As easy as it looks?

So... I've. Been looking at the catalogs and the website for a long time and love all the boats. I think I have it down to either the Wood Duck 12 or the Chesapeake 16 LT. MY concern is this.... Are they as easy to build as they look?  What are the most common issues builders are faced with? To drop a $1000.00 on a kit and at the end only have a good fire for roasting marshmallows wouldn't sit well. Thanks for the help.

18 replies:

« Previous Post       List of Posts       Next Post »

RE: As easy as it looks?

I've just finished a first build (Annapolis Wherry), and I found the overall kit components and instructions to be excellent.  Your woodworking skills don't have to be great, but you've just got to be methodical and patient.

The biggest challenge for me was learning how to work with epoxy in a graceful manner.  Its thick stuff, especially when cold.  Reading lots of comments on how to handle the stuff and lay down thin coats is probably the key factor in having a smooth outcome.

Overall- go for it!


RE: As easy as it looks?

It is easy in some regards and can be frustrating in others.  Take your time and read the manual several times, reveiw each step prior to doing it, think things through.  If things don't make sense or you get confused, call CLC and ask for help as well as post questions here.  In my own case, I've had to learn a lot of new things from using epoxy to setting up tools correctly.  I've had to make adjustments here and there as well.  In the end the journey is worth it.  Biggest thing I have discovered is that I work best with small epoxy batches.  Less waste of epoxy that way.


RE: As easy as it looks?

I'm in the middle of a Wood Duck 12 Hybrid; First build for me, and so far all is well. I agree with other posts;  the wood working part is generally forgiving.  I've made no mistakes (so far) that haven't been correctable. The glass/resin work is all new to me, and it took a few batches to gain confidence in ratios and application. Even then, worst case has been sanding off an improper resin mixture and re-aplying.  The support from other builders is great;  I tend to get stumped on obvious procedures (reference my current cockpit coaming question), but the builders forum has provided quick responses to keep me on track.

As for $1000 worth of scrap wood - even on my worst days, I realize that when I'm done it will still float. Might not win a boat show, but my friends that have checked my progress don't notice the errors that haunt me.  Even my wife is beginning to realize I could actually build a sea-worthy boat!

RE: As easy as it looks?

The boats require hardly any carpenter skills. Experience with working with epoxy a plus. when in doubt, work with small batches.  More important is a nice work area that can be set up and used without having to move things around.

RE: As easy as it looks?

Yes, I think they are easy to build. Take your time, and the woodwork soon turns from a pile of ply into a fine boat shape. Read the manual over and over - there are lots of tips in there which really help if you do what the instructions say. The trickiest bit is epoxy. Whilst it's much better than the stinky stuff my dad used to use, there are a couple of key points Buy lots of disposable gloves, and disposable sleeves, to keep it off your skin, otherwise it will be very itchy at best When wetting out cloth and doing fill coats, keep it thin, and get each coat on within a few hours of the last one. The epoxy isn't supposed to amine bloom, but in my slightly damp cellar I had to scrub the bloom off if I left it overnight. My first boat was a wood duckling, and I'm now doing a SW hybrid for myself. Once you've finished it, you will be going through the catalogue to see what's next.

RE: As easy as it looks?

First, you can order the manual and read prior to ordering the actual kit. CLC will give you credit on the purchase of the kit, when you are ready to order.

Secondly, CLC has many on-line tips that are well worth taking a look at.

Thirdly, over the years, CLC has accumulated a great number of enthusiastic amateur boat builders who are more than happy to share their experience.

One of the strongest points is that no matter where you are in the buildng process, if you run into a question, any one of the CLC staff will be available to provide expert advice.

I have build two boats (Passagemaker Dinghy and Hybrid Night Heron) so far and have availed myself on many occasions of these resources.

Read the manual - then take heart and go for it.

Passagemaker DInghy Blog

Hybrid Night Heron Blog


RE: As easy as it looks?

I've built both those boats. The most difficult part of the WD12 was closing the bow, while for the 16LT it was attaching the deck. In the WD12's case it was a true difficulty, but the newer manual has better instructions. For the 16LT, it was difficult relative to the rest of the build only. It wasn't all that intrinsically difficult and would have been pretty easy if I'd had a helper.

