Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Glassing The Hull

I ignored my own advice to do the time-consuming jobs on a "day off", and started this task at 7:30 a.m, on a Work Day (due at 12:00). I almost got done in time, but not quite, had to ditch work. 
Did I mention before, that I don't really like fiberglass work? ;) Having carefully read and re-read all the instructions, I still got shiny spots (too much glue), drips, runs, and strands of 'glass pulled off the pieces. At least I got it well-saturated, with few or no dry spots.
I did have to cut a dart at the stern, despite the instructions' promise that I wouldn't have to. I was able to form the 'glass around the curve, and it stayed that way until I "did anything", and by the time I got to it with glue, I had to cut. I still think I got it done o.k.
Starting to run low on epoxy. My kit came with enough materials for a "perfect world" job, but not enough for do-overs & screwups.
Copper Wire: Not enough, had to buy more
Wood Flour: Plenty. Almost a whole container left
Epoxy:Enough for  a perfect job, done by an expert. Need more
Fiberglass. Plenty.All pieces cut with a couple of yards to spare. Cutting remnants come in handy .
Silica Powder: Plenty, since I plan on using wood flour to thicken the epoxy when I glue on the cockpit coaming.

Two days later, I realized that there is definitely an art to applying  epoxy on fiberglass, and that I don't know it yet. I think I generally applied too much glue to the fabric, and I created waves. Laboriously & ruthlessly sanding them out with a belt sander.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Finally started sanding the hull in preparation  for fiberglassing. Its more enjoyable than I thought it would be. Here's the boat, looking like hell-epoxy drips, runs & fingerprints, need some work on the joints, some putty here & there. Then start sanding, and the work slowly becomes "neat". 
My instructions, and many of the comments on Message Boards, seem to treat sanding as a plague: "be careful on this part or you'll HAVE TO SAND later"!I guess it depends on your experience. I'm just on this side of 40 years of woodworking, so I've sanded MANY square yards of wood. However, I was uncomfortable working with fiberglass & epoxy.Epoxy work all seems to be all-or-nothing, one-shot-deal, time-sensitive, but I can sand or stop sanding when I want, do a little at at time, etc. I'm glad to actually be doing some woodworking on my wooden kayak project, and to utilize one of my favorite tools, the Cabinet Scraper.More about that later.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Deck Seams

The kayak on its side ready to tape the inside seams. No need to take any photos of the actual work, because I could barely see what I was doing, and the pictures wouldn't show much. Definitely the most persnickety & messy job yet! I was able to do the cockpit area by the same methods as the bottoms of the fore & aft compartments, but for the rest,  I went by the instructions, pre-saturating the fiberglass tape, and using the brush-on-a-stick, but the hard part was organizing light/arm/head. It reminded me of working on a car. I had to keep doing things "by feel", looking in to see what I' done, repeat, etc. I believe I got it done o.k, but glad its over.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Its Technically A Boat

The hull & deck wired together, with glue. I had no idea what a tooth-and-nail struggle it would be to get some sections together. You can see stretch tape, and the worktable looking like a Disaster Zone. A helper would have been good. One of the V-shaped supports decided to collapse in the middle of this.
Builders Notes: I found the syringes that CLC provides to be more trouble than they're worth. As soon as I got glue in them, they get "sticky, making it difficult to squeeze out a good "bead". I found it easier just to dab glue in with a small paintbrush. I also used the brush to apply a mini-fillet from the inside, where I could reach. (most places)
I also found that the hatch sills act as an internal brace, making that area of the deck much less flexible for finagleing. I had shaped the sides of the sills "just enough to fit", and used clamp force to make them contact the deck. This made the sides spread out a bit. If I had it to do over, I'd have trimmed them down more, leaving room for putty, and not used so much clamp pressure.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Scene of the Goof

This is my second attempt at taping the bow compartment. The first time I did, I noticed after 3 days, that the epoxy was still tacky. I attribute the blunder to a mixing error. I had decided that it was cool to mix epoxy by weight so I bought a cheap gram scale on ebay.  It was cheap for a reason: it is psychotic. It had a strange habit of jumping up to some random number after weighing the desired amount. It was late at night, so I "believed" it, and tried to add hardener to compensate.....
Sent a "help me" e-mail to CLC, and they gave suggestions for cleanup, after hours of work with a hair drier, scraper, and denatured alcohol, I got most of the goop off. I have since started using the metering pumps  that came with the kit. I got good mixes by using the pumps as directed, but Then I tried an experiment. I figured out how to avoid my gram scale's weird habits, and weighed one pump each from the resin & hardener pumps. One pump of resin=2.5 grams.One pump of hardener=2 grams! Not exactly 2:1, is it? Wes was right,The pumps are off.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I decided to go for reinforcing blocks instead of "end pours", so I whittled these out of cedar. The instructions call for taking the boat outside, standing it on end, and dumping a full cup of expensive epoxy into each end  of the boat. I didn't like the idea of waiting for a reasonable weather day (March in Connecticut), or standing the boat on end. 
I embedded them in putty.


