Customizing Your Boat: Wood Inlays, Onlays, Paintings & Other Fun Ideas

  • Mike Pfeifer, one of our Pygmy Boat Builders, has done some beautiful inlay work on a number of boats. Mike Pfeifer, one of our Pygmy Boat Builders, has done some beautiful inlay work on a number of boats.
  • The white tree from Minas Tirith of Lord of the Rings inlaid. The white tree from Minas Tirith of Lord of the Rings inlaid.
  • "Our horse farrier purchased a boat from me so I had to put horse shoes on his." - Kayak builder, Mike Pfeifer "Our horse farrier purchased a boat from me so I had to put horse shoes on his." - Kayak builder, Mike Pfeifer
  • An image by Wassily Kadinsky, a Russian abstract impressionist from the turn of the century. A combination of wood inlaying and wood burning. An image by Wassily Kadinsky, a Russian abstract impressionist from the turn of the century. A combination of wood inlaying and wood burning.

People often ask us about customizing their boats with artwork, be it inlays, on lays or painting.  We understand that your boat can be a great canvas so we thought we’d share some photos from customers with descriptions of how they created their art.  We are continually impressed with our customers’ creativity!

designs on wooden kayak

Juliann Tallino sent us this pic of decals printed on rice paper and applied before the glass went on.

Juliann’s artwork above is printed on rice paper on an inkjet printer. Juliann’s Tip: Tape the rice paper onto regular paper to give it a bit more rigidity so it won’t get jammed in the printer rollers. After cutting them out, put them on the boat with epoxy and then apply the fiberglass on top of them. After the glass goes on, the paper disappears and it looks like the designs were painted on the boat.  We have also heard of people using ordinary tissue paper to print graphics on (see West Coast Paddler’s Forum for more details).  The pic below shows a decal printed on tissue paper and applied in the same way on a Coho (this is the completed boat so it shows how the paper goes clear after fiberglassing).

Whale design on a Coho printed on ordinary tissue paper and applied before the fiberglass.

Whale design on a Coho printed on ordinary tissue paper and applied before the fiberglass.

When Beth Stewart built her Arctic Tern, she laminated maple leaves cut out of veneer onto her boat. After the first coat of epoxy, she laid the leaves on the wet epoxy then coated over the leaves with a second layer of epoxy and several coats of varnish.  She found veneer samples at stores like Rockler, Woodcraft or from veneer mills as scrap. (The compass base was carved from a piece of cherry.) Beautiful work Beth!

Many people choose to paint designs on their boats.  Some talented folks even freehand their paintings (see below).  Most folks paint their designs on top of their fill coats.  George T. Mermagen, one of our Pygmy Boat Builders, uses an oil based, very dense paint used by sign painters.  “The boat surface is completed to the varnish and then I sand off the gloss with about 240 grit wet sand paper so I can draw on the surface and the paint will stick to the surface.  Then I sand the dried paintings lightly and cover them with the oil based spar varnish which is the same as I put on the whole boat. This process, while lengthy, holds up fantastically well and remains bright as the day I painted it.”  His paintings are shown below.

Beth Stewart laminated maple leaves cut out of veneer onto her Arctic Tern.

Beth Stewart laminated maple leaves cut out of veneer onto her Arctic Tern.

Thanks Dennis for sharing this awesome artwork! Abalone shell dragonfly inlay on the Coho High:

Dennis Hoeger used abalone for this stunning inlaid dragonfly on his Coho Hi.

handmade wooden sea kayak

Bob Sewell of Kintnersville, Pa came up with some clever deck rigging for his Murrelet 1PD that we think is pretty cool.

sewell-Murrelet 1PD 002

Traditional deck rigging on Bob Sewell’s Murrelet 1PD.

 

 

 

burak

“Medeek” design belongs to NW Coast Gitxsan tribe artist Nathaniel Wilkerson painted free hand style by Burak Bekcan.

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Jerry Stein, one of our builders, has done some nice wood burning on his Arctic Tern.

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George T. Mermagen’s paintings on an Osprey 13.

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George’s freehand drawings before painting.

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George’s completed painting.

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Denis Keyes's custom native inspired artwork on his Borealis XL.

Denis Keyes’s custom native inspired artwork on his Borealis XL.  Artwork freehanded by Debra Oldham.

another freehand by Debra Oldham of Port Townsend on a Borealis XL:

Another freehand painting by Debra Oldham on Dennis’ Borealis XL.

wooden kayak inlay

Gary Martel of Portland, OR, did a beautiful job with his inlay work (wood & abalone) on his Pinguino.

George T. Mermagen, another Pygmy Boat Builder, has some very nice freehand drawings and paintings on his Arctic Tern.

George T. Mermagen’s painting on his Arctic Tern.



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