CUSTOM WOOD KAYAK & CANOE COMPANY
DESIGN / BUILD SERVICES
BUILDING INSTRUCTIONS FOR
Thank you for your recent purchase of building plans from Redfish Custom Kayak & Canoe Company. Included here are descriptions of how best to build the “King” sea kayak.
I have attempted to make these plans as clear and straightforward as possible. However, if at any time you have difficulty understanding any of what I have included here, please contact me by phone or e-mail. I want your building experience to be as enjoyable and trouble-free as possible!
Woodworking carries with it an inherent risk of injury. However, this project can be successfully and safely completed even if you have had only a minimal amount of woodworking experience. If you have no experience with woodworking or tools then I recommend that you acquire these skills before attempting this project. This can usually be accomplished by attending local woodworking workshops or community education courses.
1. ASSEMBLE YOUR TOOLS
Strip building a kayak can be accomplished with surprisingly few expensive power tools. In fact, with the exception of a table saw for ripping your strips, a jigsaw for cutting out the stations, and a router for milling the bead and cove on the strips, you could conceivably build this boat using only hand tools. However, with this being said and in the interest of expediting your strip building experience, I will recommend the use of the following tools:
Thin kerf saw blade
Japanese pull saw
Router & router table
12 – 1 in. spring clamps
Stapler (Arrow T-50)
Random orbital sander
Rasp & File
¼ “ “bead” router bit
¼” “cove” router bit
You can purchase the tools that you don’t already own (an expensive proposition) or you can borrow from your family, friends, and neighbors. In most likelihood, you will end up both purchasing and borrowing many of these tools. I am a firm believer in purchasing the best quality tool that I can afford (or more appropriately - can’t afford); in the long run you will end up saving time and headache.
If you can afford to purchase some pre-milled strips, I would recommend it. This will save you considerable time; ripping the strips and milling the bead and cove are some of the most time consuming and dangerous steps in the whole building process.
2. ASSEMBLE YOUR BUILDING MATERIALS
You will need the following materials to build this kayak:
1 ½ sheets of ½ in. shop grade plywood
1 ½ sheets of ½ in. particle board
2 in. x 2 in. x 8 ft. of fir, pine, or spruce
¼ sheet of ½ in. shop grade plywood
¼ sheet of ½ in. shop grade plywood, 5 ft. of 2x4 fir
Shaper & misc.
½ sheet of ¼ in. luan plywood
2 pieces of 1 x 4 x 14 ft. pine, fir, or cedar
Hull & deck
Approximately 70 strips of ¼ x ¾ x 18 ft. western red cedar
8 pcs. of 1/16 in. x 3 in. x 54 in. hardwood (ash, walnut, or mahogany)
12 pcs. of 1/16 in. x 1 ½ in. x 54 in. hardwood (species as above)
12 pcs. of 1/8 in. x ¾ in. x 36 in. cedar
Outside bow stem
Outside stern stem
6 pcs. of 1/8 in. x 3/4in. x 36 in. hardwood (species as above)
6 pcs. of 1/8 in. x 1 1/4 in. x 36 in. hardwood (species as above)
6 oz. fiberglass cloth
38 in. x 25 yds or 40 yards if you desire a heavyweight lay-up
6 oz. fiberglass tape
1 roll x 2 in. wide (50 yards)
MAS brand epoxy resin
MAS brand slow hardener
MAS brand fast hardener
1 for hardener and 1 for resin
1 – 6 inch
Disposable latex gloves
20 pairs (at least)
acetone (more toxic) and/or white vinegar (non-toxic)
1 – that filters organic solvents
Marine spar varnish – 2 qts.
Disposable 1” brushes - several
Badger hair brush – 2 in.
Sandpaper – 50, 80, 100, 120, 220 grit
Dust masks – 2
3. RIP THE LUMBER INTO STRIPS
If you decide to rip your own lumber into strips, you should do this now to allow the strips to acclimate to your shop.
Mount a very sharp and thin-kerf circular saw blade on your tablesaw and then adjust the fence to cut a ¼ in. wide strip. Mount featherboards on both the table and fence to hold the lumber tightly. Turn the saw on and slowly but consistently feed the lumber through the blade. It expedites matters to have a helper on the other end to pull the lumber while you push and guide it to the blade. This is one of the most dangerous steps in the entire building process – be as careful as possible here and keep those fingers and hands away from the blade
4. MILL THE BEAD AND COVE ON THE STRIPS
Set up your router in the router table, install and adjust your featherboards to hold the strips tight to the fence and to the table. Adjust the height of the bit to cut a very symmetrical bead on the strip. You should check this bead occasionally as you rout to make sure that nothing in your setup has shifted.
After all of the beads have been cut, install the cove cutting bit in the router and follow the same steps as for cutting the bead.
5. BUILD THE STRONGBACK
The strong back is basically a 6 in. x 6 in. x 16 ft. box beam with blocking spaced every three feet on the inside.
