Fiberglassing the hull

March 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Canoe building factoid #4 — The most under-appreciated fiberglassing tool is a belt, for it is invariably when your latex-gloved hands are coated with epoxy that your pants decide to migrate.

Today is the day I fiberglass the outside of the canoe. I’ve recruited a friend to do the mixing while I spread the epoxy. It’s important to select a friend for whom curse words will not cause affront.

My preparations included vacuuming the shop and getting it as dust-free as possible. The last thing I wanted was to generate airborne dust as I shuffled around the canoe. Wet epoxy or varnish are dust magnets. I also lightly sanded the hull and then, realizing my mistake, vacuumed again. Finally, I got the heater running as the shop temperature was under 10° C/50°F.

By the way, Nick Schade has a great video on YouTube that shows him fiberglassing a kayak. You can find it here.

The reason I bring up the video is that I could describe the technique, but watching a master do it is far more informative and rewarding. In fact, I fiberglassed my first kayak based on reading only. After seeing the video, I realized all of the things that I could have done better and differently. Now I make a point of watching it whenever I’m about to fiberglass anything — just to get into the zone.

Here is the canoe looking quite elegant in a sheer white number.

fiberglass on cedar strip canoe

And here is the job in progress.

wetting out the fiberglass

For this job, I tried to follow a few simple rules:

  1. Don’t dally when wetting out the boat.
  2. Don’t get hung up on one area. Move.
  3. Be in the goldilocks zone when removing excess resin. Don’t remove too little, don’t remove too much.

For once, finishing the bow and stern was quick and easy and devoid of the “what now?” deliberations that characterized previous builds. I trimmed back the excess glass as far as I could. While the ends were still wet, I applied a 2″ strip of bias-cut cloth (saved from trimming around the boat earlier) over the stems. Using a brush and gloved fingers, I applied more epoxy until the strip was completely wet-out. There are some wayward strands and a visible edge to the strip, but some careful sanding once everything is dry should blend it in.

Overall, the job went well. There are none of the air bubble problems that have plagued previous projects, nor does the canoe have an excessive number of drips.

I can’t wait to get the boat off the forms and upright.

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