Kit recommendations?

At some point, I’d like to have a go at building a kayak from a kit. I love the appearance and light weight of wooden boats, but this is something I’ve never attempted before. There seems to be quite a bit of variety in kit styles and construction methods, so I wonder if anyone out there has firsthand experience and might be willing to offer a few pointers or suggestions.


what kind?
Lots of kayaks out there. Can you be more specific what your paddling needs are?

Pygmy and CLC are the major players. Others too.


– Last Updated: Aug-12-04 3:33 PM EST –

I should have been more specific:

i'm looking for a sea/touring kayak kit in the 16' to 18' range - no more than about 22" wide. I don't need anything high-volume.

Also, I've no experience in working with wood and would like to minimize the amount of tools required to build one - in other words, I don't want to spend more on the tools than the boat :)

I did look at Pygmy and was impressed by a couple of their offerings, in particular the Arctic Tern (

Check out this link
These are about the most beautiful things I have ever seen… as a Kayak.

Check these kits, and pictures out! I’d love to build one myself.

also consider clc offer the arctic hawk (highly rated), north bay, and west river 18 (more complex) at 22" beam. the arctic hawk and north bay are simple ‘4 panel’ designs. one of my high school students is completing a chesapeake 17lt (23" beam) with nice results. their kits are very good quality. i recently completed a modified pygmy queen charlotte, reduced beam, depth, and width (17’x22") but that was a 'scratch built"project. i did learn from the manual and plans and pygmy was very helpful with a couple of my questions.

Stitch & glue

– Last Updated: Aug-12-04 4:12 PM EST –

A precut stitch & glue kit is probably the easiest type to build. Here's a good look at the process:

I've paddled an Arctic Tern and Coho and liked them both, but Pygmys are usually not considered low-volume boats. The Shearwater Merganser or the new Bluefin may fit your needs better.

A great site for kayak building info is:

Another site with lots of good information is:

Strip-building is another option, but it'll take you longer to build.

P.Net has a ton of sites for wood boats
Check the buyers guide or product reviews or simply hit google and type in Stitch and Glue Kayak Kits or Hybred Kits or stripbuild kits.

I did a stich and glue which came out really well but I took a ton of time and had a dry ventilated shop to work in. There are several sites which offer day courses on how to build that might be helpfull if no one lives close by who has experience. Hybreds combine the S&G bottom and the strip build top and the total strip build are…just that and require patience.

clc boats has a forum used by builders of their kits, with a lot of info and help.

Also, the beam (as described in the lit) for S&G boats is not the “beam” you want. S&G boats flare a lot on the side which makes the “overall” beam wider than the beam at the waterline.

CLC boats paddle like boats with smaller “beam” measurements. Not a problem, just be aware.

I only have …
…experience with the Pygmy kits. I have built a Tern 14 (1st boat) and a Coho. Both came out well. Not perfect but it takes another builder to spot the imperfections. I would rate my woodworking skills as one very narrow step above someone with zero experience. I still got good results. Both boats paddle great! My production time from start to a varnished boat on each was 3 months. I really enjoyed the process.

From what I can gather the major players have the kit thing down and they all go together well. They all draw looks and lots of comments. I have only paddled Pygmys so I can’t comment on performance differences. I will say that the 4 panel hull of a Tern is easier to build than the 8 panel hull of the Coho. Twice the stitching, twice the glueing.

Test paddling, workshops & more
at the Annual Newfound Rendezvous held at Wellington State Park in Bristol NH, September 17-19, 2004.

Many seasoned boat builders on hand to talk shop, a bevy of beauties to try, workshops by the pros…warning once you see the strippers you may never have eyes for stitch n’glue again.

standard response…
It’s worth the time, effort, and money to build something simple first.

Comments on Merganser 16
I built a Shearwater Merganser 16 from their kit and am pleased with the kayak. (I posted my impressions from the “first launch” paddle done on May 22 on the site.)

