Building a kayak: Methods
This is to give you a brief overview of the commonly
used methods to built a light craft, using plywood, massive wood
and/or fabric. Each method has it's advantages and disadvantages,
and the choice should depend on the intended use of the boat, as
well as on one's own skills.
The boat's final durability is given by
built boats by using resin and fibreglass cloth
built boats are robust enough no not need any extra reenforcement,
on frame boats are the companions of extra careful paddlers.
This methods starts with cutting plywood panels. These
parts are joined temporarily with wire, the construction is aligned
and then glued together
(+) Relatively fast
(+) Concise, manageable and straight forward
(-) Hull shape tends to become rather „box-like“
(or coffin-like) in cross section
(-) Optically, the construction holes of the wiring might be offensive
=> a method well suited for boats with hard chines
Wafer thin veneer layers are placed in ready-made
mounting forms. The gluing is done under high pressure. Racing boats
are/were built that way.
(+) Rounded, seamless hulls
(-) High work load to fabricate the forms
(-) and to set up a construction to achieve high gluing pressures
=> less suited for the hobby craftsmen (?)
Working with thin, elastic wooden strips, the boat
is assembled „slice by slice“. To do this, a construction
frame of several „bulkheads“ is mounted onto a strongback.
Over this framework, the strips are placed and glued together.
(+) Many design options for the shape of the plan
due to the good pliability and adaptability of the strips
(+) Creative patters when using different coloured wood strips
(-) Very time consuming in preparation and shaping
of the strips, and in smoothing the surfaces
=> well suited method for rounded and/or strongly
sweeping hull shapes, and also, for people how like tinkering with
hand tools, pocket knife and white glue
Wide wooden strips are placed tile-like overlapping
over permanent ribs.
(+) Very robust
(-) Considerable weight
With this method, rowing boats and sailing dinghies
are built, whereas it does not seem common for kayaks. A beautifully
crafted historical kayak example is exhibited on the web pages of
the canoeing club (Kanuabteilung) Klausdorf - Clinkerboat Klausdorf.
More about the different methods, together with some sketches, under
More about the different methods, together with some
sketches, under this link here.
Skin on frame
An internal wooden framework is wrapped with fabric
and subsequently waterproofed.
This method is based on the traditional kayak building style of
the Inuit. They however built the boats using bone frames and animal
(+) Use of +/- only natural products
(+) A very flexible boat which moves with the waves
(-) Skin susceptible to wear and tear
(-) No bulkheads (air tight compartments, for safety)
(-) Demands a lot of TLC (waterproofing the skin)
=> This type of boats is a whole philosophy by
My choice & why:
My first boat is a hybrid, the hull is made from plywood
and the deck is strip-built.
Hull: Because it is a hard-chined boat, the plywood
method seemed the most suitable, as well as the option of building
together with a friend who knew what to do.
Deck: I wanted a gently curved deck. To do it with
plywood, it would have meant to use several very narrow panels.
However, I wanted to try out strip building – and it turned
out to be a great method which gives beautiful results.
back to TOP >>>>>>>>
Continue with Preparations >>>>>>>>>>>>>>