Hand Laying Carbon Fiber Cloth in a Kayak




About: I've been designing and making my own kayaks for over 30 years

Laying carbon fiber is not that different from fiberglass accept that it is black, and stays black. Where fiberglass starts white and becomes transparent when saturated with epoxy, carbon fiber stays opaque, so it can be tricky to tell if it is fully saturated. Where bubbles under glass are clearly visible you may not find bubble under carbon fiber until after the epoxy has set up. You may actually never find a bubble.

There are more videos of building kayaks available here.

I am using 6 ounce carbon fiber here. Because it is a heavier cloth than the 4 ounce glass I am using it will need more resin. And since carbon is less dense than glass, the same weight cloth is thicker than fiberglass cloth would be, this means it needs even more resin. If you have calibrated yourself to understand how much resin is needed to fill an area, you will need to apply a lot more resin than you are used to.

I am rolling on the resin with a paint roller so I don't have to move the resin around through the cloth as much as if I dumped and spread.

I have the shop temperature turned up high (80° F, 27) to keep the viscosity of the resin low and aid penetration into the cloth. A consequense of this is the resin sets up fast. Therefore I am working on small areas at a time, wetting out the fabric spreading out the resin and then scraping off the excess.

The only way to tell if the fabric is fully saturated is to inspect it carefully. Low, glancing light will help highlight bubbles which usually indicate under saturated cloth.  A blacker, less shiny spot is also an indication of insufficient resin in the cloth. If the cloth lifts easily off the surface while rolling on resin, that is a good sign that it has not yet wetted all the way through to the wood.




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    7 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Just joined and curious how your project progressed. I was theorizing that you were going with a spruce or balsa core sandwiched with CF.

    How did it go?

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    The boat is finished. I had wrapped the outside with fiberglass to let the mahogany show through:


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    That is so nice looking. I see it's been a year and I have to ask how is it holding up. Seems like you should get a long life out of it.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I enjoyed your video, Nick. If I am not mistaken, the conventional "wisdom" is that CF is best used as an exterior, compression layer. I am considering using CF on the interior of a canoe hull bottom that previously had a balsa core which rotted and has now been removed. The CF would be applied as the inner most layer over a couple of layers of E 'glass to add stiffness and conserve weight. Do you see any disadvantage to the use of CF as an interior layer? Do you have and preference for twill weaves over plain weave? Thanks for your help.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    are you laying the carbon fibre up in a mould or is the wood portion something that will be affixed to the carbon fibre? This is really great information thanks for sharing!

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    WOW !!!
    How much did all that cost?
    I mean... carbon cloth and resin are not that cheap...