Build the strongback by first ripping four pieces of ½ in. plywood 6 in. x 8 ft., two pieces 5 in. x 8 ft., four pieces 5 in. x 4 ft., and six pieces 4 7/8 in. x 32 in .
Next, assemble the pieces as per the drawing and use glue and nails or screws to hold everything together.
Secure the strongback to a set of saw horses or, if you desire, put it on wheels. Having it on wheels allows greater flexibility while working on your kayak.
Strongback with blocks, risers, and wheels
6. CUT AND INSTALL THE RISER BLOCKS
Cut fourteen 2” x 2” x 6” riser blocks and screw them to the strongback at the spacings indicated on the drawings.
7. CUT THE RISERS
From ½” ply, cut fourteen risers 6” wide by 10” tall and draw centerlines on both sides of the risers.
8. ATTACH THE RISERS
Run a stringline down the center of the riser blocks. With a pencil, mark the centerline on each block. Remove the stringline and place a temporary ¼” thick spacer underneath the two end risers (#2, 15), line up the centerlines of the risers with the centerlines of the blocks and temporarily clamp in place. With a level, plumb these two end risers and then screw them into place. Next, using spring clamps, secure a stringline across the tops of these two risers at their centerlines and pull taut. Now clamp the rest of the risers to the blocks centered under the stringline. Be sure that you clamp the risers so they are as close as possible to, but not touching the stringline. After you are confident that everything is aligned as accurately as possible, screw the remaining risers to the blocks.
9. CUT OUT THE STATIONS
For this step you will need a jigsaw and either carbon or graphite paper. Trace the outline of each station onto the ½” particle board using carbon paper placed under the
station templates. With a jigsaw cut just to the outside of the lines; use a belt sander to fine tune each station just to the lines. You need to trace the vertical and horizontal alignment marks onto both sides of the stations. Stations 1 & 16 need to be cut in half, effectively removing the center ½” from each station – these are then glued to the bow and stern forms (see page 6). Note: Rather than using carbon paper, you may cut out and glue the paper templates to the particle board with spray adhesive.
10. INSTALL STATIONS ON RISERS
Clamp each station to its corresponding riser, taking care to place the riser register line even with the top of the riser, and the vertical alignment mark on the riser centerline. Because you took care to plumb the risers, the stations should now be very close to being plumb and level. Run a stringline from bow to stern and over the centerlines for a reference. Adjust and align the stations until all of the reference marks line up. Once you are satisfied, screw the stations to the risers.
11. CUT STEM LAMINATIONS
You will need to rip 12 pieces of cedar (or whatever wood you have chosen for your hull) 1/8” x 3/4” x 36” for inside stems. Also cut 6 pieces of hardwood (I like Honduran mahogany) 1/8” x 3/4” x 36” for the bow outside stems & 6 pieces 1/8” x 1-1/4” x 36” for the stern outside stems. (see note on step 12)
12. LAMINATE STEMS
Inside Stern stems: brush unthickened epoxy onto 2 sides of 4 pieces and 1 side of 2 pieces. Now brush thickened epoxy onto the same pieces and in the same order. Stack these together, being sure to position the sides without epoxy as the top and bottom of the stack. Set these laminations aside. Note: The combined thickness of the inside stem laminations should be the same as the offset between the end form and the end station (see step 13) – this measurement can be anywhere between 1/2” to 3/4” – the offset determines the thickness of the lamination set. Adjust the number of laminations to make this so.
Outside Stern stems: follow the same gluing steps as for the inside stem and then immediately place this lamination set on top of the inside stem set. Clamp both of these sets together and around the stern form using the form holes for clamp placement. *Remember - these two lamination sets are not to be glued to each other -- wipe any squeeze-out clean. Follow the same gluing sequence for the bow stems as you just did for the stern stems.
After the epoxy has cured, remove the laminations sets from the forms and set them aside.
13. SCREW BOW AND STERN FORMS TO STATIONS 2 AND 15
Assemble the bow and stern forms by screwing station #’s 2 & 15 to them respectively. Pre-drill these first to ease assembly. Take care that the top of the stations sit flush with the top of the bow and stern forms. This photo shows the offset between the bottom of the end form and the bottom of the station. Your inside stem lamination set should be the same thickness as the offset between the end form and station.
14. INSTALL INSIDE STEMS
Secure the inside stems to the bow and stern forms by placing a screw through the stem and into the form at about 6” intervals. You will remove these screws one by one as stripping progresses.
15. SHAPE THE INSIDE STEMS
Using a rasp, block plane, and coarse sandpaper shape the inside stems so that the strips will lay flat against them. Remove and then replace the screws as necessary for tool clearance. Leave about a 1/8” wide flat on the outside of the stem. You will be removing stock from the forms as well - this is OK.
