The WoodenBoat School

Build Your Own Greenland Skin-On-Frame Kayak

WoodenBoat School photo

A wonderfully simple and affordable boatbuilding project, ideal to do with a partner.

Tuition: $825 (partner: $400)


  • 16′4″ West Greenland Kayak—$1185.82
  • 17′10″ West Greenland Kayak—$1335.63
  • 18′8″ East Greenland Kayak—$1391.55

Note: This is a seven-day course that begins on Sunday morning and ends the following Saturday afternoon.

During this rewarding seven-day course, students will have the opportunity to build an elegant replica of a traditional Greenland-style skin-on-frame kayak based on museum surveys. Participants will have a choice of building one of three different Greenland kayaks. Two are of the West Greenland style, and one is of the East Greenland style.

The West Greenland Kayak has a flat, low aft deck with gracefully up-sweeping ends, a pronounced V bottom, and hard chines. West Greenland builders will have a choice of building a reproduction of the FRAM Museum #176 kayak from 1888, which measures 17′10″ in length by 20-1/2″ in width, or a replica of the Canadian Museum of Civilization IV-A-375 Disko Bay Kayak from 1931, measuring 16′4″ long and 20″ wide. The West Greenland kayaks can be fitted with the standard egg-shaped cockpit rim (16″ x 22″) or the longer (keyhole-shaped cockpit (16″ x 31″).

Greenland kayak

The East Greenland Kayak looks similar to the West Greenland Kayak when viewed from above, but has a lower profile without the strongly upturned ends. Its sides slope in sharply, converging on a narrow, almost flat bottom. Unlike the West Greenland Kayak, which has a higher deck toward the front than the back, the East Greenland Kayak has a relatively level deck for most of the length. East Greenland builders will be reproducing the Danish National Museum L.19.157 from 1932, which measures 18′8″ in length by 19″ in width. The East Greenland Kayak uses the egg-shaped cockpit rim (16″ x 22″).

Minor sizing adjustments will allow the builder to custom-fit both the West and East Greenland Kayaks. Traditional construction techniques will be blended with modern materials to create a kayak that is fast and light. Each finished kayak, built from western red cedar with steam-bent white ash ribs and a stitched-on nylon skin, will weigh between 25 and 28 lbs.

Instructor Mark Kaufman will create a materials/kit package that includes pre-machined and -mortised western red cedar gunwales, stringers, deckbeams, stems, white ash rib stock, laminated white ash masik deckbeams, finished cockpit rim, adjustable foot braces (for West Greenland Kayaks), seat slats, latigo leather deck lines, nylon skin, urethane coating, and a partially pre-shaped western red cedar paddle blank.

Skills Mark will teach include procedures for accurately replicating the original profile of the kayak from line drawings, layout procedures, mortise-and-tenon construction, steam-bending, hull shaping, sewing on a skin, and, time permitting, carving a Greenland paddle.

Mark promises a fun, fast-paced, intensive week as each kayak takes shape. Students can expect some long, very productive days so that each day’s goals can be met, and by the end of the week each participant will have a stunning kayak that is ready for the water.