New Canoe Outfitting Project

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I had been looking high and low and far and wide for a canoe project, including near daily searches of every Craigslist from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. Bupkiss.

Finally found one – Nova Craft Cronje in Royalex:

http://www.novacraft.com/canoe_cronje.shtml

I wasn’t looking for a tandem, but it is getting harder to pass on RX canoes. The hull is in very good shape, with only a couple of dings and dents and two small gouges in the vinyl on one side.

Even the vinyl stickers are still in decent shape. So before washing the hull I peeled them off. Nothing against Nova Craft or Thunderbird emblems, but those vinyl letters and etc are easier to peel off before they are all scraped up and will only peel off in tiny shards.



Besides, I like the lines of this canoe and the deep burgundy hull will look better unlettered.

I know what to expect when detail washing a used canoe. First, it is a great way to get up close and personal with a hull and thoroughly inspect every ding, bing, scrape and dent. Second, the amount of crud that blasts free from under the gunwales can be amazing.

Up close and personal the Cronje looks great. The hull isn’t even faded under the vinyl stickers and a little lighter fluid scrubbing removed the adhesive residue.

De-decaled, washed and dried I tackled the small gouges in the vinyl. A coat of G/flex tinted (a very unmatching) red put everything back together nicely. I’ll spring for a can of burgundy spray paint for UV protection on the epoxy and a better color match.

All cleaned up and hull patched I found myself at a crossroads – what am I going to do with the Cronje?

My first thought was to soloize it; strip all the brightwork and install a solo seat and custom thwarts to trap barrel and portage pack.

And if the current seats or etc needed work I probably would. But all the brightwork is in excellent condition, and I really like that deep sculpted yoke. But I don’t paddle tandem, no one in my family does, and we already have a couple of tandem loaners.

After some dithering I decided to leave it a tandem. It is a symmetrical hull, and any guise in which I’d solo the Cronje would be from the bow seat backwards with a tripping load up front for trim. The bow seat is already positioned well back from the end; in a “backwards” orientation the front edge of that seat is 6’ 5” from the bow end and I wouldn’t gain much by installing a solo seat 10” forward.

That greatly simplifies the “rebuild” and I can concentrate on the outfitting, using whatever I have on hand in the shop.

Comfort stuff first. Those square aluminum inwales are not fun on the knees. I like to brace my knees against the gunwales, especially to lock in place when seated and using a foot brace and back band. Just pressing my knees against that right angle aluminum inwale to mark the knee bumper locations hurt. That’s got to go.

Knee Bumpers
I had some rectangular pieces of ¾” thick minicel already cut in the scrap box that fit perfectly. Sized 10” x 2 ½”, which fit nicely under the gunwales bringing the surface flush with the edge of the inwale, and a couple of larger pieces sized 10” x 3 ¾” to glue atop the inner pieces and cover the right angle pain of that aluminum inwale.

I cut a couple more so I had four inners and four outers, and rounded the edges of the outers with Dragonskin to help alleviate any sheer forces peeling from back the edges of minicel when getting in or out of the canoe. Shaping minicel with Dragonskin may be the fastest and funnest part of outfitting.





I marked the knee positions in pencil with a couple of test sits before realizing that I had forgotten to alcohol wipe the hull locations. Wrong order of business, but at least the pencil marks don’t smear like Sharpie when alcohol wiped.

Time for some contact cement work. The exhaust fan goes on and each piece of minicel gets three timed coats of contact cement, the hull gets two coats. I enjoy the sequence of contact cement work; first coat on the minicel, first coat on the hull, and by then the first minicel coat has vanished completely dry into the foam and is ready for the second coat.

Wait some, second coat the hull, third coat the minicel. Wait, heat gun both surfaces and try not to F up the instantaneously stuck alignment. Clamp the innes in place for the best possible adhesion and walk away for a few hours.

Then, three coats of contact cement on the face of the in-situ innes and gunwale edge, the final coat on the outies, heat gun, stick them in place, clamp and walk away overnight.



With the contact cement drying wait times that is a long process, but I’ve added almost no weight and the knee comfort is so well worth the effort. If you have several days of contact cement work on the schedule a strip of wax paper wrapped around a disposable brush will keep the bristles useful until the next adhesive application.

