Merganser Construction Notes

June 27, 2009 – Eric Schade, who designed the Shearwater that I built last year, based its design on his line of Merganser kayaks. The Shearwater is available in three sizes, the largest of which is still too tight for me. The Merganser, however, is available in six sizes. After conferring  with Eric at the WoodenBoat Show I ordered plans for his Merganser 17W hybrid. This boat has a hull similar to the Shearwater, but is an inch wider, so I should have more room for my feet and a bit more stability with similar performance. It will also give me an opportunity to learn strip-building the deck, as I someday want to build a stripper.

July 1, 2009 – Eric has shipped the plans, so I ordered some tools and supplies. The plywood Merganser is available as a kit, but the hybrid isn’t, so I’ll be building this one from scratch. Today I ordered chip brushes, foam brushes, dust masks and dual-ply vinyl/nitrile gloves from Harbor Freight. Their price for the brushes and masks is much less than any local store. I haven’t tried these two-ply gloves, but expect them to stand up better than the CLC nitrile gloves, which frequently split open at the most inopportune times.

July 2, 2009 – While surfing the web last night I found an excellent 25-page manual on strip building available for free download on the Newfound Woodworks site.  They suggest cutting the fiberglass cloth on the bias, which makes it conform easier to complex curves, avoids loose ends, and is stronger. They also suggest bias-cutting strips of cloth instead of using tape, as the tape is heavier, not bias-cut and has bound edges that leave ridges. Newfound sells cloth cutters that look like pizza cutters for cutting glass cloth. I ordered one of these cutters, a sander pad that will allow my deWalt random orbit sander to better conform to slightly curved surfaces, and a set of foot pegs that can be adjusted easily and have much larger foot pads than other types.

Foot Pegs and Cutter

July 3, 2009 – The plans and instruction book arrived today. Eric obviously put a lot of thought and effort into both. The book includes instructions for making wooden paddles, foot braces and deck fittings. Full-size patterns are included for all plywood panels, forms and several sizes of cockpit openings. I noted, though, that the rear bulkhead is mislabeled as Station 12 on the layout plan. It should be Station 10.5.

The Merganser hull is nearly identical to the Shearwater, but has sharp angles at the forefoot and skeg. Eric says it’s okay to round those off like the Shearwater, which I plan to do to avoid getting them chewed up on our pebbly beaches.

I plan to drive my old truck up to Boulter’s in Somerville to pick up plywood for the hull. Their price is the same as CLC and they’ll rip the panels in half at no extra cost. I’m going to use 9mm Okoume for the deck forms, as I have a bunch of otherwise useless cut-offs on hand from an earlier project.

After pricing table saws, and thinking about neighbors who have lost fingers to them, I decided not to try cutting my own strips for the deck. Instead I’ll pay the price to order bead and cove strips from Newfound Woodworkers. I had thought earlier of ordering from Noah’s, but they raised their prices 33% last week. Newfound’s service, by the way, is second to none. The tools and foot braces I ordered from them yesterday were delivered today!

Eric suggests installing a sheer clamp to attach the deck to the hull. I don’t like sheer clamps because they add useless weight, one of several reasons why I never built a CLC boat until they brought out the Shearwater kits. Eric says it’s okay to tape the seam as long as it’s well-secured before sanding the deck. A lot of people don’t like taping the deck to the hull because it’s such a messy job. I didn’t have any trouble with it on the Shearwater though, so will use that system on the Merganser. I plan to install short sheer clamps at the ends where it’s not possible to fillet, and difficult to tape, the seam.

July 21, 2009 – As usual, summer activities have slowed progress. Since the last post, I have sold my Shearwater, delivered it to Connecticut, and picked up additional supplies, including some sheet styrofoam and two sheets of 4mm okouome .

So far, I’ve spent about $600 and anticipate another $700 before I’m finished. That is comparable to a CLC kit for a Shearwater hybrid. Unlike the kit, though, I have to cut my own panels and forms. The cost breaks out to about $1000 for the materials that you get with a CLC kit and $300 for supplies, which I would have to buy to build a kit too. I also spent about $100 on tools for stripping the deck. Still have to order the cedar strips and epoxy.

Before I start building, though, I need to clean out the garage and take care of some yard and house projects. At this point, it looks like August 10th will be the start date. I have been using the two-ply vinyl/nitrile gloves for weeding the gardens and they seem to hold up much better than single-ply gloves of either kind, while still allowing excellent feeling.

July 26, 2009 – Started cleaning out the garage today and hung some high-intensity flourescent shop lights. What a difference the lights make! They put out the incandescent equivalent of 1200 watts, ten times that of the single fixture with two 60-watt bulbs I used building the Shearwater.

I’m clearing a larger area this time too, about 11′ x 20′. Before, I cleared a work area about 8 feet wide and 18 feet long, which was too tight. I had to open the garage door or duck under the hull to get from one side to the other. This time I’ll be able to walk around the ends with the door closed. Both times I also cleared room for a 3′ x 5′ work table on one side, which works well.

I cover both the floor and the work table with 4-mil polyethylene sheet to keep the epoxy off the floor and the table. This time, I’ll also move the boat outside for sanding whenever I can, so there’s not as much dust around when I varnish.

July 28, 2009 – Called Newfound today and ordered the cedar strips, epoxy, seat and backband. I’ll be in New Hampshire this weekend on family business, so will pick up the material. Newfound will shrink-wrap the 18′ strips around a 2×4 to keep them from flexing on my roof rack – well worth the $30 extra cost.  Summer activities and family visits continue to delay the start date, but August 10th still looks promising.

August 9, 2009 – The grandkids have gone home, the gardens are weeded and mulched, the cars are cleaned and waxed, the garage workshop is cleared out and set up, and all the materials and supplies are on hand, so it’s time to get cracking on the new boat. Tomorrow I need to work on my book, but will make time to scarf the plywood. Here is an accounting of costs, including estimates of items that will be acquired as I go along:

Soft sanding disk 14.25
Cloth Cutter 20.22
Bonzai Saw 21.11
Fillet Tools 5.48
Hot Glue Gun 12.59
Fairing Board 25.80
Spring Clamps 9.90
Mixing Cups & Syringes 23.65
Styrofoam & Poly Sheeting 29.68
Gloves, Brushes & Dust Masks 51.80
Glue and Sandpaper 50.00 est.
Primer, Paint and Varnish 100.00 est.
Misc. Hardware & Fittings 10.00 est.
Merganser Plans 132.50
Plywood 102.90
Cedar Strips 306.50
Resin Kit 211.87
Fiberglass Cloth 43.42
Fiberglass Tape 17.32
Copper Wire 5.86
Foot Pegs 45.33
Seat & Back Band 97.00
Deck Fittings 27.09
Toggle kit 12.84
Total Estimated Cost 1,267.76
Tools not included in total cost.
Costs include shipping charges
but not cost of trips to Boulter’s
and Newfound Woodworkers.

August 10, 2009 – Scarfed the plywood pieces together. Easier than it looks and took a little more than an hour. Temperature in the shop was about 80 degrees, so it should set up quickly. The plywood is sitting on the concrete floor, though, which is much cooler. Lessons learned: 1. The low-angle Stanley plane is worth every penny of its $40+ cost: 2. It’s a good thing I plan to paint the hull; 3. Puzzle joints look a lot better; 4. Next time, read the instructions first!
Scarfed Plywood

August 11, 2009 – The scarfed joints are solid and strong but look awful. If I were going to varnish this hull, I’d cut them off and butt the joints. The outside will be painted, though, and the inside joints will be hidden under the seat and behind the thigh braces, so I’ll let them go.
Scarf LineToday I laid out the panels for cutting. For a layout table I set two factory reject flush doors on sawhorses, topped with one-inch thick styrofoam sheets ($6.15 at Home Depot). The styrofoam will let me cut the plywood with a my 4″ Porter-Cable trim saw without cutting into the doors. It took a while to get the drawings aligned. CLC prints its layout diagrams on single long sheets of paper; Eric prints his on 3′ x 4′ sheets with match lines that need to be taped together. I found that drawing a line between the match lines made it easier to align the sheets.

