Handcrafting a Kayak: Glassing Components for Protection and Strength - Petrel Play SG - E15

In the latest installment from The Guillemot Kayaks Workshop, we're given an insightful look into the assembly of the Petrel Play SG, a stitch and glue sea kayak designed by the host, available as a kit from Chesapeake Light Craft or as plans for those preferring a from-scratch build. The focus is on the application of fiberglass to various smaller components integral to the kayak's construction, such as the bulkheads, which are vital for creating watertight compartments in the vessel, and the cheek plates and coaming ring that contribute to the kayak's cockpit design. This meticulous attention to detail emphasizes the craft's design philosophy, aiming for both functionality and aesthetics.

During the process, Nick demonstrates applying fiberglass to these smaller pieces, preparing them for integration into the larger kayak structure. This includes a practical demonstration of wetting out fiberglass with epoxy resin, ensuring complete coverage for durability and strength. Special attention is given to the skeg assembly—a critical component for the kayak's navigation capabilities—highlighting the importance of precise application and the use of specific materials like thickened epoxy to fill holes, ensuring a seamless bond between wood and metal components, thereby enhancing the kayak's integrity and performance capabilities.

Furthermore, an innovative technique of using peel ply is introduced as a "poor man's vacuum bagging" method, demonstrating an alternative approach to achieving a high-quality finish on fiberglassed parts without the need for extensive sanding. This method not only streamlines the finishing process but also results in a lighter, more efficient layup by removing excess resin, showcasing the creator's commitment to both craftsmanship and practicality in kayak construction.

Throughout the episode, the video includes  practical tips and insights into the kayak-building process, from optimizing the use of fiberglass to ensuring a clean application of epoxy. Nick's expertise and attention to detail are evident as he navigates through the tricks of stitch and glue kayak construction, offering viewers a comprehensive glimpse into the nuances of building a sea kayak from a kit. The emphasis on incremental progress, with each step meticulously documented, underscores the dedication required to bring such a project to fruition.

Hey, welcome back to The Guillemot Kayaks Workshop. Bill and I are working on the Petrel Play SG, a stitch and glue sea kayak, from a kit made by Chesapeake Light Craft. This is my design. I sell plans directly if you want to build it from scratch, or you can get this kit from Chesapeake Light Craft.

In the last episode, we glassed the interior of the deck. In this episode, I would like to glass some of the bits and pieces that go into the boat. It's just nice to have glass on them. So, for example, the bulkheads. We've got two bulkheads; these are walls. This one goes right behind the cockpit, keeps water out that gets in the cockpit, from going into the back of the boat. This does the same thing in the front of the boat. This is out beyond the feet and makes a waterproof compartment in the front of the boat.

I call these bits cheek plates. These sit on either side of the cockpit and basically, they're a place to hang the backrest from and help keep your butt centered in the boat. I also have the coaming ring here, which basically it's just this outside part. These are risers for the combing. We don't need those right now, so I'm just going to bust this bit out of there, put this aside. So, I want to put a layer of glass on one side of that, and I'm going to put a skeg on this boat.

So, the skeg kit comes with a bunch of plywood pieces. Here, this is the skeg itself, a piece of plywood. We’ll end up shaping this later and putting fiberglass on both sides, but I want to shape that, and we'll do that in a separate operation. The sides of the skeg are two of these pieces, and then these are the spacers for the skeg. So, this creates a skeg box that is a stack of those three spacers, these two sides, and then the skeg fits inside of that.

For what we're doing today, I just have these two pieces I want to put some fiberglass on. We want to put a layer of fiberglass down over everything. If we can get some of these pieces sort of nested together, we might be able to use one piece of fiberglass for a large area, just like that. It should be enough to cover everything. This is longer than we need. I'm just going to slide it.

So, how hard can this be? Well, you got to do both sides, right? Eventually, we've got to do both sides. We're just going to do one side at a time, so that makes it a lot easier. The one thing I do want to have happen, the skeg box sides here have this hole in it. I'd like to fill that hole with epoxy. So, I want to put some tape over one side, and that way, the epoxy won't run through. The same thing on the other piece. Burnish that down pretty well so it doesn't leak through.

Now, amazing as it may seem, we're just going to put some epoxy to wet out that glass. I'll mix up a little bit of thickened epoxy to fill up these holes in the skeg box. So, I'll make a small batch of thickened epoxy to do that, and then we'll wet out the rest of it.

