Pygmy kit eperiences

Interested in building a Pygmy kit kayak but have no experience. I’ve purchased a finished Coho from a paddler who buys partially finished Pygmy kits from frustrated builders who gave up. I’d like some advice from any of you who’ve finished a kit. I have the space to work and all winter to work on the project.

A worthy task… and fun too…
Nothing like building your own boat.
The boat will contain your DNA when finished.

@grayhawk said:

The boat will contain your DNA when finished.

Especially if you snag a finger on a wire.

That’s kind of an open ended broad question. Likely better answered by a Pygmy builders forum. What in particular are you questioning.

Sanding is fun…

Thanks, grayhawk. I should’ve known about the Pygmy forum…I’ll check it out.

Here’s a few million links to check out:

https://www.guillemot-kayaks.com/Building/Building.html

@Overstreet said:

@grayhawk said:

The boat will contain your DNA when finished.

Especially if you snag a finger on a wire.

Yep… blood sweat and tears…
Sanding is what makes sticks into furniture…

The nice thing about building a composite wood boat s that you can fix the scratches.

I recommend taking the finished boat out of the garage and dropping it on there concrete. That way you get the grief out of the way early.

Remember you need to maintain temp at the work for epoxy to cure.

I built one stitch and glue kayak from a Pygmy kit and one from a Chesapeake Light Craft kit. Its best if your work space is heated at least to the extent that your epoxy can cure reliably. Good lighting is also important and if your space is not well-lit, or even if it is, a portable shop light is often worthwhile.

Working indoors, sanding dust can be an issue. If you have a finish sander with a dust collection system, it helps a lot. Otherwise, just have a good shop-vac at hand and plan to use it a lot. If you haven’t worked with epoxy before, you might try mixing up some very small batches and bond a little cloth to scrap wood just to get a feel for it. Epoxy is not really very toxic, but it can be allergenic (particularly the hardener) and even if you don’t react to skin contact initially, you may become sensitized before the project is done, so make sure you are protected with disposable gloves. For some work, such as seaming the deck and hull together, you may need to have protection of some type on your arms to protect yourself from contact with fresh epoxy.

For butt-joining the long panels together, you will need some type of long work surface. I made a work table out of two 4’ x 8’ pieces of plywood reinforced around the outside edges with 1" x 2" strips screwed onto the bottom, supported on four saw horses.

I built my Pygmy years ago. At that time I thought the instructions that came with the kit were quite good. But questions will likely come up during building. I called Pygmy a number of times and they were very helpful. I assume that is still the case. If you are in doubt, don’t hesitate to call.

Especially when starting out, keep your epoxy batches small. Large batches heat up by an endothermic process. You don’t want to be racing the clock before your epoxy kicks. If you have the correct mini-pump, you can make up a small batch of epoxy very quickly. Have everything you need laid-out including stir sticks, applicators and/or brushes, disposable gloves, paper towels, and other tools before you mix your epoxy.

Although the kit will give you an estimate of building hours required, expect to spend many more hours on your first kit. Also, some steps may require only a half -hour or so, and then you must wait hours or a day for your epoxy to cure before you can do anything else. And once you have finished construction, expect to spend nearly as much time finishing the boat. But it sounds as if you do not have any time constraints.

Make sure that you have sufficient time at hand to complete a given step without interruptions when working with epoxy. This is especially important when it comes to laying a complete blanket of cloth over the hull. That blanket must be completely wet-out with epoxy in one step before any of it kicks too hard.

Most mistakes that you make will not be even close to fatal but might have some cosmetic consequences so don’t sweat it too much. Oh, and be sure that you can get the fully constructed boat out of wherever you are working on it.

Pblanc has it covered.

I’ve built two Pygmy kits and the second, an Arctic Tern 17’ is still, after 14 years, my main kayak. Careful attention to wetting out the cloth can greatly reduce the amount of scraping and sanding that you will do. There is a lot to be said for using a scrapper to smooth out any runs and sags. For me, the hardest part of the three wood & glass kayaks that I have built has been taping the inside seams. The scariest part is cutting the hatches in a perfectly good hull.

Be sure you have enough clamps.

A builder cannot have too many clamps.

After building two 14s I bought an old AT 17 and finished it with bulkheads and hatches.

grayhawlk……what did you use for the bulkheads? Wood or foam or _____ ? Split halves or full height?

