work table for stitch and glue kayak

I’m eagerly awaiting my Arctic Tern 17 S&G kayak kit (first build for me) and am busy decluttering the garage to make room. I need to build some kind of work table, and I have a few saw horses. Any tips on how to build one cheaply? Are two pieces of 4 x 8 plywood recommended, or can you cut one in half and make a 2 x 16 table work? Half inch or 3/4 inch? Reinforced with 2 x 4s?

All advice welcome on the table and any essential tools you wish you bought before starting your first kit.

That’s it…

– Last Updated: Mar-19-06 7:16 PM EST –

Wha Ho, Pilgrim,

Ah' made a table with 3/4" plywood doubled up to 1.5" thickness and a width of 2' by a length of 16'. This created a rock solid table to build my Tern. The two 8' sections were joined by overlapping the joint to make the 16'length. Used 5 sawhorses for support under the table. Good luck with the Tern. If you want some pics of my yak please e-mail me. About tools - a few "MicroPlanes" come in very handy for shaping the edges. A small hand plane is almost a necessity. Have many, many clamps and latex gloves too.

Fat Elmo

2’x16’ is sufficient

– Last Updated: Mar-19-06 7:18 PM EST –

get one 4'x8' sheet of 3/8 plywood, four 6' 2x4 to connect the two sections together,maybe some extra for cross pieces,put on sawhorses. If you can't sand outside or have the garage door open with a fan blowing out then connect a ROS to a shop vac with a 25' vac hose and put the shop vac outside.

Have one seperate table covered in plastic for epoxy work,,a 10' roll of 4mil plastic is very useful for a lot of things.

A box of 2 1/2oz plastic dixie cups (NOT wax paper), a pile of 12oz sized yogurt cups,, a bunch of 1pt/qt plastic containers. Make sure the cleaned out food containers don't have deep ridges in the bottom as it tends to trap resin that doesn't get mixed up until you up end the cup.

1qt alcohol for cleaning tools and misc. cleaning up of epoxy on sealed panels.

bottle vinegar for washing hands.

box nytrile gloves

(48 or so) box 2" foam brushes from Jamestown or other distributor,,don't buy one or two at a time, you'll go through at least a dozen

a couple measured small cups and graduated syringes to double check the measurment of the pumps.

lots of mixing sticks, 1/2" acid brushes (metal handle, stiff plastic bristles, 1 1/2" bristle brushes (they lose bristles in epoxy so be careful using them in some applications)

Garage floor
Is where I assembled mine until it had real shape. I spliced the sections together on the floor because it doesn’t matter, as long as the scarfs are straight. Later, I had it on some lawn chairs.

Tools: Good drill or battery drill, pliers/wire cutters, and a $100 orbital sander with lots of pads. But don’t sand through the plys unless you are going to paint the hull like most are.

Here’s what I did…

– Last Updated: Mar-19-06 9:18 PM EST –

When I built my Arctic Hawk, I was starting completely from scratch. My garage is pretty small, and it was completely bare (no tables, shelves, electricity, etc.), and the only tools I had were the basic hammers, screwdrivers, plyers, tape measures, etc. Basically, just what you might find in a small general purpose toolbox. Starting from scratch was pretty nice actually, because it gave me the chance to design the perfect little boat building shop.

Obviously, I needed to do some serious shopping! :-)

So, first, the workspace/tables...

First, I had to hire an electrician to run electricity from the "main box" near the house out to the garage (a separate building). He also installed lighting, and cut a hole through the top of the back wall and installed a heavy duty exhaust fan. Then, I had a large outdoor utility sink installed (both hot and cold water). Already, I had spent much more than the cost of the boat kit, and I was just getting started. Eek!


I first built a table to measure and cut the glass cloth and some shelves to store supplies and small hand tools. The glass cutting table was essential, so I took my time to design and build it to make rolling out, measuring, and cutting the glass cloth very convenient. At one end of this table, I made a "glass roll dispenser" that held the rolls just above the level of the table. Then, I drew a grid of six inch squares along the length and width of this table to make the general and more precise measuring easy. If you make a table like this, be sure to keep the surface as clean and smooth as possible, so that you don't snag the glass cloth as you roll it over the table.

Then, for the main work surfaces, I just used four saw horses to support two 4x8 pieces of plywood. For the first few projects (glassing the interior sides of all the small hull and deck panel pieces, joining these pieces to create the long hull panels, and beginning the formation of the hull), I arranged these two "tables" end to end in the middle of the shop, so that I could walk all around it and reach every part easily.

After those steps were complete, I took one of these tables and pushed it against one wall, and this became the main work table for smaller jobs. Once I got to the "stitching" part (just a bit of stitching at the bow and stern, and the rest was done with duct tape!), I just used the two saw horses. The spare 4x8 did come in handy a few times when I needed to put in on the floor to do some larger projects.