Note: I like to shape the inside stem as I strip – I will shape the first couple of inches of stem (from end of the stem first) and lay a couple of strips, then shape another couple inches of stem and then lay more strips. Shaping the stem in this sequence allows me to better judge the angle of the bevel that the stem needs in order for the strips to lay flat against it.
16. SEAL STATION EDGES
Use shellac, polyurethane, varnish, or masking tape to seal the edges of the stations and end forms. This is to prevent glue squeeze-out from gluing the strips to the stations.
17. CHECK STATIONS FOR FAIR
Run some test strips over the stations and spaced about 3” apart. Sight along these strips for fair. Again, adjust if necessary. It is important that you take some extra time during the aligning process. It is here that the shape of your hull is set.
18. INSTALL SHEER STRIPS
You will be stripping the hull first and the deck second.
Sheer strips: Use either 1/2” or 5/8” wide strips for the first course; this will ensure a nice fair sheerline and makes bending the strips at the upswept bow and stern easier. The sheer side of the first course should be a square edge; the keel side should be beaded. Align the square edge of this first strip with the sheer line of the stations and staple in place.
It is important to note that where this strip falls on the form is not nearly as important as the fact that it should be fair – stand back, eyeball the strip, and if necessary adjust it so there are no uneven dips.
Apply a bead of yellow carpenter’s glue to the cove of the second strip. Starting at station #9 and working towards the ends, staple this strip into place. Be sure that the bead and cove mate tightly. There should be only a slight amount of squeeze-out - if there is more than this, then reduce the size of your glue bead. Wipe off excess glue with a damp rag. Doing so will reduce your scraping and sanding time considerably.
19. FINISH STRIPPING THE HULL
These strips should be laid alternating from one side to the other as you go. Let them extend over the stem and then cut them off slightly proud of the outside face of the stem after they have been stapled in place.
When the stripping nears the stem ends at stations 1 and 15 you should stop alternating sides and continue stripping one side only. Allow the strips on this side to extend past the keel line (centerline), and continue laying strips until the entire side is stripped.
Now take a string and stretch it from station #2 to station #15 along the centerline. Sight along the line and if it is not straight, use masking tape to make it so. Mark along this line with a pencil. Remove the string and cut along the pencil line with a sharp chisel, a back saw, or a Japanese pull saw (the Japanese saw is my favorite). Don’t be afraid to cut slightly into the stations as you pass over them.
Continue stripping the other side. To do so will require you to taper both ends of the strip to fit snugly into the strips on the opposite side. Do this by holding the strip parallel to the last strip laid and with a pencil, mark the angle needed to fit into the strip on the opposing side. Cut this angle and dry fit it for accuracy - fine tune if necessary. With the fitted end in place, seat the rest of the strip along the previous strip until you can mark the cut angle on the other end. Remove the strip, cut the angle, and dry fit it once more. Don’t be concerned if this strip doesn’t fit perfectly the first time - it will be a practice strip and will help you get a feel for the fitting process. You will be able to use this strip later if it doesn’t work for this course. Continue fitting strips until the hull is completed.
20. ATTACH THE OUTSIDE STEMS
Use a block plane, file, and/or coarse sandpaper to trim the ends of the strips flush with the outside face of the inside stems. Apply unthickened epoxy to the mating surfaces and then follow this with an application of thickened epoxy to the same surfaces. Using strapping tape, nylon straps, clamps, or a combination thereof, secure the outside stem to the inside stem and allow this to cure. Cut the stems flush with the sheer line.
21. SAND THE HULL
Remove all of the staples from the hull taking care not to bruise the wood.
Use a block plane to fair the outside stems into the hull and to remove any major steps between the strips. Follow this with a fairing board and/or random orbital sander using a sequence of 80, 100, and 120 grit paper.
Wipe down the hull with a wet rag, let dry, and then using a 100 grit paper, hand sand the entire hull - use care to sand only with the grain. Sanding by hand with 100 grit and only in the direction of the grain is sufficient to hide any sanding scratches; this also provides enough “tooth” for the following coats of epoxy to bond with the hull.
22. FIBERGLASS THE HULL
Once you have finished sanding you are ready to begin the fiberglassing process.
The first step is to drape the fiberglass cloth over the hull and trim to length leaving about 3” hanging past the sheer and stems.
Starting in the center of the hull and working your way towards the ends, smooth out any wrinkles with your hands. The glass should now be lying flat and smooth along the entire length of the hull.
Mix about 4 ounces of slow hardener and resin in a mixing pot. Starting at the keel of station #4 and using a 2” brush apply and spread the epoxy over the dry cloth. Work from the keel down to the sheer and then towards the ends. You will be spreading epoxy on only one side of the boat at this point. Don’t attempt to work the resin into the cloth with the brush, as this will only introduce bubbles into the epoxy. The object of using the brush is simply to transfer the resin to the cloth. Work with enthusiasm and don’t be too concerned about runs or bubbles at this point. The resin should be wetting out the cloth and soaking well into the wood. Check every couple of minutes the areas that you have just completed. If any are looking dry or starved, add more resin. When you have finished this side, wet out the other side in the same manner. This whole process should not take more than 40 minutes.