I’ll go back to the knee bumpers later and lay small a bead of Plumber’s Goop adhesive sealant around the hull-to-minicel edges. That seems to help prevent sheer forces from lifting an edge and keeps grit, grime and water from infiltrating and loosening the glue over time.

Webbing loops
While that contact cement was setting up and I had the exhaust fan running I made some webbing loops. Between that lovely, sculpted & neck-notched, double-hung yoke, the thwart and the carry handles I had 10 machine screw ends to use as webbing anchors and plenty of scrap 1” webbing in the shop, including some fugly colored stuff.



I behaved myself and used black webbing. 7” lengths of webbing with a single fold gave me an always open loop that I can easily pass line or straps through. Mark them, cut and seal them with a hot putty knife blade, single twist, tape the ends together and burn a perfect 3/16” machine screw hole with a 20-penny common nail.



I don’t want my delicate digits trying to hold the webbing loops ends in place that close to a hot nail head, so the tape serves to holds the ends aligned while melting the holes.



With the webbing loops made I removed the nuts and washers from the machine screw shanks. Well, first the thread protectors on every machine screw, a factory touch that shows an appreciated attention to detail.

Since I had the nuts and washers off now was the time to remove the thwart, carry handles and that beautiful yoke, and reseal the ends to forestall any decay or rot in those suspect areas.

Taking a canoe apart reveals much about the care with which it was put together. The butt ends of the brightwork were in excellent condition for a 6 year old boat that had the expected grunge under the gunwales, so NC must have sealed those ends with more than just a single quickie meh-who-is-ever-gonna-see coat of varnish.

Everything else is ship shape construction wise. The holes in the brightwork are all centered, no missing washers or other miscues. All in all one of the best quality builds I’ve seen in a long time. Kudos to Nova Craft.

The bright work may be in good shape, but while it is out I’ll sand the butt ends to bare wood and coat them with, um, epoxy resin. I don’t want to wait through multiple coats of varnish and there is no UV exposure on those butt ends.



Correction –I did use a little varnish, or, more specifically, Helmsman Spar Urethane. I poked a saturated pipe cleaner into each machine screw hole to help seal the bare wood inside.



I would have done the same inspection, sanding and sealing for the seat hangers, but I’m not sure if I want to keep them or install truss drops.

It should all go back together tomorrow better than new.

 
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Looks like a nice project. I've never used minicell. What kind of finish does the dragon skin leave on it? Does it need to be touched up at all with something finer?

What about the padding for when you sit backwards in the bow? Or is is wide enough that it's not necessary?
 
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Looks like a nice project. I've never used minicell. What kind of finish does the dragon skin leave on it? Does it need to be touched up at all with something finer?

Dragonskin leaves a slightly roughed up edge on minicel, depending on how gently you swipe it and the quality of the minicel. It is easy enough to touch up with sandpaper. I use a 1” tabletop belt sander with a 120 belt when I want a really smooth surface, but I’ve also done major carving on thick minicel starting by removing chunks with a coping saw and then rough shaping with an 80 grit belt sander.

What about the padding for when you sit backwards in the bow? Or is is wide enough that it's not necessary?

Ah, an excellent question, and one I keep asking myself as I outfit this canoe.

Backwards from the bow, or worse installing a solo “center” seat in most tandems, is too wide. Or at least too wide for me to comfortably brace my knees against the gunwales. My groin hurts just thinking about it.

The solution, on the wider soloized tandems has been to install huge, custom carved minicel knee bumpers.



I can press my knees against that carved minicel to lock in place with a back band and foot brace (think a 6-point stance, butt, back, knees, feet), or tuck my knees underneath those bulbous bumpers like a thigh strap.

I’m not ready to go that route with the Cronje. I installed a foot brace today and it went in front of the stern seat. That was a tough decision, but I’m committed to outfitting this canoe as a tandem. At least at first.

My principle objective is to try to outfit the hull with what I have on hand in the shop, and I have a surprise for the end that may, if it fits, be the finishing touch as a tandem.

My secondary objective is to outfit the hull as the most comfortable seat(s) in the house. If I am not comfortable in the boat for long hours at a time something needs fixing.

Time for another coat of contact cement on comfort foam.
 
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The clamps came off and the brightwork went back on easy as pie. I have to say it again; I am impressed with the build quality of this canoe.

