How It All Began
I custom ordered a brand new Delta 17 sport touring sea kayak from Portland Kayak Company in September of 2021. It arrived a bit early, in January, 2022. I could not possibly be happier with my Delta 17, but no sooner did old Dad put on his dry suit and begin practicing his wet exit and self rescue maneuvers at Horseshoe Lake, than my eldest daughter, Synneva, wanted to do the same thing I was doing. She did have a 6 ft (1.8 m) pink, sit-on-top kayak of her own, but it was not designed for her to be able to do anything like what I was doing with my new sea kayak. While waiting for the Delta 17 to be manufactured and delivered, I had watched many kayaking YouTube videos, and was very impressed with Brian Schulz’s traditional Greenland style kayaks from Cape Falcon Kayak, and began to develop an interest in the history of kayaks. It wouldn’t have made sense to buy Synneva a new sea kayak to practice together with me at her young age, since I wasn’t initially even sure how serious she was about it, so I decided building a traditional Greenland kayak together at home might be an interesting alternative. I also liked the idea of doing a woodworking project together with Synneva, since she was at a good age to start learning how to use basic hand tools. A few days later, I decided to build Cape Falcon’s East Greenland kayak for Synneva… but not before first going crabbing and fishing.
Logging by Hand
After visiting the local Home Depot and seeing the current cost of lumber, it quickly became apparent that Synneva and I were going to become loggers, and that, since we did not have a chainsaw, we were going to be logging by hand, pioneer style. We identified 2 trees that we thought would give us most of the Western Red Cedar that we needed for the kayak. However, we only ended up needing to use the wood from the smaller of the two trees. The trees were felled by hand, with axe and bow saw, and pulled up out of the woods with an 8,000 lb (3,628 kg) come-along winch from Harbor Freight Tools. I did momentarily try using a battery powered reciprocating saw that I was able to borrow from my Dad’s garage on the second larger tree, but the battery quickly died after only a few minutes, so, ultimately, almost everything had to be done by hand. The winch only had a short cable, so after delimbing, I had to drag the tree the rest of the way to the garage from the forest on my shoulders. Dragging a very heavy tree on my shoulders for quite a long distance hurt, but not as much as the wood prices at Home Depot would have hurt. I am not usually much of a woodworker, so I do not have expensive woodworking or logging tools. That meant that in order to process the log into lumber for building the kayak, I had to fall back on historic methods of turning logs into lumber from before modern machinery existed. Historically, this task was often done by using a series of wooden wedges to split logs into lumber with a hammer or mallet, rather than using saws. After dragging the weight of such a heavy tree out of the forest, I was skeptical that something as simple as a series of wooden wedges could rip the tree lengthwise into fairly straight beams of lumber. As I began to split the log, snow started falling on me. However, to my surprise, not only did the wedge method work, but it was actually fairly easy. I cut the hardwood wedges with a handsaw, from that cheap “mystery oak” of undisclosed variety, that big box building supply stores sell. I am not against power tools, but just don’t personally own many power tools that are designed for the purpose of woodworking, so I did take the opportunity to clean up one of my best beams with my Dad’s thickness planer before transporting all of the beams home to my own garage to dry. I dried the beams in my garage for a few months, with the occasional help of a diesel forced air heater. Obviously, it was necessary to go kayaking and crabbing at Netarts Bay while we waited for the wood to dry.
Scaled for a Child
While the wood was still drying, I consulted with Brian Schulz to figure out what scale of the original plan dimensions might be the best fit for Synneva. I took all of Synneva’s body measurements multiple times, just to make sure we had accurate numbers. Ultimately, I came up with a final calculation of 81% and Brian came up with a final recommendation of 85%. I had already begun milling the wood to 81% scale of the original plan dimensions when Brian told me his final recommendation of 85%, which is why I ended up going with the 81% calculation. The difference between 81% and 85% is only 4%, so the boat is likely to be an excellent fit for Synneva either way. In coming up with my scale of 81%, I calculated it based upon average body dimension and weight statistics by age from various state health agencies, to fit an age range of approximately 7-13 years old, while I believe Brian mentioned that he factored in hull volume for his calculation.
I chose to do all scaling and measurements for the project with the Metric system, using primarily millimeters, since that is what makes the most sense to me. The formula I followed was to multiply each original 100% scale fractional inch measurement from the plans by 0.81, to get the 81% scale as a decimal inch value, and then converted the decimal inch value into millimeters by multiplying it by 25.4, since there are 25.4 millimeters in 1 inch. I then rounded to the nearest whole number, to get the final value in millimeters, avoiding having to deal with any fractional parts of a millimeter. By that definition, the millimeter became the official and final unit of measure of our project for everything except the cockpit coaming. The cockpit coaming is the one and only exception to that rule. Although the cockpit coaming will obviously be less long and less wide for Synneva than for an adult, I chose to keep the cockpit coaming the original 100% scale height and thickness, which is specified using fractional inches in the plans. The reason for this exception is that I want to have a custom sea sock made for the kayak, and Brian states in the instructional videos that if you want to use a sea sock, the lip on the coaming has to be a very specific thickness, specified in inches in the plans. I don’t particularly like sea socks, but since this boat is intended for learning and practicing, it will have a sea sock, just for Synneva to be able to practice and get some experience using one.
In addition to scaling the boat down to 81% of the original size, it was decided that the boat would have a removable safety stabilizer with floats on each end, attached to the stern deck in a similar style as is sometimes seen on children’s kayaks in Greenland. Brian has suggested adapting his catamaran system to fit the stabilizer to the stern deck, and I think that is a neat idea. For people who are not already familiar with what the stabilizer used by children in Greenland looks like, there do not seem to be many photos available that are easy to find. On page 182 of his book, Building the Greenland Kayak, Christopher Cunningham describes one. He refers to it in English as a balance pole and mentions that it is called a pakkut in Greenlandic.
Milling the Wood
By early May, our Western Red Cedar was dry enough to begin working with. Synneva and I had already made some items from the smaller pieces that took less time to dry. However, most of the wood from the cut list in the plans was milled in May, when the larger pieces of wood began to reach approximately 12% moisture content. Milling the wood to the necessary dimensions required getting each of our Western Red Cedar pieces to have at least 1 flat side, in order to cut parts to accurate dimensions. Since we don’t have a lot of space, I bought a very small, inexpensive Craftsman table saw with an 8 1/4 inch (210 mm) blade. I then screwed a very straight and inflexible Walnut board to each of the pieces of Western Red Cedar and ran each of them through the table saw with the walnut board’s straight factory edge against the fence, to produce a perfectly straight cut on the Western Red Cedar. This technique worked surprisingly well for smaller pieces of cedar, but not so well for some of the longer pieces. With all of the Western Red Cedar available from harvesting our own entire tree, extras were made of each part, and parts were sorted based upon quality. Any parts with significant knots became firewood for camping.
Making some of the longer parts from Western Red Cedar presented a problem. We could not use our method of screwing another, already straight, piece of hardwood to our roughly split Western Red Cedar beams to make straight cuts, since we had no straight boards that were long enough to use as a guide along the fence of the table saw. Because of that, our first attempt at cutting gunnels turned out somewhat wavy. I also didn’t like the result of our first attempt at making the keel and stringers, because the only beams we had that were long enough contained knots, and I didn’t want to introduce weakness into the boat by using important structural parts that have knots in them. To remedy this, I purchased the longest, straightest, most knot-free piece of Western Red Cedar that I could find at Home Depot, and didn’t mind paying for it, since it was only 1 board. Since that board already had a nice, straight factory edge, I was able to easily cut nice quality keel and stringers out of it with no knots. Unfortunately, even the longest Western Red Cedar board at Home Depot was not long enough to make replacements for my wavy gunnels, and I looked everywhere I could think of in the entire Portland area to find a knot-free piece of Western Red Cedar that was long enough, but could not find one long enough anywhere. Eventually, I asked Brian where he buys his, and he directed me to Parr Lumber, but warned me that it would be expensive. He was right. It was expensive, but it was well worth it. They had exactly the piece that I needed, it was amazingly beautiful quality, and the new gunnels came out perfectly. It also had an almost magical cedar smell when cutting it, that smelled like fine incense.
