John’s F1 Build, Des Moines, IA

Hello Everyone,

I have been in the planning process for building an F1 for about 8 months now. I have limited financial resources at the time, and I do not have a woodworking shop, or a wealth of nice tools. I have been slowly collecting chisels, rasps, drills, bits, hand jig saws, clamps, planers, and other tools. I have collected most of it from second hand stores so there has been some work to get things sharp and in working order.  Also, I do not have a table saw, power planer, band saw, or power miter saw. As I have a lot of friends, all of this was able to borrowed.

Here is a little background on my experience with Kayaking. 4 years ago, one of my mother’s very good friends was facing his end of life due to cancer. He was going through the process of finding new homes for many of his prized possessions. One of which was a 1958 Folbot super Tandem folding kayak. He offered to give it to me and transfer the title. The boat had been very well taken care of and is still in working order. I have over the last few years rebuilt a few parts that had been weakened over the years. It remains a favorite of my 5 year old daughter. After spending some time looking at how to replace the skin in the event of a critical failure, I stumbled upon the craft of skin on frame kayaks.

I became enamored with the idea of building one for myself. I dug in to researching the various builders, designs, and styles. I eventually decided to try my hand at a Kudzu Craft Short shot. The fuselage style seemed easier to me and while I seriously considered building one of Brian’s designs, the mortising, steam bending and overall design seemed overwhelming to me. After about 5 months I did complete the Short Shot. It is a great boat, fun to paddle and looks beautiful. It lacked some comfort and due to the fuselage cross members, it is hard to stuff gear into it. I could not use stuff-able float bags with it. So, I decided it was only going to be a first attempt at building a kayak.

When I began my first kayak, I had zero wood working experience. I mean absolutely zero. I had never built anything before in my life out of any material. So, building a kayak seemed way over the top for a first project. I learned a lot about myself during the process. Mostly what I learned is that, despite how daunting a task may appear to be, I am capable of completing it. I started off not believing in myself and ended the process thinking I was capable of achieving whatever I set my heart on.

I guess the reason I am saying all of this is because, I was not the type of person who would have ever believed I could build a kayak. If this is what you believe about yourself, I am here as an example that you can do it. Brian’s building system and class are remarkable in that they take you through every single step. He does a remarkable job of helping guide you past all of the pitfalls of easy to avoid mistakes. Brian holds your hand the whole time and every step seems like a well earned achievement.

I had some left over beautiful rift saw clear perfectly grained cypress from my previous boat, but not a lot of it. With limited financial resources i set out to find wood at a budget. Clear western red cedar is very hard to find in Iowa. But, I was able to find some lovely Douglas Fir boards. they were only ten feet long though. The price was right and from my previous build i was confident in my scarf jointing skills. Bending oak was not able to be purchased locally and all of the local mills did not respond to my inquiries. With limited access to a table saw i opted to acquire the bending oak from Cape Falcon. I am glad I did. I did also have a little bit of western red cedar from a 8×8 post that I had used for for building a paddle a year ago.

My friend is a talented art museum art installer and allowed me access to his shop for a morning where I cut and planed all of my stringers and gunwales. 3-9-2019

Time was cut short though so i was not able to get the cross sections cut.

Knowing I that I would need to make some scarf joints that I could be confident in, I decided that I would need to make a jig. I did not have a power miter saw but did have an antique Stanley Miter saw. The saw for it was very dull though, so after some youtube I got started sharpening it by hand with a small triangular file.

April 3

So I did all that work sharpening my antique miter saw only to realize that the jig I had made for the miter saw would not fit it. So I borrowed a power miter saw from my friend. I built the above jig so i could accurately cut diagonal cuts into my long stringers and gunwales. It worked out pretty well.

One struggle I had on my past kayak with building scarf joints is that when you clamp the two pieces together, they want to slide away as you apply more pressure. To remedy this, I drilled holes into the perpendicular faces through the joint and pounded dowels through the joint. this added stability and kept the two edges from sliding apart. The first photo is a stringer. the second is a gunwale. I decided to cut in butts into the angles to make the joint stronger. I dont know is actually the result. I also put a few dowels through the gunwales. Overall, I was pretty happy with how they turned out. they seem very strong.

