How to Build a Kayak
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The following articles are meant to take you through the process of building a wood strip kayak from setup to launch.  We make every effort to cover the details; however the written journal cannot cover the kind of detail that our kayak building video series can cover.   We are happy to take phone calls and emails from customers who have purchased plans and DVD's, however If you have questions about articles on the web site, please log in and ask them in the forum.

Click here if you are looking for the Kayak Plans or here if you are looking for the Kayak kits 

Enjoy the Journey!


Getting Ready to Build your Kayak

Before you can start to build your kayak, there are a number of tasks which will need to be done to get ready to build. You will need to cut your forms, make your strongback, get your stems glued up and get everything mounted and aligned. Everyone likes to get to the actual building of the kayak, however you will find that time spent preparing is time well spent. So take your time, be meticulous and it will pay off.

Making a Strongback

I guess we first need to define what a strongback is as it is likely you don’t use this word every day. A strongback is simply a jig used for building; in our case kayaks. There are many different types of strongbacks and some are more common than others. Our preferred strongback at Sandy Point Boat Works is a simple box strongback. We have used many, however I have found that using the box with a system of buttress blocks for the forms give the greatest control over centering and alignment of the forms. They are simple and inexpensive to build and when built the way that we build them here, can be used for a variety of different boat sizes. We have strongbacks here that are nearly 20 years old and have been used on boats from 10’ to 20’ long. For the rest of this book we will be referring to the box strongback as simply the “strongback”.

The strongback when taken to its simplest form is simply 4 sides and a top. The strongback can be built of either dimensional lumber or our preferred method of ripping ¾” plywood to the dimensions that we need. There are a number of benefits to using decent plywood; chief among them is that it is more dimensionally stable than lumber and not nearly as susceptible to warping. Because the boat you are going to build will likely require a strongback greater than 8’ in length you will be building your strongback in two sections with a connection in between. The exact length of either section is not very critical; however you don’t want any section to be so short that it is difficult to align with the other, so try to keep them similar.



Mounting the Kayak Forms and Preparing the Jig

Now that we finally have all of our preliminary work out of the way, it is time to start to build the boat. These few steps that I am about to go through may well be the most important part of the process. Getting the forms mounted and aligned correctly is essential to the building process. With each set of patterns comes a set of plans which have all of the information you need to place your forms. Somewhere on your plans will be a small table of form spacing’s which will show the spacing from one form to another. Not all forms are necessarily spaced symmetrically so pay attention and check the numbers twice. You would be surprised how many calls we get from people who misplace forms. Unfortunately, once you have started stripping, the only remedy is to remove all the strips, the coaming, align the forms properly and start again; something nobody ever wants to do.

Your strongback is typically a few inches shorter than your kayak. This allows you to strip from one end to the other without the strongback getting in the way. There are a number of ways to start placing the forms. Some people like to find the center and work from there while others like to start from one stem and work their way to the other. It matters little how you get there as long as you get there and keep an eye on the spacing between each form. I have always found it easier to start in the middle because of one small quirk in placing the forms. In every kayak, there will be one form which runs perpendicular to the stem form. One side of the boat, the body form which buts up against the stem form will have to be reversed so that the buttress block is not in the way. This can get confusing if you think too much about it. All you have to remember is that when the measurements are given from form to form, they are always given from the same spot on each form. Because of the logistics of mounting the forms you will want the face of the form opposite the buttress block to be the point on which you measure from one form to the other. The reason you want to use this face is because it will be easy to line up with the lines you are about to put on the strongback.

marking kayak form locationsSo now that we are ready, we need to draw lines perpendicular to the centerline of the strongback at each station mold. Assuming your top is square, you can simply make marks at the appropriate locations and use a carpenters square to draw the line across the strongback. These are the line which you will mount the form. Use a good sharp pencil so that you get a thin precise line. If you make a mistake, sand it off and do it again. Although it may not be intuitive, you should also draw the lines for the split forms as it will give a good point of reference when mounting them to the stem form. Once you have all of your lines in place you can mount the kayak body forms which fall between the stem forms first. Get some screws 2 ½” in length which are made of good material as you might need to take them out and put them in a few times when it comes time to align the forms. It will be more than a little bit frustrating if you strip the heads. I like to use deck screws, but any good steel screw will do the trick. Use two screws, one on each side of the strongback centerline and about 2 ½” from the edges of the top.