Synneva and I purchased Walnut wood for the hardwood deck beam immediately behind the cockpit and the 3 deck stringers. We chose Walnut because it is available locally, classified as rot resistant, and nice looking. We also made all of our own hardwood dowels from the Walnut wood that we purchased. Our homemade Walnut dowels are very strong, and also look amazing once they are trimmed and sanded flush with the surrounding wood. I also found that a little bit of marine epoxy over the top of the trimmed Walnut dowels really makes the color in the Walnut pop and look amazing after sanding. Even though we weren’t willing to pay for most of our Western Red Cedar, that was mainly just because Western Red Cedar is one of the most common naturally occurring trees in our region. Walnut is not common in our region, and the Walnut was well worth the price. It gives the boat a very unique look, and I am really glad we chose Walnut. We additionally purchased a small amount of Cherry wood for making the end plates that reinforce the stems. Cherry is also easy to find locally, classified as rot resistant, and fairly inexpensive. At that point, we had not yet decided what wood to use for the masik, but I eventually came across a slab of Burmese Teak wood that was too beautiful to pass up, so Teak is now what we are using for the masik.
Mortising and Shaping the Gunnels
Since our boat is scaled to a smaller size, and we are going for millimeter accuracy, we 3D printed templates for marking where to cut our rib and deck beam mortises on our gunnels. The 3D printed templates made it very easy to accurately mark our mortise locations with our desired millimeter precision, but we still carefully took our time to prevent mistakes. However, we did not 3D print a template for marking the angles on the ends of the gunnels. The angles on the ends were marked very carefully, using a small metal ruler with millimeters, after carefully calculating the lengths of the a and b sides of the triangle using the Pythagorean Theorem (a² + b² = c²). I was careful to verify the results of my calculations multiple times before marking the gunnel ends, because even in a place where Western Red Cedar is one of the most common trees, perfect, knot free wood in lengths long enough for gunnels is rare and expensive, and you do not want to mess up your nice gunnels if you can avoid it. After marking the gunnel ends to be cut to their final angles, I also shaded in the parts to be cut off with a black Sharpie marker, so that I would be less likely to make a mistake and cut off the wrong part.
Since I did not initially own a lot of woodworking tools, and do not have a lot of space, I wanted to make the most use of the tools that I already had. I did not have a plunge router for cutting the rib and deck beam mortises into the gunnels, but I did already have a good quality Dremel rotary tool. I attempted 3D printing experimental jigs out of PETG for the Dremel, to cut my mortises with the Dremel instead of a plunge router. However, the experiment was unsuccessful for two different reasons. The first reason is that even the sharpest Dremel cutting bits that I could find failed to cut my scrap test piece of Western Red Cedar very well at all, and instead burned the wood. None of the Dremel cutting bits that I tried seemed to perform well for cutting mortises. The second reason why the experiment failed was because, even at low RPMs, the rotary tool’s shaft melted and disfigured the 3D printed jigs. Ultimately, I ended up deciding that a real woodworking plunge router was a worthwhile investment, and bought an inexpensive plunge router from Harbor Freight Tools, branded as Chicago Electric. These plunge routers are very cheap, and I had to return and exchange the first one I got, because the base plate screws were installed so tightly that they could not be removed without the heads stripping off of the screws. However, that did not matter, because I only needed the tool to complete this project, and the Harbor Freight plunge router accomplished that just fine. After seeing cutting bits from a reputable tool company like Dremel fail to be sharp enough to cut Western Red Cedar without burning the wood, I was a bit concerned about the quality of cutting bits, particularly with regard to sharpness, so I asked Brian for some advice on what cutting bits to buy. Brian mentioned that cutting bits from a company called Whiteside were particularly good, but that they can be a bit more expensive. The Whiteside bits were a bit more expensive, but I was able to find good deals on them on Amazon in the sizes I needed. I ended up being very happy with the Whiteside cutting bits. When they arrived, I did some test cuts, and they cut the test pieces very smoothly and cleanly. I would definitely recommend them to anyone who wants nice, clean mortise cuts.
After getting the plunge router and Whiteside router bits, I 3D printed some jigs for the plunge router, to cut the mortises for the ribs and deck beams. When I tested my 3D printed plunge router jigs, the fit to the wood was perfect, but, unfortunately, I found that the cutting bits were not aligned properly with where the cuts should be. That did not make sense, since I had carefully measured and double checked all of my measurements, when designing my jigs. Ultimately, this led me to the conclusion that the router’s shaft must be off center. I 3D printed a special base plate with alignment marks in millimeters to plunge down through with the cutting bit, to see where the hole would appear, and the test with this special alignment plate confirmed my suspicion that the router’s shaft was significantly off center, on both x and y axes. I didn’t want to deal with all of the time and hassle of trying to redesign my 3D printed jigs to compensate for the router shaft being off center, so I decided to attempt building the default wooden jigs, detailed in the class videos. My wooden jigs ended up turning out a lot better than I thought they would, having little woodworking experience, and the wooden jigs ultimately ended up cutting very nice, clean, accurately dimensioned mortises for the ribs, curved deck beam, and straight deck beams. I ended up being happy with the results that the wooden jigs produced.
Arrival of the Bending Oak
I had a lot of difficulty finding White Oak that was still green (not kiln dried) for steam bending. The Pacific Northwest does have naturally occurring White Oak, called Oregon White Oak, but it is not common in southwest Washington, where I live. It is more common in southern Oregon. That meant that I could not harvest my own steam bending oak, and would have to find a place to purchase it. I did research some of the many tree species that are naturally common in southwest Washington, but found no suitable alternative among our most common hardwood varieties. White Alder, Big Leaf Maple, and Vine Maple are not rot resistant, so probably wouldn’t stand the test of time in a marine environment like a boat. I could not find proper steam bending oak anywhere in the entire Portland area, not even at specialty wood stores. I found one supplier on the Olympic Peninsula, but their green White Oak was completely out of stock and they did not know when they would get more. I then came across Joshua Swan‘s steam bending oak in Wisconsin, via a link from the Cape Falcon Kayak website’s online store. However, I was not initially able to get into contact with Joshua Swan, due to an error with my own email account that I wasn’t aware of, and by the time I found and fixed the error with my email account, I had already found a local supplier here in the Pacific Northwest and placed my order. I ordered my steam bending oak from West Wind Hardwood in Sidney, British Columbia. Sidney is on Vancouver Island, slightly north of Victoria. That said, once I did finally get into contact with Joshua Swan, he was very nice and pleasant to deal with, and I would definitely buy bending oak from him in the future, if I ever built another boat at some point.
The order of green White Oak that I placed with West Wind Hardwood was delivered in mid-June. Overall, I was quite happy with the quality of the oak that I received in my order. The only thing I was not happy with was the moisture content. Although exact specifications vary, based upon the source of the information, most sources say that for optimal steam bending properties, White Oak should have a moisture content between 25-30%. The White Oak that I received had a moisture content of only 12%, which is what you would typically expect to see with wood that is no longer “wet”. A 12% moisture content is good for dimensional stability, but definitely not ideal for steam bending. However, since it was good quality wood other than the low moisture content, and had not been kiln dried, it was able to be successfully used for steam bending by soaking it in water with a tiny bit of fabric softener. I only intended to soak the wood for a few weeks, but ended up soaking it much longer, which likely helped. Despite the low moisture content, one thing I was really happy with was the excellent job that West Wind Hardwood did milling my oak for me to the requested dimensions. They did not shy away from me placing my order in millimeters instead of inches, except for the wood for the coaming, which I kept in the original inches, and they delivered perfectly milled dimensions, right down to the millimeter, exactly as I had ordered.
Assembling the Deck
Since we are building Synneva’s kayak at an 81% scale, we 3D printed templates for our capture forms and spreader forms at the correct scale. Once the templates were done printing, I traced them onto plywood with a Sharpie marker, and then used a wood rasp to clean up the inside lines of the capture forms until they perfectly matched the templates. After that, I lightly sanded the plywood forms to clean them up a bit, and marked which forms they were with a Sharpie marker, so that I would not get them confused and forget which form was which. While 3D printing the templates for the forms, I also 3D printed our Special Sticks for measuring and marking the deck beam tenons. Unlike what we did with the templates for making the forms, we did not make our final Special Sticks out of wood, but instead just used our 3D printed PETG Special Sticks, since they were already durable enough to work fine and were already printed at exactly the correct scaled dimensions. The PETG Special Sticks worked great, and we did not encounter any issues with using them.
