Handcrafted Skin-on-Frame Boats

STAND-UP PADDLE BOARD: This craft began as an experiment. The deck is cedar-strip with fiberglass cloth and epoxy. The bottom was fashioned with hazelwood sticks covered with nylon fabric. 

ROWING CURRACH: A typical rowing currach has a wooden frame covered with canvas and treated with a liquid rubber meant to simulate bitumen or tar (which is more difficult to work with). The currach in the first two photos was made in 2018. The currach in the third and fourth photos was made by my son Joe and me in 2009 when he was 15 years old. In 2018 Joe built a similar boat in New Zealand where he was living, and he was able to take it out on the ocean through a lively surf.  

CANOE: A skin-on-frame canoe may be made with milled wood or hazel sticks with weaving. Either method makes for a strong and lightweight canoe.

CURRACH HYBRID: The currach hybrid takes the idea of a hazel basket frame boat (based on an Irish coracle) and transforms it into the shape of a larger rowing currach. The milled gunwales give it a dynamic shear. 

GREENLAND KAYAK: Of the four Greenland-style kayaks I have made, all used white oak ribs that were steamed and bent to form the hull. A future project will include a kayak made in part from hazel sticks.

– Boat Types –

Once I learned how to build skin on frame boats, I began to explore the unlimited possibilities of shapes and sizes of boats using this method. I began with kayaks and Irish coracle replicas, but soon found that skin-on-frame technique could be used for almost any shape and type of boat. 

RIVER CURRACH (CORACLE): This type of craft is a small, round, woven wood boat covered with a skin, and was originally used for fishing with nets. They are fairly quick to make, strong, flexible, and a skilled paddler can run Class II whitewater in a coracle with relative ease and control while keeping up with store-bought whitewater boats. On the other hand, coracles are very slow in flat water and difficult to propel forward.