Skin on Frame Kayak FAQ


1) What is Skin on Frame ( also referred to as S.O.F.)

Skin on frame is the traditional method of kayak construction. A light wood structure is made by lashing flexible ribs to lengthwise stringers. This is then covered with seal or walrus hide. More information on traditional kayaks can be found here at David Zimmerly's excellent site

Here at Unicorn Kayaks we use a lashed frame and stringer construction with a sewn skin . The skin is a heavy duty Dacron cloth due to the lack of seals and walrus in Pennsylvania. Even if I could get walrus hide, Desiree refuses to chew the hides until they are supple as a good Aleut wife would..


2) What are the advantages of S.O.F.

The very real benefit is that the kayaks are very light. Usually around half the weight of a similar sized plastic kayak .  A light kayak is one you will use more often than a heavy one. Its easier to put on the roof rack. Its easier to carry to the put in and its easier to paddle. So you will use the kayak more often and so have more fun with it. And isn't that why you bought it?


3) So how do Unicorn kayaks compare?

Entry level 9 to 12 ft kayaks usually weigh between 37 and 47 lbs . Usually they are made of rotomolded polyethylene to keep the cost down. Our English kayak is 11 ft long and weighs in at around 22lbs.

Single seat sea kayaks are between 16ft to 18 ft long and weigh in at about 65 lbs for poly, 55lb for glass fibre and around 45lb for kevlar or carbon. The Ravenswood weighs 26lbs.

Doubles weigh in around 95lbs for ply and 75 lbs for glass fibre. Our double weighs in around 55lb.

All the weights of Unicorn kayaks are approximate as the use of natural products in their construction as well as different covering and paint options means that slight variations will occur.


4) How durable are SOF (Skin on frame) kayaks.

Lets look at this in two ways. In use and in storage.

In use. The skin is very similar to that used on white water rafts. Need I say more?

In storage. You are going to need to take a bit more care than you would with a plastic boat. Dry it out after use and store it in a dry place out of the sun. However even stored like this its not likely to last more than one hundred years or so. Some museums do have kayaks older than this but I'm not going to go out on a limb and promise that sort of lifespan