New Kayak Build

September 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

Just when I was getting worried that the growing armada of boats in my garage would prevent me from building another kayak over the winter, my newest build (see pics here) found a new home. Of course, it had to happen the day before I was to take it along on a camping trip, but what can you do?

Now that it’s cooler, a man’s mind turns to thoughts of stripping. But before that can happen, he must make the necessary preparations.

And so I mounted the forms on my trusty strongback, made sure everything was aligned properly, and it was off to the races.

This build features a sheer clamp as shown below.forms

The sheer clamp is made out of a 3/4″ x 7/8″ length of cedar which is rounded on the inside edge.

The instructions suggest using finishing nails to fasten the sheer to the forms, but I find that drywall screws keep everything nice and tight against the form. Just be careful that you don’t drive in the screw too much as this will crack the sheer. And yes, I am speaking from experience.

Next, I set about fashioning the internal stems. For these, I used discarded lengths of cedar strips. I floated them in the bathtub for a day to make them more bendable. Even then, the stern caused me a little trouble with the outside strip cracking a little because of the pronounced curve of the stern mold. Next time, I’ll plane these strips a little thinner, as I normally do for the outside stems, to make them complain less at being bent.

inner-stemFor the inner stems, I used Gorilla Glue between the strips, which has never failed me before. The glue leaves a crusty foam, but this is easily removed.

Next steps: shaping the stems and preparing strips.

It’s good to be building again.

Stripping the deck

February 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

In the last post, I described drawing the design on a length of vapor barrier. In this post shows the result (in progress).

Essentially, I ran two strips (consisting of light cedar sandwiched between walnut) down the center of the deck. At a certain point, the accent strips split and then meet again at the stern. Before I physically split the accent strips, I stripped the edges of the deck with cedar (overlapping the line where the accent strip would be). Then I transferred the line to the cedar and sawed off the excess. With thickened epoxy, the accent strips were affixed to the edge of the cedar. Finally, I started stripping the center of the deck with some Douglas Fir that I had. The contrast between the cedar (which darkens a lot under epoxy) and the fir (which doesn’t) should look pretty cool.

Finally on to the deck

February 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

So much for my vow (to myself at least) to be a better blogger. The fact is that a lot of the steps I would have written about have been covered in other posts, so I want to avoid being redundant. Sounds better than admitting to laziness, eh?

At any rate, I’ve started work on the deck, but before I get into that, I thought I’d include a few snapshots of the hull. The first picture might give you the impression that I want to camouflage the kayak as a leopard, but the reality is that there were a few (okay, more than a few) gaps between the strips. I’ve read that this isn’t uncommon and I know that these little gaps won’t be evident once the blotches are sanded off, so I’ve included the picture in the spirit of transparency. In my first few builds, I used to fill screw holes on the stems with the same stuff I used to fill gaps (epoxy and sawdust). This looked ugly because the epoxy was always darker than the ash that I used for the stems. Now I drill out the holes and glue in short lengths of dowel that are  later cut off and sanded down. It’s still visible, but less gross looking. And finally, there’s a picture of the hull being fiberglassed.

For the deck, I decided to use a template. To this end, I stapled a length of vapor barrier to the forms. I then bent a scrap length of cedar and traced the line onto the plastic with a sharpie. I then traced this line onto the other side of the plastic and then folded it open to reveal two matching halves.

The idea here is to have an accent strip of that consists of a pair of: two thin walnut strips sandwiching a light cedar strip (imagine an oreo cookie). From the bow, these pairs of three thin strips will split, approach the gunwales, and then join again at the stern.



Welcome to a new build

September 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

Looking back over the blog, I realized that the last build took over two years. Two years! Of course, a lot of things happened over that time (not to mention sheer laziness and a Netflix account).

Happily, I have the bug back and a certain renewed appreciation for wood therapy. And so I invite you into my shop (garage) for my next build — a Resolute 16’6″ kayak, based on plans from the good people at Bear Mountain Boats.

Why a kayak? Well, over the summer I came to realize that I don’t like sitting in canoes and my knees don’t like kneeling. A kayak, on the other hand, is far more comfortable if you ignore the painful clumsiness of an old fart trying to get in and out of the thing.

Why 16’6″? Because that’s just about all the room I have.

At any rate, the plans soon came and I set about cutting out the forms….


…and aligning them.

on strongback2

For this build, I decided to add an accent strip of alternating light and dark triangles. I think it’ll look pretty sharp. The one important thing to remember, if you choose to do something like this, is to make sure the triangles are aligned on each side. You certainly don’t want one side to end on half a light triangle and a third of a dark triangle on the other. Alignment was far more finicky than I expected. But in the end, with a bit of effort and some choice vocabulary, I got it done.

When I’m building the sides, I usually start with butt joints and then transition to bead and cove when the hull starts to curve (with a transitional cove-only strip between). Click here for info on making the strips. Of course, towards the middle of the boat the curve came into play a little prematurely, so I beveled the transitional strip where necessary.

I prefer using bar clamps to keep the strips together. The problem is that with too much pressure, the strips tend to buckle/accordion away from the forms. To combat this, I use C clamps to add some support where the strips meet and bungee cords to keep the strips tight against the forms. Note that I also use pieces of 1/4″ doweling to protect the coves.

clamps stripping

(A note on the last picture: it’s a non-alcoholic beer. I learned early on that you shouldn’t drink and build boats unless you want a WTF moment the next morning).