Panel LayoutI did save a lot of time, though, by using artists’ transfer paper instead of punching marks through the templates then connecting the punch marks with a spline. Before the advent of office copiers, this was called carbon paper and was available for pennies at any corner store. Now it costs dollars and is available only at art and craft stores. I simply slipped it under the drawings and traced the lines with a 3H pencil. It leaves a sharp line and one piece will do the whole job.
Plywood Fault

Here you can see the transfer paper and resulting image. You can also see a serious flaw in the plywood that I had to avoid. Eric’s layout fits very tightly on the 2′ x 16′ sheet, but since I don’t need deck panels, I was able to move the bottom panels around a bit. I still had room, though, to fit the two bulkheads. 2.5 hrs.

I also spent an hour or so laying out the coaming pieces. I intend to use plywood for the coaming, the way CLC does for their hybrid kits. Eric shows several size openings on the plans. I found a scrap piece of 6mm Okuoume, with cross grain, that is exactly long enough for the largest opening. I wanted a 17″ x 33″ opening, but will settle for 16.5″ x 31.5″. Coaming LayoutI’ll clamp this panel to two scraps of 9mm Okuoume that will form the spacers and cut all three together. The top piece I’ll cut later from 4mm stock.

August 12, 2009 – Only worked about 1.5 hours today, but got all the panels and bulkheads cut out. Instead of clamping the plywood sheets together, I drove a few 2″ deck screws through both sheets, the styrofoam, and into the doors that I use for a table top, being careful to keep them away from the panels to be cut out. This worked very well.

I cut out the panels with my 4″ Porter-Cable trim saw, which is much faster than a scroll saw, but as easy to control freehand. It also leaves a cleaner edge and doesn’t obscure the cut line with sawdust. I find the 24-tooth carbide tip blade works better than a plywood blade, even for this thin stock. It cuts faster, doesn’t char the wood and lasts a lot longer. Also joined the bow pieces to the side panels – this time with butt joints reinforced with fiberglass strips on the inside. These joints will be further reinforced by tape on the logitudinal joints and short shear clamps, as well as two layers of cloth on the outside.

August 13, 2009 – When you live on Cape Cod in the summer you learn to do all your errands before the weekend traffic gets too heavy, so I only worked on the boat for two hours today. Faired the plywood panels to the line with the Stanley plane and a sanding block. I can’t say enough good things about this plane. It is easy to adjust, easy to control, and does its job very well. Aubuchon was selling these a year ago for $40, but I see now they are closer to $55. Still well worth the price. I also see that the Porter-Cable trim saw now goes for $345! I bought mine new 18 years ago for $140 when I built my first stitch and glue skiff. If money is no object, buy one. If you plan to build several stitch and glue boats from scratch, it’s probably worth the price. It cuts much faster than a saber saw and lets you get very close to the line, as you can see from this photo. Trim Saw

August 14, 2009 – For the first time all summer, I have a weekend without any visitors or other obligations, so expect to get a lot done on the boat. This morning I beveled all the panels and cleaned up the scarfed joints. Took about 1.5 hours total, including time to clean up all the shavings and sawdust. Once again, the Stanley low-angle plane made this an easy job. When I built the Shearwater I used a sanding block and the bevels didn’t come out very well, but that was before I bought the plane. My old Craftsman plane will now get the Eric Schade belt sander treatment: rounding the shoe and blade to fit the inside curve of a strip-built deck or hull.

This afternoon I covered the shop floor with sheet poly, moved the flush door table off to the side and set out sawhorses with cradles in preparation for assembling the hull. The poly sheeting is slippery, so I spread a large piece of corrugated cardboard (one of the shipping boxes that my Shearwater kit came in) in the area between my work table and the boat. The hull went together beautifully, and is nice and fair, symetrical and straight. The beveled joints are nearly perfect this time. Total time: four hours. Shop Set-up

Two neat tricks learned: 1. Using the doors on sawhorses for a table, they can be adjusted to better fit the curve of the panels while you fair and bevel the edges; and 2. Excess epoxy can be cleanly popped out of mixing cups after it has set up. If I had known this last year when I was building the Shearwater, I could have saved at least $30 on mixing cups.

Clean CupsHere’s another neat trick that I used last year on the Shearwater too: If you don’t have a helper handy when you begin assembling the plywood panels, it’s very difficult to spread the bottom panels in order to wire in the bulkheads. I solved this dilemma by clamping the bottom panels together between two boards. Hull ClampDon’t clamp them tight; just enough to get the proper angle to match the bulkhead.

This evening I worked another half-hour to finish up the hull stitching. The last eight inches between the side and bottom panels at the stern have about an eighth-inch gap that won’t come together even with clamps and straps. I’ll just fill it with thickened epoxy, as this area will have several layers of glass inside and out before the boat is finished.

August 15, 2009 – Another six-hour day. This morning I cut out the coaming pieces. I held the three layers of plywood together by driving flat-head sheet metal screws through them, which worked great. Before separating the pieces, I also faired the outside of the curves with a belt sander. Will fair the inside after the coaming is assembled.

This afternoon I laid out all the deck forms on scrap pieces of plywood – mostly 9mm Okuoume left over from an earlier project – and cut them out with a saber saw. Lesson learned: you cannot blow away the sawdust from in front of the saw blade while wearing a dust mask!

This evening I tack welded the hull together, using a thick mixture of cab-o-sil and a dash of wood flour. Applying this mixture with a syringe resulted in very little need to clean up the joints later.

August 16, 2009 – This morning I worked two hours pulling all the wires out, cleaning up the inside of the hull and masking the cockpit area in preparation for filleting the joints. Some of the wires were epoxied into place. On the Shearwater I just clipped them as close as I could and ground them flush, but this time I heated them with a soldering gun and they pulled out cleanly. I have a flat tip for this gun, about an inch long and 1/4 inch wide, and thought it might be useful for smoothing out rough areas in the epoxy tack welds, but didn’t try it, as I had very few rough areas and they cleaned up easily with an old, cheap wood chisel. Although the tack welds are set up, they are still soft enough to respond well to a chisel.

Another two-hour stint this afternoon filleting the seams. The purpose of fillets is to create a smooth curve for the fiberglass cloth, so you don’t get air bubbles along the seams. They also fill in the stitch holes and any voids in the tack welds. Other than that, fillets just add weight and mass, so you want to keep them as small as possible. Minimal FilletsBow FilletI used a tongue depressor to simultaneously round the fillets and scrape excess epoxy off the panels.

The one exception to this rule is the keel seam at each end, where a thick fillet provides mass to absorb the energy of those unavoidable collisions with rocks and beaches that seem to happen to us all. This is also the primary purpose of end pours, but I take a different approach to end pours, which you can see on my Shearwater page.

I plan to glass the inside of the hull tomorrow; do the outside on Tuesday, and go paddle the Westport River with the AMC group on Wednesday (but not in this boat, unfortunately!) Total time to date: 25 hours.

August 17, 2009 – Worked all morning (3-1/2 hours) prepping, glassing and coating the entire inside of the hull. Preparation was minimal, as the Cab-o-sil fillets didn’t sag at all. Just a few minutes with an old wood chisel and a paint scraper took off the few bumps and drips. In the ends, I applied 3″ 9-0z. glass tape to all the seams, including the butt joint in the bow, lapping the tape onto the bulkheads about 1/2 inch. In the cockpit, I applied a full sheet of 4-oz. glass cloth. I also coated any remaining bare wood, including the bulkheads, with unthickened epoxy.

After it set for an hour, I went back and smoothed out a few sags in the cockpit area. Will look at it again tonight and decide whether to fill the cloth weave with a second coat of epoxy. I’m inclined not to do this in order to save weight. I used far too much epoxy on the Shearwater, both in the fillets and the sheathing. It made for a strong boat, but heavier than I would like. Am rethinking the plan to glass the exterior tomorrow, because I won’t be able to fill the cloth weave on Wednesday morning. Will probably just sand and prep the outside tomorrow and leave the sheathing until Thursday. I’m eager to start stripping the deck this weekend.

