Kayaks & Kayak Building
My choice of Stitch and Glue kayak kits. Based on my having built a Roy Folland Sea Wolf (read about below) and a Pygmy Coho, I highly recommend the Pygmy Coho kayak due to the volume of boats sold and for their simplified instruction book, which sparse with illustrations but their telephone support exceeds expectations--I also like the recessed back end of the cockpit for layback rolls and all the fiberglass that goes on the deck inside and out--with bulkheads and hatches it weighs 43 lb. problems with the Sea Wolf, include: not high enough in front for size 11.5 feet, its bow heavy trim (small waves swallow the bow), imperfect hatch cover fit (huge amounts of water leaking in during rolling practice), noisy footbraces, excessively high cockpit which makes you look like the nerd who wears their pants with the belt up at the chest, the cockpit size makes getting in butt first a chore, unlike the easy entry into the Dagger Baja, which I just sold--a great boat despite its 55 lbs). The Sea Wolf, when tilted on edge, turns on a dime, & now has a rudder fixed in straight position for tracking and following seas. My Chesapeake West River 180 still awaits assembly, but it will go faster than the Coho because of the single panel deck. Symposium pearls
Tips for building a Pygmy Kayak. You'll get to steps entitled:
Copy/paste the above tips into your word processor--print, cut and tape into your construction manual as reminders.
- "Glue Outside Seams" If you can find a supply of large syringes (20 cc or larger), you won't have to clean the dental syringes after each epoxy session. You can also get thickened epoxy into the large syringes more easily than into the small dental syringes.
- "Reinforce the Bow Deck Panels." Bevel the forward and back edges of the reinforcement plates with a file, sanding block or router to create a smoother transition between the top of the plate and the underside of the deck. This will permit smoother fiberglass application later.
- "Glass the Outside of the Hull"
- Instructions call for you to roll on a saturation coat of epoxy. Since you'll apply gobs more epoxy with the fiberglass, you can squeegee excess epoxy off the hull after about 20 minutes. That epoxy sitting on the wood surface won't soak in much more and will neither improve the waterproofing nor enhance the bonding of fiberglass to the wood. It just weighs more.
- Start the epoxy process by rolling epoxy onto the fiberglass in a 10-20 inch swath and squeegee the excess, then go on to another section. Don't roll the whole hull before squeegeeing off the excess--the epoxy will have begun to set, making it difficult to get the excess off without messing up your work--AND it could float the fiberglass cloth above the wood, you no want--weakens boat. My boat probably has 5-10 ounces of extra epoxy it didn't need.
- Last paragraph: A strip of glass tape goes down the entire length of the keel line--put it on with the first hull fill coat, you'll partially fill the weave of the tape with the second hull fill coat and require just a bit more epoxy to fill the weave on the tape.
- "Join the Aft End of the Bow Deck Panels" Bevel the edges of the butt plate, again to permit easier fiberglass placement later.
- "Fillet the Inside Sheer Seam" Don't thicken the epoxy too much. I like it to flow enough to form a neat flat fillet--such that, if I drip the epoxy further than I want from the sheer seam, it will flow down to the seam. Glass tape the seam now, see instructions two steps later. Turn the boat and do the other side. Savings of two days.
- "Glass deck": When applying epoxy to fill the weave of the fiberglass on the deck, apply wide tape on the hull at the sheer so that any drips will come off with the tape when you return to check your work an hour after rolling/squeegeeing the epoxy on. You'll have epoxy drips and sags no matter how much care you take! When you fiberglass the deck, coat all sides of the lower coaming pieces & one side of the upper pieces and the hip brace pieces. When you apply a fillcoat to the deck, recoat the lower coaming pieces & coat the other side of the upper coaming pieces and the hip brace pieces. When you apply a 2nd fillcoat to the deck, fiberglass one side of the upper coaming pieces and the hip brace pieces. When you glue the lower coaming to the deck, apply fiberglass to the other sides of the upper coaming pieces and the hip brace pieces. Saves two or three days.
- "Cockpit Coaming" Each hip brace will have three fillets--two on the hull and one where it contacts the deck. About 2 hours after putting the two fillets on the hull, flip the boat upside down and apply the fillet to where the brace contacts the deck. Sand the sharp edges of the coaming, & epoxy the exposed wood twice for waterproofing.
