Quinn Connell’s White Water Kayak Project – Part 2: The Plug

In the Fall of 2013, Quinn Connell devised an Independent Study in Kayak Design using free courseware from an MIT Naval Architecture Graduate program. Quinn was able to combine his experience as a kayaker with his studies in fluid dynamics and design his dream white water kayak. He then approached Jamestown Distributors and asked to sponsor his project  in order to make his dream boat into a reality.
Check out Part 1 here.

After many iterations and a few months in the CAD lab, it was time to build the plug – a life-size mock up of the kayak that I could use to form the carbon fiber around.  I used Thayer’s ShopBot (a 3D CNC router) to cut styrofoam panels to the right geometry, one 3” layer at a time. This machine is awesome.  With a 6′ x 8′ cutting table and vacuum clamp, you can make just about anything you can imagine.

It took around  a week of cutting time to get all of the layers done.

“It took around  a week of cutting time to get all of the layers done.”


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“Getting excited with the first layers hot off the press.”


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“The ShopBot gave great definition if you were patient enough.  After 2 weeks or so in the ShopBot control room, I was easily confused with a Smurf –  everything I owned was covered in blue dust.  Little did I know, this was just the beginning…”


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“Next I laminated the layers by clamping with packing tape and wood glue – Gorilla Glue expanded too much and caused layers to slide out of place.  Then I sanded and faired the foam using construction putty.”


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“Epoxy, sand and repeat.  After around 6 cycles of working my way up to 400 grit, both the hull and deck plugs were looking nice and shiny.  It’s important to get a glassy finish to prevent the carbon fiber from bonding to the plug.”


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“Wax on, wax off.  Car wax on the plugs helps them release from the carbon fiber. Make sure you don’t let the wax dry for too long! I made this mistake and had to put in a lot of elbow grease to make up for it.”

At this point things were getting exciting – the boat was taking shape and I had tangible results from my effort put in.  The next task was to begin laying up the composite.

Stay posted for Part 3!


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