This evening I trimmed off the excess glass that stuck up beyond the gunwales. This is very easy to do with a sharp utility knife when the epoxy has dried, but not fully cured – about eight hours after applying it. Looking again at the glass in the cockpit, I think I’ll not fill the weave. I can always do it later and I like the non-skid look of the cloth.

August 18, 2009 – Too hot and humid to do any extensive epoxy work today. Instead, I turned the hull over and prepared it for glassing on the outside. This went pretty fast, as I used a belt sander. Don’t try this unless you really know what you are doing, though. A belt sander can do a lot of damage in the blink of an eye. I’ve been using mine for 45 years, however, and have gotten fairly adept at delicate work with it. Finished off by hand with 60 grit paper. Then I cut some cloth that I will apply when the weather cools down a bit.

Also attached the studs for the foot pads. This is done by tacking them in place with five-minute epoxy, using the rails for spacing. You should spread the epoxy very sparingly or it will squeeze onto the rails and you’ll have a heck of a job prying them off so you can glass the studs in place. (Please don’t ask me how I know this.) After glassing the studs in place, I had some epoxy left, so filled in the cloth weave inside the cockpit. I had decided last night not to do this, but couldn’t see wasting good resin.

My friend Gif Allen suggested drilling a small hole in each bulkhead to allow air to escape from the end compartments when it heats up in the sun. I’m not sure this is an actual problem, but drilled the holes anyway. I sealed them with epoxy and will redrill 1/16″ holes after it cures. Total time today: three hours.

August 20, 2009 – Working with epoxy is not much fun, especially trying to do a big job like sheathing the hull without an assistant to mix resin in 90 degree heat. Nevertheless, I managed to get the outside of the hull sheathed this morning. Last year, when I built the Shearwater, I wasted a lot of time and effort trying to remove every loose brush bristle and stray fiberglass thread. Now I know that they disappear quickly when you sand out the finish. Total time: 1.5 hours, not counting the long cool shower afterward.

Eight hours later, the epoxy had set up well, so I trimmed off the excess cloth. At this point the finished hull, without deck or fittings, weighs in at just under 21 pounds.

August 21, 2009 – Worked less than an hour today rough sanding the outside with 60-grit paper. After 24 hours, the epoxy feels dry and hard, but is still soft enough to sand easily. MAS says it takes five days to cure completely. I wanted to also install short sheer clamps in the ends, but have to pack it up and head to New York for a funeral. Will resume work on Monday. It’s starting to look like a boat now.

Hull Up

August 23, 2009 – On my way home from New York yesterday I stopped by Mystic Seaport and bought Nick Schade’s new book on stripbuilding. In it he suggests several alternatives to using staples to hold the strips in place while the glue dries. I plan to use as few staples as possible, so was glad to see this chapter.

Following up on some earlier posted ideas: The vinyl/nitrile gloves work very well and none have split on me yet. The idea of reusing mixing cups by removing cured epoxy has proven to be more trouble than it’s worth, however, so I just bought more cups. Sharp eyed readers might notice that there are no pumps on my epoxy jugs. I had such a bad experience with them while building the Shearwater that I now just pour out the resin and hardener into separate measuring cups, then mix them together. This has proven to be not only more accurate, but a lot faster than using pumps.

Butt JointHere are shots of the butt joint and the scarfed joint on my boat. The butt joint had only a single layer of bias cut 4-oz. cloth on the inside. After the hull was assembled, I added a strip of 9-0z tape on the inside and there are two layers of 4-0z cloth on the outside.

Scarf JointThe scarfed joint required some Cabosil filling and has a single layer of 4-oz. cloth inside and out. There is no question that the scarf joint is stronger, but the butt joint is plenty strong enough and certainly looks a lot better. I do not plan to use scarf joints again.

August 24, 2009 – Another short two-hour day. Fitted and installed the deck forms. Eric suggests attaching them to the hull with hot-melt glue. Since I plan to paint the hull and don’t mind having some holes in the plywood, I drilled pilot holes about 1/4″ below the sheer and drove 3/4″ #6 sheet metal screws through the plywood into the forms. Then I took the boat outside and belt-sanded the forms and side panels to allow the deck strips to lay flat and tight to the sides. The screw holes will fill when I fillet and tape the seam between the deck and hull, then sheath the deck.

Form ScrewHere you can see Form 10.5 nestled against the rear bulkhead and held in place with the sheet metal screw. These screws have sharp threads that hold well in plywood end grain. I picked up the boat by the deck forms to carry it outside today.

August 25, 2009 – This morning I put masking tape on the deck forms and spread polyethylene sheet inside the hull to catch glue drips. The masking tape will allow glue to stick but be easy to remove. Also cut, shaped and glued in short sheer clamps in each end of the hull where it’s difficult to reach with seam tape. Then I made up some Schade clamps and called it a day. 2-1/2 hours all told. Schade Clamps

August 26, 2009 – Began stripping the deck today. This is new to me, so took longer than it should have. After shaping the sheer clamps to match the curve of the deck forms, I unwrapped the strips that Newfound had made and sorted them by color.

Trying to tame a 20′ strip was like teaching a litter of kittens to dance in unison. I finally lined the sheer with spring clamps and threaded the strip through the clamps, which held it gently within 1/8″ of where it was supposed to go. Then I was able to staple the strip in place.Strip Clamps

My deck forms are made from 9mm Okuoume, except for the two abutting the bulkheads, which are 1/2″ fir plywood. The staples didn’t hold in the fir plywood at all, but held quite well in the Okuoume. The sheer clamps proved essential to hold the strips to the sharp curve at the ends, especially at the stern. The Schade clamps worked well, too. They reduced, but did not eliminate, the number of staples needed to hold the strips.

Six hours later, I have two full-length strips installed along each sheer and double strips installed down the middle between the cockpit and the ends.

August 27, 2009 – Another short 1-1/2 hour day. Fit short end pieces for the next row on each side. The cedar strips I’m using don’t bend very easily, so I’m keeping with fairly straight runs, but will be doing the next two rows as alternating chevrons of red and white cedar.

August 28, 2009 – Some of the tools that I use for modelbuilding have come in handy on the kayak projects. The best of these is the Zona saw, a fine-tooth back saw with a comfortable wooden handle and razor-thin blade. I bought my first one when I was 14 and my father immediately appropriated it for his house-building hobby.

Today I also made use of my Jarmac saw, a miniature tilt-arbor table saw with a four-inch blade. With it, I was able to cut more than 200 identical pieces, three inches long with 45-degree angles on both ends, in less than 90 minutes. These will form the chevrons that I mentioned yesterday. Jarmac SawThe scrap of wood clamped on the right set the length for each cut.

Laying out alternate pieces of red and white cedar takes time, but is not difficult. I used a disc sander to adjust the angles for the curve of the deck, and held the small pieces in alignment with a piece of cedar strip that I covered with Scotch tape so the glue wouldn’t stick to it.

Early on I figured this operation would be easier if I had some one-hand clamps. Had to visit three stores to find them, but bought out their stock of six clamps. These work so well, I will buy more when they restock.

Irwin ClampsAugust 29, 2009 – The remnants of tropical storm Danny blew by today, dropping 3.2 inches of rain on Cape Cod, so I holed up in the shop for a second consecutive seven-hour work day laying down the strips of chevrons. It took 15 hours to cut and fit these four strips, but I like the effect so much, I think I will use it as a signature design on future boats.

August 30, 2009 – Finished the feature strips today and added two more full-length red cedar strips to each side, as well as two more up the middle from both ends. The remaining area will be white cedar, with a couple of red cedar chevrons thrown in for interest.

