Preview: Mastering Epoxy with Russell Brown, Part 7 – Fiberglassing the Outside of a Hull

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People say the step they fear the most in building a small plywood boat is the one calling for sheathing it in fiberglass cloth set in epoxy. With the OCH video about the process featuring Russell Brown, that situation is about to change. So for a wrinkle-free, pinhole-free job, take a look at our Epoxy Part 7 and see for yourself just how trouble free the job can be.

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31 Responses So Far to “Mastering Epoxy with Russell Brown, Part 7 – Fiberglassing the Outside of a Hull

  • Allison White

    Allison White says:

    Hello I was attempting to repair a Delaminated portion of the deck on my sailboat. I was following the instructions from the book “this old boat” and I drilled a series of holes in the top of the deck and started filling with epoxy after it dried. Ultimately the epoxy ended up leaking out from the inside of the deck into the head -it seems like the construction of my boat will not allow for this type of repair is, there another solution.

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    Mark Folkerts says:

    I just finished glassing the bottom and garboard plank of the 16′ Atkins rowboat “George” using Russell’s technique, and it went flawlessly. I used 6 oz cloth, 3mm Nour foam roller, and Ark Industries epoxy. The garage and epoxy were at about 70 degrees. I’ve used the squeegee method in the past, and this was easier, faster, and had very little epoxy waste.
    This video alone was worth the price of admission!
    Thanks for ALL the great videos and advice!

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    Steve Grube says:

    OK, a little context here. I’m a rank beginner. I’ve never put a single piece of fiberglass on plywood. But I soon will be. I’ve just completed the hard chine hull on my little 15-foot stich-and-glue sailboat. It looks nearly identical to what Russell Brown is working with here in this video.

    I’ve spent many hours studying videos on YouTube, learning as much as I can about epoixy and how to use it with fiberglass. I notice that Mr. Brown’s techniques are quite a bit different from what I’ve seen on most videos.

    I’m in no position to offer criticism. Far from it. To the contrary, I would like to hear from all of you and get your take on Mr. Brown’s methods. I’m nervous about working with epoxy and fiberglass, as there are hundreds of ways of screwing up the process and ruining months of hard work in a few seconds.

    Here we go.

    First, Mr. Borown tells us that he puts a very light coat of epoxy, well squeegee’d, over the bare plywood before getting down to business with the fiberglassing. The idea is to seal the plywood and reduce bubbling under the fiberglass. Seems like a very good idea to me.

    But there is no mention of any sanding later, nor how much time has elapsed between this light coat and the subsequent placement of the fiberglass and epoxy. Are we talking fully cured epoxy? Dry to the touch epoxy?

    I note that Brown freely runs his bare hands over the fiberglass. All other videos advise the builder to avoid this completely, as it tends to iget oil and or dirt on the fiberglass. Bad for bonding. I personally think Brown is right: with clean hands, it ain’t gonna matter.

    Finally, the majority of videos I’ve seen advise the builder to use a squeegee to spread the epoxy over the fiberglass on the first coat. Some videos advocate for using a bristle brush to spread the epoxy. ALL videos chant the same mantra: saturation, saturation, saturation!

    Mr. Brown sees things differently. He uses a big fat roller to spead epoxy around, almost in cavalier fashion, even using the same tool for the fine work around the stem and gunwhales. And he uses relatively little epoxy on this first coat, nearly dry brushing (nearly) the fiberglass in some areas.

    I get the feeling that if one were to look on the floor directly beneath the hull, you’d see very few drops of epoxy on the floor, if any. And the work goes, very, very fast. I’d love to believe this method is truly the way to go. Anyone care to second the motion?

    Your thoughts, please.



    • Steve Stone

      Steve Stone says:

      All good questions Steve. The best advice we can give you for our end is to check out the “Related Videos” that I just included under this video. You’ll see three other very experienced boatbuilders tackle the same process, but each do it a bit differently. This isn’t the first rodeo for Bill Thomas, Eric Blake or Kit Macchi, so you’ll pick up a lot from their methods. In case you’re wondering, despite each builder’s extensive experience, they’d probably all defer to Russel Brown. And as you’re learning, boatbuilding is filled with processes that experienced builders all do slightly differently. By watching those other videos, then watching this video with Russell again, I hope it allows you to sneak up on approach the approach that seems best for you.

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        Steve Grube says:

        Highly common sensical reply, Steve. Many thanks!

        I’ll get some more perspective from the videos of those you mentioned, weigh all the evidence, sleep on it a night or two, then strike out boldly with my project and never look back. Hell, if it was easy and 100% knowable, it wouldn’t be any fun, would it?