- "Install Seat" Third paragraph: When marking the black plastic seatback to drill holes, apply masking tape and mark it where you'll need to drill holes. THE best tool for bending the seatback is the Black & Decker Workmate (or similar). Or forget the Pygmy back rest and get a Rapid Pulse back band from CLC Boats. Last paragraph: Mounting anything under the back of the coaming is hard. No normal sized drill will fit under the coaming--the easiest and cheapest way to drill a hole here: use a self drilling screw. Don't buy an angled drill chuck.
I began kayak racing for the first time ever in 2003, paddling with Marc Tomlinson his SEDA Tango double kayak (21' X 29"), owned by. Marc has raced with me twice. I need (want) to acquire a Chesapeake Sport Tandem for racing. We'd love more paddlers--see Sound rowers. More info on paddles/racing.
Movable Dashboard below:
A unique way of racing the Lake Samish race.
Review the forward stroke with this article from Sea Kayaker Magazine.
Kayak videos and Gear at trailstuff.com
Noah's Marine for paints, wood, epoxy other raw material
Build your own Kayak Cart:
Learn about kayaking
South Sound Traditional Inuit Kayak Symposium.
West Coast Sea Kayak Symposium.
- Mariner Kayaks has a great info page on paddles.
- I don't know a thing about AT Paddles
- Or, for less than $20, make your own Greenland Kayak Paddle!:
Oct 23, 2002. I have now completed my Roy Folland Sea Wolf kayak. I expect to launch it within a week after I have glued in knee/thigh braces.
|Below, some emails that helped me decide which kayak to buy. Sadly, the only real way to know is to buy one of each and build.
some thoughts on buying a kayak by mail order
Does anyone have experience with building wooden kayaks
from kits? I'm thinking about a Stitch and Glue plywood
kayak. If so, do you have a recomendation on a good kit
manufacturer. And how difficult is it really? The ones
that I have looked at say 40 to 60 hours plus time for
staining and painting. Is this accurate? Are they good
Kayaks when completed? Any input would be helpful.
I've researched this a bit for myself. I have found
at least 3 kit makers
that send you parts and instructions for
Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC)@ http://www.clcboats.com (301) 858-6335
Roy Folland @ http://www.royfolland.com
450 458 0152
Pygmy @ http://www.pygmyboats.com 360-385-6143
Differences that I found: CLC
makes all kind of boat kits. The others stick
to kayaks and Pygmy also makes a canoe kit.
CLC and Roy
Folland includes hatches and bulkheads, Pygmy leaves out
deck fittings ($13), hatches and bulkheads ($59) but gives you
a nice thermarest seat cushion. All make
narrow and wide singles. CLC boats seem to run a
bit on the heavy side, but all still underweigh the $2,500 fiberglass boats by 10-15 pounds for the same size boat. Expect to pay
$100 or more for a rudder if you think you can't live
without it. You can add a rudder to most kayaks after
you've paddled and found you need it.
Decks: Pygmy uses 4 piece decks, i.e., you will
count 4 panels from port to starboard; Roy F and Ches
use 1 piece decks. I spoke to Roy and he says his decks
are not "tortured", i.e., bent in more than one
direction to form the deck. Ches does decks the same way. With all but the Pygmy you might expect to do quite a bit of woodworking.
Hulls: Roy F uses hard chine hull
design only, so if you look at the hull from the front of the
boat you see the left hand diagram below.
Pygmy and Ches also let you choose multi chine hulls--See right.
Go to the Pygmy or CLC site to learn more about hull design. San J boats also have a
fixed skeg and graphite mixed in with epoxy on the hull for dragging the boat up on rocks, sand, etc. All four kitmakers provide sheets of fiberglass for the outside of the hull and strips for the joints inside the hull. Pygmy gives you fiberglass sheets for inside the hull and the deck as well--the website tells of a customer's boats falling off a car at highway speed and surviving with only minor damage--a duct tape rescue story.