I have quite a bit of red cedar left over: four 20′ strips, two 16′ and a few shorter pieces. Will save them for my next project, which will be a Wood Duck 12 hybrid. Total time to date is 64 hours, spread over three weeks. Going paddling with one of my daughters tomorrow, but expect to finish the deck this week.

September 1, 2009 – Worked intermittently today – about five hours total – stripping the deck. Finished the rear deck and made good progress on the front. My original design called for only short pieces of white cedar, so I ordered three-foot remnants, which were about 40% less expensive than longer strips. I later changed the design, though, and found the strips to be too short in a couple of areas. I solved this problem in two ways: on the rear deck, I butted strips along the line where I will cut the hatch opening; on the front deck, I inserted a pair of red cedar chevrons. Then I ran out of white cedar, so will finish the lower part of the front deck with red cedar. I doubt anyone will think it looks odd when it’s finished. MedallionRear Deck Seams
Any kayak builder will tell you that you can’t have too many clamps. Here are two sizes of one-hand clamps, spring clamps, straps, and various improvised shims and wedges. Many Clamps

September 2, 2009 – Finished stripping the deck today – about three hours work. Bringing the front deck strips into alignment with the side deck strips required a lot of clamping to hold the strips in line over a compound surface. More Clamps

I’m finally getting pretty good at fitting the strips now that the project is done. My first joints are very crude, but I’m building a working boat here, not a piece of furniture, so will clean them up as best I can with sanding and fillers. I didn’t go totally stapleless but reduced their use about 70%.

I thought the deck on the Shearwater was beautiful, and I don’t much like the peaked deck on the plywood Mergansers, but the shape of the deck on this hybrid is simply stunning. It appears fuller and more substantial than the Shearwater deck. Total time to date: 72 hours.

Finished Deck

September 3, 2009 – Thursday before a holiday weekend on Cape Cod is errands day, so I only worked about four hours on the boat today. Cut the cockpit opening to fit the coaming pieces that I had cut earlier. Then removed all the staples. Most came out easily with pliers that have 1/2″ wide blunt nose; the rest pried up with my trusty, but dull, old wood chisel. Then used said chisel to gently separate the deck from the forms.

I had applied the wood glue sparingly so did not have much to clean up, but did have one seam split open while lifting the deck. Glued and clamped it with a strap while I cut the cockpit out. The remaining blobs of glue popped off quickly with the old chisel, which is too dull to cut the wood. Some of the first seams I did will need to be filled before sheathing. I’ll do that tomorrow when I also tack weld the coaming base in place.

September 4, 2009 – Only worked about 1-1/2 hours today. I wanted to work longer but need to let the epoxy set up before I can move on. I took the deck outside and sanded the inside with a random orbit sander, using a soft pad to better conform to the curves. It didn’t need much work at all. In the area of the front bulkhead the deck wants to flatten more than it should. In an attempt to counter this, I compressed it to the correct dimension with strapping tape, then applied strips of fiberglass cloth along both sides. I’m hoping this will stiffen it before I sheath the whole inside.

Reinforced Edge

I also installed the plywood base for the coaming. I tacked it in place with brads driven through pre-drilled holes, then epoxied it from the inside. Coaming BaseI then used the remaining epoxy to fill the gaps in some of my sloppier early joints. I may need to fillet it some more before applying the sheathing. I will add the rest of the coaming after I attach the deck to the hull and sheath the outside of the deck.

September 5, 2009 – Fiberglassed the inside of the deck today. I was using remnants, so did it in three pieces, which allowed me to work around the strapping tape and keep it in place to keep the proper curve on the deck. This time I spread the epoxy with a cheap, thin foam touchup roller, which worked very well. It laid on enough resin to saturate the cloth without any drips or sags. It also helped to smooth the cloth as I went along.

Between the rear bulkhead and the rear hatch I put down four layers of cloth to stiffen this area where I sit when getting in and out of the boat. I did this on the Shearwater per CLC instructions, which said to spread all four layers dry and saturate them all at once, and that was not easy. This time I put down one layer at a time, then immediately spread the next layer on the wet one below it. This was very easy and worked well. The epoxy was still wet enough that it did not catch the dry cloth, but let it spread naturally.

I also borrowed an idea from Florida boatbuilder Kayak Kev and made brackets for the inside of the hatch covers. Hatch BracketsI glued them to what will be the center of the hatch covers, which I will cut out after I attach the deck to the hull. These brackets serve two purposes: they help to hold the curve of the cover so it’s less likely to flatten; and they provide hooks for the bungee cords that will hold the hatches closed. These took about an hour to make working entirely with hand tools.

September 6, 2009 – Looks like this will be a long weekend of short work days. About 3-1/2 hours yesterday, two today and less than an hour tomorrow. If I had enough room, I would start another boat. I’m attaching the deck to the hull and need to let the epoxy harden before moving on to the next step. I’ve come to the realization that it is not possible to build only one kayak, as the activity is highly addictive and there is always one more design out there to try.

When I took the strapping tape off the deck it only spread 1/8″ so I call that ploy a success. The bare deck weighs exactly ten pounds, bringing the total so far to 31 pounds. If I can keep the remaining work under ten pounds I will be very happy. I sanded the inside of the deck where the tape will go along the sheer and knocked off any sharp edges elsewhere. Then I strapped the deck to the hull, got everything aligned, and taped it down in critical places with heavy duty strapping tape. I covered the sheer joint with packing tape under the straps to protect them.Top View no orb

My plan is to fillet and tape the joints inside the cockpit today and tomorrow. I did both sides in one day on the Shearwater and got some nasty drips and sags as a result. As before, I tipped the boat on one side and leaned it against a stepladder for support. Then I filleted the seam and, while the fillet was still wet, applied a strip of 9-oz. tape. I had some epoxy left over, so filled more of the weave inside the cockpit and sealed the piece of 6mm Okuoume that I will use for the hip braces. BTW, the hatch cover brackets that I made yesterday are also 6mm Okuoume. Stepladder

Tuesday I’ll epoxy the ends of the deck to the sheer clamps. Then I’ll sand out the deck before cutting the hatch openings and taping the seams inside the end compartments. After that I’ll use my trusty old belt sander to finish the deck overhang along the sheer before glassing the deck.

(Eight hours later) The seam I taped this morning has set up pretty well, so I decided to take a chance and do the seam on the other side. Same procedure, but this time mixed up exactly enough epoxy. I wasted a lot of epoxy on the Shearwater, partly because the pumps were so squirelly, but also because I consistently made the batches too big. I’m getting better at judging how much I need on this project. Also have some one ounce cups that I got from Newfound that help when measuring small amounts. Now I can move the schedule up a day and glue the ends tomorrow.

September 7, 2009 – This morning I epoxied the ends of the deck to the hull where I had earlier installed short sheer clamps. I used a fairly thick mix of epoxy and Cabosil, which I slathered liberally on both the sheer clamps and underside of the deck. I then braced the boat on a stepladder so I could exert some downward force on the deck when I applied strips of Scotch “Extreme” strapping tape to hold the deck to the curve of the hull. Strapped End

After taking this photo I scraped off the blob of epoxy you see under the middle strap of tape. While epoxy can always be sanded off after it cures, it’s much easier to remove while it’s still wet.

Here are some of the tools I’ve been using: my Zona saw, cheap old wood chisel, disposable foam roller, and my favorite filleting tool, a cheap plastic kitchen spatula that I filed to the shape I wanted. Favorite Tools

When I built the Shearwater last year, my biggest problem was filleting. Too often I ended up with fillets that were too big and uneven, and usually had a mess to clean up around them. With experience I’ve gotten so that I can now lay down a smooth, even fillet very quickly, with little or no mess. Another reason why I just have to build more boats!

This evening I filleted the deck to the bulkheads. At the front bulkhead the deck had bulged about 1/4″ in the center when I pulled in the sides. Front BulkheadThere was a smaller gap across the entire rear bulkhead, which I cannot explain. This was awkward work, as I had to stick my head and arms, along with a flashlight, into the upside-down cockpit to reach the front bulkhead seam. The whole job took less than a half hour, though.

