D. B. Neal, Dover Foxcroft, Maine

Greg Nolan

Fitz -- When you get your D.B. Neal water-worthy (and it looks like it will be a beautiful boat), you will have to bring it back for a paddle in its Dover-foxcroft birthplace. The picture of D.B. and his wife in the link you give shows them in the river just out from where the town boat ramp is today, but does not do justice to the Piscataquis River or the town as it now is.

Many of the buildings, including D.B.'s, are no longer around. The 1st picture, taken from just about where D.B. and his wife are paddling, shows South Street (between the large Masonic hall in the center of the picture and the float plane) as it now is, looking downriver. The 2nd shows the little-used town ramp -- D.B. and wife would have been about half-way between the ramp and the old mill building.

The photographer who took D.B and wife's picture, however, did not know how to properly show off the town and river. Turning a bit left, looking upriver, the scene improves (pictures 3 and 4), and a very short paddle up the river, you would not know the town was nearby (picture 5).


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Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
D. B. Neal Construction Details

Thanks Greg for the photos of D-F. Yes, I'm sure I can relaunch it at that same spot as a side excursion on a trip to the woods sometime. Hopefully this summer.

Here are some construction details as I wrote down in the process of looking this one over pretty well.

Rib Dimensions. Mr. Neal used wide (3 inch), thin (1/4 inch) ribs in this canoe. The ribs are pretty consistent in the bottom of the boat varying in width from about 2-7/8's inches to 3 inches. The ribs taper, but not as consistently. They taper to about 1-1/2 inches at the inwale - but this width is very variable. The edges of the ribs are eased/rounded. The ends of the ribs are thinned behind the inwale to 3/16's. I'm not sure why the rib ends were thinned, but it does make for pretty rails/rib tops.

Planking. The planking is white cedar. Mostly knot free. 3 inches wide. The planking in this canoe is heavy duty, maybe to assist with the thin ribs. It is 7/32 inches thick. This thickness seems to have made a difference durability wise. Almost all of the planking in this canoe is intact and crack/split free. There are however 8 badly broken ribs.

Inwales: Inwales are spruce. 5/8's inches at the top. 7/8's inches in width and 7/8's inches in thickness. There is sharp bevel to assist with the tumblehome. This canoe was closed gunwaled.

Tacks: The tacks are 11/16's brass.

Seats/Decks/Thwarts: Trim is all Ash.

Stems: Probably ash, but they are thin and very durable. I was wondering if they are not elm.

Paint Color: I suspect the original paint color was dark green. I did find traces of red, yellow and gray too.

Hardware: The carriage bolts, nuts are all iron.

Keel: No evidence of a keel on this canoe.

I'll post more info as warranted.

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Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

A total of eight of the ribs were badly broken in this canoe. New ribs were milled to match the old. They have been bent and are now in the process of being installed. I haven't secured the rib tops to the inwales yet because the inwales are due for replacement. Turns out this canoe was a closed gunwale canoe. We found the fastener holes. So the tops of the ribs were thinned behind the inwale maybe to fit neatly beneath the rail cap?


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Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
D.B. Neal Bark canoe

Steve Lapey and I took a run up to the Maine Maritime Museum to see their D.B. Neal Bark hybrid canoe. It was built on a form, but covered with bark. The canoe is in nice shape and were were able to answer some rail and stem questions. It was interesting to look over and the staff at the museum were great.

I'll post more later, but here is a photo of the canoe. I took the photo with permission from the Maine Maritime Museum.


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Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
Interesting Seat Conundrum

I took the seat out of the Neal to clean it up and take it home over the holiday to cane. There is only one seat in this canoe - in the stern. The seat came apart after I removed it. Not a problem, but this poses some questions.

The seat has two wide and thin ash rails that are perpendicular to thicker solid front and back rails. The thin rails are mortised into the front and back rails. One edge of the thin rails is square, the other convex.

The seat as installed on my canoe (convex edge out) always looked a little strange to me. So I looked at the seats on the Neal canoe at Maine Maritime Museum and sure enough, the seats on that canoe show the convex edge of the thin rails under the cane field.

I think I am stuck with the convex side out, due to the placement of the holes - they likely need to be a even distance from the field all the way 'round.

I have seen similar seats on old Maine canoes. So what do you think? Convex side out or under the cane field? I suppose that the seat may have been recaned at some point and put together incorrectly or maybe Neal screwed up on a seat.

I have attached 5 photos. The first two are bow and stern seats for the Maine Maritime canoe (photographed with permission from the Maine Maritime Museum), the third photo is how the seat was installed in my canoe (convex out), the next two photos show the two options I am presented with.


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Denis M. Kallery

Passed Away July 3, 2012
In Memoriam
Looks to me that Ole Dan screwed up [ I of coarse would never do anything like that---yeah right!]. Even if you reverse them it won't work because of the hole placement. As I've learned with log restoration. Sometimes you just have to live with it -it's part of the history of the thing. What about reversing them and also turning them upside down? Is the bottom shaped like the top?
Just thoughts!

Michael Grace

Lifetime Member
Maybe I'm missing something here, Fitz. Your seats look correct as installed. If you did reverse the lateral pieces, though, it shouldn't matter. So the holes are a little farther out (i.e., those outermost sections of cane won't be square, but rectangular), but so what? But I would put it back as it was- that's the way it was and it looks proper as it was.



Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

I'm mostly curious. I think I have to put it together the way I found it. The holes are closer to the square side of the rail and for the pattern to be even I need to cane it that way.

But in all honesty, I think the seat frame itself looks better, and locks together better with the convex side of the thin rails under the cane field, and that is the way he did it on both seats of the other canoe. It seems to me to be a mistake, but an interesting one.

I'm interested to know if people have similar old seats and how they were done. Why is one side of each of the thin rails convex?



Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
Greg Nolan was kind enough to let me know about an article in the September 1974 edition of DownEast magazine featuring a story about steamboats and their use and popularity on Sebec Lake in Maine. Apparently Dan Neal also built a steamer by the name of Cuba in 1898 that was 20 ft long and powered by a Stanley Steamer engine and a chain drive. There is also a photo of a canoe on a dock on the lake and I'd bet money it is a Neal canoe.

I thought the name of the steamer was interesting given that the Spanish American War started that same year.



LOVES Wooden Canoes
that is the nicest looking canoe i have seen yet, that hybrid is way cool. fitz maybe you need to put a birch skin over yours


New Member
About 50 years ago, our family owned a Dan Neal rowing canoe. I've read a lot of posts here about Dan Neal (and have the picture book "Around Dover-Foxcroft" with Dan Neal fishing from a canoe on the cover), but I've not seen anyone mention his rowing canoe.

Greg Nolan

Mary --

If you have any pictures of your family's Dan Neal rowing canoe, I sure would like to see them (as would several other people on these forums).

I don't know if the Dan Neal boat I have is the same as your rowing canoe, but it surely could be characterized as such:

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It is much beamier than most canoes, is equipped with oarlocks, and the seats and oarlocks are arranged so the boat can be readily rowed solo from the center seat, or with a "sport" sitting at one end with the guide rowing at the other end.

Is it like your family's boat? Does your family still have it?

As you can see from the pictures, a bit of work is needed to get my Neal into useable condition. I am not aware of any other Neal rowing canoe, though surely he built others. But like small one-man shop builders, his output was probably not great, especially since he did quite a bit of guiding and black-smithing, among other things.

Running a search on "Neal" here in the forums will turn up some other information, including these two threads: