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Furious_E SuperDork
4/5/18 12:48 p.m.

Not the spam bot kind, the floating kind cheeky

So I've decided I might like to build a canoe. Why? Because a plywood, stitch-and-glue boat seems like a fun little side project that's a bit outside of my usual wheel house and wouldn't take massive amounts of time or money to complete (though assuredly more of each than what I am anticipating cheeky.) Plus, I've been wanting something for a few years now that I could take down to the creek on a boring summer afternoon and paddle around on for a while. Sure I could just buy one on Craigslist, but where's the fun in that? 

This is very much still in the research phase and I have a lot of reading yet to do, but the more I get into it, the more I realize I am completely and utterly clueless on the subject of canoe design. I've rented kayaks a handful of times before and that's about the extent of my paddling experience. I'm thinking canoe instead of a kayak so I can bring SWMBO and/or the dog along, maybe some fishing tackle, and definitely a cooler of beverages, but I also don't want something that would be too ponderous to handle solo. The construction also looks more simple. Most of the use would probably be in the local creek, which doesn't flow at any sort of extreme rate and should be deep enough to float a canoe pretty much everywhere, plus maybe some of the small local lakes every once in a while. 

So what I'm looking for is basically the Camry of canoes, a general use boat that wouldn't be too terribly difficult to construct (looking to stick to stitch-and-glue construction for this reason.) What criteria should I be looking for in canoe designs? I know we have some knowledgeable people here and IIRC a few who have even done this themselves already. I'd like to hear whatever knowledge and experience you all have to bestow upon me. 

Robbie PowerDork
4/5/18 1:01 p.m.

Look up Chesapeake light craft website. They have a ton of great videos on building the things and they have a ton of plans too.

Tom_Spangler UberDork
4/5/18 1:08 p.m.

My FIL took a class somewhere in northern Michigan about canoe building about 10-15 years ago. He's since built a couple of canoes and one kayak.  They are beautiful, future family heirlooms for sure.  He used different construction methods, but they are all wood with some kind of fiberglass backing and a resin to hold it all together.  Also, they are surprisingly light.

EastCoastMojo Mod Squad
4/5/18 1:48 p.m.

The only canoe I ever built was a wooden model about 10" long. It was fun. laugh

bigdaddylee82 UltraDork
4/5/18 2:05 p.m.

I built one with a bunch of other folks at a 4-H canoe building workshop the summer between senior year of high school and freshman year of college.

It's been a long time ago, but I had the plans on a CD, and I think I might still have them if I look hard enough.  I'm not sure if .pdfs were a thing yet back then, not sure what format they're in?  I'd be happy to share if you're interested, assuming I can locate them.

We ordered some special marine plywood from somewhere in New England, I was the one who took dad's truck to the loading dock to pick the plywood up when it arrived.  Plywood, fiberglass, and A LOT of epoxy.

My younger brother, and sister both made one too.

The sides aren't the same height on both ends, i.e. there's a little more angle to the bow, than the stern.  My brother flipped one side 180° to the other, so his boat has a permanent wiggle/tilde, ya know "~" shape too it.  He was pretty mad about that.  That's been 18+ years ago, and I still like to point that out to him from time to time. wink

rob_lewis UltraDork
4/5/18 3:13 p.m.

Since it sounds like you'll be doing it more for floating than for serious moving, a plywood boat might be quicker and easier to get you on the water. 

Something like this for a single person https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQY0ETam8y4

Another example:  http://www.instructables.com/id/The-BO-AT-Single-Sheet-Plywood-Boat/

I'm sure you could scale it up for more people/weight.


slantvaliant UltraDork
4/5/18 3:27 p.m.

I built a couple of the "six-hour" canoes years ago from plans in Mother Earth News.  They were really pirogues - flat bottom, flat sided boats.  Each took two sheets of 1/4" BC plywood, fiberglass cloth, epoxy, and assorted other bits.  I learned about fairing battens, scarf joints that Spring. 

They were easy to build, messy to epoxy, and fun to paddle.  The flat bottoms and a little too much rocker (my fault) made them very maneuverable, whether you wanted to maneuver or not.  Wind tended to turn them.   A small keel or skeg would have helped.  

Here's my wife the first time we put them in the water:  I call this photo "Paddles with Ducks".

They were great in playas, ponds, and slow rivers, but we also took them down part of the Brazos on overnights.  We fished from them, and just played.  Whitewater would not have been fun.

Free plans for a similar boat HERE.

Furious_E SuperDork
4/5/18 3:56 p.m.

In reply to slantvaliant :

The "6 hour canoe" is kinda where I started down this rabbit hole. I'm confident I could put one of those together reasonably well, the question is whether I want to attempt anything more complex than that. How complex of a build do I really want to attempt and how much more functionality would a canoe with a few more panels and more shape to it gain me?

How long did your build actually take you? What caused your canoes to end up with too much rocker? Too much shape in the side panels, I'm guessing?

Furious_E SuperDork
4/5/18 3:59 p.m.

In reply to Robbie :

I've stumbled across that one - tons of good info and some really beautiful looking boats on that site. I have a lot more reading to do over there!

skierd SuperDork
4/5/18 4:04 p.m.

Not having built one (yet) but having seen several in person, the Chesapeake Light Craft boats are beautiful and look to be the relative easy button. I aspire to build a couple canoes or a kayak and canoe,  a daysailer, and their teardrop camper one day. 

sleepyhead Dork
4/5/18 6:02 p.m.

you might consider Michael Storer's Quick Canoe 155... or if you want to go up in complexity, the Eureka?

I haven't built either yet; but thought they could be added to the discussion.

also, this popped up appropriately in my feed... for when you're ready to paddle...


