...or how to make your own surf boat!
As we all know Hertfordshire is blessed with masses of whitewater, sea and surf which is why we have such an active club paddling on all forms of froffy water.....
Joking aside since we tend to be limited we have to make the choice on our boats generally getting one that is a compromise that will work in most conditions. Once you have been paddling a while you tend to realise how much of a compromise “General Purpose” Boats can be.
Since we don’t live close to a river or the sea it can be a bit of a waste of money getting a specialist boat when a surf boat comes in at over £1k and a sea boat over £2k. So since completing my house renovations (after 2yrs) just before Christmas i was ready for a new project and after a bit of research found 2 websites that i have visited and revisited and spent a lot of time contemplating over and at this point i expect to lose you for a bit.
As you can see there are a lot of wooden “boats” (not just kayaks and canoes) out there so yet more decisions, i had already decide i wanted to make a surf boat as my plastic boat i normally use is getting a bit “tired”so thought i would see if i could go a bit more specialised and found the design for the Matanuck surf boat. (my completed one below)
So, once you have decided on your boat, the next choice option: "Do I get the full kit with pre-cut panels and all the bits I need at about £800 or source the bits separately and cut the panels myself (which worked out at about £400)?" So, since I’m a Yorkshireman with time on his hands, I went for the latter.
So here is an important point if you have time and basic wood working skill either is an option but if you want a quick build and are not so good with circular and jigsaws it may be worth getting the full kit.
Once i’d decided and ordered the plans next was to source the bits, (I wont list the suppliers but if anyone is interested I will tell you who I used).
One thing you learn very quickly is how many different types of plywood and even marine plywood there is out there. The main difference is how well it is put together, so when you cut it up you don’t have voids internally that cause weekness or for the panels to bend unevenly when joined together or ”stitched” together (joined using copper wire), so its important to use Lloyds approved marine ply (even the yanks quote the BS1088 and Lloyds approved quality), this can be the main cost of the boat at about £45 a sheet (2 needed for this one).
Ok, once you have all the materials and read your manual cover to cover (lots of times as Caroline will testify!), you have to mark out your panels, the matanuck comes with full size plans on a roll of paper about 1m wide and 5m long, which you lay on your wood in the orientation suggested in the manual.
FIRST MAJOR NOTE check your plans are straight.
I received a set that were wonky (stretched and twisted) luckily i was able to correct the panels i had already cut before realising the centreline on the plans wasn’t straight. I then had to wait a bit for replacement plans to be sent out (which were sent ASAP, apparently the printer had a new trainee and was beside himself with apologies). Once the straight plans were received the panels where plotted and cut (Craig would love this as you create your own dot to dot as you prick through the plans onto the wood then join the dots on the wood before cutting).
2 ways to cut ....
- long gentle curves ... circular saw with the blade set shallow so it is only just deep enough to go through the wood
- tight curves ... use a fine metal blade in a jigsaw with the pendulum action switched off
As the Matanuck has full size plans with the stitch holes pre marked and a very detailed manual the construction is very simple with little room for mis-interpretation so you quickly get to a stage where it looks like a boat, the strangest part is the use of “puzzle joint” to join the longer sections of wood (the boat is over 8ft long and the wood sheets come in 8x4ft sheets max). These are literally giant jigsaw puzzle shape joints in the wood .
Above are the deck panels ready for stitching together.
The panels stitched and tack welded (spots of epoxy to hold it when the stitch wires are removed) together.
The deck then had a filleting paste (epoxy resin thickened with wood flour (sawdust)) applied to the joints and then glass laminated with epoxy resin to the wood.
Deck glassed and trimmed with Hull tacked together.
Once both halves are fabricated its time to join them with some interesting changes in shape, initially taped together whilst an internal glass seam tape is applied.
Fully taped up (notice the hull is now concave).
Once that has set the nose is fitted and outside is fully glassed.
Next the cockpit riser is fitted ...carefully!
Followed by the cockpit rim.
This point seemed to arrive very quickly but most of the time consuming work was still to come........
With these builds its very difficult to judge build time as once the panels are cut there is a lot of time waiting for the resin to set and it is very easy to get impatient and rush things. In hind sight doing this build in January (2011) wasn’t the best plan as resin (and varnish) take longer to set in the cold, so the dirty work was done in the garage and since we were just about to get a new carpet the things that needed heat were done in the living room :O)
So now comes the worst bit...
First 2 or 3 infill coats of resin (to fill in the texture in the glass fabric) followed by sanding, varnishing, more sanding and more varnishing (the reason for the varnish is to protect the epoxy resin from the effects of UV light as it does darken and degrade very quickly in the sun) and then you find that when you haven’t left it long enough to set and use it is a warm pool the varnish goes cloudy and soft so you have to strip it all off and start varnishing from scratch.
So if you have the time and the patience you can come out with a very nice boat at the end of it ...............
If you are not so patient I would advise painting and not varnishing as all the imperfections show up a treat (even if only you notice them) as there is nowhere to hide :O)
That being said I have had more people asking me about this boat than any other I have owned,
The first question is always ....is that REALLY made out of wood :O)
Since this i have built a sea kayak. At over 18ft long it has proved a different challenge.....but not for this write up :O) (Ed: We're looking forward to the next installment then!)