The kit comes with everything you need to outfit the boat, and instructions are pretty good (could be more detailed for newbies like myself). I found that the kayakforum website helped tremendously. Unfortunately, I discovered the site AFTER I began building; you would do well to study the many questions and answers at that site before you choose a kit, and before you start actually building. You’ll find out that most beginners make mistakes.

Back to the Merganser 16…it’s 16’ long when the sharp ends are trimmed after doing the end pours(recommended) and has a 21" beam. Standard 4-panel hull design, as are most (but not all) S&G hulls. Tracks very well, with little weathercocking, and has good speed for the length. I would consider it a “medium volume” design though I think the designer, Eric Schade, refers to it as low volume.

I need to tweak the outfitting some more but am happy enough with the boat that I intend to make it my “main” kayak.

Don’t get too hung up about weight. As a beginner, you likely will use too much epoxy and ratchet up the weight accordingly. I did. Even so, the kayak is lighter than a comparable glass boat (52 lbs), and much lighter than plastic.

I used full glassing (6 oz. cloth) on the exterior, plus a 2nd layer of 4 oz. cloth on the hull exterior. The interior received filleting/taping (9 oz. tape) of seams PLUS a full layer of 4 oz. glass over all inside. The kits will state certain weights but beware that those weights might not reflect full interior glassing, extra layers of glass, etc.

So even if it says “40 lbs” make sure to estimate more weight for that full interior glassing, or that 2nd layer of hull glass you might want for real-life use. I get the impression some wood boats are built more as ultralight showpieces than as vessels to be paddled often.

As for tools, you’ll spend a few hundred on tools and supplies, namely sandpaper. Total cost with the kit and shipping will end up being approx. the same as buying a plastic kayak. BUT if you later build another wood boat(s), you’ll already have the tools. :wink:

The Arctic Tern is a high volume kayak,but very nice handling,it depends on how big you are,the Merganser 17 or 17W would be nice,a bit faster and harder to turn. The Arctic Hawk kit is unique but for the money there are other choices, the reason to build it is because you want an Arctic Hawk. For a construction from plans I suspect the Cirrus or CirrusLT is one of the best choices for handling. I built a Merganser 16 for a friend that weighed 44lbs with doubled layers of 4oz on the exterior,very tough.

Tom Yost’s folders
You might also consider building a Tom Yost-designed folder ( You can get by with only a few tools and almost no experience (proof at, and the boats are beautiful. Tom’s folders are generally low-volume Greenland kayaks, built with plastic cross-sections and aluminum stringers with a heavy-duty puncture and abrasion resistant PVC-coated polyester skin. It’s like getting a Feathercraft for $300 :wink:


Which boat
There are many different wood kayaks to pick from depending on your size and use. Find a kayak that will meet your needs in size and handleing. Read reveiws from experienced paddlers on their performance. A good place to start is Enjoy the proccess.

how to build
ok hopefully this appropirate to post, but if you have questions on how the building process is actually done, I’ve reposted the tutorial over at

It’s not completely done but is off to a good start.

Note: There’s some slight variations on how people like to build. What’s posted is my prefered method.

is a lot of fun. I recomend the artic tern by pygmy.

Thanks to all
Thanks for the replies! I have my homework cut out for me now. perhaps I can find something that will keep me occupied during the winter “off-season”.

epoxy pre-cautions
take all the warnings to heart,from my anecdotal experience young folks don’t develop reactions to epoxy as quickly as older folks. Some folks can get sensitized with a little contact and some require a lot,but once it happens,you’re not likely to use it again.

Building a kayak
I have built a CLC 17LT and a Merganser 16. Both hatches leak. That is my only problem with wooden kayaks. Both building processes were the same but attaching the decks were different. I hope to never have to build the first one again. Deciding was extemely hard with buyers remorse until after the 40th 50th hour building the kayak. Its a great life long satisfying experience.