This summer has been a great time for us visiting boat shows and various festivals around the West. It is such a pleasure meeting customers and builders. We have gotten great feedback about our kayak line from everyone that visits our booth. I am always surprised about what you tend to like the most about our kayaks.
As with all boats, kayaks are a conglomeration of design limitations. One of the limitations is shipping kits. We need the kayaks to fit in a UPS box to keep shipping affordable to you. I would like to send boats without seams, but that is not possible to fit in the box! This is when we came up with our unique finger joint system -it looks clean and is structurally very functional. The feedback we have gotten from you is that you love the finger joints and how they look! Not only are they easy to work with when building the kayak, they have a nice clean look and almost disappear in once the boat is complete.
I enjoy meeting each of you at the shows and talking with you on e-mail or on the phone. I am looking forward to a great summer of meeting new people and talking about our boats with you! It is truly a pleasure engaging with you!
Wood kayak demos are a lot of fun. I always enjoy seeing customers paddle our boats they love paddling them! We have all of our models in one or more sizes at the demos.
How do I know what the right boat is for me?
This is simpler than you might think and a lot of fun to discover. First, we will talk to you at some length about what you want out of a kayak and what your experience is. Next we will show you the different levels of stability of each boat to give you a true feel of each one. Based on your feedback, we will point you to the best options that suit you.
Of all of our wood kayak models, like one of them will just feel right. Everyone that paddles with us usually picks just one boat that suits them the best. The key is to paddle each boat for at least 10 minutes to get the feel of the boat. As you approach the more advanced boats, give those kayaks about 20 minutes. If a kayak does not feel right after that time, it is not the boat for you. Remember that there is no right or wrong kayak. There is just a kayak that fits you and what you are comfortable with. The key is to find a kayak that you will be happy with for years to come.
What do you need?
We provide the kayaks, life jackets, and paddles. Wear comfortable clothes and dress appropriately for the weather. You will get your feet wet so bring some sandals or shoes you can slip off easily.
If you can’t make a demo, let us know, and we might be able to add another one that fits your schedule better. We look forward to seeing you at the kayak demos this summer!
When I get calls or meet you in person at shows I am often asked the question – How difficult is it to get a nice finish on wood kayaks? As with so many questions the answer is – it depends. You need to ask yourself if you want to paddle furniture or if you want have a functional finish that looks good but might have some imperfections. We have built a lot of boats, so here are our tips for getting a good finish. The finish work begins when you put the boat together from the outset. Key things to consider are:
Make sure that the panels are aligned well before you epoxy the kayak. This is not difficult, it just takes a moment to run your hands across all of the joints to make sure they are flush. Panels that are out of line will be difficult to sand flush later without eating past the top layer of the plywood.
– If you want very fair lines on each joint, use a hand wood planer to plane the joints. It is not necessary, but makes for a very nice smooth joint line.
– Use 220 grit sand paper if you are sanding the joints, you will be less likely to eat into the plywood to any great depth. The 4mm marine plywood has a 1mm veneer on it surface, you certainly don’t want to eat into it. Eating past the top layer can happen at the bow and the stern where there are narrow panels and a bit of a concave surface.
– When sanding the plywood anything rougher than 220 grit sand paper leaves groove marks in the wood that are very difficult to remove. The same is true in the fiberglass layer on top of the wood.
– Finish with a 320 grit sand paper if you want to make the surface very smooth. I would caution going with any finer sand paper. You might run into adhesion problems if the surface is too smooth. The surface needs to be rough enough for epoxy to bond well to.
– Keep the sander flat. It is tempting to tip the palm sander on its side to get into those deeper spots to sand out, however, this creates a wavy surface.
– Change the sand paper often. Most people use sand paper much longer than they should. You can easily go through 30+ sanding disks during the build process. We recommend using a palm sander that uses sticky back sand paper. The velcro pads on the sander tend not to last very long. Remove the sticky back sand paper as soon as you turn off the sander and the paper is still warm – the glue is not as sticky then and the pad comes off clean.
– How long do you keep working on sanding – until you are happy or tired of sanding. Are you building furniture or a kayak that will get scratched up on the beach, knocked around in the garage, hit by rocks driving down the freeway….you get my drift. (The most cosmetic damage to our kayaks are from moving them around and transporting them.)
When laying the fiberglass down on the kayak, make sure not to have an wrinkles in the fiberglass or areas where the weave bunches up. You are better off to cut a little “V” slit in areas where the fiberglass does not lay down well. Make sure to use only enough epoxy so that the fiberglass turns clear. Don’t use so much epoxy that drips start or that the epoxy starts to get under the cloth and lifts the cloth up “floating” the cloth higher in certain areas.
