Home Built Canoe or Kayak Trailer

Step by Step Construction

Strip the winch and hull rollers and pads off the old trailer.
Strip the winch and hull rollers and pads off the old trailer.
Weld the front and rear uprights in place
Weld the front and rear uprights in place
Weld the 3 cross members into place on the front upright.
Weld the 3 cross members into place on the front upright.
Weld the 3 cross members into place on the rear upright.
Weld the 3 cross members into place on the rear upright.
Weld a lengthwise ridge support cross member across the top between the front and rear cross trees
Weld a lengthwise ridge support cross member across the top between the front and rear cross trees
Weld triangular gusset plates to stiffen the cross members.
Weld triangular gusset plates to stiffen the cross members.
Weld the triangular gusset plates between the cross members and uprights and between the uprights and ridge support as shown in the diagram.
Weld the triangular gusset plates between the cross members and uprights and between the uprights and ridge support as shown in the diagram.
Build a wooden equipment locker about 6 inches deep and sized to fit inside the trailer frame. Bolt it low so it is below the bottom cross member.
Build a wooden equipment locker about 6 inches deep and sized to fit inside the trailer frame. Bolt it low so it is below the bottom cross member.
Weld or bolt eye bolts to the ends of the cross members and to the center upright where each cross member crosses.
Weld or bolt eye bolts to the ends of the cross members and to the center upright where each cross member crosses.
(Optional) If you need to further stiffen the cross-trees, weld a pair of small struts from the center cross members to the ridge member as shown in the diagram. The separation of the lower struts is exaggerated for clarity, they should connect only
(Optional) If you need to further stiffen the cross-trees, weld a pair of small struts from the center cross members to the ridge member as shown in the diagram. The separation of the lower struts is exaggerated for clarity, they should connect only
Wrap the cross members with a split Styrofoam Swim Noodle and zip tie them in place to pad the cross bars and protect the canoe or kayak.
Wrap the cross members with a split Styrofoam Swim Noodle and zip tie them in place to pad the cross bars and protect the canoe or kayak.

Building a Canoe/Kayak Trailer

We built one of these bad boys at summer camp the first year I taught canoeing. For a final exam I took the kids on a river trip - an innovation that worried my camp director. Fortunately, this was back in those halcyon days before lawyers made it impossible to do anything fun. The director green-lighted the project on the grounds that it was fun and cheap and made the campers happy. All it cost was a little gasoline and that was going for about 30 cents a gallon in the mid 70's.

We did need one thing, though - a canoe trailer. We had an old boat trailer or two sitting around, so we pulled parts from both, cleaned off the pads and winch post, picked the best two tires and the tail lights that were in the best condition and used the one trailer license tag that we had between them.

We figured this design out as we went and it worked great. Another camp attempted the same thing, but put the paddle locker standing up between the uprights. On a windy road, a cross breeze caught the trailer and the extra lateral wind resistance that high tipped the trailer on its side scattering canoes up and down the side of the road.

This design keeps weight low as possible and creates a sturdy support for the boats. You can add a couple more feet and an extra pair of cross members to make it an 8 boat canoe, but I wouldn't want to try it unless a lot of your boats were kayaks. A top heavy canoe trailer can be all sorts of awkward to drive.

Step 1: Strip the rollers, boat pads, winches, etc. off the trailer frame, overhaul the brake lights, backup lights and turn signals and make sure the tires are roadworthy.

Step 2: Weld two uprights in front and back of the trailer frame as shown in the diagram. They should be 6 to 8 feet tall and made of 2x2 tube steel.

Step 3: Weld the cross members (cross-trees) in place on the front upright. These can be 1x2 tube steel or 1x2 angle iron. The tube steel looks better, but is more expensive. Weld the bottom ones four to six inches above the bed depending on how deep you plan to make the equipment locker. Space them two feet or better apart depending on the keel height of your canoe.

Step 4: Weld the cross members to the rear upright as above.

