Iqyax design

Building the Iqyax

by | Feb 5, 2019

Here our goal is to popularize the perfect design of the Aleut Kayak. To help anyone willing to build a good sea kayak with а speed and character!

So, how to build the amazing Iqyax?

First I would like to clarify that we are calling the Aleut Kayak – Iqyax, often it is also called Baidarka. However, the name Baidarka comes from the Russian traders first visited the Aleut Islands only in the 1700s. There are pieces of evidence Aleut chains was occupied as long ago as 3000 B.C. and the skin on frame boat was already developed. The ancient Unangan and Aleut people called their boats Iqyax, so we are using the same word here.

In 1840 the Russian Orthodox priest Veniaminov referring to the Aleut Iqyax wrote: ” … is so perfect in its way that a mathematician himself could hardly add anything to its seagoing qualities” With all that perfection of the Iqyax, it is almost forgotten. The modern kayaks designs are not even related to the great design of the Aleut people. Again Veniaminov wrote describing the Aleut kayak ” ……. they were so speedy that birds could not outrun them. They were so narrow and sharp-keeled that they could not stand upright in the water without a rider, and so light that a seven-year-old child could easily carry them”  The average weight of the Iqyax is about 26 lbs or 12kg. The average speed is about 5kn. There are rumors some experienced paddlers could achieve 8/9kn.

Wow, I want such a kayak! If you are also looking for a good sea kayak that is speedy, charming, light, with amazing design proved by the thousand years of experience by the Aleuts. Then let’s build this beauty together!

Full size sections - Aleut Kayak


The full-size sections of the Iqyax as above.




Ok, so we have the drawings thanks to David W. Zimmerly who wrote the article ” Building the One-Hole Aleut Baidarka” for “Small Boat Journal” in 1983. I will just use some zoom in to make the drawings more readable.

offsets - Aleut Kayak

Here comes the paddle:

Aleut Paddle size

The most difficult is the bow section. In the figures, 1,2,3 below are measured drawings of upper and lower bow sections.

For easier working could be used pine. The upper bow piece is more easily build up in two parts; a horizontal top plate lashed to a vertical piece to achieve the shape.

Bow construction Iqyax

The curve of the lower bow piece in figure 3 could be made from two blocks glued together and sanded to achieve the final curved shape.

The lower bow piece also forms the forward part of the keelson and should be left about 160cm. Middle keelson about 250cm. and aft keelson 150cm. to allow for later trimming and scarphing.

Lower stem Piece - Iqyax


Making the Pieces

Like Mr. Zimmerly said in his article, anyone who is trying to glue or metal fasten this kayak will fail to improve it, just the opposite. The design of the Aleut kayak is such that all parts need to be lashed together! This kayak is very light and needs some movement of its parts to ride the waves with ease. So I also stress here do not use screws or glues, just lashings!

All measurements of the pieces are given in centimeters. All parts should be fabricated completely before joining them.

Bow Stern Blocks - Iqyax

For simplicity, the bow, and stern blocks shown in fig. 1,4 and 5 can be made rectangular and one-piece.

Stern construction Iqyax

The large stern piece of the iqyax as shown in fig. 5 and 6. is straightforward in construction.

Stern Piece - Iqyax


Stern Keelson Piece - Iqyax

Middle keelson should be left  250cm long, it will later be scarphed to forward and aft pieces and shape it to section AA shown in fig.7

The aft keelson is made as shown in the fig.7 with an overall length of about 150cm.

Deck Beams - Iqyax

The deck beams are made to the dimensions found in fig.8 The length and midpoint are given in the table above.

Although the finished kayak has a shallow V-bottom, the ribs will be bent with a flat section at the bottom as shown in fig.8 

Deck Beam Lashing - Iqyax

The gunwales – cross sections as shown in fig.9 are cut 3.5cm high by 2.2cm wide and 445cm long. Mark out the locations of the deck beams and cut out mortises about 0,5cm from the bottom of the gunwale. Also, mark rib locations and drill the bottoms of the gunwales with round mortises 1.0 cm in diameter and about 1,5 cm deep to accept the ribs.

Rip the hull stringers our of 16-foot knot free 1 by 6 and make them oval cross-section 1.0 cm by 1.2 cm. The forward and aft deck stringers are initially 240 and 170 cm. long respectively with the cross-section as shown in fig.9 Leave the ends untrimmed until final assembly.

The ribs are with a very slight diameter of 1.0 cm. To avoid breakage, it is best to make all 43 of them from willow shoots of appropriate diameter. If not available use the clearest more straight-grained spruce you can find. Cut them about 70 cm. long. This length will accommodate the longest ribs in the middle of the kayak, but save the shorter leftovers to be used near the ends. 

Mast Step - Iqyax