Wood Strip Canoe Bulding
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An overview of the Wood Strip Canoe Building Process


This overview or the series of articles that it links to is not intended to be a replacement for any of our DVD series.  The DVD pack 30 years of experience into a few hours of video where we can cover many more variations and finer points than we can cover here.  These articles are intended to give you enough detail so that you are encouraged enough to build your canoe.  Our goal is to get you comfortable with the idea of taking a set of canoe plans and turning them into your heirloom canoe while enjoing the canoe building experience as much as possible.

Envision yourself walking through the steps in order to make sure you understand what you will need from step to step. If anything is not clear, take a deep breath, if you have the DVD for the boat, it will go into great detail. You definitely have everything you need to make this boat a reality.

It will be helpful if you break the process down into two distinct areas, the preparation tasks and the actual building of the boat. If you purchased a kit, then most of the preparation has been done for you, however for the purpose of this book, it is assume that you have not purchased a kit and you will be staring with this book the DVD’s, a pile of lumber and a good attitude.

Placing the Forms

center-line-on-formsNow that we have our stems done, our forms are cut out and our strongback made its time to put it all together and assemble our building jig. Although this is not a difficult process, it is one that take careful scrutiny and attention to detail. Any mistake at this point will directly translate to the actual hull being built. I feel confident if you follow the steps outlined here that you will have no problems.

I can’t count the number of times I have steamed wood and bent them to my will but I can tell you that I still get a kick out of seeing a hard piece of Ash bend like a soft piece of lead around a stem form after a few minutes of steam. Typically in a large boat shop this is a big deal with a large apparatus gas fired burners and boxes full of planks. However in your boat shop a simple piece of PVC pipe and an electric teakettle or wallpaper steamer will do the trick. In fact, about anything that generates steam will probably do the trick. Chances are you have what you need to get this done but if not, about $40 to $50 will take care of setting up shop.

canoe stems drawingYears ago stem pieces were not used in canoe building. You simply stripped up to the stem form and interlocked the strips with each other then carefully rounded over the ends and put a healthy amount of fiberglass over the stem to make sure it didn't come apart on you when you hit that rock head on. These days, canoe builders have taken a cue from the earlier days of boat building where a stem piece was employed. If you are a student of boat building, you have undoubtedly seen stems rabbeted out to accept planking. The inner and outer stem is
the natural evolution to this process making what was once a one-piece stem into a two- piece stem. A laminated Two piece stem is strong, easy to apply and flexible with the design. The following is a tutorial.

The strongback is simply the temporary jig used to hold the forms and stems in place while you build your hull. There are many different ways to accomplish the function of a strongback. You need a strongback to build a 14’ canoe or a 30’ sailboat. Even though they perform the same function, they will obviously be built differently as they have different requirements.

building the canoe strongbackBuilders will have differing opinions even on a strongback for a canoe or kayak and when all is said and done, as long as the strongback allows for the building of the hull and performs the function of holding the forms in place then it will probably work fine. The strongback described here is simple, versatile, and inexpensive and has been used to build hundreds if not thousands of boats around the world. This strongback is a simple box sitting on top of a couple of small tables on wheels. The strongback can be made from dimensional lumber or from ripped pieces of plywood, however it is very important that your strongback is straight and square so if you can’t find straight dimensional lumber then ripped plywood is the way to go.