Building SOF - first time

I’m looking for a little advice before I start a new project. I’d like to build a rolling sof, and have some questions. Is there enough info in a book to cover the whole process (Morris or Cummingham)? Can I expect to get the materials easily locally? Approximately how much money can I expect to spend? I have some woodworking experience, including carving GPs and building a S&G kit (Tern). I would appreciate any input from those of you who may be able to help me decide if this is something I can handle.

Try a different board

It’s a pretty simple process
There are a couple here that have built, but is a much better source. Seems like someone is launching a new SOF there nearly every day.

Couple general answers though. I used Morris’ book and found it complete enough to do the job. Only downside is using his anthropomorphic measurements my boat wound up being 24" wide when I was shooting for 20-ish. Woodwork skills are not required, but make the job easier. Cost can range from nearly free if you have access to scraps and cheap duck canvas, to a couple hundred bucks if you are forced to buy wood from a home improvement store and use ballistic nylon to skin.

Good luck and post back with pics when you’re done.



– Last Updated: Feb-10-07 7:39 AM EST –

All three books -- Morris, Cunningham and Starr -- will take you through the entire process. I personally like Morris' approach more, specifically using lashing and pegs for beams rather than the more complicated mortis and tendon used by the other two. The peg method has proved plenty strong for my use. Also, Starr advocates cutting a whole set of forms for shaping the ribs. For me, that's wasteful and costly but great if you want to replicate the same boat, over and over. For me the beauty of building of the SOF is that you can learn something from first one (hull design and how the performance characteristics flow from that) and then go onto modify subsequent ones from that to tweak the performance traits you want. It's a flowing, creative process. Cunningham's jig for for rib bending is great. Really helped reduced the numbers of breaks from hand bending alone.

Downside of Morris' use of the anthromorphic measures is that you end upwith a kayak gear more towards general use, i.e. not necessarily a rolling kayak relative for you. For example, using his measurements, I would have ended up with a kayak about 15'9"x20". I wasn't interested in building that, having owned and paddled a 20" wide boat. Instead, I stretched the length out to 17' and reduced the width to 18" to keep about the same volume. I think I reduced the suggested backdeck height by .5" less than the suggested since I knew I was not interested in carrying more than minimal gear. For a rolling kayak, you may also want to reduce the back deck height not only to reduce volume but to make clearing the backdeck easier on layback rolls. But I wouldn't reduce over 1" than the suggested, at least not for the first boat.

The other thing I like about the Morris book is that it takes the greenland SOF making techniques, expands on these creation of other SOF boats.

Materials, I would say each one of the two I built costs around $300-$350. This is with using (more expensive) redwood for gunwales and stringers, pieces of cedar and redwood for deck beams, and oak for ribs. Also, I used 10oz polyester dracon (more expensive than some of the nylon), heat sealable nylon for custom float bags, and 3/8" leather rope for deck lines.

Using a good selection of clear pine for the major structural pieces and oak (ash, or whatever, you can acess for ribs), you could probably reduce the price down to about $200. The most expensive is your selection of choiced wood for the structural pieces.

My (subjective) recommendation -- buy Morris book for on hand reference. Peruse the bookstores to reference Cunningham or Starr. But, again, any one of these books will take you through the whole process.

And, yes, by all means post on Qajaq/USA. That is where you'll find most of the experience and body of on-line knowledge. Somewhat in kayakforums too for SOF building.


move to Portland

Cape Falcon
Cape Falcon kayak near the coast in Manzanita OR does a one-week SOF build. I’m going out in May. He does classes at other locations as well:

There are also some nice photo series showing the construction process.

Rolling SOF
jsmarch, pyker and sing are right in directing you the site. I built my first sof last fall, using the Cunningham and Starr books as my guide. I agree with comments posted so far about these books. The best resource was the forum on

On my SOF, the most expensive parts were the nylon ($65 for 8oz nylon from Dyson) and coating ($45 for a gallon of Zar brand exterior polyurethane) for the skin. You can easily get white pine and oak or ash locally. The wood and other items were probably about another $100. I did use some pieces of wood left over from previous projects. I splurged $45 on a wallpaper steamer for bending the ribs. In total that makes about $265 for the kayak.

Then you have to make a spray skirt or tuiliq to fit it!

Good Luck


I second Cape Falcon
I can Vouch for Brian. I built a Sisimuit rep last September and it was great fun (second to last 2006 class photo).

Brian is a great teacher and, provided he survives his solo circumnavigation of the big Island in an SC-1 painted with shark repelling stripes, I might sign up to build another boat with him this fall.

A telling student satisfaction statistic was that in my class in Essex MA 2 of the 5 students were taking the class for the second time. They enjoyed it enough the first time to build a second boat with Brian.

The last day of the class we took the boats out on the water and Brian had me rolling within the hour.


Biggest Advice —
“Don’t sweat it…” The process is quite forgiving. Most mistakes can be corrected without catastrophe. It’s not a rocket flying to the moon. It’s just a kayak. :slight_smile:


Thank you for all your help. I ordered the Cunningham book and started reading it, and while I’m a little anxious about the details, I’m looking forward to building again. I’ll be sure to post pics once I’ve started.