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Design & Illustration

About managing a building project...

Building alone or together with others.

The one real obstacle in building is to get starting. Some spend as much time in this stadium than with the entire building project. Of course it pays to think the project through regarding shop, time, tools and costs – and rough plan the order of the tasks involved and make sure materials and hardware is in place when needed. But building the entire kayak in your mind firsthand is not productive. The details hide the overall planning. A lot of things cannot be worked out in advance and a lot of anticipated problems find their obvious soultion when you stand with the wooden strip in one hand and the stapler in the other.

Initiate, run and finish a project

A kayak or canoe consists of hundreds of tasks, pieces, patches and batches, mutually interdependent. The parts are handled individually, but it is only the total that counts. Before starting it is tempting to view at the parts simultaneosly – as obstacles piled on top of each other, needeing a superhuman high jump to overcome. But as hurdles the building project is instead a number of small easily handled tasks coming up one at the time.

Even if a canoe or kayak is a small project (compared to say, building a boat), there is much to be gained from planning for efficiency – to avoid wasting time, effort or enthusiasm. That does not mean building quick. On the contrary, taking the time – but think about how the time is used. Plan ahead for coming tasks.

The shop is often a problem. Think about handling full size particle boards or plywood sheets for the molds. Cut enough strips from the start so you do not have to move the half-completed hull to make place for ripping boards. Keep the work area clean. It is not efficient to quickly clean a corner of the workbench every time something need planing, drilling or sanding.

Mixing epoxy is a messy precision task needing concentration. Do this in a dedicated area, away from the building action. Make sure the epoxy is room temperature when used. In a cold shop it is best to store and mix epoxy in a heated room.

Arrange all such prior to building start. When the stripping begins it is full action – no time to rearrange the shop.

Plan ahead. How do you arrange the cockpit, what deck hardware do you plan to use, where does tho compass go and what about seat and foot suuport? Hatches and bulkheads, retractable skeg or rudder? It is much easier to prepare fasteners and reinforcements before gluing the deck-hull joint than after. It is far more satisfying to grab a prefabricated cockpit rim from the shelf when stripping the deck, than to break off for a couple of days to prepare one. It is frustrating to leave a completed kayak and get to work on foot support, seat etc – better to just attaching them and go paddling.

There are a lot of waiting involved – for the epoxy to set or the laquer to cure – that can be used for all those prefabrications.

For those small necessary items – staples, nails, screws, sandpaper, brusches etc – it is easy to get sloppy. But it is not efficient to look for staples under a pile of shavings and cutoffs. It is not efficient to search through sawdust on the floor for a lost screw. Or trying to cut a strip in your hand because the workbench is inaccessible.

One of the worst time thieves is quick-and-dirty – as when trying to get a couple of more strips in place when it is timer to quit and go home. It is then the mistakes are made. A small measuring error and you force the strip in place anyway – a rush effort to correct the mistake, makes the problem worse, and all of a sudden you have lost an hour, most of your good mood and you realise that you will spend at least as much time tomorrow sorting out the mess. A sound old carpenters advice is: measure twice, cut once.

Always were protective gloves when handling epoxy, solvents, and laquer. Apart from the obvious health issue, it is faster to remove a pair of gloves than to clean the hands from chemicals, and the risk of contaminating sanded wooden parts is minimized.

Always were protective gloves when handling epoxy, solvents, and laquer. Apart from the obvious health issue, it is faster to remove a pair of gloves than to clean the hands from chemicals, and the risk of contaminating sanded wooden parts is minimized.

The real “catastrophies” – finished parts that does not fit, wrinkles in the fiberglass layer, epoxy that does not cure – needs a different approach. The first advice is: do something else for a while. It is far better than rushing in with some desperate rescuing scheme (remember Menckens law: “for every problem there is an obvious, simple and elegant solution – that is utterly wrong”). Sand the hull, sharpen the chisels, clean the workbench, build a seat or something and let the mind wander free. Often unexpected solution present appear from nowhere – solution that cannot be forced by focussing too much (forgive another witty cliché: “logic is a systematic method of arriving at the wrong conclusion with full confidence”. The time spend on tehse side projects is not wasted – it carries the project forward.

It is good to have a few simple tasks waiting for these occasions. Instead of startying a new part of the project or making crusial decisions late in the day, it may be better to use half an hour sanding the rim or preparing some deck hardware.

The last great temptation is to launch the kayak prematurely, before finished and without hardware. It may be OK, perhaps even necessary to keep the enthusiasm flowing – but it is takes som detemination to carry to kayak back into the shop again to continue the finishing tasks. It is tempting to keep using the kayak during the first paddling season, and with fall coming: the epoxy may show the first signs of white shading, or you may have your next kayak in your mind...

Building in a group

Sometimes builders get together to help each other. This can be by sharing a shop and qualify for discounts on materials and shipping, or by forming a building class with an appointed leader.

Sharing shop

The most common and normally with least friction is to share a shop and certain purchases. There may be saving on rent, hating and coordinated transports and purchases. One large shop may be easier to rent than several small. There may be substantial discounts on larger orders on wood, epoxy and fiberglass. Building the same model, often just one set of plans is needed – many designers accept that just the license part is payed for the other builder royalty parts.

There may be some advantages in hours spent – some few tasks are more efficient managed by two than by a single builder working alone. Sometimes discussion solitions and methods speed up the process – all builders does not need to do the same mistakes.

It is important to set at finishing date for such a project. Then the shared part is ended: those who are ready leave, those weho are not, have to slove their situation on their own. You also must devise a system to divide the purchased materials in a way that satisfies all involved – one builders mistakes or unncessary generosity with epoxy must not befall the other in form of expensive complementary purchases.

