Greenland Kayak Project

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.

This photo shows the skeg box installed. Traditionally the kayaker would tie a skeg on to the boat. It helps you track straight with a beam wind, or a wind coming at your from the side. In this case the skeg will be lowered in to the water via a toggle and cable accessed from the paddlers seat.






























October 2012

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.

Here I pre-epoxied the underside of the the deck, then tied the deck down with rope and then duct taped it.


See the nice clean edge, with no drill holes!


After the deck is done I flipper her over and put a wear strip on the bow and stern keel. This consists of epoxy and microfibers. Very hard, very nice looking compared to a strip of fiberglass batting over the whole keel.


5 Responses to Greenland Kayak Project

  1. faultroy says:

    Very interesting, and I would love to see more specific information. I would also like to hear more specific info on what the differences of a hunting kayak are as opposed to today’s kayaks.

    • I’ll keep posting photos and lessons learned as I go.
      Kayaks today are designed for mass production. Meaning there are some general choices on sizes, and that’s about it. A kayak that you build yourself will be completely custom to your body, as well as your use.
      For example, a kayak used for camping trips needs to have some storage, but it is also best if round bottomed, (not keeled or chined) about 19 feet long on average, and skinny. This will make the kayak fast, and more efficient as it tries to climb up and over its bow wake. (You are always paddling up hill) This is the kind of boat most people would like, because most of us want to take our sea kayaks out for a distance or to camp. Problem is, this boat is big to put on a car, and tippy feeling for those without much paddling experience.
      So boats are being made smaller and smaller so people can transport them, and they are generic so they are usually not as comfortable as they could be, but we make these sacrifices in design for the sake of convenience (usually the manufacturer decides for us)
      Most production kayaks are fitted too large for the paddler. traditionally kayaks were much smaller unless being built to carry cargo or the family.
      On the other hand a hunting kayak used in kelp beds in semi-calm waters will have an upturned stern, (like we associate with Greenland kayaks) which is made this way so that if you are down wind from an animal you can paddle towards it, and then coast without paddling while the boat “weathercocks” and continues to go straight up wind.
      A boat meant for hunting in open water after moving animals needs more speed, and one doesn’t have to worry about designing the boat to weathercock, and so they were built with a low stern, like the baidarka. I’ll have to post some photos to illustrate.
      In general, modern boats are built for fun and the generalist. Traditional boats are built specific, and so they are better at certain aspects, not good at all at others.
      The boat I’m building is about 20″ beam, and about 19′ long. It will be fast due to length, and will be fun to use due to some rocker and chines (though this slows the boat a bit) It is skinny so it will be tippy for novices but faster because of it too. It has a fairly low rear deck so it should track OK with a beam (side) wind, but with the cockpit forward as they are on Greenland kayaks, I will need to put a skeg on it to help it track when the wind picks up. A baidarka does not need a skeg/rudder as the cockpit is far enough back to make the boat track without one.

  2. Andrew Sauter Sargent says:

    Cool cool!

  3. Roman says:

    Hello, my name is Roman and if it is not difficult you can to stashed a dimension of kayak. Or something like this. Ty for this post.

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