After turning over the hull, I went round with the sander giving
the hull a general tidy up and keying any areas of epoxy that
needed it. I thought this would be maybe a ten minute job, but
it ended up taking the best part of one and a half hours! The
lesson here is not to just slap on epoxy to fill in holes and
so on as you go, but to make sure you do it properly.
While sanding, I identified a number of areas where the hull
panels did not align perfectly and I noted that would need fairing.
I think this was probably due to the fact that the plywood was
only 3.6mm thick. I also had the remaining stitch holes and the
gaps in the seams where the stitches had been to fill.
Although the hull was not at the stage where it was fair enough
to paint, I decided to epoxy coat the entire hull next. I also
applied a layer of glass tape along the centre seam.
||Hull Epoxy Coated & Glass Taped
When checking on my coating work the following day, there was
a waxy, slightly sticky feel to the epoxy. I thought that either
the epoxy had not cured properly yet or it was the dreaded amine
blush. So I checked my West epoxy manual and came to the conclusion
it was definitely amine blush. As a full sanding was required,
I decided to sand off the amine blush.
I thought I would give hand sanding a go. Sanding the outside
of the hull is much easier than the inside, because you are working
on a convex surface and, as 80 grit cuts through amine blush and
epoxy fairly easily, I was able to sand one half of the hull in
about an hour and a half. I then gave that half a second fairing.
I repeated the process on the other side of the hull. While doing
the fairing, I also applied a couple of pads of filler on the
centreline. One of these can just be seen in the picture below.
The reason for them is, once sanded flat they will give me two
flat surfaces that the centre runner (outer keel) will land on
ensuring that it stays level while it is being epoxied in place.
||Second Stage Faired
I sanded some more. While sanding I prepared the pads for the
keel runner. Next on the build list was fit the keel and bilge
runners. All the runners were cut from 9 x 18mm (3/8" x 3/4")
Douglas Fir with the keel runner being 1200mm (4') long and the
bilge runners 600mm (2') long. Once cut to length I put a radius
on the ends.
Before fitting I had to locate them. I first marked the centre
of the hull and transferred the centre line 120mm (5") out
each side for the bilge runners over their 600mm length. Finally,
I marked the width of the bilge runners on the hull in the locations
where I will be drilling for temporary screw fixings.
I was now ready to dry fit the runners. The keel runner has only
a very gentle curve to it, so it only really needed to be held
in place while the epoxy cured. I drilled a single hole through
the hull each end at the locations of the two flats and I drilled
matching pilot holes into the runner and screwed it in place.
The bilge runners have a much greater curvature to them, so I
decided to fit two screws each end to spread the bending load
over a larger area of the runners.
As I had found putting masking tape around the bulkhead fillets
so successful, I did the same again for fixing in the runners.
I then epoxyied them in with filleting blend and colloidal silica
added. About three quarters of an hour later, I peeled off the
||Keel and Bilge Runners Fitted
Once the epoxy had gone off, I removed the temporary screws and
gave the runners a quick rub down. I now turned my attention to
the interior. Because of the simplicity of the design, the interior
fit out consists of a seat and a stretcher at gunwale level. To
fit the seat I would need to set the boat up level, which I did
not want to do at this stage, so I started by dry fitting the
stretcher and outwales. The stretcher is a piece of 18 x 25mm
(3/4 x 1") Douglas Fir. I marked the cut angles and length
straight off the boat, cut it to size and dry fitted with a single
screw in each end.
Going back to the boat later, it looked like the stretcher was
pinching in the sides slightly, so I decided to dry fit the outwales
without the stretcher fitted. As it turned out, I was right. The
stretcher was about 3mm (1/8") too short which is not a lot,
but it was noticeable.
As the build has been progressing, I have spent a fair amount
of time thinking how I was going to fit the outwales. The method
I used was a combination of screws and clamps. I used screws only
in the buoyancy tanks each end and along the cockpit sides. I
used the screws and clamps in a hit and miss sequence. The outwales
themselves are more of the 9 x 18mm (3/8" x 3/4") Douglas
Fir. In my stock I had two lengths that were perfect for the outwales
and they did not need to be cut to length until after dry fitting.
After dry fitting both outwale,s I cut a new stretcher at the
correct length. The plans give an indication that the corners
of the stretcher are chamfered. I liked the look of this, so it’s
out with the router. I removed the outwales, did a dry fit to
the stretcher, masked up the glue lines as previously and fitted
the stretcher and outwales.
||Outwales and Stretcher Fitted
After curing overnight, I removed the clamps & screws. Now
that the outwales were fitted, I could finally fit the breasthooks.
