Building Your Own Kayak

It can be so easy to just buy a kayak at an outdoors store or offline, but building it is a whole other story. Wouldn’t you love to be able to go paddling and say that you build the boat that is keeping you dry? You can complete this in 3 months of weekends and work nights. Seems crazy and like a lot of effort just for a boat that you could easily buy, but the experience is one that you’ll cherish.
Assembling the Forms
First, you’ll need to buy your supplies. Depending on the kit you buy, or the instructions you are following, the supplies may vary. Take your plan pieces, trace and cut them out for later use. Glue your cut outs onto medium density fiberboard, or MDF, and allow them to dry. Once dry, use a jigsaw to roughly cut each shape, and then use a band saw for more precise cuts. Follow the same procedure according to the instructions to cut the pieces of plywood. Also, cut the appropriate dimensions of strips from the piece of cedar. If you don’t have the appropriate tools to cut the cedar, you can buy them precut.
Applying the Strips
Now that you have all of your forms cut, dry fit each piece along the side of the kayak, always following the contour of the form. Be sure to mark the strip at each form piece. Use a hand plane to remove gaps between the pieces and apply the epoxy along the edge of each strip and at the frame. Be sure to press them firmly in place so they don’t warp or move about. Between the forms that you have previously cut out, tape the strips together and use a wood clamp where the form and strips meet. Joint contrasting strips together with butt joints when necessary. Glue and tape all joints until dry.
Fiberglassing the Kayak
This is probably the most important part. Fiberglass is what makes your kayak more durable and waterproof. Lay your strips of fiberglass evenly across the kayak. Be careful not to stretch the fabric or create runs. Any wrinkles or mistakes will create blemishes on the kayak. Mix 2 cups of epoxy according the instructions. It is a mix of resin and hardener and is only usable for 20 to 30 minutes after mixing. The hardener heats up the epoxy and it cures as a solid, but if it sets too long, it will be too hot and sticky to penetrate the fiberglass fabric. When applying the epoxy. Start in the center and work to the end to avoid wrinkles and bubbles created from the compressed fiberglass. Squeegee the liquid epoxy across the surface of the fiberglass. As the epoxy “wets out” the fiberglass, the glass will turn clear. After 30 minutes, return to each section and pull up the remaining epoxy. The first coat should have a matte and textured appearance. Let this cure over night and then apply a second and third coat with a night to cure in between. By the end of the third coat, your kayak should take on a smooth and glossy appearance.
When you are finished with all of the steps and procedures, your kayak should be able to keep you afloat. So, grab a paddle and a vest and hit the water. But, be sure to take a towel in case you spring a leak.