The webbing loops will make tying in gear easy, and if I have a D-ring pad or two left in the shop supply I’ll install them on the bottom in gear-strategic locations.



Time for another test sit. Holy knee comfort Batman, those minicel bumpers are nice.



My knees feel good, but my blown disc lower back needs some support. I am a fan of Surf-to-Summit back bands, and the installation is as simple as adding a few pad eyes. I’m also a fan of pad eyes, and bought 100 of them years ago when I found a quantity deal. Good thing; I used 8 on the Cronje and now have 25 left.



Good thing number two. I keep a spare 3/16” drill in the shop, that size being the most commonly used for machine screws and pop rivets on canoes. The one in the drill index was toast. Note to self, buy another spare.

Eight strategically places pad eye on the aluminum inwale. I like it.





And if I opt to solo paddle the Cronje from the bow seat I can just reverse the orientation of the back band using the same pad eyes.




I wanted to add a foot brace to this canoe, and damned if I didn’t have some choices in the big box of miscellaneous parts.



Foot brace.
I had several foot brace options in that box, including old-style angle & wing nut foot braces, but I really like the Wenonah adjustable foot brace.

http://www.wenonah.com/Items.aspx?id=29

It does take some courage to drill those holes through the hull, especially the first time you install a pop riveted foot brace. I’ve installed a dozen or more and it still worries me every time.

Sit in the stern, mark the foot placement and desired range of adjustability, gather my courage and drill some holes. I know I want heel pads under the foot brace and know that my preferred foot brace height is a little over 6” off the floor (size 12 feet), so 6 ½” high is about right.

A temporary platform assists with the installation and measuring.

It helps that Wenonah’s instructions are clearly and understandably written, although I add a schmear of Plumber’s Goop to the flange head of the rivet. Why do I suddenly want a bagel and cream cheese.



The actual foot brace installation took only minutes once everything was marked and platformed. Now on to some serious Princess and the Pea stuff.

I paddle barefoot in warm weather, and I am a confessed comfort wuss. My sole is not comfortable on that naked foot brace bar. A piece of 1” pipe insulation does the trick.



And, even wussier, my barefoot heels hurt without some padding underneath. Poor, pitiful me.

I could have used minicel as heel pads, but I had a few dollar store garden kneeling pads, made of more cushiony foam.



Having installed the foot brace in the stern I am committed to a tandem rebuild, but I’ll add heel pads for the bow backwards orientation was well. Six heel pads.

Beyond the wussy comfort factor that foam helps keep my shoe or Mukluk heels from sliding around on the slippery-when-wet Royalex.

That cushy kneeling pad foam doesn’t Dragonskin as well as minicel, so I roughly beveled the edges with a razor blade first, and then rounded them off with a 1” belt table sander. Sweet.







Heel pad locations traced in pencil (I alcohol cleaned the area first this time), with a bilge water channel left between.



Remember yesterday’s contact cement brush wrapped in wax paper? It’s back in play, as is the shop exhaust fan. Six more pieces of foam installed



I have a long session of beading Plumber’s Goop around minicel edges at some point in my future.



Shop supplies needed for tomorrow’s hardware store run – spare 3/16” drill, Plumber’s Goop, burgundy spray paint.
 
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Neat - I like following these threads.

Nice work, thanks for sharing your progress through photos.

There's a Novacraft Super Nova on the New Jersey Craigslitst, BTW.
 
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There's a Novacraft Super Nova on the New Jersey Craigslitst, BTW.

Hanz, I had a Super Nova on the racks briefly. It may be the antithesis of solo canoe design for my usual purposes.

I’m largely a sitter, not a kneeler. I don’t trip on whitewater. I do paddle a lot of windswept places, so having less “sail” than a deep hull is preferable, even if I have to resort to spray covers.

I know some folks love that hull, and in the right venue and paddling style it is superb.

Nova Craft (and Esquif) probably had the best Royalex in the latter days of that material, and both are considerably better than average in build quality and brightwork. If that is an RX hull at a reasonably price someone who favors that design will snap it up.
 
