Jig-saw panels

Having recently bought a kit (through the Australian Supplier) I found that the scarf joint for hull panels has been replaced with a jig-saw type interlocking ends.

 However, they don’t seem to fit together all that well (I am thinking that the join between panels should keep the nice straight edge and not bend or kink plus the middle tab is about 1-2mm too big for its location) , are there any tips on the best way to join them together (do I need to bend or twist it), or is careful sanding the way to go?





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RE: Jig-saw panels

These joints should give you tight and perfectly aligned pieces without modification.  Double check to assure that you have connected the correct pairs of panels, then just lightly sand the frayed edges.  It is important that the panels fit properly in all three dimensions, as it is difficult to level them after they are glued together.

RE: Jig-saw panels

I created a Finger joint simular to that at


 I used my Porter Cable 4212 Dovetail jig to create the finger joints (Sometimes called puzzle joints)  The fit is nearly perfect everytime.  I tried the puzzle joint with a jig-saw approach and it is still not good enough for my taste.  I attempted to sand the joints to correct the misfits and didn't have a lot of luck in doing this.

Another option is goto


and make a scarf jig simular to the photos.  This creates a beautiful scarf cut and its difficult to screw up.



RE: Jig-saw panels

Big thx for the tip.  I been trying to use a scroll saw to make puzzle joints with no luck.  



RE: Jig-saw panels

I thought about it for a long time & before I get any older I need to say that I do not like Puzzle Joints on kayaks or any other boat where the wood would be bright finished.  A scarf joint is much more pleasing to the eye and it would take a while to convince me that a puzzle joint is stronger than a scarf joint once it is glassed with two layers inside & out.  There.  I feel much better now.  Jer

RE: Jig-saw panels

Jerry - I tend to agree with you.  When a joint is made it becomes eye catching.  Finger joints tend to stick out more so than a scarf joint. Typically you don't want to draw attention to a panel joint.  As for strength my experience says a finger joint is stronger hands down.


RE: Jig-saw panels

Hi All, Allow me to share this observation. I've built kayaks from plans and used 8 to 1 scarf joints made with a router that you could hardly see. They're unobtrusive and admired by any woodworker that sees the results. I'm now building a hybrid Shearwater and because of time constraints I chose to use a partial kit that CLC cut the hull panels for. Because of where I'm building a lot of people have occasion to see the kayak under construction. Those familiar with wood kayaks never comment negatively on the puzzle joints, however, everyone not familiar with the building process comments on how "neat" or "cool' or "artistic" the way I made the joints is. The upshot of all this is surly that it's all in the eyes of the beholder. Happy building and peacefull paddling. SEEYA Jack

RE: Jig-saw panels

Interesting observation about the aesthetics!  Lots of interesting research topics  here, for the college kids.*

Back to the "engineering" aspects.  I'll bet you a pound of Starbucks ground coffee against a pound of Dunkin' Donuts ground coffee (yeah, I own a kayak but I'm still a Midwesterner) on this:  That a professional engineer or boat designer would report to us that the ultimate strength of a puzzle joint covered with 'glas and epoxy is a total non-issue in a kayak hull. If you break it, it won't be because you used puzzle joints instead of finger joints.

*("What were those kayak-builders thinking, but not saying when they looked at the puzzle joint?" "Is it ethical to use CNC technology to make a panel joint idiot-proof, but then accept adulation from people who thought it was done for the sake of Art?" "What is Art?"  "Where is Art, anyway...isn't he the guy who was supposed to deliver the pizzas half an hour ago?", etc.)

RE: Jig-saw panels

I once built a Bolger Cartopper sailing skiff using butt joints that never gave me any  problems, so I doubt that strength is an issue no matter what kind of joint you use.  I recently bright finished a Shearwater 17 and very much like the looks of the puzzle joints.  Their biggest advantage in my mind, however, is that they keep the panels perfectly aligned, which leads to a more perfectly symetrical and fair boat.

RE: Jig-saw panels

James - as a fellow Aussie - can you pls tell me who you bought your kit from?   I'm about to get serious and looking to place an order (I'm on Moreton Bay in sunny Queensland).

Many thanks...

RE: Jig-saw panels

In the "For What it's Worth" category, as a first time 60-year old inexperienced boat builder, I was showing a friend my 90% finished Skerry interior with the puzzle joints and he said, "Wow, I like the way you joined the wood together."  That was his very first comment.  So yes, folks do see it right away, but individual tastes will prevail.  Some will like it, some won't.  Once again, with my inexperience, all I care about is that it floats!  Bob H

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