Picture of Refurbish a Skin on Frame Kayak

Living in Cambridge near the historical Charles river and watching people kayak down it's length, I nurtured a growing desire to be able to interact with the natural structure on my own schedule. I decided to build a boat, but I didn't know how to get started. I soon received an email from a friend of a friend who owned a derelict wooden kayak frame that he no longer had time to repair. Instead of seeing it go to the trash, I decided to repair it and make it my tool to become more in touch with nature.

There are different types of kayaks, however the simplest and cheapest type I could find is known as a "Skin Boat". This was historically realized by a lightweight wooden skeleton that is tightly wrapped in stitched together animal hide. As materials improved, the material changed to chemically sealed canvas and eventually plastic sheets, such as nylon and etc. Also, staples were invented and the fabric was stapled to the frame instead of stitched on. This lead to faster manufacturing of the boats, but this also reduced the resilience and reparability of the boats. As the frame materials shifted from wood to metal, and even polymer materials, staples could no longer be used. This prompted a return to the historical practice of stitching the fabric to the frame to tension it and hold it on.

This is the design that I decided to replicate as I refurbished the vessel. This project would not have been nearly as successful without the help and facilities of the MIT Electronics Research Society (MITERS) and MIT's D-Lab. MITERS is a student run shop where tinkerers of all kinds gather and build cool things. D-Lab's mission statement is "Development Through Dialogue, Design, and Dissemination," and they specialize in creating solutions to problems in underdeveloped countries.

An Epilog Zing 16 Laser would allow me to build more interesting large scale things, and to tinker more effectively in general. Through this project, I learned how to reinforce joints with carbon fiber. My next goal is to build a lighter boat from laser cut materials that are reinforced with carbon or glass fibers, as well as a cardboard surf board that is wrapped in structural fiber as well.

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VentureScout10 months ago

good job, I might try this over the winter

VentureScout10 months ago

good job, I might try this over the winter

This is super informative and turned out great. Thanks for sharing!

pdaniel7 (author)  MsSweetSatisfaction11 months ago

Thank you!

kode130311 months ago
What a good instructable - thanks!
pdaniel7 (author)  kode130311 months ago

Thank you!

24Eng11 months ago
Does the urethane coated canvas become stiff or is it able to be folded?
pdaniel7 (author)  24Eng11 months ago

If you use the urethane in my link, the canvas will remain flexible. I don't know about other brands of urethane though. I wouldn't fold it into sharp corners because that may create pinholes that will leak, but it's flexible like a firm balloon.