The weather is nasty outside (-4 Farenheit, windy, with Lake-Effect snow), and while I love XC-Skiing, this is the time when I enjoy building a boat and thinking of the time of year when water is liquid.  So, I am building a 18-1/2 foot solo sea kayak.

Wood boats are beautiful, and if I didn't build them I could hardly afford one.  When causual canoers see one of these they frequently are curious about their construction and sometimes wonder if I'm afraid to get them dinged up.

Well, for lack of something else to diary, here is a quick view of the steps used in canoe building.

I start with about 50 board feet of Northern White Cedar, a couple of boards of Ash and Mahogany, and two sheets of 3/4" plywood.  The first step is making a lot of sawdust, ripping and shaping that cedar into 1/4" thick strips with a bead on one side and a cove on the other.  I like White Cedar because it is very easy to bend, being more flexible than red cedar.

Then, after poring over plans I decide on one and make the forms:

This is tracing out the half-form template onto the plywood that will then be cut and sanded true.

Next comes doing some of the forming work - like steaming wood and bending it on a form to create the internal and external stems at the bow and stern.  You can never have enough clamps when building a canoe.

Now the real work begins.  The forms are mounted on a "Strongback" which is just a long box or T-bar made of wood that hast to be straight and true.  Mistakes here can have bad consequences for the performance of the boat you are building.  In the first picture, the stations, each one foot apart, are set up on the strongback.  The second picture shows the forms mounted at each station - these have to be parallel and straight.
Setting up the stations
Forms Set Up
Now the fun begins.  Each strip of wood that you made at the beginning is laid down on the forms and glued together to form the hull of the boat.  Here is the stripping about half way through.  Each strip is held to the form by staples - some people make jigs that can clamp each strip down for an even finer finish.
Stripping out the Hull.
And, then the tedious work begins.  Staples are removed, and the hull is sanded to a fair shape prior to fiberglassing the exterior.  I use West system epoxy with a good 6 ounce fiberglass.  Actually, the wood acts only as a spacer between the fiberglass sheets - that is monocoque construction where the skin provides the strength.  That way one gets a very strong hull with minimum weight.  Here is the hull being fiberglassed.
After a little trimming and finishing, the boat is ready to take off the forms and see what needs to be done in finishing off the inside.  Then the sanding and fiberglassing continues.  Once that is finished on goes a couple of layers of UV absorbing varnish and the fitting out starts.  The decks, seat(s), inwales and outwales are all added and finished, and finally the canoe is done.

Below is a picture of the final result.  A 16-1/2 foot day tripping Peterborough design that weighs 32 pounds.  Since its launch it has taken its share of dings and scratches, but nothing that I can't fix.  And, it is a nice boat to paddle, though not for the beginner since, while it has good stability when loaded or leaned, the initial stability is a little tender.

Well, here's hoping that I get the sea kayak done in time for spring paddling out on the big lake.

Originally posted to P E Outlier on Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 04:38 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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