All right, I have mixed up a small batch of epoxy here. This is the cell. This is another thickener, like the wood flow. So, this just thickens up the epoxy a little bit. The reason I'm filling that hole, this metal rod here, goes through the center of that hole, and these holes here are also going to be filled. So, this axle is going to go through that hole, and it just makes it so it's not wood bearing directly on metal. It's wood on the epoxy. The epoxy can manage the load of wearing against the metal better than the wood can by itself.

That's often my process if I'm going to put a metal fastener into the wood. I will drill it oversize, then fill it with epoxy, and then drill it to the right size. It also serves to seal the end grain of the wood, so water does not flow into the ingrain. So, we're going to take this piece and just pour some epoxy into that hole. I'm going to pour a little bit excess and then sand it off later, but that will soak into the end grain of the wood, making a really strong bond there. We'll do the same on these pieces, and the glass can go right down over the top of that while it's still wet.

Now, we just want to mix up a small batch of epoxy, and we'll wet this out. All right, so we've mixed up a standard batch of epoxy, just like normal. We have some brushes. We'll just again the same process. We don't need to wet the whole thing out. We just want to get some epoxy onto the surfaces we're going to wet out, and then squeegee that around. Give it a moment to soak in, and if we need more, we can add more. But we're just going to do the whole surface of everything. There will be some places we'll see how it goes, where two pieces are next to each other, or we might get some little puckers that we'll have to deal with.

So again, see with the brush, I'm not trying to spread it around with the brush so much as just get it on there. The downside of having a bunch of pieces stacked together like this is sometimes they disagree on where things ought to be. You do want to make sure they're not overlapping, and then I'm just going to make a cut between the two pieces. That way, they can lie down on their respective places and not have a problem.

Yeah, again, if things want to stick up between pieces, just make a cut. That way they can go where they need to be. Here's an excellent example. We do want to get it completely saturated, the whole face of the wood completely covered, and afterward, when you cut this away, do you use scissors or a utility knife? Generally, I'll use a utility knife to just trim off the excess.

So, we want to make sure everything's wet out. So, not much to that. And you know, one thing to think about if you're building yourself and you've never glassed before, maybe do this task early on in the project before glassing anything else, just so you get a little bit of a sense of how the glass and epoxy interact. Well, that was the other thing I thought, doing the inside of the boat's first is also good because you're not going to see it. Yeah, yeah. The downside is they're harder, but by the time you get to the parts where it really matters what it looks like, you'll really have a good handle on how to do it.

Again, we just want to make sure everything's flat here, everything's wet out, no dry spots, no wrinkles. And that trick is just making, if there's a wrinkle in between two panels, just make a slice, and that way they can do their own thing.

So, in the previous episode, we got the hull ready for glass, then glassed it, and at the end of the day after Bill had gone home, I put a fill coat on it. So, we're looking at that hull after a fill coat, and it's really looking great right now. This is probably glued to our sawhorses. Yep. So, we'll have to free that up.

The steps we're going to do today is mainly little things. We've got bits and pieces. We fiberglassed the other day. They need fiberglass on the other side. We have the skeg box to start working on, building a little bit more. I want to work on getting the combing riser glued together. So, it's a bunch of little things. We're kind of in that stage of the process where we've got a bunch of little things.

The last big project we will have is glassing the deck to the hull. We need to get a bunch of stuff done before we can do that. The skeg stuff, we want access to the inside of the boat. You can install them after the deck is on there, but why make it harder for ourselves? I think we'll just start by getting the hull here separated from my sawhorses. We'll trim the glass off. I think we'll leave the hull sitting right here, bring the deck over, temporarily put it on top of it, so we can do that stuff with the combing riser, and then we'll peck away at these little projects. I think what it's going to take to get these off, we could probably just whack it with a hammer and break it off, but we won't do that. We'll just try putting a little score in the glass here between the deck and the sawhorses.

If I'd really been thinking, putting some wax paper down, or polyethylene or something like that would have helped. You want to get it cut through the glass. Right. All right, so let's just slip it over. I just have some mini-cell V blocks put underneath to hold it, and now we want to trim this top edge of glass off. So, again, this can be quite close to the edge of the wood. It's going to be a little bit tougher now because we put the fill coat on.

The thing I want to do is this, this freshly cut can be a wise maneuver. All right, I'm just going to dump there. It is something like that. There's [Music], not down too much. I'm going to take just a. I'm not trying to get the perfect, just maybe I'll do this.

So, after all the struggle of putting this front recess in, remember back when we had cracked this joint right here a little bit, you know, there's a little bit of a bump right there, but really, the whole thing looks good there. Nice and flush in there. The joints are tight all the way around. That came out pretty nice.

