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frequently asked boat kit construction questions

Frequently Asked Questions



Why is your company called Pygmy?
Designer John Lockwood named the company after his favorite indigenous culture. He studied the MButi (or Pygmies) of West Africa at the Harvard anthropology department in the late 1960's. John's nickname was "Pygmy". The Mbuti live in harmony with Nature and themselves -- one of the longest lived cultures on the Earth. Their fierce egalitarianism, cooperation, and reverence for their Forest home point to values that Western culture needs to learn in order to heal and develop a more sustainable economy and culture. You can read more about Pygmy Boats by clicking here.


What is stitch and glue construction?

Stitch and glue construction is like sewing a boat together. It is a simple boat building method that uses plywood, epoxy and wire stitches to assemble the boat panels. The precision pre-cut panels you will receive in your kit are held together using 20 gauge wire. Never before have boats of this complexity been so simply and quickly built. The building process takes no special skills. Hundreds of women and men with no prior woodworking experience build Pygmy boats each year. No power tools are needed. They require no strong back or mold. No trimming of panels. Our shop crew does all the woodworking. For an overview of the process be sure to check out our Kit Construction page, complete with photos & videos of the entire stitch and glue building process.

What kind of wood do you use?
We cut Pygmy craft from only the highest quality, most beautiful, marine plywood available. All of our boats are made from 4mm, British Standard (BS) 1088 Okoume plywood.

Can a klutz like me actually build one of your boats?
By all means, yes!! A huge variety of individuals successfully build Pygmy kayaks, canoe, and wherry every year. Many have no woodworking experience. Most have never used epoxy. Read the letters in our Customer Feedback section. You CAN do it!


Do you offer boat building classes?

Yes! We do, but it is not necessary to take a class in order to build one of our boats. Nonetheless, our classes have been very popular and fill quickly. You can check-out a schedule here: boat building classes.

What kind of epoxy do you use?
We use System Three Epoxy. It tolerates varied conditions better than other brands we have tested. System III is less sensitive to moisture and humidity and cures in a wider temperature range than its competitors. If you prefer using another brand, we will sell you the kit without epoxy. No problem.


We usually ship "Medium" hardener with our kits (ideal for temperatures ranging from 55-80 degrees).  You may order "Slow" hardener for temperatures consistently above 80 degrees and "Fast" hardener for temperatures consistently below 50 degrees. Read the System Three Epoxy Book to help select the appropriate epoxy and hardener for you. If you would like a copy of the Epoxy Book, click here to download. We also stock System Three’s Silver Tip Epoxy and offer this as an option in our boat kits for an additional charge.  Note: Silver Tip Resin can only ship via Ground Service and is not eligible for shipments to Alaska.


How long does it take to build one of your kits?
Our solo kayaks go together in aproximately 80 hours. Build the Osprey Double, Triple, or the WineGlass Wherry in 80 to 100 hours. Some home builders complete their kits in as little as three weeks. With curing times, most folks build their boat kit over a six to eight week period.

How do I choose a boat?
Kayaks are a highly personal craft. It needs to fit your frame, intended uses and your aesthetics. These essential factors should influence your decision: your height, weight, and shoe size, the intended uses of your boat, and your family structure (single, couple, kids, dogs...). Start by reviewing our All Boats and Specs and our Boat Reviews pages. If you have more questions, please call us at (360) 385-6143. We will talk you through the process of boat selection. Our staff is committed to helping you get the boat which is right for you.


Do I need to treat my boat with special care?
John Lockwood designs Pygmies for the rigors of saltwater expeditions and rocky shore landings. As strong as fiberglass, yet 30% lighter, your Pygmy will give you a lifetime of use and adventure. The upkeep is simple:


  • Epoxy needs protection from prolonged exposure to ultra-violet rays. After completion, coat your boat with high quality marine spar varnish (with UV inhibitors). We recommend Z-Spar's "Flagship" or System Three's Spar Urethane Varnish. Two or three coats do the job. Depending on use, re-varnish in 3 to 7 years.
  • Frequently dragging your boat full of camping gear onto rocky shores will cause abrasion along the keel line. (Similarly, fiberglass hulls also wear through their gel coat and into the glass at the sharp ends of the keel line when driven up on beaches.) Our construction manuals direct you to lay a "sacrificial" layer of glass tape OVER the already glassed keel. This protects the hull's glass job. The tape strip takes all the wear and tear. Every 2 to 5 years, depending on use, flip your boat over, sand the keel and epoxy on a new sacrificial strip. This quick maintenance keeps your craft in excellent shape. Read more on our stitch and glue maintenance blog.


What does maintenance look like? Depending on use and where you store your boat, you will need to re-varnish every few years (boats stored inside will not need fresh varnish nearly as often as boats stored outside). Read more on our varnish and maintenance blog.

