Tibor’s W. Greenland kayak, Sweden

Ok, this seems to be a lot longer post and process than I thought and it’s good not to be in a hurry. I think I spent more time on researching and sourcing wood and tools than I will ever be building the kayak. How about that? Sound like a control freak to you? Well, researching and paddling is fun too so that’s what I’ve been doing during my summer vacation.

I’ll chip in a bunch of variables in the building process and hopefully get to learn a lot. Didn’t have many tools when I started out, but got everything handheld by now when I am starting this build blog. Unfortunately I won’t have nice table machines on my apartment’s balcony. Would buy, but no space!

Instead of red cedar shipped to Sweden a gazillion miles, I will try to use some locally sourced wood, fur and spruce. To save work I bought fur and spruce planks more or less the right dimensions and also a couple of wide Ash planks which looked like a nice grain. I stuffed around lumber for half an hour with the help of the seller. The beauty of it is, if it doesn’t work, I get to build another kayak (and use imported wood)!


Making a paddle

So I actually never seem to have the right tools or materials. I guess you have to build a few boats to get into it properly. With the tools I had recently bought I started making a paddle as free time therapy. At least I got some practice with the circular saw and electric planer! I also made all the mistakes Brian was telling us not to do in the vids. Oh well, the spruce plank cost me the equivalent of $3 and the computer free therapy I needed was good 🙂 So what if it breaks?

All in good form

I thought making the forms would be easy and straightforward but I couldn’t wait for my square and straight edge order to arrive so I winged it with the help of Pythagoras. It mostly turned out ok. A month later and the little block plane in the order still hasn’t arrived! Instead I borrowed a 70yrs old Stanley from my neighbour Danny and sharpened it with a brand new stone. Thanks for the tip Brian!

Btw, the use of dedicated wood drill bits really help finding and keeping the center when making angled holes. Also, be careful when power planing your gunwhales. I made my curved deck beam a little too thick and it’s under the skin anyway so no big deal.

In the process of making the forms I got to learn how wide a Sharpie mark is, how hilarious it is to be a plunge router noob out of control, how strong wood glue actually is and how little of it you need. I also tinkered with router settings and got to warm a router bit some… Then I test bended some fir and it didn’t crack. No steaming. Also scary to do the first time. How do you like the coaming jig sun clock? Or is it a scull with spikes?

Starting the kayak build

There are probably always slight modifications you have to make depending on what materials and tools you have at hand. I for one am still waiting for a table saw and fresh oak. After the first few days of fixing the forms my build kind of stopped. I know, I’m soo slow in this process, but it needs to be relaxing for me and definitely not stressed.

With Brians vids I learned how to do many things without prior practice. Like how to put a hexagonal steamer tube in the box…well ok, maybe not that, but how to laminate bent wood, how to use a faux Japanese saw (my muscle memory still wants to push it and it goes boiioing because it has no spine) and how to power plane, among many things.

I also learned some things that were not in the vids, like how to glue your deck beam firmly to the form, how to not take a selfie, how to break a screw inside the gunwhale and how cold Swedish autumn can be, standing outside not actually doing much physical work. It’s very unlike kayaking or biking 🙂

I know, I should have put the bow and stern wedges on at a later stage and the stupid screw wouldn’t have made it there, but hey, there’s a fair bit of chaos in my head anyway now trying to remember all details from the vids.

Mortising, kerfing and lashing

All those were new expressions to me in English just a few months ago and I am happy to say I know what they mean now. Imperial measurements however, I do not. The author Malcolm Gladwell discusses in his book Outliers whether kids of some Asian tongues learn math faster because their languages have a less complex structure for numbers. Well, Imperial measurements are for me unnecessary complex and a convoluted way of taking precise measurements. Well, what the h**l, I memorised some anyway. Never thought that would happen.

I “translated” the West Greenland Stretched drawing PDF to metric. It’s not as pretty as the original, but ask Liz or Brian about it and you can decide for yourself if it might help you 😉

Anyways, here are som pics of my practise mortices, the deck beams setup, kerfed ends, a duck, Olga and Ulrika, a couple of kayaking friends I hung out with over the weekend, my router wedge and lastly, when disaster struck and I cracked the gunwhale!

Pushing the gunwhales apart I missed the mortise and bent the deck beam I was pushing in upwards, which resulted in a cracked gunwhale. Being not so shy I wedged the spruce open again and pushed in some glue. We’ll see if she’ll hold. You should check Brian’s vid where he says exactly not to do what I did!

UPDATE: you seem to be able to get away with a cracked gunwhale or two as long as the crack doesn’t continue too far along it. The skin and coating seems to hold everything together really well; you actually glue the skin to the gunwhale sides when the polyurethane soaks through. Remember, I use spruce grown in Sweden (Picea abie) which is a flexible and pretty light soft wood if you can find the right quality. It needs to be straight grained, dry, light and only have very small knots, just as Brian teaches us.

