Kudzu Craft Long Shot Skin on Frame Kayak

For my second boat I wanted something that was lighter, faster and since I had a limited budget; less expensive to build than the Chesapeake. After a little research I settled on the fuselage frame style "Long Shot" Skin on Frame Kayak designed by Kudzu Craft. I liked the designs from the Yostwerks website but Kudzu offered pre-printed templates for the frames which would save me the trouble of lofting them and they included a book which helped guide me through the process.

Click on Thumbnail for bigger picture.

Cutting Long Shot Stern using paper template.

I cut the frames, stern and bow of the kayak out of a sheet of 1/2" Marine grade plywood using the paper templates purchased from Kudzu Craft. I then rounded the edges with a wood rasp (next time I'll use a router) and sanded them.

Long Shot- Finished Frames

These are all the finished frames for the Long Shot Kayak. The notches are for the various longitudinal lengths of wood which make up the overall frame of the kayak.

Long Shot- Stringers

The stringers (on the right) started out as 8' lengths of 1 x 6 clear pine. I ripped each piece to the appropriate dimensions and then scarfed the 8' pieces together to get the full 18' lengths of wood. Traditionally clear cedar is used for its rot resistance but clear cedar was difficult to find and prohibitively expensive. Before skinning the boat I applied 2 coats of Linseed oil so I shouldn't have any problems with rot.

Long Shot- Scarf Joint

Closeup of a scarf joint.

Long Shot-Strongback

The strongback is supposed to provide a straight, level and secure platform upon which to build the kayak. Unfortunately this one had a little too much flex in the far end which created complications. Next time I'll build a strongback using plywood in a more rigid form- perhaps like an I-beam or long rectangular box.

Long Shot- Brackets mounted on strongback

The brackets are mounted in a straight line on top of the strongback. The keel stringer rests in the top notch of the bracket and the rocker of the boat is defined by the height of the brackets; typically those towards the ends are slightly taller than those in the middle. I ran a string through the brackets to help align them in a straight line.

Long Shot- Setting frames and stringers

I set the keel stringer in place and installed the four frames that corresponded to the four brackets. Then I installed the gunwales, temporarily holding everything together with straps and elastic cords. Once I levelled the boat across the gunwales I secured the frames to the brackets with screws.

Long Shot- Frames and stringers set.

Here's the boat after installing the remaining stringers and frames. I installed the stringers first; taking care to feed them between the elastic cords and the original frames. Then I installed the rest of the frames- making sure they were plumb and parallel to each other.

Long Shot- Cockpit lashing.

The boat is basically held together with bits of string. Each of the stringers is attached to the frames with artificial sinew; a wax coated synthetic string with a break strength of around 70lbs. Since each joint consists of multiple wrappings of the sinew, it is many times stronger than the break strength of a single strand

Long Shot- Close-up of cockpit lashings.

This shows a little more detail of the lashings. I tried to keep the knots for the lashings on the side of the frames opposite the cockpit area so they would not be visible once the kayak is skinned.

Long Shot- Bow installed.

Here is the bow installed on the kayak. The holes are cut out to reduce the weight of the bow; I made the holes towards the top of the plywood to leave more wood at the bottom thinking this would make it stronger. The tricky part here was planing the insides of the gunwales so they were flush with the plywood.

Long Shot- Stern Installed

The stern is installed in much the same way as the bow. I couldn't think of an easy way to lash the stern to the last frame so I used a screw and a little glue instead.

Long Shot- Lashing Complete

Many painful lashings later I freed the kayak from the brackets and strongback and suspended the boat using the straps on the sawhorses. I think everything came together pretty well.

Long Shot-Applying Linseed Oil

Here I'm applying the first of two protective coats of Linseed oil. I like the way it intensifies the natural colors in the wood.

Long Shot- standing up.

I had to have a picture of the boat standing on end; it better illustrates the size of an 18' long boat.

Long Shot- Sewing Skin

I used an 8oz. polyester fabric for the skin as it has a looser weave and requires less effort to sew on the kayak: you sew the fabric on loosely and then apply heat to tighten the skin to the frame. I started sewing at the cockpit using a running stitch for the first pass.

Long Shot- Close-up of skin sewing

I used 3-ply polyester thread for the running stitch. The hemostat helps hold the completed stitches in place as you gather fabric and get ready for the next set of stitches. The sewing was pretty easy although many holes developed in the loose weave at the stitches.

Long Shot- Finished Skinning

Once I finished the initial stitching, I trimmed the excess fabric to approximately 1 ½ ". As I rolled this fabric downwards to meet the deck, I completed the seam with a whip stitch which holds the roll in place and looks a bit like a length of rope running along the seam.

Long Shot- Side view skin

After completing the whip stitch I tightened the skin and removed all the wrinkles with a heat gun. Kudzu recommends using a clothes iron to avoid damaging the material but I found the heat gun to be much faster; the trick is to work on a small area keeping the heat moving side to side and round and round. Once I saw the material start to contract, I removed the heat and waited for the contraction to stop, if I was satisfied with the result I moved on, if not I applied the heat for a bit longer. Because a heat gun produces a lot of heat which can quickly melt the material I don't recommend doing this without some practice.

Long Shot- Under view.

I like this view because you can see the shadow of the the stringers throught the skin. Initially I planned on waterproofing the skin with a clear varnish which would make the material even more transparent. Unfortunately, "clear" varnish actually has a yellow tint to it (should have used clear urethane). Since I didn't like the shade of yellow, I finished the skin with White Gloss Rustoleum oil based paint which has held up well against the logs and branches I run over when paddling.

Long Shot- On Merrill Creek Reservoir

After around 130 hours building the Long Shot it was nice get it on the water and paddle. It seems like this boat is around 2/10 to 4/10 mph faster than the Chesapeake for the same amount of effort. Since the Long Shot has a multiple chine bottom as opposed to the single chine of the Chesapeake it is more twitchy when sitting flat but a lot more stable when leaned into a turn. With a more rounded bottom the boat is also more stable with waves coming from the side. And with the more gradual flare of the bow, the flexibility of the frame and the lack of a front hatch, when I turn into the waves the boat cuts through them with much less water spray; where the Chesapeake would bounce up and down over the waves, the Long Shot just cuts right through.

When paddling I like to keep the blade as close to the boat as possible. Unfortunately, with of the width of the Long Shot and the oversized coaming I end up whacking my thumbs on the coaming frequently. Eventually I’ll replace the plywood coaming with a smaller, laminated coaming and that should correct the problem.

Overall the Long Shot is a decent boat and was well worth the time it took to build.

My next build will be a Sea Rover from Yostwerks. The Sea Rover is 18.5 inches wide and around 17’ long. The Long Shot is 23” wide and 18’ long. It'll be interesting to see how different it is to paddle such a narrow boat; I have a feeling I'll be rolling more often.


Sea Rover vs. Long Shot.

UPDATE One of the nice things about lashing the kayak together is that you can easily cut the lashes and re-use some of the wood. After building and paddling a Sea Rover I've decided to recycle the gunwales and stringers from the Long Shot and use them to build a Nikumi. I'm 5'10", usually around 157lbs and the Long Shot just feels like too big of a boat for me. I'm hoping the Nikumi will be a better fit.

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