How to Build a Kayak

Last Updated on July 30th, 2020

There are several ways to build a decent kayak. Stitch and glue kayak kits are popular among those who wish to put together a kayak without getting into the science behind it. But assuming you are someone with an eye for detail and passion for exquisite craftsmanship, you must go for the ones mentioned in this post. A custom-manufactured and hand-tooled kayak can last even longer than the pre-manufactured ones.

How to Build a Strip-Built Kayak: Step-By-Step Instructions

As the name suggests, a strip-built kayak is constructed by arranging long and narrow pieces or strips of wood together. Artisans interested in building a high-performance and custom-made kayak opt for a strip-build design. Nick Schade from GuillemotKayaks came up with this design.

This is not the fastest way to build a kayak. Hence, go for it only if the weight and performance of the boat are of paramount importance.

Step 1:

Cut five cedar wood pieces, each with gradually increasing width. You can also use wood from other trees, but cedarwood has some distinct features that make it suitable for building a kayak.

According to a report by VermontWoodStudios, cedarwood is weather and insect resistant. It also gives off a refreshing scent.

Step 2:

Place the five cedar wood pieces on an aluminum strongback with the smallest piece in front.

Step 3:

Next, cut and re-shape the long and narrow wood strips. The hull, stern, and bow are constructed by arranging the wood string together. Begin by gluing the wood strips one by one onto the cedar wood pieces.

Step 4:

Once you have constructed the hull, stern, and the bow, flip over the boat. Build the deck by leaving some space for the cockpit in the midsection.

Note that the process of gluing wood strips together involves a lot of work in between. It would help if you had a lot of patience until the core structure is ready.

Step 5:

Rub the surface with a wood plane to remove the excess or uneven wood parts.

Step 6:

Next, coat the entire surface of the boat with epoxy resin fiberglass liquid. This solution can be applied with a piece of wood or cloth. A fiberglass coat makes the boat waterproof and flexible.

Let the boat dry for at least 24 hours before you take it out in shallow waters for testing.

Suggested Read: Constructing A Kayak Rack Out Of Wood

How to Build a Skin-on-Frame Kayak: Step-By-Step Instructions

The skin-on-frame kayak is a newer and more improved version of the strip-built kayak. Like the strip-built design, the deck line in a skin-on-frame design remains over the surface of the water. On the other hand, rockers and chimes are fully submerged in the water.

Kindly note that building a skin-on-frame kayak can take more than a day. The steps mentioned below are intended to get you acquainted with the design and manufacturing process.

Step 1:

The frame of a skin-on-frame kayak constitutes two long and narrow strips of cedar wood connected. The two strips can be bolted to each with a partially threaded wood screw.

Step 2:

The hull of the boat is made with narrow pieces of cedar wood strips. They are horizontally connected to the frame. Firstly, the strips are bolted to one side of the vessel, and then bent and bolted on the other side.

Step 3:

The hull is held in place with the help of another long and narrow strip of wood. This vertical strip acts as the spine of the kayak. Further, it is tied down to the horizontal strips with wooden straps.

Step 4:

The entire structure is coated with epoxy resin fiberglass liquid. The fiberglass adds waterproofing properties to the wood.

Step 5:

Next, the entire frame is coated with a lightweight kevlar cloth. It is either glued or stitched to the wooden frame.

Step 6:

The kevlar cloth is coated with epoxy resin fiberglass liquid. It is dried for a few hours, and another layer of epoxy resin fiberglass liquid is applied.

Once the fiberglass coating has dried, the boat is ready for a test ride.

How Much Will It Cost to Build a Kayak?

The manufacturing cost of a DIY kayak will be quite low as there are no labor charges. Moreover, if you love carpentry or have a similar hobby, you will already have most of the raw materials at your disposal.

A strip-built kayak takes about 24 hours to build, and a skin-on-frame kayak should take 6-8 hours more. You can dedicate a weekend to this hobby without disrupting your schedule on workdays.

Also, you can lower the cost by finding cheap or freely available raw materials. Telephone polls, abandoned shipwrecks, etc. are good sources of free and good quality wood.

Store-bought cedar wood would cost you around $200. The boat frame will need a sheet of plywood, which will cost you around $50. Further, an average sized-boat would require about 2 gallons of epoxy resin fiberglass paste costing $200.

Other expendable items such as paintbrushes, sandpaper, glue, etc. would cost another $50. You can get the job done at approximately $500.

Summary

Both strip-built and strip-on frames are proper methods to build a precision-engineered kayak. The better attention you give on detailing, the less will be the drag. For best performance, I suggest using a store-bought paddle. It won’t cost you more than $200. To add a professional touch to the kayak, you can mount a trolling motor and allocate ample space for a deep cycle marine battery.

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