There aren't many things these days you can make yourself that is cheaper and better preforming then what you can buy off the shelf from some big factory but Skin on Frame Kayaks are an exception. At around 30 pounds with incredible durability they will out shine almost any factory made kayak you can find, not to mention that it can be custom fitted to you and what you want to do with it.
To start the process you'll need to contact us so we can work out the details of your kayak. Below are the main options and explanations of what we offer so you can familiarize yourself with what we can do. If you don't feel like reading just get in touch and we can explain in person. Or if you already know what you want or have plans from somewhere else, no problem, we can do that.
The main hull options are width, length and shape and they relate directly to your size and what you want to do with your kayak. The hull is the main factor for how your kayak will perform. Manoeuvrability and stability are decided by the hull shape and our designs have been tried and tested to have a good balance of these features. This means only a couple decisions are needed to choose a stable and comfortable kayak.
Chines are the lines that form the long shape of the hull and we offer two choices here, Multi/Soft or Single/Hard. Multi chines provide a rounder hull shape at the cost of a bit more weight and build complication. Hard chine kayaks have a more angular hull shape, are a little lighter and easier to build.
Don't confuse width with stability. How stable a kayak is depends more on the hull shape then the width. Our kayaks are shaped to have a nice balance of initial and secondary stability as well as sea worthiness and manoeuvrability. You should base the kayak width on your body size for a proper fit by adding between 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) to distance across your back from hip to hip. It's important to note that the designs aren't just scaled to different widths, each one is reworked for it's specific width. Our standard sizes range between 18 to 24 inches (46.5 to 61 cm) measured across the widest part of the deck but if you aren't standard size we can adjust one of our designs to fit.
The longer the kayak the faster it can potentially go through the water, but potential that can't be used just turns into extra weight you have to push around. A 14.5 foot kayak will easily maintain an average paddling speed and use less of your energy doing it then a 17 footer. My two main kayaks are 18.5' and 14.5', they are both great to paddle but there is no doubt I'm less tired after a day in the shorter one.
For touring a longer boat does have more internal space for camp gear but most of that space is in the pointy ends and doesn't make a substantial difference. If you need internal storage room it's more effective raise the decks. In the end it's your kayak and the most important aspect is that it fits you.
Rocker is the length wise curve of the keel from end to end. More rocker equals quicker and easier turning, less rocker equals better travelling in a straight line. Most of our kayaks are designed for straighter tracking with moderate rocker but still turn well when a edging or leaning is applied. Rocker is an inherent part of the design and not something we can adjust easily. If you want lots of rocker we can find a design that works for you and work from that.
The top part of the kayak where most of the aesthetics come into play. The decks won't effect paddling performance much but can make a difference in internal storage area, foot room and the ability to roll.
We offer two options for the front deck of your kayak. A single beam running from the cockpit to the bow giving a peaked deck and lots of water shedding ability or a double beam which gives a flatter deck providing more foot room and storage area. In both cases the deck height can be adjusted fit you and personal preferences.
You can choose from completely flat across the gunnels or raised as high as you like for more internal storage. The flat deck has the least amount of internal storage but works best for Lay Back Rolls. The raised deck gives more internal storage room and provides a higher backrest when resting but you can always strap dry bags on the outside of a flat deck when touring.
The hole you slide into and attach your spray skirt to. We provide plywood versions or a more traditional steam bent wood coaming. They both function the same, however the steam bent version takes much longer to make. We provide the coaming pre-made if you are taking a class or buying a kit. Our main design is egg shaped, ideally a couple inches narrower then the kayak for aesthetics and at a length that makes it easy to get yourself into.
We prefer a system of non stretching lines using toggles for tightening which look and work great. Adding beads to the lines helps keep them off the deck making it easier to slide your paddle under them from a distance. Our lines are plenty strong enough to lift the kayak or pull yourself onto it with. We use either very strong leather cords or for ultimate strength a rope called AmSteel. For toggles and beads we use bone (real of artificial) or various hard woods.
The shape at each end of the kayak and we typically use a squared off slightly angled shape. Big swoopy ends are more traditional but so is paddling in ice choked water where those shapes let you go up and over easily. Squaring off the ends keeps the water length and overall length closer to the same, eliminating unused weight and length. We can also make special order Baidarka styled ends if you prefer but they do add build complexity.
There are many approaches out there to cover and seal a kayak frame. We have settled on what we believe to be the best material and most durable coating. The skinning and coating is one of the only things we don't offer custom requests for. After all the work of building the frame we will only cover it with what we think to be the best choice both for a durable kayak and for your safety.
Ballistic Nylon is our fabric of choice. It comes in a few different weights and we have tried most of them but now we recommend the lightest most of the time. Once the Urethane is applied even the lightest fabric is as tough as you could want and the kayak will weigh less both from the thinner fabric and the smaller amount of coating needed.
Adding dye to the fabric isn't a good idea, it will prevent the Urethane from adhering properly and de-laminated spots will start to show up after a couple years, especially if exposed to the sun for long periods of time. The better option is add Rare Earth Pigment to the Urethane before applying it or painting on top of the coating after it has dried. Painting on top with a urethane based paint is a great way to add logos, designs, names etc. Leaving the natural white skin colour results in a yellowing over time which gives a very nice parchment or rawhide look to the kayak.
We exclusively use a two part Urethane coating from the Skin Boat Store. It is incredibly durable and with a little care will last many years. It takes a bit more time and effort to apply then just painting but we believe a couple hours spent now will pay off in a few extra years of use later. If you don't have time now to do it right when will you?