Our Kayaks

Wood and Canvas Building Overview

Building this kayak model is simpler than other wood-skin models and many times simpler than the beautiful stitch and glue or wood strip models. Unlike other kayak building techniques, the technique used to build this wood-canvas kayak does not require lofting, the building of a strong back, nor anyother complicated boat-building process. Let's take a look at the basic steps involved in building this kayak:

Build the Frame

  1. From a clear 3/4" x 12" x 12' board (pine, poplar, spruce) rip the keel (3/4" x 1-1/2" x 12').
  2. From the same board, rip the 11 - 12 strakes or longitudinals (3/4" x 5/8" x 12').
  3. Trace the rib/bulkhead patterns onto a #2 3/4 x 12" x 8' board (pine, poplar, spruce, exterior plywood).
  4. Trace the bow/stern patterns onto the remaining portion of the #2 3/4 x 12" x 8' board.
  5. Cut out the rib/bulkhead pieces. Pay particular attention to the pieces that have parallel edges--make sure these edges are parallel. Otherwise, you'll run into trouble when assembling the ribs.
  6. Assemble the rib/bulkhead pieces using waterproof glue and screws. I use pocketholes and faceframe screws to assemble the ribs.
  7. Cut out the bow and stern.
  8. Crosscut the keel to its finished length. Clamp it to a 2 x 6 and clamp the 2 x 6 and keel in a workmate or suitable vise.
  9. Mark and dado insets along the keel to accept the ribs/bulkheads.
  10. Mount the rib/bulkhead pieces to the keel using waterproof glue and screws.
  11. Mount the bow and stern to the keel using waterproof glue and screws.
  12. Mount the top/center strake between the bow and stern. Cut the strake at the front and back cockpit ribs. Screws and waterproof glue are used at all strake connections.
  13. Mount the left and right "gunwale" strakes, beginning at the center rib and working forward.
  14. Miter the strake ends to mount flush at the bow and stern. Screws and waterproof glue are used at each connection point.
  15. Mount the remaining strakes, mitering their ends to mount flush at the bow and stern. Screws and waterproof glue are used at each connection point.
  16. Build up cockpit with additional pieces along left/right gunwale.
  17. Build up cockpit ribs between the top/center strakes and left/right deck strakes.
  18. Round over and sand corners of all strakes and keel. Ensure that all screw heads are below wood surface and that frame has no obtrusions, splinters, or other defects that could interfere with the canvas skin.
  19. Paint entire frame using your choice: Primer, thinned paint, sealer. Apply second coat as needed. A sprayer works best.
animated frame
Figure 1. Assembling the Frame (Press your Browser's Refresh Key to Restart the Animation)

Apply the Canvas

  1. Layout canvas on covered floor and mark center line along entire length using snap-string method.
  2. With the kayak frame upside down, lay canvas over frame, aligning the snapped center line on the canvas with the center of the keel.
  3. Staple the canvas to the bow and stern, using only one staple at each location. Place the staple at the point where the bow/stern turns upward (downward with the frame upside down).
  4. Beginning at the center, stretch and staple the canvas to the D and E strakes.
  5. Slit and fold canvas over to cover bow/stern. Apply liquid nails wherever the canvas meets canvas. Staple.
  6. Trim the canvas carefully at the top edge of the gunwale. Do not discard waste.
  7. Apply trimmed waste pieces to the deck in four pieces. Apply liquid nails wherever the canvas meets canvas.
  8. Cut two 10" by 60" pieces of canvas to provide the side panels. These panels provide a second layer of canvas to protect the sides of the cockpit and they cover the Panel1-Panel3 and Panel2-Panel4 seams.
  9. Apply thinned exterior paint using an appropriate brush. A good latex or oil-based paint will work fine. Apply three to four coats. The first two coats should be applied with some force, trying to saturate the canvas with the paint. Do not use a sprayer!
  10. Optionally, after the second coat you can lightly sand the surface. You will make a difference sanding, however, the surface will always be a bit rough.
animated canvas install
Figure 2. Installing the Canvas (Press your Browser's Refresh Key to Restart the Animation)

Final Details

  1. Cut out floor board from 3/8 plywood. Paint and lightly screw to cockpit ribs.
  2. Cut out a seat back. If you cut it out of 1/8" plywood, you can bend it to provide a rounded support. Fasten seat back.
  3. Glue or double-side tape 3/8" or 1/2" thick closed-cell foam to the floor board and seat back.
  4. Apply rub strips to keel and gunwales.
  5. Mount gate or homemade nylon strap handles to bow and stern.
  6. Optionally, add combing.
  7. Test it in a body of water and enjoy!
  8. Store it dry, in a dry place, preferably out of the sun and weather. UV and moisture will kill a skin on frame boat in short order.