Picture of Stitch and Glue Kayak

Although I had never actually kayaked before, one day I decided to make a stitch and glue kayak. For a non-kayaker I'm not sure why, but it had to do with a rowing class I had taken once, and I wanted to get out on the water on my own boat. Also, building a rowing shell seemed difficult, better to start with a kayak.

For those of you who don't know, stitch and glue is a well established method of building all kinds of boats. It involves cutting plywood into the right shapes, stitching the shapes together with wire, and then permanently gluing the whole thing up. A quick web search will yield loads of info about it.

There are some really nice kayak building kits out there, and you will definitely get better results than I did with a kit, but I'm pretty happy with how my kayak turned out. Also the kits can be a little pricey and I am going cheap. These online sites also sell plans which are much cheaper than the kits: Chesapeake Light Craft, Pygmy Boats, One Ocean Kayaks, and Shearwater Boats.

There's a few free kayak plans on the internet. There's one called the Guillemot and there may be some here, here, and here, but I chose the Sqeedunk C-16 because it looks a little easier to assemble. Now these aren't exactly plans, they're really just points you mark out on the plywood, then play a interesting game of connect the dots.

Another option for the true DIY'er is to design your own kayak using FreeShip, DelftShip, or your favorite 3D CAD software. Just be sure it is capable of unfolding curved surfaces, so you can take the curved panels you design and flatten them out for the plywood. A word of warning: CAD software typically has a steep learning curve. You may end up spending a lot of time working at the computer.

For materials, you will need some thin plywood. Everyone in the kayak biz will tell you to use okoume marine grade plywood, and they are right. However, since I'm going cheap and I just want a recreational kayak I can play around in rather than a serious sea kayak, I bought two nice looking lauan 4'x8' pieces at Home Depot. They are sometimes called door skin and are about 1/8 in. thick. Here's a tip, use a flashlight to shine light thru the plywood and look for gaps or voids in the middle. Voids are bad.

To start off with I bought, 30 ft of 6 oz. fiberglass cloth, a gallon of epoxy resin and half gallon of hardener from this online site. I also bought several feet of solid copper wire at the hardware store. It was red and white 20 gauge wire for antennas I think. Make sure it's solid, stranded wire will not work.

This was a really long project, it took me around 8 months, but there were weeks that I didn't get any work done. If working on it full time, it could be done in less than a month.

For tools, I used a coping saw and key hole saw to cut the plywood although some people recommend the japanese style pull saws. A power circular sander is a must. I used many a 60 grit sanding disc. You will also need a seemingly endless supply of sand paper, disposable brushes, and latex gloves. Other tools: rasp, carpenters square, drill, utility knife, safety glasses, pliers, etc.

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alejoangee7 months ago

Hi, I'm building this kayak right now, full size tho, as I'm an architect i drew the pieces in autocad and converted the tables to metrical system, if anyone wants it here it is. I'm making the fully decked version, so that's the one on the plans.


LongToe (author)  alejoangee7 months ago

Wow, that's great! Good luck with your project. Post some photos online if you can, better yet, make an instructable.

One more question, how did you read the plans on the website. I want to build a 13-14 foot but I am not sure how to read the plans or how to shorten it without "messing up" the middle of the boat.
LongToe (author)  Science Swine5 years ago
I kept the length between 60" and 108" the same and shrank the ends. Since most the stations are about 12" apart I reduced it to 10" that's about 83%. So for the stations that aren't 12" I just multiplied it by .83. I then rewrote the tables with the modified stations, and started sketching it out on cardboard. It's not a perfectly proportional change but I took the risk and ended up doing a little trimming of the plywood during the stitch part. I hope that helps.
LongToe (author)  LongToe5 years ago
Also, since the hull bottom is significantly shorter than other panels, I think I made the distance between station 48 and 60 11", the distance between 96 and 108 11" and ones in the middle 12"
How many gallons of epoxy did you use? It seems like you would need a ton of it in fiberglassing alone.
LongToe (author)  Science Swine5 years ago
Good question. I bought a 1.5 gallon set, then towards the end of the build I bought another one, but I only used about half of it. So I think I used about 2 1/4 gal. but I also wasted epoxy by making mistakes and occasionally preparing too much. Someone more experienced in epoxy and fiberglassing could make it using a lot less epoxy.
CamWaite5 years ago
Tres bien! Just a quick question, how did you cut the cockpit and how much did it cost?
LongToe (author)  CamWaite5 years ago
Thanks! I drew the cockpit outline using a couple different sized buckets and a straight edge, then cut it out with a keyhole saw. To get the initial hole I probably used a dremel or drill. I can't remember. I didn't keep very good track of the cost, but it was probably around $300 - $400. The epoxy and fiberglass cloth were the most expensive parts.
Thanks, might be a while before I can afford that =[
You can save a ton of money if you get 2in fiberglass tape instead of cloth.  The added strength of the cloth isn't needed if you put a second layer of the doorskin where your weight sits.  I usually do 2 layers of ply under my bum with the seat fiberglassed to the the sidwalls.

  You will still need to coat everything in the epoxy to properly seal it.
mikeabels2 months ago

Tempe Town Lake at Mill Ave bridge

groverick7 months ago

Long Toe - How is the kayak holding up? I have a friend that is working with Venture Scouts and wants to have them make S&G kayaks. He looked at the S&G Guillimot that is similar to your kayak. I see you are in Tempe (or were when you made your kayak). I am in Maricopa. Is there any chance we could see your kayak?