Here are some photos of the curved deck beams while under glue and clamp in the forms. I have decided that I greatly despise working with Gorilla glue and will try to avoid using it again. It is messy, sticks to everything, is hard to clean, and leaves a lot of work to do in order to make the finished product look nice. On one of these laminations I clearly used too much glue. Make sure you take Brian’s advice and wax your form. I somehow missed this step and wished I had not. The curved deck beams are made out of Cedar (1) and Cypress (2 of them)

Second post – Failure

This last year was fraught with setbacks on building my F1 Kayak. March 2019, I took off an entire week from work to dedicate to the project. Things were moving along great. Due to my previously mentioned lack of funds and tools I had to do a lot of improvising early on.

After marking all of my measurements on the gunwales, I began the long and tedious process of cutting all of my rib mortises with a power drill and hand chisels. I think in all it took me about 8 hours to do all of them.

Next, I started to cut the deck beam mortises. This seemed like a pretty straightforward process. But I did make one mistake that would later come back to haunt me. At the location of the fifth deck beam my angle ended up being off a little and the opening ended up angling up in to the top of the gunwale. Knowing this was not a critical location for the deckbeam placement I moved a new mortise hole 1.5 inches back. When I cut this location a chunk of wood blew out on the backside of the drill hole.

I glued the chuck back on and decided to keep going. Hoping this all was going to hold together.

I let things sit for a couple of days as I prepared to start the stem bending process. The deck of the kayak was complete and it felt like a major accomplishment.

The morning i came out to the garage to get set up for steam bending I went to go look at the gunwales and check for stability in the locations where I had made the corrections. That mistake I had made earlier in the process was now staring back at me. At the location of the 5th deck beam the gunwale had cracked and the entire geometry of the boat had shifted as a result. I sent Brian a series of photos and asked him some advice. With regret he informed me that the best course of action would be to scrap the work I had done and to start the process over. I was devastated, but also determined. First, i would need to save up money to purchase some more wood to work with. This time, I was going to do it right though and skip on the Douglas fir and make the extra effort to find western red cedar.

Third Post – Starting Over

After saving up some money over a couple of months, I began work again on the F1. I was able to find through a local lumber distributor a piece of 16 ft perfect red cedar. It cost me a lot of money in Iowa though. I ordered it and was ready to continue work. In the mean time, a new development happened which would change one important part of the build process for me. At a dinner party of friends of my now ex-gf, I was describing my woes with the failure on the kayak build and how much time I had spent hand chiseling my mortises. Her friend, Mike, asked me if I had ever heard of a mortising tool. Of course I had but my budget would not allow me to acquire such a nice piece of equipment. He then gifted me his. He said he had picked it up at a garage sale for 20 bucks and was never going to use it.

So I went to my local wood specialty shop and purchased the correct sized bits for it.

With my new western red cedar I started cutting out the gunwales. I already had scarfed stringers and keels made from Douglas fir. I also had a buddy drop off a power thickness planer which added to the ease of the project.

I got the gunwales marked and set up to send them through the mortising tool. Oh my god, this was so much easier. What took me a total of ten hours before I was able to finish in about an hour. In order to put the angled mortises for the rear deck beams I did have to devise a jig, which unfortunately I do not have good photos of.

Since my previous deck beams had already been used, I found enough scrap wood between the pieces of cypress, Douglas fir and western red cedar to put together three more sets of laminated curved deck beams and rear deck beams.

Now that I had precise mortise cuts as a result of using the mortising tool, this process was much easier and I was able to install all of the deck beams in a couple of hours.

I had the deck of the boat completed, now for the second time. I was much happier with the results the second time around. I did notice after completing the deck that I had lashed the ends together from above instead of below. I left them as is for the time and would find out later that the rear lashing would need to be shifted to the bottom of the gunwale.

Fourth Post – Ribbing

Having assembled the deck it was time to install the steam bent oak ribs. I tried for some time to find some local green or air cured white oak appropriate for steam bending. Everywhere I had called it was either unavailable or extremely expensive. This is odd to me as there are white oak all over Iowa. I have two enormous ones in my backyard. My guess is if I had made enough phone calls I eventually would have found something.

Brian Schultz put out an email saying he had some extra rib stock on hand and was willing to trade it for a blog on a build. I immediately jumped on his offer. He sent enough rib stock to me to to get some practice bends in and have a few boards left over after completing the boat. If you are struggling with finding rib stock or are just wanting to avoid the hassle, the stuff he sent is perfect, and it would totally be worth the money to have it shipped to me whenever I get around to building another boat. Highly recommended. In addition to the rib stock, I had a coaming shipped to me as well.

Steam bending was straight forward. It had been many months since the ribs had been shipped to me, so I though they were likely a little dry. So, I soaked them over night to prepare them.

I used Brian’s design for the steam box and attached a wallpaper steamer to it which worked very well and was easy to fit.

