I get alot of questions regarding canvas and other materials for the hull and deck of our kayaks. First of all, for the price, canvas is pretty hard to beat. It is relatively easy to obtain, install, paint, and maintain. It is not abuse-proof. If you want a kayak that will stand up to abuse, I recommend not building a frame and skin kayak. But for recreation, canvas hull kayaks stand up well. To improve the longevity of canvas kayaks:
From Skin/Frame FAQ: Canvas is cheaper than the synthetics and you can coat it with normal paints. Canvas shrinks with moisture, an excellent trait for a kayak covering. Canvas is NOT as strong as the synthetics, nor as long lasting. Some paddlers estimate 5 years for a max. life. Sews well. Needs some savage stretching when you put it on.
Canvas is easily obtained, contrary to George Putz's remarks in his Wood & Canvas Kayak Building book. See my materials list for
a great supply of top quality canvas. I do not sew it. Rather, I staple and glue overlapping seams. Works well and if done correctly,
it looks better than the sew ups. I like it because I do not have to use exotic dopes/glues, etc. It is also very easy to repair.
From Skin/Frame FAQ: Usually has excellent hand. Stretches on the bias so it can be fit around complex shapes fairly easily. Weights from single digit to 26 0z. Some is heat shrinkable, some not. Somewhat vulnerable to UV. Some nylon loosens with atmospheric moisture, tightens in the sun, other varieties are less prone to this behavior. The 26 oz double weave seems to tighten with age and repeated wetting and drying cycles,. This is a very heavy cloth for a lightly framed single.
Check out this site for nylon and supplies: Skinboats - Nylon Supplies
From Skin/Frame FAQ: Got a bad rap from leisure suits. Polyester can make a wonderful skin, but some weaves have a
very hard hand, with almost no stretch , which makes fitting harder. Depends on the weave and weight. Much more UV
resistant, holds finishes well and not nearly as affected by atmospheric moisture as nylon. Dyson sells a 13 oz polyester
that makes an excellent skin- after you learn to sew it, there's no stretch at all.
Ceconite is a polyester-dacron blend that is used for the wings of ultralights and other aviation. It has a good reputation
among kayak builders.
One reputable source is George Dyson. Call or write him for details:
Dyson, Baidarka & Co.
435 West Holly St.
Bellingham, WA 98225
Another source is Lawler Aeronautic, 1-800-608-5235. They carry the following:
Hand Sewing Thread, 250yd/$7.01
Rib Lace Cord, 500yd/$12.66
Flat Rib Lace Cord 500yd/$24.88
Finally they sell some paints, if you're so inclined, "PolyTone Paint": durable one part quick drying flexible coating available in over 100 aircraft colors, similar chemically to Poly-Tak, Poly-Brush and Poly-Spray, is very easy and forgiving to spray, and dries to a beautiful satin gloss, easily rejuvenated or repaired.
Prices vary from $12.50/qt to $33/qt depending on the shades, White and Silver shades are apparently in the $12 class while green is $21 and yellow is $22, reds, purples and maroons are the $32 class. Gallons are of course somewhat less per unit volume.