Next, we placed our capture forms onto the ends of the gunnels at the correct locations, put our cam straps at the correct locations on the outside of the gunnels, and inserted our spreader forms into the correct locations between the gunnels. We then used a pull saw to cut between the gunnel ends to make them flush where they meet. Cutting the insides of the ends of the gunnels flush with the pull saw definitely did not go perfectly for us, but we did get an acceptable result that seemed to work fine. Once the gunnel ends mated to one another reasonably smoothly and all forms and cam straps were verified to be in exactly the right positions and everything was double and triple checked, we drilled the holes to tie the ends of the gunnels together with the artificial sinew. We found the sinew to be pretty easy and fun to work with. It also gives the boat a really neat, historic look. After tying the sinew lashings at both ends of the boat, we again re-checked all of our form locations, cam strap locations, and dimensions, just to make sure nothing had moved. After it was confirmed that nothing was in a place where it shouldn’t be, we drilled the holes to peg the gunnels together at the ends of the boat and pegged both ends. We made all of our own wooden pegs from Walnut, and they turned out very strong and neat looking. Since it was summer, we had the garage door open while we worked, and many of the neighbors curiously dropped by our garage to see what we were building. People seemed to really like the look of the sinew lashings and homemade Walnut pegs.
Finally, we built our deck, using our Special Sticks to measure and mark the ends of our deck beams to cut the tenons into the ends of them. We had already laminated our curved deck beam, so after getting some practice with the first couple tenons, the rest went fairly quickly, and all of the deck beams were ready to install before too long. After installing the deck beams and drilling the holes to peg them in place, Synneva enjoyed helping me peg them into the gunnels. Pegging most of the deck beams went fine, but, for whatever reason, I was having an off day, and just couldn’t seem to get it right with pegging one of the sides of the curved deck beam into the gunnel. I kept retrying to fix the angle of the peg, without realizing that I was actually creating a Swiss cheese scenario in the gunnel with all of my drill holes. That meant that I would later have to do some repair work to the portion of the gunnel where that side of the curved deck beam is pegged in place.
Repairing the Starboard Gunnel
In order to repair the Swiss cheese mess of holes that I made in the starboard gunnel while trying to fix the angle of the wooden peg for the curved deck beam, I had to remove the original curved deck beam and make a new one. To remove the original curved deck beam, I had to drill out the small wooden peg at the top of the gunnel on both starboard and port sides of the curved deck beam. After that, I had to cut the two larger wooden pegs on each side with a Japanese pull saw. Once those were cut, I was able to pull the old curved deck beam out of place and then pull out the remaining parts of the severed wooden pegs that were still stuck into the gunnels.
After removing the original curved deck beam and all remnants of the original pegs, I needed to fill the multiple holes in the gunnels. I did that by gluing freshly made Walnut pegs into the holes and then sawing the ends off, flush with the sides of the gunnels, after the glue dried. That successfully filled all of the holes. From there, I had to prepare the surface for eventual fiberglass reinforcement, so I lightly sanded the gunnels and the Walnut pegs that had been cut flush with the sides of the gunnels, so that everything was perfectly smooth. I then cut strips of White Oak to glue to the bottoms of the gunnels for reinforcement and mortised them so that the ribs would be able to slide right through them into the real rib mortises in the bottoms of the gunnels. Even though the problem only existed on the starboard side, I wanted to keep everything as symmetrical as possible, which is why I did the same reinforcement work to both the starboard and port sides of the boat. I did both sides of the boat exactly the same, just for symmetry. After gluing the White Oak reinforcement strips to the bottoms of the gunnels, I trimmed away the excess glue with a wood chisel. Next, I sanded the White Oak reinforcement strips smooth and sanded them flush with the real gunnels that they were glued onto, so that everything was perfectly blended and smooth as one continuous part, in preparation for laying fiberglass. At that point, I decided to do the same White Oak reinforcement strips on the area of the gunnels under the hardwood deck beam directly behind the cockpit, just to add a little strength, even though there wasn’t actually a problem in that area. Again, I did everything symmetrically on both sides of the boat.
I purchased my fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin locally, from TAP Plastics. I like TAP Plastics because, unlike many other businesses that sell epoxy resin, TAP Plastics actually stocks the correct products that you need in order to properly work with the fiberglass. I like West Marine just as much as anybody else does, but I can tell you from experience working with fiberglass, that you will not find the right mixing cups and rollers to get out the air bubbles at West Marine. If you really want the correct tools for properly laying fiberglass, you just about have to go to TAP Plastics for that. As far as the actual quality of the marine grade epoxy, both brands are excellent quality, but TAP Plastics will have everything else you need to work with fiberglass, and West Marine will not. This matters, because if you do not have proper mixing cups and you get your ratio of resin to hardener wrong, even the best epoxy resin on earth will fail to cure to its full strength. Another common mistake is to not mix the resin and hardener long enough. Not mixing long enough is one of the most common reasons for epoxy not curing properly. Even if it is a “fast” hardener, don’t skip mixing time. Mix for the entire amount of time specified in the data sheet. If anyone else has to do a repair like this, another thing to take into consideration when purchasing your supplies is not to purchase nitrile gloves. Nitrile gloves will melt when you go to clean up your fiberglassing tools and expose them to acetone. Instead, I recommend only buying latex gloves for laying fiberglass, because latex gloves don’t melt when they come into contact with acetone. Also, purchasing your fiberglass supplies is a good time to think about your lungs. Laying the fiberglass is unlikely to significantly harm your lungs, but sanding the fiberglass once it has cured is very harmful to lungs, and you will absolutely need a decent quality mask to protect your lungs while sanding it.
After laying the fiberglass to reinforce the bottoms of the gunnels, I let it cure and then trimmed off the excess and sanded it all smooth. Of course, the cured layer of fiberglass reinforcement covered up the mortises that I had cut into the White Oak reinforcement strips for inserting the ribs, but that was easy enough to fix. A very cheap wood carving set from Harbor Freight Tools easily cleaned the mortises right up in no time.
Taking a Break for Summer
By the middle of July, it was time to take my summer vacation from work. Synneva and I do a YouTube channel together about kayaking at different places all around the Pacific Northwest, and I had originally planned to make a film of paddling my new Delta 17 sea kayak from Bonneville Dam to Astoria on the lower Columbia River. However, as my first day of vacation was rapidly approaching, and I was trying to get all of my gear ready, something happened that completely changed all of my plans. The weather changed, and the Pacific Ocean got some of the calmest, most perfect conditions that I have ever seen it have, with 2 ft (0.6 m) waves at a period of 11 seconds. The ocean is very wild in our region, and you might not see a day with conditions that calm if you waited an entire year for it. Since I had been waiting for months for the perfect opportunity to go out and kayak on the real ocean and go ocean fishing with my new sea kayak, I felt that this merited an immediate change of plans. The Columbia River trip was dropped, and our family headed for the beach. The next morning, I got to go ocean fishing out of my new kayak at Depoe Bay, and it was the most amazing kayaking experience I have ever had. It also resulted in one of my favorite YouTube videos I have made so far, although I had not yet learned the Rain-X trick, and my camera constantly had moisture on the lens.
After coming home from the beach, I did still end up getting to kayak a stretch of about 22 river miles (35 km) of the Columbia River, from Vancouver, Washington to St. Helens, Oregon. This was my first long distance test of the Delta 17, and I was really amazed at how much distance the Delta 17 can cover, almost effortlessly, with my carbon fiber Kalleq Greenland style paddle from Gearlab Outdoors. I would definitely recommend the Kalleq paddle to anyone who sea kayaks, whether you use a modern high volume kayak or a traditional sea kayak. It is so light and ergonomic, yet also so powerful, that it has completely transformed my entire paddling experience and I can’t even imagine ever going back to a euro blade style paddle.
