The Making of a Guillemot SK

This is a somewhat abridged web page on the making of Nick's Guillemot SK (now known as the Coastal).  If I can do it, anyone can, so don't get discouraged - you can do it!  I will be posting more pictures of an SK carbon-fiber/kevlar hybrid that I will be molding in the next couple of months, so check back from time to time if you are interested.  Feel free to contact me (Mike Stocks) at:



This is my daughter Jennifer with our Siamese cat Cosmo. They're balancing on a pile of native Vermont Eastern White cedar. Short (15' maximum.) lengths, but at $1.20/bd. ft. for select grade, I'll deal with the butt joints!  I live in Northern Vermont, so there's plenty of white cedar up here at great prices.  I should also mention that Northern White cedar is much more flexible than Western Red, and, in my opinion, a nicer wood to work with.

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That's me stripping the cedar on my 8" 1952 Rockwell table saw.  I bought it for $120.00 through the "used wood tools" section of a local newspaper.  It works just fine, but creates one hell of a mess (as any operation like this would).   Cutting strips is a tedious, dangerous and messy job.  If you have the finances, I'd recommend buying precut strips.  But, if you are a do-it-yourselfer (or cheap, like me!), then this is the way to go.  I should mention that I ran all of my raw boards through a surface planer before I started stripping to ensure 3/4" thickness.  I frequently measured the strips coming off the saw for thickness uniformity.

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The fruits of about 1 hour of labor.   It's best if you put down a tarp to catch the cedar dust, as it's impossible to rake it all up and it will kill your grass for a season.  After I have stripped all my strips I run them through  a thickness planer again to ensure a uniform 1/4" thickness. It is also a great way to smooth up both sides and save on some sanding work.

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This was Cheryl's idea on storing the strips.  (Apparently no man would ever think of sorting the strips according to size and bundling them to keep the from being broken.   What would the world come to without the fairer sex?)  This method also keeps them out from underfoot until you are ready to use them.  I also bead and cove my strips on a router table that I bought at a good price at Sears.  I don't have any pictures of this process, but I can say that the setup is exacting and tedious and the beading & coving is very messy.  There are also a few tricks to (i.e. setting up jigs) to make your life easier.  However, the payoff of doing the bead & cove   comes when you start laying strips and fairing.  I'd recommend bead & cove over the traditional fitting methods unless you have lots of time on your hands.

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Yes, I really did build it in my garage.  At this point I've already stripped the hull and have moved on to the deck.  You can clearly see the tape covering each form to prevent the glue from sticking.  I use hot melt glue and a glue gun, which significantly speeds the stripping process and reduces the need for lots of staples and the occasional drywall screw.  However, hot melt glue must be used very sparingly, as it is a bear to scrape and sand!  I usually run a bead down the cove edge of my strip that is 1/3 the width of the cove.  I found that this minimizes any sqeezeout and still holds very well.  You could, if sufficiently motivated, strip the entire boat in one day with this method, as the glue is good to go in less than ten seconds.

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A bit more progress on the deck.

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The deck is almost done!  I originally underestimated the length that the strips should run over the cockpit area.  I could not seem to find an accurate visual reference in the plans to tell me how far I should run the strips, so I guessed (incorrectly, that is!).  This necessitated a few minor repairs, but it came out OK in the end.  I also had quite a bit of foot traffic past my garage to look at "the kayak".  The most gratifying part of this was that people were actually able to recognize what I was making!

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Another view of the deck from the bow.  You can see that there is quite a bit of variation in color with the Eastern White cedar.  I made no real effort to coordinate the pattern of colors.  It was just whim and whimsy.

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One kayak, ready for fairing! As you can see from the pumpkins we harvested from out garden, this was sometime in late October.   I don't have any shots of how I did the cockpit, but I did send an e-mail to Nick on my process and you can check out his version of my process on the Newfound Woodworks web page.

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Here's a shot of the cockpit coaming being glued on to a faired, glassed and joined boat.   I also did a double-reinforced variation on Nick's basic coaming theme, hence the clamps holding the inner band in place.  These spring clamps are great little things. You can never have too many clamps!  If you are interested in how I did this, just send me some e-mail and I'll add the details to the web page.  If you look closely you will be able to see the minor repair area where I stopped short with the strips, as well as the extra layer of glass reinforcement around the outside of the cockpit.  I used 4.0 oz. fiberglass on the whole boat with reinforcements generally following Nick's recommendations.  The seat, footbraces, decking and thigh pads were fitted shortly after this stage.

Boat09.jpg (96638 bytes)Here's a picture of Jenn and her (former) boyfriend at the Shelburne Shipyard on the northern end of Lake Chaplain.  She is learning the traditional practice of christening a boat before launch.  (She's also learning that you don't have to dump and entire bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on the bow!  Just a sprinkle will do - the rest is for the builder!!)  Anyway, the boat was named "The Jenny" (surprise, surprise) and I got a few sips before "Champ" (our Lake Chaplain monster) sucked up the rest.  The launch went off without a hitch.

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Here's Jenny taking her first ever paddle in her very own kayak.  The straps on the ends were designed to be tied up in a knot, but we got too excited and forgot.  Jenny is being very careful as it's March 24th, 1998 and the inlet has just barely cleared of ice (there are actually some stray floes to the left, just out of the shot).  The water is 33 degrees Fahrenheit, and damn dangerous for anything but paddling within15-20 yard from shore with a buddy.  (I believe you'd  last about 15 minutes in water this cold, assuming you had a lifejacket.)  Jenny had three of us standing on shore with a fresh set of dry clothes and a warm car, just in case.  We were certified as the first put-in of the year, hands down!

Boat02.jpg (66625 bytes)At 6' 2" and 220 lbs., I'm way too big to fit into the SK properly.  However, it didn't stop Mom from taking the kid's boat out for a spin!  If you look closely, you can see the ice and snow on the shoreline.  As you may be able to see from the reflection in the deck, the boat is mighty shiny.  I ended up putting 7 coats of polyurethane over the sanded epoxy.  I did want to mention that I have never been able to get the raw epoxy surface to anywhere near the shine I expected it to be.   Apparently, this is normal, as the material simply does not finish to this sheen without being molded and buffed for hours.  A good smooth epoxy surface done in 120 grit coated with several coats of a good quality solvent-based (not the water reducible type) single or two-part polyurethane will get you to that sheen you are looking for.

Cheryl loved the boat, but she really wanted a composite hybrid as opposed to a traditional wood strip.   So, I'm making Cheryl one for her 40th birthday in late April ('s a surprise!).  I'm using a female mold for the SK and will be building a cored carbon-fiber/kevlar hybrid.  I've worked with composites before, so I have a solid understanding of the basics (a good idea before you ruin 18 yards of carbon fiber at $37.00/yard!).  My estimate is that the boat should come in around 22 lbs., after it is seamed.  The seat, footbraces and other goodies should add a bit more weight, but overall, it will be quite a light and very strong boat.  I will be keeping an accurate diary, picture log and resource reference of this process for anyone who is interested.  I have found that there is almost nothing for resources on laying up and vacuum molding composite kayaks (with the exception of a rather dated book by Charlie Walbridge).  I'll turn my logs and pictures into a "how-to" web page for the composite-minded individual!

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Nick Schade

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