Hulls II: Marine grade plywood comes as 4 mm thick
4x8 ft sheets--any boats worth paddling will eventually exceed that, so the kits come with hull pieces which
you must join. Ches uses scarf joints
wherein pieces overlap one another--for the joint to end
up with the same thickness as the rest of the stock, the
edge of the wood at the joint gets cut to eardrum thinness
and tapers to 4mm. Pygmy uses butt
joints, shoving and gluing the edge of one piece to the
edge of the other, and using a piece of wood or
fiberglass to reinforce. Roy F uses a finger joint
to bring panels together and claims superior strength to
any other method. Do these matter during
construction? I might find either the butt joins or
the finger joins the easier to put together. Do
they matter when the boat hits the water? I don't
A very knowledgeable kayaker friend said he paddled a 14
foot pygmy and said it was fast! It oughta be at
only 32 lb. Still, the extra length of a 17 footer
might more than counterbalance the 7 extra lb.
the $$ breakdown:
Chesapeake LT17--$699 from Maryland. Chesapeake annually
discounts their boats 10% every fall.
Pygmy Arctic Tern--$695 + deck rigging $13 +
bulkheads/hatches $59=$767 from Wash state.
Roy Folland Sea Wolf--$769 from Quebec
Add $40-70 s/h to all prices depending on your distance
from the shipper.
I will probably buy a kayak from Roy Folland or Pygmy.
|--- Jeffrey Wong wrote:
I just ordered the Sea Wolf after having spoken to
Dale Beatty, who bought a Thunderbird double from Roy. I
made my choice due to the finger joints--probably a
stronger joint than the butt joint and scarf joint
offered in other kits, but more importantly, an easier
and quicker joint if cut precisely. And, when I want a
tippy boat, I'll get one from Pygmy.
Have you completed construction on your boat? Have you completed painting/varnishing?
Have you had your boat in the water, yet? If so, do
you feel that the Roy Folland website made good
paddle size recommendations (I ask because he > specs
a 240 cm paddle for paddlers over 5'8" and my
5'10" paddler friend with his 22" wide
boat likes his 214cm paddle)
I only needed to know about any hints that I might
find helpful, if the instruction book omitted anything.
Anything else, I'll just email or phone Roy Folland. I
got the impression that Roy would assist in the event
that any confusion arose from his instructions.
Does the instruction book offer suggestions on
|From : Joe Mattinson
To : Jeffrey Wong
Jeffrey, you haven't gone wrong. The plans are extremely
detailed and Roy Folland is very helpful if you ever have
any questions. Plus, the boat paddles beautifully.
The kayak is very strong; you're right about the
interlocking joints. They are precision machined so that
when you assemble them they will be perfect and are very
strong. The hull and bottom sections are all precision
machined as well for a perfect alignment. There are
numerous ideas that Roy has incorporated in the kayak
design that I was very impressed with.
I've actually built two now, one that I've been paddling
for over a year. I have added a rudder since I first
built it though. I find a rudder is an advantage when the
wind and waves gets heavier.
I think a 230 or 240 cm paddle would probably be better
than a 214. However perhaps you could borrow and try a
few of different lengths after you've built the kayak but
before you decide finally on a paddle.
There are 2 manuals, one with diagrams, the other with
detailed instructions. They are well written and I found
that every word is important. Yes Roy does discuss
painting and varnishing.
Good luck, keep in touch!!
I did make some comments for a friend who also built one
that I will dig out and forward to you.
- Because of the requirement for fairing compound, you won't clear finish the hull to show off the pretty mahogany.
- The kit did not include knee braces, essential for leaned turns and Eskimo rolling. I took the cutouts from making the hatch openings and fashioned a couple pieces to keyhole my cockpit and provide a place to glue in the knee braces. Pygmy charges $7.50 for knee braces. Chesapeake makes their cockpits in a keyholed configuration.
- The cockpit feels a bit high, because a plastic boat I use, the Dagger Baja has a low cockpit which allows one to paddle with the elbows closer to one's torso. I compensated by not carving the seat as low as you might with a "proper" cockpit height--the extra seat height may compromise the boat's stability. I like a cockpit height of 10" or less at the rear, measured from the bottom of the boat to the top of the coaming (the lip that frames the cockpit).
- My size 11.5 feet seem a bit cramped in the cockpit.
- The rudder, if mounted on the bracket sold separately, slaps on the back deck when retracted. The Feathercraft rudder should mount instead in a hole drilled in the stern, which should have an endpour of epoxy/filler.
- Design problems led to a leaking front hatch and a broken footbrace. Now it's grounded until I can repair the boat. I hope this won't be like the proverbial Daddy's Jaguar, which spent more time at the shop than at home or on the road.