As if it weren’t enough to have gotten to kayak both Depoe Bay and a section of the lower Columbia River in July, August brought a very special paddling experience. We went on a trip to Calgary to visit family and friends, and we all met up at Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia for a vacation together, before traveling on to Calgary. Radium Hot Springs is only a short distance from the headwaters of the Columbia River, near the village of Canal Flats. Getting to do a video of kayaking the very beginning of the Columbia River at Canal Flats was just magical.
Steam Bending the Ribs
By late August, our summer travels were over, and it was time to get back to working on the boat. Since we had left off with the deck completed, the next step was to steam bend the ribs and install them into their mortises in the gunnels. I had already built our steam box at the beginning of the project, so it was already ready to go. To create the steam, I used the wallpaper steamer method that is recommended in the course instructions. The reason why I chose the wallpaper steamer method was because it just seemed like the easiest and most reliable way to safely generate the necessary steam at a reasonable cost. Although wallpaper steamers are marked up to unreasonable prices in local hardware stores, there are good deals to be had on Wagner wallpaper steamers on Amazon, so that is how I bought mine. I used a TÄRNÖ outdoor table from IKEA to set up my steam box and drip pan, since I already happened to have that particular table on our patio. The TÄRNÖ table worked very well for setting up the steam box.
After the steam box was all set up, I pulled my bending oak out of the water that it had been soaking in, carefully measured each rib, and cut each rib to the correct length with my Japanese saw. I did not use the table saw for this, because the Japanese saw is just so much quicker and easier, and still results in very accurate cuts, down to the millimeter. After cutting the ribs to length, I did not proceed with steaming them. I had purchased quite a lot of extra bending oak, to perform testing before bending the real, final ribs. I began my testing by cutting a lot of test ribs to length with my extra supply of bending oak, and then coming up with a system of grading the results of each attempt, so that I could determine what amount of time in the steam box would result in the best bending without cracking or breaking. I steam bent approximately 21 test ribs, and graded them with letter grades A, B, C, and F. An ‘A’ grade represented a good bend, with near perfection. A ‘B’ grade represented an ‘OK’ bend, that was not perfect, but was unquestionably good enough quality to use. An example would be maybe just a minor, cosmetic tear in the wood. A ‘C’ grade represented a bend result that was too sketchy to feel good about using. An example might be a large tear in the wood, but not a complete break. An ‘F’ grade represented a major failure, such as a major crack or break in the rib. With this system, a ‘D’ grade did not exist, because anything worse than a ‘C’ grade could not be considered for putting onto the boat anyway, so there was no point in giving anything worse than a ‘C’ grade any grade at all, since it represented a failure to produce a usable part. I steamed about 3 or 4 ribs for each time interval to be tested, and then averaged the scores of each time interval to come up with a final score for each amount of steam time. The time intervals that I tested ranged from 5 minutes to 8 minutes, but my wood turned out to score best at a time interval of 6 minutes and 30 seconds. At the time interval of 6:30, the averaged score came out to a ‘B’ letter grade, while all other tested time intervals from 5 minutes to 8 minutes averaged out to the same score of a ‘C’ letter grade. This testing determined that, although the results would definitely not be perfect at any time interval, the best amount of time to keep my bending oak in the steam box was going to be 6 minutes and 30 seconds.
Bending the 21 test ribs also helped me to be ready to do a decent job when it came time to bend the real ribs, because I had already gotten some practice with the test ribs. Only 1 of the 18 real ribs broke and had to be re-made. However, quite a few of the real ribs did get small to medium sized tears in the wood. I dealt with that in two different ways. If it was just a small tear, I put some marine grade epoxy resin mixed with “fast” hardener into the tear, wrapped a small piece of wax paper over it to prevent the epoxy from sticking to the clamp, and then clamped the tear closed until the epoxy cured. Once the epoxy cured, I would remove the clamp and wax paper, and sand the epoxy flush with the rest of the rib. However, if it was a larger tear, and, luckily, I did not have many that were, I followed essentially the same process, but also laminated a small layer of fiberglass cloth over the tear before clamping the tear closed. I did have 1 rib that got a lengthwise split, but only in a section of the length, not the full length. Other than the lengthwise crack, it was a perfectly good rib, so I gently clamped the crack closed, laid a layer of fiberglass over the crack to reinforce it and sanded it smooth once it cured. If you find that you have to make a minor repair of this sort, there are sources of data that indicate that polyurethane glue, such as Gorilla Glue, holds up better over time in a marine environment than even marine grade epoxy. However, since polyurethane is a foam, you cannot lay fiberglass with it. Since I knew I was going to have to lay a little bit of fiberglass, I just chose to use marine grade epoxy for all of my minor rib repairs, but if all of your cracks were small enough that they did not require any fiberglass reinforcement, Gorilla Glue would actually hold up better over time in a marine environment. In particular, some studies have shown that epoxy can degrade in marine environments that have temperature extremes, such as hot, tropical climates, while polyurethane glue will last longer in marine environments with temperature extremes. Synneva is not likely to be using this kayak in any temperature extremes, since the Pacific Northwest has a relatively mild climate, so marine grade epoxy should be sufficient for our needs.
Stems, Keel, and Stringers
After the ribs were installed and all rib tears were glued shut and sanded, it was time to install the keel, stringers (chines), and stems. Aside from a little rounding to remove sharp edges, the keel does not require much additional modification beyond being cut to the dimensions specified in the Cut List in the plans, so installing the keel was easy. However, I found installing the stems and stringers to be a bit more difficult.
I made a jig out of wood to hold the stringers in place, while I shaped the ends of the stringers with a block plane. The jig was easy to make, but I was nervous that I might mess up with the block plane and ruin the stringers. I have a Stanley 12-247 block plane from my local neighborhood Parkrose Hardware store. It is not the cheapest block plane, but also certainly not a good, high-end block plane either. It is not low-angle and has no throat adjustment. Since I knew I did not have the best block plane in the world, and also did not have a lot of experience with a block plane, I figured that getting the block plane’s blade as sharp as possible and avoiding diving grain was going to be especially important for me to minimize mistakes, since those were the only two circumstances that I really knew how to have much control over with the block plane. I really had not developed much block plane technique yet. Parkrose Hardware also happened to have a Norton 87933 sharpening stone with both coarse and fine sides, a small bottle of Smith’s Honing Solution, and a Steelex D1044 honing guide, so I purchased those too, to make sure that the block plane was good and sharp. Although these are absolutely not expensive, high-end sharpening products by any stretch of the imagination, I was able to get the block plane’s blade sharp enough to shave hairs with. After sharpening the block plane’s blade, I used the block plane together with the wooden jig I had built, to very carefully shape the ends of the stringers. Luckily, everything turned out fine. The ends of the stringers were shaved down to the correct shape, and nothing was destroyed.
I am not sure why I had such a difficult time with the stems, but I kept repeatedly having issues with the stems not getting a good, clean fit to the ends of the gunnels, no matter how carefully I marked them and cut them. In order to eventually get a good, clean, proper fit, I think I likely made new stems on both ends of the boat at least 2 times, if not maybe even 3 times. I do not own a band saw or even have space for one, so I used a battery powered Craftsman jig saw to shape the area of the stem where it meets the gunnel.
After I finally achieved good fitting stems and got the stringers lashed to the ribs, it was again necessary to further shave down the ends of the stringers with a block plane, before lashing the ends of the stringers to the stems. Since the block plane was still good and sharp, further shaving down the ends of the stringers seemed to go fine. Although the stems and stringer ends were, perhaps, the most difficult and problematic steps of building the boat up to that point, once the completed stringers were lashed to the stems, it was all worth it. The boat really began to look amazing, like a real boat. As Synneva and her very curious younger sister commandeered the vessel in the living room, to test how it would feel to sit in it, I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit jealous that I would never get to experience paddling this sleek, fun looking boat, since it is child sized. My Delta 17 is quite a fast boat, and with very little effort, when paired with the Kalleq Greenland style paddle, but looking at this new vessel in our living room, I got the feeling that Synneva may one day be doing circles around me in her East Greenland kayak, and I could only imagine what it might feel like to paddle it.