September 8, 2009 – I love tools, especially simple hand tools that do good work. Today I got to use one such tool, Newfound Woodworking’s fairing board. This flexible, fiberglass-reinforced plywood board has Velcro tape that firmly holds a long piece of sandpaper for fairing curved surfaces. I faired out the deck in less than two hours. I then smoothed out the scratches from the 40-grit fairing with my random orbit sander.

In the process, I gathered almost a quart of high-quality wood flour from the sander bag. I think at least another quart landed on my vehicles, and a few more hit the driveway. As I was doing all this sanding, I kept hearing my father’s voice from 60 years ago admonishing me to let the tool do the work. He would say “let the hammer drive the nail, and let the saw cut the wood.” In this case, let the sandpaper fair the deck. Nevertheless, I kept putting more and more elbow grease into the job.

Aerial View

This is definitely one beatiful boat. Eric Schade is truly an artist. After sanding out the deck, I cut the hatch openings, swept out the shop, and called it a day. Four hours total today. Tomorrow, if the weather allows, I plan to paddle Padanaram Harbor with the AMC group. The next job is the messiest and least fun part of building a kayak: filleting and taping the deck seam inside the end compartments.

September 9, 2009 – Decided to skip the AMC paddle, as I didn’t relish the return trip from Round Hill into a gusty northeast wind. Instead I taped the deck seam inside the end compartments on the port side, using two new techniques. First I laid down the fillet in both ends using West empty caulk tubes in a caulking gun. This allowed me to reach all the way to the mini sheer clamps in both ends and leave a perfect bead of thickened epoxy along the seam. I used a 3:1 mix of Cabosil and wood flour that was slightly looser than peanut butter. I then smoothed out both fillets with my cheap plastic spatula. The result is a nice fillet along the entire seam with very little mess. I was working in ideal conditions, dry air at 70 degrees, and saw no indication that the epoxy mix was setting off in the tube.

I then brushed unthickened epoxy onto two strips of 9-oz tape that I had pre-cut to length. After brushing the epoxy onto one strip, I rolled it up and set it aside while I brushed the other strip. Then I laid the first strip onto the fillet, reaching as far into the compartment as I could with my gloved hand, and finishing the last eight or ten inches with a brush on a stick. After taping one compartment, I did the same at the other.

It is nearly impossible to get both my head and a light into the hatch openings, so I checked my work by taking photos with a digital camera. That’s how I found that I had put the long tape in the short compartment and the short tape in the long compartment. Not much I can do about it now, though, and it won’t matter much because the difference was only about six inches anyway. I also mixed up twice as much epoxy as I needed (six ounces) because I misjudged how much the tape would absorb. Front Port Deck SeamRear SB Deck Seam

After a couple of hours I poked the roll of excess tape with a stick and found it was still soft, so I pushed it forward enough so it won’t block the small end pour that I use. Dec Tape PS FixedThe photos on the left show the bow before and after fixing the problem of the too-long tape; the photo on the right is the stern, showing the short tape on the right side.

Once the tape I did this morning felt dry to the touch, I flipped the boat over and taped the other side, this time being careful to put the right tape in the right compartment. On this side I made up a six-ounce mix of epoxy, thickened it, and filled the caulking gun. That was enough to do the seam in both end compartments. Once again, the caulking gun dispenser worked beautifully, with no sign of the resin setting off prematurely. I like this system so well I think I might use it on all fillets in the future. Total for the day: 2-1/2 hours.

September 10, 2009 – When I laid down the outermost strips for the deck, I overlapped the hull about 1/4 inch, figuring it’s always easier to remove material later than to add it. So today, with the deck finally attached to the hull, I pulled out my trusty 45-year-old Sears Roebuck belt sander and sanded off the excess. As before, I should warn beginners that a belt sander can do a lot of damage in the blink of an eye, so don’t try this unless you have lots and lots of experience with it. When the deck was even with the hull, I rounded off the edge with a plane and sanding block.

Then I took the boat back into the shop (I’ve been doing all my sanding outside to keep the shop as dustfree as possible for the finishing phase) and fiberglassed the deck. As I mentioned before, I’m using remnants, so used two pieces, with the seam right where the paddle often hits the deck. It appears that I will have exactly enough cloth to finish the boat, as all that remains unglassed is the cockpit coaming. About three hours total today.

Deck Glassed

September 11, 2009 – I’m nearly out of Cabosil and want to finish up the cockpit coaming and hatch covers this weekend, so made the 50-mile round trip to the big West Marine store in Hyannis – the only store on the Cape that I know of that stocks MAS products. They were out of stock, so I bought some West material that seems to be similar. While there, I also bought Brightside paint, high-build primer and some green masking tape, which stretches. I was planning to paint the hull white, but decided instead to use Sundown Buff, which is about the color of the glassed plywood.

The Hyannis trip pretty much blew the day, so I only worked about an hour on the boat. I trimmed the coaming rings to fit and layed out the coaming rim, but didn’t cut it out because it was raining and I didn’t want to raise a lot of sawdust in the shop. Also mixed up a six-ounce batch of epoxy and rolled a second coat on the deck. Spent some time on-line exploring ways to attach  bungee cord through holes in the deck. Also found on one of the forums, two IR backbands for less than the price of one. Will use one on this boat and save the other for the stripper I build next year. The Newfound seat and backband that I bought earlier for this boat will go into the Wood Duck.

September 12, 2009 – The official NOAA weather forecast for today was 50% chance of showers and possible 1/4″ accumulation. They were off by 5-1/2″! This might be common on the Gulf coast, but is very rare here on Cape Cod. My shop is on the lee side of the house, though, so I was able to keep the overhead door open, but had to do my cutting inside. It took five hours, but I now have all the coaming parts and both hatch lips cut and fit and ready to glue in. Will do that tomorrow, as I’m out of time today. Today’s work brings the total to 100 hours so far. That’s what it took to build and finish the Shearwater, but that was a kit with precut parts and plywood deck.

September 13, 2009 – Another shower today pushed the rain gauge over the 6″ mark for the weekend, but the sky cleared and some dry air blew down from Canada, so I was able to epoxy in the cockpit coaming and hatch lips. This is a messy job, and takes some care, but isn’t difficult. Took less than two hours. Coaming ClampsIt also shows once again that you can never have too many clamps.

Tomorrow I’ll flip the boat over and lay a thick fillet under the coaming lip to strengthen it. The West stuff is not like Cabosil. Instead of making a smooth mix like creamy peanut butter, it comes out the texture of oatmeal.

September 14, 2009 – Took off the clamps this morning and weighed the boat with the coaming and hatches in place. It came in at exactly 36 pounds. Still have to add hip braces, hatch bungees, seat, backband, foot pegs, deck hardware, end pours, paint and varnish, but will also be grinding off a pound or more of epoxy, so my 40-pound target remains in reach.

September 15, 2009 – Some tasks building a kayak are messy, some are challenging, and some are tedious, but only one is really hard work: smoothing out a plywood cockpit coaming. Surform planes seem to work best, especially the little one with the curved head. I also cheated a bit, and pulled out my trusty old belt sander. Sanded CoamingAnd I used a router to round over the inner edge of the coaming lip. Then I sanded everything by hand with 80-grit paper and sheathed it with glass cloth. Here is how it looked before sheathing. Two hours total for the day.

September 16, 2009 – Another short day – 1-1/2 hours – as I went paddling with the AMC group this morning. Cut and fit the hip braces, but didn’t glue them in yet. Laid another coat of epoxy on the cockpit coaming and the inside of the hip braces. Will glue them in tomorrow, then head to Maine for a long weekend. The boat is now fully constructed and ready to be sanded out for finishing.

September 17, 2009 – Just an hour today. Sanded out the hatch edges and rims, and inside the cockpit and end compartments. This is mostly to take rough edges off the cloth tape and remove any stray drips of epoxy. Then installed the hip braces. Will start the finishing process next week.

