Building a Pair of Chesapeake 16 Kayaks

by Chris Jacobson

Epoxyworks 27

Cover Photo: Paddling the south shore of Ontario’s Lake of Two Rivers and into Pog Lake.

It all began when we went camping in Algonquin Park in 2005. We rented a couple of plastic kayaks and the kids loved it. We came home with the intention of buying a    couple of kayaks but while on the internet we saw these stitch and glue make’m yourself boats. I purchased the books “The New Kayak Shop” and “Kayaks You Can   Build. ”Both are available at Chapters or We decided this was something we could do. We also discovered which would prove to be a   tremendous source of encouragement during the project. We made a day trip to Toronto to purchase plans for a Chesapeake Light Craft 16 and some marine-grade   plywood. The books have some great suggestions for worktables. We made a 17′ one from some ¾” plywood and some stands from scrap 2×4’s from a recent renovation.

What follows is the the step-by-step story of the construction of these kayaks—from basement worktable in September 2005 through launching in July 2006.


After ripping two 4’×8′ sheets of 4 mm marine plywood
into eight 11″ blanks on the table saw, I scarfed the strips
together to make full length panels. I used clear packing
tape on both sides of the scarf joints to prevent the epoxy
from oozing out onto the panels.



You can’t have too many clamps for this job. We did one side at a time.


We made up some forms to hold the kayak at a
comfortable height. The panels stitched together like a
charm. We used 20-gauge copper wire from Home Depot.
You can  find it in 50-meter rolls in the picture hanging
department. The kids cut it into 3″ pieces. We spaced
our stitches every 4″.


We made up some stands and clamped the kayak
to the worktable. We then checked for any twists in the hull.


We applied masking tape to keep the epoxy
glue neat at the seams. We made various
rounded plastic tools to apply the epoxy fillets.
It’s not a bad job once you get the  hang of it.
Kind of like applying drywall compound only
more expensive and permanent. One tip
though—after making your fillets, wait a
couple of hours before applying   the 3″ tape
and wetting it out with clear epoxy—makes
for an easier, less frustrating job.


The outside of the hull gets a layer of 6 oz
fiberglass fabric.


We brushed on then squeegeed the first coat of epoxy.
We used WEST SYSTEM 207 Special Clear Hardener® for
a nice bright finish. Mom is tipping out any runs with a
dry brush. We’ll add three or four more coats over the next
few days. One of the books suggested using cardboard orange
juice cans for the grunge while squeegeeing—great idea.


We made fully adjustable foot braces from ¼” oak with an
epoxy coating. They are easily adjusted by the paddler while
sitting in the cockpit. The hardware is all  stainless steel and
they are fully detachable with no through-hull fasteners. The
front bolt keeps the brace on track and the back wing bolt
tightens down after adjustment is made. The deck beam was
clamped in place and fillets applied—again, no through-hull
fasteners for this either. The foot braces have proven to be
extremely rugged.


We covered the decks with 4 oz fiberglass and clear epoxy.
Mom mixed the epoxy and I applied it. It’s a good team job.


You can see we used lots of clamps for this job. Once the
ooze was cleaned up, I removed the masking tape from
the spacer stack. It received a coat of clear epoxy when
we  glassed over the coaming rim with 4 oz cloth. It might
sound strange, but I found shaping the coaming enjoyable.
It did not take long with a spokeshave and sandpaper
and the result, with epoxy and varnish, was like a piece of
fine furniture.


I applied some wide masking tape to the deck and strung
a center line. I then traced the hatch openings from the
templates we made earlier. I carefully cut the openings
out with a sabre saw. I periodically weighed the kayaks
on a digital scale to monitor the weight progression. In
the end they came in at 42 lb each.


The hatch covers were cut from 4mm marine plywood.
The frames were router cut from poplar. Not a great wood,
but it will be encapsulated with epoxy. After sanding the
kayaks, we applied five coats of Z-Spar Captain’s varnish
with an epoxy roller and tipped out the bubbles with a
foam brush for a coffee-table finish. We started this project
in September 2005 and pushed the kayaks out of the
basement and carried them to a reservoir down the street
for sea trails on July 22, 2006.
Annie’s getting a little impatient wit this epoxy business.
It’s been a few days since she’s been on her walk. The kayak
has its fifth and final coat of epoxy.
Taking a break on Canisbay Lake in Algonquin Park, August 2006. We
paddled the entire shoreline of the lake before moving ont Smoke Lake
the next day. The kids leisurely paddled the kayaks. My wife and I busted
our asses trying to keep up in a rented 15′ fiberglass canoe.