Saturday, February 23, 2008

Another Kayak-Building Book

Let's continue the previous discussion of good how-to books on building kayaks. Wood and Canvas Kayak Buildingby George Putz, would seem to cover much the same ground as the previously-mentioned Building the Greenland Kayak : A Manual for Its Contruction and Useby Christopher Cunningham. Both involve the construction of a wooden frame, which is then covered with canvas and painted or otherwise sealed to make waterproof. There is a subtle but important difference between them, however.

Where Cunningham follows, as closely as possible, the authentic Greenland kayak-building tradition, Putz takes a more Western approach. By that I mean that his construction methods follows European and American, rather than Eskimo, boatbuilding methods. Until you put the canvas on, Putz's boat looks a lot like a Western boat, whereas Cunningham's kayak frame looks clearly different, more ... indigenous, if you will. This is by no means to say that Cunningham's is superior (or inferior) -- only different. Interestingly enough, the kayak that Putz presents in his book is a classic Greenland design, and the finished product has some clear similarities to Cunningham's. Nonetheless, Putz's boat has a more modern look and feel, higher freeboard and volume, and more initial stability, and will probably be more appealing to most modern paddlers who have no interest in replicating the arcane skillset of the Greenland Eskimo.

The main design and construction differences are as follows:

Putz's kayak
  • all frame members are lightweight

  • transverse members are floor timbers

  • strength members between chine stringer and sheer stringer consist of numerous short timbers on alternating angles, creating a truss-like structure which serves as the boat's main longitudinal strength members

  • frame is fastened with wood screws. All flush joints.

  • skin is tacked to the frame with brass tacks

Cunningham's kayak
  • Sheer stringer and stem are heavy timbers

  • transverse strength members are bent ribs, which extend up to the sheer stringer

  • the sheer stringers represent the main longitudinal strength members

  • frame members are lashed together. Many mortise-and-tenon joints.

  • skin is sewn in place around the frame

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