I’m an 18 year old joiner in the last year of my 4 year apprenticeship. Altought I’m familiar with the machines and everything, I don’t work with solid wood that much. At my workplace, we use chipboard most of the time. This made the build even more interesting for me.
6th October 2021
I went to a big wood supplier an hour drive from my home. I decided to go with larch instead of red cedar, just because it’s growing in europe. I only made one exception for the bending wood where I chose white oak because this is Brians first choice. The supplier didn’t have fresh sawn wood but he gave me airdried boards which should also work. Later that day, I also went to a hardware store and bought everything I could from my shopping list. There were a few things they didn’t have so I had to order these things online.
7th October 2021
Today I cut all the wood down and also plained everything. I’ve made a cutlist with all the mesurements in mm so it was easier for me to not make any mistakes. Even tho this helped, I also always had the plans from Brian with me.
I already faced a few problems here. As you can see, one stringer had a pretty large crack in the middle. Sadly, I didn’t have a long enough leftover so I had to glue the piece together. Another problem came with the white oak. I was so focused on buying straight grained perfect wood, that I buyed a 30mm thick board instead of a 40mm one. To compensate this mistake, I had to plane the rips down to 28mm instead of the 33mm which are in the Plans. But I recently saw another blogger who planed the ribs down to 25mm and had no issues so I hope this also works for me.
30th October 2021
The next step for Preparation was making all the Forms and jigs. This was pretty straight forward altought it took some time.
With all forms and jigs done, I first made the Steambox and after that the laminated deckbeams before I started to make the coaming. The deck beams happened to be made pretty easy. It was kind of hard for me to bend them free handed so i just pinched them between the dowels. I made the jig for glueing 3 deck beams simoultaneously but I forgot that I just had enough clamps for glueing one at a time.
While I still had the right blade in the tablesaw. I figured I could also cut the ribs to thickness.
6th November 2021
Now my order of the steps might confuse you a little bit. Instead of making the coaming first, I started with mortising the gunwales. I didn’t want to do the coaming alone but the person who would help me didn’t have time yet so I started with the gunwales.
My plunge router setup worked pretty well for the rib mortises. After every mortise, I checked the fit with a leftover from my ribs.
When I was finished, the day was already over. Before continuing with the gunwales, I’ll make the cockpit coaming first because I’ll have a colleague help me. After I finished the coaming, I’ll get on with the order of the videos.
9th November 2021
After a normal day of work l tried to make the cockpit coaming in the evening together with a workmate. I set up my Steam machine and the pipe. I didn’t expect it to get this soft but it still held the steam inside. I had 3 sample pieces and one good piece. For the first one I tried a steaming time of 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 20 minutes and then 30 minutes. Every piece broke. This was very frustrating but after I broke the last piece, I noticed, that the top of the jig was pretty narrow. I checked the planes and I noticed, that I made the top of the jig one inch too narrow. So I definetly had to replace the narrow piece with a one inch wider piece and also let the wood soak in water for a few days.
13th November 2021
This morning the first thing I did was correcting the jig for the coaming. After that I made a few new coamings and comaning lips. Unfortunately I didn’t have a board of white oak left that had the rigth lenght but we had a board of spruce laying around that had nearly perfect grain orientation. So I decided to make 2 Coamings out of this spruce and for one coaming I decided to split it in two 5mm parts . With this measurement it was possible for me to take a few leftovers from my ash board. In the end I had 3 sets of cockpit coamings. I tied them all together and put them in the long pipe. Then i filled the pipe with water and let it soak in probably until the Frame is finished.
The oak board I used for the first coamings was the same that I’ve cut the ribs out of so I knew I had to let them also soak in water for a few weeks. So I beveled all ribs and also laid them in water.
(At that point, I have to mention that Brian reached out to me in early november saying he was concerned about my ribs that were to thin. After a little back and forth of me explaining my situation and him wanting my kayak to last as long as it can, he offered me to send me a set of Ribs for free. I would have been stupid if I’d rejected the offer so I thankfully took it with the only concern that it would take them very long to arrive.)
After that, I could finally carry on with the Frame. I made the Jig for the 25° deck beams and then I made the mortises with a drill bit. It came out cleaner than I expected but I think for another kayak, I’d just make an angled deck beam mortise jig for the plunge router becuse that saves time with fitting the deck beams later on.
