I made an 8' Folding Kayak for around $100 based on plans by Jess E. Rathburn originally published in Popular Mechanics in 1963. The plans have been modified by multiple people and instructions are available online for free in various locations:

http://www.vintageprojects.com/boats/folding-kayak.pdf (original plans)

I've attempted to gather the most helpful tips and modification from each set of plans.

The kayak is made of plywood and canvas, and is bonded together with contact cement. The entire boat is coated in latex primer and paint, which waterproofs it. It folds up for easy storage, and is relatively easy to carry short distances.

Step 1: Gather and Prepare Materials

These are the materials you will need to make one kayak:
  • 2 - 1/4" 4' x 8' Sheets Untreated Plywood, smooth on one side
  • 1 piece wood lath
  • 1" x 2" wood for seat support rails (about 2' - 3')
  • Exterior Latex Primer
  • Exterior Latex Paint
  • 200" Heavy Canvas, untreated
  • Waterproof Wood Glue
  • 2 - 2" Screws and Matching Nuts
  • Heavy Duty Velcro
  • Contact Cement (the strong stuff that creates fumes that will explode without good ventilation!)
  • 6 or more - "C" Clamps

One of the sheets of plywood must be cut into four 1' x 8' pieces, the home improvement store will likely make these cuts for you for free if you ask.

