Introduction: Four Hour Kayak!

Picture of Four Hour Kayak!

You can build a kayak of green willow shoots, a blue tarp, some wire and Grip Clips in just four hours!

Step 1: The Amount of Willow Used to Make the Kayak.

Picture of The Amount of Willow Used to Make the Kayak.

amount of willow used. You can use any flexible saplings or branches.

Step 2: Some of the Willow Is Twisted Into Ribs. Some Into Stringers.

Picture of Some of the Willow Is Twisted Into Ribs. Some Into Stringers.

Some of the willow is twisted into ribs. Some into stringers. The largest two ribs are 16" by 27".The stringers are overlapped 2' 3" (this makes the stringers stronger in the middle where they need it the most.

Step 3: You Can Tie the Willow Together But It Is Faster to Use Wire and a Visegrip.

Picture of You Can Tie the Willow Together But It Is Faster to Use Wire and a Visegrip.

Use galvinized wire about 1/16' and bend it into this shape:

Step 4: And Use a Vise Grip to Twist Them:

Picture of And Use a Vise Grip to Twist Them:

Give a general description of your Instructable

Step 5: Ribs Joined to Stringers

Picture of Ribs Joined to Stringers

Here you can see ribs joined to the side stringers. Note cords on the two mid-stringers making the bottom of the boat flat. If not flat, the boat tips over too easily.

Step 6: Completed Frame.

Picture of Completed Frame.

Completed frame. Length is 11.5'. Stringers are about 15' long and overlap the two center ribs. The center ribs are 27" wide and 16" deep. The next out from the center ribs are 19" by 14". The smallest ribs are 13" circles. Spacing of the ribs is 17", 17", 24", 24", 17", 17".

Step 7: A Blue Tarp, 12' by 9', Was Used to Cover the Frame.

Picture of A Blue Tarp, 12' by 9', Was Used to Cover the Frame.

A blue tarp, 12' by 9', was used to cover the frame. The tarp was gathered along the top of the boat and fastened together with six Grip Clips:

Step 8: The Boat Turned Out Great! It Handles Well in the Water,

Picture of The Boat Turned Out Great! It Handles Well in the Water,

The boat turned out great! It handles well in the water and is good looking. Total cost about $40; includes tarp, Grip Clips and binding materials.

Step 9: Only 22 Lbs!!

Picture of Only 22 Lbs!!

Kayak is for flat water only. In fast water boat could collapses on you and pin you in. Always wear a life jacket.

Step 10: This Boat Is Intended for Flat Water Use and Not for Use in White Water.

Picture of This Boat Is Intended for Flat Water Use and Not for Use in White Water.

If the tarp is pinched between rocks and the boat's frame, it can be punctured. Two tarps layered or a nylon-reinforced tarp is stronger. However, since the blue tarp is easy to obtain and can be repaired with duct tape or with a patch of tarp material and silicon rubber as a glue, the blue tarp kayak makes a lot of sense for most conditions. Wear a life jacket at all time. Flotation devices such as inner tubes should be added inside both ends of the boat for additional safety. To make a stronger boat you can cover the frame with heavy coated nylon or vinyl. You can also make the frame of thicker wood. silicone rubber can be used to seal the gathering at the stern and bow by applying a generous amount between the layers before securing (this is not necessary unless you plan for the seam to be under water). This boat is intended for flat water use and not for use in white water. One reason for this is if the boat was crushed against a rock, the frame could collapse or brake pinning you in the boat and preventing you from swimming to safety and possibly drowning you.


steve.schmor (author)2015-01-11

Great little project for a dad and youngster. You could use larger zap straps instead of wire and also put some branch strips for a seat or bring a small piece of plywood so it's more stable to sit in. don't forget the duct/gorilla tape.

beopkik (author)2013-05-27

So great... I would like to follow you... By the way, I am in Korea and have difficulty in getting tarp or similar material. Could you please let me know the maker of the tarp or homepage of the tarp? Then I can find out similar material. ....

camping crazy (author)2012-09-29

This is awesome!!!!! I give it five stars.

