How Much Wood would a Wood Kayak…

If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m in the suburbs of Chicago. We have a few really good lumber sources here. Owl Lumber and Hardwood Connection are two of my go to places. Pretty much anything you’re looking for they have. Well, except for most softwoods including Cedar.

Cedar (Red, White, Yellow) from the “West”, Alaska, “East” and other such location references is the most commonly used wood. Now I can run to the big box store (Menards, Home Depot, etc.) and easily get Cedar in pretty much any length, however it is full of knots. Usually you use a clear wood, one without knots, for the strips. My go to wood shops don’t carry Cedar and the big box stores don’t carry the right kind. So, now what?

A lot of research and I found a place in Chicago called Harry’s Lumber Co. That advertises clear Cedar. I contacted them and confirmed that they do carry clear. In the next week or two I hope to get there and see just what they are offering.

However before I found Harry’s I was looking at alternatives. I’ve seen Basswood, Pine, Redwood and others mentioned. I stopped at Owl and after finding they don’t have Cedar I perused through the rest of their choices. What you want is a relatively “light weight” wood. Sure you could make a kayak out of Oak but it would be very heavy to carry around and getting it into/out of a body of water will be a challenge. Having basswood in the back of my mind I lifted a few pieces and they were pretty reasonable in weight, had longer lengths and I could find pretty much knot free wood. Nothing else there really jumped out until I came across Spanish Cedar. It had a very nice red coloring to it, any knots were very tiny (small enough to be considered knot free) and it was quite light. I bought a small board of Basswood and Spanish Cedar for experimenting with and a really nicely quilted/flame maple which I intend to use in very small areas as an accent piece.

As of right now I am still undecided as to the wood and probably will be until I check out Harry’s. I like the Spanish Cedar but the name is deceiving as it’s actually related closer to Mahogany rather than Cedar. Being as such it’s a rain forest tree and I’m a bit concerned about the source(s) of it. On the other hand clear Cedar mostly comes from old growth Cedar trees, again a source I’m not thrilled with either. So, I may end up going with Basswood and staining it to get the red color as it is a local and plentiful tree. Another possibility is changing my design idea from a darker red colored kayak to light colored with a few red accent lines. Or maybe a stained Basswood hull, non stained Basswood deck and a few Spanish Cedar accent strips in there.

I did some internet research and found many images, the three below are the closest to the ideas of what I’m thinking of. The one in Red is the color I was originally aiming for and the Spanish Cedar would easily produce this. The light deck is closer to what I’d have with Basswood and you can see the person who created this one has a nice accent strip feature down the center line. The last image reflects a combo of dark lower and light upper while still including the accent strips. At the moment something along these lines is where I am leaning but still undecided.

The images are from: ???, here and here. If the first image is your photo, please let me know so I can provide credit/a link.

Over the next week or so I’d like to settle on my wood choice(s), visual design and start making those purchases. In the mean time I’ve started to pickup some basics like glue and spring clamps.