How are the panels joined together?
Pygmy boat panels arrive in two or three sections, depending on the model. The first step in the building process is joining them to full length. We use a butt joint for optimal strength and fairness of line. Some customers ask why we don't use scarf joints. We experimented with scarfs and found them inferior on thin woods. Here are three reasons:
1. Accuracy. Scarf joints are cut at a 1:12 or 1:6 ratio. The cut edges of scarf joints are slid over each other and glued. There is no defined edge that controls the angle at which the panels are glued together. The lack of a defined edge also means that the resultant length of the panels is not defined. When scarfing 4mm panels, the resulting edge is also extremely fragile. Our computer cut panels are cut accurate to .004 of an inch. With precision cut edges at the end of the panels, the angle of join and the panel length are precisely defined.
2. Strength. Butt joints are stronger than the surrounding wood.
3. Beauty. The join line on a scarf also tends to wander and are not as straight as butt seams. On Pygmy boats, the butt seams all align to form a thin straight line that runs around the boat, the result is visually more pleasing. For this reason, Pygmy builders usually bright finish their boats. No uneven scarf lines or deck edges to hide with paint. You may choose to paint your hull, but we eliminate the necessity. (See Shop and Compare.)

Can I stain my boat?
Many penetrating stains work well for staining Okoume and are compatible with epoxy.  We recommend staining the seats on our Wherry to contrast with hulls. It is always important to test a stain prior to applying it to any of your boat parts.  To do this, find a couple scraps of wood.  Stain one of them and let the stain dry thoroughly.  Next, mix some epoxy and spread it on the surface of the stained wood and clamp your second piece of wood to it.  Allow the epoxy to cure fully and pry the two pieces apart.  If in this process you tear wood fibers, you can be assured that the stain is compatible.
There are some concerns with staining panels of boats.  In order for stain to take to the wood it must be applied to bare wood, prior to epoxy.  This means staining before you begin construction of your boat.  When a boat is wired together and the seams glued, all of the chines are rounded to help the fiberglass cloth lay flat against the boat.  During the sanding of these seams, it is likely you will sand through the stain that was applied to the panels along the seams.  The result is lighter stripes running the length of your boat along the seams. Going over these areas with stain and getting a good color match can be difficult.  Because of this reality we do not recommend staining hull or deck panels of multi-paneled boats.

What comes in your full kit?

  • Precision pre-cut BS-1088 Okoume plywood panels (all 4mm)
  • Cockpit coamings
  • All epoxy and fiberglass cloth for inside and outside of the hull and over the deck
  • Fiberglass tape
  • Wire
  • Squeegee
  • Dental syringes
  • Latex gloves
  • Wood flour
  • Calibrated Pumps
  • Stirring sticks
  • Steel push pins
  • Temporary frames
  • 2-part seat
  • Keeper's® footbraces
  • Illustrated construction manual


What will I need to build one of your kits?

  • A work space a couple feet longer than your boat, sheltered from the elements,with a large enough exit to remove your completed boat
  • A hot melt glue gun for attaching and removing temporary frames
  • A drill and bits (hand or electric)
  • A sanding block and an assortment of paper
  • A wood file
  • A screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Hand Saw (a Japanese draw saw works very well)
  • Carpenter's level
  • Wire cutters
  • Wax paper or plastic wrap
  • Contact cement for attaching foam to back strap
  • Paint tray, disposable liners, a 7" paint roller, and 12- 1/8" disposable foam covers
  • 1 pint acetone or white vinegar (to clean tools)
  • 2" Bristle Brushes
  • Strapping Tape & Masking Tape
  • Ten 2" C-clamps


How big is the box that the boat comes in?
The wood panels will arrive to you in a 8' x 13.5" x 3.5" box. The building supplies come in a separate box (ranging from 12"x12"x12" to 20"x15"x13", depending on which boat you are building). If you are building the Wineglass Wherry, you will also receive a third box that contains the thwarts (47"x28"x3").

What kind of space do I need?
You will need a dry space large enough to comfortably move around your boat. Folks most often use garages and basements. Carports, decks, and porches work well in warm weather. Apartment living rooms covered with drop clothes will do. Just make sure your completed boat will extract out of a window or door.

How long has Pygmy been in business?
We have been in business since 1986, making us the oldest stitch and glue company in North America. Over 20,000 Pygmies ply the waters of North America, Asia, Europe, and the South Pacific.

Are Pygmy boats as strong as fiberglass?
The combination of wood fiberglass and epoxy creates a composite that makes Pygmy boats stronger and about 30% lighter than a fiberglass boat.

How long does it take to get one of your kits?
We keep all models in stock, and usually ship the next business day after receiving an order. Most Kits ship via UPS Ground, arriving in 2 to 7 days (depending on location).  Shipments overseas are sent in a variety of ways.

Can I buy a finished boat?
Yes. We keep a list of individuals in various parts of North America willing to build kits for people who have neither the time or inclination to build their own. Assume at least a 6 week delivery time. We only recommend high quality builders whose work we have seen.
Our company's priority is to produce the highest quality kits and the most sophisticated designs in the world. Wooden boats require more building time than assembly line fiberglass and plastic craft which pop out in a day. Therefore, at this point, we leave the pleasure of building to you, or a hired builder. To find a Pygmy Boat builder in your area, click here.

What other gear will I need?
Our full kit provides all the components to complete your boat. In addition to the boat, you will need a paddle, a life vest, and some form of flotation. Flotation can be achieved with bulkheads and hatches, a sea sock, or flotation bags. Our Accessories list describes these items, plus other optional gear.

How much will it cost to ship a kit to my location?
We ship most kits via UPS Ground service. UPS "Next Day", "2nd Day", or "3rd Day Select" options are also available. Plan sets go out via Mail. For exact quotes call 360-385-6143 or email us at


If you have any questions please feel free to call us 6 days a week Monday through Saturday 10-5 pm, Pacific Standard Time, 360-385-6143 or email us at







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