Kayak building kit S &G ease of building


I am almost ready to buy a kayak stitch and glue kit.

But before ordering, I would like to know what is the easiest kit to build - 17’ feet kayak-(model and provider)?

Build or Boat?
If your primary interest is the building of a boat, and you want to keep it manageable first time out, pursue answers to your question. If you want a boat you would want to paddle and entrust your life to, then you will have to be asking a different question…and, if you get stuck making that boat, ask for some help.

I built a Night Heron from Guillemont Kayaks last winter. It’s the boat I wanted for a niche in my “fleet”. Since I am a poor craftsman, I got some help putting it together; and I learned a lot form that.

Good luck,


using what units of ease?
ok,ok,I’m being a wise guy. The differences are less important than whether you are getting a particular hull/displacement/handling that meet your needs. As mentioned elsewhere 4mm okoume, epoxy and glass all require similar building skills.

I’m only familiar with CLC, Pygmy and Shearwater from a standpoint of kits.

The Pygmy will give you consistant construction where everything matches up.

The Shearwater deck requires a bit more fiddling as there are fewer temporary frames but the boat goes together very quickly and the deck/coaming design is the best.

The CLC construction is kind of busy with a lot of details that a first time builder discovers by the third construction which makes for a very satisfying building experience but tends to leave a few more first time builders with twisted hulls and flat spots in the keeline with the four panel hulls.

Disagree about the CLC
I was a first time builder who spent a little time reading before starting. I found the instructions and construction techniques intuitive to the point that I was able to envision the next step or two and managed to perform many of the tasks in parallel. I had heard so many builders tell me that the build would be 100 hours and take several months. The kit went together and was in the water varnished and fully outfitted in just over 60 hours and 6 weeks.

I can’t speak to the other kits but CLC was a snap to build and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat. As a caveat, I tell everyone who asks that the regular Chesapeake 17 is cavernous and would at a minimum build the LT version.


little differences

– Last Updated: May-17-04 5:22 PM EST –

like I said it's all 4mm, epoxy and glass and picking the right design for the use is more significant than the differences in construction. That being said there are greater variations in twist and keeline flat spots possible with the spread pre-glued sheerclamp construction in the Chesapeake that require more effort to remove than the hulls made without a preglued sheerclamp.

Yes a first time builder can build a Chesapeake without a flat spot or twist but they are more likely to have the opportunity requiring the correction for twist or a flat spot than hulls built only on 4mm ply. That opportunity to correct things introduces another step that the builder can take to completion,,or not,,if they don't it's set when glued.

For the most part any twist or flat spot is aesthetic and not functional but with all the effort to make something "fair" and "true" the variations are noticable when the first time builder takes the glued hull out of the garage and has a longer distance to site down it and discover something they didn't see in the garage,,even with the twisting sticks.

Here's why. The tension in the spread sheer clamp pretty much sets the position of the panels relative to each other no matter how loose you wire them. In order for the panels to come together at the ends the wires are holding things together tightly against the force of the sheerclamps pulling them apart compared to a hull built only with 4mm in the hull panels. A 3/4"x1" piece of cypress glued onto a piece of 4mm is MUCH stiffer than just a piece of 4mm ply. So once it's being stitched up any maladjustment in position that is started will continue to the end. The method of "untwisting" recommened in CLCs instructions isn't as effective as ensuring that the twist doesn't develop to begin with. Because the "untwisting" doesn't shift the panels relative to each other,,it makes one panel shift upward at the ends and makes one chine joint bulge out a little more than the other. None of which matters for paddling but with 4mm Okoume the outer veneer can be around 1mm thick and that provides the opportunity to sand into the darker inner veneer about a foot from the ends at the side/bottom joint. The new big Chesapeake manual is much,much better in this regard than the old one but it could have done a better job explaining how NOT to develop twist as the only way to take it out well is to rewire the hull. The "untwisting method" glosses right over the fact that untwisting the ends leaves something else shifted.
With 4mm panels on the Pygmy boat it's going around 5 temporary panels which reduces a lot of variation in panel postions that can contribute to twist.
Although the Shearwater Merganser goes around only the bulkheads (it would be better if there were a couple temporary frames for making the deck an easier construction) you actually can "untwist" the whole hull if the wires are loose. It's something I noticed while building the Merganser 16 after having built 8 CLC kayaks.
I stitched the Merganser up loosely,,noticed the twist and was about to make a pot of tea in preparation for the "untwisting" that was evident,,but before I left I grabbed both side panels at the bow and gave a half hearted tug/twist,,,,zooom,,and it went the other way.
It's not a big deal but it's one of the details you notice if you've ever spent some time straightening out a twisted hull,,or seen someone re-cut and reglue a hull.
Regarding flat spots,,the Chesapeake keeline isn't an even curve,,it's slightly rockered in the middle 6' then upswept at the ends with another curve. The spreader stick in the middle of the sheerpanels pushing them apart is balanced below by the tension in the bottom panels being pushed together. Yes a first time builder CAN build it without a flat spot but the method of construction PUTS a flat spot in there most of the time that requires the first time builder to TAKE OUT before gluing. Of course it's easily corrected. But it doesn't require the method suggested in the manual using wedges and an epoxy filling gap. It can be done with weights and loosening wires. This is a step a first time builder is less likely to confront with a hull stitched up without sprung/tensioned sheerclamps.