September 22, 2009 – Got back yesterday from a four-day trip through New Hampshire and Maine. On the way, I stopped at Kittery Trading Post, where I found a set of Padz thigh pads and my favorite Surf to Summit Grande Hot Seat, both of which I thought I’d have to order on line. The seat was 15% off list price, so I bought two.

This morning I weatherstripped the hatches and closed them with duct tape. Then I temporarily installed the seat, backband and footpegs. I planned to take the boat out for a trial run, but got lazy and decided to rest up from my trip. I did take it out onto the lawn and tried it for size. What a difference an inch makes! This boat is only an inch wider than the Shearwater, but it’s a lot roomier. It’s still a snug fit, but my feet fit on the foot pegs and I have room to move around and stretch my legs while under way.

This boat has just hit the forty pound mark. Rats! I still have to add end pours, deck fittings, varnish and paint.

September 23, 2009 – Sea trials today! Took the new boat down to Barlow’s Landing and ran a short paddle around the cove, duct tape and all. The extra inch of width gives this boat more initial stability than the Shearwater, but also makes it harder to carve a turn. Like the Shearwater, though, it tracks wells, turns easily with the paddle, and moves quickly.

There is about 1/2 inch more foot space, just as Eric estimated, but that gives me the wiggle room I needed. The deck is higher at the knees too, so I have room to stretch my legs when I need to. Like the Shearwater, this boat has a slight tendency to go to windward. I’ll loosen the backband a bit and move the seat back before I glue it down to see if that makes it more neutral. All in all I think I’m going to like this kayak!

September 25, 2009 – I drove up to Somerville today to Vaclav Stejskel’s One Ocean Kayaks workshop. There I tried on his Cape Ann kayak for size. After my experience with the Shearwater, I don’t want to invest 300 hours into building a boat that doesn’t fit my size or my paddling style. This is a beautiful boat that fits me like a comfortably tailored suit and is designed for the sort of fair weather casual paddling that I most enjoy.

Vaclav’s shop is in a basement room in a low-rent building within sight of downtown Boston. Once you get past the steel doors with the heavy bars, you find a neat shop with a home-made CAD sheet cutter in one corner and a half-dozen kayaks hanging from the high ceiling. Valclav is a big guy – 6′-1″ and 240 pounds – and designs boats that fit those of us who are taller and/or heavier than average. He freely shared his techniques and ideas, and answered my many questions without hesitation. I left with yet another set of plans under my arms.

September 26, 2009 – I took the boat outside today and spent three straight hours (it felt like six) sanding out the exterior. The FedEx guy stopped by with a package, and stayed to talk boats. He had built a strip canoe and understood what was involved in this project. Today is too chilly to put on the finish coat of epoxy, and tomorrow is predicted to be wet, but Monday is supposed to be back to 70 degrees, so I’ll do it then.

September 28, 2009 – My effort to keep the hatch covers from flatening worked, but the rear deck apparently flattened a bit. The result is a minor leak at that hatch. To fix this, I cut the bead off a cedar strip, cut it in two pieces to fit the hatch cover, feathered the ends and glued them in place with 5-minute epoxy where they will press against the weatherstripping. Hatch Rim

I also applied a finish coat of epoxy to the hull with a thin foam roller, then squeegeed it, catching the excess epoxy in an old mixing container, as it had picked up a lot of air in the process.

September 29, 2009 – Epoxy is very strange stuff. This morning I found what looked like a frozen snowball in the cup where I had left the excess epoxy that I squeegeed off the hull yesterday. The three ounces of foamy resin had expanded overnight to a pile 2-1/2″ high and 3-1/2″ diameter! Epoxy Foam

Today I turned the boat back over and applied a finish coat of epoxy to the deck and coaming. I also coated the hatch pieces and the screw holes for the backband. Will let it all cure for a day or two before I sand it out, as the curing process is taking longer in this cool fall weather. Total hours to date: 114.

October 2, 2009 – Another tedious two hours today sanding the hull. All the time thinking I should have taken my own advice and sanded the cloth edges before the epoxy fully cured. This is like polishing diamonds now! If I were going to varnish the hull, it would need another finish coat of epoxy to fill hundreds of minor dings that are too deep to sand out without penetrating the cloth. I’m using Interlux Pre-Kote, a high-build sandable primer, that should fill them okay. Will put that on tomorrow, then sand it out on Monday, as it looks like we’re in for a rainy weekend.

October 3, 2009 – Laid a thick coat of primer on the hull, using a cheap foam brush. It didn’t take long. I was glad I had a respirator, as the fumes were very strong. I left the garage door open a bit for a few hours, but could still smell this stuff hours later.

October 4, 2009 – Today I sanded off almost all the primer using 120 grit paper. I did most of it with a random orbit sander, then finished by hand. This material has microballoons in it that fill minor scratches and hollows. It really clogs up sandpaper fast. The first coat gets laid on thick and sanded back to almost nothing, leaving the low areas filled. It’s unbelievable how many low areas there were. Then I applied a thin second coat with a foam roller, which I will smooth out with 220 grit paper tomorrow. Too bad we don’t have something like this to use under varnish!

Sanded Primer AOctober 5, 2009 – Another short two-hour work day final sanding the hull and deck with 220 grit paper. This is a rare instance where a vibrator sander is the best tool to use. I also sanded out the inside of the cockpit with 80-grit paper and laid on a coat of high-build primer. Tomorrow I’ll sand that out then clean up the shop in preparation for the paint and varnish phase.

As I’ve said before, this is to be a work boat, not a show boat. It has too many cosmetic flaws because I rushed the construction. I’m painting the hull and inside the cockpit to cover a multitude of sins, and will finish the deck with Minwax Helmsman spar urethane. This material is less than half the cost of Interlux spar varnish, and gives a high-gloss finish in only three coats instead of the five required for varnish. It’s also easier to apply and cures faster and harder than varnish. It is made for exterior use and affords the same UV protection as varnish.

October 6, 2009 – Instead of cleaning out the shop after sanding out the primer in the cockpit, I painted the inside with the same Interlux Sundown Buff (a.k.a. Baby Poop Brown) that I will be using on the hull. I slopped it on roughly using an old synthetic bristle paint brush, but it dried nice and smooth with no hint of brush marks or sags. It was so thin when I poured it from the can that I was concerned about its ability to cover. If it were in a more visible location I would apply a second coat, but one coat covered remarkably well. I left the areas where I will be gluing in the seat, hip pads and thigh pads mostly bare. The bulkhead will be varnished when I finish the deck and coaming.
Cockpit Painted

I’m now laundering the sanding dust out of my shop clothes, putting away most of the tools, packing up the work tables and dusting out the shop area. The only sanding left is the hand work between coats of paint and varnish. It’s a good thing, because the soft pad that I bought from Newfound for my random orbit sander is beginning to come apart. It certainly was worth its cost, though. I’ll order another one for my next build.

October 8, 2009 – Dust is probably the biggest hindrence to a great paint job. Much of it is stirred up by walking on bare concrete or it falls from the ceiling. This is especially true if, like my shop, the ceiling is rough plaster and people are walking on the floor overhead. So today I swept out the shop, including the ceiling and walls, then hung a 4-mil polyethelene sheet from the ceiling. Don’t do this if you use high-intensity incandescent or halogen lights. My lights are flourescent so they don’t get too hot, and the sheet clears the bulbs by a foot or so.

Paint Shop Setup

Then I covered the floor with inexpensive drop cloths and wiped the hull down with a tack cloth. I applied a thin coat of Interlux single-part polyurethane using a thin-nap foam roller and tipping out with a disposable foam brush. The technique is covered on the CLC website.

October 9, 2009 – The finishing phase of kayak building has to be the most frustrating. The boat is done, you’ve tested it, and you can’t wait to get out there paddling, but it needs paint and varnish to survive long term and this is the best time to do it. This work takes only an hour or two each day, and it isn’t difficult, but then you have to tiptoe out of the shop and go somewhere else to avoid raising any dust.

