I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics. Mr. McGuire was spot on timing the breakthrough in plastics technologies. But he probably didn’t have kayaks in mind when he did so. Advances in plastics composition and production technologies are one of the primary factors behind the increase in watersports popularity over the last few decades. Rotomolded and thermoformed kayaks can be rapidly produced for a fraction of the costs incurred by wooden and composite kayak manufacturing. The result has been high quality kayaks sold to more people for a lower price.
A similar story has unfolded in the 3-D printing industry. Expired patents and significant reductions in component costs have led to a 3-D printing revolution. Machines that were once exclusive to industry can now be bought for just a few hundred bucks. Innovative makers and entrepreneurial designers have raised the bar in delivering amazing new ideas and equipment for all sorts of applications. Kayaks and watersports have been a fruitful beneficiary of the 3D printing revolution. In fact the Swedish company Melker Kayaks pioneered new printing technology and 3D prints touring kayaks out of sustainable materials.
While it’s unlikely you’ll be printing a kayak at home (but not impossible), there is still a lot of utility you can draw out of your hot end. We’ve compiled some of the most useful items to print on those rainy days away from the lake.
It’s important to match the filament to the part’s end application. 3D printed kayak parts have to be able to endure UV exposure, exposure to moisture, and moderate to high tensile loads. Plastics, in general, check these boxes with aplomb. Most varieties of plastic are impervious to water and offer substantial strength to weight ratios. Out of all of these though sunlight poses the greatest threat. Non-UV resistant plastics will fade in color over time and may become more brittle. A quick coat of primer and paint, or the use of outdoor specific filament, will keep your parts looking fresh and working for a long time.
The biggest determining factors in choosing a filament for kayak parts are price, print-ability, and strength. Filaments like PLA, ABS, and PETG are great choices because they’re cheap, print well, and are suitably strong. Higher end filaments like carbon fiber, nylon, or polycarbonate can offer substantial increases in strength, but cost a pretty penny. Unless you’re a 10th dan 3d printing blackbelt we recommend using good ol’ PLA before you spin up the $80 roll of micro-diamond filament.
3D Printed Kayak Parts
If you’ve ever paddled an inflatable kayak without a skeg fin you’ll know how absolutely essential they are for going straight. Skeg fins come in a variety of shapes and enable tracking in flat-hulled craft (usually inflatables). Without a skeg most inflatable kayaks can keep a straight line about as well as someone pulled over for a DUI on Cops.
Skegs take a lot of abuse from rocks and river bottoms – so the leading edge can wear out pretty quickly. Different shapes also can have a significant impact on performance. Larger skegs will enforce better tracking while low profile versions permit easier turning. Print one to make your kid’s inflatable a little more serviceable, or when yours gets a little too beat up.
Paddles have a tendency to get jostled around the cockpit and end up right where you don’t want it. A reliable paddle-holder mounted to t-track or the kayak’s outer sidewalls will keep your paddle secure and out of the way.
There are a few different designs out there – but they can be boiled down to screw mounted or track mounted. Regardless of the design you’ll need some extra hardware to secure it to your kayak. Make sure it’s stainless steel or aluminum to avoid rust.
Kayaks typically don’t feature too many tiny parts, but there are a notorious few that tend to get lost far too often. Most notably is the threaded plug for the hull drain. Despite your best efforts water will get inside your hull and drain holes are the exit.
If you lose the plug then you’re left with a quarter sized hole just above the waterline, which isn’t great for staying afloat. Replacements run between $5 and $10, or less than a dollar in filament if you print it yourself. Make one of these up before-hand and you will save time and frustration when the original inevitably wanders off.
Self Draining Scupper Plugs
Scupper holes are necessary for sit on top kayaks to stay dry. They provide over-splash a way to get out. Depending on your kayak’s design they usually either work well, or not at all. Conventional rubber scupper plugs offer a way to stay dry in yaks with poor drainage mechanics. But using these plugs really only works well on flat water as they block the only exit path for unwanted water.
The self draining scupper plug, designed by maker erenner, uses a simple float valve to let water out, but not in. Consider printing this in a flexible filament like TPU or TPE for a better fit in the hole. And set the infill to 100% for greater density. There are plenty of model specific and generic scupper plugs available if you’re interested in a more conventional solution.
3d printed kayak parts aren’t restricted to just paddle holders and plugs. There are also quitea few fishing lures that are worth printing. Maker jakejake designed a print in place swimbait that’s been proven to catch fish. Built in cavities hold BB’s to keep this lure lower in the water column. And the multi jointed body gives this bait a s-wave motion that’s irresistible to hungry fish.
If you’re in the market for a more traditional looking lure than several different crankbait and jerkbait models are available. Maker sthone designed a well balanced crankbait that again uses BB’s for ballast. Add some wire and superglue. Paint it up and you’ve got a fully customized 3d printed lure.
RC Jet Boat
Ok we’ll be honest; this isn’t really a kayak part. But it is super awesome and we couldn’t resist including it here. Maker jtronics.de has perfected the design for a small, self-righting, remote-controlled jet boat. The boat uses a small water intake jet drive – the same type a jet ski uses, driven by a brushless motor and onboard electronics. Since it’s self-righting you can push this jet-boat to the limit without worrying about a capsize ending your run.
This isn’t exactly a beginner level build – there are quite a few parts involved. You’ll need some electronics skills and fabrication know-how in order to build your own. However if you’re willing to invest the time the payoff is huge. These little boats are a blast to play with and can offer some respite when the fish aren’t biting.
Jtronics website has detailed build instructions and parts lists if you’re interested in doing it yourself. STL files are available for both single and double jet versions on Cults 3D. Bonus points to anybody who can catch a fish with one of these (don’t lie – we know you thought about it).
Overview on 3D Printed Kayak Parts
3D printing is an awesome hobby and we’ve only just highlighted the synergies between printing and paddling. There are entire catalogs of printable parts for kayaks and fishing. If you’re interested in perusing on your own we recommend checking out Yeggi and Thingiverse. The 3D printing community has thrived because of designer’s creatiivty and their dedication to open sourcing knowledge. Let us know your favorite kayak prints. And if you come up with something neat for your fellow paddlers we’d be happy to share it.