DIY Folding Kayak

DIY Folding Kayak – Step by Step Guide for Making a Folding Kayak

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Kayaking is one of the most excellent ways of exploring the quiet scenic rivers and lakes that are available in your area. Apart from taking photos and enjoying the cool environment, kayaking provides one of the best full-body workouts than most gym sessions. But, even if that’s the case, one main drawback most kayak owners experience is storing and transporting their kayaks. For those living in garage-less residential apartments, storing or transporting your kayak is next to impossible. In such desperate circumstances, considering a DIY folding kayak can be the only option.

Why take this route? You see, if you’ve run out of space, the next possible cause of action you’ll be forced to take is to rent a kayak. But look, over time, the cost of renting the kayak and transporting it will definitely lead to a significant dent in your wallet.

So, to enjoy kayaking to its limit, considering a foldable kayak is the best choice. After all, these kayaks are gaining popularity really fast due to their folding characteristics. Apart from that, these kayaks can travel in sensitive areas where other kayaks cannot.


What is Folding Kayak?


Since folding kayaks are gaining popularity really fast, understanding them is one paramount factor any avid kayaker should note. This is also important to all kayakers living in small urban apartments and is looking forward to building their own DIY folding kayaks to solve this annoying space issue.

Briefly, folding kayaks comprise two main parts—the frame and the skin for the hull. Also known as the longitudinals or the stringers, the frame is usually made from wood, aluminum tubes or composite rods in some cases.

Now, there are pros and cons to choosing either wood or aluminum. Wood on its side is heavy, quite hard to maintain and it’s relatively expensive. The best thing about it is that it’s strong and very durable (though you need to protect it from sucking water to avoid rotting).

Aluminum on its side is lightweight, affordable, and very easy to maintain. The only thing you need to do to boost its longevity is to sock it after every outing to ensure it doesn’t deteriorate faster due to the accumulation of salt.

Away from the longitudinals, we have the ribs or the frames. These are the pieces that go across the folding kayak and which help in strengthening the overall framework of the kayak. They’re usually made from help-inch plywood, molded plastic composite, or solid plastic such as the HDPE.

Now, when it comes to the skin for the hull, there are lots of great options one can consider. However, some of the most common types of materials used for the skin are tough nylon and polyester coated with neoprene or Hypalon.

The best thing about these skins is that they’re thicker (with about 3-layers of reinforced fabric) and are highly resistant to oils, UV rays, abrasion, and salts from the ocean.


DIY Folding Kayak: An Ultimate Guide for Making a Folding Kayak



Now that we’ve offered you a solid basic understanding of folding kayaks, this short guide will now proceed to discuss some steps you might like to follow when setting up or assembling this kayak to accomplish all your folding kayak plans with enthusiasm. Please read on to understand the concept.

Part One: Gather all your Essentials

To make your kayak from scratch, you’ll require the following materials:

  • 1 piece of wood lath
  • About 2 to 3 ft. wood for the seat support rails
  • Exterior latex paint and primer
  • About 200 inches of untreated canvas
  • About 6 C clamps
  • Waterproof wood glue
  • Heavy-duty Velcro
  • Contact cement
  • 2 – 4 ft. × 8 ft. untreated plywood with one smooth side

Part Two: Cutting the Wood

  • Step 1. The first step you’ll take after assembling all your essentials is to cut one sheet of plywood into four equal pieces with each measuring 1 ft. × 8 ft.
  • Step 2. Now, take two of the sheets (which will go at the top of the kayak) and clamp them together. This will make it easier for you to cut the hole for the cockpit. Note that the cockpit should be cut at least 41 inches from the front section of the kayak and should be about 28 inches in size.
  • The depth itself should be about 5 inches and it’s all on you to decide how you want to shape it.
  • Step 3. Once the pieces are ready, it’s time to clamp them together to see how the kayak will look like after completion. Here, you need to ensure that each piece corresponds to its other piece to make the kayak symmetrical. Also, don’t make the edges (especially the front of the kayak) too pointed or else it will be difficult to attach the canvas.
  • Step 4. Now paint the side of the plywood that will serve as the inside of the kayak. You can do this by applying at least two coats of exterior latex paint.

