I’ve decided to edit this blog quite a bit, since there are so many good detailed build stories already here. I think what would be most helpful to others who want to build this boat is for me to cover what I tried that worked or didn’t work, what I forgot to do in the heat of the moment, and whatever other advice I can think of.
As a quick intro, I live in Seattle and (edit-just finished!) my first kayak, a 190lb version of the LPB. I built two of CFK’s #66 canoes last year, and have been loving them!
Lessons Learned from Previous Builds
Sourcing the Wood
I drove 6 hours to a sawmill in Oregon for the oak for my first boat, and ended up with decent pieces, but they’d been sitting around for a while, and there wasn’t enough to be able to pick-and-choose. They barely had enough for what I needed. It worked, but it made for a stressful and tricky bending stage.
I got oak for the second canoe directly from Brian, as he had some extra. It was spectacular wood for bending- I didn’t break, or even crack, a single rib when bending.
For this boat, I got it from a boat-building-focused sawmill in Port Townsend, WA. The oak was so green it felt damp to the touch, even after it had been sitting in my garage for a few weeks waiting for me to cut it. It also only needed 4 minutes in the steamer to make it super-pliable. That made the rib-bending one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole build. So, whatever you have to do…get good bending oak. Make sure it’s really fresh and ideally find it somewhere you can pick from a larger selection.
I got my western red cedar at a specialty cedar place in Issaquah, WA for my two canoes. I really wished I’d shopped around a bit more. It was beautiful cedar, but it was extremely expensive. I ended up getting the cedar for my kayak from the same place that I got the oak, and it was $300 less than it would have been at the other place.
Lessons Learned from Current LPB Build
I followed Brian’s suggestion in the plans to build two 16′ long workbenches, although I went a much simpler route of just using sawhorses and two layers of 3/4″ plywood. I’m a little conflicted about these benches. Brian doesn’t actually use full benches in his builds, or at least I’ve never seen one in his videos. He either uses a 2×10 board as long as the boat he’s building, or just sawhorses.
I have found it helpful to have a workbench for a variety of build-related tasks, but I never really needed 16′ of bench space. Most of the build is done with the boat on sawhorses anyway. The 2×10 would have been a lot cheaper.
*At the end of the build, I did find it helpful to have a 2′ wide board to lay across my sawhorses for the “tripod-of-screws,” so I’d still go with that, but a single layer of 3/4″ ply, 2’x8’x would suffice for this.
I used a scrollsaw for cutting out the interior of the capture frames and the hole in the 8×8 router plate. It worked great- easier in my opinion than a jigsaw would have been.
I made my steambox out of poplar for the sides and 1/4″ birch plywood that I had lying around. I made it much smaller than what Brian recommends, as I knew from my previous builds that I am more comfortable steaming just a few ribs at a time. It might take a little longer, but I feel less rushed. This one holds 4 ribs at a time and because it’s smaller, it heats up faster and gets hotter.
I added a small block attached to the bottom of the open end, so the box would be tilted slightly upward, encouraging the steam to move all the way through the box.
Overall, the steambox did great. I did a couple of test bends and found that 4 minutes was a good steaming time. I had plenty of extra ribs cut, which was good because my first batch went wrong. I timed for 4 minutes and pulled out rib #1 and discovered that it was dry. The steamer hose had come out of the box! I tried to re-steam the same ribs, but I think I overdid them, so they cracked when I bent them at the steep vee that the first ribs need. My next batch worked great, though, and I went through the whole boat pretty quickly.
Cutting the Wood
When you have all of your lumber and you’re ready to cut, I highly recommend cutting your gunwales first, as they’re the widest of the pieces. That way, if you screw up your first cut, which I did, you can still use the cut piece. Just narrow it down more to use as a stringer or the keel.
For the oak, I had to turn off the safety features of my new SawStop tablesaw, because it was too wet. This, I feel, is a good problem to have. Just pretend for a bit that you don’t have a fancy finger-saving tablesaw, and be careful!
Gluing the Deck Beams
I had a bit of trouble with the curved deck beams. I tried Titebond III glue, instead of Gorilla glue, and it looked good at first, but then the laminations split after a couple of days. I chatted with Brian about this and he said it works better if you put Titebond on both bonding surfaces, instead of just one.
I cut more cedar and tried again, going a bit overboard with the Gorilla glue, so it took longer to clean up, but I’m far happier with the results. I also was happy that I had so many clamps from building my canoes- I may have gone overboard on my second attempt, but it worked!
Prepping the Ribs
I found an old piece of canoe rib stock and marked out the full lengths of 10 or so of my ribs. I found this helpful to use to double-check my measurements using my rib measuring stick, before cutting the ribs to length.
I found that using my rib measuring stick backwards worked really well- lining up the edge of the gunwale to the mark for each rib and using the end of the stick as a straightedge to make my cut line on the rib.
I also discovered the reason Brian doesn’t use a slick plane to round over the edges of the ribs. It’s because the wood tears out, no matter which direction you go from. The block plane just works way better.