So, the next thing we're going to work on, the combing is going to go in here. We have all these pieces. These are the combing riser pieces. So, there's four different variations on these, and of each variation, there are four copies. So here, we have a fairly straight one here. Here's four with a little bit of a hook on it. Here's three with a big hook on it. Here's four with a moderate hook, plus one with the big hook. We just want to cut each of these out. There are the little tabs on there. We could probably either just use a utility knife and cut it out or those diagonal cutters that we were just using to cut the wires.

So, when we have these cut out, we should have four stacks of four pieces, each set being a little bit different. Theoretically, we could just take each stack of four and stick them down like this, try and figure out how they go together. If you look at the ends of these, they're cut at different angles, so you can use that as a guide to if it's right. See, that looks like it's the right length, but obviously, the angle doesn't come together good. Look at that angle. Does that match that angle right there? Pretty good match there, so that would probably go something like that. This goes in here, and then the last set goes back here. So, this is generally how they want to go together.

But the problem with this is all the joints line up. This piece here, if we glued these four together and these four together, they wouldn't be very strong glued to each other. It's just a simple butt joint. What I want to do is essentially do it like bricks. So, this joint is over here, right, and that joint's over here. Okay, and alternates. So, if we take the first set, it'll be a lamination when you're done.

Yeah, we're going to laminate them all together, but this set will go here. This one will go here, more or less, and then the next set will flip over. So, this will go like that. This will go like that. Having a flat space to lay these out is good. Start with one complete layer, and then the next one's oriented the other direction, and then back to the first orientation.

So, we are going to glue all these pieces up right in place on the deck here. That way, any curvature that this deck might have in this area gets glued into the system. But we don't want to glue these pieces to the deck right now. The interior surface of this is going to be a little bit rough. You know, the edges are going to be a little bit rough. So, if we do this glue up right now, then take it off, we can easily sand that edge with a hand sanding block or just on a power tool, and it gives us the opportunity to get it nice and clean. We could do this operation over in the other pile. There's a combing lip where you took a spray skirt on. That's the top of this stack. We could lay this whole stack up on the deck after it's been glassed and do it all in one operation.

It's a lot quicker but hard to get it neat and clean. Okay, so by doing this in a bunch of operations, it'll take a little bit longer. It's a lot of watching epoxy dry. We'll be able to clean things up a bit. The final results aren't better one way or the other time. Yes, a time thing versus a cleanliness thing.

So, in order to glue this stack up in place without it becoming the permanent part of the boat yet, I'm just putting down some packing tape on the surface where they're going to get glued. It will keep us from making a mess of the deck, and the epoxy won't stick to this tape. So then, we have a bunch of clamps. So now, let's take this one layer at a time and try to get it to match up on here. So, finding the place where it matches the best, and get one layer on. And if we need to adjust this first layer to get everything to line up well, we can do that. So, just throw some clamps on them.

We want nice tight joints in between each piece here. We don't want any gaps. So, this is kind of practice for when we get it all goobered up, and we can put some marks on the tape to just help us line things up. So, we're off. It doesn't matter now that we're off-center. It does matter. We want to get it on center, so we need to adjust it to get it on center. It doesn't really matter, but it's going to matter later, right? So, want the shape now. Let's figure out how to do it. I think we're going to do center that, yeah, and then we can adjust the others to make it work.

Yeah, this bit of fing about, yeah, it's going to be a major fussing involved. Now, as far as bending these, they might have a little flex, you know, they're not, you know, they're just made out of wood, so they're not perfect. So, if you need to flex them a little bit to get them to line up, that's fine. Okay, as you make the taller stack, you might see, okay, it's not working out, and then we'll need to adjust. So, once you got one layer on, it's good.

Yeah, so now put the next layer on and see how we do with that. You know, there'll be some moving of moving and removing of clamps. This end joint ended up right sort of at the base of the thigh brace there, did it do so on, you know, the layer below, is that in the same place? We've got stitch holes here. How do they relate to the stitch holes on the mirror image? That looks pretty good, yeah, it does. But that's just one of the tools you have to find some reference points and work off those sure to the best of our ability. We want to make these tight and match the curvature. Let's just dry fit the whole stack, and then we can make some with a sharpie, make some more useful marks along here. For example, we have a joint that happens right here and another one that happens right there. So, marking where all those joints land, that way, we don't, when it's all goobered up with epoxy, we don't have to mess around with it too much. Yeah, and you know, we could make center lines on things, sure, and you know, give ourselves some references, so we can quickly and easily do it right when it comes time to put the next layer on.

