Your fancy Kevlar canoe found a rock and there is now a three-inch Kevlar baring gash in your boat. Or how about this one? Your wonderful, canvas Duluth Pack snuggles nicely in the canoe, but your buddy dropped his external frame hiking pack and left a quarter-sized ding in your hull. Accidents are bound to happen, and everybody finds a rock sooner or later, it is a fact of paddling in Minnesota.
The thought of repairing that high-tech Kevlar boat may seem daunting, but simple repairs are completely within the realm of the do-it-yourself Boatwright. However, if you wrapped your ride around a rock, and it resembles something closer to a crumpled hanky than to a canoe I recommend taking it to an expert.
Here is a rough guide of the steps I use to repair Kevlar boats.
1. Find a resin repair kit, check with an outfitter or call your original boat manufacturer. Short of finding a repair kit with all the pieces check out West Systems and their 105 resin combined with their 205 hardener. Through West you can also track down the fiberglass cloth and the cheesecloth you are going to use for your repair. Add a comment in the box below and I can forward you a repair list and links to the sites.
2. Assess the damage to the boat. Light scratches are something you are going to have to live with if you paddle Kevlar. Damage so severe that is changes the shape of the boat will have to be handled by an expert. The repair I can help you with are the minor scratches and dings where Kevlar cloth is showing.
3. Prep the area. Clean around the damaged area so there is no mud or scum where you are going to lay down resin. Use some sand paper to rough up the area, maybe 60 or 80 grit. The goal here is to give the resin something to hold onto.
4. Cut your fiberglass cloth and cheesecloth to cover the area. Don’t skimp here, for gashes where Kevlar shows go at minimum one inch on either side of the scratch. For circular dings double the size of the dinged area.
5. For the remainder of the repair: if you are inside, make it a WELL-VENTILATED AREA, and WEAR A MASK. If you are outside, most people like the mask as a precaution.
6. Mix your resin. Follow the instructions on the label; it takes very little hardener or catalyst to get this reaction going. Good mixing canisters to use are those plastic deli containers you can throw away when done. My favorite brush to use was the one-inch foam brush, cheap and easy to pitch when done. OK, now you have about 15 to 20 minutes to work, so don’t mix more than you can apply in 15 or 20 minutes.
7. Repair the area. Apply a light coat of resin to the area, lay down your fiberglass cloth, and gently cover the fiberglass with another coat of resin. For deep dings that occur on the inner hull where you have Kevlar, then foam, then Kevlar. Take a few strands of fiberglass, ball it up, and place into the hole with resin on it. Then lay down your fiberglass cloth, and apply more resin. For holes that have gone all the way through the hull use fiberglass cloth and perform your repair on both sides of the hull.
8. Apply your cheesecloth, and gently flatten with nearly dry brush. For large repaired areas this is a must, it will help keep air bubbles to a minimum and really help smooth the resin as it dries.
9. Sand to prepare for second coat. When the resin has hardened, meaning you can’t easily push your thumbnail into it, remove the cheesecloth and sand with about a 150 or 200 grit sandpaper. If there are a large number of imperfections in your repair area use the lower grit. Now clean the area again, and let dry.
10. Mix second batch of resin and apply. Shouldn’t need the cheesecloth this time provided it goes on nice and smooth, but if you have doubts apply more.
11. Let dry again, and lightly sand with 200 grit or higher sand paper.
If you have questions about this process, or would like more information on tools, tricks, or techniques leave me a comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And as I wrote earlier, if the damage on your boat is more than a simple ding or scratch bring in an expert for a consultation. There are Kevlar magicians out there who can make your boat look good as new.