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Mike: Your shop posts are invaluable to me. Thanks for sharing your expertise. These days, I have precious little time to devote to my enthusiasm for canoes, and I have a number of projects on extended hold, but hope is on the horizon. Cheers, Dave
 
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Mike: Your shop posts are invaluable to me. Thanks for sharing your expertise. These days, I have precious little time to devote to my enthusiasm for canoes, and I have a number of projects on extended hold, but hope is on the horizon. Cheers, Dave

Dave, I have a fairly well equipped and supplied shop, and our friend Joel needs to come up and do some outfitting on his Rendezvous. The poor guy is so dependant on rudders he wants to add them to his canoes.

As soon as he has that all figured out I’ll just copy the parts and pieces of his design. I do enjoy a small downwind sail in a tripping canoe, and I’d enjoy it even more with a rudder.

Hope is a thing with feathers. But a shop day with Joel is always a joy. Could be a date.
 
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Before putting the canoe to bed last night I realized that I had not installed a run of bungee cord on the thwart as per my preference. I should have drilled and beveled those holes in the thwart before I reinstalled it.

Thwart holes drilled (for an over, under, over pattern) and beveled in the direction the bungee will stretch to prevent wear. I sealed in the inside of those fresh thwart holes with spar urethane.

Thwart bungee and balls
I like a little bungee on a reachable thwart to help restrain map, sunglasses, hat, pocket camera, whatever is out or off and better not wandering around underfoot in the bilge.



That bungee can be difficult to pluck off the thwart when wearing gloves, so a couple of drilled wood balls make for easier grabbing and stretching. And I can drum the balls for a pretty good Pileated woodpecker sound.

The foot brace is padded and my heels, knees and back all have some cushion. My butt does not.

Seat Pad
My butt gets sore if I spend long hours on a bench seat and my padding preference is to use a mostly deflated Therma-Rest seat pad. Even mostly deflated so I have good sitz-to-seat contact I can still open the valve and let a little air out from time to time to change the pressure points.

By the time the pad is fully deflated I’m ready to stop and stretch my legs, and let some air back in. But I don’t want to pad sliding around or blowing away.

The simple pad-keeper solution is to install a couple of pieces of webbing over the top of the pad and onto the bottom of the seat. Those webbing straps also serve to wrap the edge of the pad around the front of the seat for kneeling or thigh comfort. The pad tucks under the straps easy enough and I can use it in camp as well.



Until I figure out how to install a Magic Fingers Massage unit that’ll do.

I have a serious length of minicel edge to seal to the hull. Just for funsies – six heel pads, four knee bumpers….four, carry the one….24 feet of minicel edge. I bought a new tube of Plumbers Goop. Hope it’s enough.

Plumbers Goop
I really like a bead of Plumber’s Goop around any minicel-to-hull edge. An adhesive sealant billed as “Permanent bond, extreme flex, waterproof and paintable. A thin bead around the minicel dries clear and almost invisible.



It helps to apply warmed Goop and it was a sunny day, so I set the tube on the dash of the truck and the Goop squeezed out the nozzle like thick honey. For the record – 24 feet of minicel edge used up ¾ of the tube. Best $4 I’ve spent on the boat yet.



Deck Plates
The deck plates are short, 8” long. Not enough space for my preferred Z of painter keeper bungee, a single length of bungee running / \ on top and diagonally underneath. As long as I stuff the painter line up the middle of the / \ and pull it out the same way it never ends up inadvertently caught under the bungee when I pull it free. And, on densely occluded swamp and strainer trips being able to secure the painter lines under the deck plates can be helpful.

A single bungee will have to do. And, before drilling those bungee holes, a drain hole at the tip of the deck plate. A half inch drain hole, big enough that a dead fly or piece of debris doesn’t immediately clog up the works.



The stems are in surprisingly good condition, with only a few scrapes and scratches. The Cronje doesn’t really need skid plates yet, but it is clean, in the shop and I’ve got the materials.

Skid Plates
Time for a little experiment. The wear on the bow stem is all concentrated along the keel line in an area an inch or so wide and, damn, close to 40” long. I don’t want a massive skid plate, and I have some 1 ½” bias fiberglass tape. I’ll try that on the bow.



The stern scrapes are more typical, call it a vee 5” wide by 30” long. I have Dynel for that.

Off to the cutting table I discovered that I had angle cut scraps of both Dynel and peel ply that would work for the stern skid plate. They are not cut on the bias, but hey, they fit and they from the scrap bag. Waste not, want not.