        I love the adventure of building and dealing with three dimensional reality in this world gone completely round the bend with virtual substitutes. My respect for those who make things, however humble, is boundless, especially for boatbuilders. It’s an act of courage.

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    Don Silsbe says:

    When did Russel pre-coat the exterior surfaces? Just prior to this video, or when he pre-coated the individual panels prior to stitching?

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    Chris Cornell says:

    Hi, Russell. Thanks so much for this EXCELLENT epoxy series, to which I keep returning. You have your dad’s gentleness, sparkle, humor, talent, and patience.—all the qualities that made him my friend. I do have one question: In #6, you stressed the importance of minimizing the time between applications of resin in order to preserve the chemical bond between “layers.” But in #7, you pre-coated the plywood and allowed it to cure (overnight?) before applying the glass and resin, arguing—understandably—that this ensures filling the grain of the wood. Could you clarify the benefits and disadvantages of pre-coating? Best, Chris

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    George Blaisdell says:

    Can a painted plywood hull be retro-epoxied?
    What does it entail?

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      Michael Costello says:

      Same question. I have a shellback that is all paint. I should have laid glass in epoxy before I painted. Be nice not to have to remove all paint.

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      Eric Blake says:

      Answer is yes.
      Strip all paint to bare wood.
      Prep and epoxy coat.
      Epoxy will only stick as welll as the paint if not.

      You certainly don’t want to fiberglass over painted plywood.

      I own 4 plywood boats
      Two are sheathed with fiberglass
      The others are made of a high quality enough marine plywood that they are simply primed and painted.

      My Shellback is just painted.
      Older ones after years of considerable abuse on our rocky shores get their bottoms fiberglassed but only to cover the bottom and 1- 1/2″ of the garboard seam
      Other wise I feel you are adding a considerable amount of work and weight for nothing.
      They are structurally designed with no cloth in mind

      Best, Eric

  • andrew donald

    andrew donald says:

    Russell, brilliant , I have youor books but seeing it live is another thing. Worth the OCH m’ship on their own these vid’s

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    Mark Nowlan says:

    i’ve got the same question as Morgan was that another hull or a second layer while the first was wet? it almost looked like this was a second boat but the transition was deceiving….

    • Nate Rooks

      Nate Rooks says:

      Mark – It’s the second half of the nesting dinghy, so same boat/different hull section.

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    Tom McDermott says:

    very good job, you know what you are doing.

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    Paul Lockhart says:

    Love watching Russell work. He’s a perfectionist a bit like myself in my own trade. Thanks so much for your time and demo’s. There’s nothing like learning from a master at his trade. Cheers. Paul.

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    Stephen Wood says:

    Thanks so much; I have done this job on a number of hulls over the past 20 or so yrs. I still learned a lot from this video! Clearly, you do not hold with the “dump a batch of epoxy in the center and squeegie in all directions!”
    What about installing the gunnel over the cloth? Your method appears stronger.
    I’m working on a Point Comfort 18. Can I do half at a time in 2 sessions?\

    • Nate Rooks

      Nate Rooks says:


      Half a time in 2 sessions should be fine as long as you are on top of the timing in terms of the fill coat (more on this soon in another video).

      Not sure what you mean about the gunwale over the cloth, but having the cloth on that joint creates a lot of strength.

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    Michael Mittleman says:

    It is a joy to watch a master at work. Thank you, Russell.

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    stephen e morris says:

    When smoothing dry fiberglass on to a hull I always use a dry (large) paint brush or a wall paper brush.This avoids snags from your rough hands or the unevenness that hand stroking incurs.The process is fast and the result is perfect !
    I think I discovered this myself…but of course I may have learned it from some forgotten lost soul; I am 79 now and not building and selling canoes as I once did!

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    Ken Weinstein says:

    great video – I have been doing it wrong all along. Shame on me. Russell makes it look so easy.

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    Rod McLaren says:

    Wow, Russell, where were you when I built the Mana 24? :) Really, it is a real pleasure to watch a master at work. Thank you, Russell. Thank you, OCH.

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    Morgan says:

    I have never seen anyone lay cloth and epoxy on a hull. Thank you all. Question: at around 19 minutes, did he lay a new cloth or was that a different boat? Thanks,

    • Steve Stone

      Steve Stone says:

      Hi Morgan. It’s two halves of the same boat. The PT11 is a nesting dinghy.

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      Jim Dumser says:

      The dingy he was fiberglassing is a nesting dingy so it has two halves. The 19 minute mark is the switch to the second half (still getting a single layer of glass).

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    Philip Prather says:

    You made this look so easy. I learned a lot of new tricks for making this process go more smoothly and cleanly. Thank you!


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