Kamilla, F1 Build, Tiilerilaaq East Greenland

Started building a kayak in Tiilerilaaq for the pupils to use. The builders are Max – school headmaster and Kamilla – teacher and writer of this blog. Our school has about a dozen of pupils. Tiilerilaaq is a traditional fishing and hunting settlement on Sermilik fjord and has about 70 inhabitants. Kayaks are used here and grandfathers pass them on to the young generation, but there hasn’t been any kayak built in Tiilerilaaq for hunting since 1954. However there were kayaks built in Tasiilaq in the 90-ties, mostly for the museum. It’s interesting to think that all those kayaks in the old days were built without the use of equipment at our disposal today!

We started the work in mid August (on the 13.08. exactly) and after the school started, we now continue working on the kayak only in the afternoon. Our F1 is going to be the smallest version for paddler’s weight up to 100 lbs.

We are in the preparation phase. It wasn’t easy to keep precise measurements when cutting the long pieces: gunwales, keel, stringers. We used red cedar for these. Now busy making forms and jigs. And we’ve got all the ribs, oak wood.

We continue working on jigs

PROGRESS UPDATE: Finished cutting all afts and deck beams. Gunwales layout done and mortise the gunwales for ribs too.

Makita router is a great tool !

Deck beams were cut of red cedar but the wood was very dry. After two or three broke just like that, we soaked and steamed them before bending.

First attempt to make the coaming wasn’t successfull. Oak wood, extremely dry and it looked like no amount of steaming could help. We did our best but it broke. New coaming made of ash, we managed to bend successfully! But coaming lip broke, again the very dry oak.

Our steaming setup could possibly be improved. The pipe is over 2m long and just a kettle with boiling water at one end. It took quite a while (almost 2 hours!) to get the pipe piping hot, despite that Max was checking on it every so often. When the pipe’s other end got hot,  the whole bottom was still at best lukewarm. But we have to do with what we’ve got. Even to get the second kettle is not possible here.

In the old days of kayak building to aid the bending, people would chew on the wood. There are ways and ways! 😉

PROGRESS UPDATE: Again we’ve moved forward with the work over the weekend. Gunwales mortised for deck beams, but we couldn’t use the 25 deg mortising jig, since the router’s drill was too short. So we improvised with an ad hoc setup, that allowed us cutting the deck beam mortises.

After cleaning up and sanding down the laminations, we proceeded with setting up the gunwales and deck beams. Lashing and pegging gunwales’ ends done. Mortise and tenon of deck beams completed. And pegging the deck beams done too.

Also made steambox for ribs

PROGRESS UPDATE: Finally we got down to the ribs! Steaming the ribs took ages, and still quite a few of them broke. Some cracked, but we had a few spares and used them too.

Bending the first rib

First rib in place

Kayak ribbed


Last steaming of coaming lip, in a long-pipe setup.. honestly took longer than ages 😉 and we were already thinking of plan B – using a plastic lip instead, but finally it bent.

PROGRESS UPDATE: Continue work on the frame.

Cutting rolling bevels on the stringers

Lashing the stringers

Further work on frame, lashing stems, adding the secondary stringers, installing footbrace tracks, fitting the deck ridge and aft deck stringers and many other things.

It turned out the coaming didn’t quite fit and we had to “extend” the deck beam for proper support of the coaming.

After rounding and sanding, the frame was finished on the 22. September! We decided to skip oiling.

Finally skinning! That was easier than we thought 🙂

Coaming mounted
Proudly showing off the skinned kayak

The wetting and ironing wrinkles was done with the help of the pupils.

The next was coating and this turned out to be somewhat challenging. Basically the problem was space, we couldn’t do it in a classroom because the drying takes two days. The next day it turned out that it was necessary to re-coat a few patches.

PROGRESS UPDATE: Rigging the kayak done. Our kayak was officially finished on 28 September 2019.

The whole idea was that the kayak belongs to the school and will be used by pupils to learn paddling.

Max has tested the kayak on the sea and reported that it’s stable, comfortable and easy to navigate between ices.

UPDATE: Until November we could use the kayak and children love it! Some are already very good and can paddle well.

We made it comfortable to sit in the kayak with a layer of thermarest and seal skin on top. The kayak is light too, less than 15 kg.

Here is Asser (Grade 6) with the kayak.

And here is Miki (Grade 5) in the kayak.

Happy paddling … Kamilla


View posts by Kamilla
Hi! I am currently a teacher at Diilerilaami Alivarpi in Tiilerilaaq, East Greenland. Originally from Poland, former scientist and nuclear engineer. Since 2016 I work as freelancer in adventure tourism, guiding and ski industry, in the Alps and Arctic.


  1. […] Kamilla, F1 Build, Tiilerilaaq East Greenland […]

  2. Mark Drumm
    October 15, 2021

    Very cool, sharing culture!


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