Custom Kayak Manufacturer?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by goyak, Jul 23, 2020.

  1. clmanges
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    clmanges Senior Member

    @goyak, have you thought of a square-stern canoe instead of a kayak? Might suit you better for fishing, depending on where you intend to take it. Are you considering how to transport the boat from home to the water and back?

    I honestly don't think you're going to have much of a chance, let alone an easy time, breaking into a market that's already so saturated with options.

    Your SOR should be influenced by a thought experiment: imagine yourself having a realistic boat (which will likely be heavier and more cumbersome than you'd like it to be) and taking it to the water, doing put-in and prep, moving around in the boat, handling the water conditions and weather (worse than you'd like, and including surprises), then reversing the process. Include an unplanned free swimming lesson and self-rescue.
     
  2. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Anything with a motor and fuel or batteries is going to be heavier than a traditional kayak. Also, it defeats the purpose of enjoying the peace and quiet on a kayak.
     
  3. upchurchmr
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    upchurchmr Senior Member

    It's his boat. Maybe.

    If we ever get a SOR we might really understand.

    Everyone needs to work thru their fantasy.

    Sometimes it becomes the next breakthru.
     
  4. Squidly-Diddly
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    Squidly-Diddly Senior Member

    I've wondered about creating a Boat Builder(and designer) MiddleMan business, being the MM between lower labor cost boat yards mostly in Asia and boat buyers in the First World. Lots of people are interested in new custom boat but few are able to complete themselves and custom build costs in First World are crazy, and you still don't know if you are going to get what you paid for. Likewise, a foreign builder is going to balk at fronting massive costs hoping the boat is accepted and paid for. The Value Added would be connecting both parties and acting as Escrow.

    IMO there is a good market for the type of boat you describe. Which boats did you read bad reviews of?
    Are we talking Kayak or micro-planing skiff?
     
  5. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Do you think the asian boats sold in the USA and Europe come here on their own? There are plenty of companies bringing all kinds of goods from overseas. Looks like you slept throughout the whole economy globalization thing.
     
  6. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    To simplify this, since you want to manufacture one design and supply the world with it, the idea of "custom" should be dropped and the concept condensed to the idea that you want to become a kayak manufacturer. You want a kayak where it can have a motor is #1 on the sor. To refine the sor, you decide where it's to be used, lakes/rivers/whitewater rapids etc. How many passengers. How much payload. Day trips or extended cruising. Easily turned or tending to continue in a straight line. Etc,etc. Search in the forum for 'design spiral' or 'sor' or 'statement of requirements'. All boats are a compromise, none of them do everything well, some of them do a few things well.

    Most canoes and kayak designs, I'm pretty sure they are not the product of any formal naval architect. That whole process is too stilted and time consuming. Most canoe and kayak companies have their foundations in enthusiasts and participants. That is, they raced or used the craft a lot and thought they could make improvements, made a custom one and used it, made improvements on that, sold a few to people who liked it and didn't have the ability or desire to build their own, etc. After that it was just the same old story of supply and demand, coupled with the right combination of people and their abilities to organize and prioritize and build and expand a business. Managing money is extremely important to success. Marketing is very important, the competition is very fierce since the creation of a fiberglass canoe or kayak model takes a comparatively small amount of effort in the scheme of things.

    There are independent designers of fiberglass canoes and kayaks. They are adept at designing, building a series of prototypes and then selling the design to established canoe and kayak companies. I suppose there are various payment schemes such as selling the design outright, or getting x amount of royalty each, or a combination. Companies can have their own in house designers that follow the same process.

    The magazine "Canoe & Kayak" might be a good place to look, especially the early issues that were very in tune with the developing sport.

    I read an article of the specific process the way it worked with one independent designer, working in fiberglass. He was an avid racer/user and in this instance was designing a solo canoe, which is easy since they're open and not enclosed with a deck like a kayak. Fast is the keyword in his particular process. He imagined/designed/drew the shape according to his knowledge of how different aspects of hull shape worked in water or how they might work if he did it this way or that. This was often done freehand on an available sheet of paper or his kitchen table top. In his shop he would erect a strong back on saw horses, then plywood frames/molds/stations. Those would be roughly/close enough faired using fairing sticks, and then quickly strip planked using pneumatic nailers. A layer of glass and polyester was applied, allowed to cure and then the prototype taken to a pond in back and tried out. This would often be paper to pond within 1 day morning to afternoon. If the design needed to be tweaked, if it could be done on the prototype, it was taken back to the shop and tweaked. If it was easier to start over, the prototype was in the burn pile and the tweaked design was made the same way. The prototypes were solely to test the action of the hull's shape in the water with no expectation of any future use. Once the shape was locked in and tested, that part of the design was done.

    I believe for that particular guy, his job was to get the hull shape on a master plug to something like say 95% there, it was then turned over to others to do all the fine bodywork (the same techniques and tools as auto bodywork) of filling and fairing to get the smooth mirror finish on the master plug, and then that plug was used to make a number of production molds.

    That's for fiberglass. I've no idea how it works for developing a kayak in roto-molded HDPE, I suspect you are more in the clutches of engineers and brainiacs. middle men and money men and the process is not so easy.

    Someone posted a few years ago about making kayaks in aluminum, like Crestliner boats or Grummen canoes. It met with a lot of resistance at first because it's not been done, it's an unknown, but by the end of the thread I think most people had come around to "Hey why not? Why didn't I think of that?"
     
