Shop Tips Continued
Hand Beveling Strips and Saw Set-up

Hand Beveling Strip Edges, instead of Bead and Cove
I believe you will work faster and be happier hand beveling the edges of your strips. I built my first two strippers this way and I've built my last ten this way.

After years of working with bead and cove I switched back to hand beveling. The reason was, I kept having big glue lines appear after the surfaces were sanded because it is very hard to tell if the bead edges are totally seated in the cove. And if your cutters are not set PERFECTLY this problem will be worse! AND I'd be willing to bet 90% of all novice builders who use bead and cove do not set-up their cutters PERFECTLY!

B&C sounds great because the interlocking profiles allow you to go round curves, have maximum glue surface, and self aligning edges. In theory. B&C is supposed to be self aligning, but you'll get in trouble fast if you count on it and don't check, check, check, the alignment.

As an idea it's great. We all like those great ideas. This is great if you buy a kit. B&C is milled for you.

A novice will not know how much time and work it takes to make the B&C strips. Most novices will not even know what a correct alignment looks like!

You can waste A LOT of time fooling around with router set-up. SO much work/time is involved in the whole process of set-up, testing, swearing, set-up, testing, swearing, set-up, testing, swearing and milling, from start to finish. You cannot test the alignment properly unless you have two routers set-up to cut both profiles at the same time. How do you test to know when your B&C cutters are aligned perfectly? If you don't know you will create not solve problems.

The same time and energy spent on cutter set-up and milling bead and cove, would have your hull stripped by hand beveling the strips.

I'd suggest hand beveling the strips instead.

START BY, running one edge of each strip through the table saw and cutting a 3 degree bevel, and mark the edge with a pencil check, after you've cut your strips. This would be a large enough bevel to allow you to have tight strip joints on 90% of your boat without having to even hand bevel.

Update - 07/07/17 - Rounding the bildge of my latest kayaks I milled a 5˚ bevel on the opposite side of my previously milled strips which had a 3˚ bevel and needed nearly NO hand beveling!

THEN, on areas that need a larger bevel, usually around the bilge, just bevel one edge of each new strip with a SHARP block plane. It is quite easy if you clamp one end of the strip in place on the boat and work the other end, beveling and test fitting the edges as you work from the stem to the center of the boat.

The trick I've found to beveling strips is to keep 1/2 of each strip spring clamped in place from one stem and work on the bevel. This allows you to keep the strip under control while bending the strip in a convex arc, so the plane will move smoothly, taking down the edge.

This makes it easy to quickly put the strip in place to judge how well the bevel is working, without walking back and forth from a bench to bevel and test.

I loosely clamp each new strip to the previous one with four spring clamps. One at each stem and two straddling the middle. Remove and replace clamps as needed to make your bevel.

You will be making what is called a rolling bevel in that the angle and amount of the bevel will change from the stems (little or no bevel) to the center of the hull (the most bevel). In all cases your goal is to bevel just enough to make the outside edges of the strips contact in a tight joint.

Hold the block plane with the base up and plane away from your body, so you'll bevel the bottom INSIDE edge of the strip. Keep an eye on the exterior edge, which will be the visible part of the joint. You don't want your bevel to break this edge. Start with just a very slight angle, you will be surprised at how little a bevel you need.

Also, when you hold the strip off the hull it will not be perfectly straight and if you hold the sole of your plane parallel to the strip length the blade will not cut much or at all. However, if you hold the plane sole at an angle of 45° or more you will be able to engage the full blade cut in the bevel you are cutting. 

 Look at the gap you see on joint between the two strips. This is the amount of bevel you must make on the bottom, back edge of the new strip.

Hold your block plane against the bottom of the strip and make the same size gap. This amount of material to be removed when you are beveling the edge.

Bevel a section about two feet long and test the fit by holding the strip in place on the hull on top of the last strip on the boat.

Once you like the fit of one end of the strips, clamp that end of the strip in place on the hull and do the other end. You will find it easy and fast.

With hand beveled strips you must align strips between stations and use spring clamps to hold the edges in place. I use beads of hot glue to keep the strip edges aligned and in place until the glue sets, so I can remove the spring clamps and go on to the next strip. Pre-fit each strip and test clamp it in place, so you will have no surprises when you are ready to glue. Go over and over the strip edges to ensure they are aligned. If you come back later and find an edge out of alignment, cut on the joint with a new razor blade and re-align and re-glue the strip.