I ran into an issue early on in the process though. The gunwales began to split down the middle due to the pressure being exerted by the ribs in numerous places. I went ahead and ribbed the entire boat and then backtracked to try and find a solution. I knew the splits would need to be glued. After discussing with Brian via email, he suggested taking my chisels and flaring the openings of the mortises at a slant to allow more space. This seemed to take the pressure off and I felt more confident in gluing the splits and clamping them.

I found the ribbing part of this build to be fun and not nearly as challenging due to Brian’s excellent instruction. Later on I had realized that the overall line I had created with my bends was probably not up to snuff which created another problem I ended up having to tackle at a later time.

Fifth Post

There was a significant gap of time between ribbing the boat and lashing the stringers and keel. Some other projects ended taking center stage in my life.

I decided to use the scarfed douglas fir stringers I had already made from my first failure with building the F1. Putting on the keel, bow and stern stems was fun.

The next step of putting on the stringers would be problematic. I had scarfed together the boards using Gorilla Glue with tight clamping and dowels as well. It turned out one of the joints rested directly over the fifth deck beam which is one of the highest stress points in the design. And it failed.

I spoke to one of my friends, who is a specialty woodworker who does a lot of custom installs and interior work. He also has made a lot of outdoor furniture. He highly recommended Titebond 3 over gorilla glue for this type of use. He had thought had I used tightbond the risk of failure would have been minuscule. Luckily, I still had enough Western Red Cedar to cut both stingers out and apply them.

Lashing was quick and easy.

After adding the deck stringer and the load boards in the back of the boat, it was time to oil it up. I used tung oil which required two days to dry.

Sixth Post – Skinning the Boat

After letting the oil dry for a couple of days, it was time to skin the kayak.

Overall, I found the process pretty straightforward. Brian’s instructions throughout this process were amazing and very helpful. I purchased my skin from the skin boat store and used the 840 xtra tough fabric with the two part goup. I did purchase a hot knife for this job and cannot imagine trying to do this without it.

After getting the fabric aligned on the frame I began pinning the fabric down to the bow and stern, cut off the additional material, and started sewing. My previously built kayak also is a SOF frame from another designer. I will tell you, I wish I had seen these videos on how to sew and tighten the skin prior to building my last boat. I am happy with that boat and will continue to paddle it. But once again Brian made the process so much easier.

I flipped the boat used the guide boards and the hot knife to cut the central portion of the fabric.

Using the twine to pull the skin tight was a grueling process and to be honest I drew some blood and had some serious blisters. I may have cut the fabric a little too close and really had to wrench down on the stitches in a few places to give myself enough fabric to sew my bead. This caused a lot of stretched holes in the fabric that later had to be liberally super-glued.

Sewing the coaming was far easier than I anticipated and it really turned out beautifully. I did acquire my coaming from Brian’ store as getting good bending oak was going to cost me a fortune here in Iowa and it was the part of this entire process that intimidated me the most.

I used acid dye available from Brian’s store and applied this. I realized about halfway through the boat that I had not really stirred the mix up very well. But so the color was not entirely consistent. But i actually think the color turned out beautiful. The skin did dry up some while heat shrinking the boat. So additional water was needed to keep the skin moist enough to get proper shrinkage. In all honesty, i think the most nerve wracking part of this entire process was coloring and applying the goup. I feel like i was on edge the entire time. There is this feeling during the entire build that if you mess up, you can always go back and fix it. But if you screw up the coloring or the goup finish, there is no going back. But I made it through.

The following morning it was time to apply the goup. I watched the video three times before starting. And of course, during the third mix of goup, I did the unthinkable and poured part B in the Part A cup. I quickly grabbed another measuring cup and mixed out what I thought was an appropriate amount, crossed my fingers and mixed it. Somehow, I got the combination right. Word of advice, keep your A and B cups at least an arm length away from each other. I almost had a heart attack. I did have a few drips settle that I had missed but they really are not bad and I think the overall finished product looks amazing.

The next day, with a borrowed torch, I began to set the deck lines and handles. Once again, Brian’s videos made this process so easy and by this point, I was having fun and so excited to see that this journey was coming to an end.

I have had the Amber Queen on the water twice and have had another buddy give it a paddle. I love the weight of this boat, the comfort of the seating system, and how beautifully she paddles. I learned so many woodworking skills through all of this. I cannot say enough about how amazing Brian’s tutorial videos were and how I felt like someone was gently guiding me through every single step. A solid review is coming your way Brian for your website should you choose to use it.


John Cecil

Des Moines, IA.

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