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Custom Design Service

This service grew from a need for an outlet for my new found boat building skills acquired back in 1999.

I had completed two CLC kayaks from plans and wanted to share the excitement I felt building and paddling my new creations.

The first designs were created in 2004 and I've been creating designs as a side line since.

Making the Hard Part Easy

I limit my service to providing a hull shape you want to build.

I leave all the finishing details to you so you can complete the boat as you wish. This includes kayak decks and coamings, you can create any deck, using any method you desire.

How the Service Works

The process is quite simple. Ideally you are able to describe what you want. I need to know, how much weight you expect the boat to float, how long and how wide it needs to be.

You will need to share with me what kind of paddling experience you have. I find novice paddlers know least what they have in mind. Typically I would simply recommend you look at the canoe or kayak page and pick one to use as a starting point.

Stitch and Glue and Cedar Strip Designs

The bulk of my work is in stitch and glue. I may eventually offer design services for wood strip water craft.

Plans for S & G craft consist of detailed scaled plank measurements to complete the hull. Wood strip plans consist of scaled measurements for the forms erected upright at each station. Both include lines drawings.

CAD Friendly Files

I DO NOT send out CAD friendly DFX files. If you want a CAD files, might I suggest calling a professional design firm or designing on your own.

Rules of Thumb

• The joy of a boat is inversely proportional to size.
• It starts declining at the point you can't carry it in one hand and a paddle in the other and continues to decline until your docking fee rivals your mortgage
• Large boats typically hold more than a small boats
• Wider boats will be more stable than narrower boats of a given length
• Less experienced paddlers will feel safer in a stable boat
• Experienced paddlers tend to prefer a faster boat
• Longer boats will be faster than shorter boats of a given beam or width
• Decked boats take on less water in rough conditions than un-decked boat
• Bigger boats, require more material and weigh more
• Lighter boats are easier to carry than heavy boats
• Given the same design, sturdy construction will withstand more punishment than lightweight construction.

"Two Sheet" S & G
Design Limitations

Many of the canoe and kayak designs featured here are of the "Two Sheet" variety.

This means the hull planks are cut from two sheets of 4' x 8' marine plywood.

Two sheet boats naturally have maximum beam and length limitations.

The largest canoe or kayak possible within the two sheet limation is roughly 15 and half feet by 29 inches.

This is not to say larger craft cannot be created with stitch and glue or glued lapstrake, they can.

A longer length and or wider beam simply requires more than 2 sheets of 4 x 8 plywood.

Working six or seven planks per side in an attempt to get sweeter lines, one might consider glued lap construction exchanging all the drilling and wiring for building a form and clamping.

Folks most interested in a round or smooth bottom hull, the preferred method is strip building.

Tandem or Solo?

Please do not ask me to design a decent 2 or more person canoe or kayak from only 2 sheets of marine plywood.

If you only plan to paddle with two people all the time and your budget is small then a tandem, which holds two will suffice. One typically will need 3 sheets because even if the hull is only 15 feet long, it will ideally need added width for tandem design.

Larger tandems are ideal for small families as children and pets can sit in the middle and they hold plenty of gear for extended wilderness trips. Tandems are ideal where one paddler is less experienced than the other. A small tandem which can be paddled solo is a fair compromise for occasional use by one or two people, but it's not good for two adults on an extended trip with lots of gear.

If the budget allows, always consider two solo boats for two people. My experience has been that many couples buy a tandem boat fully expecting both to use it. More often than not, one person wants to paddle more frequently and a partner is not always available so the tandem boat is used infrequently. This applies to canoes and kayaks.

Solo boats give owners the freedom to paddle whenever one wants. Two solo boats give each person a degree of freedom and control on the water unmatched in a tandem. Frustration between paddlers evaporates. Given a crew of paddlers in the BWCA with mixed tandems and solo boats, the solo boats will be in the highest demand. Once other paddlers try the solo it’s difficult to get it back. Finally, you can't pull alongside your sweetie and give him or her a kiss in a tandem. If your honey doesn't rate a kiss you'll be glad you have solos.

Material Strength

It is conceivable that your life may depend on the strength of your boat and cutting costs in materials is the wrong place to save money. When you add up all the time and materials used to build your boat, and you put a realistic value on your time say $16.50 hour, you will find that even the best plywood will constitute a small fraction of the final cost. Get the good stuff (British Standard 1088, 4MM) you’re worth it.

In the thin 3MM and 4MM widths, quality marine plywood is much stronger than conventional planking of the same thickness. This is due to the cross wise lamination of veneers and thickness can be proportionally reduced. Plywood thickness has limitations with respect to the minimum bending radius.

