Frequently asked Questions

What is involved in building one of your kits?
I wrote up a quick overview of what is involved.

Do I need to be a woodworker to build your boats?
No you do not have to be a woodworker. It is definitely easier if you have at least some woodworking experience. But the main thing required is patience and a willingness to learn. The only real woodworking jobs are making and trimming the ends of the stringers. There is a some shaping and trimming to do with a rasp (wood file) and sandpaper.

What is in a kit?
Our Basic frame kit comes with precut frames, coaming, seat boards and artificial sinew to lash the frame together. You will need to cut your own stringers.

We also offer separately fabric for the skin, seating, footrests etc.

What else do I need to buy to build the boat?
It comes down to personal preferences but I recommend at least a set of foot rests. Your may also want to look at a seat and backband.

What additional materials are needed?
As of this writing we are not offering stringer kits so you will have to make those. That is covered in the manual. But stringers are just long strips of wood, 5/8″ thick by either 1′ or 1 1/2″ wide. If you don’t have a table saw, this may be something where you have a friend with a shop that could easily make these for you. You will also need to furnish waterproof glue and a few tools.

What tools are needed?
You will not need much in the way of tools. But you will need a good hand saw for trimming the stringers. A coarse and fine toothed rasp as well as sandpaper. Some bungee cords to temporarily assemble the frame, a carpenters square, tape measure, and a drill with some drill bits. It would also be good to have a couple of 12” or lager clamps with rubber faces, a mallet, and a sharp chisel.

Why buy a kit instead of making my own?
If you have the skills and tools there is nothing to stop you from making your own. Most people don’t have the tools needed to do a proper job and that is where the kit comes in. By buying a frame kit the hardest part is done for you. Lofting frames takes some skill and a lot of time. I build the prototype, paddle it and make changes to improve the things I don’t like. Then I build another one and make patterns from it. As I assembled it if I find problems I correct the patterns. I will not offer a kit for a boat I have not paddled and that I am not happy with. This eliminates the major problems for you.

How long does it take to build a boat?
My first Curlew prototype took 65 hours labor start to finish. Of course that included making all the parts and the correcting the problems I found along the way. About 20 hours of that was spent lashing the frame together. Another 25 hours to finish it, which includes sewing the skinning, waterproofing and rigging out the boat. Each person works at different speeds but I would think you could build the boat in 40 to 60 hours or labor.

Won’t a rock or stick poke a hole in the skin?
Most likely not. The skin is much tougher than most people think. Nylon was used in flack jackets for pilots in WWII. Inflatable dinghies and rafts are made from a similar materials. It is possible to put a hole in one but it is highly unlikely. The risk of you doing any serious damage is extremely low. I have run over many rocks, limbs, stumps, etc and so far nothing but a few marks on the skin. I have not touched up the finish after a full summer of use.

What do your boats weight?
Each boat will be different because of the variations in the wood and the finish applied. My personal Curlew weighted 32 lbs. This boat has a heavier 15 oz. skin coated with a ZAR finish. The same boat with a 8 oz. skin should weigh in the 25-28 lb range. The skin is the heaviest component of the boat.

What about performance?
SOF boats have no inherent loss of performance because of the design. Some people say there is actually an advantage in rough water because the lashed frames will give and bend some as it travels over the waves. I don’t know if this is true or not. But the design of the hull will have more to do with the performance than the construction methods.

How long with these boats last?
This largely depends on how well you take care of your boat. Its biggest enemies are sunlight and rot. If you keep the coating in good shape and don’t store the boat in the sunlight. you keep the inside dry, clean and occasionally rinse it with salt water or a water bleach mix (to kill any rot of fungus) it should last for many, many years. And if it were to get damaged, since you built it you should be able to repair it.

What kind of instructions will I get.
Our assembly manual is approximately 80 pages long and has over 100 photos in it. It was edited by someone with no boat building experience. Several times I had to add additional photos or just rewrite a section because it wasn’t clear. If I had to explain it, that typically meant it needed better instructions.

What type of skin?
We offer two types of fabric, Nylon and polyester. Both have their good and bad points. Nylon is the most used and probably the easiest for the first time builder to work with. It very durable and nylon is known for its ability to stretch, which is what keeps it from being damaged. It’s drawback is it loosens up when wet. So your tight boat skin will loosen up on the water. It doesn’t hurt anything but it bothers a lot of people. Most fabrics will not loosen up as much over time. Nylon is also limited on what finishes will stick to it. So your choices for a finish are really limited.

Polyester doesn’t loosen up when wet like nylon so your skin should stay tight. It will take many more coatings such as paint and water based finishes. It typically shrinks well too. However it is not nearly as puncture resistant as nylon and what we sell is a loose weave fabric that is not as easy to sew as nylon. It will develop pull holes very easy and is can be very aggravating to work with. But both materials make a good skin.

For more information read this article.

What other items will I need?
Depending on your preferences you will probably want to add footrests a backband and a comfortable seat. We show you how to add any deck rigging in the manual but the final choice of what you want is up to you.

I need to Waterproof the skin?
Yes, none of the skins we offer are waterproof and so they have to be coated. Polyester will accept a lot of different materials including water based products. Most finishes will not stick to Nylon. One of the old proven standbys is ZAR oil based exterior polyurethane. It works very well and has been used on hundreds of boats. There are also some specialty products available and people are always trying new things. One thing to keep in mind is that whatever you use needs to have UV protection built-in. Besides waterproofing the skin it’s other purposes is to protect the skin from UV rays.

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