View Full Version : Oak and kayaks

10-14-2012, 09:36 AM
Hi guys, I have a question about oak. I have an oak tree lying around (well, it will lie down in a few weeks), and was wondering if it would be good wood for a wood and canvas kayak frame. Obviously, there are a few factors that will decide whether the tree will be useful for anything other than fire wood. But assuming the tree is straight enough, and it doesn't have that many knots and other imperfections. Would it then be a good timber for a kayak frame?

Oak is strong and heartwood can handle a bit of water. It's heavier than pine though. So should I try to split the tree and see if it's worth trying or should I just dry it and burn it in a year or two?

Thanks in advance!

PS: I don't have any experience with building boats, but I do have some woodworking experience and just about all the tools you'd need. A kayak doesn't seem as difficult as the beautiful boats you guys made, so I'm on the safe side.

Peerie Maa
10-14-2012, 09:53 AM
Even if you are advised that the bole is not of any use for a kayak, keep all of the thicker bent branches and the knees where the branches leave the trunk. Boat builders will want those if your tree is the right variety of oak.

10-14-2012, 10:03 AM
Even if you are advised that the bole is not of any use for a kayak, keep all of the thicker bent branches and the knees where the branches leave the trunk. Boat builders will want those if your tree is the right variety of oak.

Agreed. Use the stock for furniture or larger boats. Choose lighter species for canoes or kayaks.

10-14-2012, 10:39 AM
Red or white oak? If white it could work well for ribs or supporting structures but is a bit heavy for the frame. If red, use it for firewood.

10-14-2012, 11:04 AM
White oak. I don't know how much timber I'd get from it, and if it's enough to make all the frame parts from it. The strakes are small and therefore they won't add that much weight. The ribs might be something different, they won't be that lumpy but oak probably is too heavy for that.

@Peerie Maa/Canoez: We already have 25m3 of oak firewood, so we don't need more. So selling it for timber might be a good alternative. It's almost perfectly straight.

10-14-2012, 12:41 PM
I've built a number of batten-seam ply (3mm) sea kayaks and I only use oak occasionally in small lumps for deck fittings. For that matter I don't use glass either--too heavy. I've had my 18-footer for almost 12 years now and it weighs 37 lbs--lighter than most kevlar boats of the same size. Believe me you can feel it out on the water, and its not bad (cartopping) out of the water either. Don't use oak. Use a lighter wood--spruce etc. A lightweight kayak will outperform a heavy one--it will literally float like a cork and behave much better in seas. Especially in a long sea kayak, too much weight (from overly-heavy hull structure) in the ends will make your boat respond sluggishly when you need to maneuver in rough water, not to mention taking more energy to paddle.

Make some beautiful oak chairs, and keep your kayak light--you'll be glad you did.

10-14-2012, 01:27 PM
So I guess spruce it is. Last question: Our local woodstore sells spruce, but it's meant for housebuilding. Are there different grades of spruce, or is spruce just spruce? I assume the latter, but I might as well ask.

10-14-2012, 03:58 PM
i'm not an expert but....most of the home improvement stores do not sell spruce lumber per se, but do sell a lumber grade marked something like spruce, pine, fir ( SPF ) the chance of getting true spruce from this supplyer is really slim.( but in the words of judy tenuta- "it could happen"!) more likely it'll be pine in the east/south...and Fir in the west ....and spruce in grade name only.

Hugh Conway
10-14-2012, 05:25 PM
Split White Oak would work quite well for the ribs of a skin on frame kayak. Not much heavier than ash that's also commonly used - and will steam bend much better than spruce or fir or whatevers at the megawart homeshop. For wales, try to find long red cedar fence boards.

10-15-2012, 03:01 AM
The naming of wood in the Netherlands is a bit odd sometimes. 'Vuren' is spruce, 'grenen' is pine and 'dennen' is fir. Pine tree is called the 'grove den' though, so it's confusing at times. I do umderstand that you really don't want fir though, you might aswell use paper.

Bram V
10-15-2012, 04:16 AM
I also live in holland, and it's quite possible to buy vuren (spruce) and shave the bad parts off of it, you need about 150% of the thickness and check that the imperfections are on one side of the wood, you end up with something quite nice and springy.

10-15-2012, 07:52 AM
Thanks for all your answers!

I'll just post a new question, hoping it will be my last before I start building it (I don't have a date set yet, might be next week but it could be next year). When looking at plans that are for sale on the internet, most use around 12 ribs. But when you look at a Klepper (folding kayak) frame, they only use 6 ribs in a 2 person sailing kayak. The ribs are rather thin too. I know the skin of Kleppers are quite sturdy, but that can't explain that they only need 6 ribs right?

10-15-2012, 08:33 AM
Kleppers, IIRC, are "non-traditional" skin on frame kayaks, using marine plywood for the "ribs." Traditionally constructed SOF kayaks use many (often up to 20 or more) steam bent ribs that are mortised into the gunwales. These ribs are simply straight grained slats a few cm across and perhaps 4-5 mm thick.
You can see examples of both types of construction on my site.
White oak makes excellent rib stock . . . .

10-15-2012, 10:50 AM
I really like your Disko Dreadnought! I like the Arctic/Greenland kayaks quite a lot, I just have to find a design which can hold me. The dreadnought is big enough, but I'm close to it's maximum capacity.

I've found plans of a south Greenland kayak, by Howard Chapelle. It's almost 6m long, so a bit longer than your dreadnought. I'll have to check whether it's deep enough to fit my legs. If I'm not mistaken, I could even make the ribs (in a non-traditional way) out of the biggest pine beams I can get. Most importantly, it looks awesome!

I might make a 1:10 model of the frame first, as a learning project and to make a nice trinket for in the living room.

10-15-2012, 01:53 PM
If you need a bigger kayak, Tom Yost has free plans for his Sea Tour 15 and 17 EXP kayaks - both should fit you and are easy builds, if not particularly traditional looking.
All his aluminum framed folding designs can be built as non-folding wooden framed boats (cheaper and easier).

10-15-2012, 08:11 PM
I'll also note that the traditional Greenland kayaks are made to fit the user. You can sit in the frame as you put it together and then cut the parts for a good fit. It's like sizing a shoe -- you don't want it too small or too large. So whatever plan you select, you'll want to make some adjustments. There are several books out there that describe the process in detail.

10-18-2012, 12:16 AM
Well, it is not a good approach to burn the wood. You can utilize these woods to re-module the kayak frame or you can shape it as a paddle as well.