Picture of Build a Greenland kayak part 2
In this part of the Greenland kayak instructable you will be getting the gunwales ready for building the deck of the kayak. You will be shaping them and you will also be marking them for later installation of the deck beams.

Finding the wood for the gunwales may take some time, but the actual work on the gunwales takes less than a day.
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Step 1: Materials

You will need two 3/4 inch thick by 16 foot long boards anywhere from 2 to 3-12 inches wide. These two boards will form the gunwales which are the backbone of the kayak.

You will need a piece of wood 1-3/4 inches wide by 3/4 inches thick by 5 feet long. You will cut this up for risers that go at the ends of the gunwales.

You will need four each 1/4 inch dowels 36 inches long. Exact length doesn't matter as long as you have enough total length since you will be cutting these up. Four dowels is more than enough for working with the gunwales. You will be using the left over dowels for pegging the deckbeams to the gunwales.

You will need about a dozen 1-1/2 inch long finish nails. These are generally referred to as 4 penny nails. You will need more later on so buy at least 4 dozen of them.

Step 2: Tools

For this section of the instructable, you will need a hammer, a drill, a 15/64 inch drill bit, a hand saw and a block plane.

You will also need a pencil for marking and a tape measure and a combination square.

A pair of sawhorses will be handy for keeping the gunwales at a comfortable working height.

I am building this boat using 14' gunwales. Should I make the center to back proportional? Instead of 17" back of center make it 147/8"? Would you do the same with the risers? How about the beam for my size I would need a 22" for the 16' boat would I make the 14' boat 23'? Thanks

I just want to say thank you for posting all this hard work. I have started your project and have been enjoying every step. Your explanation is very thorough and I am looking forward to the final outcome
nativewater (author)  wileytaylor1 year ago
You're welcome. One suggestion, If you're not planning on using your kayak primarily for rolling, putting in a longer than traditional cockpit makes getting in and out of the boat easier.
henryric2 years ago
I scrounged up some old growth redwood decking (tight, straight grain). Am I crazy to try using this for the gunwales?
nativewater (author)  henryric2 years ago
the redwood should work. I've used it here and there on kayaks. Just go a little deeper on the gunwales, like maybe 3 inches instead of 2. The place where breakage tends to happen is in hull stringers and the keelson. I would avoid the redwood there.
Rowleysh3 years ago
How deep do you drill the holes for the rib mortises?
nativewater (author)  Rowleysh3 years ago
rib mortise holes are 1/2 inch deep.
The precision in this step has me a bit worried. Does this mean two different people can use the same kayak effectively?
nativewater (author)  armored bore4 years ago
two people might be able to use the same boat if they are close enough in size. Greenland boats tend to be tight and fit to the individual. However, you can install more than one foot brace or install adjustable foot braces available from various sources. If you install adjustable foot braces you would leave out the deck beam that would normally be used as a foot brace or move that deck beam farther forward or back.
jcrhuskey5 years ago
I had a question about the centerline when marking the gunwales. Are you just marking the center of the 16 ft boards or are you taking in consideration the risers? Later, you add a piece on the bow and stern. Is this taken into consideration too when measuring the centerline? Thanks, Jeff
nativewater (author)  jcrhuskey5 years ago
Yes, the center line is marked on the boards as is without taking later additions into consideration.
lizandjon5 years ago
I have a quick question about overall kayak length. Since I am a smaller paddler (115 lbs), wouldn't a 17' kayak be much too long for me? Would you recommend that I shoot for 14' or so? It would definitely make searching for gunwale wood much easier. :) Thank you so much! I've wanted to build one of these for quite some time now, and your instructable is amazingly helpful!
nativewater (author)  lizandjon5 years ago
I have made Aleut kayaks in 14 foot and even 12 foot lengths. Haven't tried it with the Greenland kayak yet. But a friend of mine has. He built a 14 foot Greenlander, I think he made it about 24 inches wide. It changes the geometry a little but it's worth experimenting.
Boatdoc6 years ago
I have a quetion regarding dowelling the you use glue on the risers and in the dowel holes?
nativewater (author)  Boatdoc6 years ago
I don't use glue, but you could. The dowels are bigger than the holes by 1/64th of an inch so they fit pretty tight. Traditionally, bow assemblies were just doweled and lashed because glue was not available.
alangsdorf6 years ago
Hi there! I am locating my tools and materials to build a greenland kayak. Question: I would prefer to make the 10-foot long version of the kayak, so I can easily store it in my apartment and manage to carry it down to river, as well. How does this change the lengths/dimensions of the wood I need? Also, what is the lightest wood (as in least dense) of pine, spruce, and the others you recommended? Thanks!
nativewater (author)  alangsdorf6 years ago
If you want to build a short boat, check out this option:

For a Greenland kayak, I would go with at least 12 feet since you have about 2 feet of overhang. A 10 foot boat would have an 8 foot waterline. You would want to go with a 24 inch beam. Other things to consider would be your weight.

Lightest weight wood for the gunwales would be western redcedar, after that spruce. Ribs can be anything that you can bend. Deckbeams can be redcedar or redwood.
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Yeah, that should be 15/64 inch drill. I'll see about fixing that.
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You can use a 1/4 inch mortising chisel for cutting the mortises. Or you can use a drill with a 1/4 inch bit to drill one hole on either end of the mortise and remove the wood in between with a chisel or a knife. The ribs should have some room to move inside the mortise when the boat flexes so this is not a precision operation as it would be if you were building furniture.
laxboydan7 years ago
Can u buy the wood at a lowes hardware store ???
nativewater (author)  laxboydan7 years ago
Yes, I've used wood from discount lumber places. If you make the gunwales 3/4 x 3-1/2 inches, then you can use wood with some knots as long as they're small, tight knots, not exceeding 1/2 inch. You can get the wood from anywhere as long as you can get wood in the 16 foot length. If you can't get wood in 16 foot lengths, you can scarf two shorter pieces together. Most books on wooden boat building have information on how to scarf boards together. See your local library.
dsetzer7 years ago
Do you have any wood type recommendations? Other than simply being knot free?
nativewater (author)  dsetzer7 years ago
For the 16 foot long stuff stick to softwoods like spruce, pine, fir. What is available will depend on your location. Deck beams are short so you can get usable lengths of wood out of construction lumber by cutting between the knots.
WilderLust7 years ago
very nice detailed instructions. i like the methodology you use here for ensuring symmetry, it really simplifies accuracy of the work being done. cheers :-) WL
cool part 2, i cant wait till its done.