Journal

Glassing the Hull:  This entry will show all of the steps I used to apply fiberglass to the hull.

Before I start, I have to say that I am indebted to Ted Moores who was a guest instructor for the cedar strip kayak course at Wooden Boat School.  Prior to taking Ted's course, I had built several boats of which I was very proud, but my methods were crude and imprecise.  I arrived for Ted's course several days early hoping to watch and help Ted set up the forms for the kayak.  I arrived at the shed at approximately 8:00 a.m. and was pleased to find Ted and help him unload his truck and get his tools and supplies in place.  As we were going back and forth to the truck, Ted took notice of a canoe building course going on adjacent to our work area.  He stopped dead in his tracks and watched for several minutes as students ground and sanded freshly epoxied hulls while preparing to apply additional coats.  I didn't notice anything unusual, but I could see that he wasn't pleased.  He said something that would stick in my mind long after I completed his course.  "I don't like noise, sawdust, sandpaper,  grinding, and the excessive use of epoxy or any other chemicals.  We won't have any of that in my class."  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  To me, boatbuilding WAS all of those things.

True to his words, Ted was extremely organized, fastidiously neat, and an absolute perfectionist.  To this day I try  to emulate (with some success)  his building techniques.  For this entry I will try to give Ted credit for what he taught me and ask for his patience in the areas where I stray.

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In preparation to glass the boat, I measured the planks on the boat and laid out the cloth in our family room.

Before cutting the cloth to length, I put duct tape across the cloth to keep it from unraveling and/or losing it shape after I cut it.

 

Next I laid the cloth on the hull and taped the top of the cloth to the hull. The ends of the cloth (out of sight) are stapled to the hull.  I must note here that I have faired and sanded the hull so that it is near perfect.  Ted Moores taught us that all of the fairing should occur prior to application of the cloth.  On the kayak that we built, no sandpaper was used.  The entire hull was faired and smoothed with scrapers.

 

I laid out my supplies before starting the glassing.  Here you see a box cutter, paper cups, spreaders, a mixing can, epoxy, and rubber gloves.  Not shown is a gallon of white vinegar and paper towels.  Epoxy is a very toxic material, and if it gets on the skin it can cause severe allergic reaction in some people. The vinegar was on standby to remove epoxy that got on hands, arms etc. Gloves were changed frequently.  I have a large exhaust fan that was running during the entire operation.   

 

 

During this process, I was ably assisted by Don McGowen, a good friend and master carpenter/furniture maker.  Note that Don is wearing a paper (Tyvec) suit.  This suit provides extra insurance and may be purchased at almost any tool/chemical supply company.

 

We prepared small batches of epoxy in the mixing can according to the instructions.  We stirred for approximately two minutes.  This is very important.  A small batch mixed in cool air will not "cook off" for 20-30 minutes. After the epoxy was mixed, we poured small amounts onto the hull and spread it around with the spreaders.

 

Don spreads epoxy near the chine.  It is very important to make sure that the cloth adheres to the chines and that there aren't any air pockets.  If a pocket occurs, you can place your gloves below the chine and push/pull/smooth the air pocket out. 

 

 

After the hull is completely covered there is always excess epoxy.  This epoxy may be gathered up on the spreader and deposited in a paper cup by running the spreader across a one inch slit in the cup.  This method was developed by Ted Moores and he wants credit for this accomplishment mentioned in his epitaph!  For a supper-smooth finish, wait for the epoxy to get tacky and then reapply epoxy and squeegee again.

After the first application, I gave the epoxy almost a month to cure and then started prepping the keel area for the last piece of cloth.  This prep consisted of sanding the edges of the glass.  Note that I am wearing a good dust mask and using the vacuum attachment on my orbital sander.  This glass dust is nasty and I have read that once it enters your lungs it cannot be processed and will remain there indefinitely.

 

Here I am using a Sharpie pen to mark the seam of where the old cloth stops and where I want the new cloth to start.

 

This is a photo of the entire marked seam for the new piece of cloth.

 

Here the last piece of cloth is draped in place and ready to be wetted out.  If you look closely at the right side of the cloth, you can see the marked area through the cloth.  As soon as the cloth is wetted, the line will pop out.

 

Second verse, same as the first - mix epoxy, pour on, distribute with a spreader.  I went down to the line, and then stopped.  This was definitely a two man job and I attempted it myself.  It took me three hours and had me working faster than I would have liked.  After I finished I let it cure for almost two hours (at 70 degrees) and then cut along the scribed line. I then pulled off the excess cloth and had a near perfect seam.  For smaller boats, this process can be completed in one step without letting any of the glass/epoxy reach the tacky stage.

 

This is what the finished hull looks like after ripping off the excess cloth.  The dull marks on the hull are where the epoxy wetted through the excess cloth.  The hull itself is still smooth.

 

The next step will be glassing the transom and repairing a few air pockets.

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