Hull Identification Number
Since the wood had become a boat, it was time to start thinking about the Hull Identification Number. In the United States, federal law requires that all boats must have a Hull Identification Number (HIN), which is essentially the boating equivalent of a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on a car. The federal law that creates this requirement is 33 CFR Part 181 Subpart C. This law was created on November 1, 1972, but was last updated September 9, 1983.
Businesses that manufacture boats with intent to sell them within the United States are able to apply to the U.S. Coast Guard for a Manufacturer’s Identification Code (MIC). Once a business is assigned a Manufacturer’s Identification Code, that business can produce its own Hull Identification Numbers for the boats that the business manufactures, following a pattern specified by the U.S. Coast Guard. The pattern consists of 12 alphanumeric characters, and the meanings of the characters get changed from time to time. However, as an example, at one point in time, the first 3 digits represented the Manufacturer’s Identification Code, characters 4-8 represented the manufacturer’s own internal production serial number, characters 9-10 represented the month of production, and characters 11-12 represented the year of production. If you see a small plastic tag with a 12-digit code, riveted near the starboard stern area of a plastic kayak at a sporting goods store, this is an example of a HIN produced by a commercial manufacturer using their assigned Manufacturer’s Identification Code.
Unfortunately, this becomes very sadly and unnecessarily complicated and confusing when you build your own boat. 33 CFR Part 181 Subpart C is a federal (nationwide) law. However, this law only provides an implementation (dealing with the U.S. Coast Guard to get an MIC) for commercial boat manufacturers, and just passes off the implementation for independent, non-commercial boat builders to deal with their local state governments, in a very messy, poorly thought out manner. As a result, nearly every single U.S. state has a local state law mirroring the 33 CFR Part 181 Subpart C federal law, and nearly every state directly quotes the exact wording of small portions of the federal law in their local state law, but then fails to specify exactly how the implementation of compliance with the law should occur, resulting in messy policies or practices that are not actually the law, since the actual law is poorly defined and not well designed. For example, in Washington, the policy regarding human powered boats, such as kayaks and canoes, is that they are not required to be titled or registered, while motorized boats are required to be titled and registered. However, if you build a kayak or canoe and attempt to apply for a Hull Identification Number, to properly comply with the law, the licensing agent will force you to apply for a title in order to generate the Hull Identification Number, even though Washington state law actually has no requirement that human powered boats be titled, and the Department of Licensing website even very directly states that canoes and kayaks do not have to be titled or registered. On the other hand, if you do not apply for the Hull Identification Number and comply with the law to build it into your boat, you can be ticketed by your local sheriff’s department for being on Washington waters in a boat that does not have a Hull Identification Number. It is rare, but these tickets do occasionally happen to kayakers. In Washington, our local state law that mirrors the federal law is WAC 308-93-280. To quote the opening line of WAC 308-93-280, “A hull identification number is required on any vessel that is used on the waters of this state unless application for hull identification number has been made and issuance of the hull identification number is pending”. This is, presumably, the line of text that enables rare kayak tickets.
Although you can be ticketed for your boat lacking a HIN, I don’t think most home builders of kayaks or canoes actually ever bother with the process of getting a HIN, probably because the process is so unnecessarily confusing. However, if you happen to be a boat builder who is located in the state of Washington, I can tell you how I went about it, and what my own experience was like.
First of all, do not go to one of the private, 3rd party licensing offices that are so common throughout our state. They only know how to renew license plate tags, and if you bring in anything at all complicated, they will be no help. I initially made this mistake, and the private licensing office would not issue me a Hull Identification Number, because they said that the boat has to be complete before they can issue a HIN. Obviously, there is no way to do that with a skin-on-frame boat, because the Hull Identification Number is required to be built into the hull of the boat in a permanent, non-modifiable way, and once you sew a skin over the boat and coat it in polyurethane, there is no way you could go back in and permanently affix a HIN to your hull. You can explain that to them, but they won’t care. It is not a simple tag renewal, so they will not help you. You can also send an email to the state Department of Licensing, explaining what you are building, and asking for clarification of the proper process, but they will just refer you to a generic telephone number to call, and completely avoid anything specific or helpful in their response.
Instead, save all of your receipts for your building materials from the entire project, right from the very beginning, and all of your photos from the build process, and bring them to your local county auditor’s office. I just printed out my photos in black & white ink on plain printer paper with a home laser printer, and they were accepted without issue. The agent at the county auditor’s office will add up your receipts from your build materials to calculate your total build cost, and use the receipts to require you to pay sales tax on any building materials purchased outside of the state of Washington. Once your costs are calculated, based upon the receipts you presented, the auditor’s office will then charge you the cost of any unpaid sales tax, a $5.50 Title Filing fee, a $15.00 Title Service fee, and a $5.00 Vessel Title Application fee. The sales tax will also include any foreign purchases. For example, I purchased my steam bending oak from Canada, and we have a free trade agreement with Canada, but I was still required to pay Washington state sales tax on the purchase, since the free trade agreement only applies to import tax, not sales tax. If you have any foreign purchases, make sure to print out a copy of the exchange rate for the date that you made the purchase, so that you aren’t overcharged when calculating the sales tax. You do not have to go to any secondary, additional location to pay the sales tax. You can pay it directly at the county auditor’s office, and it likely won’t amount to much, since it is just the sales tax on the building materials for a kayak. Once you have paid your state sales tax and the 3 separate titling fees, the auditor’s office will print out a temporary document titled Validated Copy of Record – Vessel, which contains your new Hull Identification Number, and the state Department of Licensing will mail you the real, permanent Vessel Certificate of Title in the mail about 2 weeks later. Yes, I know this is all absolutely maddening, especially for something as simple as a homemade kayak, but if you just bring your receipts and build photos, and pay the small amount of sales tax, you can be in and out in 20 minutes, and have the legally compliant Hull Identification Number that you need and not have to deal with it anymore.
Ordinarily, the primary HIN location is required to be near the top of the starboard, stern area of the hull, with a secondary, internal location that is not visible. The auditor’s office will likely be just as confused as you are about how to properly comply with the HIN placement requirements on a skin-on-frame kayak, since the skin is replaceable and covers the hull. The Clark County Auditor’s Office suggested that I ask a boat store. I think they really were trying to be helpful, but just genuinely didn’t know how to properly comply with the HIN requirements with a skin-on-frame boat.
Are there other reasons to get a Hull Identification Number, aside from the risk of a possible ticket? The only other reason I am aware of would be that if you like to kayak out on the real ocean in U.S. waters, you may need to carry a small, handheld VHF radio for contacting the U.S. Coast Guard in an emergency. In order to be able to transmit from a VHF radio, you have to apply for a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number, and the MMSI number that you are assigned is permanently linked to your boat’s Hull Identification Number (HIN) that you provide in your application. You could use a VHF radio without being assigned an MMSI number, but then you can only listen, not transmit anything, which would be a problem in an emergency situation. Since this kayak is being built for a child, it is unlikely that we will ever be dealing with that situation with this particular boat. However, if you are an adult building a sea kayak, this could be an important consideration.
Installing the End Plates
I made the end plates out of Cherry wood and made all of the pegs myself out of Walnut.
Kerfing the tops of the stems and gunnels with the Japanese saw and chiseling them smooth with a wood chisel was pretty easy to do. However, I ended up with a situation in which the holes for my gunnel to stem lashings were not low enough to completely clear the bottoms of the end plates, and this issue existed on both ends of the boat. That meant that if I tried to cut the kerfs with the Japanese saw, I could potentially damage my lashings with the saw. In order to remedy this, I bought a special epoxy resin syringe to inject epoxy into the holes with the lashings, so that the cured epoxy would hold the lashings in their holes if the saw disturbed the tops of the holes too much. I like to deal with TAP Plastics when I do anything fiberglass or epoxy related, just because they usually have great selection of fiberglassing tools in stock. It turned out that TAP Plastics was not open the day I did my end plates, so I had to go to West Marine instead. That wasn’t really a problem for me, since I already had all of the necessary fiberglassing tools, and as far as quality is concerned, West System marine grade epoxy is fantastic quality. West Marine did not have the proper mixing cups in stock, but they did have a metered pump system that automatically dispenses the correct ratio of epoxy resin to hardener, so I used that instead. It turned out that it was a good thing that I had thought ahead and glued the lashings into their holes, because, as I had guessed, cutting the kerfs with the Japanese saw did disrupt and open the tops of the lashing holes. Since I had glued the lashings into the holes, the lashings stayed in place, even after I chiseled away the wood left behind after cutting the kerfs.
