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Duct Tape Kayak – Build Day 1

Posted by on June 29, 2012

Our first build day started off bright and early at the wood shop of our kayaking instructor friend Ross MacVicar (a professional chainsaw carver http://www.rossmacvicar.com/) who graciously offered his help with some milling. We realized while ordering the specialty PVC fittings that we could save a lot of money by customizing some of the more standard fittings to meet our needs. After about an hour on the drill press we had all of the parts modified. Thanks, Ross!!!

The next stop was back to the Home Depot to pick up the ½ inch diameter, schedule 40 PVC pipe for our frame. There was only one problem: the pipe came in 10ft lengths and my new car is hardly 10ft long! This was when our handy-dandy pipe cutter came to the rescue! It took us all of five minutes to chop down the 18 lengths of PVC pipe from 10ft to 6ft and into the car they went!

By 11:00 we had relocated all of our parts to the Kayak Barn at Billington Sea Kayak and set up shop in an empty bay. Doug, the owner and a good friend of ours, had caught wind of our plans to build a duct tape kayak during over the weekend. As soon as we turned the lights on in the barn he ran straight over with some of his family to check out what we were up to. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much to show yet except for a big mess of parts on his floor!

We decided to tackle the center section of the kayak starting at the keel-line and build up from there. At this point in the build, we were only interested in dry-fitting the parts and we’re happy to report that the plug-and-play construction offered by the specialty fittings could not have gone more smoothly!

Our customized parts came in very handy with the keel and before we knew it we were ready to lay-out the hard chine.  Once the chine was set we build up the freeboard about 5 inches and laid out the seam and cross members. At this point the hull had taken on a rather boxy shape but we were able to play with the lengths of some of the cross members in order to achieve a more appealing hull shape.

With the middle section nearly complete we decided to play around with the bow to see how the parts would come together. It became apparent that the more drastic curves of the hull in this section and the coupling of the PVC pipes at the bow will require some more design work before we can move forward with the build. Overall, we’re happy with the progress that was made during today’s build session. Check back next week for updates!

-Kayak Dave

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2 Responses to Duct Tape Kayak – Build Day 1

  1. Rockinghorseguy AnRockinghorsegal

    Hey, guys. This is fascinating. I’m a photographer who has made lots of different background frames and light stands out of PVC, and I always wanted a kayak. Years ago, I was in the business of making didjeridus, the Australian Aborigine wind instrument that they make out of naturally hollow eucalyptus branches, but I made them out of PVC pipe, usually in 1 1/2″ or 2″ diameter pipe. To get them to look and sound good, I heated the pipe with a propane torch with a spreader tip and bent it into the shape I wanted. It doesn’t seem to affect the strength of the pipes, I still have some of my didjeridus that I made over 10 years ago. What is your take on this idea for making some of the more intricate shapes?

    • arrudad

      The heat gun proved to be helpful on a few occasions where we needed to bend the pipe slightly. This typically happened in extreme points along the bow and stern where the angles became more extreme and to create the arched pieces in the deck. We found that we needed to be very careful with this method in order to maintain the structural integrity and roundness of the PVC pipe. It was certainly a balance of getting the material hot enough but not over heating it. Too little heat and the PVC was not workable. Too much heat and the PVC would get goopy, begin to neck, and ultimately lose strength. Here are some tips that worked for us:

      1) Practice with some scrap pieces first.
      2) Heat the material evenly and stop heating if the PVC begins to take on a golden color.
      3) Have something that you can work the material on such as an anvil or curved surface to achieve the desired bends.
      4) Use water to cool the part after bending to quench it into its newly curved shape.
      5) Wear heat-resistant gloves. The PVC will get hot and stay hot (if you decide not to quench) for a while.

      We only used this method to make slight bends and we found that this didn’t compromise the structural integrity of the PVC too much. I would assume that you could achieve more intricate bends with this method but this would certainly cost you some rigidity and you may lose the cylindrical shape of the pipe.

      BTW…I think didjeridus are the coolest instruments on the planet! I have one that I brought back from Australia that I love to play.

      Good luck!

      -Kayak Dave

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