So, these should end up stacked right above each other, right. Yeah. Um, I think you're ahead on that with that piece. This one goes here, so yeah, this is the last one. And this lay, yeah, so now let's look at all these joints, make sure they're nice and tight, see what it takes to tighten them up, and then use the sharpie to make some nice, nice references. So, I'm making a mark on the tape and then just up the face of all the joints, so that way, there's a mark on the piece that doesn't have a joint also has a mark. That way, can line everything up to each other. I've got the double stitch holes up here. I'm just going to make a mark for those. SLE stitch hole right here in the center back.

The next thing we're going to do is glue them together, but first, we need to take it apart. The bottom layer here, we don't need to take off. That will stay in place, and we'll put a glue on top of that, then put the next piece down on top of that, and stack it back up. So, if we take these off and put them back over here on our um, staging plywood in the order they come off, yep, and in the orientation the same place. So, yeah, close it up there, and then this one will go like that. Yeah, we want to take the third layer off. So, this is a third layer, yeah, and then the last layer, you know, the second to last layer. So, these two pieces on there, and now let's re-get this clamped. So now, we will mix up some epoxy, add some of the copil to it. So, this is the cell fill. So, I use the wood flour on the long seams where I want the thickened epoxy to sort of be wood-colored. Where I'm just gluing stuff together, and I want sort of a strong glue on, I'll use the copil. You could also use there's sisal or fumed silica. Sisal and fumed silica are the same thing, and that is actually sort of a glass product can be used in the same way as copil, either one will serve the same purpose

Basically, as a thickener to make it so the glue doesn't run out, if you just painted plain epoxy on here, that epoxy would just drain out of the glue joint and wouldn't do the job. So essentially, we'll make mayonnaise with this, something that we can spread in place, and it'll stay there. We'll get some squeeze out, but it won't drain out.

Right, and you wouldn't use CA glue here because you could never line it up quickly enough to make it. Yeah, and you know these big surfaces too, you know, glue them together structurally. I wouldn't use CA glue for structural glue. Yeah, that's it. It might make it easier to glue these little butt joints together with the CA glue. Yeah, that could help, um, make it a little bit easier, get those all pre-lined up and that way you don't need to worry about if they're tight. Right, so that would be a fairly reasonable, you want to give that a try? I think that would pretty good, probably. Yeah, then you're not fussing with that while you're trying toxy, I guess. Alright, so there's the CA glue, here's some accelerant. Put a little bit of glue in here. Try not to drip it everywhere, just on the end grain there, and then press that end grain together, nice and straight, nice and even. Then give it a that one there, and then you know, we can do the same with these over here. Again, this CA glue in this application isn't going to be super strong, but it doesn't need to be. We just, this is sort of an assistant assembly, so we want to be careful when we glue these up that we don't glue it to the parts below it. There's some wax paper right behind you, on top of the epoxy pump, so just as we glue it up, put a little bit of wax paper under the joint you're working on.

Why don't you mix up like a two-pump batch? Yeah, so this white powder, we don't want it quite as thick as the wood flour mix we used to make, um, we want it spreadable but still has the ability to run a little bit. So this is still probably too thin; it's a little little bit drippy there. So add another spoon. Alright, so this still flows, but, you know, it's not going to just run out; it's got some ability to stay in place. Got some acid brushes here, we're just going to spread a layer of this on top of those, the surface of those rings. So we, we want this thick enough on here that it will squeeze out a little bit, and we want to keep from making a mess of the deck, so we probably be better off here, so we're not dripping on the deck. Full coverage on the wood, so it's no dry spots. Just going move this clamp to a sticky spot, just so it doesn't shift around too much. Full disclosure, I am a sloppy painter. Yeah, I'm not a neat painter either. Yeah, so you want it shiny, you don't want the surface dry because it's got to be enough to fill in any gap. So this is looking fairly dry over there now, so get enough on there, that it's, you know, noticeably wet, a little bit shiny, and it will be stronger if we get some squeeze out. If there's no squeeze out, that means it's probably a little starved. Obviously, we want to minimize the squeeze out so it doesn't make a mess, but there's a happy medium there.

Alright, and when we got that looking like there's something on everything, we will take the next layer, line up our marks, transfer the clamp. Everything seems to line up there. Alright, now butter this layer up. We don't need to clamp everything because the clamps are going to be in the way of applying the glue, but we do want to make sure things can line up and get where they need to be. I tend to not be all that careful when I'm applying glue. You know, trying to get a perfect application of glue that looks perfect is not the point. We want enough glue on there that it'll glue everything together. Making it look pretty at this point, while, you know, there's no harm in that if it slows you down from getting the glue on, then you may have bigger problems later. Alright, looks like you get glue everywhere. Alright, and again we will line up our marks here. Where are we at? We only need to, we're not putting any glue on this one. Oh yeah, yeah, this is the last layer of glue. So I think we, you know, with some scraping there, I think we can probably make it line up with our marks. And this time try to get it lined up with the edge here, the edge of the cockpit hole. Okay, and we're going to start loading clamps onto it and get everything nice and straight, stack as best to our ability, and this is one of those situations, there's no such thing as too many clamps. Just going and giving it a push to see if I see any more squeeze out when I do that. Yeah, we can use one here.