Step 5: Weld a ridge pole made of 1x2 tube steel between the tops of the uprights running lengthwise of the trailer.

Step 6: Cut 6 inch triangular gusset plates of 1/4 or 1/8 inch steel plate and clamp them point down in place under the cross-trees and against the uprights as shown in the diagram. This strengthens the cross-trees so they don't sag under the weight of the boats.

Step 7: Weld the gussets into place. Run a weld bead along the top of the gusset underneath the cross members as shown in the diagram. Next run a bead along either side of the upright to attach the gusset to the upright. Cut two right angle triangles and weld them under the ridge support cross member and to the upright as shown in the diagram. This will give lateral support to the frame so it doesn't wobble front to back.

Step 8: Cut a sheet of marine grade plywood into a box with top lid, bottom and 4 sides to make an equipment locker. Measure the inside of the frame and build the box to fit inside the frame below the bottom cross-tree. Glue and screw the bottom and sides of the box together, hinge and hasp the top lid, then paint the box and bolt it inside the trailer frame.

Step 9: Drill and bolt or weld eye bolts to the outside of the cross members to provide attachment points for bungees or ratchet tie-downs. Add a row of eye bolts where the cross-trees and uprights cross. This lets you tie one end to the center eye bolt, throw the tie-down over the hull of the boat and cinch it down to the outside eye bolt. This makes for a very secure boat.

Step 10: Finally, split some Styrofoam Swim Noodles lengthwise or cut strips of carpet and wrap the cross-trees with it. Secure the padding with zip ties to hold it in place. The padding will protect the hull and gunwales of your canoe or kayak from damage.

Stiffening the Framework: If the framework feels loose, you can add a couple of struts to each frame by welding metal straps from a couple of inches out on the center cross-tree to either side of the center upright to the bottom of the ridge support cross member as shown in the diagram. Don't attach the strap too far out on the cross-tree or you'll crowd the canoe.



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Comments 11 comments

twayneking profile image

twayneking 4 months ago from Puyallup, WA Author

Tnt - The cross members should be wide enough to accommodate two canoes at the center plus about six inches. if your widest canoes are, say, two feet wide, make the cross members 4 feet 6 inches.


Tnt 4 months ago

What is the length of the cross members?


twayneking profile image

twayneking 16 months ago from Puyallup, WA Author

Andy, you are welcome to link to this website.


Andy B 16 months ago

Hi Twayneking great article, I have been putting together a resource section about kayak trailers and how to put them together. I have a few pages together so far. I was wondering if you mind me using yours. You can see a link to your page here www.kayaktrailersale.com. Let me know if its okay linking to you page. By the way great work on the design!

Andy


Kayaks2hire.co.uk 4 years ago

Many thanks for that. I have just bought a caravan chassis to convert, and this is the guide for it. Thanks again.


twayneking profile image

twayneking 5 years ago from Puyallup, WA Author

I learned the hard way not to put the equipment locker on edge. We thought it would be an efficient use of space, but it really added to the lateral wind resistance. The vertical flat surface along with the already aerodynamic canoes made the trailer hop around pretty badly on narrow roads where there was a lot of wind blowing.


i2sports profile image

i2sports 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

The timing was great - spring is coming! The equipment locker is a nice extra touch and the instructions look pretty thorough.


Paul Greggs 6 years ago

Great winter project. i'm picking up kayaks now for summer camp next summer and will need a trailer to transport. I have a boat trailer and and ready to get started. This is very helpful. Thanks.


kubth profile image

kubth 6 years ago from UK

That's fantastic, love it!


twayneking profile image

twayneking 6 years ago from Puyallup, WA Author

Your welcome. We built this one at summer camp. One of the guys knew a little welding and we just put all the pieces together on an old boat trailer. The trailer lasted for years at a very busy summer camp.


ss sneh profile image

ss sneh 6 years ago from the Incredible India!

Hi!

very useful info!

Wow! Now I think I can build a Canoe/Kayak Trailer!

Good hub! Well researched! -- Thanks

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