Hey folks, I’m still researching my first kayak purchases for my wife and myself. I’ve stumbled onto wood kits like those available from pygmy. Those boats are gorgeous and nothing would be more gratifying to me than building my own kayak. The kit prices seem like the cheapest way into a fast 40lb boat too. Looking for pros and cons of plastic boats vs wood kits. I’ve got the tools and and am confident in my ability to conquer the learning curve. Won’t be in a race to finish also. Would also like recommendations for other companies selling kits or at least user friendly detailed plans. Thanks.
Go for the wood kit.
I’ve built two Pygmys (along with a strip kayak and a skin-on-frame) and I highly recommend their kits. You don’t need many tools and, really, not a great deal of wood-working skills to build one of their kits. They are also durable. My Arctic Tern is in its 12th year and in excellent shape. I have to do a little touch-up on the keel at the bow & stern from loading and landings and put a fresh coat of varnish on every other year.
totally different animals
You’re about to get all sorts of opinions and information but I’ll start. I have never built a wooden boat and actually couldn’t imagine doing it. My opinion is, if your ultimate goal is to go paddling then buy a plastic boat. If your goal is to build a boat then build a boat. The other big wood kit company is Chesapeake Light Craft www.clcboats.com
Two different animals indeed!
The Pygmy is superior to a plastic boat, by far. I’ve been paddling a Coho for several years now and I love it! The plywood/fiberglass/epoxy construction is super strong and lightweight–lighter than any plastic boat and stronger than many composites out there. And for a mere $1,100 or so for the kit, it’s dirt cheap compared to factory-made composites that can cost you $5,000 and up.
If you are enthusiastic about building one (and you sound like it), it’s a no-brainer. Go for it.
The coho is one of the ones I had my eye on. Where does fiberglass come into the construction? Would the coho be ideal for 15 mile trips in a large bay that can be rough at times.
The Pygmys, and also many other wood canoes and kayaks, are a wood cored composite. My Arctic Tern has the hull encapsulated between a layer inside and out of 6oz glass. Pygmy’s deck design has the glass on the outside but only the seams glassed on the inside. The remainder of the inside is sealed with the epoxy.
In terms of usage, the Coho is a sea kayak. It is designed as a big tripper. For safety’s sake, be sure to order and install bulkheads & hatches. Otherwise, as you can see on their web-site, the kayak is capable of a 1,300 mile trip along the Pacific coast. The limiting factor would be the skills of the paddler.
+1 for wood kits
We just built 2 kayaks in a class at CLC. I'm not going to pitch CLC over Pygmy at all, but the experience of building a wood kit was amazing. The kit builds look very similar; CLC is doing another kayak build class this week and you can watch (8am-5pm EST) at http://www.clcboats.com/shopcam/
It's worth the watch if you are considering doing a build like this at home. The feed is 10 hours into the build, hull and decks filleted but not glassed.
I built three Pygmy kayaks… You will never regret it, just something special about a boat you built. My first one is 14 years old and still get compliments where ever I go.
On long trips the Coho benefits from a rudder but will do anything you want.
Do it, GH
the plywood is sheathed
inside and out with 6 oz. fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin. So the wood is sealed and the combined strength of plywood and fiberglass is tremendous.
Yes, the Coho is a true sea kayak and can handle pretty rough conditions. I’ve been in 30 mph winds with close-together 2-3 ft. waves crashing over the boat and onto my chest and it came through like a champ.
As rival51 says, get the bulkhead and hatch kit. You don’t want a whole kayak full of water should you capsize.
yes and no
I’ve built 3 stitch & glue boats. I recommend it.
But, I don’t recommend it over plastic, if you are looking to save money. By the time you buy lots and lots of sandpaper, varnish, better seat and backband than the kits include, more and better deck rigging, and other stuff that crops up, you could buy a good plastic boat. Or, a much cheaper, used plastic boat.
A plastic boat will not be as efficient as a wooden boat of similar dimension, but, you can treat plastic with much less respect, and not worry about it getting too ugly.
Wood boat varnish gets scarred up, and appears as white mars on the finish. It’s consumable, as it does its job, protecting the glass and wood. You could probably go several years before feeling compelled to refinish the boat (sand and re-varnish)… a process I find much less fun than building was. Some wood boat guys re-finish every year!
When you haul around a nice wooden boat, you’ll always have people to talk to at put-ins and gas stations!
Not to mention…
In addition to all that attention you’ll get at gas stations you will have a boat that weighs about 60% of what that plastic boat weighs and about equal to a high-end composite costing 4-5 times as much.
And you may learn to love varnishing… but probably not.
stitch and glue kayaks
I have built both Pygmy and Chesapeake Light Craft stitch and glue kayaks. Both companies have nice kits and nice designs.
Pros of a rotomolded plastic boat: low maintenance, can be used immediately, you don't have to worry about refinishing.
Pros of a wooden kayak: lighter weight for size, sharper angles for better water entry, look much better, pride in building and ownership.
Plan on spending half again as much as the kit price in incidentals and consumables as has been mentioned. These include, but are not limited to, sandpaper, disposable foam brushes, disposable gloves, and finish. Perhaps even a respirator if you need to do a lot of indoor sanding. If you mess up and waste epoxy, you might have to buy some additional epoxy to finish the project.
As far as building goes, you need a place with adequate space and good lighting. Although I prefer to sand outdoors (due to the dust) applying epoxy and fiberglass, varnishing, and painting is probably best done indoors. For fiberglassing, a temperature-controlled environment is best for reliable and predictable epoxy cures, but an unheated garage will work in summer. For a first kit, plan on spending twice as much total time for the project as the manufacturer suggests.
These kits are not hard to build as long as one is reasonably patient and careful. If you have not done any work with epoxy and fiberglass there is a little bit of a learning curve but most people figure it out pretty well. Minor mistakes might mean that your boat comes out less than perfect cosmetically, but there are few, if any, fatal mistakes.
I agree with jbernard
I have been a woodworker most of my life and I have more tools and machines than God, but I have never had the urge to build a boat. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind, but I doubt it.
If paddling is really what you want to do, go for a really good polly , or composite boat. If you’re into do-it-yourself and paddling, build a kit boat. You might do like my buddy and find some partially built boats and some kits that got bought and never got built. He has ended up with some nice boats that he has relatively little invested in–except considerable time.
Building a S&G kit…
… is much more about mixing epoxy and working with fiberglass than woodworking.
Building from plans or building a stripper involves more woodworking.
A 40lb s&g kayak is possible but irrelevant.
It sounds like you want to build, so build.
If you want to paddle get a Necky Manitou 13/14 and paddle.
More important is to pick the kayak for your use
And line your body up to the blade.
I've built a CLC Patuxent 17.5
Pygmy Osprey 13
CLC Mill Creek 13
CLC Chesapeake 16
CLC Chesapeake 18
CLC North Bay
CLC Pax 20
Shearwater Merganser 16,18, 17W
Pygmy Penguino 13
Depends on your goal
When I was in my young teens my dad and I built a Folbot from a kit. It took several months but it was a good bonding experience.
My friend’s dad is pretty handy with woodwork. He is 84 years old and decided to build a canoe. It took him close to a year, but in the end he had an absolutely beautiful wooden canoe. The funny thing is that he is not a canoeist. He had no dreams of paddling it, he just wanted to build it to have something to do. Shortly after building it, he sold it for quite a bit less than it cost him in time and materials.
Bottom line if you enjoy building things, then go for it. If you are trying to save money, you won’t.