If you want to build a kayak or canoe from the free plans found on PaddlingLight, you should buy a couple of canoe or kayak building books. Most use different methods, which you can combine to make your boat uniquely your’s. There are lots of books out there to cover in a review, so I’m going to break them down into different categories and arrange them from the first to buy to the last. I’ll write a quick one-paragraph review. I’m leaving lots of books off this list, because I think these are the best.
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Cedar Strip Kayak Building Books
Most of the plans that I do are designed for cedar strip building. These are the best three books for building cedar kayaks.
- The Strip-Built Sea Kayak: Three Rugged, Beautiful Boats You Can Build: If you only buy one book, then buy this one. Nick Schade instructs you on how to build a boat step-by-step, and everything you need to know from stripping, to fiberglassing, to outfitting is included in this book. Lots of great ideas.
- Building Strip-Planked Boats: The newest book by kayak and canoe building authority, Nick Schade. I think this is a must have because it updates lots of the techniques found in The Strip-Built Sea Kayak. This book includes a couple of topics not found elsewhere in a book, including working with hybrid fabrics in cedar strip construction and the use of dyes.
- Kayakcraft: Fine Woodstrip Kayak Construction: Presents a slightly different way to build cedar strip kayaks. Lots of great ideas, but I just don’t like the finished look of the kayak. The rub rail, rubs me wrong.
Cedar Strip Canoe Building Books
- Canoecraft: An Illustrated Guide to Fine Woodstrip Construction: This book includes nice plans, like the Freedom — my favorite canoe. It also takes you through the building process step-by-step. Everything is covered that you need to know. The pictures are gorgeous and the format reflects a fine coffee-table book. I recommend this book for kayak builders too, because there are so many tips for making a good boat in this book.
- Building a Strip Canoe, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by Gil Gilpatrick: Gil Gilpatrick seems like the type of guy that likes to get it done and get it done now. That’s reflected in this book. He uses lots of short-cuts that someone come together in a well-built canoe. His method for building stems is worth the price of this book alone. If you follow these instructions, you don’t have to worry about bending and shaping wood stems. You canoe will have a lighter swing weight, because of the stem weight reduction.
- Strip Built Canoe: How to build a beautiful, lightweight, cedar strip canoe: Well written and easy to follow. Every builder should own this as a third addition to the building library. But, it’s not mandatory.
Skin-on-Frame Kayak Building Books
- Building the Greenland Kayak : A Manual for Its Construction and Use: Christopher Cunningham, editor of Sea Kayaker Magazine, takes you step-by-step through the process of building a skin-on-frame kayak — most of the free plans on this site started as skin-on-frame boats, so maybe you should build on in the traditional way. Cunningham also covers building Greenland-style gear, like paddles.
- Building Skin-on-Frame Boats: Because it’s not in print, it’s expensive. It’s worth having for the varied types of crafts, including a canoe, covered.
Paddle Making Books
- Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own: Covers both canoe and kayak paddle building in great detail. If you just follow the step-by-step directions with the simple suggested tools, you’ll end up with a great-looking paddle.
Stitch-and-Glue Kayak Building Books
- The New Kayak Shop: More Elegant Wooden Kayaks Anyone Can Build: You can build some of the designs on this website with plywood. It’s a fast and easy way to build a boat, but I don’t enjoy the process. This book guided me through my one stitch-and-glue project. Everything I needed to know was in it.
Cedar and Canvas Canoes
- Building the Maine Guide Canoe: All these canoe plans could be built in cedar and canvas. It’s a daunting process where you essentially build two canoes and end up with one, but once you have the mold, it’s relatively easy to build a second canoe. And you end up with a classy classic. There are a couple of cedar and canvas canoe building books, but this seems the easiest to follow.