serene – 2, part 5a

imple thing that is done many times already, since the very first time I was building the Hello World -3 kayak, so there is nothing special about setting up the “female” frame for shaping up the kayak hull and deck. The stations (as called so by the software FreeShip) are placed evenly at an interval of 60 cm, there are 8 of them for the 17 feet (approximately 518 cm) hull. All is cut from 18 mm – thick MDF.

First image: the stations cut, second and third images: since the 18 mm – thick MDF I used is at the maximum that my compress – air staple gun could handle, I simple glue the stations on along a MDF board, each 60 cm apart. You can see the stations numbered, from H1 to H8 (from stern to bow). Fourth image: another view of the completed female frame, looking this way, one could see that the kayak hull is so slim. It’s so indeed! 🙂

At 44 cm, this Serene – 2 kayak is just slightly narrower compared to my previous boat. Serene – 1, which was at 45 cm. One of the main reasons why it took me so long to start this kayak building is that, I greatly appreciate my previous boat’s abilities in rough water, it did give me a lots of confidence. I wouldn’t want to lose that very special capabilities along my design progress, while improving some shortcomings…

…That my previous kayak had had. It is a very good feeling watching the “female – molding” frame, which gives me a very first impression on how my future boat would look like. But the long way is still ahead, it would take much efforts in completing my “perfect sea kayak”! By the way, the “rule” for choosing a sea kayak hull is that: build / buy a longest and thinnest one that you could still find it controllable and comfortable! 🙂

Serene – 2 photo albums
part 1, part 2




serene – 2, part 4c

ot entirely related to this Serene – 2 building, but I would want re – organize my woodworking workshop a bit. My working place is quite small in floor area, so everything need to be stored neatly and tidily. Having quit some ideas, but would carry them out only one at a time, since I still have limited free time in the present. First is a shelf to store my plywood and MDF sheets (lots of them), and many other things.

The plywood and MDF sheets need special treatments, they could deform in shape or absorb moisture if stored inappropriately for a long time. The shelf would have two sides, the sloping side is for storing the sheets, and the other side is reserved for other things. The whole thing would be put on 6 small wheels so that it can be pulled and repositioned around the workshop, or moved just for cleaning the floor.

1st image: making the shelf base, 2nd image: the 3 supporting walls (to withstand the MDF and ply sheets’ weight, which could be very heavy). 3rd image: the shelf taking shape, 4th image: the completed and marine – blue painted product, ply and MDF sheets stored on one side (facing the wall). I need lots of shelf spaces to store various miscellaneous assets, which is growing to a unmanageable number 🙁 .

Sometime, I’ve forgotten that I’ve purchased something just because there’s a huge pile of them around. The workshop looks very tidy now, having more spaces to store various things. It’s very important to keep thing tidy, uncluttered, as you wouldn’t want to waste time finding an item when needed. It’s now time to move on to the main parts of the project, I’ve been lingering around on other issues for long enough.

Serene – 2 photo albums
part 1, part 2




serene – 2, part 4b

irst image: assembling the rudder’s components, the rudder in its dropped down position, 2nd image: the rudder in its retracted position. Everything works smoothly as calculated, the blade could be pulled up and down by a pair of line running back to behind the cockpit (but that would be done later, when attaching the rudder to the kayak hull), with two circular ratchets glued on the two side of the rudder blade.

4th image: the rudder stained with colored – epoxy and then painted (with transparent PU – PolyUrethane). It looks so nice, the dark brown color with coarse wooden grains 🙂 . The rudder control system is another complex problem, but that I would address it later on on the following phases of this building project, as I’m still hesitating between the two styles of rudder steering mechanisms as described below.

One style is the T – bar of those Olympic kayak, and the other is the normal 2 – pedals usually found on touring boats. The Olympic style is simpler, but it’s quite counter – intuitive as you would have to use the left leg kicking the bar to the right, in order for the boat to turn right. The 2 – pedals system is more user – friendly, you simply kick with the right leg to turn right. I also may use kind of a cross between the two mechanisms.

This is the first time I use a rudder, so many consideration and calculation have to be made. First in designing the hull, the hull should work efficiently and independently without a rudder, that is, it should track straight in most circumstances. Only under extreme turbulences that the rudder should be deployed, to save yourself from the extreme fatigue of one side paddling, or to have more responsiveness to the moving water.

Serene – 2 photo albums
part 1




serene – 2, part 4a

keg, rudder or none!? It has always been an everlasting debate among the sea kayaker community. Some advocates using none, as getting the job done with your paddles alone would greatly improves your skills. While I partially agree to this argument, I also think that the argument only holds true on flat water only. When in turbulences, which could be extreme, you would need something to assist in tracking and steering the boat.