We be steaming

A friend called today after I had failed just about any steaming time for my scrap Ash ribs and the big bending day tomorrow. I agreed on bending all the ribs today at 3pm to show the process and have some fun together, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, turns out quite a few ribs can crack, while most of my ribs that didn’t crack let themselves be re-steamed surprisingly well. I had checked for all ribs to fit into the mortises, but then let them soak for two days. Clever. Every one of them were too wide and I had already put half of them into the steamer before I realised. There was a lot of stressed swearing going on, I can tell you that!

Nevermind, here are some photos of today: Pretty clear Ash, Gregor’s table saw, stacking rib material, the first crooked ribs in the kayak, then re-steamed and finally the rib morgue. I will probably have to steambend some more ribs or re-steam to flatten the bottom, but that’s another story. Hope you enjoy.

Enjoying the process

Awaiting more material I busied myself fixing odds and ends, like glueing the cracks in the first few ribs of my very dry ash, cutting and adjusting the stringers etc.

When my fresh oak finally arrived (thanks Peter i Dala!) I could make a coaming. I actually made two just in case, the backup a little longer on the same jig. I just let out the ends a little. The oak I got is really fresh and good for ribs and coamings but not so long and straight grained for coaming lips. Kept forgetting the belt and destroyed five lips after succeeding with the first. Oh well. I ended up using a cam strap instead of my 31″ belt, which worked better. You have to have a firm grip though and not lose it. Helps to be a Thark! Also test fitted a good and cheap Lomo buoyancy bag.

Working outside

There has been a lot of rain in Stockholm this autumn. Although my kayak is somewhat protected from the elements, it has gotten wet every second day by wind and rain. So I weighed the kayak frame with all parts test fitted with a few straps and it weighed 12kg according to my scales! Not happy with that at all, I moved the kayak (3 meters) to my living room. After only 4 nights inside it has already shed so much moisture from the wood, all my keel and stringer lashings came loose. I had to retie them all, which was actually calming and meditative this second time when I kinda knew what I was doing. I enjoyed it.

I also realised that the rib (#7) after the (#x) heel rib I cut away as per instructions is the one creating most of my entry/exit problems. Will have to move that rib on my next build because it chews up the skin on my heels and I like to have bare feet all summer! For the current build I will not kerf into the gunwhales to lower the masik. Maybe I flattened the ribs too much in that region? Just as well that the kayak wood shrunk btw: now I could get rid of a few shims.

Working in my living room for a change

Oiling and skinning the frame

After having done some touching up outside, mostly sanding, today I had to move the kayak skeleton indoors again to oil the frame. Thanks to my old friend Clabbe and the low weight, we just strapped it on top of his roof box and rolled down to the kayak club where I could use the workshop for a few days. I started out papering the floor and went ahead to oil the frame right away so it would dry before clothing day, two days later. Poor me I had to go on a hike with friends in between.

A friend from the hike, Stefan, helped me to lace and cut the skin on a beautiful but cold Sunday. First time with the hotknife and every time after that, you need to be calm and careful. You get into it pretty quickly, but mistakes could cost you a new skin and lots of waiting! I was lucky this time.

The first rule of the hotknife: don’t drop the hotknife!

We had many interested people at the kayak club while working with the nylon. Many asking if it was cold working for so long outside. This day, about 20 people jumped into the water, some even without warming up in the sauna. Cold? Naah!

We tightened up the skin with zig-zags outdoors and would have called it a day when it got too dark to work. Then we found the outside lights at the kayak club 🙂

Moving the kayak indoors much later, the skin became tight as a drum and the seams of the zig-zag would create small oval holes everywhere. I was worried at the time but it was really easy to fix at a later stage with some urethane goop or Aquaseal. To learn the parameters I started stitching the final stitch of the stern indoors and moved outside for the bow the next day. The temperature being at least 12 degrees C lower outside (a cosy 8C/46F) didn’t seem to change much. I’m using the 840 Xtra Tuff Nylon from Skinboats and it seems to be stretchy enough for you to be able to pinch as hard as you want/can and just stitch away. A very forgiving cloth for a beginner like myself, it seems.

The wood seems to want to become a kayak just as much as the cloth seems to want to be stretched, stitched and look all kayaky and beautiful.

Watching this kayak take it’s final shape I contemplated all the steps which brought me here with a grin on my face.

I may never know how a woodworker actually feels, being a web developer, but I have at least glimpsed some of the feeling they may get, shaping simple planks into beautiful objects. Respect.

Images below of Stefan and our stitching. Having a friend help you the first time with scary hot-knife cutting and all at this stage was immensely helpful. Everyone should have a Stefan!

Do you really need a coaming?

The evening of the stitching I wanted to goop up the cloth and kind of push time to my favor, being eager to see if the old barge would finally float or not… Unfortunately I had brought with me Corey’s Amazing Tung Oil instead of the Urethane part B, which would probably make for a somewhat sticky and leaky kayak mixed together.

The goops BASE gets the name B when the hardener/curing compound has the name A on Urethane? What am I not understanding? I would like to start with A and then get on with B, the would-be hardener. It was first made here by he way.

