12' W/C Canoes


LOVES Wooden Canoes
Having built a couple of 64 lb, 16' Pals out of my form that have performed beyond my expectations, I've been wanting to try other smaller, lighter models.

I recently purchased the plans for a 12', 35 lb beauty and are considering starting on the form. The idea is to have a solo canoe that is easy to carry around small beaver ponds and have my grandchild mess around in shallows and do things with it that only kids dare to do. He's a good swimmer, though.

Any pros/cons comments on such small craft?

Thank you in advance.
my first canoe

I grew up in North Eastern Oklahoma during the 1960's, I remember the first time I saw a canoe in the flesh. My patrol dad in my early scouting years was a confirmed John Bircher, although I didn't understand what that meant at the time, I just assumed that my folks ment he was a little wierd. He built fiberglass canoes in his garage and it was one of these crafts he brought along on a patrol hike in the hill country of Osage County.

The patrol dad had only one canoe and several young boys, on that spring day on Sand Creek, so only two of the boys at a time could ride in the canoe with him at a time, while he paddeled stern. The rest of us had to hike along the stream bed until our turn came to get our ride in the canoe. I can still feel the anticipation and the urgent feelings of impatence that only a young boy can muster waiting for his turn for his first canoe ride.

Our family didn't have much spare cash in those days, so I didn't really miss what I never had, but what it meant to me at the time was that if I really wanted a canoe to call my own , it was up to me to make it happen.

So I went to work, mowing yards, caddying for the rich folks at the golf course, painting addresses on the curbs with my brass stencils and round paint brush that my dad had dug up for me, the only time I had any sucess at all selling door to door. This went on for months all the while I was pouring through the back end of magazines such as Boys Life and the Popular Mechanics subscription, that my Great Grandmother seemed to give me every year for Christmas, all the while searching for a canoe kit that even remotely resembled a canoe.

I finaly settled on a particular kit, it was from Trail Craft out of Levenworth Kansas if memory serves me right. It cost $48.00 of my hard earned dollars.
That winter I was in the 9th grade and my dad and I spent it in the garage building that little 12 foot craft.

We lived less than a quarter of a mile from the Caney River, a brown water high clay banked stream that meandered for miles through the wooded bottem lands of North Eastern Oklahoma and almost every weekend all through high school one or two friends and I would pack our gear Fridays after school was out, throw that little 12 footer on my shoulders and head for the river.

We would have the adventure of our lives, traveling through time in our minds to the days of the early explorers, as we paddeled down that muddy little river til Sunday afternoon would be upon us and we would start looking for a bridge for take out. We would hike out of the river valley and start looking for a farm house from which to call the folks to come pick us up and haul us home. In those days fear did not prevent folks from letting some ragtag boys into thier home to use the phone. I do remember several times we had to knock on more than one or two doors just to find a home that actually had a phone, making me realize that our family had a lot more financial resources than some along that little river and that I had a lot to be grateful for.

So from my boyhood point of view, 12 feet is plenty big enough to supply a young child's life with plenty of room for gear and friends to an avenue for limitless adventure and coupled with a little of the youngs imagination, the experiance far exceeds those original 12 feet.

And from an adults point of view, those winter nights in the garage working side by side with my dad remains, after some 15 years since dad passed, one of my most cherished memories of a fathers love for his son.

Hope this helps with the realization that some times it's the small things in life that bring us the greatist reward.

Tom Widney
Great story Tom....thanks for sharing....and greatlakes, I think the 12 footer will be fine for your grandson to use....to get his feet wet in a canoe (not literally wet though....although you indicated he was a good swimmer LOL LOL); I grew up in a 14 fter which was plenty big enough for two (well my Dad did most of the paddling at first as I sat in the bottom pouring drinks of juice and handing out the sandwiches my Mom had made LOL LOL) and plenty big enough to solo after I had grown up (in my 20s); I think a 12 fter would be great for a younger paddler, especially if your grandson has learned about canoeing while tandem in one of your Pals....just in case you're interested there is a 10 foot pack canoe design in The Wood & Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide to its History, Construction, Restoration, and Maintenance by Jerry Stelmok and Rollin Thurlow...the LOA is 9'-8 1/2",Beam is 33 3/4", Bow Height is 16 1/2", and Weight is 35 lb.
Growing Pains

How old is the Grand Son?

I think you might be better off building him the 16 footer. Then he has something to grow into and maybe keep and use the rest of his life.

(I was thinking about small boats for my kids too, but by the time I got done thinking, the blasted kids are bigger than their mother and gaining on me!!)

I vote for building the 12' er. And when you're done can i borrow the form? I can arrange a form exchange for an 18' Penn Yan Guide.

Great story! I'm coming into the stage of my life when any memory with our loved ones is highly cherished. Thank you for sharing yours.


The plans that I have are for a 12', 36" (outside of gunwales) W&C fishing canoe. For the fun of it, I may try to save weight all around to see how light I can make it and still keep true to the W&C construction.


I already have two 16-footers he can use when he comes up here. I guess I will probably be using he 12-footer(s) mostly myself on smaller trout ponds.


We can talk when the time comes. The 16' Pal is as long as I want a canoe in my stable for practical reasons. It paddles great on the rivers, it's very stable for fishing -- even with my dog on board -- and it's light enough for cartopping and short portages.

Thank you.

I'd go with a 14' x 30". Great size for the messing around that you describe, and still makes a great solo canoe for an adult. I build a reproduction of the Chestnut FOX and its the most popular model that I offer. A standard build comes out at 40-45 lbs.

12' x 36" does not sound appealing to me at all, for more reasons than I can list.

If you are going to invest in a mold and a build, I'd suggest that investing in a project that will have some "legs".
12' W&C Canoe

Thank you, Doug.

I've had a 13' x 39" Stowe Mansfield (wood and fiberglass) for over 20 years as my go-to fishing canoe. As heavy as it is -- same as my 16' Pals at 64# --it is remarkably stable, I can flycast standing, and it handles either solo or tamdem paddling fairly nice.

I'll take your comments into consideration since I have not started the form yet. I can always add another foot or two as a compromise to my present plans/thoughts.

Hey greatlakes, is that red one the Pal you were working on a couple years ago? The one that came off the form with the great rolling base? I was following along and then you "flew" south for the winter and I lost track of the story.

Very nice boat, for sure!
12' W&C Canoe

Hi Scot,

Yes, that's the one. I'm finishing up #2 -- will be sage green this time --and it's been a great educational ride. I'm considering building a couple more to donate to the Ruffed Grouse Society and Trout Unlimited for their banquet raffles/auctions.

I documented the whole exercise on building the red one in the following thread that you make reference to. It ends on a maiden voyage video here at our lake. You're welcome to catch up! :)


Thank you for the kind words and best regards.
Thanks Frank. Looks like I did follow it through to the launch. Guess I'm just looking for the sequel.

I started on building the form for a pal but got sidetracked after getting the stations finished for the building form. We have a great deal of Pacific ocean surrounding us here on Vancouver Island so I put the Pal idea in storage and started on a lapstrake rowboat which is better suited to the ocean. But seeing your pal makes me anxous to start up again.

So many boats, so little time....