A new Kildonan canoe

Douglas Ingram

Red River Canoe & Paddle
Thought that you all might be interested.

A client of mine has a favourite Kildonan canoe. Its a big boat, 17'6" length, 17" center depth, 39" beam. Strong V forward sections, nice clean waterlines and a lot faster than the specs would have you believe. Carries a LOT of stuff. Photos of the original can be seen on my website.

Kildonan was a local canoe building company (Winnipeg, Mb.)that essentially vanished without a trace. They were building as recently as the '70's. I have restored plenty of their canoes.

As this is a very good canoe for tripping in the manner that he and his wife appreciate, and in the interests of posterity, a new canoe was commisioined. After documenting the old one, accounting for assorted springback, a new mould as built. The ribs for this one were bent last Friday.

I'll keep you posted.


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Planking almost done in these photos. The canoe will be off the form today and closed in. By the way, sometimes you get luck with planking stock, the center 6 strips were all cut from the same, clear, 17' long piece of cedar!


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Howdy Doug.
Nice canoe seems to be coming right along.With 17 inches for gear it should carry lots of gear,hows it handle in the wind?
Thanks Dan,

Yes, it carries a LOT of gear. The clients have this thing worked out to an art. They like to travel close to freeze up and like to be comfortable, and safe!

If paddled empty, I expect that it would be a bear in any wind.

Got it off the mould yesterday, I'll be getting the decks in today and start closing it in. I have some interuptions in my work day today, so not too many hours available.

I'll try and get some other photos up, the original canoe, the documentation, etc.
Was watching the weather network seems your part of the country got smacked with a blizzard and the Trans Canada Highway was closed due to wind.Hope the shop has a good heating system.
How many models did Kildonan make.
What are you trimming it out with for decks and outers.
Travelling near freeze up or cold weather a person needs lots gear.My old Woods winter bag takes up a 100 litre pack no problem .Worth it sometimes to dodge the bugs,hard to dodge the cold though.
Dan, no blizzard in my town. Cold, though!

Here are a few photos of the canoe loaded up, the tent set up, the section shapes being documented.

This canoe has a white cedar hull, Fir inwales, curly hard maple decks, and Birch trim. Paint will be Chestnut Green.

Kildonan made quite a few models. I have seen a 14', 16' day canoe and Prospector type, an 18' Y stern freighter, and some freighter bigger than that. I couldn't say that that is a complete list. Solidly built, well crafted, not fancy. They were in business in Winnipeg from at least the early 40's till the late 70's. Then they were all abducted by aliens and the memories of all concerned were wiped clean and all documents were tracked down and destroyed.

At least, that's the end result.


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A few more shots of work done this afternoon.

Man, is that mould heavy and hard to move!!!


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Doug - Loaded up is right. I've been across the Arctic with canoes hauling less. May your portages be few and short!

How much does the 17.5', 17" deep canoe weigh empty?

Most of what they haul is just bulky rather than heavy.

I think that the original is about 100 lbs. Not an impossible carry, but he's not getting any younger. One of the goals in this canoe is to take off more than a couple of pounds. I'm crossing my fingers on that one.

Should have the hull clenched checked today and mostly closed up. Depends upon on much time I get on it.

Stay tuned for updates.
100 pounds is no slouch. I suffered through a Quetico trip this summer that involved about 25 up-and-down portages, many with bad rocky footing. I paddled an old 17' Prospector, made with #6 canvas and close ribbing for one of the trips in my salad days, that weighed that or more. Carrying it on the flat and level was bad enough. Over the hill and streambed portages it felt like a 1000 lbs.

I'm not getting any younger either, so I'm after a good sturdy working canoe that can carry enough gear for a three-week trip and still weigh in a 70 lbs or less. Rollin Thurlow is building a deepened 17.5' Atkinson Traveler right now with that objective. Here's hoping he makes it.

Lots of interruptions recently.