20th November 2021
Today I started with the last steps of the Prep Course. And that was cutting the rolling bevels on the stringers. The planer isn’t my favourite tool at all althought it worked better than I thought with the Cockpit Coaming I wasn’t sure that I would get the bevels right. First I tried to get the right motion with the block plane and it turned out that it was also doable with the block plane alone and so I did the first one without the planer. For the other three bevels I started out with the planer and then used the blockplane to make a clean finish.
After I made all four rolling bevels, I continued with rounding the keel and stringers as the last step of the prep course. I rounded them with sand paper.
Before I could start with the assembling I had to make the rib mortises wider so that the ribs from brian would fit in.
And after all the preparing, I could finally start with the first step of assembling the kayak. I put the capture forms over the gunwales and the spreader forms in the marked locations. Then I sew the ends with my japanese saw, drilled some holes for the dowels and glued the dowels and the ends together. Already looks like a boat.
27th November 2021
Fitting the mortise and tenon deck beams was easier than I thought but it also took longer than I thought. It took me around six hours for all the deck beams. The Videos of Brian were, once again, very detailed and didn’t miss a single advice. The technique with the two special sticks was very convenient. For me, the straight deck beams were way more difficult than the curved ones. First of all because the mortises weren’t as clean because I made them with the drill bit and second of all because the hard ash was harder to work with than the soft larch. At the end of the day after 9 hours total I was happy with the end result and stoked about continuing with the process. In the picture on the right you can see the branch in the right gunwale, I was concerned at first but I’ve never heard any cracking noises so I guess it’s fine.
4th December 2021
I continued with the order of the videos. I fitted the Bow Stem and the Stern stem with a jigsaw. The cuts werent perfectly straight but it worked out ok I guess. After that, I prepared the Ribs for Steaming. (The ribs that Brian sent me arrived after around 1-2 weeks which was way faster then I expected them to arrive so I could continue with the building process without a break.) For thinning the ends, I just held the Ribs at a slight angle so the cut line would be more straigth then what Brian showed in his Video. Wasn’t really necessary but I think the curved lines would have bothered me ;). For the last part of today, I set up my steaming station with Brians instructions from the course. I already tried steaming a few messed up ribs just to test if it would work and it did. I will figure out the exact steaming time the day I bend all the ribs (next Wednesday) but I think it’ll be around 8 Minutes. I definitly have enough ribs. I have the 20 prepared ribs with a few spare (the ones that Brian sent me). And then I have the same amount of my Ribs that I layed in water for the last 3 weeks. But I really think the first set of Ribs will do the job.
8th December 2021
It’s finally time for bending the ribs. That day it also began snowing in our region. Not the best conditions for steam bending but luckily I’m working in a heated workshop. Well with 17.5 ° Celcius (=63.5°F) it definetly wasn’t to warm but I couldn’t wait until summer so I had to accept that the wood would cool down faster after I took it out of the steaming box. First thing I did was drilling some holes in the steam pipe so that the steam would also rest a bit in the back of the box and not just blow right out of the front. I didn’t really have problems with my test rib last time but I thought it might be better if I do it. Then I set the rest of the steaming station up and also layed out the rib stock next to the “repair station”. Then I set up my interval-timer on my phone and I fired up the wallpaper-steamer. After around 15 Minutes Steam came out of the Box and the thermometer began to rise pretty fast. After another 10 Minutes I started filling the box with my 6 test ribs. The first one was taken out at 6 Minutes, second one at 8, third one at 10 and the other 3 ribs also at 8. I figured that 8 Minutes was around the best although I didn’t really notice that big of a difference with the bending. I just noticed that the Ribs that Brian sent me didn’t break as fast as mine, because my ribs didn’t have a grain orientation that was that good. But I have to say that my ribs would have also worked. I measured the moisture content in mine and in Brian’s ribs and I measured around 70 percent for both so the wood definitely had a enough moisture content. After the six test ribs I set up my interval-timer on my phone for 2 minutes and started filling up the box. Around 4 Ribs cracked, but I continued and replaced them after I bent all the other ribs. The bending went pretty well I just had to thin gloves so my thumbs were burnt a little bit but nothing to worry about. The only real thing that went wrong was that my wallpaper steamer just turned off after I was In for around 30 minutes. I thought I was prepared for this with my kettle that was in a different electricity circle and so I boiled new water and put it in the steamer but nothing happened. After reading the instruction paper, I figured out that it automatically turns off after 75 minutes or if it overheated and so I had to wait until it cooled down and then after about 45 minutes I could continue with steaming but that was very annoying. Because of that I was even happier when I was done with bending all the ribs and gluing the little cracks. The form came out pretty good maybe a little bit to round but definitely in the range of tolerance. Now I could continue with the easier parts of the building.
