Greenland Kayaking Building Week 13

Getting close to the end of the Greenland kayak building session, now up to week 13 and the end of April.  Many of the boats are getting their skin sewn on, skin dyed, and the first boat got a seal coat (one of three coats).  The pressure is this week to complete the kayaks as May 7th is the last day at the rented Warehouse in Livonia Michigan.

Two sewing techniques have been used.  One method is using two sash cords to wrap the skin (ballistic nylon) around tensioning the cords down the center of the kayak.  Then a “X” or cross stitch is used to bring the two seams together.  This makes for a very nice seam if done correctly and kept straight.

Basting the Cord

Basting the Cord

Cockpit Batten

Cockpit Batten X Stitch


Greenland Kayak X-Stitch

Finished Greenland Stern

Finished Greenland Stern

It does appear this X stitch is a slower technique than the one shown in videos on web site.  The other technique using a batten to use as a reference to keep the seam straight and uses two stitches to close the gap.

Dyes were ordered from Skin Boat; amber, copper, and gray.  The copper looks red at the moment prior to sealing.  The dye operation is tricky as it is difficult to get a consistent color in the nylon along with the shrinking operation.  The dye was applied with a rag rubbing it into the surface.  The dye first dissolved in hot water with 10-15% vinegar added to the liquid.

To shrink the skin after the dye is applied, an iron at full heat is pressed on the top surface.  Care must be taken that any wood under the skin is not heated with the iron as it changes the color of the dye/skin.  A heat gun was also used for the shrinking operation.  I discovered that the saw horse holding the kayak after dying left a color mark, so others should take care to minimize the contact surface while the dye is drying.

I put the first sealer coat on my boat using a polyurethane called Dura Tuff.  It is a nasty operation requiring 65 to 70 degrees and lots of ventilation.  The material gets very sticky by the end of the coating operation.  Care must be taken to keep it off your hands and not breath the vapors.

Next week will be the last blog of this Kayak building series, please let me know if you enjoyed it by leaving a comment.

The Southeast Michigan Kayak Builders (SEMKB) group will be looking for people to build next year.  I recommend adding about two weeks to the length of the build, starting earlier in January.  The group is also loosely known as “Skirts and Skins.”

Again, let me have some comments about the series.  Bored?  Like it? or Hate it?

Sewing the Skin

First Stitch Done

Other Sew Technique

Cross Stitch Technique

Greenland Sewing Complete

Greenland Boat Complete Ready for Dye and Sealing

Shrinking After Dye

Drying and Shrinking Skin After Dye

Post Dye

Post Dye

Dye Day Afternoon

Dye Day Afternoon

Wood Canoe

Wood Strip Built Canoe Ready To Go

Canoe Going Home

Wood Canoe Going Home

Canoe Leaving

Canoe Leaving

Leave A Comment


  1. Steffen

     /  May 6, 2011

    Nice blog, I like it. I hope we have all our kayaks in the water soon.

  2. Hoping for water test in one more week!

  3. nosli

     /  March 13, 2012

    Hi, thanks for putting all this online!

    I’m getting ready to build my own. I was wondering about the skinning process. As I understand it, nylon can expand when it gets wet. Did you notice any sagging when testing the kayaks?

    It looks like you sewed your fabric on dry? I’ve seen other sources say you should soak the nylon before sewing it. Do you think that would be a good idea?

  4. The skinning process is not hard, but there are many different techniques, I have only built one SOF so I can only speak for the method I used. I found out it was not hard and the tightness turned out perfectly. Yes the the fabric was put on dry, I used the web site skin boat: There, there are videos showing how to skin which I followed and I used their sewing technique. I did not use their sealing material however as others have tried the two part sealant with not so good results. My blogs states what I used Dura Coat, a one part material.

    I used a dye wetting the material after sewing then with a steam iron to shrink the nylon prior to sealing. The sealing process also tightens the skin as it dries. Be careful with the steam iron however, keep it moving or it will leave marks. I also used a heat gun in some areas. Watch the iron on any areas with wood underneath as this will leave marks.

    Some people that dye soak and cook the material in a turkey cooker first so the dye goes in better. I did not do this and the dye took well and is not rubbing off as some others had trouble without soaking. I have not had any sagging of the skin and it is now almost a year old.

    Hope this helps.


  5. Many ferrocement boats built in back yards have a rough, lumpy look, which has helped to give the material a poor reputation. The ferrocement method is easy to do, but it is also easy to do wrong. This has led to some disastrous ‘home-built’ boats. Properly designed, built and plastered ferrocement boats have smooth hulls with fine lines, and therefore are often mistaken for wooden or fiberglass boats. Thanks.

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