That’s it for now. If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch.

Starting the football

September 3, 2015 § 3 Comments

For me at least, boat building is often a solitary affair. I suppose it’s no surprise; after all, I wouldn’t want to see me strip either. Strangely. the “stripping” tag always seems to drive traffic to the blog for some reason.

At any rate, I’m at the point now where it’s time to fill the football. Because the last canoe worked out so well, I’m planning on using the same pattern for the kayak — alternating light and dark strips that form a continuous line around the circumference of the football halves. Of course, the kayak is narrower than the canoe so I have less width to play with. Hopefully it works out. The following picture from the last canoe will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.


It’s a cool design and spares me the challenge of stripping half of the football, cutting a straight line and then trying to match the wood color from side to side. That said, it’s a finicky bit of work, but the end result makes it worthwhile.

So here is the football and twinned center strips that run down the length of the hull. At this point, it’s a good idea to measure the distance between the center strips and the edge of the completed hull on both sides to make sure that the space is the same. As well, this is one of the few spots where I use finishing nails to make sure the center strips don’t move as I’m stripping the football. These nails will be removed when the football is finished.


centerNote that the two center strips are not beaded. I used a butt joint, beveled towards the bow and stern to accommodate the shape of the form. The middle of the hull is pretty flat, so no beveling was needed.

The finished product

July 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

Over the weekend I took the latest canoe out for a test paddle and I was reminded how long it has been since I’ve updated the blog. I left off in November in the process of fabricating the inner gunwales. Rather than describe the process of attaching them (which I described for an earlier build), I’d like this post to discuss some of the tricks I employed with this build.

As for many builders, glassing the inside of the hull is a challenge. The fiberglass moves around, pulls this way and that, and generally misbehaves. As a result, the final result often contains those dreaded air bubbles. For the worst of these, I used a small drill bit and (by hand!) drilled an opening into the bubble. Then, with a syringe, I injected epoxy.

Installing the seats is always a nerve wracking process (for me at least). You have to trim the lengths of the main cross pieces and repeatedly test the placement of the seat. In the last builds, this process has scratched the inside of the hull, which at this point will have been varnished. For this build, I used felt pads on the ends of the seat supports (the kind used for furniture) so that I could dry-fit the seats without scratching the hull to bits.

felt pad

Finally, I’ll leave you with a couple of pics of the finished product. I’m especially happy with how the bottom of the hull turned out.



And her’s a side view (with my first ever build in the background).


The next build, which should be starting in September or so, will be a kayak.

What’s for scupper?

November 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

It’s hard to believe that I’ve done little with this blog or the build-in-progress for over a year. Ah, well, that’s about to change because circumstance has dictated the need for some wood and fiberglass therapy. When I left off, I was in the process of filling the football. Since then, the canoe has been fiberglassed moderately successfully (only a few air bubbles), and the external gunwales have been attached.

I’ve done the inner gunwales differently in the past. For one boat, the inner gunwale had no scuppers, for another, I used a 1/4″ strip of cedar with 1/4″ blocks every 3 inches or so. For this one, I decided to use another technique designed to justify the acquisition of a drill press. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here it is:


It looks a bit rough, but with a bit of sanding, the suppers came out brilliantly.

This time around, I employed some actual planning and forethought to mark down where the yoke and seats would be attached. If these points occurred where a scupper would be positioned, I simply left the scupper out. In other words, the gunwale has sections where the 3″ scupper – no scupper spacing is broken. I’ll show a picture in the next post. I thought it would look goofy, but it ended up looking more like the builder exercised actual planning and forethought.

Filling the football

March 3, 2013 § 3 Comments

Just a quick post to show how I’m filling the football. Instead of running alternating light and dark cedar strips parallel to the centerline, this time I’m running alternating light and dark strips both along the centerline and the edge of the football to form a continuous dark line that decreases as the football grows smaller. I’ll post a picture when I’m done (it’s hard to explain), but the picture below shows the progress thus far.


Ready for some football

February 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

At long last the canoe is at the point of the build called the football. At this point it’s advisable to measure from the edges of the strips to the center of the forms to make sure that everything built up evenly. If something is off, this is the time to adjust for it. Fortunately, this build treated me well and everything was even.


Many builders choose to fill one half of the football with arcing strips, cut along the center line and then fill the other half. The method I prefer, partly because I can’t trust myself to cut a straight line, is to run a pair of strips down the center line and then fill the halves. In the past I’ve used this technique to alternate light and dark strips that run the length of the football. To people who haven’t seen me in a canoe, I call these racing stripes. This time, I’ll try something a little different. Less racing. More zen. Stay tuned.

The following picture shows the pair of strips run along the center line and the use of bungee cords to keep the strips tight against the forms.


Progress thus far

February 18, 2013 § 3 Comments

The picture below contains a couple of items that I want to touch on.

The first is the inset of the bird, done in a darker cedar than the surrounding strips. Besides being an attractive feature, the inset effectively integrates joints into an overall design. The fact that grain and color don’t match (a concern when joining strips) becomes desirable. In this way, I’ve been able to do most of the sides of the canoe without obsessing about how good the joins look.

The picture below also shows the use of 1/4″ dowels to protect the coves of the strips when clamping, and the use of both clamps and bungee cords to press the strips together. As the stripping continues, the clamps eventually become too short (or the curve of the hull makes their use impossible). At this point, I use bungees and either wind them around the assembled strips or hook them from the newly-installed strip to the base of the strongback.