Are these boats strong enough? How can they weigh so little?
Yes, Geodesic Airolite boats are exceptionally light but they
are also exceptionally strong. For example, the 8-pound Sweet
Pea has held 300-pounds of people (father and two children)
in calm water! The Geodesic Boat building concept came from various
aircraft construction techniques and materials, so it is light
weight and strong by it's very nature. The use of Kevlar aramid
fibers on many Geodesic Airolite models add exceptional tortional
rigidity while adding almost no weight.
How long does it take to build a Geodesic Boat?
It depends upon the individual and their work habits. The times
that are posted on the design pages are optimistic. It is a time
that some one said that they took. I spend a lot of time admiring
my work and can’t do it that fast. One individual was reported
that he spent time planning in his head every step. When he started
building he wasted no time. You could get an idea of the time by
adding up the number of items on the bill of material; for example
the Sweet Pea Mark 2 has 19 . It is a boat that might be built in
30 Hrs by a disciplined worker. Now the Cricket 12 has 90 items
- Plan on a winter project. You can get a relative idea for the
build time of our boats by viewing our boat
index sorted by build time.
Which boat should I build?
A first time boat builder should study all of the designs listed
and choose a simple one. My advice would be to build a canoe appropriately
sized to handle the user. Also don’t push the limit on the
maximum weight recommended for the chosen design. See our selection
& comparison guide for more information.
How much room do I need?
This varies with the selected design. We recommend a few feet
on all sides - it is helpful to be able to step back and view/admire
your work from a distance. The Geodesic Airolite Boat building
process is relatively clean and many people have built these boats
in their appartment. Note that you will need proper ventalation
for certain adhesives and whatever sealant you chose and you will
need to be able to warm the room sufficiently for them to cure.
What is included in a set of plans?
The plans consist of full sized patterns, detailed scaled drawings,
a complete Bill of materials, sailing rig on certain designs and
a step by step construction manual. Plans are always priced separately
from the partial kits.
What is included in a partial kit?
It is a source of the unique materials selected for the particular
boat design. Specifically; Cut to length 3.7 oz. 72" width
heat shrink Dacron fabric, Kevlar roving, Structural Epoxy adhesive
(1 to 1) mix thickened to a viscosity similar to Vaseline (very
low toxicity) and Transfer Adhesive
Film (hot melt glue). Note that the plans are NOT included in
a partial kit.
The necessary lumber is not necessarily "special" but
there are some pointers that you should take under advisement.
The longitudinal parts (stringers, gunwales and floorboards) can
be milled (cut) from whatever is used to build houses in your
area...typically 2 x spruce, fir or hemlock. Forget the 2 x 4
and look at the 2 x 12 they come from older larger trees and are
more likely to have straighter grain with fewer knots.
The bent ribs should NOT be Kiln dried. The preferred wood would
be Green ash, oak or juniper. Try to get this wood at a sawmill.
The Amish people ,who make furniture, are a good place to look.
If all else fails the ribs can be laminated of just about any
type of wood.
Why can't I buy the lumber from you?
We cannot provide you with lumber for most of our boats due to
the length of the material. It's very impractical to try and ship
anything that is longer than eight feet. You should be able to
obtain the necessary supplies from a local lumber store.
Do I have to steam bend the wood/ribs?
No! but if you try steam bending you will be glad that you did.
First of all, only the ribs need this treatment not the longitudinal
members. If you can locate good quality straight grain clear green
Ash an over-night water soak will soften the small section wood.
It can then be nursed into shape to make the bends. The satisfaction
received when you take the same piece of wood from a 15 minute
steam bath and tie it into a knot is worth the effort. The instruction
manual details the procedure. Also, see our steam
box tutorial for more information.
What kind of glue will I need and where can I get it?
Supplied in the partial kits is a 1:1 low toxicity epoxy mix with
a viscosity similar to vasoline. It is used for the structural
parts of the assembly, all of the Gunwale, stem joints, the transom
and especially the Breast hook and knees. Some of the kits include
one part Urethane and this is recommended for the stringer to
rib joints. It is mostly a convenience item because there are
so many joints. The expanding squeeze out property serves a purpose
here because these joints rarely fit perfectly so the expansion
fills the gaps. Further more if you get clever with it you can
judge how much to apply to end up with a structural fillet squeeze
out around the edges.
you chose to order a partial kit it will already include your
epoxy, otherwise you can find epoxy at your local hardware store.