Although the glue did successfully hold the lashings in place, I was concerned that the strength that the lashings provide could be potentially compromised, due to their holes being opened up on the top. Because of that, I did not want to just rush right into drilling more holes to peg the end plates in place. Instead, after marking the end plates and cutting them to their final shape, I actually glued them in place with epoxy resin and clamped them in place until the epoxy cured, so that they would already be firmly attached and close the tops of the lashing holes, before drilling anything new. The reason I used epoxy for this instead of Gorilla Glue is that Gorilla Glue is a foam, and it would expand out of the glue joint and make everything around it look messy. Once everything was fully cured, I drilled the holes to peg the end plates in place. I made my own endplate pegs out of Walnut, and covered them in Gorilla Glue before hammering them into place. Once the Gorilla Glue dried, I sanded the ends of the pegs flush with the tops of the end plates.
Now that the endplates are glued to the stems and gunnels with epoxy and also pegged to the stems and gunnels with Gorilla Glue, I really doubt that the top, most outward lashing is even serving much of a functional purpose anymore. Even so, I still think I will probably clean the lashings up, and possibly even redo them before skinning the boat, just for aesthetic purposes. I realize that many people would say that the aesthetics of the frame do not matter, because the frame will be covered in a skin anyway. However, the look of the East Greenland kayak is undeniably unique, and unique, child-sized pieces of woodwork do have quite a tendency to stick around and get passed down, even if only as decorations. If this boat ends up as an un-skinned art piece some day, I want it to look its best.
Sizing the Masik
We did not yet have the real pad that we were planning to use for Synneva to sit on in the boat, so we did our best to approximate the same thickness with a cork yoga mat from Target, that we cut to fit the same way that we thought the real pad might fit. I had not yet made the seat back, and wanted to take my time and build a nice one, so I decided to make a quick, temporary seat back out of cork, with the same dimensions as the real seat back, just for determining the necessary height of the masik. I cut it out of a cork yoga block, also from Target. I was very surprised at how easy cork is to work with. You can accurately cut it with a table saw and even sand it with a power sander.
Instead of wasting good wood to test out sizing with, Brian had recommended that I just make my test masik out of scrap wood, and I thought that was a great idea, so that is exactly what I did. I used some Western Red Cedar scrap that I had lying around the garage. I cut the Western Red Cedar into a block of the correct dimensions on the table saw. From that point, I couldn’t shape the test masik with a band saw, since I don’t have a band saw, so I shaped it by cutting kerfs into it with the Japanese saw, knocking them out with a wood chisel, and then sanding it smooth.
Synneva seemed to me to fit fine with the test masik, but she felt that it was just slightly too tight, and since she will be the user of the boat, her opinion was obviously the most important one. She also mentioned that one of the ribs was really bothering her heels when she tested getting in and out of the boat. Brian told me that if a rib is scraping the heels, removing that particular rib can go a long way toward making the boat fit better when getting in and out. I marked the rib with blue masking tape to remember which rib it was, so that we could remove it. Once the rib was removed, Synneva said the fit felt good getting in and out, and I even made her a second test masik that was slightly taller, just to be sure, but she actually ended up liking the original test masik better than the second taller one, with the rib removed.
A Masik of Teak
I was originally planning to make the masik out of Cherry wood. I needed to laminate two pieces of Cherry together to get the correct width, but I did not have a jointer to make a good glue joint. I tried to use my Dad’s jointer, but it is old and a part on it was broken, which caused it to ruin the two pieces of Cherry that I was planning to use for the masik.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because when Synneva and I went to Woodcrafters in Portland to purchase some more Cherry wood, a completely different board caught my attention. It was a beautiful board of Burmese Teak, with excellent vertical grain. I tried really hard not to take it home with me, because Teak is expensive, but it just seemed to have all of the right qualities. It was extremely strong, it was highly rot resistant, it had excellent vertical grain, and it was also the perfect piece of wood to represent Oregon in Synneva’s boat. The boat already had steam bending oak from British Columbia and Western Red Cedar that I had harvested myself in Washington, but it did not yet have any wood specific to Oregon. People who are unfamiliar with the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest might be wondering what Teak wood could possibly have to do with Oregon, since Teak wood is native to southeast Asia. Actually, along with Kraak porcelain and blocks of beeswax with Spanish shipping symbols, Teak wood is a major symbol in the legend of Oregon’s earliest and most mysterious known shipwreck, a Spanish Manila galleon, called the Santo Cristo de Burgos. Ironically, this legend is very directly tied to the Cape Falcon namesake, since the galleon wrecked at Cape Falcon on Oregon’s North Coast in 1693. The story of this shipwreck loosely inspired the 1980s movie, The Goonies. Considering the local legend, I can’t think of a more fitting wood to represent Oregon in a boat than Teak wood.
I don’t like to waste nice wood, so even having the beautiful teak wood, I still wanted to make use of the damaged Cherry wood. Since the Hull Identification Number placement requirements specify a secondary, concealed location, I came up with an idea to burn the Hull Identification Number into the face of the masik, using a wood burner. I intended to make use of the Cherry wood as a thin face plate glued onto the front of the masik, for doing the wood burning of the Hull Identification Number. Gluing the Cherry wood to the Teak wood went surprisingly well, despite lacking a jointer to make a proper glue joint. After the glue was dry, I cut the mix of Cherry and Teak into a block of the correct dimensions on the table saw. My batten partner, who happens to be a child, helped me mark the edges of the masik with a Sharpie marker, while I held the flexible batten in place. I then used my Dad’s band saw to cut along the outside edge of the Sharpie line, since I do not own a band saw, and everything went perfectly, and I ended up with a wonderful looking Teak masik with a beautiful Cherry face plate. It even passed the strength test. I took the masik back home, and not only could Synneva stand on it without it breaking; even I could stand on it. And then it happened… I noticed that the masik had been cut at an angle, because the band saw’s bed was probably not adjusted to be exactly 90 degrees from the blade. This meant that, despite the perfect initial appearance, one side of the masik was only half the thickness of the other side. I didn’t want to waste the nice wood, so I asked Brian what he thought, and he was absolutely certain that it could still be used the way that it was, if I just recessed it into the gunnels at an angle, as is done on the West Greenland kayak.
At first, I planned to do that, but as I gave it more thought, I decided that this might be an opportunity to make a better masik instead. Some of the things that came to mind were that I had not been thrilled with my imperfect glue joint, my batten / Sharpie partner was a child (literally), and even the thicker side of the masik had turned out to be way too thin to seriously consider burning the Hull Identification Number into it with any sort of legible detail. I knew I definitely couldn’t meet the 1/4″ (7 mm) lettering height requirement for the HIN. My glue joint was absolutely rock solid, but it was glued under stress, since I lacked a proper jointer to make a truly smooth surface. I am not entirely convinced that gluing things under stress is a real problem, but some people say that it is.
I knew what I was going to have to do. Since I didn’t have room for a power jointer, I was going to have to buy and spend the time to learn how to properly use an old fashioned hand jointer plane. I was also going to have to design a 3D printed template for drawing the Sharpie lines, instead of using a flexible batten, and I knew that was not going to be easy. The good news was that I could easily solve the issue of the side of the masik being too thin to burn the Hull Identification Number into, by simply moving the HIN location to the underside of the masik, which has a much larger surface area anyway. Since a light colored face plate was no longer necessary or desirable, I decided I would make the new masik entirely out of Teak.
