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The most asked questions have to do with plywood.

·        You must use ‘good’ plywood if you expect your boat to last.

·        Exterior grade plywood IS NOT good plywood

·        Good plywood is expensive

·        Good plywood is hard to find.


The quality of US made plywood has fallen to the point I will not use it anymore. Sadly the only good plywood I can find is imported. While it it is not cheap the quality is vastly superior to US plywood.


EXTERIOR PLYWOOD: Don’t waste you money! The exterior grade plywood varies wildly in quality but it was not made for marine use. There are always voids (holes) inside that you can not see. The faces are rough. The glue used is not waterproof. It warps badly. Need I go on?


The best plywood I have used is Baltic Birch. It is made in Russia from Birch harvested in Baltic region. It has multiple thins plys of birch, not some filler material,  making it very strong. The face it not a thin veneer, each layer is the same thickness. It is very high quality plywood.


Baltic Birch typically comes in 5’ square sheets instead of 4’ x 8’.  I have heard that it is made in 4’ x 8’ sheets but I have never seen it. It is not the same thing as Birch plywood that is sold in most home improvement stores, so don’t be fooled! If it is US made IS NOT Baltic Birch.


MDO is another good choice. It is made for outdoor signs, so it is very weather resistant. I believe it is US made and the one exception to rule of quality.


Marine plywood is not what it used to be. US made ‘marine’ plywood is typically made from Douglas Fir and the quality has degraded to the point it is not worth buying. It splinter badly when you cut it, there are voids in the center and it wants it not that strong. On my most heavily used boat I have seen two frames start to fail. The plywood doesn’t break but just degrades becomes flexible till it finally fails. I used it for a long time but I now refuse to use it


Yes you can buy cheap plywood and slather it in epoxy to seal it, but all you have is a pig with lipstick, it’s still just cheap plywood. Buy the good stuff and save the epoxy for something that really needs it. My boats don’t need epoxy.


PRICE: Good plywood is expensive. Expect to pay 50 to 100 dollars for a sheet of plywood. Yes that is a lot of money but keep it in perspective. As of 2013 you can build most of my boats for around $350 for a nicely equipped boat. So what if you plywood cost $100? Look at the total cost of the boat, not the cost of one item.


SOURCES: You will not find good plywood at Lowes and Home Depot. You will probably not find it at the local lumberyard. You will have to search to find it and you may have trouble finding a source. Your best bet is to find who the cabinet shops buy from. Most people assume these are wholesalers but they are really just a dealer that deals with specialty shops. I have never had a problem buying from one nor needed a Tax ID number.


Sign companies use MDO for outdoor signs sp it may be easier to find than Baltic Birch. Check with local sign companies or sign supply companies in your area.


There are several companies around the country that will ship plywood it to you but because of the size it has to go by truck and shipping costs can be as much as a single sheet of plywood.

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Probably the second most asked question I get is which boat? My answer is usually “I don’t know” because it is hard for me to tell you which boat you need since I know nothing about you. Picking a boat is very personal, what I love about one you might hate. About the best I can do is giving some general guideline to help you pick.


Be Realistic of your needs. What are you going to do with the boat? Many people have grand plans for multi-day trips, camping, living off the land. In reality they end up taking the boat out for 1 to 4 hours at time. The last thing they really need is a boat designed for extended trips.


Almost every new paddler wants a super stable boat. Unless you have a physical issue that affects your balance, stability is way over thought! Its like learning to riding a bicycle, you wobbled at first but the more you rode the better you got. Paddling is no different and you shouldn’t expect to jump in and go without a few wobbles. That doesn’t mean you will go swimming either. I have yet to find a person that didn’t get comfortable in an hour or less of paddling my Curlew design which has a lower stability level than most commercial entry-level boats. It will also run rings around most of those too.


Every design aspect of a boat is a compromise, to gain something you have to give up something. Giving up some stability will generally give you an easier paddling and therefore faster boat. This applies to every aspect of a boats design so the trick is to find that comprise that suits you and your skill level.


The boats length is a compromise too; short boats have to be wide to be stable enough to be comfortable. That means more wetted surface under the water and the boat becomes slow (having higher resistance) very quickly. The difference in a 10 foot and that a 15 foot boat can be dramatic! Think barge vs. speedboat. That is the main reason I am not a fan of short boats. They look cute, but I think they are a poor compromise.


With that said, if fishing is your main goal, you will probably want higher stability since you need to concentrate on fishing and not the boat. For serious fishing I recommend Cast Away, the Crawfish Piroques or the Stonefly canoe. You give up some speed and that means it will take longer to cover the same distance but you gain a lot of comfort and space, which is more important to the serious fisherman. If you’re a casual fisherman and you just want to take a rod on your paddles and the primarily interest is paddling, these would not be my first choice.


For new paddlers there are several boats you might be interested in. If you are looking for something for a small body of water and will not be paddling any distance with a group of longer boats the Mess Abouts with their large open cockpit might be a good choice.


If you’re looking for something with a little better performance and plan on paddling with a group then look at Curlew or Ravenswood, these could be a better choice, even for a first timer. These boats are what I like to call a fast cruiser. Top speed was never a consideration in this design; instead it was optimized for the 3 to 4.5 mph range. That is the speed range most recreational paddlers paddle 95% of the time. You can add hatches and camp out of these two but they are not large boats for extended trips. The stability is a little lower than most commercial designs but I find new paddler adapt quickly. Yes you will wobble at little at first but most everyone does. After 2-3 hours you won't give it much thought and your not stuck in a slow but stable boat you wish you had not bought.


VARDO is a larger boat and a little more stable. It has been a very popular design and is suitable for day use, camping and casual fishing. It really is a good all around design that you will not outgrow quickly. It is also higher volumes so it is very roomy inside with lots of space to move around. If you like camping, this is the boat I would suggest you look seriously at. The trade off is it is little slower but it's longer length helps some. 


If you like to race or are just looking for the faster/easiest to paddle boats at faster speeds,  then you want longer waterline lengths. Again, there is always compromise but the longer boats have more speed potential if you have the horsepower to push them.


My faster designs are Short Shot, Long Shot and Firefly. These were not designed as racers but their owners do race them. These boats have more rounded shaped hulls with multiple chines and therefore lower resistance numbers. That doesn’t mean that they are not suitable for recreational paddling. My go-to boat is my Long Shot, I use it more than any other boat I own.


Another faster design is Sling Shot. It is a hard chined boat that is narrower and less stable but is similar in its speed potential to the previous mentioned boats. It is probably not a first timers boat due to the lower stability but that is not to say you can’t learn to paddle it either. I have seen first timers paddle less stable boats than it so it depends on the paddler.


I didn’t try to list all my boats but just give you some general idea’s. I will very rarely tell someone that they should build a particular boat. But maybe this will help you narrow down your choices.

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Here is a link to a walk through of the steps in building a Kudzu Craft skin boat. This web page will show you the basic steps.





I also have a video up on YouTube that shows you the steps involved.





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