Traditional Greenland Style Kayak

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Project by ElroyD posted 11-09-2016 09:51 PM 2329 views 6 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This one is a few years old, but was the project that got me seriously interested in hand-tools.

Back in 2010, I asked my wife if I could have a kayak. Jokingly, she told me that if I could build it, I could have it.

At the time, the only tools I had were a cordless drill, and an rusty toolbox of my grandfather’s that hadn’t been opened in probably 20 years. Digging through the toolbox, I found a plane, and hand-saw (which actually turned out to be my great-grandfather’s!), and a few other odds and ends that came in useful.

I spent the winter looking for plans for kayaks, and before spring settled on a traditional skin-on-frame kayak in the style of the Inuit from Greenland. I went to the local lumber yard, picked out some board, and started sawing.

The entire frame is pegged with dowels and lashed with artificial sinew. There are no metal fasteners. The skin is ballistic nylon that was hand stretched, sewn over the frame, then dyed. Overall the frame measures just under 18 feet long, and is about 20 inches wide. The deck, gunwales and keelson were made from pine, while the ribs were steam-bent oak. The paddle is also a traditional Greenland style, and was hand carved with my jack-knife from the clearest construction grade 2×4 I’ve ever seen.

I learned a ton from this project, including marking, sawing, mortising, steam-bending, pegging, lashing, and more.

At the time, I took step by step photos, which are available on Flickr:

-- Elroy

19 comments so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3296 posts in 3380 days

#1 posted 11-09-2016 10:28 PM

Elroy, that is one sweet looking kayak. I always wanted to build one, but I don’t live near water or know how to use one.

-- Art

View Derek Oliver's profile

Derek Oliver

264 posts in 3274 days

#2 posted 11-09-2016 10:44 PM

Absolutely awesome! How many hours do you suppose you had into it?

View bushmaster's profile


4127 posts in 3405 days

#3 posted 11-09-2016 11:43 PM

A great Job with minimal tools. Look great and bet it paddles like a dream. Inspires me to finish two of this design that I have started. Recently I posted a Biadarka that I have been using for a number of years.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 1770 days

#4 posted 11-09-2016 11:48 PM

Elroy, you are the man! Great looking kayak. This looks like a lot of work … to reiterate Derek’s question, how many hours?

View ElroyD's profile


134 posts in 1711 days

#5 posted 11-10-2016 12:06 AM

I puttered on this a few minutes each day all summer long, so I’m not really sure how long it took. I’ve read estimates that between 40 to 80 hours is reasonable. I know that when my daughter and I built her kayak after this one, that it went much quicker. We did use a circular saw to rip all the long boards for hers though.

-- Elroy

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26304 posts in 4228 days

#6 posted 11-10-2016 02:26 AM

Sweet kayak! Nice job on it!!


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View bondogaposis's profile


6000 posts in 3474 days

#7 posted 11-10-2016 02:31 AM

Boy, that is nice.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View MSGhandmade's profile


19 posts in 1687 days

#8 posted 11-10-2016 03:11 AM

beautiful work, great job.

View Ivan's profile


16850 posts in 3990 days

#9 posted 11-10-2016 10:23 AM

Beautiful kayak. This is completely different type of woodworking. Excellent job.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Picklehead's profile


1055 posts in 3052 days

#10 posted 11-10-2016 12:55 PM

Nice work. Always wanted (still planning) to build one. How much does it weigh?

-- Quote from ebay tool listing: " Has nicks and dings wear and tear dust and dirt rust and pitting but in good working condition"

View calisdad's profile


334 posts in 2632 days

#11 posted 11-10-2016 04:58 PM

Beautiful- your wife might choose her words more carefully in the future.

-- Groveland, CA.

View Dust_Maker's profile


66 posts in 3443 days

#12 posted 11-10-2016 05:51 PM

Fascinating and beautiful project.

-- Jonathan 2Cor. 4:6

View ElroyD's profile


134 posts in 1711 days

#13 posted 11-10-2016 06:20 PM

Nice work. Always wanted (still planning) to build one. How much does it weigh?

- Picklehead

I’ve never weighed it, but I can pretty easily pick it up with one hand and heft it up onto my shoulder to carry it down to the shoreline. It’s kind of fun, actually, to walk past everyone who has to drive up to the loading areas, unload, then move their vehicles because their kayaks are so heavy.

-- Elroy

View GerardoArg1's profile


1014 posts in 3116 days

#14 posted 11-10-2016 06:52 PM

Wow! SO beatiful. Love it. Make a excelent job. Congratulatios!

-- Disfruta tu trabajo (enjoy your work) (Bandera, Argentina)

View 1911kevin's profile


54 posts in 2861 days

#15 posted 11-10-2016 08:17 PM

Great job, amazing skill for just starting out! You are making us look bad! Well me anyway lol.

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