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Thread: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

  1. #1
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    Default Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Hello. First time posting on WBF. I'm in the planning stage of building a skin-on-frame canoe. For the first one anyway, my main goals are as follows:
    #1 stays afloat#2 ultra cheap( probably bump the moneys up for the next one)

    I'd like to use these plans by David Bynoe
    https://www.dbynoe.com/wp-content/up...5/12/tarn1.png

    Using I don't know what kind of wood scraps. And cotton canvas from...(don't stone me) Harbor Freight.
    https://www.harborfreight.com/4-x-15...oth-56598.html

    I realize these materials may not be up to usual standards, but until the first boat floats, I think this is what I have to work with if at all possible.
    If it stays afloat I'll invest in better material for the next on.

    What do you think of the design and my material suggestions? Does anyone have experience with canvas? Or suggestions for a cheap/easy-to-find wood?
    Or any other thoughts or suggestions.

    Thanks for any input

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Welcome to the Forum.

    Some advice from a guy who has built 18 small boats.
    Build it right or don't build it at all.
    The design is sound. The proper wood and fabric is not that expensive.
    Building out of scarp wood and a cheapo tarp is going to result in a very sub par boat and
    discourage any future boat building.
    I know this is pretty blunt advice and I don't want to throw cold water on your ambition to build a boat, but
    I highly suggest you use the materials listed in the design.
    Good luck and let us know how you do.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.
    Skiing is the next best thing to having wings.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Ok. Thanks Rick. I can accept that, especially about scrap wood. But what bothers you about the Harbor Freight canvas?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    I'd advise studying Dave Gentry's website. Take a look at his canoes, of course, but also is general advise about building these types of boats.

    I personally like to learn the hard way. So I would say it's better to build a cheap disposable boat than no boat at all. Having said that, finding appropriate scrap would would be difficult but not impossible. For example, a friend recently had the cedar siding on the front of her house stripped off to be replaced with stone. The wood is in a big pile in her backyard. I'll bet a person could pick through it and find enough good wood for a canoe or kayak. Possibly several. She's going to use it for kindle.

    As to the cover, polyester is cheap and will prove far more durable and long-lasting than cotton canvas.

    But by all means, go for it. And please start a thread here when the building gets going.
    -Dave

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Also be aware that the design, as the designer notes, is extremely tippy. Even with good final stability, a boat with so little initial stability is both quite tedious and rather tiring to paddle. It's a constant balancing act that most people do not enjoy. Reading the designers intended purpose, there really isn't any good reason to build it with either that tippy cross-section, or that sheer and stem profile.
    As for the canvas, it's going to take a buttload of paint to seal that flimsy canvas and it may be quite difficult to control the stretching. At least after you make that mistake you should be able to tear it off and replace it with something more commonly used for skin boats.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Also check out the Kudzu Craft website. http://www.kudzucraft.com/web/ I had looked at the Tarn plans but that boat does not look like it has anything to recommend it except light weight. A canoe should be easy to handle and look good, the Tarn does not look like it would be either of those.

    Do not consider my thoughts very decisive, as I have not built my first boat yet, but I have owned an aluminum canoe and used it a little.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Keep in mind that the light weight is derived from using the polyester cover. I have several of those tarps and they're pretty heavy...and will be much more so by the time you get enough paint on them to seal them up. You'll spend as much on paint as you would on the polyester so I'd go for the right fabric.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    I'm sold on the polyester. I don't know why I thought it was kinda expensive. Is it just any ~10 oz polyester fabric, or is there some special designation?

    If I can't find red cedar, are there other common woods that would be fine?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    I've never had a problem finding good clear western red cedar at a reputable lumber yard.
    Don't even think of going to Home Depot.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.
    Skiing is the next best thing to having wings.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    I'll keep that in mind. Do you have a ballpark idea of wood cost for say, a 15' canoe? $150? Sub $100?

