Picture of 8' Folding Kayak
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

Picture of 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.

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TheTutor112 months ago
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 ?
EStefonek11 months ago
wanting to try this but has anyone tried silicone treated nylon? thinking it may make it lighter...plus it's already waterproof.
triumphman2 years ago
Why is one Orange and gray, and then yellow in the water ? Did you make two of them ?
wizgirl (author)  triumphman1 year ago

Same kayak, just different lighting.

tigle4 years ago
Hola, yo fabrique uno de madera, con las mismas dimensiones
tigle tigle4 years ago
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!
wizgirl (author)  tigle4 years ago
tigle wizgirl4 years ago
Muchas gracias, pienso hacer uno mas grande, ya que yo soy mas gordito, me animó 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!
claudg19504 years ago
Great job and nicely presented!

Have you seen this link?:


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)
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:

wizgirl (author)  claudg19504 years ago
Thanks for the link. The coroplast kayak looks really cool!
triumphman3 years ago
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.
triumphman4 years ago
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!
wizgirl (author)  triumphman4 years ago
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!
benq3 years ago
where did you get the canvas
wizgirl (author)  benq3 years ago
Local fabric store.
ninetails123 years ago
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
triumphman3 years ago
nickh5383 years ago
for the bottom of the boat are the two sides different lengths or is that optical illusion.
wizgirl (author)  nickh5383 years ago
They are all the same... the wood was stacked when it was cut... they are identical.
nibbler1254 years ago
ill build one this year in shop class. I need something to prove my greatness over the rednecks lol
wizgirl (author)  nibbler1254 years ago
Hahahahhahah! Awesome!
RhodesA64 years ago
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.
wizgirl (author)  RhodesA64 years ago
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.
wizgirl (author)  sbergheger4 years ago
Thanks! I got mine at a local Hancock Fabrics.
julian_blnc4 years ago
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.
Looks good. Do you think a tarp would work in place of canvas?
wizgirl (author)  imthatguy11254 years ago
No, I don't think it would work, tarps rip too easily. Are you making one?
When you say "heavy duty" canvas, what does that mean?

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 "wall" tents.
Beautiful instructabIe!

I get the same canvas at the art store, 3 feet wide, aboiut a dollar a foot. Excellent stuff.

Any idea of the load limit on this? Looks like <200 lbs. me = >200 lbs.
wizgirl (author)  kill-a-watt4 years ago
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.
colinmc1514 years ago
Small correction (I think), when it comes to the spacer description you call for:

- Cut 4 - 2" x 6" pieces of plywood (size of these is not as important).

That doesn't seem to match up with the pictures. Are the spacers supposed to be?:

- Cut 4 - 2' x 6" pieces of plywood (size of these is not as important).

Okay, apologies in advance, I am being a bit bloody minded, but I do like descriptions that are ... exact...

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