I’ve been building cedar-strip rowboats and canoes in British Columbia for more than 15 years. They are light, strong, and made of local woods: red and yellow cedar, fir, and maple. Until I discovered EcoPoxy about four years ago, the least appealing aspect of my work was the toxicity and odor of the petrochemical epoxy I’d been using.
EcoPoxy has replaced some of the normal petroleum-based compounds with plant-derived ingredients and is priced to compete with premium boatbuilding petro-epoxies. It is less toxic than other epoxies I’ve used in the past; it is 100 percent solids, has low VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and has very little odor. I use EcoPoxy Clear. Its hardener is listed as a long-term irritant, so I still take the normal epoxy handling precautions and use safety glasses, gloves, and long sleeves. I can order it online in up to 30-liter kits, and it gets mailed to my door, normally in four days. When I ordered epoxies from other manufacturers, it would have to be categorized as toxic and shipping was more costly.
What I first noticed about EcoPoxy is the almost complete absence of odor. The hardener has the slightest whiff of ammonia, and the resin is virtually odorless. The resin and hardener are mixed in a 2:1 ratio and are, according to the manufacturer, safe to use without a respirator as long as there is some airflow in the shop. Both the resin and hardener are water-clear and stay that way when mixed together. EcoPoxy has low viscosity, so fiberglass cloth wets out easily and completely. I use EcoPoxy thickened with fine sawdust (to keep it from flowing out of joints) as an adhesive for all the gunwales, decks and fittings, and, when thickened further, to make structural fillets. Finally, I use EcoPoxy as a sealer on any raw wood and under both waterborne linear polyurethane and polyurethane varnishes.
My first project with EcoPoxy was a Fine, a sleek, 18′ sliding-seat rowboat. When applying the fiberglass sheathing, I mixed the EcoPoxy in 3-oz batches and had plenty of time to squeegee the product through the cloth. The whole boat stayed workable until the sheathing task was done. Even though it was February, and the shop was cool, the EcoPoxy in the ’glass cured to the point where I could start attaching the skeg and keel the next day. I saw no sign of blush and the fill coats went on smoothly. While the EcoPoxy Clear I use doesn’t form blush, the manufacturer cautions that blush may form when using their fast or medium hardener and must be sponged off with warm water before any coats of epoxy or other finishes are applied.
The Fine has riggers to allow the use of long oars. I constructed the riggers from maple and EcoPoxy and even used EcoPoxy to glue the stainless-steel oarlocks posts in place. Normally held to metal outriggers with a nut tightened on threaded bottom end, the Fine’s posts are set in holes in the wood and held entirely by epoxy, without a nut. All of this has held up for over four years, with no delamination or failures—even on the highly loaded riggers.
I’ve used EcoPoxy to build about over a dozen of the rowboats and canoes I’ve sold. I have used EcoPoxy in three boatbuilding classes, where the ease of use, lower toxicity, and lower odor are important benefits for my students. I keep the resin and hardener warm in the winter, and EcoPoxy works for me in 50-degree shop temperatures. In the summer when it’s 80 degrees in the shop, the pot life is never too short and the cure time is never too fast.
I have a lot of confidence in EcoPoxy. Next to the wood, it is the most important component of my boats, and I like the fact that it incorporates plant-based ingredients that come from renewable sources, a lot like the cedar, fir, and maple I use to build my boats.
Update: Ecopoxy is no longer producing the clear product that I used for my boats, and the substitute they offered (Biopoxy 36) didn’t cure clear or was too viscous or had extremely long cure times. I have had to change to an Entropy Resins bio-based product, which has been great. RC, September 2022
Rick Crook and Pat Beninger live in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast of Canada’s British Columbia. Rick has been building cedar-strip canoes and rowboats for 15 years and doing business as Oyster Bay Boats. He offers Wee Lassie canoes, Cosine wherries, Handliner rowboats, and the Fine, a sliding-seat rowboat. His boats are built with locally sourced red and yellow cedar, fir, and maple, and they have found their way to customers from Vancouver Island to Ontario.
EcoPoxy Clear is manufactured by Ecopoxy in Morris, Manitoba, Canada, and available direct from the manufacturer or from retailers. The two-part kit is priced at $37.50 for 750ml, $57.75 for 1.5L, $84.85 for 3L, and $150.75 for 6L (US dollars, ordered from Aircraft Spruce).
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