Structural epoxy may call for the use of a filter/respirator.
What tools are required?
The first step in the process is to mill out the wood, so you
will need access to a table saw*. A bunch of regular household
tools will get you through most tasks. It would be helpful to
have a saber saw and a small drill motor. Model hobby stores sell
PROEDGE #01350 razor saw (42 teeth/ in.) I say you need a bunch
of clamps but people improvise around that with electrical wire
ties, rubber bands and even ribbons cut out of panty hose. The
Clamp-Its that we sell are cheap enough and are liked by most
people. Also small, inexpensive spring clamps may be found in
I have been touting that the first thing you need is access to
a table saw with a hollow ground planner blade (even better is
B&D "piranha" blade [cat # 73-957]) Well guess what
- a young fellow in Hong Kong simply used a hand held circular
saw (Skill Saw) and did just fine. Whatever approach you chose,
always know your limits and work safely!
The good: It will withstand a serious impact like bouncing onto
a boulder. There are no problems stepping on it; a 2 ft. square
panel will withstand a 400 # person standing on it. Dogs are said
to cause no trouble to the skin.
bad: It cuts easily against sharp objects like broken glass, but
it is easy to repair. Now comes the tricky part ...It is almost
impossible to rip the bare fabric, But a coat of varnish or paint
that soaks into the fabric renders a loss of ripstop quality.
answer is that there are a number of sealing coatings that do
not soak into the cloth weave such as; an iron on mylar film (MonoKote).
You'll find additional information on this page for optional strengthening
techniques. Your need for a tougher skin will depend on how you
intend to use your boat. We always encourage using a double layer
of Dacron, but many people do not.
customers have chosen to replace Dacron with 1/4" plywood
(on the hard-chine boats such as the Car-Topper
9). They find the end result to be heavier but still praise
the performance of the boat & design. Most people just go
with the Dacron because it works!
What is used to seal the Dacron skin?
There are a lot of options. A couple of coats of exterior acrylic
latex paint or water born varnish are the simplest, The varnish
has been popular to render the translucent see through geodesic
framework (this is satisfactory on a boat that can be pampered
approach is to apply a thin mylar film (MonoKote) over the regular
layer of Dacron. This yeilds a brilliant finish in the color of
your choice, but adds to the expense of the project. Please see
the next question in this list or refer to "What
heavier duty coating is a rubberized Plasti-Dip material (tool
handle dip). But it adds weight and can be difficult to apply
the boat can’t be stored in a barn and must be exposed to
continuous UV, a UV barrier can be created with a few coats of
aluminum Rust Oleum paint.
someone will add a layer of epoxy fiberglass. I’m not in
favor of this approach. For one reason it is so messy compared
to applying the slick Dacron. The thin glass being a ridged and
brittle material will not stand the impacts like the Dacron will
so I question the gain?
Why do some of your boats look so shiny? How can I do that?
There are various ways to improve the durability of the skin.
The first was is to add a second layer of Dacron (described below.)
Another is to add an iron-on mylar film. Using sealants that do
not soak into the cloth improve durability by letting the Dacron
fabric retain it's remarkable resistance to tearing. The double
layer of Dacron is very easy to do, while the mylar film adds
a remarkable luster that makes the boat shine like polished fiber
glass. Beware that mylar is not UV resistant, so the boat should
not be stored in direct sunlight. You can get a feel for the appearance
of mylar film by viewing various photos on this web site.
How do I add a second layer of Dacron?
This is renders and extremely tough skin, is easy to do and it
doesn't add much weight. Apply the first layer of Dacron at a
bias angle. Use a double width HeatnBond with the fabric glued
also to the Gunwale top (considering the boat right side up).
