Section 4: Sea Kayak Construction

Author: Nick Schade

How do I build a kayak?

Strip-built (SB) and Stitch & Glue (S&G) are two methods of home-building a kayak. There are also several methods of constructing "traditional" skin covered kayaks, some other techniques for plywood, and you can also use a mold. One method of building skin and frame boats is described here. Other methods may be added to the FAQ at a later date.

Strip Built Vs. Stitch & Glue:

The two building processes SB and S&G are quite different. In SB you bend narrow strips around a form. With S&G there is no form. You take shaped plywood panels, stitch them edge-to-edge, then glue them together. What this means is that with SB you can make smooth rounded shapes. With S&G you end up with angles running lengthwise for a "hard-chined" shape. Both shapes are good. Some people prefer a hard-chined boat.

Neither method produces a "better" boat. Strip Built gives more design freedom (you can make it hard-chined if desired.), and looks nicer (plywood looks alright but strips of cedar, redwood and pine are beautiful). SB can make a lighter weight boat but S&G can also be light.

S&G is easier. There is less setup involved and somewhat easier finish work.

The Process:

The following are outlines for each process:


The basic process for a strip built kayak is this:

1. Draw out the forms full size,
2. Paste the drawings to cheap plywood,
3. Cut out the forms using the saber-saw or band-saw,
4. Cut a hole in the middle of the forms,
5. String the forms on a straight two-by-four,
6. Lay 3/4" x 1/4" strips on the forms and staple in place,
7. Add strips, gluing edge to edge, and stapling,
8. When stripped all the way around, pull the staples,
9. Plane smooth,
10. Sand smoother,
11. Fiber-glass the outside,
12. Remove the shell from the forms in two halves (deck and hull),
13. Plane and sand the inside,
14. Fiber-glass the inside,
15. Glue the deck and hull back together,
16. Sand,
17. Varnish, go to 16 and repeat until bored,
18. Paddle.

This process shouldn't take more than three months. The weight of these boats with a good protective layer of glass is 45 lbs or less. Materials cost about $300 US total.


The basic process for Stitch & Glue is:

1. "Scarf" together several pieces of plywood (Make one big sheet out of several 4x8 sheets)
2. Draw the parts full-sized on the plywood.
3. Cutout the parts.
4. Drill small holes along the edges of the parts ever 3" to 5".
5. With wire "stitch" the panels for the hull together through the drilled holes.
6. Glue the interior seams with a "fillet" of thickened resin covered with 'glass tape.
7. repeat 5 & 6 for the deck.
8. Bond together the deck and hull in a similar manner.
9. Cut the wires and pull them out or sand them down.
10. "Radius" the corners.
11. Glass the outside. (optional but recommend on the bottom)
12. Sand and Paint.
13. Paddle.

This process takes about 1 to 1 1/2 months worth of weekends and evenings. Weight with glass on the bottom is about 40 lbs. Material cost about $200 US.


The basic process for Skin and Frame is:

1. Cut two gunwhale pieces, symmetrical about the grain, from a 16ft. plank.
2. Cut and plane an identical angle in both ends of the two pieces so that when they are placed in a 'boat' shape, they meet flat.
3. Tie the ends together and establish your shear-line shape by putting spacers between the two pieces. Peg the ends of the gunwhales together.
4. Cut about 12-15 deck supports to hold the shape of gunwhales. One serves as a footbrace, one is right behind the cockpit as a back support, and the two in front of the cockpit should be arched to provide knee room and easy entry. Peg or mortice-tenon these supports in and lash them to the gunwhales.
5. Cut slots in the bottom of the gunwhales for ribs.
6. Cut stem and stern pieces from a plank. These should meet the gunwhales smoothly and provide an attachment point for the keel. Lash them to the gunwhales.
7. Steam, cut, and bend ribs. The ribs will establish the bottom shape of the hull. Peg the ribs into the gunwhales if desired.
8. Cut chine stringers and a keel piece to fit, peg to the ribs if desired, peg and lash to the stem and stern pieces.
9. Skin the boat with your choice of material.
10. Cut and bend a cockpit coaming, sew it to the skin.
11. Paint the skin to waterproof it if necessary.
12. Paddle.

This is obviously a much-simplified list of steps. It takes about 100 hours to build a boat this way, about 3 months of weekends. Weight is less than 40 pounds. Material cost is about $200 US.


Where can I get a kit to build a kayak?

Strip Built:

Guillemot Kayaks
Nick Schade
10 Ash Swamp Rd, Apt I
Glastonbury, CT 06033
Phone: (860)659-8847
- Unique performance kayaks. 7 designs and growing
- Sea kayak plans and kits,
- Spooned & feathered paddle plan
- send $2 for more info

the Newfound Woodworks
RFD #2 Box 850
Bristol, NH 03222
Phone: (603)744-6872
- Kayak and Canoe kits
- Cove and bead strips
- Epoxy and glass

Bruce Winterbon
RR 1 Deep River,Ont.
K0J 1P0
Phone: (613)584-3930
Internet: bk850-at-FreeNet.Carleton.CA
- plans for double-paddle canoe
- boat design program for PC
- polyester resin, glass cloth, footrests,...

