Greenland Style Skin on Frame Kayak
Gunwales and ribs

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Silver lake
photo credit: Frank Opila

I started building this kayak around the end of 2004 as a fun shop project -- partly for the experience of building using this technique, and partly to have a covered boat for rougher paddling conditions. Plus, I wanted a light boat that's easy to load up for a quick solo paddle. I've always been intrigued with skin-on-frame construction so I thought I'd give it a try.

Sources:- "Building Skin on Frame Boats" by Robert Morris, and "Building the Greenland Kayak" by Christopher Cunningham. I also used "The Aleutian Kayak" by Wolfgang Brinck, and "QayaQ" by David Zimmerly for reference. Towards the end of construction, I discovered the QajaqUSA website -- a very active forum on building skin-on-frame boats with a vast amount of information on Greenland style kayaks. I could have saved a lot of time in design and construction if I'd found these folks earlier.

no ribs yet

Getting started: The only wood I had to buy was a 16' long 1x6 that I split for the gunwales. The rest of the wood in the frame was from scrap lumber laying around the shop.

Here, the gunwales and keel are assembled, ready to start bending the ribs. This part is all made of softwood: a combination of fir, pine and hemlock.

The first ribs are in place. The ribs are hardwood, 1/4" thick ash, and steam bent. The keel stringer is actually two 8' pieces scarfed together.

A strip of 3/16" thick plastic sheet (ABS) cut to rib width and longer than the length of the longest rib was used to gauge the rib lengths. I placed it in the mortise on one side, clamped it to the opposite gunwale and adjusted the curve until it looked good. A little trial and error to figure out how much to adjust for the real rib, and I was able to pre-cut each rib to length with a minimum of hassle. I found it much easier than the methods in both Morris's and Cunningham's books.

First ribs
all ribs Here, all the ribs are bent and in place. It took all one afternoon and part of another to bend them. They bent pretty easily except for rib #13 -- I broke 4 or 5 attempts before I got one to work. Oddly enough, that was the first one I didn't write the number 13 on. I don't attach much meaning to that -- it's just how it worked out, but it kind of cracked me up.
Detail of the construction: The ribs are mortised into the gunwales and pinned with 1/8" dowels. The cross braces are mitered to fit, doweled into place and then everything is lashed together. This is fun, seat of the pants kind of construction, lots of eyeballing and estimating, not a lot of measuring and calculation. It's really fun. construction detail
boat and model

I built a 1/4 scale model of the boat to work out a few of the construction details -- and I'm glad I did. I positioned the cockpit way too far aft in the model, and was able to answer a lot of questions before starting on the big boat.

It turns out that it takes almost as long to make a model as the full-sized boat.

Here's the new steam box. This was a big improvement over the old dryer-duct steamer I used on the canoe . steam box

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