In purchasing a jointer plane, you run into all of the same challenges you would run into purchasing a smaller block plane. Mainly, is it decent quality or junk, and how can you tell? To find a jointer plane that wasn’t junk, I did a lot of reading about what brands of tools professional woodworkers were using, who used exclusively hand tools. It basically came down to Lie-Nielsen, WoodRiver, Veritas, and, in some rare cases, Bench Dog (Rockler Woodworking). The choice ended up being really easy, because Lie-Nielsen is too expensive, I don’t know where to find WoodRiver products locally, and Woodcrafters in Portland does not stock the Veritas jointer plane, although they do carry Veritas products. That left only 1 contender, which was the 22 inch (559 mm) Bench Dog No. 7 Jointer Plane, which happened to be in-stock locally at Rockler Woodworking. Once I got the jointer plane home, I found that it was covered in nasty packing grease, which keeps it from rusting, so I took it all apart, cleaned the nasty grease off of everything with acetone, and waxed everything with Carnauba wax and a microfiber cloth, to prevent future rust. I verified that the sole was truly flat, and it turned out that it was. Next, I sharpened the blade. It felt like I wasn’t making much progress with getting the blade very sharp, but when I went to test it out on a scrap piece of Douglas Fir, it worked amazingly well, and I wondered why I had not already bought this tool a long time ago. Despite getting perfectly smooth surfaces with it, I was getting an issue in which the right side of the surface always seemed to be slightly higher than the left side, and there often seemed to be a slight hill in the middle of the surface. I wasn’t sure if it was an issue with the jointer plane or an issue with my own lack of proper technique, but I suspected myself as the cause. I watched some jointer plane videos on YouTube by numerous hand tool woodworking experts, like Paul Sellers, Rob Cosman, and James Wright. It turned out that Rob Cosman had a great video about how to set up a brand new jointer plane, which was a very useful video for becoming familiar with what the various adjustments on the plane are actually used for. However, the video that ultimately solved the problem for me was a video by James Wright, in which he suggested making sure the wood is actually level in the first place, before even trying to plane it, adjusting the plane to make sure it cuts evenly on both sides, and demonstrated how to hold the jointer plane so that it doesn’t cause a small hill in the middle of the work piece. One of the most helpful techniques I learned was to use a metal square after every few strokes, to check and see if the workpiece has one side that is higher than the other. A good tip from Rob Cosman was that you really want to take off the thinnest shavings possible when using a jointer plane, and if you can’t, your blade is probably not sharp enough. After learning those useful jointer plane tips from Rob Cosman and James Wright’s videos, it wasn’t long before I had two Teak boards with nearly perfect, flat, even surfaces, ready to glue together with the best glue joint I had ever achieved.
Gluing Teak is something a lot of people claim to struggle with, but, truthfully, it is not very difficult. There are just a few basic principles to understand. Gluing wood is not like painting. When you paint, you want to rough up the surface, so that the paint has something to grip. Gluing wood doesn’t work that way. When you glue wood, you want a smooth surface. Just lightly sand the surface to be glued with some 220 grit or finer sandpaper by hand for a minute or so; nothing more than that. Don’t overdo the sanding, or you will change the shape of the wood, rather than just smoothing the surface. With Teak wood, you need to remove the natural oil from the surface layer of the wood, because glue doesn’t stick to oil. Since you probably just sanded, and the dust from your sanding contains sticky Teak oil, blowing it off is not enough. I use a brush of some sort, to brush off all sanding residue. Next, I use a microfiber cloth soaked with acetone to wipe all of the natural Teak oil off of the exposed layer of wood that I am going to glue. You can tell if there was oil present by looking at your rag after wiping the Teak wood. If there was oil, you will see it on the rag. If there was oil present, use a different spot on the rag, so that you do not wipe the oil you removed right back into the wood. Once you see no oil on the rag, you are done. I use latex gloves for this, because nitrile gloves melt when exposed to acetone. You only have a few minutes to spread your glue onto the wood and set your clamps after removing the oil from the wood surface, because oil can travel through the pores in the wood, and it will eventually return to the surface. Most importantly, use the correct type of glue. Do not use wood glue. Wood glue is not designed for oily tropical hardwoods. I have read that the best two types of glue to use for Teak are polyurethane (Gorilla Glue) and epoxy. I have always used Gorilla Glue for this so far, and I have had absolutely no trouble getting very strong glue joints with my Teak wood. I also do not remove the clamps until the Gorilla Glue has reached its full 24 hour cure time, when working with Teak wood. Keep in mind that both Gorilla Glue and most epoxy resins only cure properly at temperatures at or above 40° F (4° C). If you are out in a cold garage, you may need to run a heater. An important safety point to mention is that rags soaked in acetone can spontaneously combust, so you want to put your acetone soaked rag somewhere safe until it fully dries, and keep it away from your garage heater.
Designing the 3D model for the Sharpie template was every bit as complicated as I imagined it would be, but it was worth it, because it came out very well in the end. You cannot replicate the shape of the flexible batten with a semi-circle, because when you bend a real batten, it is not a perfect semi-circle. If you try to do it that way, it won’t look right. The only way to accurately replicate the same shape as a flexible batten with a computer is to use a Bézier curve. A Bézier curve is a line with 2 end points with a height in the middle that is controlled by a control point. You can adjust the control point until you get a line that perfectly matches what you would see with a flexed batten. However, most common CAD programs do not directly support Bézier curves. That meant that I had to take an indirect way of making the 3D model. The Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) image file format does support Bézier curves quite easily, but this results in a 2D image, not a 3D object. To get around this, I designed my template as a 2D SVG image file, and then imported that image file into Tinkercad, to convert it into a 3D model. I then exported it out of Tinkercad at the highest resolution possible and imported it into Ultimaker-Cura for generating the final machine code for the 3D printer, and printed it on the highest resolution possible. The trickiest thing about designing this template is that when you are making a stencil, you trace around both the top side and under side of the stencil, but when you trace a flexible batten, you always trace the top side of the batten. In order to replicate that with your stencil, you have to measure the typical thickness of a Sharpie marker line, and move your bottom Bézier curve upward by the thickness of a typical Sharpie line.
After the Teak wood glue joint had cured for 24 hours and the 3D printed Sharpie template was complete, I removed the clamps from the Teak wood, cut the wood to a block of the correct dimensions on the table saw, and prepared to use my Dad’s band saw to cut the masik to its final shape. After carefully tracing the stencil I had made with a Sharpie marker onto my block of Teak, I made sure to bring along metal squares this time, and even a piece of scrap wood to test with, so that I could test and verify that the bed of the band saw was truly level this time around, before cutting into the nice Teak wood for the real masik. Only after confirming that the band saw was cutting my scrap piece of Douglas Fir at a perfect 90 degree angle from the bed, did I proceed with cutting into my good Teak wood. The band saw worked great, and all of my preparation paid off. I ended up with a beautiful, strong, Teak masik of nearly perfect dimensions, with a rock solid and almost invisible glue line. I stood on the middle of the masik, to perform the strength test. Even with my adult weight, it barely flexed at all.
Once the masik was cut and strength tested, I brought it back home to clean it up. I do not have a trim router, so I tried a wood rasp for rounding the edges, but the Teak wood was too hard for the rasp to have much effect. That was easily solved by simply using some 80 grit sandpaper to round the edges, followed by another pass with 220 grit sandpaper to really smooth everything out. I left the top front edge unrounded, in preparation for attaching the foredeck stringers. Teak wood gums up sandpaper, because it is naturally oily, so you have to occasionally clean the grit of the sandpaper with a stiff brush. I realize that I could have just used the first masik I made, and it definitely would have been fine, but this project is not only about building the boat. It is also about challenging myself and learning new woodworking skills. I think the final photo of the sanded Teak masik speaks for itself… my woodworking skills have improved quite a lot doing this project.
For burning the Hull Identification Number into the underside of the masik, I was torn between 2 different fonts, called Postamt and Fredericka the Great. Ultimately, I decided to go with Fredericka the Great, which is a Google font. I printed the HIN out on plain printer paper at the desired size and traced it onto the underside of the masik with carbon paper. I taped the paper in place, so that it wouldn’t move while I traced it. The carbon copy that ended up on the Teak wood was not perfect, but was still surprisingly good for going with such a simple method. I used a wood burning kit with 4 different tips to burn the HIN into the masik, burning directly over the carbon that was traced onto the masik by the carbon paper. I found the small, ball point tip to be the most effective burning tip for this type of work. This was my first time wood burning, so it certainly isn’t perfect, but it fulfills the legal requirements for the secondary HIN location and also looks neat and has a lot of character too, so I am happy with it. The masik is finally complete.