I'm in the middle of varnishing now. Canvasing right after. All the thwarts are made, seats are still left.

The weight objective should be met! The bare hull is about the same weight as the bare hull of a Chestnut Pal that I'm varnishing now. Canvas and trim will throw the weight up, but its starting out well. I need to get a scale out into the shop, I'd like to know... Feels like 35-40 lbs.


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Varnish finished and seat risers installed. Drilled the seats for handcaning. Ready to canvas.


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Canvassing complete and ready for filler as of last week. Progress has slowed due to a Chestnut infestation...

I also got the original Chestnut green matched pretty close. If anyone wants the formula I can post it.


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Forgot to add a detail of the seat arrangements. The seat will be hand caned using the Chestnut/Peterborough pattern, which was also used by Kildonan. Top pf the fram is 10" above the floor and the front rail is 2" wide and has a nice wide bevel on the leading edge. Makes it nice an comfy for the back of the legs.


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There are a number of reasons for the stringers:

-the old Kildonan had them.
-the canoe is very deep, 17" at the center. So to get the 10" seat height you'd need VERY long carriage bolts.
-it reduces the number of holes in the gunnels helping them to retain their full strength.
-they aid in bracing the canoe, much like a thwart.
-seat position is more adjustable.

In this canoe, the primary reason is the combination of canoe depth at the seating position and the required seat height.

Cons would be:
-somewhat more complicated installation, though not that much more.
-the stringer remains in place if you have to sand and varnish.
Thanks Doug!

I had considered this thing before. I have seen a few canoes with broken rails and it is always at the center thwart. Seemed like a weak spot. A stringer let's you adjust fore/aft or above/below the stringer. One screw at each rib I suppose. If I am building my own canoe then it is a reasonable way to do it. I am guessing it may be necesary to put a little pre bend in the stringer perhaps. Pity I have the dacron and filler already on my new 18' Penn Yan -ish canoe.

Using seat risers won't make any difference to the center thwart position, they're in the wrong place for that. Overall, I think that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Making the riser isn't any more work than making a nice spacer block for hanging the seat. You do need to shape it to the inside curve of the hull so as not to distort it. Take a pattern and shape it rather than trying to bend it. Its only a couple of mm off of each end.

The easiest way I've so far found to line everything up to install is to take a piece of foam and trim it down, bit by bit, to fit the space where you want the seat. Go slowly so you don't make it too small too fast. Fit it so that it sits snugly inside the hull so that the risers can sit on top of it, and the seat on top of them, so that the seat is exactly where you want it to end up.

You now have an exact plane where the bottom of the risers are located. You can establish the top limit of the risers by setting a strip of masking tape overtop of them. From this you can drill a hole exactly centered on each rib. Do this from the inside of the canoe so you can line everything up right. You DON'T want your screw holes missing the riser. At least I don't.

If the ribs are wide enough, you can double up the screws, but generally one per rib is plenty. I like to have the riser run past the limit of the seat to provide extra support, especially at the front where the mass of the paddler will be concetrated. Use a screw washer, like you'd use for a keel, to provide extra hold for the screw.

Oh, and use a hardwood for the risers, something with very good screw holding propertied. Saving weigh by using a softwood isn't worth the future grief. Go ahead, ask me how I know!

Got the filler applied yesterday, Ill try and post a photo later today.


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OK, so I ran out of time yesterday to post this. It as a long day.

I've been using enamel of the same colour as the finish paint as binder fo my filler mix. It minimizes the evidence of scratches.

I'll be ready to install the gunnels shortly. I always find that that's when it really starts to look like a new canoe!

By the way, my only interest in documenting this canoe is to show the new Kildonan being built for anyone interested in following along. Judging by the number of views, it seems to be of interest. I'm not doing this for self promotion.


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Don't be shy, post away. I make a point of checking in on your progress every day. Wicked project you've got going on there.

Nicely done.