Before I could fit them, they needed some fettling to get them
to fit. I think this was probably due to the outwales changing
the hull panel alignment slightly. At the same time, I shortened
the length of the breasthooks. I also filled all the temporary
screw holes and any other areas that needed filling internally.
|| Breasthook Fitted
I started to look at how I was going to fit the decks. My aim
was to fit them without using any mechanical fasteners, so I had
to work out a method of holding them in place while the epoxy
set. Initially, I thought I could clamp the deck using the outwale,
but the deck and outwale were too far out of alignment. So I tried
making up a short beam with legs down at the positions of the
ends of the deck at the bulkhead. I then used a ratchet strap
wrapped around the hull to push the deck edges down, but I found
that the deck edges between the bow and the bulkhead did not lie
on the correct alignment. The deck had a convex curve between
the bow and the bulkhead. I made up two runners that had a curve
along the bottom that matched the curve of the deck between the
bow and bulkhead. I fixed these to a spreader and again used the
ratchet strap to push the deck down. This worked much better,
but the deck was still not sitting down properly. After much fiddling,
cutting of wedges and so on, I came to the conclusion that the
bulkheads had too big a radius to the top of them.
As the bulkheads were fixed, I needed to come up with a method
of trimming them down. The decks were still to have a radius,
so I marked what I thought would be a suitable reduced curve.
I then ran a sharp knife along the line to cut through the outer
lamination of ply to prevent splitting. A majority of the waste
ply was then cut away in small sections. To finish off I got out
my favourite sanding tool, which is my belt sander. Although capable
of removing a lot of material very quickly, belt sanders can be
used for delicate removal if handled carefully. Sanding the top
edge of the bulkhead, I was easily able to get the plywood down
to the line.
||New Bulkhead Top Radius
A further dry fit of the deck panel was a success with the edge
of the deck laying perfectly along the gunwale line. I found that
by using a top beam that was over length, I was able to revert
to using clamps rather than the ratchet strap. It was much easier
and quicker. After a number of trial fittings, I was happy with
the fit of the bow deck, so I taped the edges of the clamping
frame to epoxy proof them and the deck was then fitted.
||Bow Deck Epoxied in Place
On removing the clamping frame the following morning, the bow
deck looked perfect. The stern deck was then fitted.
Finally, my attention turned to the seat. This is the last piece
of boat construction required and to do the fitting I needed to
set the boat up level in both directions.
The plan shows the top of the seat at 40mm (1.5") above
datum, but, rather than working out how much to subtract, I just
set it 40mm off the inside of the hull. To get the level of the
seat, I placed my sprit level at the position of one end of the
seat and measured down to the hull. I subtracted 40mm and then
put a mark on the hull each side at that level. Once I had the
marks, I extended lines from them along the hull by using the
bubble on my set square. Finally, I marked the position of the
front and back of the seat on the lines.
||Seat Marked Out
The seat is simply a flat piece of ply the width of the hull
supported front and back with two lengths of 9 x 18mm (3/8"
x 3/4") Douglas Fir. I had an idea to modify the seat slightly,
but as I would still need the stringers front and back they were
the first items to make. Firstly, I measured the length overall
and cut two pieces of fir to suit. Then by a process of marking
and cutting, bit by bit, the stringers were shaped to the hull.
Both the stringers meet the hull close to a chine, so they both
needed a double angle cut each end plus the hull narrows across
the width, so the ends also needed to be cut at an angle in plan.
The idea I had to modify the seat was to reduce its width and
to give it some shape in order to make it more comfortable.
||Seat Support Stringers Ready to Install
Next, I install them. To ensure the stringer tops were parallel,
I placed a batten across the top and then weighted the whole lot
down with a battery from my battery drill. The seat itself is
a rectangle of 3.6mm ply 220mm (8.5") x 150mm (6").
I cut this out, put a small radius on the top edge and rounded
off the corners. After dry fitting, I mixed up some epoxy and
fitted it. To hold the seat matching the curve on the stringers,
I clamped a strong back across the middle at the lowest point.
I had now finished the construction of the canoe itself, yet
there was still a lot of sanding, trimming and tidying up to do
before I could coat the entire hull with epoxy and then paint,
but this was never the less a major milestone.
It was now time to prepare for final epoxy coating. The first
thing I did was to sand the inner edges of the decks back flush
with the bulkheads and then smooth out the rest of the deck edges.
Once I had this done, I methodically worked around the interior
and outwales picking up all the areas that needed attention. Once
I was happy with the decks and interior, I gave them a coat of
||Deck and Interior Epoxy Coated
Of course, once the epoxy had gone off, there were the inevitable
signs of amine blush, but I had expected this though. My intention
was to leave it until I had the external hull epoxy coated. I
turned the boat upside down and did the small amount of preparation
work that was required. I then broke out the epoxy and went for
|| Exterior Hull Epoxy Coated
The next morning there it was: amine blush. So I now had a canoe
that was fully epoxy sealed and covered in amine blush! I decided
to wash the amine blush off this time with soapy water as there
was no danger of soaking anything that shouldn’t get wet.
