Thursday, June 26, 2008


This evening, in an informal outing with just Leighann and 5,000 blood thirsty mosquitos, I launched my kayak into the water. All the hard work, epoxy dust, varnish fumes and sanding over the past 6 months finally paid off. Not that it wasn't all about the journey, the process of building, but I always knew that the first paddle would be sweet and I would have my own, hand-built wooden sea kayak to show for all the hard work. 

The boat glided through the river with ease, and water shed off the varnished deck. As we paddled along the shoreline, a very gentle warm summer breeze pushed us along in our discovery. A little later, longer shadows and threatening blisters told us it was time to turn around. 

I'd like to thank everyone for reading and viewing the blog over the past 6 months. You have been so supportive and your comments (and contributions to the kayak fund) helped me more than you know. The construction might be done, but stick around for summer kayak tales of adventure.


Loading up the boats.

Ready for launch.

The first voyage.

Exploring the shoreline.


Happy Captain.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

4th Coat and Outfitting

I could not be more close to being finished at this point in the game. Seriously. Tomorrow, the boat will be done. What else do I have to do? Three things:

1. glue seat in place
2. attach back brace straps to sheer clamp
3. tie rope loops through the bow and stern holes

Yes, that's it!

This afternoon I finished up the bungie cord and hatch cover rigging. I also installed the pieces of wood that hip padding foam is glued to. I need to let the epoxy set that I used to mount the hip pad braces over night. 

Here are a few photos:

These straps are screwed into the deck with brass fittings.

The straps are then run through the buckles to keep the hatch down.

Here's a look at the rigging set up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

3rd Coat

I don't have any photos of the 3rd coat, it's all starting to look the same to me at this point. I think it's even possible that some areas that had small dust particle bumps on the first coat are getting more noticable as I add more layers of varnish. So I'm being a little more diligent on the sanding in between the 3rd and final coat of varnish.

Since I was not super motivated to sand (yet again) this weekend after varnishing, I did a few things that will speed up the finishing. Here are some photos:

Drilling pilot holes for the installation of the back rest.

I drilled the 3/8" holes for the rope handles through the bow 
and stern. Kind of scary drilling through the boat! In this photo, 
the blue tape is protecting the varnish from the epoxy that I
coated the the hole with to protect the bare wood from water.

Here's the back support. Elastic bungie cords come off the back
of the pad and stretch to form it's shape.

This is the seat which, in this photo, is upside down. I glued the 
two pieces of foam together with automotive contact cement.

Friday, June 13, 2008

2nd Coat Photo

Okay, here's a photo from this morning. Two coats of varnish. 

Thursday, June 12, 2008

2nd Coat of Varnish

I don't have any photos of the 2nd coat of varnish that I applied today, but it's still looking great. A couple more to go!

Here's a different photo from the first coat, as it's looks pretty much the same.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

1st Coat Varnish

It's stunning the difference the varnish makes, especially this first coat which took the dull epoxy to a radiant wood grain glow. I think the above photos speaks for itself. I'm very excited how this is turning out!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Inner Glow

I finally finished the epoxy sanding yesterday! what a chore. Everything is smooth now and almost ready for varnish. I noticed a few areas of bare wood on the nose and stern where I needed to brush on a layer of epoxy to seal and protect, which I did, and now I'm waiting for that to cure. 

In preparation for varnishing, though, I had to sterilize the shop so no errant dust will settle into wet varnish. And after 4 days of sanding, cleaning up was no small task. Sweeping. Vacuuming. Mopping. It's pretty clean now, but I know it's not surgical clean, so I expect some dust. 

Because the epoxy I brushed on today needs time to cure, and being anxious to see the varnish go on, I realized I could put the first coat of varnish on the hatch covers! I don't think I mentioned it before, but the Hatch Cover Color Survey resulted in a resounding opinion on the stained hatches and they look great. Anyway, I cracked open the can of varnish and poured a little into a cup. It's funny, but the smell reminded me of Maine, when I would visit my grandparents. I'm know my grandfather had a can or two of varnish kicking around, and 3 or 4 concurrent projects in various stages of varnishing. And it smelled like the wooden boat building apprentice shop across the harbor he would take me to.

I dipped the foam brush, curious how the sanded, cloudy epoxy would look within a few seconds. Brush, brush, brush. Wow! Varnish is transformative. Gone is the dull, lifeless wood surface. It's almost like the wood and grain are glowing. It's amazing. I can't wait to brush on the boat.

This photo of the front hatch shows the difference between the 
dull, sanded epoxy on the left and the brush stroke of varnish 
on the right.

Here's the varnish mid progress. The large hatch has a coat and 
you can see the reflection of the light and plastic tent over head. 

Friday, June 6, 2008

Wheel Design

The couple of times that Leighann and I have carried her new kayak to the water, it's become clear very quickly that kayaks are damn heavy. And the farther you have to walk the more it feels like your shoulder is going to become dislocated. So I started looking into carts that are sold to just for moving kayaks, which I found out quickly, are all usually over $130. Perhaps I can build my own kayak cart, something that the boat can be strapped to and also disassembled and stowed in the boat when paddling. 

After some research and design, here are my 3D renderings of my kayak cart design. Of course, I'm putting the *ahem* cart-before-the-horse at this point, my kayak is not even finished yet.

Here's the schematic using easily found materials.

Here's how the boat and cart interface. I would also strap
the boat to the cart to secure it while wheeling. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sanding Update

Yes, there IS a lot of sanding to do. I'm making progress, but it's going slowly. I'm still on the first pass with the 80 grit paper. Weekend and evening plans have slowed the progress considerably. Here are a couple photos:

Here's the exterior hull sanded with 8o grit. There's a lot of epoxy dust
on the surface, but the goal is sanding is to essentially scuff the 
surface of the epoxy until it's cloud white.

Here's a good example of the difference between sanded and 
un-sanded epoxy.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Major Milestone!

Don't get too excited just yet, there's a lot of sanding and varnishing left to do, but this is still a huge milestone in the kayak construction!! No more epoxy. No more scarf joints. And I have to say the boat is looking sharp. Sure, there are hardened epoxy drips and uneven surfaces, but that's what I'm working on next: sanding the exterior of the entire boat. I'll go through three courses of sandpaper grit (80, 120 and 220) to work the epoxy smooth and flat. Once that's complete, I varnish the boat, let it dry, wet sand, let it dry, varnish, let it dry, wet sand, let it dry, varnish, .....  on and on. I hear five coats of varnish looks amazing. 

Until then, here's a toast to getting this far.