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Kayak Build

Posted by on in Wood Working
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Back in 2009 I decided to build myself a Cedar Strip Kayak. This was my first time at kayak building. I found the entire process to be very enjoyable and a great challenge. Before starting I made a few decisions:

  1. I decided to build my kayak with out using staples, primarily to avoid having marks from the staples but also because I thought this way of building would be more challenging. In place of staples I used the fishing line technique. What I discovered during the build was that I had a difficult time finding information online on how this technique works which is one reason I decided to record my build.
  2. I wanted my kayak to reflect my style. I decided to do a pattern of my own design on the top deck using Aspen and Bubinga.
  3. I purchased my pattern from One Ocean Kayaks. I went with the Cape Ann Single as I liked how it was a good compromise between speed and stability.

Once the plans arrived. The first order of business was to acquire clear cedar in 16' lengths. After a lot of calling around I finally found a source through Shaw Stewart Lumber in Minneapolis. Expect to pay nice hardwood lumber prices, around $5.50 a board foot.

With lumber on hand my needed to make my cedar strips. I already had a nice table saw although I did modify the side table and made a custom router table top. I wanted a nice size router table with a long fence and found exactly what I was looking for from Rockler. They also had the router bit for creating the bead and cove of the edges of my strips. It is the bead and cove that allows the strips to form a nice curve.


Running the cedar through the table saw. Cutting into 1/4" strips



Cedar Strips - All cut out and ready to run through the router.


Cedar strips going through the router. One pass for the bead and a second for the cove. I used home made finger boards to keep everything tight to the fence. This also allowed me to quickly run all my strips through the router.


Cedar strips with the bead and cove. Here you can see how nicely they can form a curve.


The kayak form created from particle board from the plans I ordered online. I have the whole thing on wheels so I could move it around.


Early stages of laying up the strips. Later when I built a steamer I wish I had, had the steamer from the start. Getting the first few strips to bend at the bow and stern was very difficult. Having a wood steamer would have made this process much easier. Keeping the strips in place without staples also very difficult. I was only able to get 3-4 strips in place a day at the start. The rubber bands and clips were used to hold the strips down, keeping them firm against the previously installed strip.


Close-up of the clips and fine fishing line used to hold the strips up against the form. I would use long lengths of line so I could also wrap the extra around the strips for extra clamping.


Close-up of the fishing line technique. I drilled and inserted wood dowels every couple of inches around each form. I used tape to keep the line in place on the dowels. Turned out to work better then trying to tie knots.


Bottom half of kayak 75% complete. I used a finger joint on the keel. This ended up being a lot of wasted work as I come back later and lay down a strip of Bubinga for my keel and ended up plaining off the keel until I had a 1 inch flat spot to glue down the bubinga. Essentially removing the finger joint.


Bottom half complete sans the hardwood keel. Shaped smooth using a belt sander.


Well into the top deck. First I laid out the cedar strips much like the bottom. Here I have cut out the section where I will be inserting the aspen ribbon. The bubinga strips are 1/8" Bubinga and 1/8" Cedar glued together. This helped lighten the load as the single Bubinga board I used weighed almost as much as all of the cedar for the project.


The top complete. I had to steam every piece of aspen in order to get them to curve this way. I hand shaped each piece with a large chisel in order to get the taper. Once again shaped with a belt sander. I used the grinder and flap sanding disk to shape and smooth the inside. This worked out great.


The bubinga keel. Made from 1" wide strips of bubinga 1/8" thick, steamed in the steamer and built up to the desired thickness then shaped with a grinder and a flap wheel.


My home-made wood steamer. A length of heavy PVC tubing with galvanized bolts through the center line. Steam comes from a wallpaper remover steamer. A rag acts as my cork as many of my strips were longer then the steamer. This worked out very well 10 minutes in the steamer and the strips bent with ease. You need to be fast though. After a minute the strips will already be cooling and setting their shape.


This will give you an idea of the size of the kayak. 18' 6" long.


Time to fiberglass. I found a great place in Minneapolis Express Composites where I was able to purchase all of my supplies. The owner was very helpful. I highly recommend them. They carry a full line of marine grade resin plus all of the different cloths, lighteners and tools.


Bottom with first layer of cloth. The bottom received two layers plus extra along the keel for strength and protection.


The bottom covered in glass and resin. This is after two layers. You can see how the resin makes the cloth clear and the colors of the wood really pop.


Here is the top after being covered in Fiberglass and cloth. Once this step was complete a lot of sanding started. Just as with auto body work, the quality of the final finish depends upon the quality of the pre-varnish finish.


OK, this is a little overkill. I thought I would spray on my varnish coat and didn't want to touch the kayak. I build this rotisserie to hold the kayak from with-in the sitting area. I could spin the entire kayak with one finger around it's center of gravity.



Kayak after varnishing. I first tried spraying on the varnish using a pro quality HVLP sprayer. I think I would simply brush on the finish next time. The sprayer had a tendency to create runs which were a pain to get rid of.


The completed kayak with carbon fiber cowl.

Tagged in: Kayak Wood Working