Repair Advice for Stitch and Glue Kayak

I just bought a Pygmy Coho from the builder. The kayak looks like it’s in good shape but it does have some scratches and scrapes from use on the Maine coast, plus keel wear at the bow and stern from being beached or dragged. The stern wear appears to go completely through the fiberglass at its worst point. I’m wondering how aggressive people get at repairing issues like this. I’m primarily aiming to protect and preserve the kayak but don’t need to maintain a just-built perfect appearance. Since I’m not the builder, I don’t have that automatic desire to fix every blemish on something I’ve worked so hard to create. I’ll continue to use this kayak in Maine, so it will to get new scratches and scrapes.

I am not a fiberglassing expert, but have no fears of tackling some repairs. My first thought would be to sand off the paint in the keel wear areas and apply a new layer of 2 inch wide fiberglass cloth tape using good epoxy resin. After finishing the fiberglass, repaint the repaired area. For the smaller dings, sand off the paint and apply a little resin (no new fiberglass) and then paint, or perhaps just touching up with paint alone would suffice? Fortunately, the seller gave me a quart of the Interlux Brightside polyurethane paint used on the hull. She also gave me an unopened West Marine 101-6 Maxi Repair kit that contains six small packets of resin and hardener. I’m wondering if one or two of those packets would give me enough resin for the fiberglass tape on the keel areas or if I need to buy a larger quantity. I’d rather not waste all of the repair resin packets if one or two won’t suffice.

Here are a few photos. I’d be grateful for any advice. Thank you.

Normally there is an extra two inch FG tape layer all along the keel… If it is worn to the wood (hard to tell in the pics) I would definitely add some new FG tape. I would save the epoxy packets and get a small bottle of epoxy.
On not worn though areas I would just add some epoxy. Gotta keep the water out of the wood.
Boat looks nice, good luck

Using fiberglass tape would definitely make the job easier, but it is not what I would use. Tape has a selvage edge and this will soak up resin and stand proud of the rest of the fiberglass. It can be sanded down and feathered smooth, but it will take a good bit of work.

The other reason I would not use it is that in it may not lay down smooth over curved surfaces without cutting darts along the edges to avoid pleats. This will depend on how much curvature there is on the surface you need to cover. If the wear on the stern requires covering the rather plumb stern stem, you likely will not get tape to lie flat. Plain weave fabrics without a selvage edge can be worked flat because the fibers of the weave and warp are able to move relative to each other. Also, if you cut your cloth on a 45 degree bias, it will lie flat much more easily over a curve and your repair will be stronger because you will have twice as many fibers crossing the area of damage which follows the keel line.

But plain weave fiberglass will be trickier to work with because it will tend to fray along the cut edge and is much more likely to change shape, trading width for length or vice verse. This can be minimized by careful handling. After sanding off the paint, carefully mask the edges of your keel strip with tape. Cut your cloth slightly oversized so it overlaps the tape a little. You will later trim off the excess with a sharp blade along the edge of the tape after the epoxy has cured to a solid green state. As you lay down your cloth strip and start to wet it out, the boundary created by the mask will make it easy to see if the cloth fabric is elongating out of shape. To get a good cosmetic result, feather the edges of the strip and completely fill the weave of the cloth with another application of epoxy.

I don’t know how fussy you want to get about the final cosmetic result. The areas where paint is chipped off without significant damage to the underlying cloth could just be sanded smooth feathering the edges of any chips and painting over but the depressions caused by the chips will likely be visible afterwards. If you want a better cosmetic result, you could fill these areas. In the past, I would have recommended a marine-grade, hi-hide primer but the one I used has been discontinued. Nowadays I would use epoxy with fairing compound such as West System 410 Microlight filler mixed in. This produces a strong filler that can easily be sanded fair and flush and then painted over.

If you want to get a nice, uniform color match, I would paint the entire hull. The existing paint will have faded. Lightly sand the entire hull, wash well, and mask off the wooden deck with a good quality painter’s tape. Apply a first coat over the areas that you repaired, then after the interval suggested by Interlux, apply a second coat over the entire hull. Interlux Brightside is easy to apply using a foam roller followed up with a disposable foam brush to tip out the texture left by the nap of the roller. Painting the entire hull will also hide most of the superficial scratch marks.

