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Newbie Alert! Looking for Basic Info re. Canoe Seats

Discussion in 'Strippers, Stitch-n-Glue, and Other Wood Composite' started by RoadRunner, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. RoadRunner

    RoadRunner Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Hey All -

    Well, you might have seen this coming. I need some guidance re. canoe seats. Types, pros / cons, make vs. buy, where to purchase, etc. I'm drawn to the contoured seats, and while I really like the look of the rawhide lacing ("babiche"?) rawhide canoe seat - huron-seat-james1.jpg and to a lesser extent the caned seats, I'm not sure about the durability of either so I'm looking into the nylon webbing solution (despite their non-traditional appearance.) Also, I'm what you might consider a slightly larger dude, so there's that to consider. I'm willing to look into crafting them myself, though this being my first run I may go ahead and buy a pair if I can find them for a decent price. Anyway, any guidance that you wise readers would be willing to provide would be a huge help. Thank you!!
  2. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    It would be helpful to know what sort of canoe you plan to put them in. Is it a wood and canvas, Canadian or US built? Is it a stripper or a synthetic boat?

    Sort of a rule of thumb has been that cane is the default standard for US built wood and canvas and many strippers. Some Canadian wood and canvas were built with babiche but there were and are many built with cane seats.
    Older boat seats are usually hand caned and newer builds often use the pre-woven cane.
    Except for some custom builds seat frames are not typically contoured but there are builders that contour as a "deluxe" finish.

    As far as the sitting goes, I have canoes with each type of seats and I think I prefer the basic hand caned seats over all of the others. The babiche is OK but I always worry about them getting wet and stretching (hasn't happened though). The pre-woven caned seats fail far more quickly than the hand caned seats and are a PITA to repair. It's easier to re-cane than to repair those.
    The webbed contoured seats I have in my Swift are really quite nice seats except even with the very tight webbing they seem to sit less firmly than a good basic caned seat.
    I don't see much of a benefit from the contouring in that you can really only sit in the middle anyway. More of a benefit is the adjustable bow seat (in the Swift). That is nice for trimming and lets the bow paddler dial in a bit.
    The so called roto-molded seats that Old Town pioneered are the other option that you find in the plastic boats. They tend to be pretty retched and the worst of the lot. The seats in my OT Royalex boat are caned seats and I prefer those.

    For my money (today I picked up some quarter sawn cherry and cane to make a set) straight up traditional hand caned seats are my choice. There are many places to buy finished, caned seats, plain or contoured if you don't want to make them. Many WCHA builder/members sell seats.
  3. Jim Dodd

    Jim Dodd LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Here's what I make. Simple, strong, and long lasting. IMG_0954_zpsf8p57x46.jpg
    I also like nylon webbing, you can get it in colors now. I think I'd like a tan webbing.

  4. OP

    RoadRunner Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    Oh man, Jim, that's absolutely amazing.
  5. Jim Dodd

    Jim Dodd LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Here is another photo to show the joint detail. IMG_0109_zpsmoqbjk92.jpg

    The cord is available from snow shoe kit makers. Once varnished, it looks like rawhide.

  6. OP

    RoadRunner Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes

    MGC -

    Great info here, thank you. I'm building a strip planked (bead and cove) with plans from Bear Mountain. Making the Freedom 17. Almost done with the hull, need to start thinking about seats. Thanks!
  7. Jim Dodd

    Jim Dodd LOVES Wooden Canoes

    My feeling about seats, is they should last as long as the canoe, sorry, but cane doesn't.

    Snow shoe cord or webbing is the way to go, unless you want a bucket seat. All three In my book are a better choice than cane. Just my view !

  8. MGC

    MGC Scrapmaker

    Hm...I suppose there is the question about how long a canoe will last and form vs. function vs. cosmetics and serviceability and not necessarily in any particular order.

    To my eye, there is nothing as finished looking as a properly built seat with a nice caning job. Longevity is not an issue from my experience. I have canoes with original caned or woven seats that are 80 years or more old. My pre-1900 Gerrish has the original woven seats. I am not absolutely sure if the seats in my 06 Old Town are original but the cane in the backrest is. The seat cane is however at least 65 years old from when it was last refurbished. My 1960's Chestnut still has the original cane in it's seats as as does my 1920's Carelton. The babiche seats I referred to in my earlier post are original in a 1964 canoe attributed to WW. I know there are other contibutors on this site that have far more intresting and much older boats all with original seats. The only caned seats that I have seen fail with a degree of regularity are the pre-woven seats that are so commonly used such.

    I do not disagree that alternative materials have their place and if the objective is to build a boat that does not require any service over it's life than perhaps nylon webbing and epoxy are a choice, but not an absolute one as you suggest. Will that stripper live to 80?.
    The caned seat would be my only choice for a restoration or new traditional canoe build. It would also be my preference if I ever built a stripper given my experience with canes longevity and my preferance for it's appearance.
    I would make that decision without a concern for fragility.
    Luckily we do get to choose and there are lot's of options to pick from.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2016
  9. Dan Lindberg

    Dan Lindberg Ex Wood Hoarder

    It's a seat in a canoe you built, it doesn't have to be permanent, ie, it's easily changed later if you want to try something else.

    With this said, I've tried webbing in a stripper, too wet, changed to cane.
    I may try lawn chair webbing in a current project just to keep the weight down.

    All my W/C are cane. A mix of machine and hand cane.

    To me the babiche doesn't look comfortable, BUT I've never sat on one (for any time) so don't really know.

    Oh, I have sat in a bucket seat, hated it, I'm a big guy and HAVE to move around, doesn't happen in a bucket seat.


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