Bias tape, Dynel and Peel Ply all cut to size and shape I moved on to the laborious process of taping and papering the hull. Skid plate installation is one of those 90%/10% propositions; 90% prep work, 10% actually putting epoxy on cloth.

I know how sloppy I can be with epoxy, so I use painters tape for a good epoxy edge, paper on that to catch any drips or dribbles, and a run of masking tape to seal the newspaper edge to the painters tape.





As a DIY skid plate mixture I’ve settled on a mix of West System 105/206 and G/flex, graphite powder and a dab of black pigment. That provides a tough resin and slippery surface and the blackest of opaque black color.



Using small batches I can adjust the G/flex proportion for heavier wear areas and the topcoat.

First impression of the bias weave fiberglass tape (German made, from Sweet Composites)
http://www.sweetcomposites.com/#contents

That is the thickest and beefiest glass tape I have ever seen. Even with the bias weave it was recalistrant and took some repeated attentions before it would lay down properly. I’m glad I have peel ply cut to cover that.

The Dynel was, as usual, easy to work with. It cuts without too many frays, it is incredibly scrape, scratch and gouge resistant, and even using a scrap piece not cut on the bias it laid down perfectly when asked the first time.

Next, the waiting game. I gave those skid plates a couple of hours for the epoxy to stop dripping and begin to set up and pulled the paper.



When I saw no further drips or dribbles creeping down the edge of the painters tape I pulled it. Ahem, having left myself convenient fold-over tabs on the tape.





With all of the paper and tape removed and the epoxy still far from solid I laid on the pre-cut pieces of peel ply atop the cloth and resin and, having broken my little hard plastic roller, smoothed it out with gloved hand. Note to self: Find another little hard plastic roller.





I’ll leave the peel ply on overnight. Unless I wake up at 3am and simply can’t resist the reveal.
 
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Very nice job! I like the knee bumpers and will have to look into that for a few of my boats. Also, that backband looks mighty comfortable. I have one I use from Chosen Valley. I know you have one cause I sent it back and all you need is the strapping to make it work.

http://www.gear4portaging.com/seatingandyokes.html

I like how clean the skid plates came out! I also am a big fan of Dynel/resin and G-flex mix. I think that makes for one of the toughest mixes for skid plates around!

As far as soloing a tandem, that is all I do. In the past I have taken out the rear seat and put in a temp thwart so I could get more gear in there without having to fart around with jamming stuff under the seat so now you really do have a solo! Nice work Mr. McCrea! Wish I was more orientated towards detail work instead of just making due but then again most of my hulls are beat to shit before I get them! ;-)

dougd
 
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Doug,

I’m sold on those Surf-to-Summit back bands, so if you would like the CVCA back band let me know. Jsaults sent it to me, I sent it to you, you sent it back to me and now I could send it back to you again.

I pulled the peel ply this morning and the results were excellent.
 
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Looks good! I have some experience with the Cronje, as I bought one for our club. It is one of the lightest hulls out there for a royalex 17 foot hull, comes in around 59 pounds. However, the reason for that is the lines. it's a narrow, shallow canoe. My primary use for it is with two light weight paddlers. It will still carry a good load, and get through most situations, but I don't think you'd want a couple of 200 pounders in it.
 
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Looks good! I have some experience with the Cronje, as I bought one for our club. It is one of the lightest hulls out there for a royalex 17 foot hull, comes in around 59 pounds. However, the reason for that is the lines. it's a narrow, shallow canoe. My primary use for it is with two light weight paddlers. It will still carry a good load, and get through most situations, but I don't think you'd want a couple of 200 pounders in it.

Nice photo. What river?

I had to resist the urge to outfit the Cronje as a another big boy gear hauler solo, and I still may by retaining the seats and paddling it backwards.

But I have a piece of freebie outfitting gear in the shop that may complete the Cronje as a tandem. I’ll know tomorrow if my plan will work. 13” deep wouldn’t leave a lot of freeboard with two supersized paddles and a load of gear.

I may yet set it up with giant “knee bumpers” for paddling backwards from the bow seat.
 
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That's the Burrows river, close to my hometown in Northern Ontario. It's a funny canoe, think it would be too big for a solo. It's a great canoe fro two lightweights though, very fast.
 
