Yes, it can be done. The January 1998 issue of Sea Kayaker magazine details one man’s project designing and building an aluminum framed, hypalon hulled kayak based in part on the Feathercraft designs. It turned out very well, but it ended up being a lot more work and a lot more costly ($1200) then he expected. Would he do it again if he knew how much work and cost it would entail? No. He’d buy a boat.
But see what Hendrik Maroske, Gerald Maroske and Thomas Yost have done with a lot of thought and skill. There’s some amazing construction there.
And how about Chuck Corwin’s impressive homemade folder with carbon fiber tubes weighing under 10 lbs!
A good source for metal and plastic for home builders, including a wide range of aluminum tubing alloys and sizes, is OnlineMetals.com I’ve purchases materials from them in the past for many projects. (Buying through this link pays a small commission to help keep this site going)
Tom Yost is putting together a complete bulding manual for his many designs at http://yostwerks.com. Don’t miss this site. Tom offers, free of charge, the most complete information available anywhere on building your own folding and rigid boats. Tom also hosts a forum on kayak building at the Folding Kayak Forum.
Also, check through theBaidarka Mailing List archives. While this is mostly about building non-folding boats, there’s a tremendous wealth of information on materials, designs and construction, as well as links to other boat builders.
Black Dog Kayaks makes some suprisingly inexpensive skin-on-frame kits for those interested in making their own boat. A basic kit is as little as $325.
One of the most elegant home designs I’ve seen is the “Eva”, a 10′ folder designed by Igor Ravbar for his daughter. It’s a 10′ wood-framed design with some unique design ideas.
Here’s a remarkably original project- Peter Chopelas’ folding Retrieval Kayak – from Ralph Hoehn’s pages.
Thanks to Ernest Kraut, here’s a free set of plans in Microsoft Word format for a very simple folding wood and canvas kayak developed in the 1960s by Jess Rathburn, Coordinator of Industrial Arts, San Francisco School District. These are the same plans being sold by some people on Ebay and elsewhere for $10-25, but they are in fact in the public domain for free distribution and non-commercial use. (If you have trouble reading the MS Word file above, the file is also available in Rich Text Format). Wayne Roderick has an HTML version with GIF’d plans at http://www.ida.net/users/tetonsl/kayak/and there’s a redrawn PDF version at:
(Rathburn apparantly also wrote this up for Popular Mechanics magazine; there was a link at http://www.hilconet.com/~dworksmg/articles/foldingkayak/. but it appears to be dead)
Speaking of Popular Mechanics and similar publications, here’s a link to plans for a folding dinghy that appeared in a popular how-to magazine of a past era.
Thanks to correspondent George Privett, here’s something completely unique- Jim Heter’s PakYak page at http://www.rtpnet.org/robroy/boats/PakYak/. Jim’s been developing his PakYak’s for quite a few years now, and has a unique design totally unlike any folding kayak you’ve ever seen- and he’s giving away the design for free. I first saw Jim’s PakYak featured in Messing About in Boats, itself a wonderful resource for fans of all small boats.
George also sent the following:
“In recent years there seems to have been a renewed interest in book by a prolific English kayak and canoe builder, Percy Blandford. “Canoes and Canoeing” has been out of print for a number of years (published in 1961) but sometimes available through “out of print” distributors. One of the reasons for its popularity is instructions on how to build a single folding kayak. It is definitely an interesting book to read. ” [note: I've seen copies in used bookstores for anywhere from $12 to $60- I purchased mine, an ex-library book, from Alibris.com for $21. -mike]
“An English firm (W. F. Harrison, P.O. Box 55, Bingley BD16 4UU, West Yorkshire, England, U.K.) and alsoClark Craft in New York state continue to sell his plans. Just recently I discovered that Clark Craft has started to put its catalogue of plans on line. There are plans for two folding kayaks – a single and a double. There is also a third model, but it is not on line. ”
Here’s a sort of semi-folding kayak idea from Pax Rolfe:
“Here is how to build the cheapest, lightest folding kayak possible. You take 2 sheets of coroplast and sandwich them together. Draw out a kayak shape on the coroplast sheet from end to end. This should give 8 feet of length and a 3 foot beam is about right. Cut your shape out of both sheets, decide which will be the top and cut a hole to sit through in that half. Now hotglue, or liquidnail the sheets together at the edges, then sew the edges of the boat up with a reasonably strong cord, para-cord is good and cheap. Finish sealing the edges with a good waterproof tape. Spreaders can be cut from coroplast and built up, or from plywod. Basically imagine that you were to build a simpler version of the duckworks [ed: the Jess Rathburn design from the June 1963 Popular Mechanics] folding kayak out of coroplast.
“I’ve managed to build one of these already. The “KISS” boat as I called it, was very stable and pretty fast, I’m sure due to the light weight. Durability is an issue with the coroplast but if you added a skin the durability could be increased. Obviously this is not a boat to float a class III river, but it does make a good boat to fish a pond or float a lake close to the shore. Might even make a good emergency boat for people in flood areas.
“A much nicer version could be built from full sheets of coroplast, 2 sheets for an 8-8.5 foot model, and 4 sheets mated and overlapped in the middle for a longer version. A skeg is definitely a must have though, the yak would hold straight as long as you were paddling, but it would twirl as soon as you stopped. It was very stable also, I could lean far over and it wouldn’t capsize, would have had to try and throw myself out to get it to turn over.”
Thanks, Pax. Not all inventors do as well:
I, Hiram Douglas Layman, of Little Rock, in the County of Pulaski, and State of Arkansas, United States of America, Gentleman, do hereby declare the nature of this invention and in what manner the same is to be performed, to be particularly described and ascertained in and by the following statement
This invention relates to portable boats, and it has for its object to provide a new and useful boat of this character that can be folded up or collapsed into a small compass for being easily carried, while at the same time providing a perfectly safe and easily controlled light boat that is especially adapted for hunting and fishing purposes and also for pleasure.