Kayak Building Part 6 – Shaving and Scraping the Epoxy

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Phyllis and Lee - Woodcraft's kayaking customers!

This post is Part Six of a multipart blog . . . Read Part One here,  Part Two herePart Three here, Part Four here, Part Five here.

Earlier in May, Lee commented on Kayak Blog #3 that “I am an avid woodworker and kayaker and a regular visitor at our local Woodcraft Store (Parkersburg). I gotta do this!”   Since Lee was a local customer, I contacted him through email and invited him to the lockmaster’s house to check out the boat.  I found that he actually lives about 80 miles away, but he would be passing through the area the next week, so we made plans to meet in Marietta.

On his way through town, Lee and Phyllis stopped to check out the progress on the boat.  I also arranged for Dan to be around to answer his questions.  Lee and Phyllis are active kayakers, and Lee is a woodworker, so he was very interested in the project.  Lee’s only concern was working with the fiberglass. Dan assured him that it’s not that tough and volunteered to bring a few guys to his shop when it’s time to fiberglass.  Here’s a shot of Lee and Phyllis on one of their adventures!  Thanks again Lee for reading the blog and stopping in for the live version!

Lee and Phyllis headed home, and Dan showed me the next steps.  It was time to remove the excess epoxy.  I estimated one day to remove the epoxy with the surform shaver and cabinet scraper and one day sanding with the random-orbital sander.  In fact earlier in the day I stopped by to visit Andrew, my favorite power tool expert at Woodcraft, and got his advice and a quick lesson on which sander to use and how to use it.  I even had the sander and dust collector in the van.  When I asked Dan if I should bring in the sander, he just laughed.  He said it would be awhile before we needed that.  This is one of the steps that doesn’t look long in the book, but it takes awhile.

I’d say it takes awhile!  Because the epoxy is harder than the wood, Dan said it’s important to remove as much as you can by hand.  Dan feared the sander would dig into the boat too much when working on certain spots.  Do you remember how much epoxy I had all over that boat?  Well, check out the pictures below and you’ll see.

Day 22:  5/15/12  2.5 hours

As I mentioned above, Dan gave the lesson on removing the epoxy.  First we used two different types of shavers to remove the bulk of the epoxy.  We used a Microplane and a Stanley Surform Shaver and hit the epoxy on the seams.  We needed to be careful that the shaver didn’t dig into the wood.  Next we took a cabinet scraper and scraped off the remaining epoxy.  Dan suggested using a full body motion so that the smaller muscles in your arms and hands don’t tire too quickly.  I thought that we just had to do the seams and that the sander would do all of the drippings.  Not the case; I had to remove all the epoxy by hand before sanding.  Any guess how far I got the first day?  ONE SEAM!  In over TWO hours, I completed ONE seam.  That didn’t include the tips or any of the many drippings.  My hands were cramping up by the end of the night.  This is definitely going to take awhile.  Once Dan gave the lesson, he was out of there!


Day 23:  5/16/12  2.5 hours

I now realized I had a huge task in front of me.  My goal was to finish at least two seams.  It was much easier working on seams in the middle of the boat due to the angle of the panels on the ends where the shape of the boat is vertical.  I worked on the easier seams until I got used to the tools.  The cabinet scraper is one of Dan’s favorite tools.  He suggested running the scraper back and forth on a wet stone to keep it sharp.  The goal is to make one of the edges rough, and the random movement on the stone works well.  I had a stone from Woodcraft that I previously used for chip-carving knives, and Dan said that would work fine.  I sharpened all of the sides of the scraper so that during use, I could rotate the tool, depending on the seam and the angle that I need.  According to our product copy, using water on the stone keeps the surface from clogging, reduces the effort needed to sharpen, and keeps in clean.

I initially sharpened the scraper with a stone. Later I discovered the Veritas Burnisher which works much better!


Day 24:  5/24/12  2.75 hours

Shaving and scraping the seams.  Shaving and scraping the seams. Shaving and scraping the seams. I worked on the ends and got through half of the seams.


Day 25:  5/26/12  2 hours

Today Dan stopped in the shop. I was happy to see him because I had many questions.  The biggest question that kept running through my head was . . . won’t the power sander get most of this?  Do I really need to hand scrape everything?  He assured me that it’s important to get the majority of epoxy off by hand because those spots are so much harder than the wood which will cause the sander to dig in too much in areas with no epoxy.

I also asked if the center seam should be handled differently.  He suggested to keep it rounded near each end.

Finally I wanted to know if the ends had enough epoxy on them.  Because the epoxy with wood flour mix was so thick and hard for me to apply, I really had to scrape a lot off to get it even with the lowest spots.  Dan suggested that I put one more layer on the ends.

Once my questions were answered, I went back to work shaving and scraping the seams.


Day 26:  5/27/12  3.5 hours

Today we welcomed Gary Murphy to the lockmaster’s house!  Gary is also building a kayak from the Pygmy Boats kit under Dan’s instruction.  He also “can’t believe he’s building a kayak!”  He welcomed the picture below to prove to his associates that he was actually doing it!