fair curve
the reason for a sheer clamp in my experience is the fair curve that results. panels are flimsy. cuts are not always accurate.traditional sof boats are sprung around a ‘sheer clamp’ as are traditional skiffs, canoes, longboats etc. panels are drawn using a long batten. the traditional way developed over centuries is to include the fairing batten (sheer clamp) into the boat. the extra lumber included is useful as anchor for screws used for backrests, bungees, straps etc. i like to design and build using this ancient and proven tec

look at the hull of the Arctic Hawk before the deck goes on… http://www.clcboats.com/boats/arctichawk.php/cart_id=09457d4d884b7a53887b054d59f2ee41/

then look at the Arctic Hawk on the water on the same page. It doesn’t look “fair” with the multiple curves in the sheer,then it looks perfect on the water.

Now go to the photo of the Sport Tandem.

What happens in bending a batten across some points or stations is not the same thing as pre-gluing the batten onto the flat plywood THEN bending the combination. With a batten or strip going across stations you can define the curve to the end. With the pre-glued batten on the side panel you’re stuck with whatever variation can occur with differing densities in the sheer clamp (more significant the thicker the sheer clamp) AND what the plywood below the sheerclamp must do to follow the sheerclamp,it’s one piece.

This may all seem kind of like picking sands out of a bucket of sand but what happens in the ends with deadrise and rocker affects characteristics like weathercocking and broaching. Which are characteristics one can’t intuit on the showroom floor.

warm up…

– Last Updated: May-18-04 10:58 AM EST –

One of the best things you can do is build a "starter boat". The experience you'll gain from it will save a lot of time, cost, and weight on your next boat.

Build a simple pirogue to get a feel for the process. Then go for a nicer one.

after I built a Patuxent 17 and Pygmy 13 I did a 15’ pirough,later on made a 7’ pirogue for my nephew just by guessing. The first was made out of 1/4" cheap plywood and 9oz glass, weighed 65lbs…the second one was made with fancy 4mm okoume with 4oz glass and weighed around 20lbs.

I appreciate your input Lee
but you do come across quite strongly against CLC in nearly every post regarding their boats. All of your points have some validity and (in my small opinion) some just don’t matter. Been paddling the CH17 for 4 years now and I still am happy with it and I want to make sure that those planning on building their first boat get both sides of the story. I’ve had it out in some crazy conditions and only once felt out of place (and that had more to do with I just shouldn’t have been there).

When it’s all said and done the money spent on a CLC is money well spent. It may not be the perfect boat, but then after building 4 boats and owning 2 canoes I’ve found out there is no such thing. Heck right now I’m planning the fifth build!

Thanks for the input.


Build according to what you want

– Last Updated: May-18-04 11:20 AM EST –

in a boat. Not according to ease of construction. I have never built from a kit so I cannot speak to the quality of anybody's pre-cut panels and materials but I have built a few boats using the stitch and glue method. Personnaly I LIKE the hard chine method (sheerclamps) as it offers some plusses that the panel to panel do not. Ease of shifting the panels to straighten due to the rigidity (stand at the bow or stern, grab a sheer clamp in each hand and push-pull to straighten), pre-staged rigidity for tieing the panels together, less weight by using light wood (the sheer-clamp)versus more epoxy and tape for mechanical bonding. Not all of us have the same issues with a particular manufacturer and like I said, I have zero experience with kits as I make my own "kits" from scratch so perhaps others can speak to the quality of the cuts and ply used by various manufacturers. Getting the panels layed out correctly and taking a few backward steps when needed and sometimes even re-drilling holes for ties is all part of the process. The single most important step you should remember is your building area/environment. If you get nothing else out of this, please remember that you should have a 20 foot long by 8 to 10 feet wide clear area, if at all possible, with at least a 4 saw-horse (as an example) platform layed out with a level, flat work surface that is at least 4 feet wide and 16 feet long. Oh, and have ton's of c-clamps and spring clamps. No matter what you build, your going to have a fun, stressed, excited, angry and in the end, wonderful experience.
Others suggested a warm-up first. This is the approach I took simply out of fear of the unknown. I built the 6 hour canoe straight out of the 1994 Field and Stream article on how-to's in it's winter project special "Cabin Fever" and never looked back. You may wish to approach boat building in the same way.
PS: I drive a Chesapeake 17. No flat spots or weird curves. Just a fine boat.
Have fun!

same here,perfect boat that is

– Last Updated: May-18-04 11:26 AM EST –

I'm outfitting my first new kayak in 10yrs,,a rm Chatham 16. After going through a bunch o' wood boats with my Express in the background always doing everything asked of it. Right now I'd like to make an Eider double by Shearwater but I'd have to clean the garage first...and consider whether I really want this for my second to last construction do to developing epoxy sensitivities that come from those various constructions.

