When I decided to build my first bead-and-cove strip kayak, the whole build process seemed pretty straightforward and I didn’t really anticipate any troubles. I had decided to use a variety of beautiful woods to complement and contrast each other, I wanted to inlay a laminated waterline stripe, and I was not going to use nails or staples through the strips, leaving hundreds of dark nail holes showing through the wood.

I discovered that it was easy stripping the topsides since there was just a gentle curve near the sheer and I could easily clamp the strips’ ends at the stems, but the bottom was a lot more challenging. Each strip had a considerable twist going from flat along the bottom amidships to nearly vertical at the stems. And as the planks tapered into the ends at the waterline, there wasn’t enough space to place clamps to the molds where the torsion was worst.

For this first kayak, I looped lines around the hull, tightening them with sticks to create a Spanish windlass at each mold. Under the tightened ropes, I used wedges to apply pressure where needed. But while this worked to some extent, it didn’t force the strips down to the molds nor against each other as tight as I would like. And I could do only two strips every few hours, since I had to wait for the glue to dry before proceeding to the next pair.

Photographs by the author

External plywood arches over each mold provide a way to apply multiple strips with each round of gluing, without resorting to staples or nails to hold them.

When I got ready to build my second kayak, CELESTE, I figured there had to be a better way. I had a lot of different ideas, but what I came up with was building an external frame over each mold in order to drive wedges against the strips. Each of these arches was made of two pieces of inexpensive 1/2″ CDX plywood connected with 1/4″ bolts and anchored to a 2×2 screwed to the base of the mold.

The center bolts holding the two halves of the arches together can be removed to provide access to the hull.

The arches could be assembled and disassembled quickly and wedges tapped inside of the frame, thus clamping the strips against the mold. I had designed and drawn the boat in AutoCAD so I could easily make patterns for the arches with a 3/4″ offset from the hull. The tolerance isn’t critical, so you can sketch the patterns freehand and they would work fine—the wedges will allow for very loose tolerances. A little time with a bandsaw and drilling some 1/4″ holes, and I was done.

Wedges, these cut from scraps of plywood, provide firm pressure on the strips being applied. They can even edge-set the strips without making it impossible to apply the next strip.

With the arches and wedges I was able to apply a tremendous amount of force on the strips if needed but still finesse the beads into the coves very easily, all without damaging the soft wood strips. The system was much easier and more accurate than any other method I had tried, and because it allowed me to do all of the strips without waiting for glue to dry, I was able to complete the bottom in a day whereas previously it had taken almost two weeks to do the 28 strips.

Dan Newland has been building boats from the age of 12. He lives in Port Hadlock, Washington, not far from the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building. He has taught advanced composites at the school and serves on the school’s Program Advisory Committee. His wife, Linda, is on the board of directors. Dan designed carbon fabrics and high-tech sailcloth for several AMERICA‘s Cup projects. He has won the Singlehanded Transpac three times, twice in boats he designed and built.

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