Boat kits and mechanical morons

A good quality kit goes a long way.
Check out the workshop section at One Ocean Kayaks:

for stitch & glue, scroll down to “INDEX of Stitch & Glue building pages.” It’s practically a step by step online manual.

For great support during the process you can post questions on:

The Cirrus from One Ocean Kayaks would be a great kit for you to build. It comes with lots of internal and external forms to keep everything aligned and in place during the building process. Also, the panels are all CNC machined to a tolerance of 0.0005" for great accuracy, they are easily joined together with the Scarflock joint (like a finger joint) that is also CNC machined, and the panels and the forms are all pre-drilled for wiring (stitching).

I’ve built two strippers from two reputable companies. My first was an Expedition from One Ocean Kayaks. Because of the quality of their products, I can recommend OOK without any hesitation. The plans I received from One Ocean Kayaks were extremely accurate, neat, easy to understand, and well-thought-out. I wish I can say the same for the other two sets of plans I’ve bought. In fact, I’m now in the process of trying to straighten out a set of warped plans before I commit to building the kayak. I’m guessing they made copies of copies or just used a bad printer from the beginning. I might just decide to ditch those plans and build a OOK Storm…and then a Cirrus…and then…

Yes, kayak building is addicting.

Good luck,

Pedro Almeida

About sharp tools . . .
I appreciate what you’re saying in relation to paddle-making - but for a kayak stitch and glue kit, all I needed was one of those low-cost planing tools (can’t remember the name for them)that have the tiny multiple blades cut into a steel plate: about 3" by 2" and mounted on a plastic handle.

The blades last a long time, and they are replaceable. This tool was used to angle the shear line edges of some panels, as well as some minor trimming, but it did not require me to invest in, or have to maintain, standard planes.

I offer this suggestion because for S&G kits, for less-experienced woodworkers, these are also easier to work with than planes - and more forgiving. They are available at the tool section at home improvement stores.

I think you’re referring to…

– Last Updated: Feb-04-09 11:24 AM EST –

...a Stanley Surform tool, which is something I use for shaping Minicell foam, a task at which they excel. As a woodworking tool, they leave a lot to be desired except for coarse material removal. Essentially, they're just a type of rasp. They require a fair amount of pressure to get them to cut and they tend to tear the surface. It's virtually impossible to create a flat surface or facet with them, but that's not what they're designed for.

I disagree with your characterization of planes as difficult to use and unforgiving, as they are exactly the opposite of that. I don't know what your experience is, but you sound like someone who's never used a sharp, properly adjusted plane. Like you and Angstrom, not so long ago I had a bad impression of edged tools. Then I bought my first good plane (for boat building) and learned how to sharpen it and everything changed.

A sharp plane cuts with little effort and is very easy to control. It takes off a small amount of material with each pass, so you can be very precise in shaping your workpiece. You can plane flat surfaces and facets where they're needed. A plane can also be used to take off a considerable amount of material with each pass, if need be, so they're quite versatile in that regard.

You're correct that you don't NEED a plane to build a S&G kayak kit. For that matter, you don't need a Surform or other rasp either, if you're willing to sand everything to shape. However, a well-tuned plane makes many aspects of building a S&G boat easier and provides better control than any other tool. Nothing works better for scarfing parts and panels, or for shaping sheerclamps and gunwales.

If you have the opportunity to try a plane that's sharp and tuned, I think you'll experience the same type of epiphany that Angstrom and I did. The difference is so vast that it's really hard to explain.

BTW, you don't have to spend a lot of money on a plane, either. I've accumulated a fair number of planes from pawn shops, yard sales, Craigslist and other sources for typically around $10 each. It's really a great feeling to take an old, rusty, abused tool that's not useful for much more than a door stop and with some "sweat equity" to clean, tune and sharpen it, see it make shavings so thin you can read through them. Older planes (pre-1960, typically) are very well made and perform as well as new tools costing hundreds of dollars.

If you just want to get into cutting wood quickly, even the inexpensive ($20-$40) new planes from Stanley, Anant and others will work on well on the softwoods used in kayak kits, provided that they are properly sharpened (that's what I use for loaner tools in paddle making classes). You can put together a decent sharpening kit with a 1/4 glass plate, a sharpening guide and a few sheets of wet-dry sandpaper (220, 400, 600 and 1000 grit) for under $25. You can always add an 8000 grit waterstone later, for the ultimate edge.

Call me crazy, but I really love working with edged hand tools. There's nothing quite like it.

you got it
it’s a beautiful sound

" It takes off a small amount of material with each pass, so you can be very precise in shaping your workpiece."

Not a mech. moron, but a building newbie
Having done most of my own bike maintenance for years, I’m not a mechanical moron. But when I decided to build a wood kayak (Shearwater Merganser 16, from a kit), I was a total newbie at making anything. Never took shop class, never built so much as a stool.

