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New to WCHA - Interested in builing a canoe

Discussion in 'Guestbook' started by jmertz, Jun 4, 2011.

  1. jmertz

    jmertz New Member

    Hello! My name is John Mertz and I live in Evanston, IL, just north of Chicago. I'm interested in building a wooden canoe. I have 3 wooden boats now, a '47 Old Town, a 50s Thompson Sea Lancer Deluxe and a Rhinelander rowboat (old, don't know year). My father was an avid wooden boat collector and restorer and he and I bought and rebuilt these boats together. He also was most of the way through restoring a '45 or so Garwood Utility but was unable to finish due to declining health.

    So I'm interested in building a canoe and would like to meet with / talk to any one in my area who has some experience with this. I have the skills to do this but I want to gain some knowledge before biting off too much at once. I don't know whether I want to build a kit canoe or one from scratch or something in between, and to be honest, I really don't know what's out there as a possibility. I do love my Old Town though, there's nothing like paddling that on my lake up in the UP on a quiet morning or flyfishing from it on a quiet evening.

    If any of you know of experienced persons in the north - chicagoland area or southern Wisc that might be willing to share coffee and some info, please let me know how to contact them.

    thank you very much,

  2. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    You'll want to connect with the Great Rivers Chapter, which is centered on southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Contact info:

    Great Rivers (WI & IL)
    Jerry Karbon
    1531 Red Oak Court
    Middleton, WI 53562
  3. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    Welcome to the WCHA, and to the forum. I'm up in Gurnee, so we're practically neighbors. The only one I've built is a cedar strip (actually a fiberglass boat with a wood strip core.. but it looks nice). I have two Old Towns that need work, and I think I can actually get started on some of that this summer. I'm still a rookie.

    There are a lot of people on this forum who build & restore wooden canoes, and I'm sure some of them will chime in shortly; you'll find questions are answered pretty quickly & with great information.

    Questions that will come up are: What building method do you want to use? Wood/Canvas? All-wood? Wide Board? Other?

    Do you have Jerry Stelmok & Rollin Thurlow's book, "The Wood and Canvas Canoe"? It's considered the "Bible" of W/C canoe restoration. Another that's highly recommended is Jerry Stelmok's "Building the Maine Guide Canoe." Both are available at the WCHA store: and maybe at your library, eBay, etc. The WCHA store has a lot of other great books, too!

    Do you know Ralph Frese, at Chicagoland Canoe Base ( He's not far from you at all. Although he's slowing down a bit (he's in his 80s), he is a wellspring of knowledge. You can't expect to leave the shop in anything less than three hours, but you'll find it time very well spent. I believe he stocks both of the books I listed above at his shop.

    We'll look forward to more discussions, and pictures of your progress... we like pictures!
  4. OP

    jmertz New Member

    Thanks for the info Paul. I have to go to Oak Park today actually so will drop by that shop on the way home.

  5. Jim Okkema

    Jim Okkema LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Yes welcome. There are lots of knowledgeable people in the N. Ill & S. Wi area. Here is a thread with the Great Rivers schedule for the summer. I particularly like the get together at Norm's Hideaway near Fort Atkinson. It's a little country bar & grill on Lake Koshkonong. Always lots of interesting boats and stories to go with them.

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