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This is an article from WaveLength Magazine, available in print in North America and globally on the web. Edi Hans Pawlata was one of the first whitewater fanatics to recognize that arctic kayaks had performance characteristics and permitted paddling techniques that could be adapted to conquer the unexplored wild rivers of the Alps.
There are many similarities between building a traditional skin-on-frame kayak and building a craft that 'folds'. Folding construction is more likely to succeed if it is executed from carefully thought-through designs and plans.
The substrate fabric is now usually some type of strong, stretch-and rot-proof nylon or polyester instead of hemp or cotton canvas. In 1958 Josef Locher (Germany) wrote Faltboot A± Anleitung zum Selbstbau, a short building manual for amateurs for a design that could be adapted to produce a one-, two- or three-seater folding boat.
His book includes a great many detailed technical sketches, as well as lines drawings of proven kayak hull shapes, both for whitewater and for coastal paddling. Mayr emphasizes the beauty and efficiency of arctic hull shapes, but what he has to say about their construction applies equally to the boat types favored by Locher and Blandford.
There are folding boat and kayak builders in all corners of the globe, most strongly represented in Europe and North America.
The ability to separate the skin from the frame and then fold both up into small, easily managed bundles makes possible travel by train, bus, on foot and nowadays by air! The concept of folding kayaks survived the dark days of the Second World War, as well as the onslaught of cheap, mass-produced plastic boats in the 1960s. Coast&Kayak(formerly Wavelength) Magazine is the globally accessible free kayaking, paddlesports and coastal recreation resource celebrating 20 years of publishing.
Resources from a dad's perspective for parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, and scout leaders. July 2, 2013Here is a great project that can be done in a single weekend (but will probably take two).  It will cost way less than buying one, and the cost per kayak goes down if you make two at once.
Be sure you can get to the top and bottom of the kayak when it comes time to apply the canvas.  I used an old door on my table to give some space underneath the kayak. Try to stretch the canvas out from the middle to prevent as much wrinkling as possible.  This video is very helpful. If the cement is still just a little tacky (very close to almost dry) you will be able to work out most of the wrinkles.
Notice the kayak has been flipped upside-down.  You will need to mark with a pencil where the glue goes. To do the other half of the bottom, I put plastic under the canvas as I coated it with cement. Then we glued the inside strips in place.  Be sure they are centered on the hole locations. We flipped the kayak over and drilled back through the pilot hole to match it in the strip.
Put the T-nuts in place and screw the runners on.   Then use the countersink to add screw holes near the end of the runners (BE CAREFUL not to drill through the top or the canvas!). When you are done, the PVC will b glued in place, and each piece will have 4 screws holding it on (2 in T-nuts and 2 in nylon stop nuts). Be sure you are done working on the inside at this point, because when you glue the top half, it is hard to get in to access the fasteners at the ends.
Notice that both sets of runners (top and bottom) make a sandwich with interior and exterior parts. You can see the tow strips in this photo below.  They are useful not only as a place to attach a tow rope or handle, but also as a way to cover any wrinkles that may have been captured in the end or top canvas. Here are some other versions of the kayak out on the interwebs.  We borrowed ideas from most of these.

