Alternate SOF skin

Since traditional kayak skin fabrics are so expensive, I’m thinking of experimenting with a “fabric reinforced latex” to skin an SOF kayak. I’d like to sew on two, maybe three layers of a thinner fabric, then impregnate it with exterior latex paint. I’ve tested this strategy with a small sample and was impressed with the shear strength, as the paint both seals and bonds the layers.
Can anyone here give me a reason no to pursue this?

What is the “fabric” part ? Latex has been historically portrayed as being quickly UV damaged.

Back in the 70s I used cotton duck (aka canvas) and house paint. Cheap isn’t necessarily good.

I’m skeptical. A “small sample” is not going to yield data on all the characteristics that are required of a kayak skin.

Have you tested how this fabric holds up to the tight stitching required to snug the skin over the frame? An SOF skin needs to be tight and every latex material I have ever dealt with stretches and also tears when punctured. And latex paint will peel off any substrate that expands and contracts. In fact, the fabrics that are traditionally used in SOF construction typically tighten up by shrinking. Will this fabric shrink?

Using 9 ounce ballistic nylon and two-part urethane is not only tried and true but it is an excellent long term investment. My Greenland replica made with those materials is 10 years old and has been used a lot – still in excellent condition. The Skin Boat Store sells a complete kit for a kayak skin – 6 yards of the 9 oz nylon fabric, buckets of the urethane and an application tool for $153 – they have a lighter grade kit that is only $121. How much is your triple layer of unproven fabric and house paint going to cost you, in time and money?

If you are determined to try this you might want to post your question on the forums at There are far more SOF builders over there.

Thanks, I’ll try That looks like a good source of info.

Look up Tom Yost. He was designing and making SOFs from aluminum tubing and PVC fabric (or something similar). He was providing plans FREE, though I don’t know if he still does. You would need a drill press.

Tom Yost took his site down and, from what I can tell, has basically disappeared. If you search for Tom Yost Kayaks you will find a mirror of his site. I have not found any sign that he has objected to that. His original site was very clear that no commercial use could be made of his designs.

No, he did NOT want his plans commercialized. I met him way back around 2002 or 2003 when I was practicing rolling at Aurora Reservoir (CO). He asked me if I would like to try the two kayaks he had there. One was finished and the other was in “Saran Wrap.”

At that time, he was giving away the plans, though he said if someone wanted a ready-made one he would make it for them. He was enthusiastic about motorcycling the mountain roads; said he was spending more of his time on that. I hope he has been enjoying his retirement (which had already happened when I met him).

Don’t recall the exact number but enough fabric from George Dyson to do a bout runs about 60 bucks, plus paint. I get cheap, and I get experimenting for the sake of it, but if you just want it done and to work the known products are reasonable.

If money is the issue, in Greenland the most popular covering is still canvas.
The following is from an old post of mine on the Qajaq USA forum:

In Sisimiut, a flexible alkyd marine enamel is commonly used to coat the
: canvas. However club members seem to use whatever enamel they can get
: their hands on (a boat supply store is next door to the clubhouse), so
: this may only represent local supply.

: Generally the hull gets about eight light coats of enamel, sanded between
: coats. The deck gets fewer coats. The weave of the hull fills completely
: and the hulls of some examples (usually racing kayaks) look as smooth as a
: glass kayak. Kayaks made only for rolling are often not as well finished
: and may be painted only enough that they don’t leak and the surface is
: sometimes left rough to the touch.

: I don’t recall ever seeing Maligiaq or a Qajaq Sisimiut club member using
: water to tighten the skin. Rather, it was tightened using the traditional
: lacing method, and was made drum tight prior to painting.

Here is a link to Nick Shade and his boat building videos on a skin on frame Micro Bootlegger. He explains the skin fabric and sewing techniques.

Rev…here is the whole series…

Overstreet - thanks very much for the link, Nick is a great designer and the Micro Bootlegger has been on my radar since it came out - an SOF version would be outstanding to try…