All my previous kayaks was using skegs. While a skeg wouldn’t help in steering, it would help a lot keeping the boat on a straight track when underway. Gradually, and especially in my last 9 – days trip, I realize that a rudder could potentially become a great benefit. You could pull it up to reduce drag (with a retractable rudder) and maneuver the boat with your paddle alone when it’s relatively calm, and deploy it down in turbulences.

Not only it helps turning your boat to compensate leeway, it’s also a way to have instant responsiveness, e.g: to deal with large chasing waves. So I decided to overcome my fear of complexity and build a rudder for my next Serene – 2 kayak. Yet, complexity is the reason most pro – skeg paddlers would give, to justify their favor for skeg. But serious sea – paddlers would agree, I think, that rudder outperforms skeg in most situations.

It’s not too complex (as it seems) to draft out the rudder’s parts on wood. 1st image: elements of the rudder, 2nd and 3rd images: gluing them together. 4th image: the rudder blade is (like they usually call) a high – aspect – ratio foil, 10 x 50 cm in dimensions. The 2 circular discs: ratchets for pulling the blade up and down. Now, I definitely think I could build a rudder that would work, both efficiently and reliably! 🙂

Serene – 2 photo albums
part 1




serene – 2, part 3c

he structure of the hatches is nothing fancy, three tight rings nested inside each other per hatch, two belongs to the lid, and the other would be attached to the base (deck). First image: the 9 rings forming 3 hatches, filled with some thinned epoxy (about 400 gram of epoxy) to harden the MDF. This is not a very good way to make hatches (weight wise), but it would be just as heavy (or lighter) compared to plastic ones.

I was thinking a lot about the hatch locking mechanism. But finally decided to just use cords and cleats to tie down the hatches. The metal locks are too complex and fragile, unendurable to salt water. Tying down the hatches is much simpler and secured, and is easy to repair when something breaks. Between the 2 rings of the lid is a thin layer (about 3 mm) of epoxy (the softer, elastic kind) filled in to function as a gasket.

At first, I intended to glass in and out of each of the hatches’ rings, but the 9 mm – thick MDF walls have absorbed enough epoxy, and have become really strong (maybe more than enough, they’re now a bit too heavy 🙁 ), so there’s no need for glassing. The good thing is that once everything is assembled together, they fit very tightly, the lids and the bases, and the dark brown color is stained nicely too!

3rd image: the complete products, lids opened, 4th image: the lids closed. Once I’ll finish building up the kayak’s deck, the hatches would simply be glued on. Only the front hatch needs some special treatments, as the front deck is curved in shape. Also, the compass would be mounted right on this front hatch lid, to save deck space, and to simplify the building process. But that would be another later phase of this project.

Serene – 2 photo albums
part 1




serene – 2, part 3b

ad a major setback with making the hatches with wooden strips, the strips didn’t make perfect circles as I’ve expected, although they bend quite well, they’re off by small amount (e.g: 0.5 ~ 1 mm) here and there, and that’s an unacceptable precision for hatches, just a small gap and water could leak in. I had to abandon the method of making hatches using wooden strips, and tried to find some alternative ways instead 🙁 .

Finally, I resorted to cutting the hatches’ rings (lips) using my routing table. The home – built machine is made quite a long time ago, but this is only the first time making some serious use of it. It’s quick to make a circular cutting jig, as shown in the 1st image: the MDF “disc” would rotate around a pivot point that could be adjusted by sliding the wooden bar. The jig proved to offer good cutting accuracy (sub millimeter).

That’s really good, as I want very tight fits between the hatches’ rings, 3rd image: 2 rings cut, there’re still lots of it to be made. Using solid MDF as hatches’ rings has a serious down side: you would need to fill the MDF with much epoxy for it to be hardened, and waterproof, thus increasing the overall weight. On the other side, MDF is easy to cut into perfect shapes! Decided to go this way anyhow as I have few material choices!

Last image: all the hatches’ rings is cut, 3 hatches, 3 lips per hatch, and 2 rings per lip (since they’re cut in 1.5 cm MDF, it requires 2 rings to form a 3 cm height lip), quite some work to be done, and too much of sawing dust too 🙁 ! And I’ve taken care on “quality assurance” to make sure that each ring is cut at its precise diameter. Though I don’t expect the hatches to be waterproof, it should be watertight as much as possible.

Serene – 2 photo albums
part 1




serene – 2, part 3a

‘ve been thinking about kayak hatches over and over again. Starting from the very early days with my plywood hatches (in Hello World – 2, 3) which are obviously not watertight, to the Beckson hatches on my Serene – 1 kayak. The Beckson is very good, watertight and even air tight, but sadly that’s only true in ideal conditions. In reality, in multiple days trip, when mud and sand has get into, it would leak by a small amount.

The Beckson is not ideal hatch for kayak in my idea (for other purposes, it may be ok). The reason is that the hatches are built flushed with the mounting surface, and some inner elements are even recessed… When the water washes over (as always happened to the very low freeboard of a sea kayak), and when the O – rings are not properly lubricated, or when there’re some mud, sand inside the joints, water would leak in.

