I built my first kayak two years ago, a stitch & glue plywood boat from plans. I really enjoyed kayak building and in looking for a followup project I discovered SOF kayaks. After a lot of research I settled on the F1. I prefer written instructions over video but the quality of Brian’s videos won me over and I settled on the F1 design. These instructional videos are excellent and Brian explains everything so well that I had no issues with the build except for the one most people seem to face, finding good bending stock.
I have a basement workshop which allows me to build in the winter in a temperature/humidity controlled environment. With the size of my shop more than 15′ would be a challenge. Longer builds would have to be in the garage where it’d have to be a summer project.
I don’t have space for a long tables and relied on a pair of sawhorses I built for my first kayak. They’re on locking wheels with adjustable height that can be raised enough for the boat to clear the table saw giving me more room to move around.
I started late winter of 2019 and had a hard time finding good bending stock. I made and broke four coamings, then warm weather came and production efforts stopped.
In the fall I found some oak at a small saw mill that was adequate but not great. I finally got going again in January of 2020 and was able to make the coaming. (You can see the earlier failed attempts in the background of the following photo).
Because of the quality of the wood I built the lip in two pieces. Rather than trying to assemble it all at once I used Gorilla glue to fasten the lips around the entire perimeter. I used a belt sander lying on its side to smooth out the tapered ends of the coaming and the inner lip so there are no gaps. I probably didn’t need the nails after this but I added them for looks and the extra strength.
Gunwales, Stringers and Deck Beams
I really don’t have a lot to say about making the the components. The instructional videos were very good and I breezed through these steps.
I was able to get beautiful Western Red Cedar. I can only cut up to 8′ lengths on my table saw so I took it to a friends place to cut all the longitudinal pieces. I really enjoyed all the planing work that was required for this project, it’s one of my favorite aspects of the building process.
I was extra careful with cutting the mortises, not wanting to screw up any pieces. I really appreciated Brian’s tip on using a sharpie, it’s much easier to see than pencil and doesn’t soak into the week as deep as I expected so it’s easy to remove.
Building the laminated deck beams.
All of the parts prepped and ready to assemble. You can see the grain on the ribs aren’t great, I sorted these by quality as best I could.
Building the Deck
Now the fun begins, putting it all together. You can see how tight I am for length in my shop. At this point I removed the side table from my table saw to give me more room to maneuver.
Kerfing the ends was a bit fussy, it would want to start cutting more to one side or the other but adjusting the angle on the blade a hair allowed me to compensate and keep it even. I also got to try out the artificial sinew which I’d been looking forward to. I’ve never worked with it before, it’s cool stuff and easy to tie but a a bit messy. I did have to come back and redo these ties after installing the deck beams. I hadn’t got them tight enough the first time or I maybe stretched them too much installing the beams.
Clamping the deck beams in place and using the measuring stick to carefully mark out the cut lines.
Another fun step was cutting the tenons. (Actually all the steps were fun except steam bending the ribs. I maybe should have bought the ribs from Brian but I wanted to make everything myself).
The deck beams are installed, everything fits well and the symmetry is good. I did make a mistake drilling the peg hole for one of the curved deck beams drilling at too steep of an angle. I stopped before going to far into the gunwale, patched it with a dowel then redrilled a new hole.
The ribs were a bit thick when I dry fit them so I needed to plane tapers into the ends. I should have spent more time at this, or just run them through the planer again. During assembly I had some issues with the ribs being overly tight after steaming.
I only had one rib break. I did run into the issue of some of the mortises splitting but fortunately Brian covered that in the video, otherwise I would have panicked and tried to figure out what I was doing wrong. I glued and clamped these splits later.
I had trouble with the ribs not wanting to bend symmetrically, particularly the ones from the cockpit area back. I think it was the quality of the wood but I’ve also wondered if it was a steaming issue. In the areas where they weren’t symmetrical I alternated then so they weren’t all pulling to the same side. As soon as I got them all installed I clamped on the stringers and keels to help pull it into shape.
I didn’t have sufficient space to crouch at the end to and get a good look down the keel so I used a laser level to check the alignment. I first leveled the boat then set my laser level up on the window ledge. It’s a bit fussy to align it but it worked very well. I did this several times as I went along to make fine adjustments and keep it aligned. In spite of the rib issues all my measurements indicated that the symmetry was good along the keel and stringers.
Lashing was an enjoyable process and went quicker then I expected. I made the deck ridge with the groove for the hot knife guide and added back deck supports. I installed the foot braces, but then removed them before applying the finish.