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Quote Originally Posted by Sunkenpunt View Post
    I'll keep that in mind. Do you have a ballpark idea of wood cost for say, a 15' canoe? $150? Sub $100?
    Wood prices are _all over the place_, so it'd be hard to say without more info. But, if you are looking for cedar, the best way to get decent stuff cheaply, I think, is to go to a lumber yard that sells lots of deck stuff that lets you pick through and find the few boards that are high quality. It sort of surprises me given how soft it is, but western red cedar is sold as decking.

    Having built Dave Genty's Wicomico, I can recommend it. It tracks well, was easy to build, is spacious, and has good initial stability (I don't know about final stability as I haven't tipped it over yet!). A half sheet of plywood for the frames is going to be way cheaper than equivalent solid wood that is good enough quality to steam and bend (as long as you get quality external plywood, which you _test_ the glue in by boiling or soaking in water for a while, you're probably fine), so you'll probably end up spending _less_ total money going that route, even considering the $55 for the plans.
    Daniel

    Building a Campion Apple 16.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    I've had some luck finding clear cedar at Menards and even Lowes. It's not in the section with finished boards, however, but in the rough cut section. Sometimes you'll find a rough-cut 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 or even 2 x4 that's clear of knots.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    The last couple boats I have skinned with polyester fabric have developed wrinkles. I have used it several years back and had no problem with wrinkles. It stayed drum tight. I think I would go with the nylon or clear vinyl next time.
    "I see!" said the blind man who picked up his hammer and saw.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Talk about two materials which stretch and sag like crazy.........nylon and clear vinyl. Just saying. If you think polyester is bad, just wait.

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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    So am I looking for any special polyester? Is there a certain designation or description I should look for?
    Anything like this?
    https://www.efavormart.com/products/...ic-by-the-bolt

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Yes, there is a specific type of polyester that you are looking for. It is available from places like kudzucraft.net or the Skin Boat School Spirit Line's: Skin Boat Store. Both specialize in providing products for skin on frame boat building. It isn't available from typical fabric stores online, even ones that specialize in outdoor gear.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Those prices are not so bad

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Right -- buy the right polyester fabric, and you can coat it with most any paint or sealer that you like. It's the cheapest way to make a decent boat.
    -Dave

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Western red cedar is "easily" available at Home Depot or Lowes.
    You just have to go thru every stick in the building to find the ones that have few knots.
    Then you have to be willing to learn to make longer boards by using a 8/1 splice using epoxy.
    The best way is to splice the biggest size boards you can get (2x4, or 4x4 for example) before cutting the strips down to the required building size.

    Before inflation you could have done that boat or one less tippy for around $50 (solid wood price). You would have to price it out yourself now days.

    Like was requested - please make a build report. I need to live vicariously these days.

    AND,,,, polyester that is not heat set - at the previously suggested places. The polyester I used in 16 to 20' kayaks was 8oz.

    Have fun.
    Last edited by upchurchmr; 05-20-2022 at 05:41 PM. Reason: second thoughts

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    I would think, the cheapest approch would be to build a 5-6foot model, using the materials and plans mentioned in the o.p. and during the build make notes on suitability/ verses their availability..most watercraft builders develop strong
    feelings/opinions about what they'd use/do on the NEXT build from their first
    Last edited by the_gr8t_waldo; 05-21-2022 at 08:45 AM.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    I think if you search the web, you'll find that people are building SOF boats with cheap simple things like green branches and tarps. These are not ling lived nor high quality, but they can be very quick and cheap to build.
    There were books and articles years ago using canvas tarp, heavier stuff than that drop-cloth. The name Percy Blandford comes to mind.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    My first sof kayak was built with salvaged wood, lashed with braided fishing line, skinned with duck canvas from the fabric store, and sealed with spar varnish from home depot.
    It is do-able on the cheap if that is all you can manage.
    Nowadays I use better materials as my skills have evolved.
    Bigger projects, and the time and labor involved, it does not make sense to cheap out on materials... scrounging helps...

