Pygmy stitch glue

Thinking of building a pygmy boat as winter project.

Some questions

  1. General pros and cons
  2. Tools needed
  3. If you have built one what surprised you?

I was surprised how much food it took
to keep those pygmies working.

stitch & glue

– Last Updated: Sep-07-12 3:12 PM EST –

A great resource:

Try to paddle the model you're interested in before buying the kit. You don't want to put in that effort and end with a boat you don't like. Pygmy will send you contact info for owners in your area.

I've liked the Pygmies I've demoed, but they tend to be big.

Start with good lighting. If I was building another boat I'd buy some cheap 4' fluorescent fixtures and hang them so I could fill a garage bay with bright, even light.

You'll need a good respirator for dust and epoxy. I like the 3M 7500.

A random-orbital sander with a vacuum attachment and a soft pad is nice.(assuming you have a shop vac)

Get a few different scrapers and learn to sharpen them. Scraping epoxy before it is fully cured is MUCH easier than sanding.

Taking the time to mask before filleting is worth it.

Plan on ruining one set of clothes.

White vinegar will clean up uncured epoxy on your tools.

A small block plane -- kept sharp -- is handy.

Add a table, clamps, saw
I agree that adequate working space and good lighting are key.

Unless you want to work on the floor, plan on making a simple table out of 4 saw horses and a couple of 4’ x 8’ sheets of exterior grade plywood to make a 4’ x 16’ table. If you can’t accommodate a table of that width, you can rip a single 4’ x 8’ sheet of plywood down the center to make a 2’ x 16’ table.

It is also useful to have some support that will cradle your hull at working height, like a pair of uprights with 2" wide strap attached to the tops.

You will probably need a bunch of clamps to secure the cockpit coaming. If you plan to cut hatch covers out of the deck, you will need a saw that cuts curves accurately. If you do this before you join the deck to the hull, a hand coping saw works well. If the deck is already attached you will need a keyhole saw or power scroll saw.

The Pygmy kits use temporary bulkheads to shape the hull panels around. They are secured in place with a hot glue gun. You need a drill and small bit to make the little holes along the panel edges that the wires go through.

For epoxy work you will need some cheap supplies like plastic squeeges, perhaps some disposable foam brushes, some stir sticks, and disposable gloves. Start saving any small polyethylene containers you get from the supermarket as they can be used to mix batches of epoxy. You need a decent pair of scissors to cut the fiberglass cloth.

If you paint the hull, you will need a paint roller and roller covers and paint tray. For varnishing you will need a bunch of disposable foam brushes to apply multiple coats of varnish.

A power orbital finishing sander is very nice to have. If you don’t have one and don’t want to get one, a flexible sanding block will do. Plan on going through a good bit of sandpaper and generating a lot of dust.

Which Pygmy?
They’re good designs. Make a 2’x24" table. Use lots of gloves. Go to

I built a Coho about 15 years ago. It was a sweet paddling boat, but I prefer canoes and eventually sold it. I built the boat indoors in a heated space. Marine quality epoxy has little odor and it worked fine and long as the floor was protected.

I elected not to cut hatches into the deck but used a sea sock instead which worked great. Regular boat building tools are needed, like extra clamps, various sanders,planes and saws. It was a rewarding experience and I would like to build a canoe next.

A Couple of Added Suggestions

– Last Updated: Sep-08-12 12:37 AM EST –

Pblanc and others have pretty well nailed it re equipment - here's a couple of wrinkles I've found work well in building my S&G VOLKSKAYAKs...

Clamps for the coaming- if you're short on 'em, go get a length of heavy-walled 4" black plastic pipe at any hardware store. Cut off many 2-3" pieces with a jigsaw or hacksaw, then cut a slit in each one...pry it open and voila, numerous 'clamps' (that's me!) and effective.

Rollers - far and away the best I've used is called FiberTex - it is made specifically for applying resins. I don't have one here now, but you can email me and I'll send you details on where you can get 'em. It's a Pinter product...

Gloves - I tend to tear and pinhole the latex disposables, so I use plain old kitchen dish gloves - they last and last, and are easy to clean after a day's work.

Cleaning tools and gloves - I use Fast Orange hand cleaner, the one without grit - works well, just smear it on and wipe with a rag, then rinse with warm water...

Think things thru carefully, step by step, lay the materials needed for each operation out in order of use, and dry fit everything before mixing the epoxy. Mix small batches (1/2 frozen juice can maximum), and spread them out as flat as possible to slow the reaction - I use an 18"x18" ply board, covered with layers of construction plastic stapled to the underedge of the board. When one is used and cruddy, just tear it off and you have a smooth fresh surface. A flexible plaster or autobody scraper picks the epoxy up nicely, and is useful in spreading it too.

And finally, as others have suggested, the Kayak Building Bulletin Board, run by Nick Schade of Guillmot Kayaks, is an incredibly valuable and welcoming resource for small boat builders. If you've got quandaries and questions, they've got solutions and answers...

And - have fun. There's no feeling compares to building and paddling your own boat...


– Last Updated: Sep-08-12 4:26 PM EST –

aar mighty handy too.

Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps! Clamps!

did ah' mention clamps!

Oh yea! An' plenty o' Band-Aids fer yer fingers while doin' de wire stitchin' .


Point #3
Everyone above gave you great suggestions. I built an Arctic Tern 14 some years back, and the only woodworking I’d ever done prior to that was building a birdhouse. The Tern did take me longer than the 80 hour time-frame that Pygmy suggested, and I had to buy more epoxy, but everything was a new experience for me. In answer to your point #3, what surprised me the most was that I built a seaworthy boat (!), I could outfit it myself so it fits like a glove, and it tracks better than any other kayak I’ve ever paddled. Good luck - if you decide to go for it, I wish you all the best and hope you find it as satisfying a “journey” as I did.

“westerndreamer” on P-Net

As I mentioned, the Pygmy kit I built used temporary bulkheads to give the hull and deck the proper shape, and these were attached to the hull planks using a hot glue gun. I remember being a bit surprised at the difficulty I encountered breaking the glue joint and freeing the bulkheads and I would suggest using the minimum amount of glue needed to temporarily secure the bulkheads.

One of the trickier steps is running a seam tape down the inside of the deck/hull joint since access to the stems is so limited. An epoxy dispenser can be made from a furring strip and a few eye screws. A dental syringe is filled with epoxy and secured to the furring strip and the syringe plunger can be depressed using a wood dowel that runs through 3 or 4 eye screws attached to the furring strip.

I too wound up having to buy more epoxy and this is a common experience among first time builders. Apply the epoxy as thinly as possible using multiple coats as needed to fill the weave of the cloth. Mix the epoxy in small batches as larger batches may kick too quickly. You can wet out a large sheet of cloth with multiple small batches of epoxy as long as you maintain a “wet edge” of epoxy on the cloth.

Expect to take a lot longer than 60 or 80 hours to build the boat and realize that your work schedule will require multiple long breaks for the epoxy to cure. Once the boat is built, don’t be surprised if it takes that long again to finish the boat. If you “bright finish” (i.e, varnish) the hull you can’t do the deck at the same time. Most people recommend an absolute minimum of 3 coats of varnish but some folks apply 7 coats or more. The more coats, the nicer the finish. If you apply 7 coats of varnish to the deck and 7 to the hull, allowing the varnish to dry overnight and perhaps wet sanding between coats, you will invest another 14 days of work once you think the boat is “done”.

Anticipate running into many small snags along the way. In all likelihood none will be serious but be patient, don’t become flustered, and don’t hesitate to call the folks at Pygmy as often as needed. I found them to be quite helpful.