Henry (Mac) McCarthy
1705 Andera Place
Sarasota, Fl 34235
Phone:(813) 953-7660
- Wee Lassie

Outer Island Kayak
c/o Jason Designs
230 East Main St.
Branford, CT 06405
Phone:(203) 481-6815
- 1 West Greenland style design

DR Designs
821 Dock St. #3-6
Tacoma, Washington 98402
- four models, patterns and instructions

Minnesota Canoe Association
P.O. Box 13567
Dinkytown Station
Minneapolis, MN 55414
- instructions & plans
- canoes & kayaks

Laughing Loon
Rob Macks
833N Colrain Rd.
Greenfield, MA 01301
Phone: (413)773-5375
- Kayaks and Canoes

Loon Kayaks
HCR 32 Box 253
Semasco Estates, ME 04565
Phone: (207)389-1565
- Several models

Redwing Designs
John Winters
Box 283
Burk's Falls, Ont
P0A 1C0
Internet: jwinters-at-ONLINK.NET
- Kayaks and Canoes

Stitch and Glue:

Chesapeake Light Craft, Inc.
1805 George Avenue
Annapolis, MD 21401
Phone: (410)267-0137
- About 10 Models
- kits, plans, and finished boats
- Ocoume Plywood
- epoxy, fiberglass, hardware, seats, rudders
- other stuff for kayak builders

Glen-L Marine
9152 Rosecrans Ave.
PO Box 1804WA
Bellflower, CA 90706
Phone: (562)630-6258
FAX: (562)630-6280
- A 17' Touring Sea Kayak-one person(stitch-n-glue)
- 19'9" Sea Kayak Two-two person (s&g also)
- 13' or 15' Flat bottom kayak (standard sawn frame construction)
- 12' or 14' Canoe/Kayak "Can-Yak" (standard sawn frame construction)
- 9' Kid's kayak "Kid-Yak" (s&g)


Rob Bryan
Kennebec Designs
P.O. Box 475
Woolwich, ME 04579
- Seguin

Spring Harbor Kayak Company
5156 Spring Court
Madison, WI 53705
- Ganymede (single)
- Gemini (double)

Pygmy Sea Kayaks
P.O. Box 1529
227 Jackson St.
Port Townsend, WA 98368
Phone: (360)385-6143
Fax: (360)379-0227
- Multichine kits

John D Teitsheid
Star Rt 2, Box 175
Crescent City, FL 32112
- Double paddle canoe

Hudson Canoe
14 Hillside Avenue
Croton, NY 10520
Phone: (914)271-5387
- Angmassalik

Jim Michalak
118 E. Randle
Lebonon, IL 62254
- Toto double paddle canoe
- info $1

San Javier Kayak
2425B Channing Way #220
Berkeley, CA 94704
- West Greenland Sea Kayak

Frame and Skin:

Boucher Kayak Company
1907 Ludington Avenue
Wauwatosa, WI 53226
Phone: (414)476-3787
- plans, kits, video. Greenland style

Dyson, Baidarka & Company
435 W. Holly St.
Bellingham, WA 98225
Phone: (206)734-9226
FAX: (206)671-9736
- Aleut style plans, materials including heatshrinkable nylon
- (14, 15, and 26 ounces/sq yard, uncoated, approx 6ft width)

Baidarka Historical Society
Box 5454
Bellingham WA 98227
- Distributes those 5 or 6 of David Zimmerly's plans that document Aleut boats.
- Distributes some rather obscure books.

R. Bruce Lemon
P.O. Box 54A
Jacksonville, NY 14854
Phone: (607)387-8000
- Aleut style, plans, kits, video

Stimson Marine, Inc.
RR1, Box 524, River Rd.
Boothbay, Maine 04537
Phone: (207)633-7252
FAX: (207)633-6058
- Heat shrink daycron skin

Hand Crafted Kayaks
P.O. Box 580
Eastsound, WA 98245
Phone: (206)376-3677
- Traditional Eskimo wood kayaks

Kayak Way
P.O. Box 451
Eastsound, WA 98245
Phone: (206)376-4754
- Design, prototyping, building

The Indian River Canoe and Kayak Company, Inc.
1861 So. Patrick Drive
Suite 200
Indian Harbor Beach, FL 32937
Phone: (800)237-8400
- Inuit based


Spartina Kayak Co.
105-A Jordon Rd.
S. Dartmouth, MA 02748
Phone: (508)998-5121
- Fiberglass hull, strip deck kit

Lake Watercraft
David A. Lake
RR 3 Box 845
Wiscasset, ME 04578
Phone: (207)443-6677
- "Chewonki" Sea Kayak, plywood

Baldwin Boat Company
RFD 2 Box 268
Hoxie Hill Rd.
Orrington, ME 04474
- Kits and completed kayaks in FRP and Kevlar

Mackinac Boatworks
9600 Seventeen Mile Rd.
Marshall, MI 49068
Phone: (616)781-6974
- Scooter

Island Canoe
3556-C West Blakely
Bainbridge Island, WA 98100-2205
- canoe, kayak, historic decked canoe
- info $1

WoodenBoat Store
PO Box 78,
Brooklin, Maine 04616
Phone: (800)273-7447

The Wooden Boat Shop
1007 NE Boat St
Seattle, WA 98105
Phone: (206)634-3600
Toll Free: (800)933-3600
FAX: (206)632-9101
- Stitch and Glue kits and plans
- plans for 7 fast, ultralight kayaks
- all materials, supplies, and tools
- marine mahogany
- expert advice from builders and paddlers

16-42 Aqualane
Tonawanda, NY 14150

Boat Plans International Ltd.
Box 18000-WB
Boulder, CO 80308
Phone: (800)782-7218

Sea Bright Kayak
Sea Bright, NJ 07760
Phone: (908)530-8146
- Plastic and PVC pipe 16' kit

Nomad Kayaks
4818 Rive Sud
L*vis, Qc, CANADA, G6W 5N6
Phone: (418)838-0338
- Composite Kayak kits
- Single or Twin

Superior Kayaks
Mark Rogers
108 Menasha
Whitelaw, WI 54247
Phone: (414)732-3784
- Several plywood designs
- Classes on Greenland and Aleutian style boat construction.


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