Today I took the boat outside and sanded the hull with 220-grit paper, then brought it back in and rolled on a second thin coat of Brightside enamel. I also sanded and recoated the bottom of the cockpit, which looked a little thin in the sunlight. This paint sets up almost immediately when spread on very thin, so there’s no going back to touch up what my professional painter grandfather called “holidays”. You have to move quickly, but there is little chance of sagging or drips with this method. The 220-grit paper took off more paint than I would have preferred, so tomorrow I’ll use 320-grit before applying the final coat of paint on the hull.

October 10, 2009 – Once again, I took the boat outside, sanded it down, then brought it back in for one last coat of paint. This time I sanded with 320-grit paper, which I should have used before. I also laid the paint on a little thicker, which I should have done the first two times and not this time. I got a few sags and considered one more sanding and coat, but then came to my senses and ripped off the masking tape. Nobody will notice but me and these sags are not the worst of the blemishes on this boat.

My plan now is to let the paint cure for a few days before varnishing the deck. There are places along the sheer line where the white primer is peeking out from the bottom paint. I may try sanding them off carefully with a Dremel tool. On the other hand, it might look sharp and solve this problem if I run a strip of 1/4″ black vinyl tape along the sheer line after I finish varnishing. Total time to date: 128 hours.

October 11, 2009 – As usual, I got impatient and broke my vow to wait a few days before varnishing the deck. The hull looked good and the drips had shrunk so they will be noticable only to me, so I masked the paint and brushed on a coat of Minwax Helmsman with a foam brush. Unfortunately, I forgot to remove two spots of paint that had gotton onto the deck, so I’ll have to sand those areas deeply before putting on another coat. This finish can be sanded and recoated after only four hours, but I’ll wait till tomorrow.

There were two areas where I had not completely removed sanded epoxy from seams before applying a final coat of epoxy. These really stood out as white so I covered them with paints I use for modelbuilding: “dust” for the white cedar and “rust” for the red. Epoxy Dust in SeamEpoxy Dust CoveredThe result came out better than I expected, as you can see from these before and after photos.

October 12, 2009 – I sanded out the deck with 220-grit paper, per instruction on the paint can, and rolled on another coat of Minwax Helmsman on the deck. This material begins to set up quickly, but is far more forgiving than varnish if you have to go back and clean up a drip or sag. As long as you catch it within a few minutes it will smooth itself out.

October 13, 2009 – Sanded out the deck once more, this time with 320-grit paper, and rolled on a final coat of Minwax. I really like this material. It dries to a beautifully clear and hard finish, as shiny as varnish. I’m tempted to tape the hatches down again and take it to the AMC paddle tomorrow, but think I’ll wait until I get it fully rigged before making a public appearance. I bought some black 1/4-inch marine vinyl tape today to cover the seam between the varnished deck and painted hull where the primer peeks through in places.

Finished Varnishing

The Sundown Buff color of the hull and inside the cockpit is more accurately shown in this photo than in the earlier one. It brings out the beauty of the cedar deck. Shot JeansAlthough it is rolled and brushed on, it appears as smooth and hard as if it were sprayed. This paint looks far better than varnish on the plywood hull.

As I bent over to lift the boat onto the sawhorses for the last coat of finish today, my old shop jeans, with all their epoxy and paint stains, ripped wide open. Looks like I’ll need a new pair of old jeans for the next build!

October 14, 2009 – The black vinyl tape along the sheer line looks great! No matter how carefully you mask the line, there is bound to be a bit of noman’s land between the paint and the varnish. The 1/4″ tape not only covers the gap, but just seems to add a touch of class to the whole rig.

I also installed the backband, hatch seals and lifting toggles, then turned the boat over, propped one end on a stepladder and did the bow end pour. I was concerned about doing the end pour at 60 degrees F, but the instructions on the West G-Flex say it will cure down to 40 degrees, but will take longer to harden. I’ll leave it overnight before pouring the other end. When I installed the lifting toggles this morning I tied the ends of the cords together, then wasted at least a half hour trying to get the knots back into the handles. It wasn’t until after lunch that it dawned on me to knot each end of the cords separately!

October 15, 2009 – The bow end pour hardened okay, so I did the aft end pour today. Then I made a batch of anchors for the bungees that will hold the hatch covers closed. They are poplar, 1/2″ x 1-1/2″ x 1″ high, with a 1/4″ hole drilled diagonally.Hatch Anchors

October 16, 2009 – Another short day. Getting tired of this and need to take a break from kayak building for a while. Today I drilled holes for the deck rigging and sealed them with slightly thickened epoxy. Ear swabs worked well for this task.

I also glued in the hatch bungee anchors and the knee pads. Tomorrow I’ll seal the anchors with unthickened epoxy and install the deck rigging. Then on sunday I’ll put in the hatch bungees, install the seat and hip pads, and post finished photos.

October 17, 2009 – I had drilled quarter-inch holes for the deck rigging, assuming the epoxy would reduce them to 3/16″. It didn’t. So today I sealed them from underneath with packaging tape and filled them with slightly thickened epoxy. Tomorrow I’ll redrill them to 3/16″ and finish the rigging and fitting out.

October 18, 2009 – Finished the fitting out today. I had to drill the holes out to 7/32″ to get the 1/4″ bungee cords through. They are still tight enough that leaks shouldn’t be a problem. Instead of using the finger lifts I had made for the hatch covers, I installed 3/16″ cord through two holes in each cover. Hatch Lift OpenHatch Lift ClosedI can pull the cords up to make lift rings or push them down flat for paddling. The other ends of both cords  are attached to clips epoxied under the deck and serve as safety lines so the covers don’t get lost. I made these clips from one of the CLC filleting tools. Hatch Retainer

I had planned to use a Newfound seat, but it’s thicker than I like and would raise my center of gravity more than I want. Instead, I used a Surf to Summit Grande Hot Seat mounted on closed cell shims that Newfound sent for adapting their seat to a V-bottom hull. I also used Newfound hip pads, which fit this boat perfectly.Seat The IR backband can be adjusted while underway.

Here is the finished boat. It took 142 hours over a ten week period. Final weight, fully rigged: 42 pounds. That’s two more than I was aiming for, but still four pounds less than the slightly smaller Shearwater. I was delighted and flattered when I saw that Eric Schade used this photo in his new catalog.

On Beach R

May 26, 2010

Today is a scorcher, with temps in the mid-90s and no wind – too hot to work in the yard. The Ganymede is curing nicely, but still too soon to sand it out. The AMC group has a paddle scheduled down Cape, but I’m not yet up to a four-hour trip, with an hour drive at each end. So instead I took the Merganser down to Monks Cove for a true maiden voyage. I only paddled for an hour, covering about 2-1/2 miles, but it was enough to get a good feel for this boat and tire out my 69-year-old bod.

I think I’m gonna like this boat. It fits me perfectly, with enough room to stretch my legs and wiggle my feet; the seat is comfortable and it’s easy to get in and out. The boat moves easily, tracks well, steers with no problems and seems to handle well at all point of wind. I found I was not as spooked by the skittish initial stability as I was during the initial sea trials last fall. Secondary stability is quite good, thanks to the hard chines and 23 inch beam. I was a bit anxious when I hit some mild swells in one area, but I think those fears will disappear as I gain more experience with this boat.

I was using one of Eric Schade’s beautiful Greenland paddles, which is most appropriate for this boat. Unfortunately, this paddle tends to drip into the boat and, even though I was using a partial skirt, took a couple of quarts of water aboard. I might have paddled longer if I had thought to bring a sponge along. The hatch covers kept the water out of the ends okay. In summary, I would highly recommend this design to any moderately experienced paddler.

