Background I’d seen a number of skin on frame kayaks for years and they had always been under the category of “Why?”. Unlike most kayaks you can’t find a local dealer and take it out for a spin. A friend had mentioned Cape Falcon Kayaks but the idea of spending time and money building one and then saying “Nah, don’t like it”, or worse, building one that would only paddle in left hand circles while slowly sinking had little appeal. I finally borrowed a F1 for a heavy water rescue practice where I’d been struggling with my glass kayak and the difference gave me the answer to “Why?”.
My purpose for this blog is to keep track of what went unexpectedly well or unexpectedly bad. Brian has done an incredible job of saying what things should be so I’m not going to spend a lot of time duplicating what he has already done.
As in all things I do, I anticipate that this project will take a while, just because.
Compared to my glass boat (NC Kayak 17) the F1 is a lot more fun to paddle, feels rock steady when it is put on edge (think hard chimes) and is a lot easier to get to the water, 30lb vs. 45lb. When the NC kayak broaches it is a battle to get it out of the trough, the F1 is a lot easier. Self rescue is also easier in the F1, the flat deck makes it very easy to get the paddle float attached and to crawl back into the boat. Sitting in the F1 is more comfortable than the hard plastic seat of the NC Kayak.
The major downside to the F1 is that it is a little wider than the NC Kayak and while the widest part of most glass boats is at the waterline, the widest part of the F1 is just below the coaming. If you have a very vertical stroke it is going to be annoying, it takes focus to not scrape the side of the boat. My stroke may adjust but for now it hasn’t
The minor downside of the F1 is that I have still not figured out where to put the pump, it’s to big to put under the lash lines and just floats off if I leave it loose in the cockpit.
For now I would choose the NC Kayak for long paddles when I am convinced that I will have good water, otherwise I will be using the F1.
Things I wish I had done differently
- Viewed the whole course before I started so I would know where I had to be exact and where it wasn’t going to matter.
- Done practice bends for both the bow ribs and the cockpit ribs
- Used thicker gloves for bending
- Reviewed the documentation before I asked Brian questions
- Ordered the coaming to work with sea socks
- Ordered the float bags way ahead of when I needed them
- Gotten one and a half orders of the coating from Skinboats rather than one order and the touchup kit
12/15/2020 Prepping the workspace
First things first, I cleaned out the basement, smaller than Brian’s recommendation but I had no plan B, and built a new table.
12/30/2020 Gathering materials
The majority of the wood came from Compton Lumber. They only had 16 footers, which also turned out to be a stroke of luck. After I screwed the gunnels together I was able to trim them to exactly the same length. I had 2 feet left over for trial morticing pieces. It let me dial in adjusting the jigs and make all my mistakes on scraps.
1/28/2021 Making morticing jigs
The morticing jig I made was slightly different than the one Brian uses. The major difference is that his is attached to the router and you slide it along the work piece. I made a jig that is clamped to the work piece and the router slides in the jig. Once I made the jig there were fewer ways to screw up, although it is slower to use than Brian’s jig. After I used the jig for the rib mortices I repurposed it for the deck beam mortices. It also allowed me to keep both hands on the router at all times. I did manage to mess up a little. I found that the rib mortices were getting a little deeper as I went along. It turned out that every time I did a plunge the plunge stop moved just a little. Gentleness and an eye on the depth gage solved the problem.
2/04/2021 Keel pegging error
I had high hopes that pegging the gunnels would be perfect, gunnels cut to exact size, excellent wood and good instructions but I was off by a little, 3/64th. I pegged the stern well but when I did the bow I did not do a second check after I clamped the wood and it slipped a little. I emailed Brian and he said should be ok but I could just cut the pegs down the middle and put in new pegs. Knowing that my brain would not let go of the error I did the repeg.
2/08/2021 Cutting tenons
Cutting the tenons went well with one small cavate, because I cut the width of the tenon before the height there was no good way to make sure that there wasn’t any forward and back slop. A few had some movement but nothing that really needed repair. Walking the beams over to the mortices to eyeball them might have helped. I also was able to use my wood vice to cut the curved beams a little easier than shown in the lessons.
4/08/2021 Beached whale day
Brian was having no luck getting rib bending stock from his local suppler so he suggested using Josh Swan from JW Swan boatbuilding in Wisconsin. It took about a week to get the ribs delivered, including four extra ones marked test so I could get the feel of bending without it mattering much. They came wrapped and ready to go. I wasn’t 100% sure I was selecting them for the different parts of the kayak in the proper way but I just did my best. The sizing jig and instructions were very clear for this step. I had started the prep work on the rolling table but switched to saw horses when I started to actually build the boat but I decided to switch back to the table. Because it was on rollers I was able to easily move it to work from either side and it gave me a place to put any tools I was working with. I raised the kayak a little off the surface with carpeted 2X4’s.