Since I’m only biking, by choice, and don’t own a car or motorbike anymore, I didn’t want to bike home in a rush at 20.00 and start gooping after 21.00. Had to finish up for the evening, not a little bit frustrated. Being unstressed makes for better work and all, right?

That’s about when I realised I had forgotten to stitch on the coaming. Oops.

So, out came the hotknife, needle and 1mm twine (murarsnöre in Swedish). I only stitched over the coaming twice and never stitched the cam strap, not even once, promise! What about you?

Didn’t find or look properly for Brian’s tips about where to start stitching and I put the first stitch and “big ugly knot” at the rear of the coaming. Turns out with the hardened goop on, you can actually get quite a hard knot in your twine there and possibly tear your clothing entering and exiting your tightly fit kayak. Oh, and I was using untreated (brick layer’s) twine which wasn’t ideal. It constantly wanted to untwine on me and was not so easy to work with. I tried to rub it with bee’s wax but it made no significant difference. Buy tarred or waxed twine! (nätgarn in Swedish)

Are you noticing from the pictures I did this coaming’s lip from more or less scrap wood? I broke 5 (!) coaming lips and only had these scrap pieces left over, so I made a 5/8 (16mm) double lip coaming. The outer lip I glued on separately. Not ideal but who’s looking under my Tuiliq anyways? The cracks will get filled with goop so no technical disadvantage there. I found cheap-ish copper ring nails which I accidentally nailed in pairs at the scarfs, but it turned out quite ok.

All gooped up

Due to a delivery hickup I didn’t have my ordered acid dye colors so I rushed online and got some earth colors here in Sweden. That meant I had to mix them up in the goop. You should follow Brian’s instructions regarding the goop and mixing up the right amounts. I winged it and wanted to use three separate colors to get a sea mammal look, which got very stressful. Having to mix aesthetics with technology, the tech just had to take over.

Be sure to not mix too much color in the first soaking of the cloth or maybe even none at all! I used up one and a half package of goop and still rolled on some already hardening because I needed that color. Got a lot of orange peel and non-glossy spots, which no one else will see of course. Not the end of the world. Enjoying the end result anyway!

Hate the deck lines

I bought very pricey 6mm (yeah about a 1/4″) rounded leather straps which were actually dry and in rough shape but who wants to live forever? Drilled a 6mm hole everywhere for deck lines and they turned out to be 7mm thick. Maybe the leather oil I rubbed them with made them expand, maybe not. Anyway, If you hate’em and use some foul language, you will get them through the holes, otherwise not. Have strong friends? Use them. Writing this a day later my hands are still sore from pulling so hard I almost cracked the gunwhales. I also drilled, burned and added another deck line ugly as sh**t for my rear deck bag. Need it for winter touring.

Getting there

Met up with my kayaking friend Gregor today before lunch, who wanted to have a chat and see how it’s going. He is going to build a kayak too. Soon, when he has finished the decking and the roof insulation of their house and… If not, his wife will probably hate me…

The same Gregor lent me his table saw, wall paper steamer and helped me bend the ribs. The same Gregor who hauled everything in his nice clean car to my place and back… I am eternally grateful for all that, dude!

We had some interesting discussions over coffee and after a couple of hours he had to go. I was still hesitant as to trying out the kayak before 48h of curing had passed later tonight.

I slowly realised that leaving the kayak right now was no option! My plan was to take it on a long tour this next weekend to visit my friends Lasse and his wife Joy. She makes beautiful paintings by the way, you should see the colors live!

Anyway, suddenly I found myself in my Tuiliq suit and was heading with the kayak for the water. Don’t know how that happened actually, but I brought my camera and you can see the maiden voyage filmed by (another) Stefan at the club. I had no seat pad and sore stern after 2 minutes, but otherwise everything went well 🙂

No pictures other than the vid, sorry about that!

Phoned Lasse about my maiden voyage but he got called in for boat work and we cancelled the trip tomorrow. He is supposed to be changing a gearbox on a car ferry this weekend. How hard can that be? I just built a kayak, man!

First impressions

The first paddle three days ago hurt my tailbone because I had no pad to sit on. The second one the same day, I had a pad, but too thin. It hurt too. The third trip, yesterday…well, the two pads I had now were still not enough, but this time I paddled a relaxed 20km and was hurting because of the time spent in the cockpit. Today on a shorter trip and rolling practice I put in a harder seatpad foam and it was ok 🙂

Tried to get a “sealskin” look with some Italian dirt in the Urethane.

What about the rest of the fit? Very close to my expectations but with some failed measurements, mostly on my part. I made the coaming too wide (I’m a 32″ waist, 80kg and 183cm tall) . It’s ok for laybacks but I should have a narrower coaming to feel like I’m paddling a Greenland Kayak replica. Every roll and layback I do, I have to center in the cockpit afterwards by lifting myself with both hands from the coaming. Not ideal. I would rather have a tighter fit. Hmmm, I heard someone’s made a course online for building an East Greenland replica kayak… maybe that’s the way to go?

