Wooden Kayaks - Step back in time
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Aficionados would say they are the connoisseur’s kayak and seeing wooden kayaks on the water it’s difficult to argue. The character of the wood and grain adds a beauty to wooden kayaks that is missing in plastic or composite models. Glistening as they glide through the water, the subtle changes in colour of the wood and the complex craftsmanship are admired by traditionalists and radicals alike.
Wooden kayaks are made using traditional techniques and can be bought ready made, in kit form or from plans. Custom wood kayak companies also offer a design and build service. For many though, the real thrill of paddling a wooden kayak is knowing that they have put the whole boat together themselves.
For such a beautiful craft wooden kayaks are surprisingly accessible to first time boat builders as they are easy and quick to construct as well as relatively inexpensive. Wooden kayaks are made from cedar strips glued together over a mold and then covered with fibreglass cloth and epoxy. Although the construction technique itself isn’t difficult you do need plenty of patience. For a first time project it’s best to buy pre-milled strips as there’s less room for error and no need for splicing.
They are generally very light, meaning that they’re very fast. Because they have no internal reinforcements, even larger expedition-size kayaks are light, making loading onto a roof rack much easier than with a plastic kayak. A light hull also means that a wooden kayak paddles like a dream, strokes are more efficient and manoeuvring is easier, making wooden kayaks ideal for long distance journeys. Wooden kayaks also have incredible strength and stiffness which gives them great solidity even in the face of big wave slams.
So how much does it cost to build a wooden kayak?
A top notch wooden kayak, built with your own free labor, costs about the same as a cheaper poly kayak - in the region of about $700. Kits cost between $700 and $1000 and custom made boats even more. However, the real joy in building your own kayak is not in seeing a financial saving but in paddling a boat built by your own hands and seeing it perform at sea or on a lake.
For tips on building your own wooden kayaks check out the users forums on the kayak kit manufacturers’ websites. They’re a great source of information and tips and a good place to begin the process of choosing a kit to build.
For more information see our page on kayak kits.