4/8/2021 Attempt at making centering easier
I spent the extra time waiting for the rib stock to come build a simple rig that would make it easier to center the bends in the ribs. It turned out not to have been needed. Sighting down the kayak (to be) did the same job and was faster.
4/9/2021 Getting bent
The big day of bending the ribs. I had used the test ribs to try and dial in the right amount of time to leave them in the steam box and came up with six minutes. As I worked I ended up leaving them in a little longer. I also decided on two minute intervals, it did not add that much to the overall time and allowed me to relax a little. The bending went easier than I thought with one minor and one major lesson. The minor lesson was that the best bend I did on the bow ribs was one of the test ribs, It didn’t matter if I broke it so I was more willing to squeeze the bend tighter. The major lesson was that my gloves were not thick enough to stop my hands from burning. I had done all of the test bends with the leather strap on the bow bends which had been insolating my hands from the steam. The end result was that I had to stop working the bends for the ribs in the cockpit sooner that I should have. The error showed up when I skinned the boat and the 19th rib actually pushed the skin out a little.
4/9/2021 Keel and stringers
The jig I had made for centering the ribs actually came in useful for attaching the keel. I cut down the center stick so it was below the ribs and used that to double check what my eyes told me. Not necessary but helpful. When I put on the secondary stringers I clamped blocks to the gunnels to support the stringers and guide their placement. As Brian mentioned, even though it wouldn’t show, smearing glue all over gunnels would look messy
4/16/2021 Trimming the skin
I had ordered the skin from Skin Boats and the kit came with way too much material, two yards too much. Not sure if they will send the kit with less. When it came to trimming the skin I couldn’t justify the cost of an electric hot knife so I just heated a knife with a propane torch. I did convert both a soldering gun and soldering iron to hot knives but neither worked as well as a heated knife.
5/22/2021 Trying to save money
What not to do, buy random float bags on Craigslist. The stern bag fit fairly well but the bow bag not at all. The seller also threw in a sea sock which was both good and bad. The good was that I was able to decide in a pretty inexpensive way whether or not I wanted to use a sea sock, the bad is that it leaked. As a note, if you even think that you might want to use a sea sock buy the coaming that can accommodate it, if you try to use a sea sock with the normal coaming you will have a hard time getting the spray skirt on. Even though the sea sock leaked I’m still glad I was able to try it. It does do the job of containing the water in a wet exit but when you get back in with a self rescue and you do that last twist from laying on your stomach across the stern of the boat to sitting in the seat the sock twists with you and you can’t really get your feet back on the foot braces. Just as a further note; the correctly sized bags have been backordered until Sept so the badly fitting ones have let me use the kayak over the summer but I’ve had to be very cautious about conditions.
5/26/2021 Sewing on the cowling
Sewing on the skin was somewhat meditative. The only difference from what Brian suggested was when I sewed over the bow ridge I changed from a curved needle to a straight needle. He may have made that suggestion and I missed it. I marked the center of the bow end of the coaming by hanging it over a pencil and moving it slightly back and forth until it felt as though it were centered. That came in handy when I actually sewed it in place, after sewing one side I noticed that I had pulled it off center trying to tighten the skin. Before I sewed the other side I re-centered it using the mark and sewed the other side. It may have re-centered anyway when I tightened the skin on the second side.
6/9/2021 Applying the finish
It was nice of Brian to mention that you could totally trash the boat by not mixing the coating right, it kept me both focused and anxious. I had e-mailed him to ask if I could measure the two parts by weight rather than volume and the answer was no, they have different densities. After I poured out the part A and B by volume, just for giggles, I did weigh them, luckily for me. For whatever reason when I put the last coat on the bottom I did not have enough for the last quarter so I quickly mixed up another batch, which left me short for the last coat on the top. I didn’t have enough for a full batch but because I had weighed the A and B I was was able to figure out the ratio by weight to mix up a very small batch and finish it up, even with working in a cold basement it cured as it should.
Brian has since pointed out that I should have ordered an extra 1/2 order rather then the touch-up kit.
6/14/2021 Stringing it all together
Brian claimed that the hardest part of building the boat was threading the deck lines into the boat, I actually had a much harder time pulling the lines through the wood blocks to round them down to size. I kept breaking the leather cord trying to pull it through the blocks. I ended up drilling more holes in 1/32″ increments to be able to complete that task. Attaching them to the kayak went much easier. I added perimeter lines, a couple of times. I misjudged how tight they needed to be, it turns out they need to be very tight. I also threaded them through plastic tubing, a trick I was taught for my glass boat. The tubing is easier to grab if you have gloves on, the tubing is thicker and it raises the cord off of the deck.
6/20/2016 Contractual obligations
My dog has a better lawyer than I do and I have an obligation to include her in every blog