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After studying the plans, and then cutting the panels to size, it seems just right to pre-assemble the hull to see what it will look like.
Once the application of PVC Tape is complete, it is necessary to overlap it with the stronger adhesive Tough Duct Tape. Of course, the proof of any boat design is always in the water, and here you can see that the waterline is at a very nice level, with plenty of freeboard evident, and the boat is floating nearly level in the water. The earliest examples derived from the then popular wooden decked canoes-think McGregor's Rob Roy-but rapid development towards the sophisticated hull shapes of true 'folding kayaks' soon ensued.
So, in 1926, after a visit to Greenland, he built the first folding kayak based on arctic hunting boats.
Draw your design and then derive the correct position and shapes for the various parts from this design.
There was once such a thing as commercially available 'folding boat skin', consisting of one, two or even three layers of canvas sandwiched between coatings of rubber. Most people still favor proofed canvas for the deck, however, because of its breathability, look and feel-and yes, these decks are watertight! He built the first of his folding whitewater kayaks in 1952 to the adapted lines of an earlier design by one Herbert Slanar (a famous kayak designer of the pre- and post-war years), which itself had been derived from sleek arctic shapes, but was optimized for serious whitewater use. The Internet has enabled this splintered community to re-establish the traditional practice of sharing information, ideas, solutions, plans and designs. This material is durable, flexible, and has no internal voids, and it is made with exterior glue. In order to find simplicity, I have developed a folding hull design that does not utilize complicated seals and joints. In this case, I have attached the 4 panels together with short strips of duct tape, and a spreader bar, to give it form.
Remember, this hull is held together with Duct Tape, so the application requires clean surfaces and attention to detail. It's always a thrill, and a concern, when you first put a new boat in the water, but this one just seemed right from the very beginning. Suffice to say that the wild upper reaches of most rivers remained inaccessible to would-be riparian adventurers until the arrival of such folding kayaks and the exploits of today's whitewater enthusiasts. He designed it specifically to master the technique of rolling back up after capsizing without leaving the cockpit. Free from commercial constraints, they adapt designs of existing boats or design their own to suit individual physiques and the intended paddling conditions. This involves some lofting and fairing which can be intensely exciting and satisfying in themselves. In time, natural caoutchouc gave way to synthetic rubber, as well as to different types of PVC and urethanes.
Blandford (England) published Canoes and Canoeing in 1962, describing the construction of folding 'canoes' he had designed for the boy scouts. Mayr drew on his personal experience, as well as on generous contributions by modern and several famous old time German and Austrian builders, who, in turn, had learned their tricks from the pioneers of the early 20th century. Keep a folded boat in the trunk of your car ready for immediate action when you happen upon that irresistible put-in. The end result is a compromise between a sleek looking hull form, and an easy to build and assemble shape that is sturdy and stable.

To keep the form of the hull, and to add rigidity, one inch diameter cross bars are bolted, from the outside, to each side panel, fore and aft. It turned out to be easy to paddle, and maintained a stright course, thanks to the small keels in the aft of the hull.
The resulting 'Pawlata roll' is part of the repertoire of techniques of many skilful kayakers to this day.
In traditional (rigid) skin-on-frame construction you join frame parts in the right order starting with the gunwales, each piece leading to the correct position and dimensions of the next piece. Personal preference and your confidence in your abilities with one or the other material will have much to do with your final decision. The authors in these examples presented traditional 'Euro' river touring boat shapes, a decked canoe hull driven by double paddles.
Mayr finally set down on paper what he had learned in the meantime about technical solutions and construction details of folding kayaks. SHOULD THE INFORMATION PROVE DEFECTIVE, YOU ASSUME THE COST OF ALL NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION. The first is the 10 foot radius, laid out as a coordinate measurement (shown below), and the second is the straight line, from curve to bow and stern.
It does lack adhesive qualities however, hence the need for some Tough Duct Tape to hold it all together. As you can see, I use a flotation cushion for the sitting surface, and my PFD for the backrest. The public attention that Edi Pawlata's success received in 1927 did much to further the popularity of folding boats and kayaks built by amateurs and commercial operators alike. And folding boats are immortal-you maintain the boat piece by piece and repair or replace worn or broken parts individually and thus cost effectively. Made from only one sheet of 5 MM plywood, the Fold-Up Kayak should be easy to paddle, and at eight feet in length, can accommodate a six foot, 200 pound individual, and some gear. As the plans show, the curved edge of a base panel becomes the curved edge of a side panel. Stainless Staples are applied every 4 inches to hold the PVC Tape in place on the base panels. Thousands of paddlers regularly gathered on riverbanks throughout Europe on sunny weekends back in those days. Modern adhesives expand the possibilities of working in wood, allowing builders continually to drive forward frame 'technology'. Frames, still in working condition after fifty years of use or more, are not uncommon; skins tend to need replacement after 20-30 years.
It must be stated that this is a casual design, and is NOT to be used in turbulent or rough waters. A builders option is to use a double layer of Tough Tape in place of the PVC Tape, if the boat is to be used in non-rocky waters.
And that's no little accomplishment when one considers what has already been invented, tested and developed to high levels of sophistication over this last century!
Because it is so low in cost to build, less than one hundred dollars, a fleet of them can easily be constructed for an entire family.
Options can be the fiberglassing of the outside of the panels, providing even greater durability.

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