Introduction: 10$ Stretch Wrap Kayak

We are going to make a kayak - a super-light, cheap kayak that can be used for fishing or just fun.

It will be made from branches and shrink wrapping tape. The skeleton will be held by packing/duct tape but can also be rope or string or wires.

It will take 2 days as wood needs to dry and take shape after debarking. 98% is making a frame, 2% is wrapping with tape

DISCLAIMER: Please use with caution and test at shallow water. Use flotation device. Supervise minors.


Branches - straight branches of wood

-Body - 10 long 4m pieces

-Rings - 5 to 14 pieces of shorter, more flexible branches

2 rolls of "Scotch" tape or packing tape or duct tape (I used cheap $ store kind)

1 roll of wrapping / packing tape (main cost)

Wire (optional)

Knife - for cutting , de-barking

Saw - cutting branches

Step 1: Prepare Materials

In this step we are going to prepare materials for our kayak - long branches.

You need to prepare and debark 10 long branches or young tree shoots that are relatively flexible and straight. These will form skeleton of the boat. These should be 1-1.5 inches or 2.5 - 3.5 cm wide or thick. The should also be 3.5-4m long (preferably, 3m would also work but longer will make kayak more stable and give extra in case of screw up). Finally they should be green, not dead and dry as we need them to be flexible and able to bend into shape

You will also need 5-14 shorter branches for making rings. The amount of these depends on length and strength of wood. For example if you use spruce or willow, its branches can be thick yet still flexible and you can make a ring from one branch. But if you using another less flexible and less thick branch you might need to use two of them to form one ring.

After you cut them, get rid of side branches and leaves. Then debark the branches using knife or other tool. Debarking allows the wood to dry.

As soon as you debark it, set it in shape by using wooden pegs in the ground. Be careful and do not push the wood too much as it may snap. You may want to adjust pegs after half hour or 1 hour and bend branch more into desired shape. Continue / repeat for all pieces.

For the rings, if the wood is flexible you can bend into a ring in one go and use string to tie the ends together. If it is not so flexible , use pegs as in step above until you get horse shoe shape. You may also consider wrapping around a round large tree, but you likely need to drill attachments into your large tree to hold branch in place - I personally do not recommend this as it damages a fully grown tree.

Leave to dry for a day or two, preferably in the sun

Step 2: Assemble Kayak Skeleton

Assemble kayak skeleton:

1 Start by tying rings. Use scotch tape or duct tape. The central rings should be more oval with longer side on a horizontal axis. These rings should be approximately 0.6-0.7m (2-2.5ft) on long axis. The main entrance ring should be slightly large for ease of getting in and out. The rings closer to the ends should be smaller as sides would converge closer to the ends.

2 Start with central ring and tie two more rings to it on the sides. The longer side of oval ring should be horizontal. See pics.

3 Add side branches. Use longest branches you have. You may want to use some wire (or string) to catch the ends. Once done reinforce with tape

4 Add bottom branches. Use once branch at the bow and one at stern and attach them at the middle. at least 50% should be two of them together (overlapping), in other words double up . You want to have central part strongest. When adding long lines on the side cut the ends at 45 degree angle so that when they meet against central main branch they fit better together

5 Add the rest of the branches, ending with top central part.

Step 3: Wrap Kayak

Start closer to centre and move to one of the ends overlapping as you go. Just catch at one end or wrap on a branch and it will hold in place. Keep pulling pressure as you wrap. Best to have someone help you but if not tie rope to each end of kayak frame and then to a tree.

Do at least 3 layers. Wrap well at the bow and stern. At those spots as you get to the ends you may turn wrapping tape upside down to change directions.

You may want to catch some flapping wrapping tape ends with scotch tape

Keep pressure on when wrapping but keep in mind that cumulative force of wrapping tape will squeeze your skeleton together. If branches are thin, do not over wrap as branches may deform.

If you do not have any helping hands, you should attach a string to each end of the boat skeleton and then tie to a tree or post/beam, making kayak hanging (kind of like hammock). This way you can still wrap by yourself

Cut a hole on the inside ring of main entrance and attach on the inside of the boat. Cut 3 inches from the edge so you have enough to overlap on the inside. Catch that part with tape to keep from coming out

Step 4: Try It Out

Transport it to a water body and try it out.

Best to try in a safe shallow water first

Make sure you supervise minors and use flotation device


PS would love to see a pic of your kayak when you make your own

Make it Move Contest 2020

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Make it Move Contest 2020