Model kayaks were toys in the past, but now they are marketable pieces of Inuit art.  A table and band saw are the 2 major pieces of equipment that assist production.  If the kayak is covered in sealskin, many of the imperfections from beginning students will be covered.  Making the cockpit presents a difficult problem, but hot pipe bending  is a solution.
Model kayaks were toys in the past, but now they are marketable pieces of Inuit art.  A table and band saw are the 2 major pieces of equipment that assist production.  If the kayak is covered in sealskin, many of the imperfections from beginning students will be covered.  Making the cockpit presents a difficult problem, but hot pipe bending  is a solution.

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Skeleton kayak

The complete kayak can be accomplished in approximately 28 hours, including the sewing of the sealskin.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Whole kayak

The first kayak, 39 inches long, was made by an elder, Lucassie Ohaytook. Depending of available wood, we try to follow his length and pattern.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Cutting gunwales

Basswood is the wood of choice, since it is relatively free of knots and is very soft and has good flexibility. But, you might be forced to cut up 2 x 4's. The width is approximately 3/8", by 1" high. Use antikickback on table saw. (Safety guard removed for photo)

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Slabs of wood

Each slab of wood for the gunwales must be relatively evenly matched. Since the gunwales will have to bend, it is critical that no imperfections are found in the wood, especially knots.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Tracing from a pattern

An elder provided the first kayak that we used to make patterns. It might be advantageous to get advice about the front and back of the kayak. Some clues can be obtained from images in this project. The length is 39".

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Bandsaw profile

Bandsaw the profile. A jigsaw can be used in place of a bandsaw. Instruct the students to keep fingers away from the blade. Have a push stick close to the saw for assisting travel of the gunwales.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Nail the gunwales together

Use 4-6 small finishing nails to put the 2 gunwales together. The gunwales must be a perfect match.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum All Rights Reserved.


Plane the profile

Use a small block plane to make the profile exactly the same.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Wood file inner curves

The block plane is excellent for outer curves, but useless for inner curves. Use a wood file to make the profiles match.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Label outside of gunwales

Gunwales have right and left sides. It is critical to write the "outside" on each gunwale. The students are reminded not to touch the outside of the gunwales when using the block plane. Also, best to have the student's name on outside.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Colour top of gunwales

Wood is going to be removed from the inside of the gunwales. It will taper from about 1/4" of wood on the top to the existing bottom. By drawing a dark line at the top, the student will remove wood to eliminate the black line and taper it to the bottom. The bottom should not be planed.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Shave the inside of the gunwales

Make sure the gunwales are labeled 'outside and inside'. Shave the inside (red in the photograph), but leave the black part untouched. Note that this black outline is not the black line in the previous photograph.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Gunwales must be tapered

The gunwales must be planed. The outside of the gunwales is not touched. This gunwale has been cut to assist viewing.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Insert cockpit support and lash ends of gunwales

Drill holes for the cockpit support and insert it. Pull the ends of the gunwales together and tie them securely. Notching the gunwales allows for easier lashing.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Install deck beams

Drill holes in the sides of the gunwales and insert the cross pieces. Drill holes in the cross pieces and the gunwales and sew them in place, proceeding along the inside of the gunwales.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Strengthening the deck beams

Cut deck stringers and sew them into the deck beams. This stabilizes the deck. The stringers run from the front of the cockpit to the front of the kayak and from the back of the cockpit to the back of the kayak.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Depth of ribs established

Taper the end of the rib and insert into gunwale hole. Determine how far the rib will extend down and mark it.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Width of rib

The width of the rib is critical. Make sure that the bottom width stays inside the width of the gunwales. The biggest problem with ribs is the fact that they may end up sticking outside the sides of the kayak. Mark the locations where the ribs will bend. KEEP THESE MARKS INSIDE THE WIDTH OF THE GUNWALES.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Create a nick for bending

In the past, elders would bite on the corners of the ribs to ease bending. It is easier to nick the bend with a band saw or file and/or beat it with a hammer. Since we only work with softwood, it often breaks.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Boil water to ease bending

It helps if the notched rib is soaked in boiling water for a few minutes. This assists in bending the corners. Bend gently.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Insert ribs into holes of gunwales

Insert ribs into holes in gunwales. A drop of glue assists in keeping the ribs in place until the keel is established.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A jig can be made to ease making the side keel pieces

A curved jig can be made to hold the side keel pieces allowing them to be routed out on the inner surface. The keel along both sides extends up the sides of the kayak vertically, keeping the rib bends from extending out the sides of the kayak. Curving the side keel pieces is always a struggle since the front must be shaved to cause it to bend close to the kayak frame.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Router out part of the side keel

Part of the keel is routed out to allow the ribs to rest against the side of the keel.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Insert the side keel and centre stringer

Sew in the side keels and the centre stringer.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Create a jig to bend wood

It is critical when bending wood to keep the ends firmly in place. Metal strapping has metal stops installed which will hold onto hardwood, preventing the circumference of a bend from splitting apart. The stops are a fixed distance apart to hold wood for the cockpit.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Wood 'trapped' in holder

The hardwood must fit exactly between the two stops. A jig must be made to form the wood after it is heated on the hot pipe.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Hot pipe bending.

A special pipe is created to allow a propane tank to heat the inside of the pipe. Dip the wood in water and then rub it back and forth over the hot pipe. Within a minute or two the lignin of the wood gives way (melts) and the wood bends. It must quickly be moved to the forming jig and formed around it.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Quickly pull the bending holder around a forming jig.

Remove the wood bender from the hot pipe and quickly pull it around a jig which is sized for the cockpit. Clamp the handles in place for a brief time.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Add a piece to finish off the back

Drill holes in the cockpit and sew in a back support.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Final product looks good and ready for sealskin covering.

It takes an average student about 25 hours to reach this point. It takes about 3 hours to apply a sealskin covering.

John Jamieson, Tony Appaqaq

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Inuit elders wanted the skill of making model kayaks to be continued. These models were used as toys for children in the past, but now have become an art form and students sell their models. The models are constructed similar to the full size kayaks. The product is relatively low tech but assisted with a table and band saw.

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