A couple of years ago, I had the great idea of building a skin-on-frame kayak. I bought all the books I could find, read them, bought the wood, and started sawing. When I had questions, I posted at online forums, and the Internet gurus quickly answered my questions. It was a pretty fun boat to build, and it is even more fun to paddle it.
It’s also the boat that generates the most responses via email to me, and the main question is how I went about building the kayak. I’ve had on more than one occasion a visitor to the site email me asking me to do an article about building a skin-on-frame kayak. I may write a short article, but I didn’t document the process as I should have, and I’m not sure I could write an article that covers the process like Build Your Own Sea Kayak by Bob Boucher.
The Skinny on the Video
This video covers the process in depth and is a resource that I wish I had had before I started building my skin-on-frame. I found it at my local library, but I imagine it is worth its price to the beginning skin-on-frame builder if you can find a place to buy it. The section on rib bending – the part of the process that I found most frustrating – is worth watching the video alone. It was also interesting seeing the video after building a skin-on-frame to comb it for great tips that I should have used. A few of the great ideas that I liked are these:
- Use a pocketknife to cut the mortises for the ribs.
- Put lines every couple of inches along the top of the gunwales the entire length of the kayak. These are used to line up and square off the deck beams.
- Lash the frame down to leveled sawhorses.
- Finish nail the deck beams to hold them in place while drilling the holes for the pegs.
- Use a pocketknife for cutting the notches for the lashings.
- Cut the rib length after you steam the ribs, but before you put them in the mortises. Use pruning sheers to do this.
- Peg the ribs at the chines instead of messing with lashing.
The Bad Parts of the Video
There isn’t really anything bad about this video, expect for one issue. Every book that I have recommends building an angle into the gunwales from the start. This angle gives the boat its nice flowing sweep at the sheerline. Boucher actually ignored this angle until further into the build and then uses the cuts on the ends of the deck beams to force the angle into the gunwales. This just seemed to make something that is easy to accomplish up front harder, because you have to do it later and fight some of your work. I’d ignore his advice here and work from the books.
This video is a great resource for the future skin-on-frame builder. I highly recommend it, but just make sure you ignore the way he creates the sweep in the sheerline.
Other Skin-On-Frame Kayak Building Resources
If after watching this video, you’re ready to jump in and build your own skin-on-frame kayak, these are the best books I’ve found detailing the process.
- The Aleutian Kayak: Origins, Construction, and Use of the Traditional Seagoing Baidarka
- Building Skin-on-Frame Boats
- Building a Greenland Kayak
- Building the Greenland Kayak : A Manual for Its Contruction and Use
Date Reviewed: February 27, 2006
Reviewed By: Bryan Hansel