Such is the case with my friend's kayak handle - a cheap woven nylon handle with a hard rubber grip portion that started to tear near the anchor point. Her kayak is an inexpensive sit-on-top model, a Future Beach Angler 160, with basic components - cheap parts that helped keep the price down making it affordable to own. The only problem with this kind of kayak is that there isn't a dealer nearby that can do this type of work. And, to ask a kayak shop to do this, is very expensive. She is on a limited income, so I stepped up to the plate, and decided to tackle this job myself.
Above photo 1: This handle has seen better days. The rip in the nylon is 80 percent torn. It has served its purpose. But now, it's time for an upgrade!
I worked in the auto body industry for 7 years before getting hired with the state of Connecticut. So, I have a lot of unique power tools that are perfect for this type of job. It will require some bolt cutting, gas torch use, and plastic welding to attach an aftermarket handle.
First, I had to cut the handle off so I could get to the screws better. After I cut the handle off, I tried to turn the screws. I used good amounts of WD-40 on both screws and couldn't get the screws to budge. In fact, I put so much torque on the screwdriver's tip, that it mangled the tip of the screwdriver - but it didn't do anything to the screw head itself.
Above photo 2: The mangled tip of the screwdriver after losing the battle with the screw's head.
My next plan of attack, was to cut off the screw from the bottom, on the inside. I removed the storage hatch cover and took a look inside to see what I'm up against. At first, I thought it was a couple of bolts with lock nuts holding it in place. But instead, they were held in place with a molded fastener - like the nut was in a molded cup built into the kayak's hull itself.
Above photo 3: The view from the inside of the hull. Before cutting these two "knobs", I unplugged the drain cap to the right of the front "knob".
Here's what I used to get into that tight area: a mini Electric Body Saw. It's like a Sawzall, but it's about 75% smaller than its big brother, which is the perfect tool for the job. It's lightweight design will enable you to get into this tight area while utilizing just one hand to operate it. And, it's only $35!
Above photo 4: This tool sells for just $35, and is probably one of my most widely used tools in my shop. It comes in handy for a variety of projects.
Whatever bolts the manufacturer used in the assembly process, they were "iron clad", as they were a pain to saw through. They eventually cut through after spending nearly 10 minutes per bolt. I chose to not only cut the bolts, but also the bulbous plastic lump as well. Trust me, you won't miss it.
Above photo 5: Be persistent in the cutting process, eventually the bolts will give in. You might experience some cramping from trying to get the best angle when tackling that forward bolt.
Now, I have to prepare the handle's area by filling in the old bolt holes with the plastic welder. I started out by melting down the raised "walls" on either side of the old handle (photo 6).
Once they were leveled flat, I began filling in the old holes with plastic shavings that were saved from a previous project (photo 7). If you don't have enough plastic material, the plastic from old milk crates makes for a good substitute. The color won't matter because you won't see it once the new handles are installed.
Above photo 6: Taken before I removed the handle. This shows the raised "wall" area on either side of the handle.
Above photo 7: Both "walls" on both holes were knocked down to make way for the filling the old holes. After sanding the area with 36 grit sandpaper, I used a propane torch to "smooth" out the rough area.
Above photo 8: The old holes were filled in using a plastic welder. I tried to level it out as flat as possible. The above photo shows the area is now ready for re-drilling the new holes to make way for the new handle.
I wanted the next handle to be as comfortable as possible for her to use. The old handle wasn't as good when it came to lugging the kayak up steep boat ramps. So, I bought this one from a Hobie dealer. It was longer in length, thicker in diameter, and much better quality too. It will also reduce the pain in the user's hands when lugging the kayak over long distance walks to the water.
Above photo 9: This handle came from a Hobie dealer and it wasn't cheap at $20, but comfort is king when it comes to lugging the kayak a good distance to the water. But, that will be up to YOU on what you choose to do when it comes to replacing your old handle.
I have a bunch of spare bolts, nuts, lock washers, and washers at my disposal for this project. You may want to visit your local hardware store to pick up the parts you'll need for this project. I chose to utilize both the two holes in the front and back of the handle. You will also need a drill, to punch through the webbing material, as well as the plastic hull.
I chose to fold the end units inward, so they're facing each other when I go to drill the handle bases in. It should look like this when you're done:
Above photo 10: The finished product! I wanted to keep a small "curve" in the handle by keeping it confined to the recessed space provided.
In the end, you will have a great looking handle on your kayak that will last for years to come. And, this project will give you a sense of pride in knowing that you did this by yourself while saving your wallet from being raped at the local kayak shop.
As usual, keep those lines wet & tight! - J