I like using MAS slow hardener for wetting out the cloth because it allows plenty of time for the epoxy to thoroughly saturate the cloth and wood.
The next step will require the use of a squeegee. The purpose of this step is to remove excess resin and ensure that the cloth is lying flat against the hull. Begin this step at the same place on the hull that you started applying the resin and follow the same application pattern as you proceed.
Place the squeegee at the keel line, slowly and methodically pull it towards the sheer. Angle the squeegee at about 45 degrees to the hull while doing this. When the squeegee exits the sheer it will be carrying excess epoxy; dispose of this excess by pulling the squeegee through a slit cut into the top of a plastic or cardboard cup (old cardboard concentrated juice cans work great for this). You should be applying only enough pressure to remove excess epoxy - you don’t want to be applying so much pressure that you are removing resin from the cloth fibers. You will know that too much pressure is applied if the cloth turns whitish anywhere along the squeegee tracks. If this does happen, apply more fresh resin to the affected area. Methodically work your way around the entire boat until you have a nice even sheen.
At the stems the cloth will tend not to lay flat against the hull; here you should trim the cloth to about 1” beyond the stems. Come back to the stems every hour or two to check on the cloth and press it back into the hull if it has lifted. The cloth does not need to wrap all the way around the stems as you can apply an extra layer of cloth here later.
After about 8 hours and no longer than 12, the hull should be ready for the next coat of epoxy. With this coat you will be filling in the weave and leveling the surface. You will need about 1/3 of the amount of epoxy that you used for the first coat. This time you may spread most of the epoxy with the squeegee and use a brush only on the vertical portions of the hull.
Mix about 2 ounces of epoxy and pour onto the center of the hull. Work this into the weave with the squeegee until you have a nice even coat. Mix and apply more epoxy as needed. Let this cure for about one hour and then squeegee off the excess as before. After another 8 hours or until the epoxy just loses its tackiness, apply another coat and
lightly squeegee off the excess. You will later be sanding this third coat back to just near the surface of the glass.
After the epoxy has cured (about 12 hours) trim the excess glass back to the sheerline and stems. Use a sharp razor knife for this step.
23. BUILD THE SADDLES
Build the saddles as per the diagram.
24. REMOVE THE HULL FROM THE STRONGBACK
The hull is now ready to be taken off the strongback.
Remove the screws holding the stations to the risers. As the last few screws are removed take care that the whole assembly doesn’t come crashing down onto the strongback. Here an extra pair of hands can come in very handy.
Place the hull with the stations intact into the saddles. Excess glue squeeze-out should be holding the stations to the hull. If the stations are loose from the hull, hot-glue a few small blocks or strips to them to keep them intact.
25. SEAL STATION EDGES
See step #16.
26. MASK THE SHEERLINE
Place a strip of masking tape along the entire edge of your sheer strips. This will prevent the deck from being glued to the hull as you proceed with stripping and fiberglassing the deck.
27. INSTALL SHEER STRIPS
You will now install the first sheer strips for the deck. Place a sheer strip with a squared edge against the squared edge of the hull sheer strip. These squared edges will later be beveled so as to mate together perfectly. Again this first strip should be about 5/8” wide. Staple this strip into place.
28. FINISH STRIPPING THE DECK
There is not a set rule as to how the remaining deck strips should be laid; you can actually get very creative with the sequence and color of the strips, or pattern that you create. You can alternate colored strips, run strips parallel to the centerline, run strips with the sheerline, or any combination of the above. I will leave this up to you, for it is here that you can really personalize your kayak.
If you run your next strips with the sheerline, then the sheer strip should have a bead cut on it. If you run the next strip parallel to the centerline, then the sheer strip should have a square edge for the remaining strips to butt into. If you do run them parallel, start stripping them at the centerline and work towards the sheer.
When your stripping reaches the area of the cockpit cutout it is best not to run them full length and over the cutout area. Use shorter strips and let them run wild into the cutout area.
29. CUT OUT THE COCKPIT RECESS
When you have completed laying the deck strips the next step is to cut out the cockpit recess. Locate the foremost tip of the recess 4” astern of station #8.
Use the paper template and with a pencil, trace one-half of the recess; flip the template over and trace the other half.
Use a jigsaw with a fine tooth blade or a fine tooth Japanese pull saw to cut out the cockpit recess. Keep the blade as vertical as possible while cutting.
Note: the King has a low profile recess which approaches the sheer line at station # 11. The recess cutout template should be placed at least ½” from the sheer line at this station.
