< back to articles

Kayak Building Part 12 – Glassing the Deck

This is part 12 of a multipart blog . . . Read Part One here,  Part Two herePart Three herePart Four herePart Five herePart Six herePart Seven herePart Eight herePart Nine herePart Ten here, Part Eleven here.

After all the preparation on the deck, it’s finally ready for the fiberglass! I was happy that the timing worked out so we would be glassing on a Saturday morning. It’s easier to assemble the team, and it’s easier to see with more daylight!

Day 55:  8/4/12  3.25 hours

I was headed out the door to meet Dan at the lockmaster’s house for a 9 am start when I took a quick look at the construction manual. Almost a month ago, Dan pencilled in on this day “burn numbers”. Fortunately I read the book before leaving my house and grabbed the letter that Pygmy sent me with my Hull Identification Number (HIN) on it. I would need that! The letter gave specific instruction on where to burn the number on the deck, and the height/width of the ID. (I remember getting that letter in the mail from Pygmy Boats. It arrived a few weeks after I bought the kayak kit from them. I thought to myself – wow, they really think I’m going to finish this boat!) So – here I am, actually using that number!

I started driving to the lockmaster’s house when Dan called. He wanted to make sure I had the letter.

I arrived at 9 and immediately went to work measuring the spot for the HIN number and then burned it in place with Dan’s woodburner.  According to the letter, the number must be on the starboard side within 2″ of the top of the hull/deck joint.  Dan had assembled the glass team as he did for the hull, and they were scheduled to arrive at 9:30.

Burning numbers on deck


While I burned in the number, Dan laid a strip of blue painter’s tape down both sides of the hull, 1″ below the deck. This will be used later to cut the excess glass. Next we pulled out the fiberglass cloth and draped it over the deck. The edge of the cloth on one side hung just over the tape. The blanket extended from the stern to the middle of the boat. After smoothing down the cloth, I cut the excess from the other side just at the tape line. This leaves a triangular piece of glass cloth, which fits nicely on the other end of the boat. We overlapped the cloth on the bow end of the deck. Although the directions suggest a 2″ overlap a the cockpit, mine turned out to be an 8″ overlap in front of the cockpit. We then trimmed the excess at the tape lines.

Fiberglass blanket draped over deck

We again had a team of five for the glassing job. Dan mixed the epoxy, John rolled epoxy, and Peter followed up with the foam brush to break the bubbles on one side. Both John and Peter are experienced and always help out glassing. I rolled epoxy, while Dave followed up with the foam brush on the other side. Dave and I are both newbies. Dave has a kit, but hasn’t opened the box yet. Hitting the overlapped area was a bit tricky. We had to make sure the glass stayed flat and was saturated enough. Looking back on the operation, it might have been smarter to have an experienced and newbie on each side. Later I discovered an air pocket on the side I glassed that was on the overlapped section. It was the size of a nickel. The plan was to drill a small hole through it after it set up and fill it with epoxy. Great. Other than the air pocket, the glassing job went fast; we finished in an hour.

Fiberglass Deck Team

Glassing deck - notice the two pieces of the fiberglass blanket that will be overlapped.

After the crew left, I worked on the pieces of the cockpit that I would need later this week. The cockpit coaming comes in four half-moon shaped curved pieces. There is an upper and lower section. Two pieces together surround the cockpit. The upper lip of the coaming is used to fasten a spray skirt. The coaming also strengthens the cockpit.

I sanded the rough spots off the lower coaming and then saturated it with epoxy. The lower coaming is much thicker than the upper coaming and doesn’t require fiberglass, only epoxy. The end grain of the plywood really soaked in the epoxy, so I added it liberally.

I found scraps of fiberglass and fit the upper coaming on it like a puzzle. I managed to get both pieces of coaming on one piece of glass, which made it easier to hold the glass in place while rolling on the epoxy. I let both sections cure overnight.

Fiberglassing the upper coaming for the cockpit

I took a lunch break while I waited for the deck to get tacky. I returned at 12:30, which gave the deck two hours to set up. Then I cut the excess glass off of the boat by running a razor knife on the upper edge of the masking tape. I had to apply enough pressure to cut off the new glass, but not enough to cut through the hardened epoxy on the hull. Next I carefully pulled up the tape. This left a nice clean line where the fiberglass ends. I thought cutting and pulling up the tape would only take a few minutes, but I ended up spending an hour making the cuts and cleaning up the tape. I wrapped up at 1:30 and rushed out the door to make it to the store and then to an afternoon wedding!