Todd Gehris (author)2012-01-21

I like it. Good job. If you use the material that river rafts are made of you could have a tougher (although more expensive) craft. I once made a raft from tarps, an inflatable bed and tubes, 700+ lbs of people went on it down a river for 10 miles. It survived intact but the tarp ended up leaking since we caught a rock. If I make one again it will be from something tougher so I can hit more rapids. :)

Raydon (author)2007-12-21

The pictures wouldn't come up on my computer. Just got an Internet Explorer error message. It reminds me of a project in Boys Life many millenium ago.

hossweightlifter (author)Raydon2011-09-06

I have Mozilla Firefox so I didn't have a problem.

Terivia (author)Raydon2011-04-06

i wish boys life did something adventurous like that nowadays....

dj whatever (author)Raydon2007-12-22

I have that problem too on steps 5 6 7 8 9 and 10

Matin (author)Raydon2007-12-21

If this is the Kayak project you can see it at: for the time being. The images are down on instrtubles right now

And Yes. Always Wear a Life Jacket.

Djembejim (author)2011-05-22

Do you think it'd be plausible to use 3 plastic drop cloths you'd use for painting?

You can buy them in a pack for 5 dollars at home depot, and tarps are a bit more on the expensive side

ddenny3 (author)Djembejim2011-08-12

You probably could, but the tarps are a thicker material, where as the plastic drop cloths are very thin and rip with minimal pressure. I would stick with a more heavy weight material if it was me.

wakefiec (author)2010-08-05

A thought on connecting the willow frame - use the wire ties that are used to hold rebar together (available at Lowes and Home Depot) - There is a small hand tool involved - but it would sure make short work of that part of the project.

jtpoutdoor (author)wakefiec2010-08-05

what a cool kayak- for ties how about those plastic cable ties- on one way locking ones. Obviously not as strong as wire but easy to do up

ilpug (author)jtpoutdoor2011-03-23

those are called zip-ties. in some cases they are stronger than wire.

pitzhr (author)2010-11-13

Great project, here are the two photos of my version - built yesterday :)

militiaguy (author)2010-10-08

Very clever. I could see where this could have survival applications, but seems mostly fun. I like it!

Mbrito (author)2010-04-21

Thats the kind of knowledge that can save your butt in certain emergancies. Good work, great inspiration.

rowerwet (author)2009-08-02

a friend of mine in high school made a tyvek kayak, the frame was simple 1X2, 2X2, and 2X4 lumber, the tyvek (comes in large rolls as vapor barrier at hardware stores for house building) was wrapped underneath the frame and stappled around the top, above the water line. It worked well and was faster then my canoe with two of us trying to keep up with him. Whenever it got a hole he just put some duct tape on it. (there are better fixes I just can't remember them right now) It was rather heavy due to the dimensional lumber frame, but that was also its reserve floatation, I remember one time we were just about back to the boat ramp when his kayak sank, due to the lumber it was floating just under the surface so he could still continue to paddle it along. There were a bunch of clammers going out at the time and they thought it was a riot to see him paddling into toward the boat ramp with no visible boat! all they could see was his paddle and life jacket!

rock climber (author)2009-07-15

Wow, great idea, i bet it goes pretty fast too.

bongo matt (author)2009-04-25

I had that idea ages ago! Haha, really glad somebody has actually done it an put it on the net, good effort!

linuxlifer (author)2008-12-03

thats, awesome and weighs less than my 9 foot lightweight lobo

lowpro (author)2008-09-20

very cool! dunno about "and is good looking" but it kind of reminds me of my truck. Ugly and blue but runs like a dream.

marian h (author)2008-05-18

I'm gonna try this one! Has any one got a story, or tips to share? How about wrapping frame in plastic garden netting before the tarp for extra strength?

kraken1988 (author)2008-05-17

Dare someone to make one and take down rapids!! video please!! =D

Junk Mail (author)2008-03-18

That is just plain cool

motorbreath (author)2007-12-22

you posted this on to. I like the idea but do u no if pennslvania has green willow shoots? if not what would you recomend as a substitute? I'm going to make a canoe version using deer hide.

Matin (author)motorbreath2007-12-23

Yes, you can find the kayak at While there be sure to check out some of the other fun how to make pages. Willow grows near creek bottoms world wide, so you should have some. However, almost any flexible sapling will work, if you can bend it into a hoop for the ribs.

LuisWalker (author)2007-12-19

the images seem to be broken?

