Monday, September 30, 2013


 So, one of the questions I get asked is, "Why should I build a skin-on-frame boat?"

Well, why not?  They're inexpensive to build, lightweight, durable and have a long history.

Skin-on-frame boats have been built for a long, long, time.  Some excellent examples can be found over at Bob Holtzman's Indigenous Boats blog - I encourage you to take a look.  Examples include the baidarka and umiak of the Innuit people, qajac of Greenland, the curragh of Ireland, the coracle of many different places, but well known in the British Isles. There are also the so-called basket boats of Southeast Asia, 

For the most part, I'll refer to the building methods involved here as "traditional" skin-on-frame boats.  The frames were made from either lashed or pegged frames.  The wood might be just bent green branches, or highly worked parts with mortices, steam bent ribs and the like.  Bending of parts may be accomplished by simply bending green wood, chewing to weaken fibers before bending, boiling, or steaming.  Skins might be just that - animal skins of one form or another.  Skins might also be the bark of trees or woven cloth that has been treated or sealed to be waterproof - often with mixtures of pitch and/or tar or animal fats.

While some people distinguish birchbark canoes and cedar and canvas canoes is distinctly different build methods, I'd say that generally, they fall within the realm of skin-on-frame boatbuilding - just a bit different because of the frame, really.

Then we get into some more modern methods - "non-traditional" skin on frame construction.  Because of the similarity to some aircraft construction, it is sometimes referred to as "fuselage frame" construction.  This really seems to be a relatively recent innovation, although I'm sure there must be more history than I'm aware of.  This build method generally involves plywood for frames and stringers of some sort to form the longitudinal members.  Skins are usually fabric - canvas, nylon or polyester treated with paint, polyurethane or varnish.  Frames may be joined by adhesives, pegs, fasteners or lashings

Tomorrow, we'll get into some resources for plans.

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