I just started kayaking last year. I had plenty of experience with smaller boats before, but I noticed some unique things about kayaking. Birds. My previous small-boat experience was mainly on small sailboats, in salt water. "Birds" were mainly gulls, whose chief function seemed to be shitting on your boat.The 'yak takes me to tidal waters and freshwater lakes that I previously wouldn't have bothered sailing on. Interesting birds completely ignore the kayak-it must look like some big weird fish to them. I once paddled through a flock of swans, who ignored me until I was 10 feet away. Another time, my friend pointed out a Great Blue Heron in a tree. We went within 10 yards before it flew away in a puff of dander.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I applied 'glass to the underside of the deck today. While it was easier that the cockpit, it still was a little fussy. I have no prior experience with fiberglass & resin work, and it seems like there is no substitute for experience here. I had done some experiments with fiberglass and wood while waiting for the kit to arrive, but it gets more difficult on a large scale.  It seems that fiberglassing is one of the major skills in wooden boat building, and I've had to learn by doing. I started at the bow, and got much better at it by the time I reached the stern!
If you are building a boat like this , here are some of my tips and observations.
LET the epoxy soak into the fiberglass.It takes some moments for it to saturate, and I had the most trouble when I did things to try & force it in.
Don't try to make the 'glass do radical things. It will NOT turn a 90% corner, for example. If you have to, cut relief darts at the tricky areas.
I used a plastic putty scraper to gently distribute glue over large areas, but the best tool is the lowly Cheapo Chip Brush. Foam brushes get soft & useless when saturated by epoxy. Use the chip brush to fill blank spots by jabbing at them with the bristles. I got into trouble when I tried smoothing bubbles with my fingers.
Try NOT to  work the fiberglass over & over in the same area. Causes bubbles, and little bits of 'glass begin to wear off & make a mess. If you overwork near the puttied joints, some of the wood flour will dissolve out, and make the clear epoxy  un-clear.
Do this, and anything else you haven't done before, on your day off, not before work or at night.
I found this a little stressful, and  I was glad that  I had "all day" to do it.

The "Learning Curve"

I started this project because it was interesting & challenging. I got the construction manual ahead of time, and read it several times, however, when I do a project with techniques unfamiliar to me, something that I calll "The Learning Curve" kicks in.
Example: you're building something that requires the fabrication of 5 Gizmos. Gizmo # 1 takes four hours, and comes out just-good-enough, or maybe even a do-over. Gizmo #2 takes 2 hours, and comes out good. By the time you get to Gizmo #5, it takes 1/2 hour, it comes out excellent, and you wonder what your problem was yesterday. And you THINK you're doing the exact same thing! My theory is that while making Gizmos, you are inadvertently learning many Do's and Don't's, without making many mental notes about them. By the time you're "done", you're "good at it".
I am learning new things. I have made a few goofs, but so far, nothing that can't be rectified later.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I bought a marquetry inlay of a great Blue Heron. It occurred to me that during any kayak trip, the forward part of my deck will occupy 20% of my vision, and I'd like something nice to look at.
The instructions say that you can either inlay or onlay the piece . I decided to go for an "inlay". Routing out the recess was a little challenging-there is probably a clever sure-fire way to do it, but this one is going to need a little touch-up work. I used "shrink tape" to clamp it while the epoxy cured. I'll try not to show it again until the kayak is finished. See my entry about "Birds"
After all the deck parts and hull part are stitched together, I tack-welded between the stitches. I also made a silly blunder. The parts look really "abstract" if you haven't done this before, and haven't seen how the pieces fit together. I tried putting two parts of the deck together "wrong". There are pre-drilled holes in the parts, and I didn't have them matched up properly-they were one hole "off". After tearing my hair out, and posting an embarrassing question on a Help Forum, I finally got the pieces aligned right. The "Ol Learning Curve" kicks in!
Also, I didn't heed the instructions' warning that the tack-welded parts are fragile, and managed to break a seam. Do-Over.
Stitching the hull together, with many short lengths of 18-gauge wire. It begins to resemble a boat, as the carefully-shaped parts take on curves as they come together. That's fun. The wire ends are not.
After gluing the panels together with those nifty "puzzle joints", they seem titanically long in my basement. And fragile, with precision-cut sharp corners. I had to carry one OUTSIDE to rotate it 180 degrees. Building a 17' kayak in a 20' wide basement.
You get a box of parts, from which it is very difficult to visualize a boat.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I'm trying this out, because the photo comments on Flikr aren't enough.