Hi all. I am new to the forum but I was hoping to get some advice on the potential for building my own kayak. I believe there are kits and plans for kayaks for sale on the internet from various companies but I was wondering if anybody could share some first hand experience of a self-build. All input appreciated.
Might try: http://www.kayakforum.com/ Lots of us builder there.
stitch and glue, skin on frame
If you want to build your own kayak the only obstacles are time, working space, and money. For a first time builder, your best bet is building either a skin on frame (SOF) or a stitch and glue wooden kit.
A skin on frame boat consists of a fabric stretched over a wooden frame. I have no personal experience with building them, but there is a lot of information available on the web and it might be your cheapest option.
There are many nice wooden kayak designs around. A wooden kayak can be built from plans but a first time builder will probably do better building from a kit. So-called stitch and glue kayaks are constructed from wooden panels which are temporarily stitched together along their edges with thin copper wire to hold them in place until the epoxy glue bonding them cures. The wires can then be pulled out. Wooden kayaks are fiberglassed on the exterior and the interior seams are usually either fiberglassed or sealed with fiberglass tape.
The two major manufacturers of wooden stitch and glue kayak kits are Pygmy Boats and Chesapeake Light Craft, although there are others:
Building a stitch and glue kayak kit is not that difficult but expect it to take longer for a first time builder than the manufacturers suggest. When you consider the number of hours required to build a kit, take into account the fact the some steps are sequential. A step that takes 30 minutes may require you to wait overnight while epoxy cures before you can do anything else.
You need a fairly big working area that you can get the finished kayak out of when you are done. It needs to have, or you need to provide good lighting. Sanding kicks up a lot of dust, so it is best to do as much sanding as possible outdoors. A climate controlled environment is best to insure reliable epoxy cures, but an unheated garage will work in a warm climate.
The kits provide the basic construction materials and enough epoxy to finish the boat if you don’t waste too much. But there are many incidental expenses such as sandpaper, paper towels, masking tape, disposable gloves, disposable foam brushes and rollers to apply epoxy, mixing cups for epoxy, marine varnish to finish the boat, marine paint if you should choose to paint the hull, and if you have to do much sanding indoors a respirator is advised.
Search the company Clarkcraft online. They have been selling plans and kits for about 40 years.
pride of craftsmanship…
until wrapped around a rock…holed n stranded off Kodiak I. …
Q1 what have you built ?
There is an article in California Kayaker Magazine on the basics of building your own kayak. Can be read online for free at http://www.calkayakermag.com/magazine.html. Issue #8 - Spring 2012 starts on page 24.
Skin on Frames
Though I have yet to build one myself, I have paddled a handbuilt skin on frame for 8 years and intend to build another boat myself now that I am retired, so I have been looking at the options for a while. Among of the best sources of information on building skin on frame (SOF) kayaks are these two:
(note: that is the original blog site and the builder, Brian Schulz, has a newer one, but start with the old one first to learn about the history and basics of SOF building and usage.)
(be sure and check out the "gallery" on that site to see what people with little or no experience have accomplished in building their own boats.)
Among the notable commercial kayak kit companies are:
There is also much information about kayak building on the Greenland Kayaking forums at
I’ve built about 14 s&g constructions, CLC, Pygmy, Shearwater.
Pick the design first and take in first person experiences of the boats on the water. If you just want to build something then that’s your priority . If you want to paddle what you build and have paddling experience research it well.
Kayakforum.com is the wellspring. Start there.
Lots of good information above
I have built 4 kayaks so far.
2 - Pygmys - an Osprey 13’ and an Arctic Tern 17’. The Tern 17 is still (after 11 years) my main kayak. Both started in early July and floated Labor Day weekend. Finish (3 coats of varnish) was 4 - 6 weeks later. The instructions were easy to follow.
1 - One Ocean Cape Ann Storm LT strip kayak for my daughter. This went from plans & boards to the finished kayak and took about 11 months from cutting the forms to varnish
1 - Yost Sea Rider SOF. This took 5+ months last year. Much of that was scratching my head & trying to figure out what to do.
Another option for SOF design and materials is Kudzu Craft - http://www.kudzucraft.com/web/
CLC look good!
Thanks for all the tip, advice and info folks. I must admit that I do like the look of the CLC kits:
But I'm getting a little discouraged by friends who are suggesting I should cut my teeth with a used second hand boat first before embarking on a self-build project. I'm in 2 minds at the moment. There are plenty of affordable options on the used classified ads online here: http://www.forsale.co.za/. But I'm far from making a final decision yet. Lots more research to do.
Silly comment, a wood kayak isn’t any less strong than any other kayak construction, SOF may be stronger.
SOF, skin on frame is pretty inexpensive. I can build one for around $300 and have, I have several and have taught classes on building them. Fuselage frame SOF is by far easiest for beginners. Search around for the link to Yostwerks. Tom designed these boats for first time builders.
$300! As little as that? That’s impressive. Do yu have any videos of the classes you have taught by any chance?
For What it’s Worth
I’ve never built a kayak but I’ve recently retired so… This design calls to me ‘cause it’s just so good lookin’:
That is certainly an attractive kayak.
There is a smattering of videos on YouTube showing the construction processes. This one is a short overview of the steps:
And the book “Building the Greenland Kayak” is one intro to the techniques and tools. It can usually be found on Ebay or Amazon for under $20. I find books more instructive than videos for such projects.
I have built two kayaks
A Chesapeake light craft Chesapeake, and a One Ocean Cirrus.