Last winter me and my friend Carl-Johan Rosén built our own kayaks at Slakthusateljéerna in Stockholm.
[Kayak Building at Slakthusateljéerna. Photos: Erik Sjödin and Carl-Johan Rosén]
The kayaks we built are skin-on-frame kayaks. We made the frames of found wood and used different materials for the skins. The white one is nylon coated with polyurethane varnish. The black is PVC. Both are pretty cheap, and work fine, but the nylon is much more durable and I like the feeling of it better. Neither is perfect from an environmental point of view.
I think the next one I do will be with either a recycled tarp or something organic such as hemp or cotton canvas. After seals but before synthetic fabrics people used canvas coated with mixtures of linseed oil and tar. Ideally I would like to find a material that is waterproof, durable, non-toxic and either recyclable or biodegradable. Re-skinning a kayak is not a big deal so it doesn’t have to last forever.
Skin-on-frame kayaks can be very light, durable, functional, and inexpensive and easy to build. In many ways they can equal or be better than modern glassfiber kayaks. However, they are not as safe as modern sea kayaks, mostly because they don’t have waterproof compartments. Therefore it’s even more important to practice rescue techniques and use safety equipment such as a personal floating device, float bags, pump, paddle float and good clothes.