- For a first effort, I would say I did a nice paint/varnish job on the boat, but a bit more advice would have helped. No one told me that the 3M Fine Line masking tape could stay on until the last coat of paint/varnish--I have a decent but not perfect edge between paint & varnish.
- I bought my kit from Roy, because of the personal attention I felt that I'd get from him, which held true. Roy always communicated with grace.
- You get to carve your own seat.
- The boat has the most beautiful lines for any boat.
- It turns well and tracks well.
- The foot braces, though unconventional, adjust more easily than the Keepers or Yakima you get with other kits.
- The deck goes on without nails. Tape holds it on until the glue cures. very clean looking.
Roy expects to have made some design changes by the end of this month.
23 Nov 2002|
I took my sea wolf for a small lake float today. It still paddles well. I capsized the boat, but for some reason, could not Eskimo roll it--I attributed that to having my skirt up too high and tight making it difficult for me to breathe, bend sideways and flick my hip. After re-entering, the left foot brace fell off the rail--I didn't recall pulling back on the retaining strap, so that baffled me as I slid the brace back on. I put my foot back on the brace and it immediately fell off again. I had either a broken rail or broken brace. Inspecting the brace I found that the plastic had a long crack and had separated from the wood. Not good. Fortunately, I hadn't gone far and could paddle back to shore easily. I might possibly repair this piece with some hardware, epoxy and fiberglass, but stay tuned! I advise mightily beefing up the braces or upgrading the kit's footbrace to either Keepers or Yakima braces.
My forward hatch leaked water while I made my Eskimo roll attempts--I had suspected it would because of a mismatch in the curvature of the hatch cover and the foredeck. I relocated my hatch bending jigs & found they matched my hatch covers nicely, but their radius undercut the radius of the hatch opening quite significantly. Quite possibly, no one else has had this problem or no one has ever reported it to you. Regardless, perhaps the instructions might take into account such occurrences as my own. Solutions include:
Having said that, I'd like to redo my front hatch covers. Could you send me a front hatch cover, doubler and gasketing, please? I like the looks of my boat and I'd like to repair & keep it.
- Use the hatch cutout as the hatch cover. I would use strips of plywood to form a lip or shelf at the edge of the hatch opening and go from there.
- Cut the hatch openings BEFORE making the hatch covers. Kit builders will then modify the hatch bending jigs to fit the curvature of the hatch openings.
|25 Nov 2002|
We have had a problem in the area you mentioned with the foot braces.
We will send a new set of foot braces that have been cemented properly
along with several other changes.
Please let me know whether or not there is any damage to the wooden
We'll also send the hatch cover and doubler. Fortunately they have not
been much of a problem. However they haven't been perfect. Several
builders have solved the problem by using a thicker gasket. We supply
1/4" thick gasket that can be replaced with a 3/8" thick gasket. The
material we use is closed cell neoprene weather stripping. The 3/8"
thick material will allow for more misfit. We'll see if we can't find
some of the 3/8" thick gasket and send it on to you.
You should be aware that many hatch covers leak somewhat. If you are
storing something that must not get wet,it should be in a dry bag.
There is a molded flexible plastic hatch cover available that is
supposed to be watertight. It requires a frame to be built to accept
it, and they are very expensive. The come from Europe. They are about
the only ones that I know of that you can count on not to leak at all.
Thanks for the comments
Let me know about the tracks.
thanks for sending stuff.
As I don't expect 100% leakproofness, I drybag everything, but after less than 30 seconds capsized, I had more than 8 oz of water in the front compartment.
What happens to the hatch opening cutouts? Do they "springback"? I don't know as I tossed out the front cutout and used the back cutout for knee braces. The back cutout was still curved, but I didn't inspect it for springback.
What do you think of this suggestion: sanding the curvature of the hatch bending jigs to match the hatch openings and then simply gluing the hatches the doublers AND the jigs together--perhaps then we can eliminate second guessing springback.
Forgot to mention. The bending jigs have to have a tighter radius than
the deck curve in order to compensate for any spring back when the
glueup is removed. Since you've just done it, you should be able to
determine what,If any spring back did occur. I'd like to know.
I had put the front hatch covers together 4-5 months ago. No springback. In fact, I didn't remove the hatchcovers from the jigs until fully cured. Springback can no longer occur in my case. I believe a perfect match may not be possible, but my hatch cover is pretty far off. I'll send you a tracing paper of both the hatch cover and the jig if I get a chance.