This day was also very eventful for me.  Dan got the to house before Gary arrived and was setting up his epoxy station.  Dan asked me if I had the instruction book so he could make sure he put the restrictor on the valve for the hardener correctly.  I didn’t have the book, but said we could just look at how mine was set up.  THANKFULLY we looked at my set up and discovered I did not have the restrictor properly assembled on the valve.  My heart dropped!!  The mix should be one part hardener to two parts epoxy.  Because I incorrectly set up the restrictor, I used a 1:1 ratio on the entire hull.  Dan said the epoxy is very forgiving because mine set up as it should.  I hoped that even if I put the restrictor in wrong, that perhaps it was still limiting the hardener.  Unfortunately, the usage level in both containers was equal, so I’m sure I used a 1:1 ratio.

Although Dan said it was okay and the epoxy worked as he expected, I was still worried. I read theSystem Three Epoxy Book  and also touched base with System Three.  According to the chemist, too much hardener may cause issues with water.  He said to test it, put water on the epoxy to see if it turns white and/or softens.  His fix was to just apply another coat of correctly mixed epoxy and to buy more hardener.  FORTUNATELY since I haven’t glassed the boat yet, all of these seams will be covered with the correct 2:1 epoxy to hardener ratio and fiberglass!  Woodcraft also sells System Three Hardener that I will definitely need since I have been using too much!  Whew – thanks for starting your boat, Gary!

Once I recovered from that discovery and got back to work on my boat, Dan suggested that I add more epoxy to the ends.  I made the batch thinner than the last time so I wouldn’t have such a hard time with the syringe.  It was MUCH easier, and it was thick enough that it didn’t drip down the sides!  I still had epoxy left, so we examined the boat to see if anything else needed to be touched up.  I touched up several spots in the center seam that needed more epoxy.

Day 27:  5/28/12  2.5 hours

Since the second layer of epoxy on the ends was still green, it was easier to shape up.  After rounding out the ends, I worked on the center seam which I saved for last just in case there was something different about it.  The center seam was actually one of the easiest seams.  I only had to make sure it rounded near the ends and blended in well with the extra layers of epoxy.

Just when I thought I was finished and ready to move onto the next step, Dan said the ends needed more work.  He said before we sand, we would work together on the hand scraping.  I was pretty discouraged and thought I’d never get through this step.  We planned to meet in two days for more scraping.

Day 28:  5/31/12  1 hour

Before I got to the shop, I started to write this post and had a few questions about the tool names.  I trotted down to our product development area and found Kent Harpool, who is responsible for the file/rasp category along with epoxies.  Kent showed me the difference between files, rasps, shavers and scrapers.  According to Kent, rasps have metal points, and files have lines in the metal.  Shavers have mini blades that cut into the wood.  I have been using two types of shavers.  The microplane blade is similar to a cheese grater.  It has many small blades that shave the material.  This tool was more aggressive that the smaller Surform shaver that Dan supplied.  This Surform shaver is pretty common and can be found online or at your local hardware store.  I used both tools depending on the area.

I then talked to Kent about the cabinet scraper I was using.  He pulled out two packs of cabinet scrapers with different shapes and curves.  They ALL felt sharper than the one I have been using.  I let him know I was sharpening with a wet stone, and he said he had a much better tool for me.  He pointed me to the Veritas Varible Burnisher which is made specifically for putting a “hook” on the cabinet scraper.  He also showed me another product we sell called a Wooden Scraper Holder to use to hold the cabinet scraper.  The holder also gives the scraper a nice bend.  Dan suggested early in the process that I bend the blade to get some of the seams.  I don’t have the strength in my hands to bend the blade, so I can’t wait to try this new holder!!

Up to this point, I had actually worked on scraping the boat for 16 hours.  During the last session, I was a bit discouraged and thought I’d never be done.  In fact, just when I thought I was finished, Dan said he wanted to work with me on the scraping before we broke out the power sander.  That session was tonight.  Instead of dreading more scraping, I was totally energized with my new tools to try out.  Even though I learned this late in the game, I’ll need it again for the deck!

I showed up at 5:30 and met Dan with my new tools and set up the small vise to hold the scrapers for burnishing.  Dan used the holder and agreed it would really save your hands from tiring out!  He also jumped to one of the slightly curved scrapers instead of the rectangle one that he brought.  I used the paisley shaped scraper!  I LOVED IT!  It was so much sharper than the tool I was using.  I was also finally able to reach the spots on the tips without digging the corner of the scraper into the panels.  I’m sure that if I used this new holdersharper scrapers with different shapes and the new burnisher,  I would not have spent 16 hours in this phase.  Oh well, at least I still need to work on the deck, so I’ll put the new tools to good use.

I was very happy and surprised when, after an hour of scraping, Dan said the boat looked good, and we were ready to sand.  WOO HOO!  I was finally past this stage!  The weather forecast predicted rain.  Since we will be sanding outside, we need to wait for good weather.  Since I have a crazy schedule with travel and my daughter’s graduation, it will be awhile before I make it back to the shop for sanding.  I do plan to make a video of the sanding – Dan said it’s so loud since it’s like sanding on a drum that I’ll need to bring ear protection.

Stay tuned!

Read Part 7 Here – Sanding the hull


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  • JS
    I wish I had read this a week ago!! I just epoxied two pygmy's and had lots of problems cleaning up epoxy. I used REALLY CHEAP 5" 80 grit sanding discs and it took MANY of THEM!!! Thanks for the tips. I am going to the local store to get some scrapers!

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