Build Your Own Greenland-style Skin-on-Frame Kayak Course

Greenland kayak being skinned.

This winter, you should visit Grand Marais, Minnesota, one of the best paddling towns in the U.S., and learn how to build a skin-on-frame sea kayak. In late March, North House Folk School is offering a 12-day course on how to build your own skin-on-frame kayak. At the end of the course, you’ll have a kayak that you build with your own hands and is ready to take home. I’ve built a skin-on-frame kayak before and it was a rewarding project, and I ended up with a fun kayak that I used for a number of years. The hardest part of the project for me was trying to learn everything new without an instructor, which is why you should take this course (it will say you time and lots of frustration).

Kate Watson, Communications Manager for the North House Folk School, writes:

skin-on-frame kayak

Rotomold, composite, or…seal skin? Before you laugh, give that last option some consideration. Seal skin was the kayak material of choice for Greenlandic Inuits—they’re the folks who invented the kayak, not to mention depended on it for their survival. Want to learn more? This March you can hearken back to paddling’s roots and build your own Greenlandic Inuit Kayak at North House Folk School.

Mark Hansen, the course instructor, says that the Inuit kayak is a great recreational boat. Not only is it incredibly lightweight, but it’s fully customizable.

“Whether you’re a young person looking for a stiletto to just rip through the water, or an older person looking for good stability, we can design this boat to your exact specifications,” Mark said. “The kayaks can be made for gunkholing or serious long distance—and if you build it yourself you know how to care for it, how to repair it, and how to build more!”

During the course you’ll learn the history of this traditional craft, and walk away with your very own skin-on-frame boat designed specifically for you. You’ll build the frame, steam bend ribs and cockpit coaming, lash nylon cord Inuit style, and sew the frame covering over the course of 12 days. On the last day of the course you’ll even get a chance to test it out on the appropriately icy waters of Lake Superior.

Worth noting:

  • Since Lake Superior seals are scarce, urethane-impregnated nylon is used for the frame covering in the course.
  • The kayak frame is made from Sitka spruce, white cedar, white oak, white ash.
  • An accompanying one-day course in making a traditional, narrow-bladed Greenland-style kayak paddle is also available immediately following the kayak-making course.

Course Details

  • Dates: Mon, Mar 18, 2013 – Fri, Mar 29, 2013
  • Length in days:12
  • Hours: 9am-5pm
  • Tuition: $1,200.00 per student (Regular rate)
  • Materials: Varies ($550+)

For more information visit North House’s website here: Greenlandic Inuit Kayak – Build Your Own


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