Cutting glass at tape line with utility knife

Airpocket in fiberglassed deck

Day 56:  8/5/12  2 hours

I started out easy and cut the fiberglass out of the cockpit hole with the utility knife.

Cutting fiberglass out of cockpit area

Then Dan examined the air pocket and said that instead of drilling a hole and filling with epoxy, I’d have to cut it out and patch it so I cut out the bad spot with the utility knife. Since the bad spot was in the overlapped fiberglass area, one small patch of glass wasn’t enough. In fact, every nickel sized patch I cut from the regular glass kept falling apart. I ended up cutting the patches out of the fiberglass tape which was a bit thicker than the glass. I painted the patch on with a disposable brush and kept kicking myself for letting that happen! I wish it was at least at the stern end, but of course it’s in a spot that I will always be able to see while paddling.

I cut out the nickel-sized airpocket with a utilitly knife.

My attempts to patch the hole in the fiberglass.


Next I smoothed up the edge around the cockpit and the overlapped glass area with the yellow shaver. I also used the cabinet scraper to smooth out the overlap.

Cleaned up edge of cockpit

Cleaned up overlapped area with cabinet scraper after using the shaver.


Then I jumped over to prepare the hip brace. The hip brace is made from 3-1/2″ wide wooden reinforcement plate that came with the kit. First I burned in my HIN number onto the hip brace.  According to the letter, a duplicate HIN number must be  marked on an unexposed permanent location on the inside of the boat, with the characters 1/4″ high.  Then I laid a scrap of fiberglass over the plate and had it ready for epoxy saturation.

Burned HIN numbers to hip brace

Back to my epoxy station.  I mixed up a triple batch of epoxy, filled my small tray, cut my foam roller, and went to town on the deck. After I rolled on the layer of epoxy, I smoothed over the bubbles with a foam brush.

First coat of epoxy on deck

While still in epoxy mode, I saturated the hip brace. Then I added another coat to the lower coaming and flipped over the upper coaming to saturate that side with epoxy.

Fiberglassed hip brace

Painted a coat of epoxy on the sides of the lower coaming.

Upper coaming fiberglass side two


Day 57:  8/6/12  1.25 hours

“Happy Anniversary, Mark – 24 years! Do you mind if we meet at the lockmaster’s house and work on the boat a bit before dinner?” Now how many husbands can get away with that?! Let me know if that ever worked for you! Fortunately it worked for me, and Mark happily met me at the boathouse after work.

Happy Anniversary Mark! Thanks for working on the boat with me tonight!

I fiberglassed the other side of the hip brace and sanded the rough spots from the end grain of the lower coaming while Mark trimmed the glass off the upper coaming with the utility knife.

Nancy sanding edges of lower coaming

Mark trimming the fiberglass on upper coaming

Then we put the second coat of epoxy on the deck.  I rolled epoxy, while Mark followed up with the foam brush. After all of the epoxy work I had done so far, for some reason I was trying not to overlap the roller. Because of this, the epoxy was uneven; some spots were thicker than others. I tried to get Mark to help correct it with the foam brush, but he said much of it was from the previous day’s epoxy work and he couldn’t fix it. He assured me I could correct it with the sander later. I think I was trying too hard.

Nancy rolling second epoxy coat on deck.

Mark following up with foam roller to remove bubbles.


I was getting depressed about the look of the epoxy and the bad spot on the fiberglass. My team at Woodcraft suggested several ways to cover the spot:  perhaps quick marketry work to cover the spot – maybe a nautical star. Good idea, but I didn’t think there was anything quick about that!


Day 58:  8/7/12  1 hour

I returned after work for the third and final coating of epoxy with my extra focus on the bad spot. Also, for some reason, I was still trying to overlap the epoxy as little as possible. Although overlapping with the roller brush causes more bubbles, going over the work with a foam brush removes them. (Later I watched Dan rolling epoxy, and he continually overlapped while rolling and made sure he covered every spot.) I knew I would have a lot of sanding work to get my epoxy flattened out.

The patched spot still looks bad!

