After a few trials and a tribulation or two, Alice’s kayak is finally finished.

finished qajaq

When I last posted, I had a finished and oiled frame. I still had a piece of fabric left from when I ordered materials for my last kayak a couple of years ago. I dug out the fabric, bought a couple of rolls of dental floss and set up the kayak frame at the paddle center one night, and proceeded to sew the skin on.

interior view

The zig zag stitch on the inside of the skin tightens the skin considerably and I went through this stitch several times, taking out more slack each time. Finally, I decided, wrongly as it turned out, that the skin was fully tightened and I stitched up the center seam. After such adventures with the woodworking part, it was sad to see the frame get all covered up in bright white fabric…

A couple of days later, I mixed up some acid based dye powder in some vinegar and water, and dyed the fabric what I was thinking would be a grayish brown. And the skin suddenly sagged and loosened…. a LOT. I went to the paddle center to get the iron, but when I got back the sun and the wind had dried the fabric somewhat and it tightened up again. I used the heat gun on some of the worst of the wrinkles left behind, and went to bed, planning to take it to Brian’s shop the next day to put the polyurethane on.

In the morning, it had loosened again, even worse than the first time, but I thought it still might be salvageable if I could shrink it back up again. So I loaded it up and headed down to Brian’s to put the coating on, a part that I didn’t enjoy much the last time I built a kayak. I also didn’t remember the details very well either, and wanted to put it on where Brian was handy to yell at me if I did something boneheaded.

I coated the skin, but it was so loose by now as to make it impossible to get a decent finish on, or to get the excess off. By now, I knew I was going to be reskinning this boat at some point. I thought about it overnight, and the next morning went back to Brian’s, begged a new and different fabric off of him and came home to cut off the newly installed skin.

sewing up skin

Eight hours later, I had the new skin sewed on, with the coaming installed and fabric dyed and drying. This fabric was much nicer to work with; I was able to keep the skin almost perfectly wrinkle free, and it stayed that way.

ready to coat

It took a couple of hours to put the coating on the bottom of the hull. The next morning, I found that the edge had dripped a little in spite of having masked it off with tape, and there was a little haze in the coating, telling me that I left it on a little thick. I shaved off the worst bubbles with a razor and then coated the deck. I did this out in the sun and wind, and it dried pretty quickly, although I did catch a number of mosquitoes and other bugs.

finished qajaq

As soon as it was dry enough to handle, I put the deck lines and fittings on. The toggle and beads are caribou antler, that I purchased in the silent auction at SSTIKS a few years ago.

I have a set of brand new float bags for it, and a Snapdragon spray skirt to fit as well. It’s finished!


finished qajaq


  1. Beautiful! After a friend of mine reskinned my kayak it had A LOT of wrinkles in the skin too. I was a bit disappointed with it, but now, several months later, it has tightened up significantly, I think from just letting it sit in the sun.

  2. My bad wrinkles were never going to come out, no matter how much it sat in the sun!

  3. Mark, that is beautiful–both the kayak and the work and caring that went into creating it. Alice must be feeling so loved.

  4. Beautiful!! It really looks super, and 28 pounds is terrific! Isn’t it an agonizing decision to back up and tear up some work you’ve already done? But then when you get better results than the first run, it makes it very worthwhile.
    Congratulations, wonderful job!

  5. Actually, in this case it wasn’t a very hard decision. The first work looked so bad, I knew that re-doing it was the only reasonable thing to do. I was sad about losing the color I had on the first one. I had come up with a very nice sealskin grey, and when I was making the dye up the second time, I just couldn’t get that color back, so I just went darker instead.


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