The Plan

I want to build a kayak.  I have been wanting to do so for quite a while, since I saw my first strip-built wooden canoe.  It was beautiful, a delicate, glossy thing so much more elegant than my family’s clunky aluminum canoe.  But I was already lusting after a kayak: I fell in love with the vessel from the first time I tried one.

The problems:

1. Space.  I live in a teeny-tiny apartment with no garage.

2. Money.  A wooden kayak built on the cheap will still run $500 or more.

3. Skill and Resources.  I can fight my way around a woodworking shop, and I’m not one to let lack of technical knowledge stop me from doing something, but I don’t own any tools more complex than a hammer and, lets face it, I’d be flying by the seat of my pants.

The solutions:

1. My apartment is big enough to hold the 15′ kayak I want to build, as long as I’m not doing anything that requires lots of ventilation.  When it comes to the final waterproofing steps, I can hopefully move outside and do everything in one fell swoop.

2. Forget wood.  Build with something cheap.  I started out thinking about paper as building material, but it is too light and too brittle (as paper mache) for a serviceable vessel.  So I thought, I’ll reinforce it with cloth.  Then I thought… hmmm… Paper mache and cloth.  I can work with that.  Maybe a bit of wood to reinforce key components.  The best waterproofing and abrasion resistance is apparently fiberglass cloth and 2-part marine epoxy, but that’s expensive, too.  So using alternative materials, cost is slashed down under $100. And if it doesn’t work, I can always salvage materials and build a legit skin-on-frame later.

3.  I know how to sew.  I’ve been doing it since I was four. I have all of the appropriate materials for sewing, too.  And lets face it, kindergartners can manage paper mache.

The plan:

A fifteen-foot, single-person sea kayak built of cloth panels reinforced with paper mache for structure.  Other materials will be used in key areas for additional strength and abrasion/puncture resistance (i.e. vinyl on the base, wood to reinforce the cockpit)

At the moment, I am working on 1:9 scale paper models to come up with a pattern that I like.  Conclusion of the day: paper and scotch tape do not make a seaworthy vessel (I missed a spot with the tape).  This design has some other problems, too, so hopefully version 2.0 will be much better.

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