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Building a Cedar Strip Kayak: The Details: Cockpit and Hatches

Updated on September 29, 2014
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Jim is a software/electrical engineer who enjoys the outdoors. He likes to challenge himself with creative projects at home.


I cut an egg shaped hole for the cockpit that was about 29 inches long and about 18 inches wide. I found an diagram of a shape online and enlarged it then printed it out on 8-1/2 X 11 sheets then piece them together. This was traced on poster board then taped to the hull so its center was just aft of the center of the boat. I also looked at the plans in Kayak Craft to help judge where the cockpit should be placed. I placed masking tape on the deck where I expected the outline to be. this reduces chipping and tearing of the fiberglass and any rubbing that may occur from the saw. Once the outline was traced on the deck I started the cut with a utility knife and finished with a jig saw. It is advisable to proceed slowly so that the saw blade does not wander too far from the traced lines.

I used three layers of 1/4 inch exterior plywood for the spacing between the deck and the cock pit lip. The spacer s were each cut into two pieces running vertically then glued and clamped to the deck around the cockpit opening. Each spacer was about 1 inch wide and they were traced onto the plywood using the cardboard template for the cockpit opening.

First I wet each piece with un-thickened epoxy, then applied thickened epoxy between each spacer and the deck. I used a few brass screws running from the underside for good measure.

To add strength to the cockpit area I added some carbon fiber cloth. It was epoxied to the underside of the deck at the rear of the cockpit combing. When entering and exiting the kayak this area sometimes see more pressure.

The lip was made from 1/4" X 4" poplar, which was cut into 4 sections to make a lip that extended past the spacers by about 3/8". This was laid out carefully before it was cut so that the joints lined up nicely. This was also glued and clamped on to the spacers. Once all the glue is dried it was cut to shape with a jig saw that had a short blade then the edges were rounded and sanded. I used a wide piece of basket weaving stripping or reed, which I think is ash I think, to cover the exposed plywood on the inside of the cockpit. It was glued and held in place with masking tape. I used 2 1/2" wide strips, its what I had, but a 1" wide strip would have worked better. After the final sanding of the cockpit, spacers and lip it was covered with 4oz fiber glass on the inside and out. Making the cloth form from the deck, up the spacers and under the lip can be a little challenging. Fiberglass cloth will form to a shape like this better if it is cut at an angle to the weave.


I cut more holes in the deck the same way as the cockpit hole was cut, one for the rear hatch and one for the forward hatch. The rear hatch was placed about 12 inches behind the cockpit. It was made in sort of a hexagon shape and roughly about 15 X 12 inches. I traced the shapes on poster board first then laid them on the deck where I wanted them. I put masking tape on the deck and traced their outlines onto it.

The forward hatch must be place forward of your foot braces. I sat on the floor and with my back against a wall and measured the distance to the bottom of my feet then added half the length of the foot brace brackets then about 2 inches. This is where I placed the near edge of the forward hatch. It was more of a rectangular shape and about 10 X 8 inches roughly.

The pieces I cut out were wrapped in plastic and taped back in place then the deck was flipped over to make the hatch cover lips. I laid 2 layers of 4 oz. fiberglass cloth, followed by one layer of 5 oz. carbon fiber cloth, then a layer of 6 oz. and a layer of 4 oz. fiberglass cloth. All layers were soaked with epoxy. Once the epoxy has hardened, the lids are removed. If the plastic covering the hatch lids was sufficient the should come out with some gentle prying. The rigid cloth was then cut out wit a jig saw, leaving a 3/4 inch lip remaining.

The edge of the lip was lightly sanded to take off the sharpness and make the lines uniform. If there is a gap where the lip meets the underside of the deck some more epoxy can be added to fill. I added a half donut shaped handle to each cover. The hatch lips were covered with 1/4" X 3/4" neoprene weather stripping in the final finishing step.


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