The epoxy that comes with our kits can be “hot coated” which means when the epoxy is drying, but still sticky, you can put on a second coat to fill the weave in the fiberglass. You will need at least 2-3 fill coats to get the weave to disappear. Use as many fill coats as you need to ensure the epoxy covers the fabric weave. (Too many coats cause extra weight or extra sanding, so use as much as prudent.) Sand the fill coats holding the palm sander flat – this is very important for a smooth surface. This is your last chance to get a smooth surface. If it is not how you like it, do another fill coat and sand again.
Most epoxy resins need some sort of UV inhibitor regardless if the epoxy already has a UV inhibitor in the formulation. We chose to use a marine grade spar varnish. There are pros and cons to any finish, but marine varnish tends to be the easiest to work with. There are a few tips for a good varnish coat:
– Thin the varnish. Although you don’t technically have to thin the varnish on top of fiberglass (because the varnish does not need to penetrate the wood) you will get the varnish to flow better and any brush strokes disappear more readily. We thin the varnish between 30-50% depending on how warm it is. The warmer it is, the less it needs to be thinned. Drips/sags on fully thickened varnish tend to take a long time to develop. I have worked on a boat for an hour and had no sags then come back the next day and find a few formed. Thinning the varnish gets the drips to happen quicker so that you can catch them as you are applying the varnish.
– How many coats? Four is what we do. I have seen some people do as many as 40.
– Don’t use sand paper between coats – use a Scotch-brite pad which you clean dishes with instead (make sure to have a new one with no soap added to the pad). Sand paper takes off the varnish quite quickly. A Scotrch-brite pad scuffs the surface without removing much of the varnish.
– Have a dust free environment – you just built a beautiful boat, wood dust all over the place – how are you supposed to get the dust off of every surface? – It is a great time to clean up the shop. Wipe down every surface with a wet cloth and wet mop the floor. We have an air filter we run in the shop for a day or two before we varnish. Dust will show up on your final coat – a little. You will feel it with your hands and see it at a certain angle. You will not see the dust marks most of the time however. Getting no dust in your finish is very difficult outside a clean room.
– Brush or Spray? – If you are good at spraying and have the facility to do so, spray the varnish on. If you get an orange peel finish, the varnish was not thin enough and will have to be sanded flat. Brushes – well, here we go into a great debate. A nice $12+ brush or a $1.50 foam brush. In the end they will be the same cost – the foam brushes break apart and you will need several of them. However, I prefer the foam brush (there will be those who disagree with me) but I find that the foam brush is more forgiving with brush strokes. This is particularly true if the varnish is not thinned enough.
– Drips & Sags – you will most likely get them. Sand them out with 220 grit sand paper and varnish over them. The key is to blend in the edges of the drip or sag with the rest of the finish. Do this by hand. Varnish is very soft and can be taken off quite easily.
For the amateur builder, you should be happy with the three foot rule – if it looks good from three feet away, your boat is just fine. So, what happens if you really mess something up (with all the boats we have built – we have been there) – the answer – paint. The wood kayaks do look really good with a two tone paint job and a black pin stripe between the two as you can see in the picture. In any regard, building a kayak is fun and rewarding. The level of perfection you attain is up to you!
There are many people who think that building a wood kayak is beyond their ability, but most people find building a kayak is achievable, fun, and fulfilling.
1. Time – The key to building a wood kayak is to take your time. Experienced builders can take as little as a week to build a kayak; however, a first time builder should start slower. If you spend a few Saturdays per month and 2-3 evenings a week, you can have your kayak built in about eight weeks.
2. Prepare – View all the building videos ahead of time. Get a sense of what is involved – nothing is very hard and you will learn a few skills along the way.
3. Cost – A complete kit will have everything you need to build and finish the boat. The only thing you will need to add is a paddle, life jacket and some sort of roof rack for your car to get on the water. These three accessories can be purchased for as little as $100 up to $1,000 for the high end options.
4. Commitment – The key to finishing a wood kayak is to work on it as often as you can. The longer you wait between build times, the more time it takes to get familiar with the project again. The more you work on the boat, the fewer total hours it will take.
5. Partner up – Consider building a kit with your spouse, friends, kids, parents, or even find a group of people that are interested in building together. Sharing the building experience is very rewarding and can reduce the building time. If you build two or more boats together, you’ll have a paddling partner with matching kayaks!
Brows our wood kayak kits to find the perfect kayak that fits your needs!
1 – The Kayak – Make sure you have a kayak that fits you well. It should be padded out to fit your body and have a seat that is comfortable for you. Make sure the boat is light so it is easy to paddle and carry to the water. Paddle a kayak that has the stability for your ability to give you the confidence to be on the water. Find the right kayak for you here.
