Handbuilding  Kayaks with Jon

Handbuilding Kayaks in Chappaqua, New York, United States with Jon

Starting at $2950/person for 42 hours over 6 days

Learn the techniques of skin-on-frame boat building with master kayak builder Jon. Join him in his studio tucked away in the Hudson Valley, where he’ll guide you through the process of making a fast, lightweight kayak of your own.

Meet the Artist

Jon has a deep streak of independence and resilience and is empowered by the sense that “You can do anything.” An expert craftsman who loves the outdoors, he has always been fascinated by the idea of making something out of nothing with your hands. His father is the inspiration behind his fervent passion for boat building. As a child, the two of them spent time camping and canoeing on the Housatonic River in Connecticut. As adults, they built Jon’s first canoe together – a sturdy and steadfast classic.

In the twenty years since, his love of the craft has only grown stronger. During his time apprenticing with a master boat builder, Jon learned the methods of steam bending and kayak making. He also turned to the building techniques of early cultures and their time-tested traditions for insight. These days, Jon focuses on reproducing early 20th century Adirondack guideboats using the skin-on-frame boat making process, as well as offering courses in handbuilt kayaks. A thoughtful and patient teacher, he finds joy in passing on his knowledge of heritage boat craftsmanship to those seeking a deeper connection to the serenity found on water.

Your VAWAA experience

  • A brief history of boat building, Adirondack style guideboats, Greenland Kayaks, and basic watercrafts.
  • All materials, hardware, cedar wood, and tools.
  • A selection of wood, nylon, and basic materials, including any custom colors, exterior customization, or design.
  • An introduction to the steam bending process.
  • Understanding the cutting process of gunnels and mortises.
  • Learning joinery techniques to build the frame.
  • Treating the nylon and outer surface for durability and waterproofing.
  • Treating the nylon and outer surface for durability and waterproofing. Working outdoors when the season allows, and inside a traditional log cabin home during the colder months.
  • Guidance on kayak care, storage, transporting, basic repairs, and maintenance.
  • Carving your own Greenland style paddle (requires a one-day extension and associated fees).
  • Tips on paddling the kayak or a kayaking lesson, weather permitting.
  • Taking your finished kayak out for a paddle in a nearby lake or on the Hudson River.
  • Your own hand built kayak to take home.

What's Included

  • Your VAWAA experience.
  • Materials and tools.
  • Your own handcrafted work to take home.
  • Snacks, Coffee, & Tea

You'll be in Chappaqua, New York

Jon’s studio is in Chappaqua, a charming, woodsy hamlet conveniently located less than an hour’s drive from Manhattan, yet blessed with the beauty and vibe of the Adirondacks. The scenic Hudson River provides a constant flow of inspiration to the artist communities throughout the region. As the birthplace of America’s first arts movement in 1825, the Hudson Valley is rich with history and culture. With Dia: Beacon, Storm King Arts Center, Bear Mountain, and countless restaurants, wineries, and craft breweries to explore nearby, you’ll have no trouble feeding your curiosity and appetite.


For those interested in staying onsite, Jon has a guest room suitable for one person or a couple. “The Nook” is a cozy, newly renovated ground floor private space featuring a full-size loft bed, sleeper couch, full bath, and a small living room, with access to a shared kitchen. We’ll provide additional details, recommendations for other local stays and eats, and everything else you need to settle in upon booking.

Additional Details

A background in carpentry is not necessary; however, participants should have some degree of comfort holding a hammer and using a hand saw. All tools will be provided.

This VAWAA is not suitable for children.

Things you might be wondering

What is the skill-level required?

Each VAWAA is tailored to your skill level. There is no required experience level, only a willingness to learn. Wonderful for beginners, incredible for experts. You’ll go through the entire process of an art form at your own pace, have exclusive access to the artist and their studio, and connect meaningfully.

Will I be solo or in a group?

Each VAWAA is private and designed for you and your friends. No strangers. Why? Because it allows for a deeper and more meaningful connection with the master artist while maximizing your learning that’s tailored to you. Most VAWAAs allow up to 4 guests for each studio session so as to respect the master’s space and preserve the intimate nature of the learning experience. We do organize intimate group retreats from time to time.

What does the price include?

VAWAAs are priced fairly to support professional artists and makers while providing access to high quality and personalized creative experiences to everyone. Artists decide their own fees for hosting, teaching, materials, tools and studio access. And we support them by managing all their bookings and providing every guest a personal VAWAA experience coordinator to help with planning.

What if I need to cancel?

For a full refund, cancel within 7 days of purchase. To receive a 50% refund or 75% credit towards a future VAWAA, cancel at least 30 days before the start of your VAWAA. You can reschedule at least 30 days before the start of your VAWAA for a $100 rescheduling fee. More on COVID-19 related cancellation policy here.

I'm ready. What should I expect?

Select available dates listed on the artist’s calendar page and start reservation. You won’t be charged yet and have the option to reserve dates with a $300 deposit per guest. If you don’t see the dates you’re looking for, email us or let us know via contact form and we’ll see what’s possible. If you're not ready to book quite yet, you can “save” the VAWAA artist to receive periodic updates. Once you book, you get a direct line to us for everything you need help with. We assist with travel planning, accommodation, possible project ideas, and even local things to do in your off-time.

Message Us
Request to book
Learn from the best, just you and your guests. For other dates, contact us via email or contact form and we’ll see what’s possible.
You won’t be charged yet