I used the method that Brian showed in his canoe course to wind the sinew around the block of wood for lashing. This involves measuring out the right amount of sinew only once, then drilling carefully into the end of the wood with a small bit, and tying the end of the sinew to the block. Then, you hold the sinew taut and drill at top speed, moving the sinew back and forth across the wood, so it winds smoothly. And you time exactly how many seconds it takes to wind the full amount of sinew onto the wood. Then, for every other winding stick, you stick your full spool of sinew on a dowel that’s attached to something solid, and you drill for the same number of seconds as the first one. No more measuring required, and way faster (and easier on the hands) than winding by hand.
Stems before Stringers!
I pegged the required ribs, tied on the keel, tied on the stringers, and then realized that I had forgotten to attach the stems first. Yes, I know. I was just on a roll with my lashing and forgot that I’d need to do something else first.
I had no desire to undo my stringers, so I kept them on and mounted the stems next. It was much more awkward than it should have been because the stringers were in the way, but it worked out. Thankfully, my stringers were in the right place, even though I hadn’t measured them correctly in relation to the stems. Whew!
Drilling for Deck Lines
Brian emphasizes in the videos how important it is to drill the holes for the deck lines exactly 1/4″ down from the edge of the gunwale. And how jigs don’t seem to work. I found that by marking (with a pencil) a line at 1/4″ and another at 1/2″, it gave me an easy way to correctly line up the drill bit every time.
Oiling the Frame
On both of my canoes, I used the Natural colored Watco Danish Oil that Brian recommends. I decided that for this boat, since I was planning to color the skin a warmish brown, that it might be fun to try a warmish brown tint on the Danish Oil. It comes in lots of colors. The Cherry color looked great on the can, but it came out sooo red! I did test it on some scrap wood before committing to it, and I thought it looked good, but when it was on the whole boat, it was a little overwhelming. So, I got a Dark Walnut version of the oil and put on a second coat. It definitely didn’t absorb as much as I was hoping, since the first coat had already soaked in, but it did darken the frame enough that I liked it much more. And in the end, I think it’s great, especially with the brown skin.
So, just a word of warning…use color with caution. 🙂
I did this whole build on my own, so I had to figure out some clever ways to do things where I really needed another pair of arms. For instance, when stringing the leather deck lines, you’re supposed to thread the forward line through the toggle, then pull the toggle backward so the rear line is going in a straight path to help even the tension.
I found that using a bar clamp from the front of the toggle to the inner edge of the coaming worked great to pull the toggle back. I do recommend keeping the pointy end of the bar clamp pointing toward the bow (opposite of what I have in the picture). That way, when you’re leaning into the cockpit to tie off the deck line, you don’t stab yourself in the eye. I didn’t, but it was a near thing.
I also wanted to use Brian’s “tripod-of-screws” method to finish coating the deck before the hull is dry, but I doubted my ability to flip the boat without touching the still-wet hull and somehow manage to line up the screws with the tops of the sawhorses. So, I used one of my workbench tops (2’x8′ 3/4″ plywood). I laid that across the sawhorses before I started coating the hull, so I could then flip it and land the screws anywhere on the table. It worked like a charm!
The place where I most wished that I had a helper was when sewing on the coaming. I have hands that hurt when squeezing, pushing, or twisting, and this task required all of those, simultaneously. I got through it, but it hurt!
Pulling the leather deck lines through the skin was really tough. I did discover, during my leather-rounding process, that if I used a vice-grip to hold onto the protruding leather tail, I could use the round end of the tool to create a lever to pull the leather through the hole. The downside is that this often fails and just rips off the tail and you have to start again. But it does work often enough to make it useful, at least in my opinion.
I also ended up doing 3 rounding passes through the wood with each leather strap. I just could not get it through the smaller hole, so I ended up reaming that out a lot more than recommended, and then doing a third hole of the recommended size.
Greenland Kayak Paddles
I’ve completed two Greenland kayak paddles so far. I made the first one with a single stick of western red cedar. The second one has red cedar for the center and then butternut, poplar, and eastern aromatic cedar strips on either side. I used Watco Danish oil on the first and an oil-based glossy polyurethane for the second. Both seem to be holding up well, so far.
I went on an 11 mile paddle in my pack canoe and used one of these paddles for the first time. I was absolutely blown away. So easy to paddle, very quiet, and fast! Pretty, too, if I do say so myself. 🙂
Did I say I built this on my own? How silly of me. I had the best shop dog around keeping me company throughout. Sadly, there won’t be room for Lucy in the kayak, but she goes with me whenever I’m in my canoes.
The Finished Boat!
I’ve had my kayak, which I’ve named “The Killdeer,” out on lakes in Seattle a few times and then I took it on a 90-mile, 5-day trip on the Missouri River in Montana. It handled spectacularly, even loaded with about 40lbs of gear, and in a couple of days with extremely high (30-45mph) headwinds and waves. I was nimble and fast and stable and very comfortable, even in the boat for 4-5 hours at a time. Here are a few photos and a video I shot and edited from the trip: https://vimeo.com/865156902