Skin on frame canoe

Has anybody out there built a skin on frame canoe, and if so how did it work out?

If I ever get all the "to do " projects done I would love to design and build one- thinking of toward the end of next summer.

I want to design it myself after the Jensen design.



skin on frame canoes

Google: and you will get the site of Hillary Russell. He has built many SOF canoes and runs courses building them. He is based at the Birkshire school in MA.


I have
I have built a skin on frame canoe. It is light and fun. I can pick it up and carry it a quarter of a mile with one hand.

Here are the issues:

Am not sure about the Jenson design, the knife-like racers. A skin cannot be held on a sharp point or edge as it will wear into the skin.

The gunnels must somehow hold the skin tight. This can be done by wrapping the skin around the gunnels in between the ribs. This is why many go to kayaks for SOF, since the skin can go all around and a simple hole for a cockpit doesn’t affect the stretching.


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Platt Monfort designs
Thanks to angstrom for posting this link. I have paddled two of the Monfort designs (Snow Shoes,) rowed another (a Whitehall) and sailed in a fourth. I think the man was brilliant, sort of an aquatic R. Buckminster Fuller. If you are going to try out a SOF, this is a great (albeit very non-traditional) way to begin. I was not the builder of any of these, but am friends with a family out East that caught on to the Monfort designs early on (he was a Mainer,) sometime in the 80s. The boats go together quickly, are relatively tough and handle very well. They ARE very lightweight (sort of like a big model airplane,) and that is a bit of a surprise at first, even to those of us used to kevlar canoes. Anyway, the AirLite boats are fun, useful and provide a builder with quick gratification. And they’re a great way to get started on that canoe project idea.

How durable?
The idea of building a SOF intrigues me. Will it hold up to standing in it with a pole?

Put in a floor
Brian at Cape Falcon made a SOF canoe - looks pretty nice. His has a plank floor in it which should enable standing.

I remember him saying he wasn’t that thrilled with the specific hull shape he built, but that the process worked fine. I’ll wager you can make a Jensen style canoe - sharp edges aren’t a problem if you use a tough-enough fabric/coating combination. Check out his photo essay of building a Adirondack Guide Boat for details of his approach.

Thnx, Carldelo
for the links. Nicely done!

Whoa! Am I gonna have to buy more clamps?!

yup, works fine
I’ve done a couple. They turned out just fine. Here’s one of them:

New / old info

– Last Updated: Dec-22-08 12:00 AM EST –

This subject is being discussed on the Qajaq USA site. There's a link there to an Popular Science article from 1932 showing a SOF canoe - pretty cool.;read=87720

PS - be sure to look at the cover of the issue - ocean airfields made of artificial ice - outstanding!

I did once…

…leaked like a sieve. However, if I had used the fiberglass instead of “waterproof” paint, it might have


Recent SOF Canoe Building Article
There is an article (part one of two) in the December ’08 issue of Wooden Boat magazine. Step by step instructions. Haven’t seen the January issue for part two yet.

I’ll check it out.

Cheers, and

Merry Christmas


Work in progress…
I am about 75% done with this project. You can view it at my webshots: DavidLTobin


Building tips…
Also, if you need help with building ideas, Morris is a good place to start (he has a chapter in his book on a canoe)and then the greenland kayak forum is an invaluable resource for the seemingly endless array of problems that come up when using SOF building techniques. For example, most people coat their boats with some kind of exterior polyurethane, which works great.

Looking good!
It looks like your canoe is coming along extremely well, and it is great being able to look at photos of the work as it is progressing.

Wonderful, and good job!
That is exactly what I was talking about.

My hat is off to you.



RE: Skin on frame advice
We all know, Skin on frame kayaks are becoming more popular because they are often lighter, are much safer, and much easier to transport, load, launch and use. So it would be advisable to use this kayak for maximizing the fun into the water.