Having made rib #7 too flat, it catches my heels during entering and exit, but I can live with only paddling in neoprene booties and wrestle rib #7 with my feet a little. Once upside down if you need to exit, you can factor out gravity and I’ve always found it easier exiting under water. Be careful though. If you fail it once… Will make a vid of wet exit/reentry with this kayak as soon as I can. Insulating the whole bottom with a sheet of foam for winter paddling would be nice. There is more than enough foot room for my EUR 43,5/US 10 feet.

Unfortunately the cockpit is a little loose around me once I’m seated. I have way too much headroom at the sides/knees while paddling (6-7cm/2.5″+) and would possibly carve the masik more into a bell shape the next time and make my footrest shorter. The latter I can fix tomorrow! Now you can see the reason for some of my coaming width problem, right? I deliberately let the masik rest on the gunwhales without a notch to not constrain entering/exiting. It’s not very pretty though. Sorry Brian.

Paddling: no surprises there, which is good. Easy to paddle at a moderate speed, pretty hard and splashy to paddle really fast. I am totally ok with that. The boat seems to want to pick up waves and easily surf with them. So far I haven’t experienced the famed veering off tendency, but I only had waves from large boats, no braking waves and not much wind so far (see update on this further down). I made the stern portion of the keel with less rocker for better tracking, but it cost some of the turning performance (as expected). Thing is, I’ve now realised it’s more fun to turn without a “built in” skeg and you can always better your paddling technique in crosswinds!

Yesterday I screwed on another footrest. Of course it was a little tight getting in there with tools, but I turned the kayak upside down at waist height and wiggled in, arms first. It should have been on video…

Tried an old (VKV) kayak seat with a center groove that fit the keel perfectly. Although comfortable, it was too high and made the kayak unstable. I threw it out after two minutes. The footrest came out nice though and helps my knee purchase.

Paddle to the metal

By the way, I finished a paddle yesterday too! Started cutting it out two months ago but it was a cheap 2×4″ full of knots and I just used it as a project for practicing woodworking. Needed a spare paddle for the weekend trip I’m planning so I planed it down with my brand new, cheap and awesome block plane from Spear & Jackson bought through Amazon Europe. Then I sanded it quick and mixed up some Italian dirt (dye) in Corey’s Amazing Tung Oil, which is really amazing. I won’t know the water properties until I try it, but working with an oil that smells like orange peel just feels great! The solvent is actually a natural citrus product. The S&J block plane is about twice the weight of the old Stanley I borrowed from my neighbour and much easier to work with.

Finally some waves and weather

The other day we had the first good waves in one of the first storms this autumn/winter on lake Mälaren. Naturally no camera at hand… wouldn’t risk losing any gear in these conditions anyway.

Verdict: In short but steep wind-blown waves the kayak performs remarkably well! We had 10m/s average wind and long gusts of 20+ m/s wind (50 miles, 9 Beaufort) when a cold front came through just before I started. Paddling with the wind and waves whipping from the side is not an issue. Steady as a rock would be the wrong expression, but if you feel safe with your rolling and like paddling hard, this is for you. With the wind/waves, close to the crest and surfing, she steers excellently. Many times I dug down the nose in a wave trough up to my chest and it didn’t feel like a situation. I just loose steering authority and feel stupid every time 🙂 However, I was worried for the Tuiliq sprayskirt and the consequences of it coming loose in these temperatures. You have to predict what will be going on, or stay higher on the wave and just weight steer, but I suppose that goes for any kayak surfing. I like leaning far to the side for steering but when the waves are too slow it’s frustratingly non-efficient, at least for me.

The waves I paddled were low, tight, wind blown lake waves and live all over the surface. This day, in the afternoon of November 19, they came in every second kayak length or so and were rarely more than 1,5m/5′ from tip to trough, unlike ocean swells that come with a larger interval. There are formuli for that somewhere if you bother to look it up 😉

I am sure my paddling skills could be a lot better and also these words might mean different things to different people. Don’t take these here first impressions for a universal fact! I have extensive meteorology knowledge and paddled on my home grounds with help close at hand. On an open sea, winds like these would create a whole other situation and possibly 10m/30′ waves.

My phone was with me and here’s the Strava tracking. The log doesn’t say it was actually snowing from time to time on my way back. Wind direction shifted and the temperature dropped after the cold front (duh). Anyway, I had great fun in a great kayak and next time it will be on video 🙂 UPDATE: The Next Time!

The packing experience

I was planning an overnight trip starting today, Friday but the plan changed. At least I brought all my gear and tried stuffing it into the poor kayak this morning, with limited success I must confess. With summer gear everything would probably fit, but I will only be making day trips this winter, it seems. Thank you Calle for the nice company!

Tibor's West Greenland Kayak
The money shot

Addendum, kayak 2:

When enough just isn’t enough

Yesterday, Saturday November 28, I started cutting planks for a new kayak build. Got a small cheapo band saw delivered and just had to put it to use after I tinkered with the settings. It’s hard to set (and it doesn’t hold the settings) and way too weak for proper work, but it was worth a try. Never had one before.

