Advice needed on making a metal-clad form


LOVES Wooden Canoes
I'm creating a metal-clad form for a modified Prospector from Charlie Grossjeans' plans at Franklin Cedar Canoes. This form will be a dedicated "canoe bookcase" form of one half of the canoe (actually only 7/16 as I'm not using the center form). I'm using Jery Stelmok's techniques for the form as printed in WoodenBoat, no. 141-143.

My question for you experienced form builders is, "What changes would you make in a half form to assure that the entire half hull could be planked and clinched on the form, and to assure that the half hull could be slid forward over the stem when complete to disengage it from the mould?"

This Prospector model has very little tumblehome so the hull should be able to be pulled out at the extreme beam enough to clear the inner gunwales from the backer.

Thanks. With this form, I'm hoping I can build enough bookcases to flood the market so idiots in my area will stop cutting classic Old Towns and Shell Lakes in half.

I'm not much help but---

Hi Gary. Why not make the whole thing? Is space an issue? That way you can duoble your production and have an occasional actual canoe for the kids/relatives. Making half a form is just as much work as making the whole thing. I made some bookcases. I have one, my sister has one, my friend has one. I used material that I didn't think good enough for a real canoe, ie/ too thin or a few knots. Good enough for a bookcase only. I also use the center section for wanigans. Just a thought.
Half form

Hi Dave,

Your suggestion of using the middle section of the form for wannigans has me thinking I'll include the center form station on my bookcase form. That would allow me to make small wannigans with scrap white cedar. It also would give me a central attachment point in case I ever wanted to add the other 8' half of the form to make 16' canoes.

At this point, I've committed to make several cedarstrip Prospectors on my cedarstrip form and don't forsee that I'll want to build cedar/canvas Prospector canoes in addition.

Thanks for the suggestion!

What's a wannigan? The dictionary definition is something like a chest with supplies for a lumber camp. I don't get the connection to a canoe form.

~~Chip Walsh

As you discovered, a wannigan is a storage box meant to fit snugly into the framework of a boat or canoe, both to maximize storage space and not be washed overboard if the boat or canoe overturned in rapids. They were used in early river travel by lumberjacks in bateau boats so usually carried lumbering tools.

In canoes, a wannigan was sometimes made to perfectly nestle into the middle of a canoe and was usually tied in also in case of upset in rapids. For today's "cabin canoe furniture," a wannigan is made in reverse canoe construction from the center section of a canoe form. To view a wannigan made by Ontario master canoebuilder Jack Hurley, go to


Thanks for the clarification, and for posting the link to the picture--worth 1000 words! I'm new to this wood boat business, and had not heard of wannigans.

One of my partners on the wood boat project has been my bow paddler on numerous river trips. Whenever I kid her about the dilapatated crate we use to haul around her cookware, she challenges me to make a decent kitchen box. I've been thinking about this during the many hours of sanding the Guide canoe, and it has occurred to me that the materials and techniques for canoe building could produce a light, strong box. It's always been obvious that there are advantages to making the box conform to the shape of the canoe. But my Tripper is 37" wide, and it makes my back hurt to think what it would be like to try to lift such a gear-filled box out of the boat.

Ever see half-wannigans? Dividing a wannigan down the center (keel line) to form two boxes that could fit side by side from gunwale to gunwale would yield smaller boxes that could be independently unloaded. They'd be funny shaped boxes, though.

Just a thought. We'll probably keep using the crate until we capsize one day. We tie the crate in, but I'm convinced it would come apart if we went over. I'm surprised it even makes it from one year to the next.

Ever see any wannigan kitchen boxes or other clever gear boxes?