30. STRIP THE COCKPIT RECESS
Strip across the cockpit recess starting at both ends and work towards the middle. Bevel the end of each strip as necessary to fit the angle of the cutout and then glue into place with yellow carpenter’s glue. This photo shows the last recess strip being glued into place.
31. SAND THE DECK
Pull the staples and sand the deck as you did for the hull.
32. FIBERGLASS THE DECK
Fiberglass the deck as you did for the hull. You will want to partially mask the hull to prevent epoxy from dripping onto the hull sides. When the epoxy has cured, trim the cloth at the sheerline.
33. REMOVE THE DECK FROM THE STATIONS
You are now ready to remove the deck from the stations.
Gently pry the deck from each station using a soft plastic putty knife. You may also try removing the deck by reaching inside the cockpit and softly tapping each station with a piece of 2 x 2 or 2 x 4 about 18” long.
Lay the deck aside and continue to remove any remaining stations from the hull.
34. SAND THE INTERIOR
It isn’t necessary to fine sand the inside of both the hull and deck. These areas are, for the most part, out of sight and the only thing that you need to be concerned about are steps between strips that might cause a void or bubble in the epoxy/glass matrix.
With 50 grit paper, sand any steps even and/or fill them with thickened epoxy and wood
flour until the interior is relatively smooth. Give the inside of both the deck and hull a final sanding with 80 grit paper.
35. FIBERGLASS THE INSIDE OF THE HULL
Lay out and cut the glass for the inside of the hull leaving about 3” of overhang at the sheer and stems.
Epoxy the glass to the inside of the hull by pouring the epoxy into the bottom of the hull and spreading it with the squeegee - work from the centerline towards the sheer, being careful not to lift the glass as you go. Note that you may find it necessary to cut a dart in the glass near the stems in order to get the glass to lay flat. If this is the case, simply fold one flap of the dart underneath the other and continue with the wet-out.
Apply a second coat of epoxy as you did for the outside of the hull. It is not necessary to apply a third coat - you don’t need a glossy smooth finish on the inside like you do on the outside of the hull. Let the epoxy cure.
36. FIBERGLASS THE INSIDE OF THE DECK
Lay the hull aside, place the deck in the saddles, and cut fiberglass for the inside of the deck as you did for the inside of the hull.
Cut an extra layer of glass about 4” wider and longer than each hatch. Place these pieces in their proper position on the deck and under the full length cloth. Proceed with the wet-out of the cloth. Again, apply only two coats of epoxy.
37. BUILD THE COAMING LAMINATION FORM
In order to build the cockpit coaming and coaming lip you will first need to build the lamination form.
Kerf- cut ply
Using carbon paper and the paper template, transfer the form shape to a piece of ½” particle board or plywood. Next, cut 2 x 4 and 2 x 2 blocks as per plans. Glue and nail these blocks to the base as shown on the template. Rip 3 pieces of ¼” luan or plywood to 3” x 48”. Cut kerfs every ½” along the backside of the plywood and deep enough to cut through the face veneer. Glue and nail (or screw) two of these pieces to the outside of the blocks. Finish this entire assembly with polyurethane or shellac. When this finish has cured, wax everything with paste wax to prevent any epoxy from sticking to the form.
38. MILL THE COAMING LAMINATIONS
To build the coaming you first need to make or purchase the laminations.
Rip eight pieces of hardwood (ash, Honduran mahogany, walnut, or white oak will work well) to 1/16” x 3” x 54” for the coaming.
Rip twelve pieces of hardwood to 1/16” x 1 ½” x 54” for the coaming lip.
If you don’t have the tools needed to perform this operation you can either purchase 1/16” veneer or have a cabinet shop do this for you.
39. GLUE UP THE LAMINATIONS
Coaming: brush unthickened epoxy onto two sides of two 3” wide pieces and one side of two other 3” wide pieces. Now mix up some thickened epoxy and brush this onto the same surfaces; stack these together, mark the center (27”) with a pencil, then place them on the bending form while aligning the center mark with that of the form.
Place the remaining piece of kerfed luan (which should also be heavily waxed) to the outside of this stack and then clamp the assembly to the form blocks. Clamp the center first and then work your way toward the ends. Try to place a clamp on at least every other block. Do not clamp extremely tight; epoxy bonds best with just a firm clamping. Allow this lamination set to cure and then remove it from the form.
Repeat this procedure with the other 3” wide lamination pieces. However, do not remove this lamination set from the form; remove only the outer piece of kerfed luan.
Now, brush unthickened epoxy on two sides of ten 1 ½” wide pieces and one side of the other two 1 ½” wide pieces. Mix thickened epoxy and brush onto the same surfaces. Stack these together, mark the center (27”) with a pencil, place waxed paper between this set and the set already on the form, and then clamp as before, with the waxed and kerfed luan to the outside. Allow this assembly to cure fully before removing from the form.
Note - transfer the centerlines from the form base to the lamination sets before removing the sets from the form.
