My First Wood Kayak

In April 2008, I decided to try my hand at making a wood strip kayak.  So I got on and ordered the forms for the hardest yak I could find to build… A design by Nick Schade called an “Expedition Single“.  I then purchased Nick’s book about building strip yaks.  While waiting for these items to arrive, I found a local source for free lumber at a local molding company.  They just pile their edge strips (which is junk to them) outside for the taking.  I loaded up my truck with enough poplar for the hull, cherry, mahogany, & poplar for the deck.  Found a great source for my epoxy and fiberglass supplies, and started scrounging all the accessories from fellow yakkers.

Making StripsOnce I started making strips,       it was time to come up with a design.  With that done, it was time to set the forms.  My plan was to work on the boat as I read how.  Hahahaha, who was I kidding???  It was more complete a step, then read what I did wrong.  Well with the forms set I placed my shear strips and started the hull.  .  Ooops, what was that about stems???  So I grab a piece of Ash, trim the ends of the hull, and cut a couple of outside stems.  This worked fine except now my 19 foot yak is 19′-6″.  Hmmmm, I start to have doubts with a boat almost 20 feet long, and only 20 inches wide… sounds like a log.  Well, move on to the deck and see what else 0011I need to learn.  Again I start with my shear strips, and then set my pattern. Well that went okay… I think.  Now just fill in the holes.  A little putty, and it is time to cut out for the cockpit.  I decided to use a ready made glass combing, so I had to adjust the deck area to except the combing.  This I did with mahogany.

dscf0816Now at this point I must tell anyone who is wanting to build a kayak, you must learn to love sanding.  Lots and lots of sanding  A little more putty and a lot more sanding.  The book I was reading talked about faring and using a block plane.  Not owning either of these tools, I just used my DA sander to shape and smooth.  Later I dscf0824learned why faring is important, but at the time I justified using my DA as being good enough on car bodies, it should work on my yak.  Now that I finished the shaping and smoothing to the point of 220 grit paper, it is time to move on to the next step.  Let me grab the book cause I know NOTHING about fibreglass!  All I know is that it itches when I put it in my attic.

dscf0850Now let me talk about family.  Anyone with older siblings understand that they are smarter & wiser to the ways of life because they have been around longer.  Up till now I could except this, but when looking for someone to help me glass my boat, my brother (8 years older) actually volunteered to help.  Okay, blew that theory, but a great help he was as we both learned how to do a glass lay up.  We started with the hull, and I protected the deck using painters tape and paper.  I read to use wax paper but I couldn’t figure out how to keep that in place, the tape just would not stick to it.  After wetting out the entire hull, I came back and put a second layer of 4 oz glass dscf0852under the cockpit area and both stems.  Added 3 more fill coats of epoxy.  Now it is time to strip the tape and paper, flip the yak and do the hull.  Okay now I know why you don’t use painters tape and paper.  When epoxy leaks under the tape it just really sticks good.  Played like H___ getting the tape off, and the paper… Who would think that paper wets out with epoxy and sticks to the boat in all the places where you don’t want it to.  Okay where did I put that sander?  Wax paper huh?  Well I did figure out to jam it in between the shear strips with a putty knife.   Oh Brother where are you?  After laying up the glass, and 3 fill coats of epoxy, it is time to strip the paper and have a look at dscf0865what this marvel is going to look like.  Okay, I will admit that pride is starting to set in.  The day dreams of plowing thru surf, going places no man has ever gone, even know that the fish I am sharing the water with will approve of this kayak.  It is time to go home and read the book for the 7th time for the next step.  I am starting to think I am a slow learner.