Floating Doc
Floating Doc Reader
4/5/18 10:56 p.m.

Oh, no! Not another project idea!

Seriously, something I've always been interested in doing. 

pilotbraden UltraDork
4/5/18 11:39 p.m.
Robbie said:

Look up Chesapeake light craft website. They have a ton of great videos on building the things and they have a ton of plans too.


mtn MegaDork
4/6/18 12:04 a.m.

I've looked into it a bunch of times. Even had my credit card information entered in to buy some supplies. Never hit submit though; the one thing that I could never get over was how poor a wood canoe would be in terms of being easy to use FOR ME. Any time I use a canoe, it involves me dragging it up a rocky beach or lifting it and walking it quite a distance. Ever picked up a wood canoe? berkeleyers are heavy. I'm searching for kevlar. 


In any case, I recommend starting with a canoe paddle. Build one of those, then go for the rest of it.

sleepyhead Dork
4/6/18 7:02 a.m.

the quick canoe I linked to is 45#s at 15.5ft, using 1/4" plywood... which is on-par with a wenonah 15' Heron kevlar-flex-core.  (similar northstar)

if you want to go lightweight, you could always try  balsa?

the thing to be careful with, on these 'pirogue' style designs is keeping "extras" off if you want to keep the weight down.  And you could probably shave weight off by laminating wood / kevlar / uni-directional carbon to form the gunwale / interior frames.  plus, they're cheap enough that you can always attack it with a router to see where you can pull weight out of the panels... and then build a second one with that knowledge?

Furious_E SuperDork
4/6/18 7:49 a.m.

In reply to sleepyhead :

Both excellent suggestions.  That Eureka is gorgeous, and looks easy enough to build, though probably about the limit of what would be reasonable to attempt. I spent a couple hours reading this guy's build last night. 

Realistically though, the Quick Canoe is probably more along the lines of where I should be looking, kind of a more dressed up version of the "6 hour canoe." This would be more of a several week build versus a several month build for the Eureka; Storer's site estimates about 20 hours vs 70. Looks like they offer a version with a flat transom in back for mounting a small trolling motor too, which would be fun.  

Furious_E SuperDork
4/6/18 7:55 a.m.

In reply to mtn :

I have not picked up a wood canoe and you bring up a good point, as I do have to count on having to lug this thing around by myself, though as sleepyhead mentions the weights they claim for both the Quick Canoe and Eureka don't seem to be out of line with comparable fiberglass boats. 

One other creative solution I've seen is building a yoke that fits to one of the seats to balance the weight of the canoe on your shoulders. 

Robbie PowerDork
4/6/18 11:04 a.m.

The only canoes I've dealt with have those shoulder yokes, and then are nice - once you get the canoe up there. Lifting the thing and getting it up over your head, likely while carrying a pack with your other gear and maybe wearing a sun hat and glasses, that's the issue. The ones we use are aluminum (cheap rentals), and I think they are 65lbs. You better be strong to lift that guy up by yourself.

Agree though that lb for lb plywood shouldn't be heavier than fiberglass. Solid wood however, would make for a heavy boat.

Woody MegaDork
4/6/18 11:09 a.m.
Robbie said:

Look up Chesapeake light craft website. They have a ton of great videos on building the things and they have a ton of plans too.

I think I still have a 20 year old set of their blueprints if you're interested. I never built the boat.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
4/6/18 12:52 p.m.

+3 on CLC kits.  CLC Canoe kits

One big advantage of buying a ready to go kit is it'll go together faster than buying plans and in the real world doesn't cost much (if any) more.  I helped a friend build a CLC 17LT 20 years ago.  It took him about a month of evenings and weekends.  

slantvaliant UltraDork
4/6/18 1:14 p.m.

In reply to Furious_E :

The rocker was a result of the bulkead shape and the angle I put on the ends.  It's not a fatal flaw.  You can make a fairly accurate model with strips of card stock to try different combinations.  

I spent more than six hours cleaning up the epoxy.  wink  Seriously, I don't remember.  It was a fun family thing, spread over evenings and a weekend or two.  I could probably have one in the water in six hours on a bet, but without cured epoxy on sanded surfaces.  The sealing and finishing takes longer.  

I'd love to build a prettier and likely more efficient multipanel or cedar strip canoe one day.  Time, money, and energy levels, plus my current lack of easy places to play with it, all keep that on a far back burner.  

lewbud HalfDork
4/8/18 12:13 a.m.

Try www.woodenboat.com  Great magazine as well.

Furious_E SuperDork
4/9/18 11:48 a.m.

In reply to slantvaliant :

Yea, that's about what I figured...6 hours might be possible if you're in a rush and don't give a E36 M3 what it looks like. 

The CLC kits are absolutely gorgeous, but also much more money than I am willing to put into this project at the moment. I think what I am going to do is build something simple and low cost (liking that Quick Canoe 155 a lot), see how well I enjoy the process, see how much use it gets this summer, and if I decide it's something I'm into then maybe put together one (or two) of the CLC kits sometime down the road. Might even go down to check out their show room when I'm ready to buy supplies, they're really not very far and I don't think I'll likely find marine plywood much closer. Could even take SWMBO along and make a day of it, get some good seafood, ect. 

ultraclyde PowerDork
4/9/18 11:59 a.m.

Take a look at duckworksbbs.com for plans and good prices on supplies. They also have a "Duckworks Magazine" site that's got a lot of good info and is pretty active in the small boat building community. Wide range of stuff from simple plywood boats to really nice sailboats you can overnight on.

Floating Doc
Floating Doc Reader
4/9/18 9:39 p.m.

Why are we discussing carrying a canoe? Commercial carts and plans for homemade ones are all over the web. 

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