Add a Woodstrip Deck to a Kayak

Today someone asked me how I added a custom woodstrip deck made out of Western Red Cedar, to my Mill Creek 13 kayak. What follows is the process I used.

The process involves making some forms to support the deck, give it some shape and allows for a place to staple the deck in place while the wood glue dries. Once the deck is finished being built and sanded,  I remove the deck, and thus removing all of the staples, flip it over and sealed the underside with epoxy and glass. Once it’s cured I use fiberglass cloth and epoxy to glue it onto the shell.

First, create the forms. I used MDF I had around the garage left over from some cabinets I made. The forms are only temporary so use what ever you have available. I used the original templates used to shape the shearclamps to transfer the arc onto the forms, and then cut them to shape with my bandsaw (if you have a jig saw that works too. I used hot-melt glue to hold them in place in the boat shell.


A close-up of the forms during a test-fit

I spaced the forms about 12″ apart  to ensure I get the contours of the boat and for enough places to staple the deck in place during gluing.


Mill Creek 13 hull with forms glued in place

Note that I used a string to ensure a smooth transition from support to support. Since these provide the shape to the deck, make it look nice. If one form is too high, your deck will have a bulge at that point. Be patient and spend some time getting this right. When you’re satisfied with the result and everything is glued in place, cover the top edges of the forms and the shearclamps with packing tape. Since you’ll be removing the deck later to remove the forms and seal the underside, you don’t want the deck to get glued in place.


The first strips stapled and glued in place

The woodstrips are beaded and coved, though there are other methods, and each edge gets glued. I used Titebond III, I believe, but since the deck will be sealed in fiberglass and epoxy, you can use regular wood glue as well. I believe it is recommended that you do only three strips at a time, though when you use staples, you may be able to do more without waiting for it to dry.

I created my own pattern for this boat’s woodstrip deck, so consider that before you start installing the strips. You can be creative, and I’ve seen lots of nice designs on other boats.


A little more progress, matching the strips towards the bow with those at the stern

Almost done with the strips. Note the staples in the deck.


Getting those final strips installed was a bit of a pain and tried my patience

Once you’re done with the strips you need to carefully remove the deck and all of the staples. Place the deck back onto the forms and sand, scrape, and/or plane to desired finish. This is easier to do now while you have some support.

Once you get this far, you can remove all of the forms, and tape on the shearclamps.

Next I flipped the deck over, set it on some stands and glassed the underside of the deck with epoxy. Trim the excess, once cured. Note: I don’t know that glassing the underside is required, but I did it.


Glass epoxied to the underside sealed with epoxy

Gluing the deck in place can be a little nerve wracking and it could be beneficial to have someone help you get the epoxy on the shear clamps and everything in place. Once in place I used my kayak straps and duck tape and clamps to hold it all in place while it cured.


Glue, clamp, strap, tape the deck to the shell

Complete any finish work on the top, like sanding, and finishing the strips around the cockpit.


Prep the top by finishing the wood trim and sanding

Then, you can glass the top. Important: Trim the glass cloth to about three inches of over-hang all around the deck as you will want this to help it adhere to the hull. Make sure you sand smooth the hull where the deck glass will overlay the hull.


Here is the top entirely glassed. Recall that the white glass cloth becomes transparent when the epoxy is applied.

Once cured and additional coats of epoxy are cured and sanded smooth, finish the boat and get out on the water!

You can see the completed boat in many of my other blog posts, like this one in 2008, or this more recent one in 2014 . It’s one of my favorites.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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