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Building Tips



On this page we will be posting miscellaneous tips and tricks that can be used in building your kayak.  Some of these are our own ideas and some are borrowed from others.  Where we have used ideas of others, credit will be given to the person who we heard it from.  We will be adding and modifying items on this page from time to time, so check back periodically.

Images on Wood

There are many ways to put an image on your kayak.  You can draw, woodburn, paint, inlay, just to name a few options.  Some builders photocopy images or lettering onto rice paper or thin tracing paper and epoxy it on.  The paper essentially disappears, but does show a bit on close examination. 

One idea we have been experimenting with is photocopying directly onto fiberglass cloth.  This can be a bit tricky, but involves attaching the cloth to a sheet of medium weight paper and running the whole thing through the photocopy machine.   We use a lightweight satin-weave cloth (1.5 oz.).  Extreme care must be taken to make sure that all of the loose edges are securely fastened down to the paper.  We tape the edges with clear (Scotch tape type) tape.  Cut the cloth with clean edges.

Once the cloth is printed it can be glassed onto the wood normally.   it works best to reverse the print and apply the print with the print side down.   We recommend that another layer of cloth be placed over the whole thing to make sure that you don't inadvertently sand through your design.  Below is a photocopied design glassed onto wood.  This is an experimental piece with a "quick and dirty" epoxying job, just to see if it will hold up to the epoxy.  This scan has quite few reflections, in reality it looks quite a bit better.  The image is about 4 1/2" long.

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Hardwood Shear and Keel Strips

Our strip-built kayaks feature integral hardwood shear and keel strips.   These are typically made of either Ash or Mahogany.  These have a shaped cross section and are laid up as part of the hull construction.  These strips add longitudinal strength and frame the edges of the kayak with a pleasing wood.  The external stem pieces are made of the same wood and visually connect the keel strip to the shear strips.

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This sketch shows the cross section of the shear strip and its relationship to the deck strips and hull.  It is glued up with the hull, with the deck built and inset later.  The shear strip strip starts as 3/4" square and is shaped on all four corners before installation.  The relationship  of the hull angle to the deck angle will vary.

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The cross sectional shape of the keel strip varies along its length.   Near the center of the kayak it is relatively flat and about 2 1/2" to 3" wide, depending on the kayak model.  As it approached the ends of the kayak, it narrows to about 5/8" to 3/4" wide.  It is 5/8" thick for its entire length.  Along its length, the angle of the coved edges gradually changes to match the angles of the bottom of the hull.

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The left photo above shows the installation of the shear strips.   They are stapled to the forms through the rabbet on the upper, inner edge.   The right photo shows everything ready to begin installing the hull strips.   Note the internal stem piece taped in place.  It will be held in place as the hull strips are glued to it.  The red arrows in the right photo point to alignment holes in the forms.  The alignment is periodically checked by shooting a laser pointer through these holes the length of the kayak.

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These photos show the keel strip being put into place.  Note the coves at the end of the keel in the left photo and at the edges of the keel in the right photo.  The keel strip will be held in place by large rubber bands attatched to screw eyes in the underside and passed around the box beam.

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This shows the mahogany keel strip, external stem piece, and shear strip (red arrows, clockwise from upper left).



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Last modified: September 23, 2000