40. CUT OUT THE “SHAPER”
Using carbon paper, transfer the ½ outline of the “shaper” from the paper template to ¼” luan plywood (or any ¼” sheet material). Turn the paper template over, line up the centerlines, and trace the other half.
With the jigsaw, cut out the “shaper” just to the outside of the lines. Use a belt sander to fine tune the “shaper” to the lines.
41. ASSEMBLE THE COAMING HALVES
Cut the 3” coaming lamination sets square at the aft centerline mark that you transferred from the form base. Cut the lamination sets about ½” longer than the fore centerline mark.
On a flat surface butt the aft ends together and check for a square fit.
Cut two pieces of 1/16” x 2” x 4” veneer of the same wood as the coaming.
Apply thickened epoxy to the aft butt ends of the coaming and to one face of the veneer pieces. Butt the aft ends together and clamp both of the veneer pieces to the inside, across, and flush to the top of the butt joint (see photo). Let the epoxy cure. Do not glue the fore joint together at this point.
42. FIT THE COAMING TO THE SHAPER
Insert the shaper into the coaming with the veneer pieces sitting on top of the shaper. Line up the shaper centerline with the aft butt joint. Now bend one side of the coaming around the shaper until you can transfer the shaper centerline to the coaming. Mark this centerline, square it, and cut it with the Japanese pull saw. Note - this cut should have a slight bevel to it in order to ensure a tight fit with the other half of the coaming.
Repeat this procedure with the other half of the coaming taking care not to cut it too short!
When you are done the coaming should fit tight to the shaper with no gap at the fore butt joint (see photo).
Place an 8’ nylon strap around the coaming and pull it tight so that the coaming is snug to the shaper.
43. LAY OUT THE COCKPIT OPENING
Place the shaper/coaming assembly on top of the strips in the cockpit recess area. Center it from right to left and place the fore edge of the coaming 3” behind the fore edge of the recess. Secure it in place with masking tape when it is level from side to side. Now, from above, sight down the outside of the coaming and make pencil marks about every inch on the deck, outlining the coaming. Remove the coaming/shaper assembly and use a French curve to connect all of the pencil marks.
44. CUT THE COCKPIT OPENING
Cut the cockpit opening just to the inside of the pencil mark using a jigsaw or Japanese pull saw.
Remove the coaming from the shaper and try to fit it in the cutout. It will probably be a little tight. If this is the case, shave the opening very slightly with a Surform rasp or 50 grit sandpaper until the coaming just fits. The fore coaming butt joint should squeeze tightly together.
If there are slight gaps around the coaming don’t be concerned, as they will be filled later with a thickened epoxy fillet.
ROUGH CUT THE COAMING TO SHAPE
With the coaming wedged in place, pencil in a line around the outside of the coaming at least 1 1/8” above the top of the deck. Next, from underneath the deck, pencil a line around the outside of the coaming and flush with the bottom of the deck.
Remove the coaming and cut just the outside of these lines with a Japanese pull saw.
46. GLUE THE COAMING INTO POSITION
Place 2” or wider masking tape on the underside of the deck along the edge of and protruding into the coaming. This “lip” of tape will help prevent the glue from sagging and running out of the joint.
Brush unthickened epoxy on the edges of the cutout, on the coaming butt joint, and along the outside edge of the coaming. Mix some thickened epoxy (and wood flour for color). Apply this to all the edges to be glued and then press the coaming into position.
Note: thickened epoxy should be thick enough that it will not sag. It should be about the
consistency of peanut butter.
47. FILLET THE DECK/COAMING JUNCTION
Wipe up any squeeze-out from the previous step. Mix up some thickened epoxy and wood flour for color and build up a small fillet around the coaming/deck junction. Use your gloved small finger to radius this fillet.
48. GLUE THE COAMING LIP TO THE COAMING
Rip the 1 ½” wide laminations into two pieces - 1/4” thick x ¾” wide (there may be extra material left over in this step). Clamp one of these to the coaming, mark the cut lines, and then cut these with the Japanese pull saw.
Clamp the other piece along the other side of the coaming and underneath the previously clamped lamination. Mark a cut-line where they intersect and then cut this piece with the Japanese pull saw.
Apply thickened epoxy to these lip laminations and clamp them to the coaming. Maintain a 3/4” clearance between the bottom of the lip and the top of the deck for spray skirt clearance. Use small 3/4” blocks placed under the lip and spaced about 6” apart to maintain this distance. After the epoxy cures, remove the temporary 3/4” blocks and build another small fillet under the lip at the lip/coaming junction. Again, use your gloved small finger to radius this fillet. The fillet does not have to be large to be effective.
49. REMOVE EXCESS COAMING
That part of the coaming that extends above the lip and below the deck needs to be removed. Use a small hand saw, rasp, block plane, or coarse sandpaper to accomplish this. I have also successfully used a laminate trimmer with a flush cutting bit to remove the excess coaming.
