How to Save Naugahyde Skin on old Folbot Kayak

Submitted byteejay onTue, 08/11/2020 - 14:43

Hey folks!

My father and I are restoring my great grandfather's old Folbot kayak, circa 1981-ish. It has a wooden frame, naugahyde skin, and is non-folding. We're hoping to save and reattach the skin as it is in relatively good condition, although we need to find a way to remove it so we can continue disassembly in order to sand down and refinish the wooden frame.  

Does anyone have any advice on how to remove the skin while maintaining the integrity? Its a bit crusty from buildup and age, no holes or other problems. Its attached with some sort of glue or adhesive and then tacked on. I'm guessing we should treat the skin somehow first to try and soften it and then work on removal. 

Any advice or research resources would be greatly appreciated! Its our first project of this nature, and while we both have some woodworking experience, vinyl is uncharted territory. Thanks for reading along and happy sailing!

Brian Nystrom

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 19:54

I'm certainly not an expert on this subject, but a quick Google search for "is there any way to rejuventate old vinyl fabric" turned up a bunch of options, including this one:

I can't vouch for it's effectiveness, but it at least seems sensible. However, the description makes me wonder if it could end up making the skin loose.

If the skin has glued seams, I suspect it will be difficult to impossible to separate them without damaging the skin. Perhaps a better avenue would be to contact a boat or automotive upholsterer to see if they can make you a new skin and install it after you refinish the frame. They would likely know the best way to remove the existing skin so it could be used to make patterns for a new one.

If you prefer to DIY a new skin, you can try the methods here:

Another alternative would be to install a fabric skin as is commonly done on skin-on-frame kayaks. There are several books on the subject and you can find information on them and skinning methods at:

Best of luck!

John VanBuren

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 07:35

I was going to post suggestions. Then I read Brian's suggestion and realized that it was exactly what I would have suggested.

I would add that you can get Nylon or Poly skin cloth fro George Dyson, or the Skin Boat School and Poly from Jeff Horton at Kutzucraft.


I hope this is of use,

John VB 


Thu, 08/13/2020 - 08:18

As you try to remove the fabric, you will immediately know if its worth saving. UV damage over the years may have weakened the fabric and you'll know if it tears easily. If the goal is to hang it on the wall, fine, but you do want a strong skin for boat use.