I ordered just the bulkhead and hatch kit from Pygmy.
This was an early AT17 without the recessed rear coaming. I bought it because I no longer had room to build one. It was a great camping boat but I swear it was more work redoing this one than just building a new one from scratch. Plus it had some shipping damage. It ended up as a really nice boat.


Sneaking a full bulkhead through the hatch or cockpit can be………a challenge. The bulkheads are easier to install before the deck goes on. I’ve known some that place foam and caulk it in place. I like the wood/epoxy version better.

I installed my bulkheads and hatches after the deck was seamed and the boat completed. That was the approach recommended to me by Pygmy. I don’t remember having great difficulty getting the bulkheads placed, but maybe I forgot.

I found it easier to work if you can hang the boat upside down and get your head and shoulders in though the cockpit. Lay lighting inside under the deck. This greatly extends your reach.

I’d need to find a child to help me. I’d likely get my shoulders stuck if I tried that.

I just about always use a bulkhead to form the deck radius. Pygmy uses a flatter deck hence the “point” in the cockpit coaming.

Just like Pblanc I also used Pygmy’s method to install the bulkheads. Getting the bulkhead in wasn’t the problem. Taping & epoxying it to secure & seal it is a whole another thing.

I used the hanging method to do the deck to hull seams, especially on Emma’s stripper.

OK look I’d hate to be the naysayer but I just unloaded a custom built composite/wood boat after being dissatisfied with its fragility and it’s not for everyone. My take is nothing is worth giving up the plastic durability and low cost and zero maintenance and easy disposability or resale. Here’s my story.

I paddled plastic for years doing everything you’re not supposed to do with good results to the point where I believe plastic to be indestructible! Wanting to help out a friend of mine build his Kayak I paid for construction materials only and gave him a few gifts of nice things or experiences he might appreciate here and there for the labor. He got the experience and I was supposed to get the Kayak.

What wood gives you is the lightness (and fragility, or maybe even worse I might add) of composite at the price of plastic. The difference is 80 or so hours of assembly and another 40-60 of finishing and varnishing. Unless you like working with wood and make less than minimum wage, you can probably make more in your day job saving up to buy composite than you can save by building wood so it’s not the savings you might initially think. If composite is your thing that is.

In the end they don’t paddle all that differently, the lighter weight doesn’t make that much of a difference in the water. There are equations about hull length, aspect ratio, vessel weight and momentum I worked through not long ago to show that a difference of 20-30lbs actually does not change your speed or acceleration by all that much. This is because not only is the waterline and displaced water and flow and length are more important, but also because a weight loss of 25lbs on a 60lb kayak is not nearly half.

No, because the kayak works in the water not by itsself, but with you and your stuff in it so the relative difference in weight is not “25-50%” but much smaller. If you and your stuff adds up to 190lbs plus 55lbs if plastic or 35 if wood, the relative difference would only be 225 vs 245, so you’re talking a less than 10% weight difference for all the aggravations, expenses, time and cautions that wood or composite will bring. To be honest I did feel some difference in paddling but the biggest difference wood/composite saving you 20-30lbs will do is not in the water, it’s out of the water carrying it.

99.99% of my paddling is done in and out of very rocky terrain, and no I couldn’t get in and out of the vessel with it in the water without tipping it and hurting myself. While the builder swore up and down that Kevlar, Awl Grip and West Systems epoxy were bulletproof and used to make body armor so the thing “was stronger than plastic by a hundredfold” I learned very quickly and the hard way that any of the non-plastic layups and rocks don’t mix. You’ll have to be ready to repair it rather frequently and from all reports it’s less fun to repair than it is to build. Plus the truth is polyethylene body armor can resist way more than Kevlar can. Well composite and ceramic protects to an even higher level but it’s so fragile it only works once or twice because it cracks and not safe to drop but that’s a different story.

In the end I just gave it back to him and now I am looking for a second plastic Kayak so we can have two doubles as the kids can paddle in their own singles for a bit but they tire out sooner than the trips we want to take allow.

Wood and composite was definitely NOT ideal for me, while YMMV please know that if you’re used to plastic you are going to give up a huge amount in durability for somewhat of an increase in on water performance, but a much easier to carry Kayak, at the cost of a lot more time, moeny and aggravation, just my 2 cents.