Building A SOF

I was in Washington over the weekend and we went to the new museum of the American Indian, Great place!

In the lobby was SOF kayak, skin was of marine grade nylon. Kayak was about 17" long and probaly weighed no more than 20-25 lbs. Looked relatively simple to put together. Nice winter project! Anyone have some info on where to get a good set of plans. Any input would be appreciated.



Robert Morris

– Last Updated: Nov-08-04 2:02 PM EST –

Skin on Frame book. It's a recipe to build a boat to your physical specs and for the type of performance you want. Not a plan for a boat built to some else's specs and attributes.


PS. I also have the books by Mark Starr and Chris Cunningham. I read all three before proceeding but found that Morris' approach more suitable for what I wanted to do, though I used a little bit of Cunningham too. Mark Starr adocates using wooden forms to get the cross section of the SOF designed and then to build the frame around/over it. This will allow for future replication or modification for the future. More than I wanted to handle and more costly in terms of wood.

What Sing said and…
there are great resources at

You’ll need to the books mentioned and keep in mind that it’s not a “plans” type of project.

Out of curiosity,
Was there a plaque with the name “Harvey Golden” anywhere around it?

The kayak was built by some “Native Americans”. On some future date, they’ll be back and demo building another one. Don’t know when!


I Forgot To Mention
that there’s Brinck’s book on building the baidarka. Once you have experience, you can also use David Zimmerly’s book for inspiration for SOF other than Greenland style.

Morris’s book does cover other SOF styles, although building the Greenland style is the starting and jumping off point for building the other styles.

Native American SOF in Washington… Hmmm, it ain’t a “Greenland” style, I am sure. :slight_smile:


Yeah it was…
A Greenland style in Washington DC.


Check George Putz’ book
I understand some purists don’t care for the design, but it sure looks sturdy.

Still toying with the idea. I took a close look at the kayak at the museum and the frame looked pretty straight forward and looked relatively simple to build.

Whenever I get something like this in my head, I research the hell out of it. No doubt I’ll be reading and mulling this around in my head for the next month or two.

Got to finish the damn shed though. Just waiting for the siding and I’ll finally get that albatross behind me. It is looking pretty good but I had to put it on the backburner this summer because my mother went in the hospital 3 times. She’s doing OK now…this week anyways.


I may be nitpicking. A “Greenland” style SOF may have been built by a native American but the Greenland style SOF is a “tradition” fo indigenous Inuits of Greenland, not to native Americans. The Inuits of North America and Alaska and Siberia have their own styles of SOF kayaks that are distinct from Greenland style.

Morris’ book also covers an SOF canoe that is of native American tradition.


Putz’ Book

– Last Updated: Nov-08-04 8:53 PM EST –

Yeah, I have that one too. I object not so much from a "purist's" viewpoint but similar to my disinclination with Starr's method. There is alot of wood being used up for forms. It defeats the concept of inexpensive and quick.

Some who hve built and paddled Putz' boat have noted that, unlike traditional lash and peg/mortise method, Putz' use of nails/screws creates very stiff joints. The problem would be that in rough seas one of these inflexible joints can result in a split beam or a gunwale. That could be catastrophic if you were far from land. A traditional lash and peg/mortise method results in joints that have give in it. In choppy waters, you can actually feel a traditional SOF sort of flex with the wave action. It doesn't fight it but rather bends with it. The downside of the flex is that you lose energy in the flex and thus some speed as well.


mall kayaks
I found this on the web:

Visitors can look forward to many other attractions, as well. A boat-building demonstration will take place in the center of the Potomac (as the museum’s main entry space is called), and three Native boats will be under construction over the course of the first year of NMAI’s public debut. On Opening Day, September 21, museum-goers can observe a Native Hawaiian canoe and an Inuit kayak being built. In 2005, before a live audience, a Native craftsman will build a Bolivian Aymara totora reed boat.

Also, I used the books by Cunningham and Morris to build a Greenland SOF. Fun boat, good project.

That’s it…
I was trying to find that on the web too. It was an Inuit kayak and was made at the museum, I pretty sure they’re coming back to build another.