One thing I found was the interior length of my coaming was about 3/8″ longer than my deck spacing. I don’t know how I managed that but is was easy enough to trim back deck beam to match the curve of the coaming.
Before finishing I did a quick sanding while avoiding the lashings, mostly to get rid of the wax smeared around from the artificial sinew. It hurt me not to fully sand the frame but Brian is right in stressing that it’s not necessary and would just be a waste of time. I used Watco Danish Oil and was very pleased with the results. I moved it into the den to get some pictures. I may build a frame as a decorative piece someday, maybe a half size model. It would look great hanging on the wall of the cottage.
Skinning the Frame
I let it dry a week before skinning it. I got the recommended 840 X-TRA TUFF nylon and finishing urethane from SkinBoats.com. I was apprehensive about sewing the skin, more than any other step of the build, but after watching Brian’s videos multiple times I had no trouble. The hardest part was dealing with the length of thread when I was trying to sew. At times I would find the thread twisting and knotting itself up bad enough that I’d discard the piece and start it over. At the bow and stern I found the tacks were like thread magnets and after struggling with keeping them apart I covered the tacks with a strip of blue tape.
I used a soldering gun to cut the fabric, it was a bit slow but worked fine. I was concerned that I’d cut the fabric too short on the fore deck. I followed grooved deck beam but maybe pulled the fabric too tight while I was cutting. However it worked out perfectly as there was just enough to make the seam.
I had a bit of trouble sewing on the coaming. I was getting the material bunched up toward the front as I was working around the first side. Twice I stopped and cut out the thread. For the third attempt I clamped the material in places around the coaming so it would stay spaced more evenly and that worked out.
Before shrinking I check the keel alignment again and did a bit of minor adjustment to the bow which was pulling a bit to one side.
It was still winter so I wet the skin inside using a spray bottle and sponge. It’s great to watch the wrinkles disappear and the skin tighten up like a drum. On the rear deck I initially had the stitch line perfectly straight down the center but I ended up with a bit of waver down the line. I think I was uneven in my use of the iron pulled it more to one side or the other. It’s only noticeable to me but something I’ll try to be more careful with next time.
A minor note, the dowels on the deck beams swelled up from the wetting out so they were no longer flush. Not a problem, just unexpected.
I was undecided about color and like the transparency of white, so I went without dye for my first build. Because of all the epoxy work I did on my wood kayak I didn’t find this part stressful at all. I didn’t use the screw technique for a one day finish, instead I did the hull on a Friday night and the deck the next morning.
Rather than using HDPE I used oak for the keel rub strip and I initially made oak toggles but decided to be more creative. Oak isn’t easy to carve so I used red cedar left over from the frame. I don’t know how well they’ll hold up but it doesn’t matter as they’re easy to replace if needed. I made beavers for the front and otters for the rear deck. Here are the otters getting carved.
Preparing the leather straps.
I came very close to marking the wrong holes for the bow hand hold. I was surprised at how large the lashing hole looked when shining a light through. Fortunately Brian really stressed this part and as I was about to mark the hole it occurred to me that the location didn’t look right.
My son came home from university for reading break and I got him to install the deck lines, foot braces and seating.
For the Thermarest pad I made two tie downs, one at the back and one just ahead of the bilge hole. I got bungie wrist straps from a couple of old kids winter gloves with the locking clamps and used a bit of left over rib stock. I don’t know how well the Thermarest will hold up, I’m expect it will tear at these points but worth a try.
As Brian had recommended I used the extra cedar from the 4×4 and made a paddle. This is my second Greenland paddle, I also made one for my first kayak.
The Finished Kayak
The boat came in at 29’lbs, close to the design weight. I haven’t been able to try it out yet, I’m anxiously awaiting warmer weather. The lakes were still frozen when I finished.
For winter storage I made hangers on the wall in my den for my first kayak. I did this for the F1 as well, lowering the first kayak to make space.
On the Water
I finally got it on the water the first weekend of May. The boat handles great and tracks well. Overall I’m extremely pleased with from how it looks to how much fun it is to paddle. I did a 2 hour run for my first trip on a local river that has a 10 km stretch of flat water. The Thermarest pad seat with the backband is indeed comfortable, more so than the Creature Comfort seat I put in my wood kayak.
I explored some of the side streams into the wetlands on a nice quiet day.
Here is my son who’s home from university with the lock down giving it a try. He now has plans to build his own some day.
I also learned that with a boat this light it can be challenging to get it on the car top on a windy day. I thought it was going to blow away before I got the first strap lashed down.
I’ve used it quite a bit now and I’m still very happy with the performance. It’s aged to a pale yellow much faster than I expected, a very pleasant color.