June 9, 2010

The Merganser got its first real workout today – a 9.5 mile paddle with the AMC group on the Slocum River in Dartmouth. I am very pleased with its performance and the way it fits me – snug but not cramped. This boat tracks and steers as well without a rudder as my CD Pachena does with a rudder. It also moves with a lot less effort. I paddled this route in the Pachena two years ago, using the same crankshaft paddle, and was exhausted after only five miles. This time I was pleasantly tired after twice that distance, and this was my first long paddle of the season. I’m getting used to the initial stability, but still need more practice in open water. We only did a short section in the bay today and the river was pretty calm. I have to take back what I said in my last post about the comfort of the seat, however. By lunchtime, after two straight hours of paddling, my butt was a bit sore.

June 10, 2010

I didn’t expect to spend today making a new seat, but now its done and I think it will be a big improvement. After experiencing some discomfort yesterday, I reviewed a couple of tutorials on carving a seat from closed cell foam. Most of them suggest using a grinder or wire brush to shape the foam; I found an easier way. Most also suggest making the seat as wide as the cockpit and 24-inches long. I had a piece of 3-inch foam left over from making a bulkhead footpad for my Shearwater that was wide enough, but only long enough to make a seat 14-inches deep in the center and 12-1/2 inches on the sides. This is the size of both the commercial seats I have, so I decided to use it.

First I cut it to size with the smooth edge of a sharp knife that was made for this purpose, and sanded the outside edges with a fairing board. Then I used the same knife to cut the seat generally to shape. Here’s what it looked like at that stage. This only took about an hour.

I then used a Stanley Surfoam rasp – the little curved one – to finish shaping the seat, trying it for fit several times along the way. Some hand sanding with 120-grit paper finished it off. This took another hour. Then I turned it over and cut the bottom in a way suggested by Vaclav Stetjkal on his One Ocean Kayaks site. I cut the back edge in a V-shape to fit the boat bottom, but tapered the cut to the front corners, leaving the front edge straight.

Having gone this far, I got bold and ripped out the old seat and hip pads, cleaned up scraps of foam still glued to the boat, and stuck the new seat in place. It fits snugly between the hip braces, so I didn’t bother to glue it down. I then trimmed the hip pads to fit between the new seat and the backband straps and glued them back on.

At this point I had to try it out, so I shed my shoes and jeans and jumped into the boat. After adjusting the seat location a bit, I noticed the comfort improvement right away. This seat isn’t any thicker at the contact points, but it fully supports my butt and upper thighs, leaving less pressure on those contact points.

June 17, 2010

Another long paddle yesterday proved to be a challenge, but the boat performed beautifully. It was another 10-mile trip with the AMC group – this time on Long Pond in Lakeville. I expected this to be a casual outing, but the wind picked up around noon and we had to paddle back against 15-20 knot winds with higher gusts coming from odd directions, as they tend to do on lakes. One gust lifted my bow and knocked me aside a few feet, but I was able to recover without incident.

The new seat was a big improvement, but not perfect yet. Vaclav suggests making a seat 20 inches deep and I think he is right as it would offer more thigh support. As far as performance goes, this is a very nice hull. At all points it tracks well, steers easily, has excellent secondary stability and nearly neutral tendency to turn into or away from the wind. I’m now very comfortable with the tender initial stability and learning to use it to carve turns and compensate for currents.

June 19, 2010

This boat is beginning to acquire the pleasant patina that comes with use. After only three trips, however, the paint on both bottom ends has been scraped down to the epoxy. The last trip was especially damaging as I dragged both ends on a concrete launching ramp when leaving and returning. So yesterday I ordered some dynel cloth and graphite powder from CLC to further reinforce these areas. I also ordered another 2′ x 2′ chunk of 3″ foam to make a larger seat.

July 3, 2010

I thought I wouldn’t be using this boat for a week or more, so I took my time applying graphite rub strips to both the prow and the skeg. First, I masked off the areas where I wanted to remove the paint and primer, then sanded down to the epoxy with an 80-grit rotary sanding wheel. The Interlux Brightside Polyurethane paint cures very hard and was difficult to sand off.

Then I remasked both ends to outline the rub strip area.

Next I applied a coat of unthickened epoxy and laid on strips of dynel cloth, doubling the cloth in the areas that were scraped worst. I was surprised to find that the dynel cloth absorbs much more epoxy than glass cloth does.

When the epoxy had set up, but was still soft – about four hours later – I trimmed the cloth with a sharp utility knife even with the edge of the tape. Then I peeled off the tape, taking the excess cloth with it.

After smoothing the edges with 80-grit sandpaper, I masked again, this time to the edge of the trimmed cloth, I applied two coats of epoxy thickened about 50/50 with powdered graphite. I should probably have added a third coat, as the weave of the cloth is still visible along the sides. It’s pretty thick in the areas that will get scraped, though.

Once the epoxy/graphite had set up, but not fully cured, I peeled off the tape, taking the excess epoxy with it. I did not have to cut it this time. When the epoxy had cured so it was dry to the touch, I masked off the entire bottom, sanded it with 120-grit paper in a vibrating sander, and applied another coat of Interlux Brightside. Since this is the bottom, I laid it on pretty thick and didn’t make much effort to get it smooth, as nobody will see it anyway.

This paint takes weeks – maybe months – to fully cure. I like to leave it at least a week before launching. But my daughter Kerry called and said she and her boyfriend both have rare days off Sunday and Monday and would like to visit and go paddling. By Monday it will have cured only four days, so to hasten the cure, I set the boat out in the sun all day yesterday and will do the same today.

September 26, 2010

Dan Thaler asked on  the CLC forum about making hatches flush. Here is what my front hatch looks like after a season of hard use. I used 1/4 inch thick closed cell foam weatherstripping, that has compressed to the point that the hatch now sits a bit lower than the deck. The rear hatch, which gets opened more often and has less pressure on the bungees holding it down, still sits flush.

June 14, 2011

Now into the second season with this boat, I am delighted with its performance in every way. I paddle seven to twelve mile trips once or twice a week with the local AMC chapter. This boat is fast, easy to paddle, steers almost intuitively, and tracks nice and straight on all points with little or no tendency to windward or lee. It fits me like a fine custom-tailored suit and is a pleasure to paddle. The seat is exceptionally comfortable and the graphite ends have stood up surprisingly well to some very rough use.

9 Responses to “Merganser Construction Notes”

  1. Glenn Says:

    Looks like a fun project. I built one of his Eider double with a hybrid deck last winter from plans.
    I have been debating on the Shearwater or the Merganser.
    I am 6’4″ and 200#. I will watching to see how you like the extra room.
    I built a 17′ Shearwater hybrid and donated it.
    Hind sight I am kicking my self for never tring it out.

  2. Glenn Says:

    For mixing cups I have be using the plastic cups from fast food joints. I just cut them down to 3-4″.

  3. Kristen Says:

    This is a terrific format to catch a view into the workroom and see exactly what you are talking about. I hope you post a picture of yourself in the finished product, when the time arrives!

  4. kayakkev Says:

    Looking GREAT!!! Time to consider a full Stripper, takes longer, but you have the talent.

  5. eric schade Says:

    She looks great Wes! keep up the good work!

  6. Glenn Witgen Says:

    Any idea how many hours you are up to. I am just starting a 17w also.
    I was going to just due the plywood deck but after seeing yours i may have to call Eric and order the plans for the deck forms. Did you use bead and cove on your strips?
    I have been thinking of tring it with out.

  7. Chris Says:

    I do a lot of epoxy work. Also work with urethanes, vinylesters and all sorts of other earth friendly goo. I recognized your epoxy foam right away. When you use fillers that trap a lot of air bubbles during mixing and the air can’t escape then the tiny trapped air bubbles will expand as the epoxy exotherms during curing. Like rising bread baking in the oven. Sand thru it and it will look like swiss cheese.

  8. kerry Says:

    Mate. That is one classy build, aswell as the presentation of the progress.
    Top marks. Well done.

  9. Wayne MacLennan Says:

    Hi Wes, Just a quick thank you for your detailed construction notes for your beautiful Merganser build. I have just completed one and your information was a huge benefit to my build.

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