Building in series

Ett annat sätt är att seriebygga kanoter. Kanotklubbar och organisationer som scouter och friluftsfrämjaravdelningar har byggt på det här sättet. På en byggjigg byggs i följd ett antal skrov, på en annan motsvarande antal däck. Sedan lottas skrov och däck ut och var och en färdigställer sin egen kanot.

This is a very time efficient way to complete a number of kayaks, but with risks involved. The later hulls are often better built then the first, and there is always the risk of fading enthusiasm towards the end with the repetitive tasks. Hulls and decks waiting can warp and be difficult to assemble later. I have had a few such slighly depserate phone calls...

Building course

If someone in the group has built a kayaks before and accepts to assaist the others, the group can sign up as a organised building class and have a small finacial support from the education organisations (at least in Sweden, I do not know about other countries), sometimes also help with shop, tools etc. It is a comfortable solution for the inexperienced. Study plan, tiem and budget must be presented in advance. The course leader have some overall responsibility for materials, tools etc and the wotrk load can be daunting. The inexperienced builder may be less self sufficient in a group than if the were on their own.

But such courses have been arranged annually at several locations in Sweden and the experiences are generally very good.


I love this website. I look forward to more translations.

Thank you

Thanks Mick. I feel really bad about the not fulfilled promises of coming translations – a few years ago I was doing reasonably well, got the catalogue, manual etc translated. But then the workload multiplied out of control (graphic design, illustration and commercial kayak design assignments, paddling classes, talks in kayak clubs and kayak symposia etc etc) and the last year I think I am down to perhaps two pages translated!

But I am slowly grasping the concept of saying no once in a while, so there is hope for the future ;-)

Meanwhile I have to refer my non-swedish visitors to Google Translater and other such services...

I just dicovered this website .... its really nice .. i just moved to the west fjords of Iceland and have been offered the use of a large warm space for a workshop...I do lots of kayaking and am re-kindling my love of working with wood.... your website has helped me to the point where i'm going to build one of your kayaks.


Thanks Martin, you are welcome ;-)

Google translate länkar på varje sida?

Jag har funderat på det och även testat vid ett par tillfällen, men har svårt att känna någon större entusiasm. Det blir lite för mycket "ta på den lilla kyrkan innan man paddlar" och liknande – homonymer är kroniskt svåra för översättningsappar.

Google Chrome erbjuder för övrigt en lättillgänglig möjlighet (den får aktivt stängas av om man inte vill ha ständiga påminnelser om att översätta hit eller dit – i längden nästan lika irriterande som Microsofts hjälpsamma gem).

Hej Björn! Har du några byggbilder på doris båten? köpte ritningar av dig för några år sedan, men har inte kommit igång änn! Tänkte nu att det skulle bli ett projekt för mig och mina grabbar så dom kommer ifrån tv-spelen! Tack på förhand!

Nej, inga byggbilder på Doris. Prototypen snickrades ihop en sommarhelg för många år sedan - det gick så fort att ingen tänkte på kamera.

Men någon byggare med lite högre ambitioner kanske kan plocka fram något...

Fin sida!

Finns det ngn paulownia-grossist i Sverige?

Siktar på surfbrädalängder och allt jag upptäkt är modellinriktat.

Med vänlig hälsning,


Nej, ingen Paulownia-leverantör i Sverige. Det för närvarande enda sättet (bortsett från privatimport) är ta bilen till Bauhaus i nordtyskland och köpa limmade hyllplan, som sedan sågas upp till ribbor. Fungerar riktigt bra utmärkt, fråga Jacob!

Hej visa ditt byggande i urförliga bilder är det bra. Själv har jag en gruman av stor storlek som jag haft i 40 år och jag älskar den och jag är 64 år och paddlar ännu med min sambo. Nu vill jag bygga en med virke som jag sparat i 35 år. Ge mig en bra bygg beskrivining för en ensam kanoting man som jag tycker om och älsker att göra i svensk natur. vill du är jag himla glad. Hasse Bergman

Det finns flera kanadensare att välja bland. Kanske en Singoalla. Byggbeskrivning medföljer alla ritningar.

Hej Björn.

Jag har tidigare byggt en Nomad enligt dina instruktioner och har nu funderingar på att bygga ytterligare en kajak. Vad jag funderar över är alternativ till granribbor. Hur väl tror du det skulle funka att använda exempelvis plywood, masonit eller cellplast som byggmaterial? Har du ytterligare någon idé till alternativ till gran så är det välkommet.

Visst finns det alternativ, främst i form av andra träslag – inhemska och importerade.

Som alternativ till granribbor skulle väl de andra alternativen kunna funka som en nödlösning, men varför?

Plywood är tyngre, dyrare, svagare och mer arbetskrävande (fler skarvar), och vid slipning försvinner en del av ytterskikten och därmed också den styrka som byggmetoden är beroende av. Masonit och cellplast saknar i ännu högre grad nödvändig styrka, och masonit är oljehärdad och binder därmed inte epoxy på ett relevant sätt.

Om du däremot funderar på en alternativ byggmetod, så är plywood ett utmärkt material, men det kräver konstruktioner med skarpa slag (Black Pearl till exempel). Masonit duger inte, utom möjligen till en badbåt för ett par veckors sommarsemester.

Sandwichlaminat med cellplastkärna kan bli bra men blir ofta tyngre än granribb, mycket dyrare och tar mycket längre tid att bygga (här är en beskrivning).

Hej Björn!

Vet du om man kan betsa träet efter slipning/innan första lagret epoxi?