2 – The Paddle – have a paddle that is light for you to hold and has the correct blade for your ability and your boat. The narrower the blade, the easier it is to paddle long durations, but you lose some bracing and rapid acceleration/deceleration.
3 – The Life Jacket – Focus on fit not price. A life jacket that is comfortable is one that you will wear. Choose a life jacket that is made for paddling – they feature less flotation in the back for use in a kayak seat, more open arms for unencumbered motion, and pockets for storage. There are specific models available to fit women better.
4 – Food & Water – Bring your favorite snacks with you. Don’t forget to stay hydrated for your day on the water.
5 – Waterproof Bags – Think about having one small and one large waterproof bag with you. The large bag fits jackets, towels and a change of clothes in case the unthinkable happens! The small waterproof bag is great for your cell phone and keys. Make sure to tie the bags down.
6 – Gloves – If you plan to paddle long distances or in the cold, think about having gloves to protect you from blisters and the cold.
7 – Shoes – I don’t like a sandy/muddy/wet cockpit so I carry water shoes wherever I paddle. On a beach launch, I straddle the kayak, sit down, put my shoes on the back gear rack, dry my feet off, and put on water socks if it is cold. It is nice to have a clean, dry cockpit. We like using
California is a great state for kayaking. California has over 400 lakes and nearly 1000 rivers, not to mention over 600 miles of Pacific coastline. There is lots of water to explore. Although I have not paddled all of the bodies of water in California, there are certainly very memorable ones. Here are the top 10 lakes, rivers and ocean paddles on my list:
#10 – Newport Harbor – the go-to in Southern California – no matter what the weather, this harbor is sheltered from the wind and the waves. There are 11 miles of harbor to explore and great stops for lunch or a romantic dinner on the water.
#9 – Sacramento River – Want a multi-day trip? – the Sacramento River starting in Redding is a great place to go. There are 447 miles of river to explore offering great day and overnight trips.
#8 – Lake Sabrina – If you are heading up to the Owen’s Valley this is a great place to stop. Nestled amongst 12,000 foot peaks, Lake Sabrina is over 9,000 feet with stunning scenery of waterfalls, white-capped mountains, and Pine & Aspen trees. A great place to paddle to see the fall colors (starting in September).
#7 – Owens River – For more advance paddlers, the Owens river offers a swift current to push you along. The river has lots of oxbow bends – you do more steering than straight paddling as you drift down river. Great fun for a few hours or an entire day!
#6 – Lake Tahoe – Stunning scenery with crystal clear blue water, pines, and steep cliff faces. Put in at the end of Lester Beach Road and paddle south to the iconic Emerald Bay.
#5 – La Jolla – Sharks, Sharks, Sharks! (Did I mention Sharks?) Go around sunrise and glide over the Leopard Sharks. You will start to see them in just knee deep water and deeper. Bring your snorkeling gear and swim with them after your paddle.
#4 – Merced River Yosemite – Yes, its touristy, yes it can get crowded, but it is worth the beauty of slowly paddling down the center of Yosemite Valley. Paddling next to the iconic granite slabs is a beautiful way to spend the day.
#3 – Mono Lake – Launch Navy Beach at sunrise and catch the long shadows on the tufas naturally growing out of the lake. It is a great place for bird watchers. Make sure to head off the lake by mid-morning as the wind starts to come up. Winds of 30+ mph are common in mid-day.
#2 – Lake Sonoma – One of my favorite hidden gems. Lake Sonoma is a great place for a weekend paddle. Bring your camping gear and set up camp at one of the many boat-in camp grounds. Drive in on Shady Lane/Hot Springs Rd. Paddle out Yorty Creek and up Cherry Creek. Set Camp and explore the many fingers of the lake.
#1 – Lower Colorado River – The stunning contrast of the river and wetlands against the stark brown desert just a few hundred yards beyond its banks makes the lower Colorado River an epic place to paddle. Anywhere in the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge is the place to go. E-mail us about a special campground with boat launch you’ll never forget! (Pictured Above)
Come find the wood kayak that will offer you the best adventure on your next trip.
Top 5 reasons You’ll Love Ellero Kayaks!
- Paddling Beautiful Art – Wood kayaks have a natural beauty unlike any other material. Sometimes it is hard to get on the water with so many people wanting to talk about your wood kayak.
- Weight – Our kayaks are lighter than nearly any other kayak materials including fiberglass. Light weight allows for easy carrying, car topping, and storage which means you’ll use the boat more often.