<p>Hi Wizgirl, I also made one a couple of years ago, still use it. Not sure what was more fun, making the boat or using it!</p>
How is this boat holding up?
how much did you pay for the canvas ?
how long did it take to build and finish this kayak ?
wanting to try this but has anyone tried silicone treated nylon? thinking it may make it lighter...plus it's already waterproof.
Why is one Orange and gray, and then yellow in the water ? Did you make two of them ?
<p>Same kayak, just different lighting.</p>
Hola, yo fabrique uno de madera, con las mismas dimensiones
Esta es una prueba con mi hijo Daniel
Nice splash rail! You added it? I may add one to mine! Good idea! Muchas gracias amigo!
Muchas gracias, pienso hacer uno mas grande, ya que yo soy mas gordito, me anim&oacute; mucho lo que tu hiciste. Saludos. Por cierto donde lo probamos es el rio Caroni, afluente del Rio Orinoco, en Venezuela
Amigo, I like the rail / splash guard you added! Nice, muchas gracias!
Great job and nicely presented! <br> <br>Have you seen this link?: <br> <br>http://foldingkayaks.org/build.shtml <br> <br>It takes you to a version a gentlemen by the name of Pax Rolfe built some ten years ago with two pieces of coroplast (since coroplast is flexible, he dispenses with the canvas membrane in the centerline) <br>All the best.
Your link won't work!
You are right. It seems the site no longer exists. But googling for Pax Rolfe threw this site, where the same (rather scanty) information was copy-pasted: <br> <br>http://www.foldingkayaks.org/WP/?page_id=8
Thanks for the link. The coroplast kayak looks really cool!
My brother just called. He wants the plans for this. I can't find them. I will give him the web site info. He wants to make a ten or twelve foot model. More stable and less prone to sideward movement! Thanks.
Hey, have you seen my instructable (pumkinseed kayak) ? Our kayaks are identicle , except mine is made not to fold, as the supports fell in one day and I sank. So I opted to make them permanent . Mine is red! Nice job!
I did see it, it's sweet! I find the supports somewhat hard to remove and insert, but it has gotten easier over time. Your camping chair is really cool!
Thank you!
where did you get the canvas <br>
Local fabric store.
hey can you post a video of you folding it and unfolding it in addition to the photo o you riding it? it would be really helpful to see the difference between this and a normal kayak
Hi! <br>want know long many this ok? see put thing no was in red look there is look at not information no the web not me in want send information no this want you have ok have you no big lake for camping or fish time how work ou and good luck with ?
for the bottom of the boat are the two sides different lengths or is that optical illusion.
They are all the same... the wood was stacked when it was cut... they are identical.
ill build one this year in shop class. I need something to prove my greatness over the rednecks lol
Hahahahhahah! Awesome!
Hello, Great instructable! This is a brilliant kayak you've built but i was just wondering what sort of conditions this can go in, As i live near the sea and was wondering whether it would be to rough for the kayak.
Hello, thanks! I wouldn't take it in anything rougher that what you see in the video I posted. The larger waves started splashing water into the kayak. With a spray skirt, it could likely handle rougher water.
Nice Kayak,Where Did You Get The Canvas From?If You Don`t Mind My Asking.
Thanks! I got mine at a local Hancock Fabrics.
I was wondering if anyone had an idea how to use this as a dual purpose Kayak / Sailboat. Without modifing the original kayak, maybe by bolting a through hull mount for a bracket to attach a keel to for stability. Then somehow make a mount for the mast somewhere that would run through the tarp and be able to attach it easily. If thats possible where would I need to attach those brackets. Thanks for any advice.
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Looks good. Do you think a tarp would work in place of canvas?
No, I don't think it would work, tarps rip too easily. Are you making one?
When you say &quot;heavy duty&quot; canvas, what does that mean?<br><br>The cheapest canvas I know of is the drop cloths they sell in the hardware store paint section. I've seen them in directions to make tepees and &quot;wall&quot; tents.
Beautiful instructabIe! <br><br>I get the same canvas at the art store, 3 feet wide, aboiut a dollar a foot. Excellent stuff.<br><br>Any idea of the load limit on this? Looks like &lt;200 lbs. me = &gt;200 lbs.
I got the heaviest canvas I could find at my local fabric store, I'm not sure what the weight is on it. I'm not sure about the drop cloths.... I will try to go check them out soon and let you know how they compare to what I used.
Maybe, Im still making sure I can get all the parts. Canvas from what I saw will be the most expensive and hard to find part.
Small correction (I think), when it comes to the spacer description you call for:<br><br>- Cut 4 - 2&quot; x 6&quot; pieces of plywood (size of these is not as important).<br><br>That doesn't seem to match up with the pictures. Are the spacers supposed to be?:<br> <br>- Cut 4 - 2' x 6&quot; pieces of plywood (size of these is not as important).<br><br>Okay, apologies in advance, I am being a bit bloody minded, but I do like descriptions that are ... exact...<br><br>Thanks.
You are correct, the spacers in the photo are not exact. The size of those four pieces are not critical. I used scrap wood, and didn't bother measuring it. I no longer have them, so I'm sorry that I can't measure the exact dimensions for you. They were likely 3.5&quot; x 10&quot;.
I finished my kayak today, i made some cool stencils to paint on it.(you know shark teeth and eyes like on airplanes) It came out great and i am testing tommorow morning at walden pond. (Its about a half mile long)Thank you so much for the great idea and i hope you win any competitions. Mine does not fold because i wanted to add some extra support and some foam in the cavities. I was also thinking about attaching a storage compartment in the front or back by cutting out some canvas and zippers. I think my next project will be a canoe, made with a similar technique.<br>
Wow, that sounds awesome, I'd love to see some pictures, can you post them here?
Here are some pictures, the two people on the bench are my little brother and adult friend. If you want pics of the assembly I'd be glad to post them. =D
Thanks!! It looks so cool! You made my day :).
I've seen two basic variations on this design, the one presented here that uses an 8' x 4' sheet of plywood and another that uses a 10' x 4' sheet of plywood. What I am attempting to figure out is, for someone like me (I'm just shy of 6' 2&quot; tall) fit (without serious contortions) into the design based on the 8' x 4' sheet of plywood?<br> <br> I would like to go with the 8' x 4' design, but I don't want to feel like a pretzel in the kayak. Can anyone offer any insights?<br> <br> Thanks.<br> <br> P.S. In the original 1963 Jess E. Rathburn article he shows doing a kayak in a crocodile motif (not my cup of tea... but to each their own). This gives rise to the question, what is the wildest / craziest paint / decorating job that has been done on one of these kayaks?
Well mine has shark teeth, eyes, a couple thumbs-ups and a racing stripe, if you want some pictures i would gladly post them.

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Bio: I get restless, so I make things.
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