The modern skin-on-frame kayak is a traditional ultralight craft. Half the weight but stronger than a fiberglass sea kayak. Modern hulls meet traditional build.

Wood Selection and Cutting

Starting from either logs or lumber, the red cedar is hand-picked (1 board per 10 chosen). Then it’s milled to tiny dimensions.

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Marking and cutting tenons

Marking and cutting the tenons of the deck beams is very precise and is a complex boat-building specific process. We use japanese saws and other ultrafine hand tools.

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Creating the mortices

The deck beams must fit perfectly into the mortices of the boat’s gunwales. This is done carefully by hand, and then the deck beams are pegged into place.

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Steaming and bending ribs

Steaming and bending the bamboo ribs is definitely an art. Each rib must be bent to a distinctive shape, and within 10 seconds of exiting the steamer.

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Lashing the stringers and ribs

All the kayak’s parts are lashed together rather than being secured by metal fasteners, making the boat far stronger and more flexible.

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Bending the kayak coaming

Steam-bending of the coaming is fast and furious– with three separate layers, it is laid onto a form and then clamped until set.

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Sewing the bow and stern skin

As we begin to sew the skin on the boat, the bow and stern are very fine and are fitted carefully to create a seam that will become waterproof.

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Sewing the skin

There are two completely separate stitches used to sew the skins on, one to tighten and tension the fabric, the other used to create the final seam.

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Sewing the cockpit coaming

One of the most difficult parts of the process is sewing on the kayak’s cockpit coaming, which is must be done in a single stitch while maintaining tension.

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Coating the skin

The completed skins are coated with a skinboat-specific polyurethane, which is colored by earthen pigments. This process is finicky but results in beautiful skins reminiscent of sealskin and driftwood.

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Finishing touches

No kayak is complete without its complement of deck lines, seat and back brace. Lines are sewn through the kayak’s gunwales making for towable seaworthy straps and a traditional deck layout.

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3 responses to “How a Modern Skin-on-Frame Kayak is Built

  1. My wife and I are interested in attending the workshop this September 2018 in Clayton NY, is there availability and is the price for couples? We’re avid kayakers and would truly enjoy this experience. FYI I saw your kayaks on the TV show “How it’s Made” and visited your website. thanks to get back to me as soon as you can.

  2. I have an old Klepper Aerius frame I wish to modify and skin it with your system. If I were to cover each piece of the frame with something like cellophane plastic wrap, should the polyurethane coated skin be able to be taken off and rolled up and the frame collapsed for storage? Also, I would like to paint some designs on my kayak instead of just one color and was wondering what kinds of info you might have concerning that as well. Thanks, Bill.

  3. How do I register for your class in Cape Charles? How strong do I need to be? Prior woodworking skills? Cockpit cover and spray skirt? I paddle a Current Design Caribou but need something lighter!!!

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