- Speed – Wood kayaks are stiff, which allows excellent energy transfer into the water, but they are flexible enough to bend ever so slightly to absorb major shocks.
- Fit – Ellero kayaks have four different models to fit your paddling style. They also come in four different sizes to fit your body type.
- Accessorize – You can add motors, sails, outriggers & amas, rudders, and more to our kayaks. Each boat as the option of being taken apart in 2 or three pieces for even easier storage and transport.
Come see our selection of kayaks. We have the kayak that will fit your paddling style and your body type.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that I build a lot of different craft. That has really helped me design easy to build boats for you. One of the things I disliked when I built other boats and aircraft is that nobody made it easy. There were always issues, sometimes big issues with the way the plans, instructions and kits went together. This always added many hours to the build. Then, there were the skills that all the designers of the various craft seemed to think I had, which I didn’t, adding more time spending hours trying to figure out. All this, in my opinion, needed to change.
I designed our kits to make it easy for you to build. My experience in both the marine and aviation worlds allowed me to combine the best of both boat and aircraft building methods in our designs. I wanted to make sure that if you have never built anything before, that the fully illustrated instructions and videos together would teach you pretty much everything you needed to know to be successful building our kits – not assuming any skill level on your part. As it turns out, even advanced builders appreciate the insight!
If you still get stumped, we are just a phone call away. In a real pinch, we can Skype or FaceTime with you if needed. We are here for you – are you ready?
Let’s face it, building a kayak is fun, no, really…it is. You may have never thought about building a kayak, but it is one of the most rewarding things you can do. I have been building all sorts of craft since I was young. To date, I have built two sail boats, two hot air balloons, a motorglider, a skiff, and countless kayaks, not to mention all the other things I have built at home.
There is something special about making a craft with your own hands. It might not be perfect, but nothing really is, especially once you drag your kayak up onto a beach, no kayak will be perfect. What you can do with it however, is quite amazing. You can customize the inside of your kayak just the way you want it, to fit you. The foot braces where they fit you the best, the seat where it is most comfortable for you.
You can add bells and whistles exactly the way you want them, to paddle the way you like. Add cool graphic underlays to make your boat your own. Move hatches to where you would like them to be, string up the deck any way you like with your own shock cord designs.
If you take your time, follow the instructions and work a little each day or each week, in the end, you will have a boat you are proud of, is stunning, and something you can paddle for a lifetime – So Cool!
Get building, you’ll have a good time doing it.
(Ultra Sport Kayak Shown Above)
There have been some questions about what make Ellero finished kayaks and kayak kits unique. In summary, here are what make Ellero kayaks stand apart.
– Four Models for Different Skill Levels and Applications
—Touring Kayak – Fast, Efficient, Straight Tracking for the Int./Adv. Paddler
—Sport Touring Kayak -Fast, Efficient, Straight Tracking for the Novice/Int. Paddler
—Sport Kayak – Shorter, Good Mix of Turning, Tracking, and Stability – All Paddlers
—Ultra Sport Kayak – 10′-14′ Good Maneuvering, Highest Stability – Novice/Int. Paddler
– Three Sizes for Each Model – Kayaks That Fit, Well
– 12 Panel Design
– Computer Aided Design (CAD) – All Kayaks Have Been Modeled to Exacting Standards
– Matched Grain Panels
– Roomy Cockpits for Easy Entry and Exit
– Forward and Aft Bulkheads for Flotation and Structural Rigidity
– Easily Adjustable Foot Braces
– On Deck Storage
– Quite Carry Handle – Retracts when Not in Use
– Six Metal Locking Points for Small-Medium Pad Locks
– Spray Skirts Fit all of Our Kayaks
– Everything but Life Jacket, Paddle, and Spray Skirt is Included
All of our kayaks were specifically designed for a wide variety of options:
– Rudders (Four Types)
– Every Model can Be Built in 1, 2, or 3 Sections for Easy Transport & Storage
– Graphic Underlays
– Sustainably Grown African Mahogany Okoume Plywood
– Ultra Clear Fiberglass for Glass Like Surface
– Epoxy Ultra Clear Epoxy that has Very Little Tinting, Shows Wood Well
– Seats are Custom Made for Ellero, Comfortable, High Quality
– High Quality Manufacturing Standards +/- .001 Kit Accuracy
– Simple Fully Illustrated Step-By-Step Building Instructions
– Full Video Series to Accompany Building Instructions
– Finger Joints on Every Panel for Unparalleled Building Accuracy
– Mortise and Tenon Bulkheads for Perfect Alignment
– XYZ Alignment – Our Building System Virtually Guarantees Perfect Alignment
– Plans, Partial Kits, and Full Kits Available