50. FIBERGLASS THE COAMING
Sand the entire coaming/lip assembly smooth and round over the edge of the lip.
Cut a piece of fiberglass on the bias, at least 3” wide, and as long as the circumference of the cockpit opening. Epoxy this piece across the top of the lip, down the inside of the coaming, and back underneath the deck. Cut another piece of fiberglass about half as long and install this on the aft half of the coaming – effectively doubling the fiberglass in this area. This will greatly strengthen the entire cockpit lamination assembly.
51. CUT THE HATCHES
Using the paper templates and a utility knife, scratch a fine line on the deck defining the hatch covers. Leave about 10” between the rear edge of the cockpit recess and the aft hatch opening. Leave about 30” between the front edge of the cockpit recess and the fore hatch opening.
Cut out the hatch covers with a jig saw or Japanese pull saw.
52. INSTALL HATCH COVER STOPS
You need to build the hatch cover stops to prevent the hatch cover from falling into the hatch opening and to provide a lip onto which you will glue gasket material.
Using thickened epoxy, glue scrap hull stripping about 2 in. long underneath the deck at the hatch openings. These pieces should run perpendicular to and protrude into the opening by about 1 in. You will need to taper every other strip in order to follow the round curvature of the hatch opening. With a little practice you should be able to do this rather quickly. When you are finished you should have a 1 in. wide lip of stripping protruding into the opening; you can trim this later when you install weather stripping on the lip.
If you wish to have a perfectly flush hatch cover you will have to recess the gasket lip by slightly less than the thickness of your gasket material. Do this by cutting the first layer back to within about ¼” of the opening edge (this will act as the cover stop) and then glue another layer of strips underneath and extending into the opening by about 1 inch as before.
Use neoprene weatherstripping for your gasket material – this is available at almost all hardware supply stores and comes in several thicknesses and widths.
If you wish to attach a grab loop in the ends of your kayak you will need to install end blocks. They are 3 to 4 inches long and shaped to fit into the ends of the kayak.
Before taping the deck to the hull, saturate the blocks with unthickened epoxy and allow it to soak in. Then mix up some thickened epoxy, slather the blocks with it and press them into place. Allow the epoxy to cure before taping the deck to the hull.
Before varnishing, drill a 3/4” hole through the hull and block. Either make or purchase a 3/4” diameter dowel, saturate the sides of the exposed hole and the sides of the dowel with thickened epoxy, and then insert the dowel. Let the epoxy cure, cut the dowel flush with the hull, and then drill a 3/8” hole through the center of the dowel.
Note: it is perfectly acceptable to ignore using a dowel - simply drill a hole through the hull and block for your grab loop but be sure to saturate everything well with epoxy to prevent water from wicking into the end grain.
JOINING THE DECK AND HULL – PREPARING THE SHEER STRIPS
Just before joining the deck and hull you will need to introduce a bevel to the sheer strips. This is easily and accurately done by using a fairing board with 36 grit sandpaper attached. Use a fairing board that is about 30 inches long – long enough to span from side to side.
Placing the sander across the hull or deck ensures that the introduced bevels are in exactly the same plane.
Note that this technique will work with a sheer strip that is coved, beaded, or square edged.
53. PRE-FASTEN THE INSIDE SEAM TAPE TO THE HULL
Cut two pieces of 2” fiberglass tape the length of the hull. Using spring clamps, secure one piece to the inside of the hull and along the sheerline from bow to stern.
Fasten the tape to the hull by using small (BB size) dabs of hot-glue about every 6” along its entire length. Remove the clamps and repeat this procedure for the other side.
Note: Fasten the tape to the hull rather than to the deck as shown in this photo.
TAPE THE DECK TO THE HULL
Place the deck back onto the hull, and being sure that the inside seam tape is in the proper position on the inside of the deck, fasten the deck and the hull together with clear packing tape, strapping tape, or 2 inch wide masking tape. Work your way along the sheerline pulling and pushing the halves tightly together as you go. An extra pair of hands helps to simplify this step. Be sure to tape the entire seam or else epoxy from the next step will leak out of the joint.
55. EPOXY THE INSIDE SEAM TAPE
Place the kayak on its side in the saddles and starting in the middle of the boat, pour mixed epoxy along the seam tape. I like to use a piece of open cell foam, cut into the shape of a pyramid and hot-glued to the end of a ¼” x ¼” x 5’ stick during this step. Dip the foam into epoxy and liberally apply the epoxy to the tape until you’ve worked it all the way to the ends of the kayak. It helps to elevate the kayak from end to end and allow gravity to assist in working the epoxy into the ends of the kayak.
You will need to stick your head into both the cockpit and hatch openings to accomplish this and so the use of a respirator is advised!
After the epoxy on the seam has hardened sufficiently, flip the kayak over onto its other side and repeat the procedure.