Tools and supplies:

Let's just say that I made Lowe's, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Lee Valley, and a few other retailers very happy in a very short time! I did quite a bit of research before I started my little shopping spree, and so by the time I was ready to vanquish the rest of my bank account, I managed to acquire some good quality tools that will last a long time. The one thing I'll mention for the moment is that you should not underestimate how much sandpaper you'll need! This is probably the one thing that I most often had to keep replenishing. :-)

If you want a detailed list of essential tools, accessories, and supplies, I can come up with one, but for now, I'll just mention that it's a good idea to save the "cut out" scraps of boat plywood, as this material came in very handy for creating little makeshift tools for this or that (specialized scrapers for shaping and/or scraping off excessive epoxy, little measuring/marking tools, etc.).

Enjoy your building project! :-)


What LeeG said…and…
what Fat Elmo said about clamps. Get lot’s of them. You can make your own clamps for use in between other clamps by cutting 1" slices from 4" PVC pipe and the cutting across the 1’ dimension to make a simple “C” clamp.


Clamps, indeed!
I used three different types of clamps, and had many of each in various sizes available for different purposes.

Spring clamps, metal “screw type” “C clamps” in two sizes, and two different sizes of “C” clamps that I made from PVC pipe. I made both 1" and 1.5" PVC clamps (the wider ones are a bit more “heavy duty”, and the narrower ones are, well, a bit less heavy duty).

I found that there are so many little hand tools and devices that are helpful; some being absolutely essential (like the clamps), and some that just made certain procedures more convenient (and some of these you can custom design and create for the task at hand as you go). Necessity being the “mother of invention” is a concept I often thought about as I built that first boat. I also learned many helpful lessons that will serve me well as I move on to build the next boat(s); including the idea that I can “multi-task” a bit here and there in order to speed up the building process rather than just follow all instructions in strict order as they appear. I also figured out ways to achieve greater accuracy in certain procedures that weren’t mentioned in the instructions (the instructions for the AH are not deficient at all, it’s just that each of us might figure out ways to do things that make some process easier for ourselves).

One more thing…

While I did my best to follow the instructions exactly as written, even a first time builder can make certain custom changes to the plans that will suit their individual tastes. For instance, I learned from many other builders that it’s possible to mount the foot braces internally without having to drill holes through the hull for the mounting bolts. This is something I really wanted to do, so with the advice from fellow builders on various online forums, I found a way that worked for me, and I’m very happy that there are no bolts sticking through the hull! :slight_smile: In fact, the next S&G I build probably won’t have adjustable foot braces at all, as I might just use a shaped foam block against the forward bulkhead. Now, every time I look at boat plans, I don’t hesitate to think about little personal touches that I’d like to incorporate into the boat, even if I must deviate a bit from the plans in order to achieve it. One of the great things about building your own boats - even from plans or a kit - is that you can make them just how you like them.


As long as you are making a dedicated
building table …

The two sheets of 3/4" + will work great for the whole table. Nice to use the ‘straight’ factory edges to build a super rigid, level and flat table you can measure off of from any point by.

Think 'T" beam for the length but use a couple pieces to keep things stiff torsionally too by ‘boxing’ things in. Once set up, this table can be moved, dropped or stored or placed in almost any working situation without messing things up. Only have to level it off @ ends for twist.

Simple bench
2 saw horses, aluminum extension ladder, one sheet of plywood split lengthwise, done.

Portable bench and you can use the ladder for other projects.

You may want to round or cut the corners off, may save a few bruises…

and cover with 4mil plastic or
be disciplined wiping up drips and messes otherwise the table will have all kinds of bumps

work table
AS far as a table top goes, check the local big box store and look at the price of a “solid core” door. It may be less expensive than the plywood.

Same deal as FatElmo
’cept I joined the 2 8’ sections via 2 2’ sections of 2x4s underneath the plywood and got a roll of laminate for the work surface (made cleanup easier)I ‘did’ fasten the plywood sheets to the horses…known as I am for bumping things out of place.

Table suggestions
I’m currently building a Coho. I built my table with 2x4’s and OSB on sawhorses. My table is 30 inches wide and 18 feet long (6" longer than the boat).

You don’t need to have the table as long as the boat but I’ve found it really nice to have a table that allows me to mark a center reference line longer than the boat.

I wouldn’t recommend a width that is narrower than the boat – it’ll make it too easy to accidently bump the boat – which as you know, will always happen at the least opportune moment.

I’m documenting the build of my Coho on a day-to-day basis and have just finished gluing the hull together. You can view my journal here:

One of the other fellows that runs our site just finished building a Tern 14. You can see his journal here:

And if that’s not enough for you, another of the guys who runs our site is currently in the process of building a Tern 17. If you’re interested, there’s a discussion about his build in our forums:

Hope this helps,



This is a great site. That purple and yellow polka dot Tern will certainly attract attention!

The yellow polka dots were a photoshop joke by one of the guys. Personally, I thought it was a good idea (seeing how it wasn’t my boat).

I think that purple kayak is going to look really cool – if anyone can pull it off, it’s Darren.