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It's a funny canoe, think it would be too big for a solo. It's a great canoe fro two lightweights though, very fast.

I’ve paddled a Cronje before, as a tandem with one of my sons when he was smaller, and as a solo from the bow seat.

I am partial to my soloized Penobscot as a big boy, big load gear hauler



The Cronje is ten inches longer and one inch wider than the Penobscot, so likely still manageable for my peculiar preferences, and the extra length would be handy for trips with excessive gear packing needs.

But I am committed to outfitting it as a tandem. At least at first.
 
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Well, it is a pretty looking canoe, and I'm sure it will enhance your "Canyon Fairy" status with all the gear you will be able to haul in it. Geeze, you might even bring out a ping pong table to keep all those other pesky canyon hoppers busy!
 
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Nice report, I have used some of that black strapping in the past and like the idea of taping before melting a hole, and putting a coat of urethane inside the bolt holes on the brightwork is pretty impressive.
I like those narrow skid plates. I always did at least two canoes with a kit designed for one canoe, and always had leftovers.

Nice job explaining the process of what you did so far with the canoe, I can see a few new basement/garage shops opening up with your detailed report, very helpful, Thanks
 
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Geeze, you might even bring out a ping pong table to keep all those other pesky canyon hoppers busy!

Maybe the all-terrain bocci balls (old croquet balls) instead. Although when we did car camping trips with friends and a passel of kids I would bring ping pong paddles, balls and a 2x4 for the “net” and play atop picnic tables. You get some really odd bounces off a picnic table surface.

I have used some of that black strapping in the past and like the idea of taping before melting a hole, and putting a coat of urethane inside the bolt holes on the brightwork is pretty impressive.
I like those narrow skid plates. I always did at least two canoes with a kit designed for one canoe, and always had leftovers.

Sealing inside the holes can’t hurt, and the butt ends of brightwork on used canoes often need attention anyway.

I agree about those skid plate kits with kevlar felt. Even without cutting that oversize felt down to more reasonable dimensions there was way more resin in those kits than possibly needed and I would likewise do two canoes with one kit.

I got stalled on the next bit of Cronje outfitting yesterday – I needed 8 female snap rivets and had 5 – so I lightly top coated the bias tape on the bow to fill the weave. The peel ply definitely helps reduce the amount of epoxy needed to fill the cloth. I would guesstimate the total amount of epoxy used for both skid plates, including the top coat, at around 8 oz.

And no sanding!
 
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I got impatient and started to pull the peel ply after 5 or 6 hours, thinking that if anything needed a top coat I would do so with the epoxy still green. “Started to”, I didn’t like the corner of Dynel surface I revealed. The “peel” didn’t feel right, didn’t sound right and the bit I exposed looked like it was leaving a slight stucco surface on the resin. I pushed it back in place and smoothed it down again.

I pulled the peel ply the next morning. Damn that came out well. Dynel coated with epoxy will cure leaving a surface akin to 80 grit sandpaper. Dynel covered with release treated peel ply cures incredibly smooth, leaving only the very fine weave imprint from the peel ply



I needed no more convincing, but I’ll never do epoxy and cloth work, especially Dynel or glass tape, without using peel ply.

The Dynel is smooth, with just a faint peel ply weave and in a week or so I’ll re-tape it and spray paint it black. The bias glass tape still shows a bit of the tape weave. That tape is very thick and I may have gone a little light on the epoxy fill, so I’ll give it a light top coat of epoxy mix to fully fill the weave.

The raised seam edges of the tape smushed down agreeably. Epoxy coated glass tape without peel ply leaves a raise seam edge you could use as wood rasp, so even with a light top coat of epoxy mix needed to fill the weave the peel ply eliminated a lot of tricky edge sanding.



What else do I have in the shop that I could use? I have some reflective tape to put on the stems, but that will have to wait. And the shop Gogetch to paint on the hull, likewise a wait ‘til later.

I do have a rivet gun modified by Dan Cooke, and 100 male snap studs/100 pop rivets, 100 washers and some female studs from CCS. And fastener kit.

http://www.cookecustomsewing.com/



And, boxed and forlorn in the corner, waiting for the right boat to come along, a canoe spray cover courtesy of a trade with DougD.
 
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