Some folks have strong opinions about Toyota, Honda or Ford. I figure when one is paddling off shore in dangerous conditions in a craft designed for those conditions it would be nice to know the designer/company had some direct knowledge of those conditions.

Deck glueing

Thanks for your input. Very interesting information about CLC’s way of installing the deck. But what about the Pygmy’s deck gluing ?

I have read something about a syringe taped to a stick to reach the internal seam in order to achieve that deck glueing, and what about the inside fiberglass tape ?

Also according to avilable information ont he net and ‘‘The knew kayak shop’’ CLC and others are taping the seams (fiberglass tape+epoxy), and that Pygmy just glues them with a syringe (again)?!

ok,I’ll be nice


You can do the interior deck/hull seam in a variety of ways. Do a little more research so your information isn’t coming from two businesses that skewed their information in opposition to each other. It’s not necessary to do all the work through the cockpit coaming nor desirable from my experience,those hatches provide direct acess except for 3’ in the ends which is perfectly doable.

The CLC boats are glassed on the deck with some wrapover to the hull but it’s not a seam reinforcement.

yes that syringe on a stick thang
made me install a sheer clamp on my recent pygmy queen charlotte derivative. i can’t envision how i could do a craftsmanlike job with the glass tape in the ends with that technique, however since i chickened out i didnt try it. anybody who has, i’d like to hear how it went

wrapping glass over the seam
is not a seam reinforcement? leeg you do ‘seam’ to have issues.

My Pygmy instructions…
Had me tape the inside shear as far as I could reach from the cockpit and if and when hatches are installed to finish the job. I haven’t found it necessary…

Gotta love that stick, just tape a flashlite to it… GH

My, but you do touch a nerve…
…Well, I suppose that to most folks who have built boats (or more likely a single boat) whatever they have is the best, or at least they believe so. I know from previous conversations that you have built a slew of boats from a few different manufacturers and have more than a passing knowledge of kit history and design ethic.

From my standpoint you are doing a marvelous job of biting your tongue while still imparting some degree of wisdom.

Well keep it up. If there is a voice out there that can mount a reasonable response to your “suggestions” they haven’t shown up yet. The responses I see are basically “I like my boat” and really, don’t we all?

Especially if it’s the only one that we have ever built?

Little more credit due to the other side
I think. Lee has definitely built a ton of boats and I turned to his advice on CLC BBS regularly during construction while he worked there. But I have built 4 boats (1 CH17, 2 hybrid Chesapeake 15s that I chopped and narrowed myself, and a SOF). I believe several others that replied have also built more than one boat.

You said “The responses I see are basically “I like my boat” and really, don’t we all?” Actually many of the responses were along the lines of “the building technique was easy” or I" prefer the hard chine (shear strip) construction" (my paraphrasing). These opinions were then backed up with “by the way I’m happy with my CLCs performance”. As I said in other posts I think Lee presents very valid points and are useful information, but I think the opposing side presented by myself and others is useful too.

And by Lee’s own admission Pygmy’s advertising claims were developed in direct competition to CLC’s claim on a large portion of the market.

Thanks for listening.


Taping the seam
on Pygmy’s is not difficult. The syringe on the stick handles easily. Use it first to glue the shear and then to paste up for the glass tape. I set or clamp a light inside the boat and set it on edge. That way I got good flow into the seam. On my first boat the tape doesn’t look all that great but I improved on the second. It is after all, inside the boat and not visible.

I would have to disagree with the comment about needing a shear clamp to line the shear seam up. At least I never had trouble. The wires hold very well just as they do on the hull chines. Close inspection and adjusting with a razor knife and everything will turn out very fair.

My experience is all Pygmy so I don’t have opinions on CLC. I have heard that the deck is clamped down and then has to be cut at the shear. That seems like a lot of extra work. Isn’t it possible to damage the hull with this? I guess any damage would be covered up by the gunwale. Personally, I don’t like all the brass hardware showing all over the boat.

Just thought that someone needed to speak up for Pygmy’s. As far as getting a design from someone that has on-the-water experience I think that John Lockwood qualifies as well as the Schade’s.


Pygmy Coho 1999

Pygmy Osprey Tandem 2001