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.

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.

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.

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

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

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Step 5: 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.

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.

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,

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!!

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.

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.

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49 Discussions


1 year ago

made it :)


4 years ago on Introduction

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.


6 years ago

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. ....


11 years ago on Step 10

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.

4 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Step 10

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


8 years ago on Introduction

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

1 reply

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

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.


8 years ago on Introduction

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.

2 replies

Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

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


8 years ago on Introduction

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


8 years ago on Step 8

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


9 years ago on Step 8

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


9 years ago on Introduction

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

10 years ago on Step 10

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

bongo matt

10 years ago on Step 8

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