Building a pair of Chesapeake 16 sea kayaks
By Chris Jacobson
Paddling the south
shore of Ontario's Lake
of Two Rivers and into
It all began when we went camping in Algonquin Park in 2005. We rented a couple of plastic kayaks and the kids loved it. We came home with the intention of buying a couple of kayaks but while on the internet we saw these stitch and glue make'myourself boats. I purchased the books "The New Kayak Shop" and "Kayaks You Can Build." Both are available at Chapters or Amazon.com. We decided this was something we could do. We also discovered www.clcboats.com which would prove to be a tremendous source of encouragement during the project. We made a day trip to Toronto to purchase plans for a Chesapeake Light Craft 16 and some marine-grade plywood. The books have some great suggestions for worktables. We made a 17' one from some ¾" plywood and some stands from scrap 2x4's from a recent renovation.
What follows is the the step-by-step story
of the construction of these kayaks-from
basement worktable in September 2005
through launching in July 2006.
1. Scarfing the hull panels
After ripping two 4' x8' sheets of 4 mm marine
plywood into eight 11" blanks on the table
saw, I scarfed the strips together to make
full length panels. I used clear packing tape on both sides of the scarf joints to prevent
the epoxy from oozing out onto the panels.
2. Gluing the shear clamp
You can't have too many clamps for this job.
We did one side at a time.
3. Stitching the hull
We made up some forms to hold the kayak
at a comfortable height. The panels stitched
together like a charm. We used 20-gauge
copper wire from Home Depot. You can find
it in 50-meter rolls in the picture hanging
department. The kids cut it into 3" pieces.
We spaced our stitches every 4".
4. Checking for twist
We made up some stands and clamped the
kayak to the worktable. We then checked for
any twists in the hull.
5. Taping the seams
We applied masking tape to keep the epoxy
glue neat at the seams. We made various
rounded plastic tools to apply the epoxy fillets.
Its not a bad job once you get the hang
of it. Kind of like applying drywall compound
only more expensive and permanent. One tip
though after making your fillets, wait a couple
of hours before applying the 3" tape and
wetting it out with clear epoxy-makes for an
easier, less frustrating job.
6. Laying the cloth
The outside of the hull gets a layer of 6 oz fiberglass fabric.
7. First coat of epoxy
We brushed on then squeegeed the first coat of
epoxy. We used WEST SYSTEM 207 Special Coating Hardener for a nice bright finish.
Mom is tipping out any runs with a dry brush.
We'll add three or four more coats over the
next few days. One of the books suggested using
cardboard orange juice cans for the grunge
while squeegeeing-great idea.
8. Foot brace details
We made these fully adjustable foot braces
from ¼" oak with an epoxy coating. They
are easily adjusted by the paddler while sitting
in the cockpit. The hardware is all stainless
steel and they are fully detachable with
no through-hull fasteners. The front bolt
keeps the brace on track and the back wing
bolt tightens down after adjustment is made.
The deck beam was clamped in place and fillets
applied-again, no through-hull fasteners
for this either. The foot braces have
proven to be extremely rugged.
9. Fiberglassing the Deck
We covered the decks with 4 oz fiberglass
and clear epoxy. Mom mixed the epoxy and
I applied it. It's a good team job.
10. Got Clamps?
You can see we used lots of clamps for this
job. Once the ooze was cleaned up, I removed
the masking tape from the spacer
stack. It received a coat of clear epoxy when
we glassed over the coaming rim with 4 oz
cloth. It might sound strange, but I found
shaping the coaming enjoyable. It did not
take long with a spokeshave and sandpaper
and the result, with epoxy and varnish, was
like a piece of fine furniture.
11. Hatch Openings
I applied some wide masking tape to the
deck and strung a center line. I then traced
the hatch openings from the templates we
made earlier. I carefully cut the openings out
with a sabre saw. You can see our digital
scale on the floor. I periodically weighed the
kayaks to monitor the weight progression. In
the end they came in at 42 lb each.
12. Making hatch covers
The hatch covers were cut from 4mm marine
plywood. The frames were router cut from poplar. Not a great wood, but it will be encapsulated
After sanding the kayaks, we applied five
coats of Z-Spar Captain's varnish with an epoxy roller and tipped out the bubbles with a
foam brush for a coffee-table finish.
We started this project in September 2005
and pushed the kayaks out of the basement
and carried them to a reservoir down the
street for sea trails on July 22, 2006.
Taking a break on
Canisbay Lake in Algonquin
Park, August 2006.
We paddled the entire
shoreline of the lake before
moving on to
Smoke Lake the next
day. The kids leisurely
paddled the kayaks. My
wife and I busted our
asses trying to keep up
in a rented 15' fiberglass
Epoxyworks 27 / Fall 2008
Copyright © 2008, Gougeon Brothers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form, in whole or in part, is expressly forbidden without the consent of the publisher. EPOXYWORKS, Gougeon Brothers, WEST SYSTEM, Episize, Scarffer and Microlight as used throughout this publication, are trademarks of Gougeon Brothers, Inc., Bay City, Michigan, USA.