The experience was long and frustrating–and that was with the kit. But the boat turned out straight, watertight, and decent-looking. Wood boats turn heads even if they’re far from perfect, so get used to receiving many compliments.

A few bits of hard-won advice:

  1. Study the threads at Nick Schade’s kayak-building forum (already mentioned by other posters). Go back years and read as much as you can take. You may be able to learn from others’ mistakes.

  2. Do not try to get by with a regular palm sander–if you’re buying power tools, go straight to random orbital sander. I found out the hard way that the ROS is better suited to the task. Oh, and expect to do lots of hand-sanding, too. My boat was more hand-sanded than power-sanded, but I think it can get better results. It just takes more time.

  3. Make sure you have adequate heat and ventilation. I relied heavily on two oil-filled portable radiators to heat my work area. You need to maintain control over the temperature even when you’re not in there, so that the epoxy and varnish cure properly.

  4. Read all the instructions over several times. If anything seems to be missing, hunt down that info. And then read again. At every step, anticipate what your next few steps will be. Avoid having to redo something because you didn’t think ahead enough.

  5. DO NOT HURRY. I had to learn this the hard way, too. Hurrying causes more mistakes, and every mistake must be fixed. Hurrying does NOT save time or effort!

  6. Make sure that when you glass, you are not floating the fabric on top of excessive epoxy. That makes the boat unnecessarily heavy, and it does not make it stronger. In fact, it makes it weaker. The glass should stick right to the wood, not sit on top of a thick pool of epoxy.

  7. Even if you don’t mind the smell of the epoxy, use a VOC mask. I developed sensitivity to epoxy (breathing and touching) but it didn’t happen right away. I should have used the face mask right from the start instead of later on. You can use the same cartridge for the varnishing (which I found more noxious than epoxy).

research a bit more
the MillCreek16 is a decent rec boat but if you’re looking at a sailboat I’d keep looking. The use of Feathercraft rudders for a dinghy rudder is really a poor application.

Sharp Tools
Just for reference, if you have not sharpened your plane in a day or so, it is probably dull. Building a strip boat I will generally sharpen my plane once a day. If I am beveling the edge of stitch and glue panels I may sharpen a couple times as the glue in the plywood seems to be quite hard on an edge.

It may seem like a lot of work to do all this sharpening, but it doesn’t need to take more than 5 or 10 minutes.

Sharper tools are easier to use, more precise, faster, and safer. While it may not make sense that a razor blade is safer than a butter knife, the fact that you don’t need as much force means you are less likely to slip and have the blade do something unexpected.

any suggestions. I’ve been looking for something that can be paddled and sailed, and not having a lot of luck.

MC really is a good rec. kayak
think of it like a Pamlico 145. The reason I say to research it more is that it ends up being a fair amount of labor and cost when it’s all made with high end materials, epoxy, sail, etc. and a better total package might be made with more thoughtout design. If you’re not familiar with go check it out. That’s where you’d go for real experience in sailing/paddling rigs that have to work for all conditions.

My comment about the feathercrft rudder is because a sailing rudder is not a kayaking rudder since the sail puts a lot of lateral pressure on the hull that doesn’t occur with paddling. It’s something you’ll notice if you go through the watertribe website since other folks went throught the same thing, putting a kayak rudder on a sailing kayak as suggested by the manufacturer of the sailing rig kit then discovering it’s not sufficient, big enough or strong enough.

Quick and easy sharpening
Lie-Nielsen has a method posted on their site that uses only 2 waterstone grits (1000 & 8000) and is really fast for touch-up purposes. I’ve been using in on planes that I’ve been reconditioning and it works really well. It’s nothing revolutionary (just a common sense approach), but in your situation, when you’re sharpening tools, you’re not making money, so you might want to check it out. Here a link to the PDF:

I did my first without a sander,
oh, my, god. Went through $100 of sandpaper. Then a few boats later attached a 25’ hose from the shop vac to the ROS and it was like buttah.

The shop-vac hookup was a huge improvement in paper life, work quality, and shop cleanliness.

I also got the accessory soft pad for my sander, which made it more tolerant of my mistakes.

I used scapers a lot – much cleaner than sanding, and they work amazingly well if you get to the epoxy at the right stage. You can be quite precise about cleaning up drips and other problems. It’s nice to see epoxy coming off in curls instead of as dust.

Neatness does pay. I masked all the inside seams before putting in the fillets. Seemed like a pain, but I was was repaid many times over when I just peeled away all the excess epoxy.

Mine was almost all hand-sanded at first
When I built it, I spent so many hours hand-sanding, because I quickly found out that the regular palm sander wasn’t too hot for non-flat surfaces.

But when I added the graphite-silica-epoxy hull coating, I used a Festool ROS for some of that sanding…wow! Very nice, and it was smoother and quieter than the much cheaper DeWalt palm sander.