Part Three: Time to Make the Spreaders and Spacers

  • Step 1. You will first have to cut the spreaders—two to be precise. So, to accomplish that, simply cut four pieces of 11” × 24” from a ¼ “ thick plywood. Take two of the rectangular pieces and bond them together (using wood glue) to create a ½ “ thick rectangle. Do the same to the other two pieces to give you a total of two thick ½ “ rectangular pieces.
  • Step 2. Next, cut the spreaders according to the dimensions of the kayak for them to fit properly. You can also cut out the center part of the spreaders to reduce their weight.
  • Step 3. When you’re done, you can now make the spacers. The function of these spacers is to hold the kayak’s shell, or rather the pieces, firmly and in the correct configuration when you’ll be applying the canvas.

Part Four: Preparing the Canvas

  • Step 1. Assembling your kayak will require you to use 5 strips of canvas which will consist of 2 – 4.5” × 46”, 2 – 4.5” × 72” and 1 – 13’ × 12”.
  • Step 2. Before you start applying the canvas, first assemble your kayak by bonding the pieces together with the help of the spacer blocks.
  • Step 3. Next, mark at least 2” on the edges of the plywood around the kayak and coat it with contact cement. Now, start applying the canvas strips from the edges of the kayak along the 2” marked border.

While ensuring the long canvas strips are applied on the side while the shorter strips are applied on the front and back of the kayak, slowly stretch the canvas by flipping the kayak on either side while you gently apply it.

Make sure you apply the canvas at the bottom of the kayak too. In case the canvas overlaps, simply add more contact cement on the canvas to secure it gently.

Part Five: Install the Spreaders

  • Step 1. Once the canvas is secured, it’s now time to add the spreader. To do that, you need to take measurements of your feet to have a picture of how you’ll be seated while kayaking. You need to ensure that your feet stay straight.


Therefore, the best locations to mount the spreaders are in the front of the kayak about 22” from the front and another 22” from the rear.


  • Step 2. To keep the spreader boards firm, you can opt to add stop blockers (about 1.5” ×5”). You can use waterproof wood glue to secure the stop blocks to the interior of the kayak to support the spreaders.

Part Six: Installing the Center Canvas

  • Step 1. Now that you’ve installed the spreaders, it’s now time to install the canvas on the front and rear sections of the kayak. So, start by clipping the canvas on the kayak to determine how much canvas is required to “dress up” your kayak.
  • Step 2. Once you’ve determined the size of the canvas that will be required to dress this folding kayak, apply the contact cement once more both on the kayak and the canvas then bond them gently.

Part Seven: Time to Assemble and Set Up the Seat

To design the seat, you’ll have to cut two rectangular plywood sheets then join them together with the canvas to make them easily foldable. You also have to design seat rails to where the seat will rest on. To accomplish all this, here are the steps.

  • Step 1. Start by cutting the plywood sheets to design the seat. The length and the width will vary depending on the size of your kayak as well as how much seating allowance you’ll need. For the case of the width, you’ll need to measure the distance between the seat rails.
  • Step 2. When the seat is ready, measure the size of the kayak where you’ll set up the rails. Measure and cut two pieces of wood to set up the rails. Use waterproof wood glue to bond the rails to the kayak.
  • Step 3. Paint and prime the entire section including the seat. Use Velcro attachments to attach the seat to the rails.

Part Eight: Prime and Paint your Kayak

  • Step 1. To finalize your DIY project on a high, it’s time to prime the kayak’s seat and other parts such as the spreader boards. When you’re done, coat the entire kayak alongside the seat and the spreader boards with another two to three coats of paint to make it extremely tough.
  • Step 2. Leave it to dry for several hours before you take it for its first trip.




So, if you’ve followed these steps closely, then congratulations! You’ve just made a DIY folding kayak right at the comfort of your home. As you can see, folding kayaks are gaining popularity in recent times due to the increasing unavailability of space in most urban apartments.

In addition to their lightweight and excellent space-saving capabilities, folding kayaks are amazingly quicker on the water, they’re easy to assemble and they’re quite stable and durable as compared to most other kayaks.

In conclusion, combining these benefits with the benefit of setting up your own folding kayak at home, you’ll realize you’ve actually saved more bucks thus removing the hefty budget you might have incurred if you were to rent out a kayak or simply buy one straight from a vendor.

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