Ant Mace skin on frame boat building courses at the historic Underfall Yard, Bristol

Ant Mace has been in touch to talk about some skin-on-frame boatbuilding classes that he’s running this summer. Here’s what he has to say:

I started building skin-on-frame boats out of personal interest alongside my other restoration work. It’s now the majority of my work. Mainly sea kayaks, but also some canoes and a skin-on-frame version of an Adirondack guideboat, which is a joy to row!

I’m running three kayak-making classes this summer. These are happening in July, August and September in my new workshop at Underfall Yard in Bristol. Students can choose between a modern design or traditional West Greenland-style sea kayak. Full dates are here

I love the combination of the traditional wood frame and modern skin materials. We make the frames from Western Red Cedar or Spruce with steam bent oak ribs, always bending by eye without moulds.  Each frame is custom-fitted to it’s paddler, and lashed and pegged together in the traditional way – without any nails or glue. They’re skinned by sewing on a ballistic nylon, then coated with a 2-part urethane (specifically formulated for skin boats). 

The finished boats end up beautifully lightweight, durable and strong. The lashed frame allows them to flex slightly when taking impacts, rather than cracking as a more brittle material would . I have a sample of skin that I use as demonstration piece when we have open workshops. Over the last 2 years it’s been abused by hundreds of visitors, with claw-hammers, chisels and rocks and is still going strong!

My new workshop is at the top of the historic slipway in Underfall Yard, and a stone’s throw from the lovely Pickle cafe. It’s a fantastic space to run the classes from – it’s much bigger and lighter than the old workshop. Best of all, students will be launching their finished boats from the same spot that iconic ships such as the Matthew were launched from!   

No experience is required to join a class. Last year I had students aged from 16-65 building kayaks.

To see find out more about the courses, see my website ( or drop me an email (

A skin on frame Imp

The admirable Trevor Akin (in the skin on frame canoe in the YouTube) has built a rather beautiful and clearly successful skin on frame canoe using the lines I drew up for the Imp canoe design some years ago.

I wasn’t happy with the Imp – its strakes would never lie smoothly, and I judged it a failure even though it performed well enough as an open canoe. I don’t even know where I’d find the drawings now, but Trevor has a copy of them from somewhere and done something wonderful with them.  He deserves a firm manly handshake, and certainly gets my admiration. And thanks for letting me know about the project Trevor!

He’s written about the project extensively on his weblog Eh Whatever. Here he is close to finishing the boat, and here he is again at a messabout (for Brits, I should explain this is a kind of camping party with boats).

I love this shot:

Pomme de Terre Lake - Oct. 2016;

Making a boat from a single length of 2x4in

My heavens! And – a great bonus – there’s no need to warn anyone to turn the sound down!

And there’s this. Well, maybe it’s not terribly successful, but it’s definitely fun…