Thanks grayhawk and pblank for the advice. This is the sort of advice based on experience that I’m looking for. pblank - I can see the advantage of using a strip of cloth without the selvage edge. When you recommend taping off the area, is the same painters tape one would use for a paint job sufficient, or is there something more appropriate when working with epoxy resin? I like the tape idea because it would also catch any resin drips, as I assume I should roll or squeegee out any excess resin. As far as how fussy I am about the cosmetic result, not too much. I plan to take good care of this kayak without babying it so it’s probably going to pick up new minor scratches pretty regularly. Repairs that look good from 6 feet away will be plenty good. But I don’t drag my kayaks or do hard beach landings as this one has apparently done.

For masking off the repair area, I just use regular masking tape. It does not need to be anything special. I would also cover any hull area upon which epoxy might drip with newspaper. You almost certainly will drip some epoxy. I use a surgical scalpel to trim off excess fabric after the epoxy has cured, but an X-Acto knife will work or even a utility knife with a fresh blade. If you are willing to invest a little more money, some “peel-ply” or mold-release fabric will speed things up a bit and reduce sanding time. This is a treated nylon fabric that epoxy will not bond to. After wetting out your cloth, you can put a piece of peel-ply over it and squeege out any excess resin off the edge of the fabric onto your mask, then peel off the release fabric after the epoxy has cured at least to a solid green state. This also usually results in a smoother edge to your repair, although I still do some feathering of the edge of the cloth even when using peel-ply. The peel-ply will leave a lightly textured matte finish. In order to get a smooth surface, you will need to make at least a second epoxy application to completely fill the weave of the fabric, then wet sand it after it has cured completely before you paint it.

Thanks. I like the peel-ply approach. I wondered how I would clean my smoothing tools, but this eliminates the need for cleaning. I have a nice rubber roller (originally for applying screen print ink) that I think should work well to squeegee out the resin.

Do I need to stick with West Systems resin for a repair like this, or is there a less expensive alternative that would be adequate?

I’m sure they didn’t use “West” to build it. Almost any other will do. MAS, System Three, or if you have a FG supply store their generic brand.

I use West systems over MAS. It’s locally available.

Roller…it will use once. You could clean it but why. A yellow plastic squeegee works fine and you don’t use the solvent. Buy them at the epoxy store. Remember epoxy sticks to wood and epoxy well but not so much on the paint.

If the scratches are just the paint, lightly sand and repaint.

Vinegar removed epoxy before it cures.

White vinegar available at any grocery store is cheap and will clean epoxy from application tools and mixing pots.

I just want to thank all those who responded for the great advice. By the way, my question asking about West Systems epoxy was a bit off-base. I had West Systems and System 3 convoluted, forgetting they are different products… The Pygmy kit apparently comes with System 3 epoxy. Unfortunately I can’t start this project until next spring. The kayak is safely stored in a barn in Maine, but I’m 800 miles from there for the time being.

The truth is that even if you fix it, you’re going to be in the same jam this time come next year.

Best fix is selling it and replacing it with plastic.

After trying out a wood (and epoxy and kevlar) kayak that was painted like yours that I scratched the living daylights out of on the rocky beaches of my home area I went running back to my plastic craft. These other “lighter” materials give you some, but not a huge performance benefit, kept up well they are great looking and get tons of compliments. Unfortunately the excess cost, time, and fragility against abrasion in the face of rocks create serious long term expenses and aggravations that you’ll never have to think about when using plastic.

Kayaking is beautiful because you can set your craft where you want and all you have to do is carry or drag it. Plastic and especially thermofoam construction jives nicely with that because it’s worry and stress free, no “normal” use will need any maintenance, upkeep, or risk damage. You can pick up such a craft for mere hundreds of dollars on Craigslist. Going upmarket with materials means a bit more performance but way more fragility and maintenance that puts you more in boating territory and sort of takes away the ease of Kayaking.

CA139…there’s just something “plastic” about your comments on wood composite boats.

Nice thing about a plastic boat is that you can recycle them into drinking straws…

@grayhawk said:
Nice thing about a plastic boat is that you can recycle them into drinking straws…

Or better yet: Drag them over concrete and leave a nice smooth surface on the concrete for the next idiot that drags his poly boat there

Or run the Chatooga at low water and add another color to the rocks.

There’s no need to have to choose between plastic, wood or fiberglass. Just get one of each! They all see some rocks, but the plastic boats gets to do the real bashing.

I have had wood, fg, carbon fiber, and plastic. The composite boats feel more lively in the water and are beautiful.
Now, all I paddle is plastic.

I took my first wooden kayak out and explained to it that it was no longer a tree but a kayak and could now move around and change scenery plus it wouldn’t be bothered with those pesky squirrels any longer…