A beginner can build either boat as a fun paddling toy. It may not end up with that coffee table look, but that's OK. It'll still be light, strong and fast. In my experience the most important thing is to take your time. Don't be in a hurry to finish, just do each bit carefully and the boat will tell you when it's ready. It's a hobby, not a production race.

Click on the picture below to see my experiences with building the WD12.

Have fun,



RE: As easy as it looks?

A couple of thoughts from a first timer. Easy is a relative term! Processes that are easy to read about aren't always easy to do. Contingencies and peculiarities arise: the manual is a guide but your own senses will teach you just as much as you go along. Additionally, as others have said, possessing a CLC kit magically enters you into an incredibly helpful, friendly group of builders with a range of experience from the total amatuer to very accomplished experts. Nothing can substitute for this and it's one of the things CLC should rightly boast about. Ironically, some of the questions I had were questions only other total novices instantly understood and responded to. Also, spending some time reading every post in the forum can yield answers to questions you never thought to ask!

If it was REALLY easy, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying and everyone would do it. You have to accept in advance that mistakes will be made. Do yourself a favor and throw away the stopwatch and don't count the hours: you'll be adding meaningless even harmful stress to a process that's meant to be enjoyed. 

It's a process that's meant to be enjoyed! Daydreaming about paddling the Wood Duck has been a diversion at times, but mostly I'm spending my time focused on the process of putting it together, and that's the way it should be. It's a wonderful experience, but you need to be able to put your preconceptions aside and be patient, very patient.

I guess I'd conclude by saying no, it's probably not as easy as it looks, but that is actually ok because you can do it, and if you do you'll end up with something excellent, handmade, and a symbol of your ability to learn and work. 

RE: As easy as it looks?

Why not consider a boatbuilding class from CLC?

I don't know where you are located, but my wife and I built 2 Shearwaters at a class, then completed them afterwords on our own.  We only have an apartment and no garage so it was much easier for us.  It was a great experience and you will get an amazing boat at the end.

Building it from a kit without the class would be straightforward and is not hard, but it does take a fair bit of time.  By us taking a week off of work and focusing in the class on the boats we were able to get them in the water (without varnish) within 2 weeks of starting the build.


RE: As easy as it looks?



I just completed a Shearwater 17, seven years after I started it.  When the weather was nice the project had to take second place to paddling my existing boats.  When my garage was too cold for epoxy work I spent the time preparing my shop to work more efficiently.  I prototyped three different skeg systems before getting one I was satisfied with.  I added skid strips and customized the deck rigging.  The process gave me the excuse to buy several new tools and become proficient with them.  I now feel very comfortable with my new planes, scrapers, sharpening stones, jig saw, router etc.  The sander and sanding discs were unnecessary.  I found I preferred hand sanding.  It gives much finer control and is quite efficient with quality papers.  I finally bought quality measuring tools.  They are such a joy to use.  Epoxy is very forgiving but you still have to measure twice and even then I often missed.  Template routing is not forgiving at all.  The most challenging aspect has been varnishing - or maybe it is just the most recent.  I put on and took off ten coats before accepting the fact that there was no way I was going to get a perfect finish in my garage.  Actually, the only people that will ever notice are your fellow boat builders.  CLC estimates the time required to build an SW17 at something like 80 hours or maybe less.  This might be attainable for a tenth build but was highly unrealistic for the first one.  That goes for the step times in the manual as well.  But so what?  I found the entire process deeply satisfying.   I relished the time I spent on this project and cannot wait to begin the next.   Go for it.






RE: As easy as it looks?

Yes it is. The overwhelming success of CLC isnt that it caters to a narrow corridor of fine craftsman, but to the averege joe who takes the time to be careful and patient. Its that simple really.


And by the way, if you get a kit you are commited to makin it work as the marshmallow fire would have burning epoxy fumes that would kill everyone - to say nothing of some nasty tasting food.



RE: As easy as it looks?