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    http://robroy.dyndns.info/baidarka/ good site for links , it's old so some could be gone or accessible through www.archive.org

    Skin on frame is yes more "disposable" and a cheaper way to go , the result is perfectly usable and capable watercraft , after all the first kayaks to cross the Atlantic were skin on frame . Canvas skinned boats can last for a decade or more if you store it in a heated dry place.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Quote Originally Posted by the_gr8t_waldo View Post
    I would think, the cheapest approch would be to build a 5-6foot model, using the materials and plans mentioned in the o.p. and during the build make notes on suitability/ verses their availability..most watercraft builders develop strong
    feelings/opinions about what they'd use/do on the NEXT build from their first
    I think that's a pretty cool idea. And thanks for the other ideas too. I totally agree with the earlier posts about high quality materials, and I'll probably do that. But I can't seem to pass up the possibility of getting the juices flowing on a boat for, say, 20 bucks using junk I already have.

    I learn more when I don't spend anything and work my way through things.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    I'm intrigued. 8/1 splice. Does that mean you cut the bevel 1" down for every 8" out?
    And Is that like the double syringe epoxy, or the epoxy in the bottles used for stitch and glue type thing?

  26. #26
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    Default Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Quote Originally Posted by Sunkenpunt View Post
    I'm intrigued. 8/1 splice. Does that mean you cut the bevel 1" down for every 8" out?
    And Is that like the double syringe epoxy, or the epoxy in the bottles used for stitch and glue type thing?

    I think they just meant what is usually called a scarf joint. And yes — the ratio means you end up with matching bevels that are 8 times as long as they are high. So a 3/4” board would taper to nothing over 6”.

    There are plenty of ways to make cheaper materials work better, though they may take more time and/or use more synthetic materials. And you have to run into the problem and work around it… E.g., I was having a hell of a time getting (red cedar!) to bend in a particular twist, and didn’t want to set up steam (and had tried just heating it), and Dave Gentry suggested adding a bit of lightweight glass on the outside (he said he’d done it before with a bit of cotton T-shirt glued with Titebond 3), to add a bit of stiffness in tension. And it worked perfectly.

    Edit: I’ve only ever used marine epoxy, ie the stuff in the bottles (I’ve used both the cheap and fancy stuff that duckworks sells… both work fine). Maybe the 5 minute stuff in the tubes would work, but it’s a lot thicker, so may not soak into the grain as well. For scarf joints, the recommended way is to first put on a coat of unthickened (“neat&rdquo epoxy, which is almost liquid on a hot day, and let it soak in a bit, and then put a layer that has been thickened with something— wood sanding dust, silica, etc.
    Last edited by dbp1; 05-23-2022 at 08:25 AM.
    Daniel

    Building a Campion Apple 16.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    You really can learn a lot by using what you have and using cheap materials.
    Of course you might be learning the same thing others learned and could have helped you along if you asked questions and learned from others failures.
    Sometimes the lessons learned were just to not use cheap materials, cause what you learned doesn't apply to a better built boat.
    But there is a lot of hot air in this world (including mine), so you have to do it your own way.

    I have one lesson learned the hard way. Don't hit your thumb with a hammer.
    If you choose to learn that your own way, please give us a report on what you learn. .

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Cheap skin-on-frame canoe

    Quote Originally Posted by emf View Post
    The last couple boats I have skinned with polyester fabric have developed wrinkles. I have used it several years back and had no problem with wrinkles. It stayed drum tight. I think I would go with the nylon or clear vinyl next time.
    Just ran upon this thread. I had some polyester I sold for about a year and I started getting lots of reports it wrinkling up after being painted. I finally quit selling it because of all the issues. I have never had an issue with any other polyester we sold, it was just something specific with that fabric.

    Like you, I have never had a problem with one that I sewed on tight. If you shrink it a lot, it will stretch back out somewhat. It is called creep.
    Jeff
    Kudzu Craft Skin boats
    SoF boat kits, supplies and plans

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