5 secrets to fibergalssing a Wee Lassie cedar strip canoe

Still on the building board, the wee lassie Nelda Ruth is being glassed.

Still on the building board, the wee lassie Nelda Ruth is being glassed.

I’ve been building the Wee Lassie, a cedar strip canoe designed by Mac Macrthy at Feather Canoes. I’ve discovered a few things that might be helpful to the firstime builder, like myself that were left out of his definitive book on the subject, Featherweight Boatbuilding A Woodenboat Book.

1. Seal the Outside and the Inside before you put your glass cloth on. In the book he says to seal the outside with epoxy before you put your first layer of glass on. However if you seal the inside as well you minimize the risk of the wood pulling air through the inside and turning into air bubbles on the outside. Also make sure the initial sealer coat of epoxy is done during a falling temperature, this will tend to suck the epoxy into the wood instead of outgassing air and causing bubbles. (This tip came to me via Larry at Raka, where I got my Epoxy)

2. Sand it smooth, extra smooth. I sanded through 220 on the outside of the hull before I put any epoxy or glass on. On the inside I didn’t sand quite as much. Consequently, the inside had a few more issues with air bubbles that I had to work extra hard to smooth them out. Had I sanded a little more on the inside it would have been as easy as it was on the outside.

3. Don’t cut the overhanging extra glass until it dries. Perhaps I misinterpreted it, but in the book it says to cut the excess cloth with a razor knife and it sounded like it said to do it before the epoxy dried. I tried this on the first go-round and it turned into a royal mess! So when it came time to glass the inside I waited for the cloth to dry and it cut like butter with a fresh Stanley knife. So wait for it to dry before you trim off the excess glass cloth.

4. Thinner is better! Don’t over do it on the epoxy. Multiple thin coats are better than a few thick ones, you will sand your ass off if you end up with runs like I had. The funny thing about epoxy is that it acts like a twerpy teenager.Everything looks cool when you are around, but the minute you turn your back, BAM trouble. You can tip it off with a brush all you want and get it looking really nice, but the minute you leave the room it starts to sag and run. If you come back in an hour, it looks like one of those wine bottles my roommate in college had with all that wax all over it, not good. So thinner is better, this may seem obvious to some, but some of us are a little slower than others. You can see in the photo above, the runs paid me a visit.

5. Be neat, have everything you will need laid out before you start mixing and wear double rubber gloves. This is really like three tips in one, but hey this is a Top 5 list so I had to mash em all togther to fit them in. Be neat and careful not to get epoxy on you. This is bad stuff and you don’t want it on your skin if you can ovide it, pretty obvious but worth pointing out. Also you don’t want to be rooting around in your workbench or digging through drawers with your hands covered in epoxy, so make sure everything is laid out in plain sight. Third, wear DOUBLE gloves. One set just won’t do. If you snag one on something or it breaks for some reason, and they will, you want that extra layer of protection there just in case.

So there you have it my top 5 secrects to glassing a Wee Lassie from the perspective of a first time boat builder.

3 thoughts on “5 secrets to fibergalssing a Wee Lassie cedar strip canoe

  1. Pingback: A wooden rowing frame and matching oars for a Towee – it can be done, and it works! | The Fiddle and Creel

  2. nice set of tips, nice picture big question? i want to coat my wood in shelac to darken and enhance grain, can i epoxy over that or will it destroy the bond. this may be an unknown for both of us.

    • I can’t say for sure. I would check with your epoxy supplier’s recommendations. I used Raka epoxies and the nice thing about him is that you can call him up and ask him personally and he will tell you the truth and guide you into the right selection. There is a huge variety of compounds that fall under “epoxy”. He specializes in resins for small boat builders and maintains a very good reputation with that community, because of his individualized support and info.

      Generally I’d say, you can probably epoxy over shellac without a problem, as long as you give the shellac some key and don’t leave it too shiny. If you are just using it to stain it for appearance then chances are good you won’t fill the grain too much and it will maintain a nice tooth on the surface. In that case, the right epoxy will stick to just about anything and you shouldn’t have any problems. Beware that sometimes people call things shellac that aren’t actually shellac… it can be used as a general term to mean any varnish or stain etc but real shellac is actually a very specific thing – the resin secreted by the lac bug dissolved in alcohol. If that’s what you want to use, then it can’t see it messing with the ability of the epoxy to stick like I said as long you don’t french polish it and apply epoxy over top of the polished surface, give it some key.

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