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Thread: Buildin' a Kayak

  1. #1
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    Default Buildin' a Kayak

    I started building a kayak...last year...out of a desperate need for something to tool around Seward and Homer in. I went and got all the books, and watched the videos and looked at the websites for info on a skin-on-frame, got some hand tools and lumber, and started off. Now I've got a pile of some-plane/some-rough, some-shaped/some still just lumber, replete-with-knots pieces of wood (apparently there's no clear lumber from the local sawmills). I'm using hand tools, have a vague idea of what to do, but geez it seems like I get caught at every step! It's also complicated by lack of building room and storage space.

    So the big question, for those who've don't similar things - how vital is it to go by the book? If I improvise some of the details (deck slope, fore and aft pieces) how far wrong can it go? I don't want to sink, but I do want to have a boat to use this summer. I've been on land for too long!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ManOrMoose View Post
    I started building a kayak...last year...out of a desperate need for something to tool around Seward and Homer in. I went and got all the books, and watched the videos and looked at the websites for info on a skin-on-frame, got some hand tools and lumber, and started off. Now I've got a pile of some-plane/some-rough, some-shaped/some still just lumber, replete-with-knots pieces of wood (apparently there's no clear lumber from the local sawmills). I'm using hand tools, have a vague idea of what to do, but geez it seems like I get caught at every step! It's also complicated by lack of building room and storage space.

    So the big question, for those who've don't similar things - how vital is it to go by the book? If I improvise some of the details (deck slope, fore and aft pieces) how far wrong can it go? I don't want to sink, but I do want to have a boat to use this summer. I've been on land for too long!
    It has been my experience that the closer to plan the better.
    The area at and below waterline are more critical than what is above the waterline unless you consider rolling.
    Watch the knots and wild grain in the high stress areas, they are apt to bust.
    For what is worth, I have got myself in a lot of jackpots building boats and asked myself why I ever started.
    But those thoughts are soon forgotten as soon as you hit the water.
    What and who's design are you using?
    I have only built one skin on frame boat but will help if I can.

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    The basic design comes from a book called "The Aleutian Kayak," by Brinck, and I've been making notes out of Qajaq by Zimmerly, and some others. I'm also proportioning everything up a little, because I'm a taller guy, and I'd like to be able to pack gear for camping, fishing, etc.

    Are there any tips for cutting time? I thought I'd go with mortise and tenons, but it sounds like dowels might be quicker and easier. And what did you use for rib material?

    I'm kinda thinking now I shoulda just gotten a kit or splurged on the commercial version.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ManOrMoose View Post
    The basic design comes from a book called "The Aleutian Kayak," by Brinck, and I've been making notes out of Qajaq by Zimmerly, and some others. I'm also proportioning everything up a little, because I'm a taller guy, and I'd like to be able to pack gear for camping, fishing, etc.

    Are there any tips for cutting time? I thought I'd go with mortise and tenons, but it sounds like dowels might be quicker and easier. And what did you use for rib material?

    I'm kinda thinking now I shoulda just gotten a kit or splurged on the commercial version.
    Your sources are great in my opinion.
    Speed comes with experience.
    Hard to beat mortise and tenon for being stout.
    I used yellow cedar, but I feel white oak is good as well.
    If you are concerned with time, you may want to look into Tom Yost designs.
    They are fuselage construction and look to be a lot less labor intensive and less material cost and no steam bending.
    There is a fair bit of info on the west paddler forum about that style as well as Tom Yost's website.
    Hope some of this helps

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    Quote Originally Posted by ManOrMoose View Post
    I thought I'd go with mortise and tenons, but it sounds like dowels might be quicker and easier.
    One issue is that most dowl material is a tropical soft wood that is not rot resistant - raman wood. You might also find some birch or poplar dowls which are also not rot resistant. Then you are left with oak dowls and most of those are red oak and not rot resistant. So, using factory made dowls may waste your time and ruin your boat. You can make your own dowls using a variety of methods from your frame material. The easiest way is to use machines rather than hand tools.

    For clear wood have you looked at the red cedar trim stock at Home Depot? That is some pretty nice knot free material and fairly cheap. Easy to cut with sharp tools. Furniture builders go to Harware Specialties for Ash and other woods that can be used in boat building. They should have a large selection of choice clear lumber to choose from.

    In my furniture and boat building (no kayaks yet) you need really sharp hand tools. A razor sharp chisel will make short work of even hard woods like oak. Spending a few hours getting your tools sharp will save hours of construction time. A high quality dovetail saw will make short work of any softwood mortise and tenon joint.

  6. #6

    Default Kayak

    I am also in the process of building a kayak. (Stip Built) I am using plans I bought form Guillmot kayaks and I got some book from them also. I have my wood cut and my forms are made just need to get a strong back either built or bought. I found a guy in eagle river who had some knot free cedar for sale. I tried the pine from home depot but when I cut my strips the kept breaking at the knots. I was alittle woried that if i was in big waters in may not hold up so well. I am not sure how you are doing yours but I am using tounge and groove for my slats. This is my first build but I am working on it slowly but surely. Hope yours is working out for you

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    Member SwansonSilver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ejdines View Post
    I am also in the process of building a kayak. (Stip Built) I am using plans I bought form Guillmot kayaks and I got some book from them also. I have my wood cut and my forms are made just need to get a strong back either built or bought. I found a guy in eagle river who had some knot free cedar for sale. I tried the pine from home depot but when I cut my strips the kept breaking at the knots. I was alittle woried that if i was in big waters in may not hold up so well. I am not sure how you are doing yours but I am using tounge and groove for my slats. This is my first build but I am working on it slowly but surely. Hope yours is working out for you
    Which guillemot are you building? I built the 14' great auk a few years ago. I just built a Pygmy s&g last year. Awesome kayaks. I would definitely suggest to anyone building a kayak to go to the kayak forum website. I believe it's thekayakforum.com. Lots of experienced builders on there. It's easy to feel way over your head but if you just take your time and ask lots of questions it will all work out.

  8. #8
    Member SwansonSilver's Avatar
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    Kayakforum.com is the website I was thinking of.

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