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Boat Building Techniques

Information about boat building techniques

Outline of How to Build a Strip-Built Kayak

Here is a step-by-step overview of the process of building a strip kayak as described in my book. The bulleted links are to videos showing the process. While building a kayak may at first appear to be a big task, it can easily be broken down into a series of small manageable tasks. None of these steps are beyond the capability of the average person who has ever wielded modest hand tools.

What tools do I need to build a kayak

To build a striper from scratch you the minimum tools needed:
Table Saw or Band Saw, (Not required with the kits)
Jig Saw
Block Plane,
Thin Kerf Hand Saw,
Jack Knife,
Sanding Blocks.
A selection of clamps

How much will it cost to build a kayak?

Most of the cost of building a kayak is labor, but doing the work is part of the fun so we won't count that here. Some people are really good at scrounging up materials or have especially good access to quality stuff cheap so we won't count that either, but is worth looking you around for unexpected sources of materials. For example old telephone poles were often cedar...

A strip-built kayak needs about 2 board feet of wood for each foot of boat length. Obviously longer boat and wider boats will need more and short boats will use less, but this lumber will generally cost $150 to $200. Forms for a stripper can be cut out of one sheet of inexpensive plywood or MDF and mounted on a simple 2x4 or plywood box beam for $50-$150.

What do you mean by "Strip-Built"?

"Strip-Building" is the art of bending many, small, thin strips of wood around forms to create a boat shape. The wood is covered with fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin then removed from the forms and the inside is fiberglassed. This method allows a lot of design freedom because just about any shape may be produced. The results are very strong and stiff because of the composite construction with wood surrounded by fiberglass and sealed in epoxy. By varying the thickness of the wood and the amount of fiberglass applied the boat can be supremely light or extremely tough.

The fiberglass cloth be

How long will it take to build a kayak?

The amount of time you take to build a small boat will depend on you previous experience, willingness to push forward, and your attitude. It is possible to pump out in 60 hours, or if you are being a perfectionist, you may end up putting 400 hours into it before you christen the finished boat. As mentioned in the previous page a stitch-and-glue boat will generally go together faster than a strip-built boat. Depending on the design, it is usually about half the time for a stitch and glue design vs a stripper.

How do I build a kayak?

The most accessible techniques for do-it-yourself boat builders involves using wood. It is possible for someone who wants a Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP) kayak for example a fiberglass or Kevlar kayak to make one at home, but you will first have to go through most of the steps of building a wooden boat, so it is time consuming to build your first.

Wood can be worked with commonly available tools, is readily available in most areas and is structurally one of the best boat building materials available. Not because it floats, but because it is lightweight and very strong for it weight. Read m


The word "baidarka" is actually a Russian word. It is the diminutive form of "baidar" which means "boat" so "baidarka" means "small boat". In modern use in the United States, it has come to mean a skin on frame kayak of the type made by the Aleut peoples of Alaska. This usage probably stems from George Dyson's excellent book by that name Baidarka.

Skin on Frame Construction

Picture of Aleut Baidarka and Inuit skin on frame kayak

The original kayaks were built by the Inuit and Aleut "Eskimo" peoples of the Arctic. Living above the tree line they did not have access to unlimited supplies of wood. Instead the built boats using a light weight driftwood frame that they covered with skins. Typically these skins were from seals, but whale skin and cariboo skins were sometimes used. Modern Skin on Frame kayaks typically use synthetic fabric such as Nylon or Dacron.

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