Today, Sunday was 0 degrees C outside and snow in the air. I didn’t even notice the cold while I was setting up the build 🙂 Happiiii! Anyway, the little band saw could cut spruce, barely, but acceptable. Maybe with a wider blade…but it’s too weak…oh well, I don’t know. It did the gunwhales and deck beams, but I had trouble with the 4mm width of the laminated deck beam planks. Glued a set and it’s curing outside. We’ll see.

Just had to stop when my daughter said she would start fixing nachos. Now it’s dark and we’re socializing in the sofa, each with their own laptop… I’ll stop now. Catch you later!

Questioning my sanity

Depicted below is today’s progress. I got in a good 10h of work since last time. How can woodworking for a kayak be such fun? By the way I did a lot of bad mortises and had to cut several extra deck beams last night. It seems if I adjust my router depth, after a few mortises the adjustment comes loose. It happened to my first kayak too and I just made longer ribs in those places.

The laminated deck beam turned out nicely and is really light and strong, made of light spruce. I reasoned if it’s that good, let’s make a laminated masik too!

The masik getting glued and the deck beams put in their mortises.

Cutting the Masik

Yesterday I only had time to cut the laminated Masik and sand my less than perfect bandsawing. Just had to go paddling during our 6h of twilight here in Stockholm in December. By the way, I had a slightly curved old ash rib which I used to mark the cut line with. Really easy actually.

I made the sides of the Masik a little thicker for possibly better knee purchase but left the top thickness as is. A slight bell shape if you prefer. While working I even tried jumping on it and it flexes just a little . It’s made of (virtually knot free) spruce in three layers vertically with the rift grain stacked as well as I could for the arch.

In the middle picture you can also see the results of a would-be Masik I tried to steam bend into shape for my previous kayak. That one is oak and twice the weight but has a big knot in it. It took 40 minutes of cooking in the steam box and I still couldn’t get the curved shape I wanted 🙂 Anyway, worth trying and it was fun!

All set for Bending Day

Today I cut the keel, stringers and ribs. My little weak bandsaw can be tricked into making pretty straight cuts when I tension everything to the max and wedge apart the offcut on the other side with a piece of wood and a clamp.

Today’s results with a few extra ribs is the only image I took. Some lengths are compensating for the mortise holes I made too deep. Also I was too lazy to shave off the 40mm thick oak to 32mm, so I made the ribs a little thinner. They actually have a larger area than the plans by 16mm2 if you’re curious 😉 I think I can get away with it for a low volume kayak like this.

My keel and stringers will need a little reinforcement patching here and there because of knots. I decided not to scarf them, but will patch with thin oak strips as an experiment. Update: the oak strips made the stringer stiffer and I would advise for scarfing if it’s more than one place.

Bending and cracking

The actual steaming went well and was not very hard this time around. My remaining rib stock’s grain was real crap although it was fresh. I broke seven ribs, but not the first bow rib (!) and it took hours cutting and re-steaming new ones. Later I realised I had cracked some of the installed ribs too but I glued and wrapped masking tape around them for the bubbly urethane to cure in place and they seem fine. When I was finished I had to bring the skeleton inside to let it dry before lashing on the stringers and keel. Don’t tell Brian but I shortened the ribs and kayak a little to decrease volume.

Once done, I oiled the frame in my living room with Corey’s Amazing Tung Oil which smells like orange peel. What could possibly go wrong? Well, actually nothing went wrong and the frame is done and curing.

All in all, this 2nd kayak took me approximately a week of 6h days from broad planks to an oiled frame. Quite a bit faster than the first one 🙂

I tricked my daughter into testing the fit. It’s her 21st birthday at the beginning of the new year…

Skinning the frame

Doing the hotknife cutting

Yesterday, my friend Greg came over and we prepared for skinning the kayak. It all seems so easy the 2:nd time around. This time I rubbed in some bee’s wax indoors and my untreated twine was suddenly manageable.

Although probably ok regarding tensile strength, the 840 x-tra tuff fabric from Skinboats seems much more durable than the (also 840D) one from Extremtextil which just fails in warp/weft count for our purposes.

For you Europeans out there: I have recently communicated with Marcin Bober in Poland who sells another, seemingly great product and has made a comparison of fabrics. Also boat builder Anders Thygesen in Norway seems to have found a fabric with the right properties, a polyester/nylon hybrid. They both promptly reply to communication and help you navigate through facts and concepts.

There are quite a few urethane businesses I tried to communicate with who don’t want to have anything to do with me… so sponsor the little guys if you can!

Regarding transparent urethane: Corey at Skinboats provides an excellent product, but I had problems with the really, really bad PostNord of Sweden (insert sulphurous stinking curses of choice here).

Oh no, I ran out of goop

Comes gooping day and I’m all prepared. Got my gloves, earth colors, measuring cups and all, but after a couple layers I only had goop for one more to finish the boat. Wasn’t happy with the under side so I chose that and hope the goop will bond at the gunwhales properly when I put the top layers on.

Got the goop delivery after 72h. Rushing to get it now 😉

Ok, back from the kayak club’s little workshop now. It seems the top layers bonded well, but we’ll see tomorrow.