I have found that five planks per side for a total of ten on a canoe is not unreasonable for stitch and glue. However when attempting to get a more rounded shape by doubling the number of planks, complexity of the process increases as the amount of cutting, drilling, gluing and filling holes is increased significantly making the stitch and glue method less attractive or appropriate.

Primer for Single or Double Paddle Design

Following is a brief overview of elements involved in canoe or kayak hull design.

Boat design and construction is a delicate balancing act influenced and often dictated by the essential laws of physics and finances.

The fact you are here considering a canoe or kayak means you've already settled on some variables. Ideally it will be light and portable, yet strong and some what seaworthy; it must be of the smallest dimensions possible to good paddling and possibly sailing qualities yet roomy enough to serve as transportation for you and all your gear.

“You can never have too many boats,” my buddy Chris once noted. There’s plenty of truth to that statement, especially if you enjoy boating on a variety of levels.

In order to extract performance in one area, performance in another area will have to be sacrificed.

Each element implies a specific behavior and often these features conflict with each other. When it comes to selecting a boat, the ideal solution is a design that will meet a majority of your needs most of the time.

No boat can successfully meet every requirement all the time. When your requirements change, you would do well to consider a different solution.

I enjoy whitewater paddling however my designs are not suited for whitewater. I don't take my boats down fast, rocky rivers. I have no qualms about renting the right canoe for when I’m going whitewater which I don't do often.

A majority of my paddling consists of throwing a boat on the truck after work and taking a quick paddle after work. My next priority is camping so I want my boats to hold a comfortable amount of gear.

However understanding some fundamental design elements affecting a boats performance can help you narrow the range of alternatives. Here we are addressing primarily canoes and kayaks.

Kanoe or Cayak?

There are so many hybrid hulls on the market today that the features historically distinguishing a canoe from a kayak blur.

Canoes generally refer to wide stable, double-ended, open boats allowing easy entry and exit of people and gear. Seats in a canoe tend to be elevated off the floor up near the gunwales. They are ideal for inland lakes and rivers.

Kayaks tend to be long narrow decked boats with a cockpit where one sits on the floor. They are handle large open water, big waves and wind quite well.

Large wilderness tripping canoes hold lots of gear and expedition kayaks will do the same. Racing canoes in the Olympics look like open kayaks and there are wide open kayaks with tiny decks which look more like canoes. There are decked canoes used for sailing and you sit on the floor to paddle it with a double blade paddle, and un-decked kayaks so you can tan your legs.

A Broad Distinction

In the BWCA (the Boundary Waters Canoe Area), where I expect to load and unload gear frequently for portaging my preference is a canoe. In the big water like Lake Superior, I feel safer in a kayak. Portaging a kayak is difficult because gear is packed in small sacks to fit through the hatch. It’s also difficult to see the trail ahead of you with your head in a kayak cockpit.

A special portage yolk is needed here but the problem of many small sacks of gear remain. Kayaks are ideal for camping in situations like big water which have potential for large wave action due to wind or where you plan to go long distances but stay at one camp site. Campsites on Saganaga at the end of the Gunflint Trail, Voyager's National Park and anywhere on the Great Lakes qualify.

Canoes are generally wider than kayaks. People sit elevated above the floor in canoes, much less so in kayaks. Sitting higher increases the center of gravity and to compensate a canoe is necessarily wider. The added width allows increased stability in a canoe where the paddler’s center of gravity is significantly higher than someone sitting in a kayak. The wider hull has more surface compared to a slender hull of the same length. More surface area translates to added resistance and means either a slower boat or one that requires more work to go faster.

Both canoe and kayak are ideal for occasional or frequent use. For many day trips, I take the wood kayak; it’s fast, responsive and lighter than my Kevlar tandem canoe. My composite wood solo canoe is ideal for BWCA trips where there is one more person in the party than seats in available tandem canoes. It’s fast enough to keep up with the longer boats, especially when using the kayak double paddle. It is much easier to portage and fish out of than a kayak in the BWCA.

It’s a matter of preference and where you expect to paddle most often. Regardless, I prefer a lighter boat than a heavier boat, if for no other reason than it is easier to get on and off the car myself. The lightweight wood boats I build will generally weigh significantly less than a fiberglass or aluminum model. This doesn't apply however to wood tandem canoes which may weigh less but not so much that I would brag about it. The joy of a lightweight boat is that it’s more likely to get used because carrying it to and from the car is not such an issue.