Understanding Skin on Frame Boats

Author: Meetu Verma Nayyar

Skin on frame boats were the earliest to be used by man. These are considered to have been used by Neolithic Man and can be easily termed as a prehistoric boats. The structure of the boat is simple, it is covering on a frame. In the earlier times animal skin was used to cover a wooden frame, which have been replaced by synthetic fabrics and aluminum casing.

History of the Skin on Frame Boats

The skin boats were used by the early man for fishing and carrying people. Though it could not carry many persons at one time but two could easily be accommodated, if the boat was of a reasonable size. The skin that was used to cover the wooden frame was generally from parts that were not consumed as meat. The skin that was used for covering the frame was dried, stretched and treated before being put on the frame.

Types of Skin on Frame Boats:

With time, the concept of using treated animal skin on frames for travel across rivers was adopted at different places in different forms. The difference that was there in these boats developed in different regions was in the type of akin that was used and the shape that was given to the frame.

For example the Inuit Kayak, used seal skin to cover wooden frames and is sleek and pointed in shape. Another type of skin boat known as Qaffa was round and larger in shape. Coracle another type of skin boat was exactly round in shape and much smaller in size than the Qaffa. This facilitated maneuvering of the boat in all directions.

Modern Day Skin Boats:

In the modern day skin on frame boats, the skin has been replaced by synthetic and cotton fabrics. Some of the fabrics that are being used are Nylon, Polyester and Cotton Canvas. Each type of fabric has its set of advantages and disadvantages. Let us look at their features:

Polyester: Polyester serves the purpose well but certain varieties of polyester sheets may be very hard, this results in no low or minimum flexibility. The advantages of this fabric are it is UV resistant and offers a nice finish. It is also more resistant to the atmospheric moisture than nylon.

Nylon: The advantages of using Nylon are that is extremely easy to handle and can also be used to cover complex shapes. Some varieties of nylon shrink when experience heat and some loosen when in contact with moisture. Nylon is not the best option when it comes to countering UV radiation.








Cotton Canvas: Canvas is also considered to be an effective option to animal skin. The advantage of using canvas is that it is less costly than polyester and nylon. It works best for kayaks as it shrinks when it comes in contact with moisture. The disadvantage of using canvas is that it is not durable to use.

The advantage of using fabrics over animal skin is that they do not require to be rubbed with fat or oil like the boats using skin. This was done in order to waterproof the covering or otherwise it was prone to rotting and becoming weak. The modern day skin boats do not need to be dried every few days. Waterproofing in their case is done by using chemicals.

The skin boats are considered as easy to build boats. Wooden frames are the most convenient to handle. Sewing is a task that shows the results as the process is taking place. It needs to be mastered and done patiently.

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