question on building

For those of you who are builders, how hard is it? And what about cost as compared to purchase? I know this question comes up every so often and many of the responses are specific to the scenario. So I will give the story in short.

I would sure like a new kayak. I need to buy another canoe for my family. needs over wants, and family over one’s self for certain. So as I am searching for a canoe to carry my newly gained children, I am still wishing for a long fast kayak to race in. I have wood working skills, time, minor experience with glass and resin, and finally a pretty decent work space that i love to go to to get away from everyone and everything else.

I know I CAN do it, I want to know my possible success rate or if I should just wait it out and purchase one next year or whenever.

The purpose of this boat is just for fun, nothing fancy. It would be for me, for workouts and if I am doing any adventure races (where paddling is both a small section and seems to be the weak point for the competitors). Since i am not a serious racer spending 1200 on a boat seems silly, but if I do any racing I don’t want to show up in an otter and look stupid.

I AM looking used and all that. I am just thinking about making something for fun in the shop. Thanks in advance.


Just Google…
…stitch and glue kayak - there’s tons of great designs out there. The best web resource for advice from builders is the Kayak Building Bulletin Board.

It’s pretty easy
It’s really pretty easy if you already have woodworking skills. I mean, it’s just gluing strips of wood together. The “hard” part is lots of detailed fitting required at the ends of individual strips - and that really requires more patients than skill.

There is nothing that you can screw up that you can’t either sand or cut out and redo.

I got a D in shop class
in middle school. And I built a pretty nice looking S&G. Had tremendous fun doing it, too. If I can build one, anyone with the desire can. If you have basic woodworking skills, you’ve got lots of options–S&G, SOF, Stripbuilt. Check out the Geodesic SOF designs. And you could work from plans and save several hundred dollars.

Cost for me was a Pygmy Kit, and maybe $200 on tools and supplies. But I had almost no tools to start with. If you’ve got a random orbital sander already, well that’s probably your biggest additional expense. Other stuff you need: as many clamps as you can possibly borrow, big box of vinyl gloves, empty yogurt cups, sheets of plastic, lots of cheap foam brushes, lots of sanding discs. Or, you could use scrapers and avoid most of the sanding work.

You can build a composite kayak
for less than $1000 and have any style you want.To buy the equivalent new will cost $2500+.Used is a good way to go but limits your choices.

a couple factors
much depends on the type of construction (stitch and glue vs. wood strip) and the complexity of the design.

A general guideline I always recommend for stitch and glue builders is to build a simple boat first, then go for the one you really want.

Your 2nd boat will be much better in quality than your first.

Good luck!

Matt - JEM Watercraft

I believe that you can buy a used boat for less than you will spend building. That is assuming there is such a boat to buy close enough to you.

Price out your kits and/or plans and materials before you get to far into it.

You must live in bargain land
I don’t see a lot of composite or glass boats out there for 40-50% off, unless they are in pretty bad shape. Most I see that are in good shape are 80% of the new cost.

do it!!
Building a boat, either S&G or strip, is relatively easy and lots of fun. ANd in terms of weight and performance, very comparable to a compsoite boat. I prefer stippers, both for apperance and because you are not limited to a hard chine boat, but they do take a lot longer to buld.

I agree with previous poster though - it will cost you about the same to build a nice stripper as it will to buy a used boat, and that it ignoring the labor cost.

went used
I came real close to building a stitch and glue or ceder stripe, but went with a used composite.

The ceder strips are now way too expensive (no more trees left) so you would have to mill them down yourself.

Stitch and glue are light and useful kayaks, but they will be hard chined and require painting or varnishing. Almost any used composite will outperform and be more sea worthy than a wood kayak.

All of that sandpaper, acitone, gloves, paint, brushs, cups, stir sticks, etc will set you back about $300-$500.

I don’t mind working with epoxy for a quick repair, but being knee deep in it for 2 months, no thanks.

However they are light weight, and weight is a huge factor.

I went with a used kevlar that needed some gel coat repairs and other tlc. loven it.

Just Finished One
I just finished building a stich and glue kayak earlier this month. It is a 16 foot (15’8") Pygmy Osprey. My skill level is similar to yours and it took me about 100 hours to complete. It is a very gratifying experience but it is also a great deal of work. Most things went well but occasionally there was a blue haze in my shop. I investigate several brands and chose Pygmy because they had the right boat for my needs as to size stability etc… Their support was great as I made a few phone calls and e-mails during the building process. They were always prompt and helpful. I’ve had in the water only twice but I love it. It’s different than my 12 Sundance but I believe I am going to enjoy it. I also enjoy the comments from people who see it. I may know where every mistake is but I quess it turned out OK. I took many pictures during the process and would be willing to share them if you get to that point. Good luck on whatever way you decide to go!


what i would do…
i would look at some designs from jemwatercraft for canoe plans. i would look at clc, nick schade, etc and find a kayak oriented toward performance. i would place an order for all the plywood up front, shop around and look for deals. buy an epoxy kit from mas or raka, some reputable epoxy supplier. shop around for long rolls of 1 1/2" glass tape. memorize the plans for the canoe first, then build it. when you feel ready, go for the yak next, it’s probably a little more complex. i built two s&g kayaks this way and spent about $5oo each…

what’s the question?
you could make a very nice four panel boat for what you described, similar volume as a Caribou.

Merganser18 get the wood parts for $420, get the glass and epoxy from RAKA for $250 or so. I built the 18, it’s a nice boat.

