How to Make a Skin-on-Frame Kayak

How to Make a Skin-on-Frame Kayak
Skin-on-frame kayaks also are known as Greenland kayaks, named for the region of the world where they were designed and used as transport and fishing kayaks. Early kayak shells were made from hardened animal skins, but the "skin" today is usually a canvas shell. Although not as durable as plastic or fiberglass boats, skin-on-frame kayaks are extremely light and can be ideal for long distance touring in lakes or the ocean. The construction process is similar to building an all wooden boat, with the exception of the kayak's outer hull.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Soft wood
  • Hard wood
  • Saws
  • Steam bending equipment
  • Clamps
  • Lashing
  • Canvas
  • Paint
Step 1
Select a set of plans. There are several models of skin-on-frame kayaks, and plans can be found in books or online, sometimes for free. Some plans also include templates and forms, while others simple provide measurements and diagrams.
Step 2
Cut and assemble the gunwales and keel. The type of wood used is a matter of personal choice, though fir, pine, and other softwoods are all good choices. Exact dimensions will vary according to the plans for your particular boat model.
Step 3
Attach the ribs to the gunwales and keel. Ribs are made from hardwood, usually ash, and must be cut and steam bent. Your plans will provide details on the curve for bending each rib. The easiest way to bend the wood is to cut a form based on the plans and clamp the wood to the form during the steam bending process.
Step 4
Form and attach the cockpit rim. This again is made from hardwood and must be bent into shape according to your boat plans. The bending process is the same as for the ribs, and details on curvature and measurements will be in your plans.
Step 5
Wrap the canvas skin around the frame and stretch until the fabric is tight. Most builders either attach one end of the skin to the frame, wrap the fabric around and stretch it before attaching the other end or lace line through the top of the skin and then pull it tight like lacing a shoe once the skin is wrapped around the frame. Some plans describe other methods for getting the skin tight around the frame.
Step 6
Paint several layers of enamel paint onto the skin. This will protect the canvas and add rigidity to the canvas shell.

Article Written By Christopher Williams

Christopher Williams has spent over 11 years working in the information technology, health care and outdoor recreation fields. He has over seven years of technical and educational writing experience, and has brought strong skills and passion to the Demand Studios team in articles for eHow and Trails in 2009.

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