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How long does it take to build a cedar kayak?

This is one of the last articles in my building log and represents the beginning of the end. Yet to come is an extend testing report, one article on the changes that I’ve made since I first built it and why I made the changes, but first a set of two articles that answer two question that a builder often asks before embarking on the adventure that is canoe and kayak building: a) How long will this take, and b) How much will this cost?

When I first started this build, I made a decision; I would track my hours and expenditures on a spreadsheet in order to give myself a better idea of the actual cost and time spent and also to provide a good idea for first time builders. In this half of the article, I’ll list my time spent, but first, I’m going to preface it by listing my experience level going into the project.

Building a cedar kayak takes a long time and the reward is paddling.
Building a cedar kayak takes a long time and the reward is paddling.

Assumptions on my Kayak Building Experience

This was the fifth boat that I’ve built for myself, and I’ve been involved on the builds of several other boats, including doing most the work on one other. In addition, I come from a family of carpenters and handymen. My family homesteaded in northeast Iowa and built their farms from the ground up, when they moved into the city, they took up jobs as carpenters. My great grandfather Web was a carpenter, and my grandfather was a carpenter and land developer, my father is a carpenter and contractor and my uncle is a carpenter and excavator. When I was growing up, I worked for both my father and uncle. And during some summers in college, I helped my father, and then after college for one winter and spring, I worked with my father while we built a house. I’ve done everything from framing to finish work, so I have a little wood working experience”¦. But, I’m not a master, like many of the great canoe and kayak builder’s who participate in the forums. My skill in kayak and canoe building is average.

So, now that you know a little about me and the skills I bring to the build, let me preface these numbers with what I expect from a boat that I’ve built. I build these things to paddle, and, yes, I do like them to look nice, but I really just want to be able to paddle them. It’s the reward of paddling my own boat that is worth all the work and toil. I’m not about perfection. I’m about function. This stems from the lack of skill, but mainly from the feeling of urgency to get a boat on the water.

So, How Long Does it Take to Build a Cedar Kayak?

So, what am I trying to say? With this kayak, I built my own design and because of that, I spent a good deal of time on issues that a first time builder with a plan and a book doesn’t have to deal with, also the hatches took twice to three times as long as flush plywood lip hatches took, and my layback lounge issues took forever, and the messing around I did with rebuilding the front deck, etc”¦. Yes, I’ve worked with wood. Yes, I’ve built boats before. But, the extra time I spent dealing with problems that a first time builder wouldn’t face, I think more than makes up in time any lack of woodworking experience that a first time builder might have when comparing them to me, and any lack of experience in building a kayak. So, I guess, I’m trying to say that I think this is about the average amount of time that a beginner that wants to build a functional but not furniture quality kayak will take. I’ve seen it done faster, and I’ve heard that it can take twice to three times as long, but this is a good measure. If you want to get fancy, please, do, but expect it to take a ton longer.

Phew, long introduction to a long series of articles. Here’s the goods:

Builder’s Log: Time Spent Building this Kayak

    Hours Spent – Job

  • 4 Hours Spent – Buy strips, mill 3/4 of boards strips
  • 6 Hours Spent – Mill strips, buy ply, plot forms
  • 1.75 Hours Spent – plot forms fixing screw-ups
  • 5 Hours Spent – cut forms, build strong back
  • 7 Hours Spent – layout strongback(1), bead&cove
  • 9 Hours Spent – set-up strongback (1/2), stripping
  • 7 Hours Spent – stripping
  • 6 Hours Spent – stripping football of kayak
  • 4 Hours Spent – stripping football of kayak
  • 4 Hours Spent – strip deck, remove strips
  • 9 Hours Spent – recut deck shape, strip 3/4 of deck
  • 7 Hours Spent – strip deck, cut layback lounge
  • 3 Hours Spent – layback lounge, stems, pull staples
  • 1.5 Hours Spent – pull staples, 1/4 plane
  • 4 Hours Spent – 3/4 plane
  • 6.5 Hours Spent – sand, precoat epoxy
  • 4 Hours Spent – fiberglassing hull, fill coat one
  • 6 Hours Spent – Layback lounge redo, plan deck
  • 5 Hours Spent – Sand deck, fill holes
  • 3 Hours Spent – Finish sanding, pre-coat
  • 2 Hours Spent – fiberglass deck
  • 5 Hours Spent – shape, sand, glass inside
  • 5 Hours Spent – cut cockpit, build, glass riser
  • 2 Hours Spent – build coaming lip
  • 6 Hours Spent – build coaming lip,sand,glass inside hull
  • 3 Hours Spent – hatches cut-out, build up plywood lips
  • 6 Hours Spent – build up plywood lips, screwed around with Babina style front opening, scraped opening, built front hatch drop, compass mount
  • 2 Hours Spent – glued in hatches rear
  • 4 Hours Spent – glassed front hatch/compass mount area
  • 4 Hours Spent – glued in front hatch, prepped hull/deck seams for joining/ built third bulkhead, glassed bulkheads, shaped hatch lips inside deck
  • 2 Hours Spent – glass hatches inside
  • 3 Hours Spent – inside seams
  • Siskiwit Bay kayak on the beach at Two Island Lake, MN.
    Siskiwit Bay kayak on the beach at Two Island Lake, MN.
  • 3.5 Hours Spent – installed one bulkhead, sanded outside seams, glassed outside seams
  • 6 Hours Spent – wash, sand whole kayak with 80 grit, test for leaks
  • 3.5 Hours Spent – recoat epoxy outside after sanding, finish glassing bulkheads
  • 3 Hours Spent – pad eyes, cut holes in deck
  • 6 Hours Spent – varnish
  • 10 Hours Spent – misc rebuild’s after on the water
  • Total Hours Spent 178.75

Summary of time spent

  • Set-up: 32.75 hours
  • Stripping: 40 hours
  • Shape and sanding: 32 hours
  • Glassing: 16 hours
  • Hatches: 20 hours
  • Bulkheads & seams: 8.5 hours
  • Outfitting: 3 hours
  • Coaming: 7 hours
  • Varnish :6 hours
  • Misc: 13ish hours


There you have it. An hour by hour of how I spent my time building this kayak. I spent 178.75 hours on this kayak. I started in August and ended in November. For my next one, I’m going to try and spend only 60 to 80 hours. Wish me luck.

Note: I’m not including the design time on this kayak. I really have no idea, but I would guess that I have over 100 hours of research, design, calculations, etc… Plus, a large amount of time studying and researching kayak and canoe design and boat design in general. I’d say I put in somewhere around two semesters worth of study before attempting to design my own boat. And it was worth it. I love this kayak.

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