One thing that will really help is to do a search of the 'epoxy', and read by subject of the one's that appear. It will help you learn a bunch. Get the book - Kayaks You Can Build by Ted Mears...sold on this site. Lots of tricks by a professional builder. The best manual is the Artic Hawk one, many tricks by one of the best builders to supplement your rookie skills. Use it as another reference. All the tools you will need, except sander, hot glue gun, & a very few others are sold on the site at decent prices..the Japanese saw & small plane are definites. Get small graduated cups to measure out epoxy; fool proof! Collect small food containers in which to mix the or get a few at the deli counter. Fisheries, Inc has all the good stuff in one place. Look at the MAS website to get temperature scales & times it takes epoxy to fully cure enough to sand. Never sand if the epoxy 'balls up' on the paper, it's not cured. Keep epoxy warm..above 65. Don't do any epoxy/glass laminating early in the day if it will get warmer, e.g., if hull is warm & epoxy will form bubbles easier. Fillets are ok; try some small ones on trial boards glued at an angle like the hull. Mask them to the size you see in the manual to keep them neat, peal off the tape, then glass, if that's the next step. Cover any area with paper or plastic that's may get a drip or a run onto it; that will make it look like your a professional..fewer messes. Trial some laminating on small parts to get the hang of the process, like the hip braces or underside of the cockpit rim. Sand first, of course to simulate the final. Use & spread epoxy thin w/a spreader to not 'float' the glass. Watch the video clips on this site, under helpful hints..The Zen of Kayak Building. Like the others said..ask all the questions you want.

RE: As easy as it looks?

Remember that there is no mistake you can make that 3 other people have made and someone has figured out how to fix.  For instance, even 48 hour old epoxy can be heated and pulled apart. Second chance!  

Most little mistakes do not matter anyway.  My boats are now 5 years old with scratches, patches, and dings and every time I go to put one in the water people tell me how beautiful they are.  

And they paddle great.  (CL 16 and CL 17) working on a petrel.




RE: As easy as it looks?

Thanks everyone for your help. I have a better idea of what to expect. Got a copy of the Chesapeake 16 manual. I'll have a read through it and go from there. On a different note, has anyone used carbon fibre cloth to cover there kayak? I've read that it's nicer to work with then fiberglass cloth. Again thanks to everyone for taking the time to share your thoughts.

RE: As easy as it looks?


I would not say that it is easy but with patience and consideration most people can get a good looking, fun paddling craft. Over the past 10 years I have built three, so far, a Mill Creek 13, West River 16.9 and a Guillemot. Each looks better than the last. A littel experince is a good thing. Just finished the Guillemot.I have had as much if fun building them as paddling them.  I would also tell you that if you do build one and it turns out pretty, your ego will be stroked every time you put it in the water and someone ask if you built that and they say how beautiful it is. Kind of makes your day.


RE: As easy as it looks?

Ok, carbon use is localized reinforcement. For a Chesapeake the top 2" of the sides panels inside, under the deck next to the hatch forms near the shear, under the cockpit edges, and for looks, mainly, the show surface of the cockpit rim. This schedule is from the finite elemental analysis of boat decks and hulls, a general building principle for all boats. In most boats, the decks take more load in compression & tension than any other surface, the next being the upper surface of the hull sides next to the deck. If you see damaged kayaks from surf crashes, they break at the hatches or at the narrow part of the deck & hull at the cockpit. Carbon is real easy to overload w/ resin, floating the carbon & defeating it's weight saviing & strength. if you build a strip deck, then it is good to use under the entire Strip Building kayaks in the Shop Tips, #24 - Glassing the deck video. In the book, The Strip-Built Sea Kayak by Nick Schade, on pg 110 is a glass schedule layer or lay-up recommendation for light use, standard use, & expedition use. The is from an expert professional builder. I am just finishing a Shearwater 16 Hybrid w/ full carbon under the deck, and yes it looks great & is quite stiff, but noone will see it...but in the right place. I built & donated a Shearwater 17 Hybrid w/ only carbon reinforcing the aft deck (sit spot) & under the cockpit edges & tape across the front cockpit deck every 6". It was very stiff and not too much cost. I have also built a Pygmy Coho (I live near Port Townsend) & and am working on a Chessie 17LT that will get a strip deck. I made the stern pointed like a Greenland. Hull is from plans. Yes, I have yacht design training & designed and built a 30' offshore sailing race boat. That is where I got a lot of experience w/carbon fiber in the hull & deck.

RE: As easy as it looks?

Almost anyone can get in a kayak and paddle it around. It is only in advancing past those basic skills that one can truly enjoy the sport and all that kayaking has to offer. Every person who has endeavored to paddle a kayak has found that some tasks are simply easier while practicing.

portable kayaks

« Previous Post     List of Posts     Next Post »

Please login or register to post a reply.


Special Financing with Blispay

 CLC's Fall Kit Sale