For years, PaddlingLight has been giving away the free drawings of historic and recent canoe and kayak, but I didn’t know how many plans people were downloading. In the last year I decided to start tracking just a few of the downloads to get a grasp on how many were actually being downloaded. I picked 5 of the 35 free drawings that I offer: a popular historic kayak design that has been built many times, a history canoe that has been built many times (most often in Italy), a canoe that looks interesting but hasn’t been built often (if at all), an original yost-style, skin-on-frame kayak and another historic kayak design.
I was surprised by the number of downloads.
I haven’t seen many pictures of kayaks being built, so I suspect what is going on is that prospective builders are collecting lots of free plans before they eventually settle on a specific design or before they give up the idea of building a canoe or kayak. Regardless, it was an interesting experiment for me.
The drawings that I give away consist of stations and stems overlaid on top of each other. Someone could easily use them to build from. For an upgrade, I offer drawings that show the individual stations and stem on ARCH D paper. The upgrade is ready for printing. You can print at a copy shop and then glue to the plywood and cut stations directly. It makes building significantly easier and it’s worth the $30 in the amount of time saved and accuracy. For an upgrade above that I offer the actually computer models as a download.
My original plan was to do this project for fun and to see if historic canoes and kayaks would get built and then how they would paddle. But, as the project grew and I started to put more time into it, I needed a way to justify my time — it takes about 20+ hours per plan to plan to get it from the historic survey, into the computer and then drawn up. I figured that offering the upgrade would be a good way to get there. I also ask for donations from actual builders. I’ve gotten fewer than I can count on my hands. My plan hasn’t worked.
Last year, I made $260 in drawing sales among the drawings that I’m tracking this way (6 total drawings) — that’s not even enough for a new carbon fiber paddle. And to make it more depressing, $210 of that comes from the sales of my Siskiwit LV design, the only plan that I don’t offer free drawings for.
Here are the totals:
- Iggy — 144 downloads
- Modern Malecite St. John River Canoe – 59 downloads
- 1898 Passamaquoddy Ocean Canoe – 62 downloads
- Siskiwit SOF Sea Kayak Plans – 59 downloads
- Fram Museum 1888 West Greenland Kayak Plans – 48 downloads
If we average and apply the average to all 35 free drawings, it equals about 6,000 free downloads a year. Or about 16 downloads a day every day.
This was an experiment for me.
Now, I need to decide what to do with the free canoe and kayak drawing project. Do I convert everything to a paid project? Do I shut down the free project? Do I do anymore drawings? If I do more drawings, how do I fund my time to do them?
I’m not sure what to do, but my commitment in time just administering the website is significant. I’d like to get feedback on what you think I should do.