How To Make A Canvas Kayak?

Wood canvas kayaks were pretty famous in the early 20th century. But at present, very few people like us still love them and want to own one or two canvas kayaks. However, they aren’t available commercially, and you have to make your own. But how to make a canvas kayak?

Your first concern is to make a design and set all the dimensions and create the mold. Then you have to prepare all the ribs and make sure each rib has proper fishing. Plank all the pieces of the ribs and start canvassing with staples or small nails. Don’t forget to apply the resins to strengthen the structure and fill every little hole. Lastly, give your kayak a stunning look with paint.

A canvas kayak with proper structure will last long enough to fulfill your adventure thirst. So, knowing how to make one will definitely come in handy.

Tools That Should Be In Your Grasp

Before you start your kayak-making project, you need to gather all the necessary tools. Here is the list of tools that you will need in this project.

Tape Measure

You can’t measure any pieces of wood and prepare the ribs without the measuring tape. Make sure your tape can measure up to 25 feet.


Two sawhorses are enough to build your canvas. You can choose the folding one to save space in your garage.

Drill And Bits

You need to draw some holes in the ribs to make a structure. So, make sure you have 1/4, 15/64, 19/64 inches drill bits to create a sufficient number of holes.

Combination Square

No other tools can make perfectly straight lines and right angles rather than combination squares.


The hammer is the perfect tool to pound the dowels, pull in and out the nails. But you don’t need any heavy hammer like the carpenters. A 16 or 12oz head is enough to build your kayak.


As you will be plugging lots of nails and dowels, you need a spokeshave to ensure no sharp edges are left behind and cut your skin.

Block Plane

The small block plane is easy to use with one hand while smoothing the sharp edges and rounding the pieces of wood.

Hand Saw

You will need a hand saw to cut the wood planks into their specific length.


Manage a knife that has a fixed blade to cut strings and dowels. They are also helpful to cut the canvas after finishing.


These are used as a temporary setup to hold two parts of the ribs together.

Table Saw

Well, a table saw is pretty expensive. So, if you want to buy one just to make a canvas kayak, it won’t be worth it. If you have any previous table saw, you can use it or else find an alternative.

Rip Saw

It’s mainly a hand saw to cut the long piece of the board.

Jig Saw

This type of saw is used to cut in curves so that you can bend the wood pieces according to your canvas design.

Sewing Needles Or Staples

The needles are used to set the canvas over the structure. But you can also use the staples as an alternative.

How To Proceed Making A Canvas Kayak?

The procedure of canvas kayaking isn’t easy or quick. You will need a lot of patience and hard work for that. Here’s a basic breakdown of how to start making your very own canvas kayak.

How To Make A Canvas Kayak?
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Step 01 – Choose The Design

First, you need a plan to work with your project. Make a rough design for your kayak. For example, what will be the dimensions, size of every rib, bend angle, etc.

When you finalize every part of the kayak, you can get to work without any hesitations or interruptions. The design will also give you a general idea of the amount of wood you will need.

Step 02 -Create The Mold

Now it’s time to create the mold. Bend the proper-sized ribs and give them the shape of a hull.

You have to be careful while bending the ribs because any extra pressure can break the whole rib. Then you again have to prepare another rib.

First, set the centerline with the wood piece and eventually the straight ones. That’s because they are easy to fit. You can also use a metal mold as a reference and attach the wood pieces according to it.

Step 03 -Prepare The Ribs

You will need the saw to cut the massive lumber into several pieces according to your need.

For example, you need 40 pieces of ribs to make your kayak. So, cut the whole lumber into a certain length and gather all the pieces. Then plane and route them to use in the structure. Make sure no sharp edges are left behind.

And those pieces needed to bend around the mold – you need to soak and steam them to make them pliable enough to bend.

Step 04 -Start The Planking

When all the ribs are placed according to your design, you need to plank them to place them permanently. So, after planking them alongside the length of the canoe, put the nails from outside.

But don’t use larger nails more than the thickness of the ribs. Otherwise, the sharp edges will give you a small cut whenever you ride your kayak.

Step 05 -Fit Into The Canvas Shell

Well, the structure is almost ready and now you have to place the canvas skin on the frame canoe.

First, you need to cut a canvas equal to the length and width of your kayak.

Then, make a centerline and place the canvas over it. Now start with one side and keep the canvas steady and tight enough to plug the staples. You will need a big staple machine with large staples that can hold such pressure.

When one side of the shell is done canvassing, go to the other side and staple the canvas with the ribs. But don’t staple the front and back edge until both sides of the kayak are complete.

After that, you can finish by stapling the edges and blend them smoothly so that no extra canvas is left there. And lastly, cut the extra canvas from both sides.

Step 06 -Apply The Epoxy Resins

The kayak is ready but there are many holes because of stapling. And the boat also needs another layer of protection which will come from the resin coatings.

Apply the epoxy resins all over the canvas, especially over the area with extra staples. And don’t forget the front edge of the boat.

Step 07 -Make Your Kayak Colorful

Don’t make your kayak look dull or gloomy because you will ride on some small adventures or enjoying your leisure. So, bring some colorful paint and give it a shiny vibe!

Some Pro-Tips For Canvas Making

Now that you’re all set and ready with your brand ney DIY kayak, you can go about kayaking to your heart’s content. Before you jump into your next wild adventure and put your new kayak to the test, here are a few tips that might come in handy.

  • Don’t waste the extra canvas after finishing the shell
  • Try to control your strength while working with a hammer
  • Choose small nails and small dowels
  • Don’t bend the ribs without soaking and steaming them
  • Try to plan every task before proceeding

Final Words

Kayaking is fun! But nowadays, most kayaks are made of metals and plastics. Canvas kayaking has a different fanbase.

If you are one of them, you should learn how to make a canvas kayak. You can follow our instructions to build your own canvas boat and enjoy kayaking at your nearby lake. Remember to be safe and have fun on your next big adventure!

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