Once free of blush, the epoxy needed to be sanded down flat for
painting. This was done wet with wet and dry paper, which is a
considerably more pleasant process than dry sanding. After drying
off the hull, I masked off the outwale and applied the first coat
of two coats of primer
The primer then needed to be flatted off. This was done wet with
a fine grade of wet and dry paper. Then on went four coats of
undercoat with wet and dry sanding between coats.
The process for the top coat was a repeated for the undercoat.
After three coats of paint, I had a finish that, although I was
not entirely happy with, was passable. At this point I decided
to leave the hull as it was and turn my attentions to the decks
& interior. The first thing I needed to do was to complete
the sanding down of the epoxy to key the surface. I was not concerned
with getting a super smooth finish to the interior. As on the
model, the decks and outwales are to have a varnished finish.
I also decided to varnish the stretcher and the seat. After masking
off the areas to be varnished, I applied the two coat of primer
to the interior. This was followed by a coat of undercoat. For
the top coat I added a small amount of blue to the white to give
me a light blue. I figured this would be easier on the eye in
bright sunlight and would go with the hull colour. I now only
had the varnishing to do. After completing the varnishing, I looked
again at the hull and I was still not happy. I wet and dried sanded
it down again and recoated. The finish came out better this time,
so I could now pronounce the canoe finished!
Firstly, I had fun. Even in the middle of the sanding down, and
with no other jobs outstanding that could be done as a break,
it was still fun (in a masochistic sort of way).There will definitely
be a second build.
There is no question in my mind that I did overbuild the canoe.
I could have built it little cheaper and a lot quicker by not
epoxy coating, by not being so bothered about the finish and by
not using Douglas Fir (cheap DIY store pine instead) and so on,
but that was not the reason for building.
As a test run for the next build, I think I achieved everything
I wanted to and on the plus side the canoe will hopefully be around
for a fair few years. My grandchildren (if there are any) may
even get to use it.
Although it is my only build so far, but, with my experience
maintaining other boats, I think that the small size of the canoe
made achieving certain operations more difficult than on a larger
build. Any operation that required force on the light weight of
the canoe, meant it needed to be held down or strapped down. Working
on the interior was difficult with the lack of space, especially
when sanding down the hull panels. On the plus side, moving it
around and swapping between the inside and the outside was no
problem at all.
I would highly recommend building a small cheap boat such as
this before going onto a larger second build. It is said that
you should build your first boat second and having built this
boat I can fully appreciate what is meant. I know that the experiences
gained and lessons learned will make the next build cheaper (less
waste of materials), quicker (relatively) and with a better/more
easily achieved finish.
Main Lessons Learned
1. Only layout one panel of a pair - use the first panel as a
template for the second. Obvious I know, but less so in this case
because all the panels came out of less than a single sheet of
1. All pencil marks on the panels should be on the side that
will be painted when finished or use a soft pencil that can be
easily rubbed out.
2. When taping seams, use the minimum amount of epoxy possible
and allow time for the epoxy to soak into the glass tape - take
your time and plenty of care.
3. When filleting joints, place the masking tape slightly further
out than actually required (2-3mm) to make sure the fillet runs
4. Do not just touch in holes etc. with any left over epoxy as
you go. Make sure you take the time to do it properly and if not
discard the excess epoxy.
5. Although gluing the panels together and removing the stitches
prior to glass taping is a good idea, I think I would modify the
6.1 The stitching would be done as normal.
6.2 I would then glue the panels together as I have done this
time, but I would use either a syringe or polythene bag with the
corner cut off to a suitable size to fill between the panels only.
6.3 I would not worry about epoxy starvation as the seams will
have further epoxy added with the glass tape and all that is required
is to initially glue the panels together
6.4 This would then:-
a. Reduce the amount of epoxy spread out on the panels to a minimum.
b. Reduce the amount of epoxy wasted.
c. Almost completely get rid of the need to scrape/sand down.
d. Leave the inside of the hull clean apart from a bit of squeeze
e. Possibly aid in giving the glass tape a smooth radius between
7. When drilling clearance holes, keep the hole as small as possible
to help prevent squeeze through of epoxy.
8. When stitching thin plywood panels, I would consider closing
up the stitch hole centres from 150mm to 100mm or even 75mm where
necessary to better hold the panel edges aligned. This would help
reduce the amount of filling required.
9. Ensure that you mix the epoxy and hardener for the full length
of time recommended by the manufacturer (2 minuets for the WEST
system). I timed my mixing and had no problems with epoxy not
10. Although I was happy using the WEST epoxy system, I will try
the MAS epoxy system next time as it is claimed to be amine blush
free plus it has other features that would appear to make it more
11. Wet sand epoxy, paint and any non porous surfaces whenever
possible. Wet sanding gives no dust with the residue being held
in the water. The sand paper cutting surface does not clog up
and remains sharper for longer.