Detailing in pictures what you get when you mix earth colors directly in the polyurethane. The brown speckles in the first one below is semi-dried goop when I used an old cup. You don’t want to save money on a plastic cup. Really. In some of the pictures you can see the results of me trying my luck with the spatula. An art form in itself, which I certainly don’t master 🙂

Ahh yes, Brian’s suggestion for a seat! I quadrupled the rear part to give more support.

Will remove the wooden seat when the cloth is just right. All the wood you see is either Gran (Spruce, right?) or Oak.

Norwegian power tool

Sweden and Norway has this fun tradition of making up stories about how “clever” their neighbouring country people is. Today I used a Norwegian Power Sander. That is, a powered belt sander with the driving belt broken. What do you do? Sand your deck toggles anyway of course 🙂 You can also see I failed miserably making an even coating on the deck, but she will float.

Swedish power tool

Below are my two West Greenland Stretched builds resting. One is just about to be finished and the other one is de-icing. The missing deck lines were hard to pull through the holes today, just like the last time. However, I was inspired and taped a stick to the pliers. What an invention, a real Swedish power tool! Works great to get the first bit of leather and wire through the holes if you don’t fancy wrestling straps after a day’s paddling! I can’t reach with both arms far enough into the kayak to hold a stick for leverage, hence the tape.

Also, I added a bottle holder, classic style. Seems to hold a graffiti spray can well 🙂

The goofy dude is the author with brain freeze after today’s paddling ending with some rolling practice. The water is barely above freezing so no long underwater sessions today! The sunset is at 3.30 PM. Days are getting longer again. I will still need to get a neoprene balaclava soon.

Bringing her home

The second build got appropriately introduced to her owner, my daughter Elsa and found it’s winter home in the living room. Elsa is more of a summer paddler… so far.

My second Tuiliq

Well, it’s actually my first home-made paddle jacket. A few years back I bought a sewing machine but I haven’t had much time to use it. Not having sewn anything significant since the eighties, I figured I could just start in one end and see what happens.

Hurdle number one is I couldn’t find any proper tuiliq drawings so I looked at some hoodies to get a feel for the proportions, printed one out and went measuring and cutting from there. For gloves I didn’t even measure, just outlined my hand and arm and came up from the top of my head how to cut the pieces. They fit better than expected! My pieces of fabric are not large enough for two tuiliqs (one prototype for learning) so I cut the front in several pieces as was shown in one of the hoodie sweater patterns I found. The sewing was simple and straight forward. If you’re impatient as me and want fast results, use an iron, tape and glue before you sew! Needles can help, but I bent them all the time and got tired of it.

Coating the fabric

For the coating I use around 50% of microcrystalline wax, 25% “Chinese Oil” and 25% white spirit. There are a lot of vids on how to make “tin pants” on youtube but I think they’re over-complicating stuff, using milligram scales and what not. If you have your proportions down it’s really easy and you can mix it however you want (or use whatever you want) to get the results you need. This wax goop stays soft and pliable for at least half an hour so I can work it into the seams with gloved hands.

Careful! It goes without saying that heating oil, wax and solvent makes for a nice fire whenever you’re not expecting it. Be prepared, but hot oil and water is a bad combination too. If you keep your stove at a steady setting where the water is barely boiling (and no open flames please!), you should be well within the limits. I have seen someone on Youtube using a rice cooker with a lid that can choke any fire. Probably a good idea, but I haven’t tried it. You might want to keep your co2 extinguisher and a wet towel handy ’cause we all know you have them, right?

For anyone curious, my cheap “Chinese Oil” consists of tung oil, linseed oil and solvents. Using it on wood as I did for my fist kayak, makes it cure in about a day or two. I guess you can just as well use “Danish Oil”. Just make sure it’s not your Local Oil. That would be far too easy on your wallet and take less transport resources in our global economy 😉

Using bee’s wax is possible, but much less durable and waterproof, although it smells nice. If you use just linseed oil…get ready to wait for a couple of weeks for curing. Microcrystalline wax has a texture similar to an old chewing gum which you’ve probably peeled off from under a seat in school; not so sticky but very pliant. Yeah, it’s an oil product but it’s approximately a billion times better and just as easy to apply as other waxes, including the likes of Fjällräven Greenland wax or the fat/oil/wax I have used for motorbiking gear throughout the years. To have a really water proof paddling jacket, you shouldn’t use heavy cotton cloth like I did here, but it’s a lot of fun to try!

Your finished wax goop could cost as little as $3/lbs. A bar of Fjällräven Greenland wax is $10 in Sweden and weighs 90g (0.2 lbs). I would probably have needed five of those to coat my sturdy tent canvas.

Btw I tried leather and D-rings instead of paracord but it snapped at T + 1 second. Will replace the cockpit paracord for a bungee. These are just prototyopes, when I’ve made a proper design I will update my learnings on my other blog. They won’t be nearly as waterproof as my Reed Chillcheater paddle suit material, but it’s a lot of fun! Any suggestions (like a pocket perhaps?) welcome!

The kayak pic above is taken the other day. If you want you can take a tour around Stockholm with me on Youtube.