Third coat of epoxy on deck

Time in this project so far: 115.5 hours

Stay tuned for the next blog where I attach the cockpit and get some local news coverage in:

Kayak Building Part 13 – Cockpit Coaming and Seat Installation


Add a comment

Comments (16)

  1. avatar
    Lee Reger, September 20, 2012
    Looking good! When will she (he?) be launched? Should we bring Champagne? Reply
  2. avatar
    Yokin, September 21, 2012
    Čestitam! Reply
    • avatar
      nancy, September 21, 2012
      Hvala! Reply
  3. avatar
    Yokin, September 21, 2012
    Super! Reply
    • avatar
      nancy, September 21, 2012
      Thank you! Reply
  4. avatar
    Pygmy Boats, September 21, 2012
    When finish sanding you can smooth the edges of your patch so that it's invisible after final finish. Nice work Nancy! :) Reply
    • avatar
      nancy, September 24, 2012
      Invisible sounds good! Thanks! Reply
  5. avatar
    Raymond Russell, September 27, 2012
    When you first noticed bubble you should have put two holes in it and re epoxied over it forcing epoxy under fiberglass and re-adhering it to substrate. Then feather sand to smooth. If epoxy was still wet when discovered, a hole would have let air out. Great job on boat. I've enjoyed reading about your project and look forward to reading more Reply
    • avatar
      nancy, September 28, 2012
      Great info! thanks! Reply
  6. avatar
    Doug Lindsey, September 28, 2012
    Your story (and pictures) are facinating. Someday I too will build a kayak. Next time I'm in your area, I plan on stopping by the store with hopes of getting to see the boat! Reply
    • avatar
      nancy, September 28, 2012
      Let me know when you're in town. I can arrange for you to see several models, but they aren't in the store! Reply
  7. avatar
    Steve Worzman, September 28, 2012
    Here's my technique for repairing surface holes. Prepare as much as possible in advance so you can work fast when the epoxy is catalyzed. I've repaired many a surface hole this way on my boats. Mistakes and dings are time sinks. There is not easy or fast way to do this. (Veneer repair is just as bad.) 1) cut a neatly beveled the edge in the surface glass around the hole, 2) trace hole edge onto a piece of wax paper with a pencil, and then heavily trace larger around the hole trace with a 1/8" margin, 3) perforate the wax paper with a spiked rolling wheel (like a ravioli cutter, make lots of tiny pin holes, or use a tiny pointy nail), 4) lay enough patch material to cover the outer trace on the wax paper (wax side up, against patch), 5) wet only patch material with catalyzed epoxy, 6) on a hard scrap surface, cut outer trace with a small (1") rolling cutter (found in fabric and craft stores - this cutter will not pull apart the weave as you cut, apply downward pressure as you roll cutter), 7) with a thin spatula, pick up the patch with wax paper and transfer it to the center of a larger (approx. 2x diameter) perforated piece of wax paper with patch/glass side up, 8) lightly sand the hole and thinly wet with catalyzed epoxy (wet around edge overlap area too), 9) apply entire patch with paper assembly directly over hole, align it so patch overlaps hole edges (you get one shot at this, don't move patch after it is down), press out air bubbles lightly with a finger, 10) place a 1/4" thick layer of cotton wadding over the perforated wax paper (do not go outside wax paper's edge), and cover this with a piece of wax paper, 11) put a similarly sized piece of spongy foam rubber (3/4" - 1.5" thick) over top layer of wax paper, 12) with strong and tacky tape (i.e, duct tape) tape the patch in place, pulling tight to compress the foam against the foam against the patch and against the hull. 13) Leave this in place until the epox has cured. The pressure of the foam will drive any excess wet expoxy into the cotton layer, leaving only the glass weave saturated with epoxy (i.e., a pressurized squeegee). The wax paper acts as a mold release from the cured epoxy. 14) After removing tape and wax paper, sand flush the overlapped edges. Women's nail files work well for this. 15) With a fine applicator (i.e., toothpick, womens' disposable make-up applicator - grab a few a Sephora), apply just enough catalyzed epoxy to the sanded edges to re-gloss them. Let cure. Reply
    • avatar
      nancy, September 28, 2012
      Hi Steve, Thank you for the detailed information. I wish I would have tried this. Will definitely be useful for the next boat and other boat builders!! Nancy Reply
  8. avatar
    Richard, September 28, 2012
    I just came across your blog from a woodcraft email. The kayak looks great! I only read this latest post, but I'm looking forward to catching up on the rest. Oh, and Happy Anniversary to you and Mark. Reply
    • avatar
      nancy, September 28, 2012
      Thanks Richard! Reply
  9. avatar
    After checking out a few of the blog articles on your site, I truly like your technique of writing a blog. I book marked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back in the near future. Please check out my web site as well and let me know your opinion. Reply

Add a comment

(it will not be shared)