If I can get the jigs to match the hatch opening radius, and then avoid the "springback" thing (I succeeded with that when I put the original hatch covers together), I may only need the 1/4" thick closed cell foam gasketing. You can send the 3/8" gasketing if you find it, but please definitely send the 1/4" gasketing.
A more careful inspection of the footbrace track didn't reveal any damage.
I did not mean to imply a boat problem in my failed Eskimo roll. I know that I don't have a rock solid roll and I know that I didn't position myself in a posture that would favor a successful roll. Lesser persons than myself have a better roll rate. I also suspect that I didn't have my head down on my shoulder as I came out of the water. I haven't rolled for awhile due to time constraints. Perhaps in a few years Eskimo rolling for me will be more like riding a bicycle.
Oct 18 2002
26 Nov 2002 10:32:08 -0500
Q1. Spring back usually occurs because of the natural tension in the wood
that is being laminated, and is not affected by how long the epoxy has
cured, as long as it is cured. I'm glad to learn that there really was
no spring back with your covers. It is also affected by the amount of
curve being created and the number of layers being laminated. The
flatter the curve the less chance there is of spring back.
Q2. I'm wondering if we couldn't use the deck of the kayak as the bending
form instead of the jig. This would be done before any cutouts are done.
I'd like your opinion but I will try it here as soon as I can get to it.
The parts you need will be sent out within a few days.
A1. I wager that you will find springback occurs inversely proportional to the amount of epoxy/cabosil used to make the hatch covers. If we use the same radius as in the deck to make the jigs and enough epoxy cement, we'll get damned close. The epoxy should cure at room temperature (72 deg F or 22 deg C) at least 18 hours to assure a really hard set.
A2. Using the deck (before making cutouts) of the kayak as the bending form instead of the jig could temporarily reduce the radius of the deck and result in a hatch cover with a radius greater than the deck and less than flat. Another consideration: how would the builder clamp the hatch cover and doubler to the deck? Tape? It might work, but I would stick with the jigs custom contoured to the deck curvature, using the steps below:
- cut a hatch opening.
- one jig fits into the hatch opening at the front. Hold it against the front of the hatch opening so that at least a little bit sticks up above deck from left-right and use the deck as a guide to scribe the radius onto the jig with a pencil. Write "front" on this piece.
- another jig fits into the hatch opening at the rear. Hold it against the rear of the hatch opening so that at least a little bit sticks up above deck from left-right and use the deck as a guide to scribe the radius onto the jig with a pencil. Write "rear" on this piece.
- Cut along the arcs you have just drawn and discard the pieces "above deck." You now have jigs.
- Generously glue and screw the doublers to the hatch covers then glue and clamp the assembly to the jig and let cure 18-24 hours. voila! You now have a hatch cover that will fit tightly and not leak water when Eskimo rolling.
I have tried putting a small block of wood under the straps & over the center of my small radius hatch cover to effect a seal with little success--this hatch cover is really stiff and really likes the radius given it by the jig! Hey, Roy, I have an idea that probably won't work, because you've probably already tried it. Forget the doublers, glue the hatch covers to the jigs, does that work?
Yet other ways to put in hatches:
Thanks again for the input.
We had a meeting yesterday with Canada's largest Outfitter. They offer
our kits as well as finished kayaks and like them a lot. Their own
instructors use them a lot and they had some excellent input and
suggestions for us. No.1 on their list was to reduce the depth of the
kayak at the rear of the cockpit. They also talked about the other
items you mentioned.
We will start next week to make changes to the design file to
incorporate those changes.
Our objective is to provide, in our kits, the same or higher level of
technology that you can get in a well designed high end composite kayak.
Aug 18, 2003
A paddling friend watched as I paddled my Sea Wolf and commented, "The boat seems pretty fast, but what's the creaking noise? And your bow seems to ride low. The builder should move the cockpit back 3 inches." I thought, "Sure, doing that might also reduce weathercocking."
I plan to replace the footbraces with Keepers plastic footbraces. I have had enough of the noise, so much so that I won't paddle it until I have that completed.
Sea water did leak into the front hatch, just from the water washing over the bow. We had less than 1 foot chop. Analyze that.
I plan to sell the boat at the West Coast Sea Kayaking Symposium--The boat looks beautiful and should sell quickly.