  7. goyak
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    goyak Junior Member

    Awesome insight from everyone here!

    I had my first call with a designer yesterday. I showed him some craft that exist already and he said this is on the easier side to accomplish. We talked for about 30 minutes.

    Ball park numbers he gave me:

    -$7500-10,000 and 1 month time for the full designs based on what he thinks I'm looking for.
    -Custom molded hull to fit my project was the expensive part - somehow this part was like $20-40k. I think he said his company has to make equipment that will make this kayak mold in bulk.
    -The only custom part of the whole thing is this custom hull/deck that will accommodate my SOR
    -After the custom hull/deck, the rest of the kayak is just other non-custom items you can buy & then assemble.
    -The company will offer designs, custom hull, and all parts. From there he says his company isn't a great place to actually assemble the kayak as they aren't cost-effective, but know of many places that can take on scaled assembly.

    -All things considered, out the door he says $50-60k to get a prototype for me to test out and make edits/refinements upon. This isn't too bad in my mind, but I very much "don't know what I don't know" here.

    Got a call with another independent designer on Tuesday. This next guy actually knows a lot about the kayak market specifically so hoping for some nuggets from him too. Hopefully even some insight about the shortcomings of other designs - I personally have no interest in a mediocre kayak company. I want it done really well or not at all.

    I'm looking for signals of challenge and difficulty all the while I do this. This initial designer was immediately alluding to the idea that margins will be slim. It's just one guy, but taking that signal for what it is. At the same time he also said, 'well, this other company has it out, so we know it can work.'

    If this Kayak cannot be manufactured in bulk with a good price point and quality aspect I'll likely pass on it, despite how fun of a project it would be.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2020
  8. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    The nature of prototypes, is that they won't work perfectly the first time. That sounds quite high for something you will have to modify until it works. That is the reason most prototypes of hulls are built with a wood or foam core; they are relatively easy to modify. Have you priced the testing, modifying re-testing of the prototype?
     
  9. goyak
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    goyak Junior Member

    He did mention they'd be making the prototype of some kinda cheaper material that is like half the cost of a real build. I assume additional modifications will just cost more to execute. That's fine.

    The next guy I'm talking to is an independent designer instead of a larger company so hopefully he'll be able to give me a leaner quote with possibly cheaper ways to get a prototype going. The initial design company I had a call with have molds of luxury cars and houseboats and stuff on their website - they are used to really big projects so maybe a little custom kayak hull isn't a great fit for them.

    I'm not that put-off by all the designing costs, I'm really just most interested if at the end of this journey I can build these with top quality at a good price. That's the key point of it all. Can the manufacturing at scale of this actually work out? Once designing is through, what does it take to build 5 of these a day? Still so many questions that I can't guess but just have to find out without blowing tons of $$$ along the way.
     
  10. upchurchmr
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    upchurchmr Senior Member

    Next time ask your designer how many hulls can be turned out in a day from a single set of tooling.
    That won't include assembling all the add ons like seats, etc.
     
  11. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    You still haven't defined "high-end" or "top-quality". That language is common in sales brochures. However, it doesn't mean much from an engineering or production perspective. Do you have a concrete, realistic set of specifications that justify your claims?
     
  12. goyak
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    goyak Junior Member

    @gonzo

    "high end" and "top quality" all I mean is that I'm not interested in creating a mediocre product that gives my customers headaches & buyers remorse. Those models are already out there - I won't be joining them. I want to make the best product in the market or not at all. It means nothing to an engineer, but I'm hoping someone out there can take on the challenge. In order for this to work I need an obsessive engineer who sees the vision and takes the accountability to make our stuff the best.

    From the reviews I've read on other companies in this space, I've just seen a whole lot of "broke down on me in the middle of the lake", "water leaking into the engine", "parts wore down and broke very quickly", "would never buy again"..... lots of problems that (possibly?) come from poor craftsmanship. Stuff that makes me feel like the craftsmanship was low quality and led me personally to not buy one.

    Everyone in the world wants top-quality at low, low prices. This of course is not realistic. Is poor craftsmanship and cutting corners the only way to make this product within a price point people will actually buy? Can I do it better or is this the economic reality? If the economic reality of this product is that shoddy craftsmanship is the only way to make it work, then count me out.

    Specifically what can I improve upon existing models? I don't know. That's for a designer/engineer more than me. All I see is a bunch of people who were really excited about this, then eventually let down.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2020
  13. philSweet
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    philSweet Senior Member

    The fundamental development and production and problem in the US is that kayaks don't need to be registered or be built and certified to any government standards to be sold to the public (except for the load rating plate), even for concession use, whereas boats with a propulsion system do. Thus kayak companies aren't where I'd go look. I'd check with PWC manufacturers like Skidoo, etc. As an example, you will need to carry a fire extinguisher on board, and registration paperwork, and daytime signaling devices. The propulsion system will need a dead man switch. You need to find out how the USCG will classify your boat and what requirements they will impose.
     
  14. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    Maybe I missed it somewhere. What type of material are these going to be made of ?
     

  15. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    You also have to take into consideration that this would be a seasonal 'luxury' item. Seasonal means long periods with no sales, even wholesale, so the money is all outgoing while you build up inventory over the off season for frantic selling in the Spring. Luxury means in economic downturns, it's one of the first things people quit buying.
     
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