Installing the Masik
Installing the Masik is not very complicated, and probably would have been much quicker and easier if I were building this boat for myself. However, since this boat is for a child, and the masik is the primary control surface of the boat, I went to extra lengths to make sure that the masik was attached to the gunnels in the most firm manner possible, which resulted in quite a lot of extra work. I would also emphasize that this extra work that I did is completely unnecessary for any adult with even the most basic kayaking experience. I only did this extra work because there is a child involved, and I want to make sure everything is as sturdy and safe as possible for her while she practices and learns new kayaking skills in a boat that is already known to be challenging for beginners in the first place. You have to keep in mind that coming from a 6 ft (1.8 m) sit-on-top kayak to a real, traditional sea kayak, she will already have an uphill battle to learn new techniques, such as balance, sculling, and eventually rolling, all of which will require her to constantly brace herself with the masik. I don’t want to make those challenges more difficult (or more dangerous) for her, by equipping her with a masik that is anything less than perfectly attached. This is also one of my primary reasons for going through all of the time and effort to make a really nice, good quality masik, with exact, perfectly scaled dimensions, even though Brian states in the instructional videos that you do not actually have to make the masik the full width, if you lack wood that is wide enough. As adults, with a bit of practice, experience, and good, careful decision making, we can get through things like having something on the boat break and ending up in the water. It is an entirely different situation for children. Children are almost completely reliant on adults to be there to watch out for them and help them with basically anything and everything related to water safety, which is why I have put so much time and effort into the masik, since the masik is the primary control surface of a Greenland kayak. Of course, this boat is going to have a safety stabilizer, but training wheels only stay on the bicycle for so long before kids start to get curious and want to go faster.
To begin attaching the masik to the gunnels, Synneva and I first followed Brian’s course instructions to double check the final fit of the masik and make sure it is not too tight when getting into or out of the boat. I am not yet certain exactly what kayaking gear Synneva will wear when the boat is finished and she finally begins using it, but she does have a wetsuit for bodyboarding, so she wore her wetsuit to test the final fit of the masik. The final fit did not seem to have changed much from when we tested her fit before making the masik. I did have a little bit of worry that we might lose a slight bit of clearance, since we would probably need to recess the masik into the gunnels at least slightly, in order to get a truly strong bond with the gunnels. However, I was not too worried about it, because the cork mat that she was sitting on ended up being significantly thicker than the real mat that she is going to use, once the real mat arrived. This meant that we would likely gain a few millimeters of clearance from the mat, even as we lost a few millimeters of clearance by recessing the masik into the gunnels.
In deciding how deep to recess the masik into the gunnels, I really wanted to go with the minimum amount possible, so that we would not lose too much clearance. In order to determine the minimum amount that we could recess the masik into the gunnels, while still maximizing the surface area for the bond between the gunnels and the ends of the masik, I used 3D printed thickness gauges. I did not print these thickness gauges specially for this project. I had actually printed them a long time ago to test the strength of PLA filament at various different thicknesses, and just still happened to have them sitting around. If I scaled down the recess depth that Brian mentions in the course videos, it would have come out to approximately 5 mm, and I didn’t want to sacrifice that much clearance. By using my 3D printed thickness gauges, I was able to determine that if I recessed the masik only 3 mm into the gunnels, there would be no air gap between the masik and the gunnels at any spot or at any angle, optimizing the available surface area for the masik to make a strong bond to the gunnels.
I kerfed the gunnels to a depth of 3 mm with my Japanese saw, and cleaned up the remnants of wood with a wood chisel. I re-sharpened my wood chisel right before doing this, so that I could hopefully minimize any potential mistakes. After cleaning up the recessed areas in the gunnels with the wood chisel, I found that the fit of the masik to the gunnels was not bad at all, but still not as perfect as I really wanted it to be for Synneva, and I realized that there was just no way that I was going to get that perfect of a fit with a wood chisel, since I don’t have that level of skill with a wood chisel. I considered alternative tools to get a perfectly smooth surface, but there was no way that anything like a block plane was going to fit into the masik’s recesses in the gunnels.
Since I could not create a perfectly smooth surface with woodworking tools, I decided to mold a surface that was a perfect fit to the ends of the masik, using a very thin layer of fiberglass. The fiberglass cloth that I happen to have around for doing small kayak repairs and reinforcements is Boat “C” Lightweight • 7533 fabric from TAP Plastics. This fabric is classified as “E-Glass”, and is very thin. This specific fabric has a thickness of only 7.3 mil (thousandths of an inch), which comes out to only 0.18542 mm of Metric thickness. I heated my mixing cup of marine epoxy for 15 seconds in the microwave, to thin it so that it would really penetrate well into the wood of the gunnels, and then brushed it onto the bare wood of the gunnel recesses with an acid brush. After the wood of the gunnel recesses was well penetrated with hot, thin epoxy, I laid 2 layers of the fiberglass fabric onto the masik’s gunnel recesses on each side of the boat, and used the acid brush to ensure that the 2 layers of fiberglass fabric were fully saturated with epoxy. With 2 layers of fabric, this gives a combined fabric thickness of only about 0.4 mm. I then covered the saturated fiberglass cloth in 1 layer of wax paper to prevent it from sticking to the masik and making a mess, and then screwed the masik in place with light pressure, so that the fiberglass and epoxy in the gunnel recesses would perfectly mold to the shapes of the ends of the masik. The reason why I put the wax paper between the masik and the gunnel recesses, instead of just gluing the masik directly to the gunnels with epoxy, was because fiberglass work is messy, and I knew that cleanup would be necessary before permanently attaching the masik to the gunnels.
I kept the masik screwed in place over the wax paper for 24 hours, until the epoxy was somewhat hardened, and no longer tacky at all. In addition to the screws holding the masik in place over the wax paper, I also used a cam strap to make sure that the masik was pressed with even pressure onto the gunnel recesses, but not too tightly, to avoid distorting the shape of the gunnels. After the initial 24 hours, the epoxy was hardened enough to sand the excess fiberglass and clean it up nicely, which resulted in nice, clean recesses in the gunnels, perfectly molded for the ends of the masik to fit into them. After that, I used blue masking tape to mask off the area of the gunnels surrounding the recesses and also mask off the areas of the masik other than the ends, so that I could glue the masik into it’s perfectly fit gunnel recesses. Gluing the masik to the gunnels is really not necessary, but I wanted Synneva’s masik to have the maximum bond possible to the gunnels. Since the fiberglass in the gunnel recesses was already cured, I could have used Gorilla glue for this, but I chose to use marine grade epoxy, just to avoid having foam expand out of the glue joint and make a mess that would be difficult to clean up. After applying the epoxy to the unmasked ends of the masik and the gunnel recesses, I screwed the masik back into place with light pressure, until the epoxy cured for 8 hours. This is not a full cure, but it is enough of a cure that the epoxy is no longer tacky. I did this to avoid any sort of possible chemical interaction with Gorilla glue, as a chemical bond with epoxy is no longer possible once the epoxy is no longer tacky.
Next, I drilled the 6 holes, 3 on each end, to peg the masik to the gunnels. Since the epoxy was no longer tacky, and could not chemically interact with the Gorilla glue, I went right ahead and pegged the Walnut pegs into place, covered in Gorilla glue. After putting the pegs into place, I did not touch the masik or the boat at all for 3 days, since it takes Gorilla glue 24 hours to fully cure, and takes marine grade epoxy 3 days to fully cure. After 3 days of undisturbed cure time, I came back and sanded around the Gorilla glue foam that expanded out of the holes for the pegs. Now everything looks nice, and the masik is bonded to the boat extremely strongly. I can easily lift the boat with the masik alone, and there is no flexing or rocking of any kind where the masik meets the gunnels.
Reinforcing the Keel
The keel needed to be reinforced where the rib at Synneva’s heels had been cut out. This was very easy to do. I cut a small piece of white oak to the correct dimensions and glued it to the top side of the keel with Gorilla Glue. Once the glue was fully cured, I sanded the oak reinforcement flush with the rest of the keel.