A Woodstrip Canoe

By: CTA In The News
9 December 2011

It all began last April, on a damp cold night; the snow was continuing to fall. (If you have been to Jackson, you’ll know what I’m referring to.) As my friends and I gathered around, complaining about the weather, longing for summer, the subject of canoeing the local lakes for the summer was relished. This is when the bright idea that “I” could build a canoe came to mind. My pals blew me off, contributing the comment to another eccentric pipe dream of mine. They had no idea.

I borrowed a copy of, Canoecraft: An Illustrated Guide to Fine Woodstrip Construction, by Ted Moores, and read it cover to cover three times over the next week. I felt confident. Within the book are multiple successful woodstrip canoe plans (a series of points plotted on a x/y axis); I selected one of the models and began drafting the forms.

With the forms drawn, I was able to perform material take-offs and get supplies coming.

  • Western Red Cedar – dimensional clear flat grain ripped in 1/4”x3/4” pieces to get CVG for the hull. The pieces then were shape on each edge into a bead and cove, respectively.
  • Plywood – for the forms that the hull is bent around
  • Clear Ash for all the trim, gunwales, bow & stern molded pieces, decks, seats, and yoke.
  • Fiberglass cloth and epoxy– this is applied to the exterior and interior, bonding to the Cedar, creating an extremely strong (and light) canoe.
  • And lots of yellow, waterproof glue.

I have shown a few of the progress photos, and current status photo, at which progress it still stands. I wanted to talk briefly about what I learned, and how it relates back to what we do every day at the office.

Without drawing the forms accurately within the computer, I would have been in a world of hurt. This enabled me to order the exact amount of material needed, not too much, or too little, just right. I like to work fast, but this was my first time at building anything remotely close to this (houses don’t count), and it made me slow down, forecasting my each and every next move. Looking back on this, it saved me so much time, energy, and mistakes.

I have worked with wood from the time I was born it seems, I guess that happens when your father is a contractor. I hadn’t, however, worked with it to this degree of intimacy ever before. Western Red Cedar is an incredible wood. With the thin strips, being bent around the forms, it felt like I could wrap the wood around a basketball if I was patient enough. The entire time I was wrapping the forms, I couldn’t help but to envision soffits, sculptures, and other architectural elements formed of this beautiful wood. The wood seems to somehow tell you what it wants to do. When I began sanding the hull, the difference of the CVG and the flat grain became overwhelmingly apparent. The CVG conforms to whichever shape you tell it, while the flat grain is extremely resilient – (note to all). Wood is often overlooked in favor of new, high tech materials, some even resembling wood. Wood’s properties and natural beauty should never be underestimated.

Forming the Ash for the bow and stern was altogether frustrating, but the strength and durability was a must, a prime example of how laminating is your friend!

I could write pages upon pages about the experience and lessons learned while doing this project (please write me if you’d like to know more), but more importantly, I wanted to share how this has broadened my knowledge. It reinforces that a plan, a concise directive for a final product contains so much value. Without a plan, I would have been sunk (pun intended).

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  • Jim Talarico 7 years ago

    Great post Adam! And it looks like a rewarding project. There’s something special about learning how wood “works” and feeling it take form. Very cool.