At this moment, I was already in for about 11 hours but I really wanted to put them stringers on. Because I was already tired, I thought that i made the rolling bevel on the wrong side so I just lashed it on with the bigger side on the kayak. After I had lashed the first stringer on, I double checked if the Stringers wouldn’t go on any other way. And they did. So I cut the lashing and then I finished for that day and went home. The ribs were already cold and stiff so I thought it wouldn’t make that much of a difference if I just put them on a few days later. After all I was still happy with the progress I made that day.
11th December 2021
I didn’t had much time that day but I thought for lashing on the stringers it would be totally enough. It still took me three and a half hours to just lash this two stringers on! It really took me some nerves. Because of the tension in the section of the stern, the stringer flipped at least 3 times and all the clamps flew away and I had to measure everything from the beginning. This repeated itself a few times until i just took a screw clamp and that solved the problem.
18th December 2021
Today’s goal was to finish the Frame and oil it. I started out with shaping and tying the stringer ends to the stems. I couldn’t get the stringers in the stern as high as a middle finger between but it’s not too far off. As you can see my ribs turned out to be very flat so i had to put some temporary stanchions in. Next I glued the end Blocks on and I added the secondary stringers. While fitting the forward deck stringer, I noticed that there was a pretty big gap between the stringer and the first deck beam. I then made a shim not being sure if I made a mistake somwhere until I watched the video of lashing the forward deck stringer where I saw Brian do the same thing so i was reassured. I continued with reinforcing the keel, adding the aft deck stringers etc. until I was done with finishing the whole frame. I didn’t have time to oil it the same day but I was really happy with the final result. I’m also a bit sad considering the woodworking part is mostly over but I still haven’t done the coaming so that’s probably the next thing I’ll do after Christmas.
20th December 2021
For oiling the kayak I used a pretty cheap solvent based oil that still had UV- protection and was weatherproof. (Just oil for outdoor use.) It also had a slight orange colour tone to it to match the look of the wood which looks really good in my opinion.
27th December 2021
I started out with my second try of making the cockpit coaming. I had prepared 4 coamings of which 3 were fir and 1 was ash. For the first fir coaming I tried 10 Minutes steaming time but it broke. So I used 12 Minutes for the second one and it worked. Something that definitly helped to success was clamping the top of the coaming to the jig at the point where the first one broke. Althought the coaming went around the jig , it had some minor cracks all around the coaming and at the points where the coaming had contact with the dowels of the jig, the wood squeezed together and it made some ugly marks. Because of that, I also steamed the ash coaming that I had split up in two pieces for an easier bend. And that worked out super good. Because it was hardwood, I didn’t havea single mark on the coaming and it was a way better bend. I still let both coamings cool down over night with a clamp on to get it to the right shape. After that, I started with skinning the kayak. I mostly followed Brian’s instructions. I just didn’t found some number 9 seine twine in the internet that could be delivered to me so I substituted it with the nylon thread I also used for the stitching. This went pretty good except for the little holes that were created by tightening the skin. I later red that with my extremtextil fabric I should have let a little bit more skin left for overlapping and not pull so hard on the thread. But I think with some aquaseal and a little bit thread at these points, I will be able to fix these holes later.
28th December 2021
It was the next morning, seven o’clock, when I started the steaming of the coaming lip. I was optimistic, that the 12mm wood pieces would bend as well as the 10mm wood for the coaming but I was convinced wrong. All four coaming lips broke. The ash coaming lip wasn’t perfectly straight grained and the fir probably just wasn’t good enough wood. Whatever was the problem, I didn’t had time to figure it out I just had to look forward so I made four new coamings, each one out of two 6mm pieces. Then I laid them in some water with some softener and continued with skinning the kayak until I got to the point where I needed the coaming for proceeding the build. This was about 3 hours after I laid the coaming lips in the water. Then I steamed them again and it went pretty well. The fir coaming lip broke at several points but I glued them later on. The ash coaming lip bent just as good as the coaming itself. And so for the last step of the day, I nailed the ash coaming and glued the pieces together so that it could dry until I came back a few days later.