Alright, so now we've got some squeeze out all the way around this edge. We'll just take and brush that somewhat smooth, and you know, inspects things just to make sure things look lined up kind of nice. I suppose we might be able to reach inside here and smooth out the inner surface a little bit too. So this will be sanded after, it will all be sanded. Yeah, this is sealing up the end grain of the plywood, making sure that, you know, whatever epoxy we have squeezed out there give it the opportunity to give us some benefit. Okay, so the other day we had glassed side one of these pieces, now I'd like to glass the other side, and it's essentially the same process. Uh, we won't go into great depth here, but I want to show you something a little bit later that is sort of an upgrade you can do to this process. It's called peel ply, and it's sort of a po' man's, um, vacuum bagging. And so when we do the glassing, I'll show you how the peel ply works. So Bill and I will just take and cut out these pieces here and separate the glass from them. We don't need to get them perfect; we're basically just trying to get the excess off of it here, so we don't have to deal with it. I'm not trying to make it pretty.

Alright, all this stuff can be thrown away, and there's a little bit of uh places where the epoxy put the rosin paper over here. Alright, so we want to lay these out so they will use the cloth efficiently, and then you have a scrap piece; we'll just cover it. Yeah, I don't mind sort of stacking up; we'll make this the underside of the combing if we have some extra layers on the other side, that's okay. Just trying to be conservative with the cloth there, enough hanging off of there to um, I don't want to double up on this piece. Alrighty, now we can mix up some epoxy and just wet those pieces out. Alright so now it's just like we did before, wetting things out. So we're going to put peel ply on here, so we can be a little bit more liberal than we normally would be with the epoxy. Again, we want to get everything wet out. We don't want so much that it drools under the as side, makes a mess gluing the rosin paper to our parts.

Okay, so now the peel ply thing. So peel ply is essentially just nylon fabric that, um, epoxy doesn't stick to nylon very well. So we put this stuff down onto the epoxy; you want to hold that edge. And get enough to cover your stuff there, right there completely. So we're just going to squeegee this down onto the epoxy there. So you want it to be nice and wet on those parts. We don't care about between the parts. So that's going to give that top layer of epoxy the texture of this cloth. Excess resin gets pushed through the peel ply, and when it hardens, we then peel it right off. So all the excess resin comes off with the peel ply. It's got a fine weave texture which is perfect for bonding new stuff to, without any sand. I've got spots here where it's not all the way, just drag it If you can squeegee it if there's any extra someplace else, you know, wrinkles, but it's okay if it's looking a little starved. Don't overdo the squeegeeing; you take all the resin out altogether. You don't need to add much of a fill coat, basically the weave texture that remains is just the fine nylon cloth. So it takes out excess resin makes it so you don't need to add as much extra resin for the fill coat. You can end up with a lighter layup. Theoretically, you could do this on the whole boat, but this nylon does not conform well to complex shapes. So it's really great on flat surfaces like these parts, but to get around the shape of a boat would be hard. Where I have places where this panel is a different level of this panel, I'm just going to take my utility knife and run it through between them. That way, the cloth can find its own happy place.

So when that dries, we'll be able to just peel it right up and end up with a nice smooth surface. Alright, so that's that. Good enough, that's good enough. So I'll call that enough for this episode. Like I said earlier, we are at the stage of the process where there's a bunch of little tasks that we need to deal with, and it can be a little bit tricky with the timing on when to do these things. But since they are little tasks, you can break them up. I suggested the idea of doing some of this fiberglassing of the small parts early on in your build, just so you have a little bit of hands-on with the fiberglass before you get to some of the serious stuff like the hull. The exact timing of when you do it really doesn't matter. In future episodes, I'll get a little bit deeper into the assembly of the skeg and skeg box. Some of that stuff I've actually been doing during the time period when this set of video was filmed, but I'm going to break that out mostly into an episode by itself. A lot of these things are good things where if you get an hour after work or sometime during the week where you can just hop in, apply a little fiberglass, let it cure for another day. It won't really take up a lot of your time. But if you're liking this, do all the YouTube stuff: notifications, subscriptions, blah blah blah. Until the next episode, thanks for watching, and happy paddling.