I’ve been building skin-on-frame kayaks for over 10 years now. This year I wanted to try something different.
As a sea kayak instructor and guide I like to have a boat with built-in floatation and easy hatch access for day trips. I decided to build a composite plywood kayak but with a traditional west Greenland form.
There are many kits out there (see stitch-and-glue) for building your own kayak. Almost all that I have seen are not true to traditional form. This is OK for most of us, since most of us don’t use kayaks for what they were traditionally used for: Hunting and/or long distance travel and THEN hunting, pulling heavy sea creatures behind us, etc. However traditional lines are time tested for open waters, and are built for people who are in paddling shape, not the generic weekend paddler most production boats are made for. I wanted a real boat. I also didn’t want all the visible stitching holes most boats are left with.
If I had my own CAD program I would have designed it myself, but instead I went with a design by Superior Kayaks out of Wisconsin. He is also a skin-on-frame boat builder and knows how a kayak should be shaped. He also came up with a great way to teach one who has never used fiberglass or epoxy how to do it the right way. Anyone can mix epoxy. The instructions for this boat tells you how to make it come out better than some factory produced boats.
Are you turned off by the “non-traditional” fiberglass/epoxy? Please realize that Cedar-strip canoes are built with the same materials. Even skin boats these days are made with nylon and polyurethane. I’m OK with it. It’s going to be a cool boat!
OK. So to start a plywood boat, you need the wood cut to shape. In this case 4mm Okume marine-grade plywood was used.
I had to coat the inside of all pieces with epoxy, (wetting out) then apply fiberglass and more epoxy. I had three tables-full like this.
March 3, 2012
This is skipping ahead a bit! (like 4 months. I must have more in-between photos somewhere…) You take the pieces and “glue” (you make glue with epoxy, wood flour, and glass) them together according to a jig (not shown) the brown seams are this glue. There was a lot of in-between work: sanding, cleaning, shaping, holes pre-drilled and filled (so water won’t get to the wood) to be drilled out again later, etc. This picture is showing the hull inside completed and almost ready for the deck to be glued on. The outside of the boat has no epoxy or fiberglass on it yet.
Next I put on the deck by bending it down and securing with rope, then duct tape. Again, I really like how this avoids the use of “stich and glue” wires through the wood. It came out really clean.