Trying out the prototypes

I used both the tuiliq and gloves I made today on two shortish paddles in pouring rain. Verdict? Well, I made the tuiliq too small. Didn’t account for the shrinking of raw canvas with an iron set to max for the wax (and it rhymes!). Oh well, once it’s on it fits ok, but if I do a deep layback, the sprayskirt will probably come loose sooner or later in the front. It worked today in rain, wind and waves, barely above freezing. The gloves got wet and cold but the jacket/sprayskirt held it’s own and I quite like the stiffness of the waxed fabric. I think a great failure is far better than a slight success for learning, so nevermind. They’re ok for a first try, a few computer-free evenings and $30 of materials. There will be more 😉

Btw. the old man in the picture has nothing to do with my perception of me… but it is me. Time, ladies and gentlemen, actually flies at ultrasonic speeds…

I really should put rub strips on

Took a shortcut while finishing the kayak and kind of forgot about it. But a day like today (January 29th, Stockholm) you need your rubstrips. Maybe not so much for breaking the ice but for dodgy landings among invisible rocks, I recently found out. Filmed a few minutes each day the last few days before the camera ran out of juice. See for yourself here or here.

Tuiliq prototype 2 done

This time it took three evenings to sew + an afternoon to melt wax, paint it on and fix it with an iron. I cut it a few sizes bigger than the last one, but this time it didn’t shrink as much, so I guess I will have to do a middle sized one too. I waxed it thinner than last time and then impregnated with a fluorocarbon on top of that. It makes the fabric more supple and feel less heavy while supposedly keeping the water repellant properties. We’ll see. I would rather avoid mixing PFC’s into my life and nature but tried it this time in the name of science. Or something.

The ice is currently too thick and I haven’t paddled for two weeks! If the cold goes on for much longer I will have to build another kayak or something… 😉


Ice is still too thick here but I tried the fit of the new Tuiliq yesterday on my kayak in the snow and it fit fine except it was way too long! Today I compared the length to the old one I made (which was a bit too short) and cut it to fit quickly while having lunch. This is the end result of a Tuiliq I can comfortably paddle in and the length still allows for keeping your stern dry while seated in the woods.

Although minimalistic with no fancy details, the waxed lacing lets itself be done with numb hands and is almost impossible to destroy with force alone. I don’t know much about sewing but have been enjoying what nature can throw at me for most of my life. It’s all an iterative approach, like the kayaks. The materials I used for these two Tuiliqs cost less than my wool shorts 🙂 If you use other straps than the paracord I’ve used, it would be camping fireproof and can dry over a fire in minutes.

A18q FTW!

Allunaariaqattaarneq is the solution for not paddling for now. Greenland ropes to the resque! 😉

Doesn’t it suck to not be able to read a word, nor pronounce it? It goes something like “ahun aria cat tar neck“, but in one word. If you’re a native speaker, please don’t hate on me!

The first time you try, you kinda suck at every move and just wind up upside down, confused. After that, you hurt all over, maybe just as much for laughing. Suddenly you get into it and your body’s centre of gravity is no longer a mystery (hint: it’s further down than it used to be). Good for your physique, good for your rolls. Do it! Read about it here. Below is a vid of my absolutely first completed move. Isn’t it great to be a beginner at something? There’s a whole new world out there that you haven’t seen before!

New mitts

Gloves, mittens, gauntlets, it’s all confusing when you’re not a native English speaker. I thought gauntlets were something a medieval knight would use, but I have seen the word used regarding long kayak mittens. So which one is it? I got hold of some new, tightly woven, pre coated cotton fabric and this is the result from the other night. Not working double shifts nor hanging around social media makes for some productivity apparently 🙂

How many paddle jackets do YOU need?

Full disclosure: I seem to need at least three. Just finished the third, inspired by the gloves. There’s an odd chance I’ve gone mad too 😉 Anyway, this time I made a pair of farmer john -style pants to go with the tuiliq and I tried swimming with them the other day to see if they fill up (everything in the name of science ;). Must admit they were not remotely as good as a dry suit, but if you swim “upright” my little 10m/30f swim was ok. The water is 0.5 degrees C right now and just above freezing. I’ll make a vid next time.

When rolling, the hood leaks a bit and the gloves fill up right away, so nothing for your longer winter rolling practice sessions. However, I like the rugged style and the material is water repellant and breathable. It will also probably never stink as my other kayak gear over time and it can hang and dry over a fire if need be. I could also use them for timber work or just walking through barbed wire if I feel like it 🙂 Or maybe better not.

To conclude or not to conclude

Swedish spring came and went and now summer heat is slowly fading. I haven’t updated this blog for a while although I’ve been paddling day and overnight trips almost every weekend since the ice melted. Too much at work seems to be my excuse, but how long can you blame your work for not living?

So, what about the West Greenland Stretched kayaks I’ve built? Was it like Brian promised? First of all, my deepest respect for Brian’s instructions, Liz’s overall competence and the product you’re making! I wouldn’t have started off as well without you and the course is worth it’s weight in gold (or Bitcoins?).

I’m hoping you will never remove my login because no matter what kayak I build, I will always come back to be reminded of how it can be done.