2nd January 2022
Today I could finally finish the skinning procedure. I began with finishing the ash coaming. I plained it with a handplain to make it flush and then I sanded it down right after I filled the gaps with some putty (wooddust mixed with sticky liquid). Then I sat the coaming, stitched it on and for the last step I made the whole kayak wet and I ironed the deck. Now the skin is drum tight. I guess it was also an advantage that it was just 12 degrees (53 F) cold in the building so that the nylon was as wide as possible when I skinned the kayak. Next week the heating will be switched on again which is perfect because I need the higher/normal temperature for coating the kayak.
6th January 2022
For coating I used Coelan because Corey Freemans coating would’ve been more expensive. Not the product itself just the enormously high shipping cost. So, I decided to go with Coelan which cost me around 200 $ with 10$ shipping+ it arrived in 2 days. That was a good enough reason to go with this product. I didn’t have to mix it with another part, I could just open the can and start coating. The only thing I did was I thinned the Coelan with the thinner of the same brand. I added 15% thinner to the coating itself (I red the datasheet which said its okay to thin it up to 30%). I just figured 15% was enough. Then I made the same amount of coats in the same order as in the Videos and I think it turned out pretty good. The holes in the deck were still pretty big so I tried stitching them together. But because I was worried these spots would look silly later, I decided to just use aquaseal and forget the stitching.
And there it was, the last day of building my own kayak. The equipment I ordered online just arrived the day before and I could finish everything. Like with the rest of the build, I tried to keep the costs as low as possible so I bought the cheapest sprayskirt, backband, seating mat, floatbag and foot braces that I could find from an onlineshop from the UK. I even found a car mount which solved a problem I was putting off since I thought about it. For the toggles and the rub strip I used a cutting board made out of PE. I was searching pretty long for a raw PE panel until I found this cheap cutting board. It had the perfect size for what I needed it. The last thing I substituted were the leather deck straps. I searched for Leather on the internet and in my area but I couldn’t find anything that was as cheap as the polypropylene rope that I found in an online shop from switzerland which meant low shipping costs. This definetly isn’t the prettiest solution but it’s cheap and also easy to work with. I could cut it with the same heating gun I’ve cut the skin with. I was a bit concerned that it would be to slippery but at least when it’s dry it has pretty good grip and works just as good as I saw it work in the videos. I hope it’s the same for the rope being in the water. The foot braces were ordered online for like 20 bucks and they do their job even though they’re not the same that Brian uses. For the Backband I just cut off all the belts with my heating gun and then I screwed it trough a plastic piece inside the backband directly into the coaming with Philip head screws. This just made 2 little holes in the coaming and if this mounting doesn’t work over a longer period of time, I will still be able to take the screws out and make something different but for now this looks pretty good to me. The seating mat is also just placed on top of the ribs, because I didn’t found a mat yet, that fits under the ribs but with this mat, I have something to start with and I’ll see if I even have to modify the mat or if I can just leave it like that.
And after 13 weeks of building I can proudly present my first skin on frame kayak. Althought not everything went perfect, I’m still very happy with the endresult. Building this thing from scratch really is a journey that I would totally recommend to anyone who is interested. Even though I’ve never been in the water with the kayak, I’m still having a lot of joy just by looking at the product I’ve built with my own hands and because of all the experience Brian put in this boat, I can be sure that it’ll be the same joy riding it on the water. I haven’t decided if im already going on the water this winter but when I do, I’ll definitly make sure to update this Blog.
3rd March 2022
Today was the day I took the kayak out to the lake for the first time. With a water temperature of just 6°C (42°F) it was freezing cold but that didn’t stop me from doing a short 10 minute test drive. The kayak was much more stable than I thought. Before I got in the water I was pretty scared of falling over into the cold water but after I got in the boat, the fear was gone. The F1 floats perfectly through the water and is just as fast as I expected it to be. The paddle works better than I thought, it was definitly worth the extra work. As the summer comes closer I’ll definitly go for longer rides in other lakes.