Allow the epoxy to cure for at least a day before removing the tape; however, the sooner you remove it, the easier it will be to clean any tape adhesive that may be sticking to the hull.
56. APPLY EXTERIOR SEAM & STEM TAPE
Sand the exterior seam and stem areas smooth and then cut a piece of 2” tape the length of the seam. Roll this piece of tape up, place it in a cup of epoxy, and work it with your gloved hand until it is completely saturated. Starting at one end of the kayak, roll this tape down the seam. Apply more epoxy as necessary with a small brush to keep it completely wet out. Check periodically as the epoxy cures and press it back into the tacky epoxy if it begins to lift.
As soon as the resin reaches the tacky stage you can apply another coat. Allow this coat to tack-up and then apply another; feather these coats into the deck and hull with a squeegee as you apply them so as to minimize future sanding. When the epoxy has cured you can repeat the procedure for the other side and stems.
57. STRIP THE BULKHEADS
Glue up a 28’ x 28” panel of strips and then fiberglass each side. You will cut your bulkheads from this panel.
58. CUT OUT AND SHAPE THE BULKHEADS
You are now ready to cut out and install the bulkheads.
One bulkhead will be positioned immediately behind the aft edge of the cockpit recess and the other will be positioned anywhere from two to six inches in front of your feet when your legs are fully extended. This fore bulkhead placement is not exact and depends on your leg length and whether or not you intend other paddlers of differing stature paddle your boat - adjust accordingly.
When determining the fore bulkhead placement, assume a 2-1/2” clearance between your back and the cockpit coaming.
To determine the bulkhead shape you will need to build a cardboard template. Use the station nearest to the bulkheads as a starting point for the template shape - enlarge or reduce the template shape as needed. This process is a matter of trial and error, but because you are using cardboard, goes really rather quickly.
59. INSTALL THE BULKHEADS
When you are satisfied with shaping your bulkheads you can then install them - they don’t have to fit perfectly as the thickened fillet of epoxy will cover any gaps.
Sand the inside of the kayak where you plan to place the bulkheads and then, using thickened epoxy, glue and fillet them into place. When this has hardened sufficiently apply fiberglass tape to the seams.
60. SAND THE KAYAK EXTERIOR
Starting with 80 grit paper, knock off the high points and nibs and begin feathering the seam tape into the hull and deck. Follow this with 100 grit and then 120 grit. You should now wet-sand the entire hull and deck with 220 grit until the surface takes on a uniform dullness. You will know that your sanding is complete when there are no shiny spots left. You should not be sanding into the glass as this will weaken the structure. If you do find yourself into the glass you should apply another thin coat of epoxy, allow to cure, and then resume sanding.
61. APPLY THE FINISH
There are many finishes on the market that would be suitable for this task; however, I believe a high quality marine spar varnish is the best all around product to use. It is relatively easy to apply, easily repaired, has great appearance, and contains the filters necessary to protect the epoxy from harmful ultra-violet light.
I would recommend applying four coats initially and then one coat per year or as wear dictates. It is not necessary to varnish the inside of the kayak other than in the cockpit itself.
Always be sure that the varnish you choose to use is compatible with your epoxy; some aren’t and will not cure! Test the varnish before you commit it to your boat.
I believe that a badger hair brush gives the best results; however, others have had great success using foam brushes.
I have found the process of designing and building kayaks and canoes to be very enjoyable and rewarding; I sincerely hope that you derive as much pleasure from building and paddling your new kayak as I do from mine!
Keep in touch and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for future revisions of these plans. I’d like to know how you are progressing and by all means, send me a picture of your completed kayak!
Redfish Custom Kayak & Canoe Co.
360-379-1131 or 360-808-5488
1. It is not necessary to use full length strips while building this kayak. In many localities it is very difficult to acquire full length strips. If this is the case in your locality, you may simply butt join two shorter strips together; make sure that this joint is placed over a station. If you must butt join strips in more than one course, try to stagger them over different stations so as to even out the jointed appearance.
2. When you have glassed the inside of the hull and deck and while the epoxy is curing, you need to maintain the original beam. This will make (step 54) taping the hull and deck together easier.
Do this by using the following technique:
(1) Move the saddles closer together or farther apart. Moving them closer together will
narrow the beam, moving them farther apart will widen the beam.
(2) Use spreader sticks to widen the beam, or masking tape spanning from sheer to sheer
to narrow the beam.
3. Aftermarket seats are available or you can choose to carve your own seat from a block of minicell foam (closed cell foam).
4. Footbraces are available as an aftermarket item or you can build your own from minicell foam butted up against the bulkhead.
You can also use the bulkhead itself as your footbraces if you want to minimize weight and keep everything as simple as possible – the only draw back to not having adjustable footbraces is that it limits the number of people who will be able to paddle your kayak comfortably.
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