Which wooden kayak kit?

I Would Wait
If it was me I would try out lots of factory built boats; buy your favorite one and paddle it for a few years before going to wood. Then you should be in a much better position to decide which wooden boat to go with. I once met a guy who built a boat before he built his skills. Didn’t take long for him to realize he had built the wrong boat. That’s gotta hurt.

Same Situation, I got lucky…
Shortly after buying my first kayak, an 11’ SOT, I decided I needed a faster boat to keep up with the local touring boats.

I had never paddled a sit-inside kayak when I ordered my Tern14 and during the build I rented a touring boat to see what they were all about.

I am now on my ninth kayak but that Tern14 was so sweet that I still have and use it.

Once in a while you can get lucky…

Don’t wait
If you are like most builders, you will want to build another one in a year or two - it’s that much fun!

I built a Chesapeake 17 having only sat in one, never paddled it before hand. While I don’t recommend this path, it worked out fine. I’ve grown out of that boat over the years, but had 4 or 5 great seasons with it. However, I should have listened to the lady at CLC who recommended I go with the 17LT…

Read all the catalogs and get on the phone with the kit companies. You can come up with a good choice for you. Otherwise, you’ll loose more time, missing the fun!


Kayak weight: I haven’t weighed it but I’d estimate the roto T165 weighs somewhere around 57-58 lbs, not 60. I can shoulder-carry it even though it weighs more than half what I do; the nice balance point of the boat makes it possible. I hate shoulder-carrying my Merganser 16 even though it is slightly lighter (newbie-builder epoxy overload). The balance point is where the coaming “ears” dig right into my shoulder.

Paddler weight: gear and supplies for 14 days of camping plus my body weight total about 180 lbs, which would be right near your figure of 175-lb daytripper.

Not me
I like the factory hulls better, for reasons that have nothing to do with what they are made of. There’s more variety in hull styles than S&G offers.

Strip boats are another story, but you need to be willing to spend that much time building. Which I’m not. I’d rather be paddling.

After finishing the Merganser, I did sort of want to build another one right away. I wanted to build it “light” (I used too much epoxy) as well as avoiding the mistakes I’d done the first time. Then I got the T165 and said, “Forget building any more.”

I admit it…
I’ve been paddling two factory boats this season, and really enjoyed them, especially my NDK Explorer. But every time I pick it up, I think about building it in cedar strip. The result would be just as strong and 15-20 lbs. lighter!


just as strong

– Last Updated: Dec-07-07 11:24 AM EST –

the problem with making a wood kayak "just as strong" as a gel coated glass boat is that a not-insignificant amount of glass and epoxy is needed for LONG TERM cosmetic reasons so that the exterior skin isn't cracked and the wood core visibly stained from water.

It's a little like a gelcoated kevlar boat where you can see waterstains on the inside where the gel-coat and underlying resin is cracked allowing water into the kevlar.

My experience is that a glass boat can go through a LOT of cracking damage that doesn't affect hull integrity or watertightness but a wood/epoxy/glass kayak will degrade more cosmetically for the same damage or need repair sooner. Not that it needs to be re-varnished like bare wood every year but that a glancing blow that breaks the exterior skin will allow a little waterstaining. Many folks use 4oz glass on the deck as it can be sufficient for structual reasons but if you use the boat like a glass boat then 6oz is better.

Once you reinforce a wood/glass/epoxy boat to the level that it can handle the same kinds of point loading as a 24oz roving or cored laminate hull AND have adequate fill coats to withstand steaming from entrapped water in compartments you're not that much lighter than a glass kayak, more in the range of a kevlar kayak.

Of course you can make the wood kayak lighter, just like manufacturers could make glass boats lighter. It's just not as durable for rough use, t-rescues, etc.

Making it strong
Lee - What would you recommend for a reasonably strong strip or S&G boat, used for rescues, rock gardens, etc.? Would it be worth using two layers of glass on the hull? How would two layers of 6 oz. work?



– Last Updated: Dec-07-07 3:40 PM EST –

on size of paddler, what a 250lb paddler needs is different than what a 125lb paddler needs.

