frequently asked questions

Q: This really is an information rich website - why are you so generous?

A: To my mind, there are three different kinds of visitors who come here. Some like the idea of building or owning a wooden kayak, but can only dream of doing so. That's OK - it's good to have dreams. Then there are visitors who are building their own kayak and need expert guidance. Again - that's perfectly OK with me. Finally, there are visitors who simply want me to build them a beautiful wooden kayak, and need the right information to make a considered decision in their own sweet time.

Q: You make kayaks out of wood - why wood?

A: If wood as a material was invented today, it would become a classified secret tomorrow! Let's be specific, we are talking about Lloyds Insurance Standard marine quality Okuome equatorial mahogany plywood manufactured from wood grown on FSC managed plantations in The Congo. Okuome grows all year round, has no growth rings, and is ideal for making marine plywood free of voids. It is a strong, lightweight material, highly resistant to delamination, and can even survive immersion in boiling water. Wooden kayaks made from Okuome are encased within a sheath of fibreglass cloth soaked in epoxy resin, then coated with multiple layers of UV light resistant waterproof varnish. It takes up to a year to make a wooden kayak by hand, and with proper care it should last for a hundred years or more. This will probably become the greenest, most environmentally friendly purchase you are ever likely to make, and a wooden kayak out on the water in sunlight is a truly beautiful sight.

Q: Why not plastic?

A: A plastic kayak is made in less than fifteen minutes by injecting chemical compounds into a centrifugal mould, followed by finishing and fitting out - all taking about three days. This is why plastic kayaks are a cheap and effective way of getting out on the water. An inherent flaw of plastic moulding is that any straight lines within a design will act as a conduit for stress fatigue, and eventually will crack or buckle under catastrophic loading. So plastic kayaks have no straight lines, are made entirely of curved surfaces, and explains why their keels are rounded. This rounding makes them prone to wallowing in rough water without the use of a skeg, and a jammed or broken skeg can mean real trouble. When a plastic kayak is popped out of a mould it starts to become progressively more 'banana shaped' over time due to plastic's inherent capacity to 'memorise' the trauma of the injection molding process at a molecular level. Try paddling a banana in a straight line! Also, it is simply not possible to effectively repair a plastic kayak if the keel is punctured or worn through. Stress fatigue, combined with the brittling caused by exposure to sunlight, means that the kayak has to eventually be retired and disposed of. All of this adds up to a limited life span with very little resale value. Despite what I say, there is nothing actually wrong with plastic kayaks in respect of their intended use and purpose - I don't make them - others do!

Q: OK, it's made of wood, and wood is heavy, I would have thought plastic kayaks would be far lighter - are they?

A: On the contrary, plastic kayaks are anywhere between a third, or a even a half as much more heavier again, than a wooden kayak! The tech spec shows that a Cam Loch Kayak weighs in at a mere 42lb - that's about 19 kgs, and certainly light enough to pick up with one hand and carry over a shoulder down to the water's edge.

Q: How come it takes you nearly a year to build a kayak?

A: Epoxy resin and varnish are materials that can take a long time to set or dry - albeit depending upon the ambient temperature within the workshop. It actually works to my advantage because slow drying and setting times means any stresses between joined or coated materials gradually even themselves out. As an example - when the deck is fitted, I leave the kayak alone for a week to let the wood find its own natural shape before fibreglassing makes that shape permanent. The varnishing process alone takes six weeks to apply and rub down between six coats, and another month to harden off completely. Varnishing during cool dry weather actually makes for a better finish as the varnish flows better. The result is an incredibly durable water and abrasion resistant finish. This is why builds start and finish in the Spring. All of this is what you are paying for - my time, my care and attention to every detail so that the kayak will last longer and perform better within the extremes of a marine environment.

Q: I notice that you recently increased your price for a build to £15,000GBP. What would I get for my money?