Second, the kayak I built for myself still holds up well, but has limited space for gear so I had to go minimalistic, like with biking. This can pose a hazard in difficult circumstances. However, it has some amazing toughness and has already endured drops from car roofs, ran aground hundreds of times and what not.

If you’re concerned with the packing capabilities you might want to do a curved (or laminated) footrest for increasing the height in the middle to push your gear bag through.

When I built the kayak, my first skegless kayak since my whitewater days, I was afraid it wouldn’t track well. No need to worry when you’re making yours. In my opinion it’s better to have one that steers well and it will be easy enough to make it go where you want it. It just takes a bit of practice and is more fun! The low volume, more rocker, tight fit version I built for my daughter is such fun. I just have a hard time getting into it at the odd occasion she allows me to use it 🙂

So my conclusion after almost a year since i signed up for Cape Falcon’s kayak building class is: doit! For the kayak, a Greenland style kayak takes some practice but you will master it in shorter time than you think if you paddle more than once a month. Me, I paddle more like every second day 😉 You should definitely learn rolling and then practice it all the time.

If you like minimalistic touring, the feeling of pride, the compliments, the handling, lines, colors and the feeling of accomplishment of building a historically pretty accurate kayak, this is for you.

If you’re just plain ol’ crazy, like me, you might even want to make your own clothes and accessories for you kayaks. I’m not really a salesperson and like prototyping more than producing, but if some dedicated paddler wants to buy something, I might consider it 🙂

So, what would I change in the WG kayak? Look at Brian’s version 2. It just about sums it up! I would also add a curved footrest, the backrest and loops to attach a rear gear bag. For me, the fabric seat is awesome but needs insulation in the winter.

If you are more concerned about fitting your gear easily than being historically accurate, I have had great success with a roll-up bag closure for hatches. Watch them come to shape on my other blog.

That’s it for now. Happy paddling!


View posts by Tibor
Web developer from Stockholm, Sweden. I like to paddle just as much as I like sleeping outside.


  1. Hans
    November 14, 2020

    Hi Tibor! Thanks for your invitation to try your nice kayak. I saw your video and i’m impressed of your rolling skils:-)
    I’m just a beginner to paddel a kayak, byt my deck i completed. I will do an update to my blog asap.

    Best regards

  2. Chris
    November 22, 2020

    Nice work Tibor, congratulations! It’s useful also to see somebody build the frame using “off the shelf” timber. I was lucky in being able to find a couple of good local sawmills but many will struggle to do this so well done. You could try adding some foam padding inside each side of the cockpit to help give you a more snug fit, an advantage of that is that you could adjust or even remove it if it didn’t work out, perhaps the same for the masiq? I had to do this on the fibreglass boat I had years ago, which was really way too big for me, but also on canoe club sea-kayaks when I borrowed them – I used pads made of computer packaging foam wrapped in black “gaffer” (aka Duck) tape…. or you could carve some Narwhal tusks to fit, but there might be issues around that! 😀 Best wishes with the maiden voyages!

  3. Tibor
    November 22, 2020

    Haha, thanks for the interest and tips Chris, especially the tusk bit 🙂 I am still experimenting and adjusting and will update this blog when I come to a solution I like. I’ve paddled the kayak for some 30 miles/50 km by now and there’s no acute problems. Things can always get better though!

    However, I tried to stuff all my (winter) gear into the kayak and it was an absolute no-go. My winter sleeping bag alone is too bulky to fit inside a tapered drybag and slide behind the footrest. I think that problem can be solved with money and goose-down, but I really like this (synthetic) sleeping bag, since it’s almost just as warm when wet. A winter kayak is of course an option…soo, I might get to build another one!

  4. Tibor
    November 27, 2020

    @Chris: yesterday while paddling with my friend Calle, we caught a 5l red gerry can and a large foam block to add to the club’s kayaking material supply. They must have been blown away with the recent windy conditions. Anyway, we cleaned up in lake Mälaren a little and the material can be put to some good upcycling use in my kayak!

  5. Harry Hinterwimmer
    April 13, 2021

    Hi Tibor,

    the finish looks awesome! any hints on putting colored Polyurethan on?
    I would love a finish lookin like your “mammal skin”. Could you send me your “steps” through this process?
    I am right, you did not color the Nylon in the first place with fabric color?
    Can i put the fabric color instead into the Polyurethan?



    1. Tibor
      April 13, 2021

      Hallo Harry!

      Well, there are many kinds of dye, you have to experiment with a small piece you cut off.
      Try to put as little as possible in the first layer in order for the poly soak through properly. After the first layer you can just add more of the colors you want and stir well.

      I used Italian Umbra (yellowish), burnt Umbra (brown) and some iron oxide used for boat colors (reddish brown). They are called earth colors. Mixed them right into the poly and they are (dirt) cheap 😉 They don’t give very saturated colors, but good enough for my taste.
      I guess you can do the same with Brian’s method and acid dye (textile) colors in fields and patches, but I haven’t tried it… yet.

      Good luck and post when you’re done!



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