But 6oz on deck and hull with another 4oz below the waterline is plenty bombproof. I built a Chesapeake 18 that way for rentals/lessons and the bottom (6oz+4oz) held up great. Except for the time it was loaded on a trailer and the coaming was rubbing against something. The 6mm coaming was worn half way through the wood through two layers of 4oz glass on the front of the coaming in a patch about 1"x2". Once you go through that thin hard outer layer of glass/epoxy you're right into soft wood.

For a 200lb paddler carrying 80lbs of stuff using two layers of 6oz below the waterline would make sense for rough landings. Entering/exiting on rocks with NO waves is rough.

Most of the problem is the little areas. If the bow/stern is too sharp it's easy to open waterstaining cracks if the kayak is swung around and hits something as might occur carrying the kayak around and the ends hit a rock or wall.

If the deck is 4oz the damage isn't on the top as much as on the edges and ends of the deck and coaming. There's no reason you can't make the stern of a wood kayak tough enough that it can't be lifted by the bow,rolled onto the deck of the stern and water drained out while the stern is ground into the sand/dirt. Even with 4oz on the deck, just make the ends rounded and layer on LOTS of patches of 4oz over the ends, about a 2" square area. I'd rather have a 6oz hull with rounded and glassed ends than a 10oz hull with sharp ends that chip if the kayak hits something.

Look around at wood kayaks and see where the greatest wear occurs, it only takes a few oz's of glass and goop to reinforce those areas.

If you find some 3.25 fine weave e-glass you can apply it selectively in addition to fill coats where you're concerned about extra durability. It doesn't take up much epoxy so if you were going to apply three fill coats to the 6oz on your hull you could add a layer of 3.25oz fine weave with the first fill coat and only need two fill coats on that.

If you were a real nut for durability/abrasion resistance where glancing/scraping impacts are a concern replace the e-glass with s-glass. But the cost is about 2-3times as much and it doesn't wet out absolutely clear. From 6' away you won't notice the difference but from 12" away you can see it.

Get Nick Schades book, The Strip Built Kayak. He's got a page showing three possible glassing schedules for a strip built kayak from light to medium to heavy use. The amount of extra glass is upwards of 15-20lbs from superlight to super durable.



the 4oz s-glass and 3.25oz(T) fineweave e-glass are low weight ways of increasing durability significantly by applying it selectively.

Not really.
it is fun and therapeutic. You’ll be sad when you are done.

Don’t wait
Building them is even more fun than paddling them. I’m very happy with the way my Tern 17 paddles, but even if I weren’t, I would not regret one bit building it. As soon as I win the Wood Duck I plan to build that, and it will likely be mostly paddled by my wife.

she ain’t building it. Is the handy husband so wonderful that he’ll enjoy hearing “Honey, will you build me another boat? I don’t like this tub.”

As a matter of fact. . .
During one of our many discussions about which boat, which company, inlay on the deck, etc., he let slip “I want to keep it relatively simple for the first one”.

So that put me firmly in the “don’t wait” camp-- let’s get to building! He’s as excited about building it as I am about paddling it so I think it will work out all the way around.

have you paddled an Osprey13?

Tell Him…

– Last Updated: Dec-07-07 7:44 PM EST –

Kudzu wants a Pax 18

after he finishes your Arctic Tern 14.

Thanks, Lee - good ideas.

There aren’t a lot of wood boats around, and it’s not likely I’ll rent one somewhere else. I’ve never seen any wood boat for rent.

It’s heavy, alright
I rented a LV Explorer before ordering one with the front bulkhead moved closer to the seat. The rental felt heavy, probably close to 60 lbs. It did have some water in one of the hatches, because someone had left wet gear in there. But that would only have added about 1 lb. Because my order specified “no footpegs or tracks or drilling for them” hopefully mine will lose at least 2 lbs from that deletion, which would put it at 57 lbs, which I am used to shouldering already.

Hey, I’m gonna gain enough cargo room to move some of the stuff in the cockpit and on the rear deck into the hatch compartments…AND be able to take more food!