LongToe (author)  groverick6 months ago

Hi, Unfortunately I don't take it out very often but it's holding up pretty well. Building a kayak is a pretty awesome experience and very rewarding. I highly recommend it. If you'd like to see it we could probably arrange that.

rowerwet11 months ago

There are free plans for a rowing scull,http://koti.kapsi.fi/hvartial/scull1/scull1.htm I started building them and got to the 3D stage before other projects got in the way.

Since then my daughter decided she wanted her own kayak, if you look at the finished pictures of the rowing shell you will notice people have been finishing them as kayaks also, so now we will be finishing the boat as a kayak.

Love the boat you made, hope this gets more people out on the water!

rowerwet rowerwet11 months ago

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.629238657091919.1073741840.613242395358212&type=3 this is the album for the rowing shell so far

LongToe (author)  rowerwet10 months ago

Wow, that looks awesome! I hope you post some finished photos or make an instructable when it's done. Good Luck

Great look build! Did Speedunk offer the measurements for the deck pieces or did you just figure it out yourself with some templates?

LongToe (author)  evan.burgess.12711 months ago

Yes they had some deck panel measurements at the bottom of the website. A "Side Deck Panel" and a "Center Deck Panel"

very good, would love to do something like this one day

LongToe (author)  niallthemagicone1 year ago
mattl1 year ago
Beautiful build. It inspires me to give a go at building a similar one myself.
LongToe (author)  mattl1 year ago
Thanks, The results are very rewarding. Good Luck!
Darkfish2 years ago
If you could find the time to do an instructable on reading and plotting the points i feel it would help many of us inspired, future boat builders ;)
LongToe (author)  Darkfish2 years ago
I wish I could but it's been a while. I little trial and error with a paper, pencil, and ruler should get you there.
Wow that is an amazing job!! It is way nicer than a kit!!
LongToe (author)  camping crazy2 years ago
Thank you!
I built a CLC stitch and sew kayak some years ago and used a different method of joining the sheets.Instead of scarfing the edges,I cut a zig zag pattern in the ends of the sheets and butted then together with epoxy.They were weighed down on a piece of glass which was perfectly flat and another on top.The glued bits were covered with cling film to stop the plywood sticking to the glass.Lateral pressure was applied to both sheets when they were butted together and kept in place by temporary nailing.The finished effect looks great.I fact I liked the effect so much I joined the deck pieces that way and finished the deck with varnish to show it off.For those of you timorous about the dark art of scarfing,(as I was),I commend this alternative to you.As far as I can tell no structural strength is lost.My boat is still floating and in one piece.
LongToe (author)  cephastaphile2 years ago
That sounds great! You should post some pictures or write up an instructable. I would like to see the results.
pajamas7863 years ago
i love what you built because it is beautiful. i know it took a long time but this is something your grandchildren may use. anyway, amazing. you're a real boat builder
LongToe (author)  pajamas7863 years ago
clind983 years ago
Wow that is amazing i found the plans for your kayak and have a few questions.

i don't understand how to read the tables (as in what does top edge bottom edge mean exactly how do you know whats what)


how long did it take for you to build the cardboard mock up?

and third

how did you make your bungee fasteners?

LongToe (author)  clind983 years ago
For drawing the kayak out the table is all in inches. It might help to use some graph paper. The station is the distance from the left, and top edge and bottom edge are relative to where the edge is on the boat. So the top edge will be above the bottom edge when the boat is right side up.
I think I did the cardboard mock up in a few hours although I had been reading the instructions and thinking about it for a few days. Just mark out the dots, connect the lines and cut out the shapes. Then glue or tape them together.
There's a paragraph at the end where I talk about the bungee fasteners. I think they are called padeyes, and mine are made of scrap plywood glued together, drilled for a hole, and shaped smooth.
clind98 LongToe3 years ago

Ok that really helped but left me with one more question
When you say it's all relitive how would you measure that like do you measure from the top/bottom of the plywood or from where the boat is

Thanks again!!

Sorry for the beginner questions but I had never seen anything like this until yesterday

LongToe (author)  clind983 years ago
Yes, you measure from the edge of the plywood. Try drawing out the shapes on a piece of paper. The edge of the paper is straight so measure to the right then measure up. Place one dot for the bottom edge then one dot higher up for the top edge. They should start to look like the shapes that are in the pictures when you connect the dots. Good luck!
RustyVW3 years ago
First, thank you, nice job! Now I got a question: I laid out the offsets for the hull bottom on butcher paper. Some ofsets have a + or - after them. Station 0 and 179 bottom have nothing but a -. What do they mean? And your photo's show a radius on the ends. How did you figure them?
LongToe (author)  RustyVW3 years ago
Thanks! The + and - mean 1/32 more or 1/32 less than the given amount. As for the radius I just used a flexible piece of plastic as a curved edge to draw a curve between the stations. Keep in mind that the hull side panels should have two corners on each end. In the picture you can see it curved, but I had to go back later and cut the curve off.
Zaroo3 years ago
I want to make one.I like it very much.
LongToe (author)  Zaroo3 years ago
Thanks! If you make one be sure to post it online. Good luck.
Zaroo LongToe3 years ago
I have a few questions:

First of all, i have already designed the ship body which i want with freeship.But i didn't figure out how to develop each curved surface.Does it need the assistance of CAD?
Secondly, how could you cut the plywood into shapes which are needed? By craft or by water-jet?
Thirdly, the maximum size of my plywood is 1220X2440mm. It is necessary to be adhered with yours.I would like to know how to assure the rubber-determination of adhesion?
Forthly, i am thinking about to replace the plywood by PVC board and make another 4 Bulkhead inside the cabin intended to reinforce the strength of shipping.In this case, the method with fiberglass could be omitted. What's your opinion?

Happy Spring Festival (Chinese New Year)and may you be prosperous!
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