m using 3/16″ strips, so I subtracted 3/16″ all around, because the model in DelftShip is to the outside of the skin. After which I cut them out. (The station plans that can be printed and glued account for a 3/16″ thickness.)
Making Strips (3:30 Hours)
Making cedar strips with a circular saw is simple, fast, and easy. Use a thin kerf saw in a Skil saw, and walk off the strips from one end of the board to the other. To set the width of the strip, use a plastic edge guide that was designed for the saw. I cut my cedar strips to 3/16″ which is lighter and about as strong as 1/4″ strips are.
When cutting the strips, put a full length 2x under the 1x that is being cut and screw the 1x down to the 2x. Then just cut on top of that set-up. This keeps the boards from bending. Make sure that you don’t set the saw too deep or you’ll be cutting deep grooves into the board below. Make sure that the screw holding the 1x down is on the very edge and end of the board, so that very little wood is wasted.
Cutting Forms and the Strongback (5:00 Hours)
To cut the particle board a jigsaw is used. I cut right to the line. After which I trim it up slightly with a block plane.
For this kayak, I built the strongback from scratch using four pieces 12 foot 2x8s screwed together to form two 16′ 2x8s. These I screwed together at the ends and then spread using a 16 inch 2×4 to hold them apart. I quickly leveled this strongback on top of two sawhorses using shims. There are many types of strongbacks and I’ve found this one to work as nicely as others.
After the leveling of the strongback is finished run a stringline down the center and then at every foot nail a 1×1 board perpendicular to the stringline onto the strongback. They always sit on the far side of the 1 foot mark to the mid point of the kayak. The particle board stations are nailed to the other side of the foot mark.
When nailing the stations on, make sure their centerline is lined up with the stringline and then plumbed vertical. Having a stringline below and above is helpful at this point in making sure everything is lined up.
After the stations are lined up, it’s time to start stripping the hull.
Stripping the Hull (7:30 Hours)
Stripping the hull for this kayak is simple. No bead and cove strips are needed and very few running bevels are required. The easiest way for this kayak is to start at the chine, strip to the sheerline, and then strip from the chine to the centerline of the kayak. If you’re going to dye the kayak, don’t worry a bit about using staples, the dye will hide them to all but the most discerning viewers. Because this hull is hard chine, you will find that very few strips need a bevel. One of the chine strips will need to be beveled and at the ends a few others will need a short bevel at the turn of the bilge.
To save some time, when stripping from the chine to the sheer, the strips can be run past the sheer marks on the forms and trimmed back in the next step.
Trim Sheer (1:30 Hours)
For this kayak, I ran the strips past the sheerline and trimmed back to the sheer marks on the forms after stripping was finished. To do this, measure from the end of the strip to the sheer mark on the forms and then transfer that measurement to the outside of the hull. Then staple a cedar strip onto the hull following the curve created by the marks that were transferred.
Cut the sheer with whatever tool is most comfortable. I used a jigsaw and then planed and sanded to the line.
Stems (1 Hour)
While stripping the hull, the strips can be run out past the stems and later trimmed flush with the edge of the stem form. A thin piece of ash can them be glued onto the stems and rounded over to the roundness of a pencil. This round over of the stems will allow the fiberglass to sit securely against the stem.
Pull Staples (:30 Hour)
Pulling the staples is a boring half-hour job. Some builders with staple into carpet tape and then just pull the carpet tape. This greatly speeds up this dull job.
Block Plane (1:30 Hours)
The next step is to block plane the high edges of the strips off so that they even up from strip edge to the next strip’s edge that it’s touching. With a flat hull like this one, the block plane isn’t as easy as just sanding the hull with 40 grit to work off the high edges.
Sand (2:30 Hours)
Sand the hull starting with a fairing board, which is a flexible piece of plywood to which two handles are attached at the end. Sand paper is glued to the plywood. This board is worked across the hull at a 45 degree angle and will help fair the flat strips into a rounded hull. I use 60 grit on my fairing board.
After fairing, sand with 80 grit and then 120 grit.
Wet-Out (:15 Hours)
After sanding, wet-out the entire hull to raise the grain. After the hull is dry. Use 120 grit sandpaper to smooth the fuzz that appeared from the water. Also, you can use the water to find areas that will need more sanding. Mark these lightly with a pencil, so you can find them later after the hull is dry and ready to sand.
Dye (2:00 Hours)
Before dying, make sure that you are completely satisfied with your sanding job, because it will be impossible to sand after the kayak is dyed. If the hull is sanded, trying to match the dye will be near impossible. The hull will use about a half of a pint of dye mixed with the Solar-Lux retarder. I found that by using an 80/20 dye/retarder mix, I was able to keep a wet edge. At the end, the dye looked like it was applied by hand, but the epoxy during fiberglassing moved the dye around and helped to even the coat.
Dying is tricky, but it’s worth the trouble, because the results can be beautiful. Here are a few responses I received when asking questions about dying on the Kayak Building BBS.
From Nick Schade: “I’ve always just use a rag. I usually do two coats to help even things out. One time I wiped the whole thing down with a rag soaked in reducer. This also did a good job of getting the color even.”
From Acors: “Retarder helps with blotchy spots (and with grain raising in some dyes) same as working in a cool place to slow down the solvents evaporation … Remember that dyes do look more blotchy when wet, when they dry the richer part gets more absorbed and lighten.
…other ways to even out the color are more coats (this darkens the overall tone so thats to take in account), color washing: going on the dye with its own solvent (reducer for solar-lux) and practically washing off the color, then reapplying and so on, going after the dye with a compatible pigment stain: it evens out things adding in some cases an interesting “depth” effect (nice on maple), you can sort of obtain a similar thing dyeing the epoxy if you pre-coat before laminating, the last way i know of (and the best one for me so far) is to saturate the wood with the dye solvent before applying the dye, the concept is that since blotchyness its due to different absorption the pre-saturation of pure solvent helps leveling the differences.
If you want darker colors try to avoid using black, its really a matter of small quantities and can reduce the vibrancy of the original color, if it can make more sense: it adds to the greysh tones dulling the others. If you can use multiple coats or mix (or overcoat) with a darker shade of the color you are using.
If you use black then my suggestion its to prepare a batch with black and your original tone, then use that mix to fine tune more gradually the tone of a new batch of dye that you’ll actually use. keep in mind the quantities because its easy to end with more than you need, although if you get into dyes you’ll find yourself with 20 different tones that you’ll routinely mix and match, so they are never wasted.
There is another way to get a darker tone that with some woods gives a real cool effect and consists in using a black dye(or dark mix) on bare wood then sand it off until only the grain keeps it and then going on with the tone choice dye. Thats even the way to obtain shadings if you cant spray. ”
Glass Hull (3:30 Hours)
Remove the Hull (:30 Hours)
The hull on my kayak ended up stuck in a few places, so I unscrewed the forms, flipped the kayak and knocked out the forms that didn’t want to come out. Don’t be afraid to use a hammer. The hull is pretty strong at this point.