That’s why I decided to build my own hatches for this Serene – 2 new kayak. The idea is really simple: the hatches are raised a few centimeters above the mounting surface, and even when the seals are not too tight, that would suffice to keep most of the water out. Examine many sea kayak hatch designs, I’ve found out that simple thing, that the hatches should be raised (not flushed or recessed) above the deck.

1st image: cutting thin (2.5 mm) wooden strips used to build the hatches. 2nd, 3nd images: the 3 MDF templates for hatch building: the rear, the front and the day hatch, sizes in diameter: 30, 25 and 20 cm respectively. 4th image: building the hatches’ coaming with thin wooden strips around the templates, each coaming consists of 2 layers of strips which bend easily around without cracks and without the need for steaming.

Serene – 2 photo albums
part 1




serene – 2, part 2c

inished with Serene – 2‘s first paddle, continue to the second one. This would be the pair of paddles, one Greenland style, and one Euro style, that I would use on the new kayak, intended to be slightly smaller in size, and much more lightweight compared to my previous ones. The Greenland paddle is not a typical Greenland one, it’s rather quite short with bigger blades, and the Euro paddle is not of typical Euro style neither 🙂 .

As it is quite small compared to most Euro style paddles. It’s quite hard to justify my design decisions, but all came from my paddling experiences, that I would need a slightly bigger Greenland paddle for all – round paddling, and a slightly smaller Euro paddle to provide more power in “adversary” conditions. The second one would be lightly & simply built also, with that same kind of rattan shaft, and thin plywood blades.

1st image: the finished Greenland paddle. 2nd image: dry fitting the Euro paddle’s blades and shaft. 3th image: bending the plywood blades, I want them to be just slightly curved around the longitudinal axis, it’s just nearly impossible to bend the plywood around multiple axes, to decided to stay with the simplest blade design. After gluing the blades and shaft together, the paddle would receive a layer of fiberglass all around.

4th image: glassing the second paddle, next to it is the finished Greenland paddle, the pair of paddles near completion, they all need to be “trialled” soon, to evaluate their performances, and to see how they would behave in real world. Final weights, the Greenland paddle: 0.82 kg, the Euro paddle: 0.9 kg, not up to the “standards” yet, but quite near, that’s fine anyhow, as they’re very light (compared to my previous paddles) 🙂 .

Serene – 2 photo albums
part 1




my possession

Kéo cưa, lừa xẻ,
Ông thợ nào khoẻ,
Thì ăn cơm vua.
Ông thợ nào thua,
Thì về bú tí.

leaning and tidying up the workshop in preparation for my next Serene – 2 build. Having a chance to look back at the past few years’ works. Apart from Hello World – 1, my first build, a small canoe which is no longer functional (it was turned into an in – house shelf), the 3 kayaks seen here are built in a 3 – years time span, one in each year. Still feel not having enough of them, still in the quest for my “perfect expeditional kayak”! 🙂

Hello World – 1 photo albums: part 1, part 2
Hello World – 2 photo albums: part 1, part 2
Hello World – 3 photo albums: part 1, part 2, part 3
Serene – 1 photo albums: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4
Serene – 2 photo albums: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4

serene – 2, part 2b

he first image: cutting two hardwood blocks to attach to the paddle’s 2 ends, 2nd image: scraping the paddle blades with a power planer and a spokeshave. 3rd image: the paddle takes its final shape, next it would be sanded, colored (stained with thinned epoxy), glassed then painted. The paddle would receive a layer of fiberglass all over the body, to waterproof the porous balsa wood, and to strengthen the whole structure.

This is only the first of two paddles I’d intended to build. A lightweight Greenland paddle would be my convenient, all – round thing to propel the boat with. But under some particular circumstances, e.g: very strong wind or current, I would need a more powerful tool, that’s why my next one would be a paddle of the usual Euro type, it would be also very lightly built, and has much smaller blades, around 50 x 14 cm in dimensions.

I’ve not yet to really realize which paddle type is better: Greenland or Euro, but thought that they all has their uses in different situations, and decided to build and use… both. Also, my paddles all has become smaller and shorter, their lengths now are around 1.85 ~ 1.9 m. My thought is that sea – kayakers nowadays are using paddles that are longer than needed (around 2.2 m), especially those going for long touring.

I made a terrible mistake, using the wrong duct tape to mask the paddle for coloring. A kind of 3M duct tape is so sticky that it’s extremely hard to be removed after having painted the paddle blades with colored – thinned – epoxy. I seriously scratch the surface while removing the duct tape (with a chisel) resulting in a very poor finish on one blade 🙁 . The paddle would be perfectly usable, but not as good – looking as I’d expected.

Serene – 2 photo albums
part 1