In A Pig’s Ear…

– Last Updated: May-21-08 4:27 PM EST –

"Almost any used composite will outperform and be more sea worthy than a wood kayak...
All of that sandpaper, acitone, gloves, paint, brushs, cups, stir sticks, etc will set you back about $300-$500."

I'll stack the S&G VOLKSKAYAK I build, and about ten other designs I can think of off the top of my head, up against the majority of kayaks on the water in terms of performance and seaworthiness. I've seen used composites I wouldn't trust to paddle across a bowl of soup...

Re the supposed expense of all that sandpaper, etc - we use no acetone ($5.00 of Fast orange does the job), heavy kitchen gloves, used juice cans for measuring and mixing, wood scraps for stir sticks, putty knives instead of brushes - I'd allow a generous maximum of $50 per kayak for sundries, and about $15 for top quality oil-based enamel paint. But then, what do I know - have only built four VKs, and been in on doing about a dozen more...

No labor cost if it is recreation
If the time you spend building it you would otherwise spend working as a consultant, then sure, it has a cost. But if you would just be watching TV or taking a nap, then it doesn’t really have a labor cost.

Just trying to be realistic
All of that stuff adds up quick.

You will to varnish it and maintain it.

Stitch and glue have a low resale value. In fact you could buy one built for under a $1000.

Wooden boats can dry rot. Ceder is very expensive.

I also listed some benefits. Being exposed to toxic epoxy for two months isn’t one of them.

Are you going to wear a resporater or just breath all those fumes? $$$

Fast Orange does an ok job at removing epoxy, but not great. Your hands are still sticky.

Just trying to weigh the pros and cons, as not everyone needs to be a boat builder to enjoy kayaking.

I would be concerned with the seam on the stitch and glue becoming warn through. It’s just a layer of fiberglass. Yeah there is an inside layer, but that’s not much after the outside layer goes. It would be hard to notice. The sun also breaks down epoxy. YOu are supposed to keep varnished or painted, but in 10 years of heavy use, I would be more concerned.

The research I did suggested cedar strip kayaks were more susceptible to impact than even stitch and glue.

Like I said they are useful, light kayaks, yet have limitations.

I was sure some people would be very defensive, and that says a lot too.

I’m glad I went with a used composite, P&H. Hand made in England.

Can’t beat that for $1,400.


sticky hands???
double glove, keep taking off the outer pair and put on another pair, keep a squeeze bottle of alcohol and paper towels nearby to wipe off tools. Keep bottle of vinegar to wipe epoxy off skin.

You should never have sticky hands.

Get longer wrist gloves or use tyvek sleeves (from J.R.Sweet composites).

An epoxy/ply kayak won’t dry rot if it was sealed.

BUT,you’re right, it’s exposing yourself to a known irritant that a respirator won’t prevent sensitization once it develops.

can be durable

– Last Updated: May-21-08 11:30 PM EST –

but an epoxy/wood/glass kayak built for similar durability as a fiberglass kayak won't weigh much different than a fiberglass kayak if you put on enough epoxy and glass to maintain a cosmetic finish.
With heavy glass on the hull and thick fill coats to prevent water intrusion through hot closed compartments it can be very tough but it won't be light.

re: your concern about the exterior seam being vulnerable, it's as vulnerable as a plastic or glass boat where launchings/landings concentrate wear in the bow and stern over a 6" length on the keel.. so you build it accordingly with thicker sacrificial areas at high wear spots. The hulls integrity isn't vulnerable because there's "one layer" of glass on a seam. The chines/keel are inherently strong becuase it's a triangulated joint, if there's a vulnerability it's a large flat area with inadequate interior glassing for the loads,,such as a kayak side surfing to a rocky beach.

Looking at it a little deeper…
I’ll try not let short story go long. Did a group float this past weekend. Met some new folks. Wife and I showed up with this winter’s projects, a couple of cedar striped Guillemots. Another fella whom we’d just met showed up w/ his older Guillemot as well. We all had pretty nice plastic boats still sitting at home, yet there we were in our wooden boats. Our newly met paddler made a comment something to the effect of ‘This boat has a soul. My other boat doesn’t. My other boat is for getting in a good speed workout. This boat is for having fun.’ I knew what he was talking about. It required no further discussion.

Forget about performance. Just know that with the boat from the store, you get what you bought. The boat you build can be built to perform however you want. And eventually you will want different boats to do different things. Trust me on this.

Forget about cost. No such a thing as ‘free time’. It may not be time you’re being paid for, but it will likely be time you’re taking away from your family and/or other important things, and it doesn’t come without a cost. For the time you’ll spend building a boat, you could have worked for pay and likely made enough cash to buy a couple of nice boats from the store.

Forget about durability. Wooden boats have been around a lot longer than plastic boats. There are 100 year-old+ wood boats out there being used on a daily basis. If it’s something you put sweat equity and pride into, you’re going to take care of it.

Do some research. There are some good ‘how-to’ books out there for stripers and stitch-n-glues. Check out the kayak building forums, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Skills required to build are actually minimal. Patience (for glue and epoxy to dry!) is the key.

Another word of advice. If you build your own boat, know that every outing thereafter will take you about a half hour longer than it used to. That half hour will be spent in the parking lot and on the shore answering questions about your boat. I don’t recall anyone ever asking me anything about my Current Design boats, nice as they are.

Good luck in whatever direction you take.