A: The privilege of making the first scratch on a perfect finish - only then is the kayak truly yours! The kayak's construction and finishing is so well done, that it is fairly easy to restore to its original condition, time and again, during a long and hopefully active life span. There will only ever be a limited number of kayaks built in my lifetime, perhaps no more than twelve, so lets think about what this really means. Put it this way, spend the same amount of money on a motor car, and after ten years of pouring money away, you will end up with four bald tires with a puddle of rust in the middle. Truth is, £15,000GBP for a custom build represents excellent value for money. When I add up the cost of materials and consumables, combined with 600 hours of actual 'hands on' labour creating a wooden craft built to last a hundred years, then the price starts to look very reasonable indeed. Quite frankly, building a kayak by hand is such a real commitment and responsibility, that one a year is quite enough.

Q: Why don't you use power tools?

A: My father used to be a machinist in the aerospace industry. He once explained to me that power tools are dangerous because they never get tired, and eventually enslave the user. I have found this to be true. I also believe that by using hand tools, I have more finesse and control, thereby enabling me to achieve a significantly better quality build.

Another more complex answer is that my workshop is situated within a hayloft in a barn that does not have an electrical power supply! If you have read my 'builders tale' it can be seen that workable space really is at a premium. Most of the time I have to work at less than 'arm's length' - thus making it fairly impossible to operate power tools without the risk of personal injury or accidental damage to the build in progress. The advantage of working at such close quarters using hand tools is that it concentrates the mind - wonderfully, in terms of the rigours of construction and quality of finish. An 'arm's length' finish on a wooden kayak looks fantastic, step back three paces and it suddenly becomes something quite beautiful to live with. This is one of the principal reasons why it takes me a year to build each one, and why I have decided upon producing a limited edition of just twelve kayaks over the next twelve years.

Q: Who designs your kayaks?

A: Cam Loch Kayaks uses a proven design that originates from John Harris of Chesapeake Light Craft in the USA. I have a licence agreement with the European agents for Chesapeake Light Craft to build 'Chesapeake' type wooden kayaks by hand without the use of power tools. I have the capacity to build and complete one kayak every twelve months.

Q: What is special about the Chesapeake design?

A: Plywood kayaks have been around since the early 1950's. With the advent of epoxy resins and fibreglass cloth, John Harris saw that it was possible to make a modern version of the traditional West Greenland 'skin on frame' type kayak, as used by the North American Inuit peoples since the last Ice Age. To satisfy his curiosity, he employed computer modelling only to find there was precious little to improve in terms of water efficiency. Today, there are Chesapeakes in use on waters all over the world. As a builder, I see no point in trying to reinvent the wheel, so my job is to make sure it spins on its axle without wobbling or squeaking! I initially spent a great deal of time looking at various designs, and the Chesapeake impressed me with its elegant simplicity as sculptural marine engineering at its best. It pulls like a truck, tracks like a train, and is a pleasure to look at - both in and out of the water. You will bond with a wooden kayak in such a way that it quickly becomes a true friend whose synergy keeps the both of you alive and safe while out on the water. One last thing, kayaks made of wood absorb sound, and are very quiet in the water. It is surprising how close you can get to observe wildlife without disturbing the peace.

Q: Your kayaks have no skeg - why?

A: My kayaks have a relatively sharp keel with a stern shaped like a skeg. This combination gives a very good primary stability in calm waters and really excellent secondary stability while out in rough water. Whatever the water conditions, the kayak by design is always easy to manouvre and really does track like a train. So, no skeg!

Q: Is it possible to repair a wooden kayak?

A: It is entirely possible for a wooden kayak to be repeatedly repaired or restored effectively to its original condition, almost indefinitely - whatever the damage or wear and tear. Remember, wood unlike plastic, does not unduly suffer from stress fatigue. So long as the varnish or paintwork is kept intact, the wood will look after itself.

Q: Why do you build kayaks specifically sixteen feet in length?

A: From the aspect of safety, a sixteen foot kayak is what I can personally relate to myself, while out alone on the water. I take the customers safety very seriously in what is an assumed risk occupation. Do please examine the tech spec for further information.