Rip Strips Safely

Saw/Featherboard set-up for safely ripping strips

I highly recommend the Dewalt 745 (DWE7480 newer version) because it's easy to position for long boards, has a great fence and good adjustments at a reasonable price.

Use a special ripping sawblade (like the Amana Tool Mamba Series MA10024 Thin Kerf Ripping 10-Inch x 24 Tooth) which has 18 or 24 tips on a 10" blade. Fewer teeth clear debris quickly, it's less load on your machine and rips much easier. More teeth will cause unneeded friction in the wood and your pocketbook.

Most importantly notice the "riving knife" right behind the blade. If your saw does not have one I recommend you get one. This is a significant safety feature reducing "kickback" and binding and burning in the cut.

Set the fence for your strip thickness. Measure your board thickness. Raise the blade just above the board thickness, NEVER more than 1/4" above the wood surface. This is not the optimum blade hieght for cutting wood but will work fine for softwoods and will prevent cutting off your fingers if you do something careless.

Next, start cutting a strip, then partway through the cut, stop the saw.

Set up infeed and outfeed tables or,
rollers to support the board both in front of and behind the table saw in the path of the board. For the long boards typically used for a strip boat you'll need at least three in front and three in back of the saw. Strips often bend and twist as they leave the saw so your outfeed stands should have a piece of 8' plywood with boards clamped to the sides to make curbs for a "catcher" table for the strips.

Lower the blade. Clamp the featherboard right over the blade position. Turn on the saw and raise the blade cutting into the featherboard 1/4". Drop the blade slightly, so the blade is no longer cutting the featherboard. Turn the saw off.

Press down firmly on the featherboard to insure firm contact with the board.

When the featherboard is adjusted correctly, you'll feel the holding pressure of the featherboard create resistance on forward movement of the board.

One wide feather board is all you need pressing down on the board you are cutting.

Never allow your fingers to get closer than 3" to the blade.

Apply side pressure on the board to press it firmly against the fence. LOOK carefully at the board and how it contacts the fence. Make certain the board remains in full contact with the fence surface. Apply strong, side, pressure to the outside board edge with your left hand holding the rounded handle end of a push stick pressing the board against the fence. Lock this hand in place with your thumb hooked onto the front edge of the table if you can. This hand should never move near the blade. Feed the board into the saw with your right hand only. Feed the board with long smooth arm strokes. Your right hand should always stop at the front of the saw table.

Finish the cut by using a push stick in your left hand to move the board past the blade.

The featherboard should have enough holding power (with feed stands supporting the rest of the board) to allow you to let go of the board, to step to the side of the saw, to pull the strip out of the hold of the featherboard.

A riving knife is an indispensable addition to the saw for safety.

Use push sticks whenever your fingers near 3" of the blade.

Check your strip thickness often.

Proper set-up of infeed and outfeed tables is critical to success.

Avoid distractions!

See my instruction book for much more detail on setting up your saw properly and setting up feed stands for cutting consistent thickness strips. Do an internet "search" for terms or tools you need more information on.

This is a fast, safe and accurate method to cut consistent thickness strips.

"Working as a Pattern Maker in advanced woodworking shops for 45 years I was always safety conscious and never had a serious accident. Then came retirement and this hobby of building a strip kayak and I lost the tip of my thumb in my table saw. I was still being careful but not as much as I could have been. I had a wooden table saw insert in my Craftsman table saw with a nail in it as a strip spreader and the strip jammed at that point. I was watching my right hand fix the problem while my left hand drifted back into the blade. I couldn't believe this happened to careful me. Then after the fact I took the time to build Rob Mack's feathering system he had in an illustration. Had I done this in the first place I would still have a thumb print."
John in IN

Please take time for safety.

Don't be careless like this guy on the right. He didn't tighten the nut on his table saw blade and look what happened.

(This was part of my Halloween costume. No brains where actually crosscut)

May you always be able to count to ten on your fingers.


A Transparent Glass Lay-up for information on working with epoxy and fiberglass

New Updated version of Rob's Kayak Building Instruction Book!

This book comes with all of Rob's Kayak Plans.

OR, buy it separately, and use it to build any designer's stripper kayak, faster and easier.

All the great innovations Rob pioneered are included, such as stapleless stripping using hot glue, bending strips with a heat gun and magnetic hatch covers!

Laughing Loon Building Instruction Book for Kayaks for $25 plus shipping

Laughing Loon Studio presents the next video in a series of instructional videos
detailing the building techinques of Rob Macks

NEW! "Magnetic Hatches & Cockpit Coaming"

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