Building a Skin on Frame Kayak

For the next week I’ll be taking a class with Brian Schulz at Portland’s Shop People space building a skin on frame kayak.

I’ve just finished the first day, and went from having this:


to this:

top is done, ribs are cut

The joints are all simple locked mortise and tenon joints with two locking pins:

mortise and tenon

So far the class has been a lot of fun.  I probably won’t “live blog” every day, but maybe I’ll do a mid-point update when the frame is complete, and a final one when I’m paddling the boat in the water.

Finally, the space where I’m taking the class is really cool.  Shop People is sort of like San Fran’s “Techshop”, but on a much more DIY level.  Anyone can join for $150/mo (plus space rental if you need your own space) and you get access to a big wood shop and a small metal shop.  There are all sorts of projects going on here, from custom guitars to weird gravity machines to beautiful art.


  1. Dartanyon says:

    Alex, as someone who wishes he had the time [and maybe the money] that you do for all of these great projects, and is, at least in part, living vicariously through you, I”d like to request that you do a little write up of everyday of this project, it’’s really fascinating to me, and I hope others. Thanks mate.

  2. Jesse says:

    I”m with Dartanyon! If you can”t do a mini write up than perhaps a full run down after you”re floating into the sunset? As a former rider and paddler who has no choice but to live vicariously at the moment these posts truly sustain me, thanks Alex!

  3. Nick says:

    Hi there,

    I”m planning on building an F1 and I”ll be using your photos extensively so thank you in advance for posting them!

    Do you know where I can find information about making the formers (dimensions and such) and mortises that are used at the beginning to shape the gunwales?

  4. Alex Wetmore says:

    Sorry, I don”t have anything beyond the drawing that is on his website. I don”t think that the dimensions of those formers is that important really, the shape of the gunwales was heavily controlled using tension in compression straps that were going around them.

  5. Mark Olmstead says:

    Alex, great pictures and write up! I am signed up to build an F-1 in April at Brian’’s barn and your story/blog is very motivating and makes me even more excited than ever to build my kayak, thanks.