Okay, it says to split the two halves, remove the forms, and sand the inside.  What???  Oh Lord I hate sanding, and how am I suppose to get inside those inside curves and tight ends.  Hmmmm, Nick does mention that one can only see the inside of the cockpit area, and I think I read, maybe dreamed you could always paint this area so you dont have to be as finicky on the inside.  That was when my brain storm idea hit me, now where did I see that stuff???  Okay, I found some kevlar/carbon mats that were on sale because they were end cuts off the roll.  Gee, and look they even have it in Orange.  Hehehehe, 2 days later it came.  I had to work a little harder to wet it in, but I am feeling a little like a Banty Rooster. dscf0866 UH OH!  Kevlar does not cut like glass does.  Not even my razor knife will slice it.  Time to research how to trim it with out buying a $70 pair of kevlar scissors.  I looked around my shop and found a pair of shears that is used to cut plastic laminate.  Worked like a champ.  After glassing the inside of the deck, I had to put my baby up for 3 months while I flew to Alaska for 3 months to work.  I will admit that she was never far from my thoughts while I was there.

dscf1988Sept. 10th I returned to my Sunny Florida Home, happy to be back, and having down time I threw my self back into finishing my baby.  While I was gone, even though both halves were glassed, without the forms in it, the shear lines curled a little.  So when I joined the 2 halves together, the seam was ugly, and the curls were to deep to sand smooth both inside and out.  A good friend of mine had mentioned how sharp it would look if I used Carbon Fiber as skid strips on the bow and stern.  Hmmmm, so why not use that as my seam tape as well.  So I puttyed the outside and sanded the inside.  Then I added the carbon strips   When I was reading an online builders forum on CLCs web page, I saw a discussion about adding graphics.  So as long as I was adding epoxy, I decided to add a graphic.  I always liked mermaids, but a famous kayak maker already uses them, and after seeing whales in Alaska, I decided on a simple Whale drawing to go on one Whale of a boat.   So after printing my drawing on rice paper using dscf1991my inkjet printer, I inserted it between the carbon strips, and filled both with epoxy.  Now it is time to add the varnish.  I will admit that I had decided on 3 coats of varnish.  But by the time I got a finish I was happy with, I ended up with 5 coats on the hull, and 7 coats on the deck.  And for those of you at this step, I actually found joy in wet sanding between coats.  Something about rubbing the yak down with your hand making it smooth was satisfying.

During the construction of this kayak, I inspected every kayak, wood or composite with a whole new insight.  I decided that when it came to trimming it out, I was going to take the best of what I liked.  I drilled the deck with a hole saw where I wanted the deck line connections and added blocks drilled to except the plugs from the hole saw, added t-nuts, and epoxy coated the blocks, glued them in place so I didn’t lose my pattern lines, filled the edges with a fillet of wood flour and epoxy so these recesses would drain water and added semi recessed line clips.  I used “Waterproof” U-bolts on both ends for the deck lines and handles.  I also liked the way the handles are tied to the perimater line so they dont flop around, but easy to grab.  So I used 1/8 inch shock cord to do this.  I used weather strip from a car to put on my hatches for a good seal, An Extrasport replacement seat, an inflateable thigh brace for my back band, installed my minicellbulkheads, caulked everything in with “Black 3M 5200”.  Let me warn you, when using this caulking, wear gloves, once it dries, it does not come off skin.  At 3 PM Nov. 4th 2008 I completed my first kayak.  By 4:30 pm I was on the water.  I figured I actually have about 280 working hours including making my own bead & cove strips, graphics, and changes.  Please enjoy the pics and let me know what you think, good or bad… My next project is a “Guillemot L” from a full kit.




My special thanks to John and everyone at Chesapeake Light Craft , Sweetwaters Kayak , Osprey Bay Kayak , US Composites , Bill Jacksons , and all of my friends for thier support and ideas.

Kevin Thompson



I took the boat out today, and all I can say is WOW!!!  She weather cocks into the wind finer than any yak I have ever paddled. Casual paddle strokes in a 2 foot chop and I was flying around 6 knots in a headwind.  No rudder, or skeg and she tracks so well.  The only bad spot was when I crossed a motor boat wash (between the wakes where it is dead calm) and she quit cruising.  She is made for open water!!!!  A TRUE EXPEDITION YAK!!!!


  1. Nice build report and great blog you have going. I found your site through a link on my blog, I’m just finishing my workshop and will be starting a Cape Ann Storm from plans at hopefully around Christmas. I have the wood for the strongback, stations and stands for the kayak, but I have to get the cedar (hopefully late next week). I’ll be blogging the build and thanks for blogging your build. I’ve been trying to research as much as I can, and now it’s time to start building it!

    John McGillivray

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