Projects: Building a cedar strip canoe with WEST SYSTEM epoxy
First-time boatbuilder Martin Corrall found the perfect retirement project when he saw a beautiful Nick Schade designed cedar strip canoe at a friend’s house. Martin tells us about his steep learning curve and why it was all worth it.
How did the project come about?
As soon as I saw the canoe at a friend’s house, I immediately wanted to build my own – it really is a thing of beauty. However, when I bought the kit it was clear that I didn’t have the space to construct a 5 metre canoe. So I approached the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) at Lowestoft and they suggested I rent space in their workshop.
Being in the workshop was great. I was surrounded by skilled boatbuilders and they helped me out enormously. In particular I had a lot of help from Ben Neville, a student at IBTC, who was fantastic. I’m not sure I could’ve done it – or certainly I wouldn’t have been so happy with it – without their help.
Which WEST SYSTEM products did you use? How did they help?
I used WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin®with 206 Slow Hardener®. There was a lot of trial and error; doing the outside was fine but the interior was really tricky. The joke around the workshop was that I used 19 kg of epoxy and sanded off 18.5 kg!
The product itself is incredible but I didn’t have any experience of working with epoxy so I made a few mistakes which had to be rectified. It really helped using the slow hardener and being in the temperature-controlled environment of the workshop because it gave me more time to work with it.
Another really great thing about WEST SYSTEM epoxy is you can easily fill in gaps and it makes the structure super strong – the finished canoe only weighs about 23 kg but can hold around 200 kg.
What was the most rewarding part of the project?
The whole thing was enjoyable, even though there were a few pain points but that’s all part of the process. Just learning lots of techniques that you can do yourself with a bit of guidance and bringing it altogether was such a good feeling.
There is a real skill and art to boatbuilding but even a beginner like me can get to grips with it and you learn a huge amount along the way. It was a lot of hard work but the result is fantastic.
What’s your top tip for boatbuilders looking to start a similar project?
In a word: preparation. I probably jumped the gun a bit and should’ve spent longer on getting the surface perfectly smooth before applying the epoxy. That mistake meant we had to do a lot of sanding and recoating which is probably why the canoe took me 8 weeks to build when it should’ve been 16 days.
Part of that preparation is to get all the basics right. Have the right space to work in and get all the right tools and materials you need. For instance, using WEST SYSTEM spreaders doesn’t sound like an important consideration but it really makes all the difference – believe me. Get the little things right and it will all come together nicely.
To find out more about IBTC Lowestoft, visit their website.
Visit the West System International websiteand discover the full range of WEST SYSTEM products for your next project.