Leave off the stem doubler and shrink it tight. Install the Kevlar
(use the 2 yarn grade). Next is a cross wise layer of 17"
wide flat stock HEATnBOND. Be sure there are no holidays and don’t
worry about the overlaps. If the compound shape is a problem slit
some darts in it. Now do the second Dacron layer with the bias
apposing the first layer. Shrink the fabric just enough to smooth
the wrinkles, but not too tight. When you do the final fabric
layer, shrink it gently until it is all snug. Then go slowly over
the entire bottom with the thermostat at the "no shrink setting"
to activate the HEATnBOND.
is a variation to this procedure where the first layer is terminated
along a stringer that is located just above the waterline. On
the smaller canoes there is enough scrap from the main layer to
provide for that bottom covering. You just have to reverse the
order in which they are applied. I would recommend an exterior
Acrylic Latex paint finish.
How do I apply the mylar film and where do I get it?
The mylar film (MonoKote) is available in many hoby stores. In
the quantity that you would need to cover a boat this option is
pricey. The heat shrinking ability is limited so must be applied
in lengthwise strips (2 planks) and requires more accuracy than
the application of the Dacron layer which precedes it. Please
read the "What is MonoKote?" topic
for more information about MonoKote, and see our MonoKote
application tutorial for detailed instructions.
How can I recanvas a canoe?
(For complete instructions see out recanvasing
tutorial.) Strip off all of the moldings, trim and rub rails.
go over the wood work to tighten any loose fastenings and sprung
planks. Use thin epoxy or Git-Rot to firm up any punky wood. Now
carefully go over the entire hull with course sandpaper or file
to smooth down any bumps or pimples. Due to the fine weave of
the Dacron, any irregularities will telegraph and show through.
Varnish the entire hull and you are ready to recover. Order the
Dacron with one foot extra after measuring stem to stem along
the Gunwale. Apply HEATnBOND tape along the gunwales, down the
keel and around the front and sides of the stems. Peel off the
keeper paper from the HnB and drape the fabric over the hull and
stick it in place. You can purchase
a printed copy of this process, or just view it for free online.
It is hot melt glue in sheet form. Available in 10 Yd rolls 7/8"
width . You activate it with a household clothes iron. It is used
to attach the Dacron to the wood frame. It is also used to make
a patch if the skin gets punctured. It is ideal for laminating
a double layer of Dacron. (Many people have learned the hard way
that hot glue from a glue gun is not the way to go - we recommend
against even trying it.)
What is MonoKote?
An alternate sealer that is tough, thin and light weight. As a
surface film it does not fill the Dacron weave to impair rip-stop
qualities. It is an iron on film that is available in about 50
brilliant colors including clear. This is sold, a little pricey,
in hobby stores for covering RC model airplanes. If it is not
mylar as they say then it must be a close relative. The heat shrinking
ability is limited so must be applied in lengthwise strips (2
planks). The overlap joints are hard to feel and almost invisible.
The one weakness is that it has poor UV resistance so the boat
should be stored in the barn when not in use.
can locate a dealer near you by visiting the MonoKote website.
Look for the "Where to buy" link at the bottom of their
What is Plasti-Dip?
It is a tough flexible coating...Tool Handle Dip. Rather than
brushing I have found that it is better to apply it thick with
a serrated squeegee. Then lightly tip it off with a brush dipped
in solvent. This system does not particularly soak into the fabric
weave and yields the best ripstop results. Plasti-Dip does add
a fair amount of weight.
What is a Jiffy-Sail?
A Jiffy-Sail is a simple and inexpensive sail made out of Tyvek.
Tyvek is that white, thin fiberous material used to make tear-proof
envelopes, light weight protective suits and countless other things.
Plans for boats with sails outline the construction of this type
of sail. You'll also notice Tyvek written on the sails in some
of our pictures. And No, it has not been readily available without
have recently learned that there is now a pure white Tyvek
stock (it no longer bears the giant Tyvek logo) available
in up-to 10-foot widths. You can order this material
Goodling Outdoor Products
4323 Hope Valley Drive
Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278 firstname.lastname@example.org
What is a Clamp-It?
They are simple bent wire spring clamps that have a deep throat
with a wide grip range - similar to clothes pins in that they
can be installed one handed. They look sort of like shower curtain
clips. There are a lot of joints that need clamping. They are
offered as a convenience option for those people who do not have
the imagination or patience to improvise i.e.:nylon electrical
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