Matin (author)LuisWalker2007-12-20

I see what you mean. Not sure what is going on, seems there is an instrutable dis function. You can view the same at my Shelter Systems' site:

LuisWalker (author)Matin2007-12-20

thanks for that link this kayak looks awesome. i think im going to give it a try and test run it at my local park....

dominic.tarr (author)2007-12-04

now, hitchhike up some river with tarp sleeping bag and food. build kayak and paddle back down. take photos and post it on here or something. I double dare you!

Matin (author)dominic.tarr2007-12-04

sounds like fun if the river is flat (this boat is Not for rapids); the harder part may well be the paddle; f anyone does it let us know;

Vinstepula (author)2007-07-03

This looks pretty cool. I want to make one but willow trees are hard to find around here.

Matin (author)Vinstepula2007-07-03

Willow is found along the banks on most creeks but you can use any flexible branches or saplings.

thermitemaster (author)2006-12-10

Cool idea! I would freak if I was going down rapids and I started to hear twigs snap. lol

Matin (author)thermitemaster2007-01-06

NOT for rapids!

CanDo (author)2006-10-29
Matin (author)CanDo2007-01-06

This is the same author; me.

vertex181 (author)2006-11-21

Or you could put the willow rods thru the the floaties and cut acordingly and such it make it more stable and if it did colapse uve got cushions so it doesnt crush ur legs :)

ironsmiter (author)2006-05-17

oh my, tytyty I almost threw out my old sea kayak because the paint had split, and the canvas rotted. since the frame was still ok, i gave it a fresh coat of sparvarnish, and skinned it with a heavy duty blue tarp. Granted, it weighs closer to 75 lbs, but it's worth it. for the extra weight, I get a seat, back rest, twin rudders, and a sail. The tarp works beautifully. As you mentioned, it's not as tough as it could be, but going with a heavy duty tarp(about twice the price) does add to it's durability. My first try was with a light blue tarp, simmilar to yours, but my first beach landing tore of the front end terribly. the heavy tarp helps, but to aid in longterm usage, I cut a bicycle innertube so it was a straight tube, then split it in half. cemented it to the tarp, along the length of the keel pole(bottom middle, that runs the entire length, for the non-boaters) This summer, if i can find a willow tree, willing to give up a few branches, I may try your approach...from scratch. I think I will use twine to lash the joints though... pokey wire, near a fragile tarp, scares me a little. Will probably add a few more stringers on the bottom, as i tend to carry gear with me when out on the water. Radio, cell phone, spare paddle, food, beverages, and a change of clothes ; all packed in ziplock bags, and then stashed in a tied garbage bag. bonus being, if you DO sink, the gear will remain afloat, and make rescueing your boat easier(always easier to retrieve a floating boat(even partially) than a sunk one.

Matin (author)ironsmiter2006-05-31

Good idea about the bike tube bumper. What kind of glue did you use and is it still sticking?

PaulE (author)2006-05-08

I thought for extra flotation for safety. Instead of innertubes, get some of those noodles they sell at wally-world in the swimming pool section. They are cheap and can be cut to fill in odd shaped places. You can also punch holes in them (in addition to the hole down the center) to connect them with a piece of rope. BTW, your project looks great. kudos

led555 (author)2006-05-03

do you have to be an experienced kayaker to keep this from afloat? how does it behave compared to a machined kayak? nice job!

Matin (author)led5552006-05-04

No. Just make sure when making it that the center ribs are flat on the bottom as mentioned in the instructions. This keeps the boat from flipping so easily. As far as I can tell it handles the same as a store kayak except it is not a tough and should not be used in white water or in heavy water. It is a flat water boat.

spinach_dip (author)2006-04-26

this is the coolest things I have ever seen

spinach_dip (author)2006-04-26

this is the coolest things I have ever scene

nothingmuch (author)2006-04-26

You hypocrite! Where's *YOUR* lifejacket at all times? ;-)

This is really a fantastic project - cheap, light on materials, easy to do, and yet it doesn't hinder the fun of using it in any way. Kudos!

hensonkid (author)2006-04-25

That's pretty cool. How long has one of these lasted? What kind of tarp did you use?

Matin (author)hensonkid2006-04-25

Mine lasted about 5 years. Keep in in the shade and turn it upside down so to keep the sun from the plastic and the rain from the branches.

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