Making Petrel Play: Cutting Strips and Setting up Forms - Episode 2

Video 2 in a series documenting my build of the Petrel Play. In this episode I cut the strips and set up the forms.


Cutting Strips and Setting up Forms

Hi, I’m Nick Schade, Owner and head floor sweeper at Guillemot Kayaks. Welcome to Episode 2 of my series on making the Petrel Play. 

In the last video I introduced you to the kayak I’m building. The Petrel Play is a fun 14’ recreational touring kayak suitable for flat or rough water. If you have not watched this prior video, be sure to go back and check it out.

In this episode I will mill the strips that I’ll use to make the kayak, then I will cut out and set up the building forms. 

If you have any questions as I proceed with this build, please post them in the comments. I will do my best to answer.

To build a wooden kayak you first need some wood. I went to Liberty Cedar in Rhode Island and picked through their stacks.

I got variety of material for different projects, but the best color was in some 2-by Western Red Cedar.

I find I get the best results when my strips have vertical grain. This is easiest when you have flat grained boards of the right thickness. You just rip strips off the edge.

But, good quality 2-by material is usually vertical grained. So, to get vertical grained strips, I first rip blanks that are ?” thick then turn these on their side and rip my 3/16” thick strip off the blanks.

I try to keep the strips in sequence. This way if I choose to match the strips, I can do so. I bundle each original blank into an ordered set. Then keep the sets in order.

The first milling operation is cutting the blanks.

I use a power stock feeder on my table saw for safety and a consistent cut.

Note that I’m wearing a dust mask. Cedar dust is seriously evil. I have an industrial dust collector pulling dust from the saw, but some still gets in the air.

I also wear hearing protection. With the saw and collector going the noise level is dangerous.

I like to check the consistency of my cut with calipers. If there is a problem I can run the blanks through a thickness plane.

Once the blanks are cut and consistent they are turned on their side and the strips are cut.

This MagSwitch feather board is great for controlling the ever-narrowing blanks. Just unlock and slide it in. The stock feed does a good job, but the long boards are easily shifted. The feather board keeps everything running straight and true.

I use an inexpensive Freud Diablo 7 ?” Framing saw blade with 24 teeth. They have a very thin kerf to minimize the material lost to saw dust.

After each blank is cut, I bundle the sets together in sequence.

On this boat I ended up choosing not to match the strips. So I actually shuffled the pieces and swapped about half of them end-for-end to avoid any unintended patterns.

I print my plans out full size on paper. Each form is drawn by itself, with space around it. My expectation is people will take these paper plans, cut out the form patterns and glue them to a piece of MDF, or plywood or whatever material they may have that is suitable for making temporary forms.

These can then be cutout with a jigsaw or band saw…

 …and trued up with a stationary sander.

But, I’m not going to do that.

I have a CNC Machine.

Holes cut into the stations keep the weight of the finished form set down, so the strongback is easier to move. 

If either milling the strips or cutting the forms seems beyond your capability, Chesapeake Light Craft can provide either, or a complete kit with all the needed material. See the link below.

The spine of the forms is a strongback. This is a rigid reference to hold all the form stations.

I’m using an extruded aluminum tube, but you can make a box beam out of wood. The goal is something straight and true to hold the forms securely and accurately in place.

The forms are strung onto the strongback in order.

I placed a couple spacer blocks inside the hollow extrusion to center the end form on the strongback.

A couple screws shot through the strongback into the endforms secures them in place so they won’t slide off the end.

The spacing between stations is 1 foot or 30 cm. This is the distance between reference faces. 

Since the kayak tapers towards each end, a strip running down the length will only touch the square edge of the form at one point. This is the reference face. 

At the front of the boat, the reference face is the forward face of the form and as the boat tapers towards the stern, the rearward face is the reference.

The gap between most of the half inch thick form is 11 and half inches, except in the middle where the reference face change from front to back. Here the spacing is just 11 inches.

I make 11 and half inches long spacers that fit between the forms and wrap around the strongback.

One spacer per form at each end of the kayak.

I cut one of the spacers to accept a couple wedges for between the middle forms where the spacing is 11 inches.

The pressure from the wedges secures all the forms, but they may need some adjustment.

Checking the alignment of the reference lines on the forms, I find some are slightly rotated around the strongback. 

A few of the forms near the ends were not clamped by the wedges. These get a spot of hot melt glue.

I don’t want to glue the strips to the forms, so I’m wrapping the edges with packing tape.

With the cedar strips all milled and ready to use, and the forms cut and strung on the strongback, I’m ready to start building the kayak. In the next episode I’ll shape the inner stem and install the first strips. 

Please be sure to subscribe so to my Youtube channel at the link provided.

Thank you for watching and Happy Paddling.