Installing the stem

Dave

New Member
Hello, I’m getting ready to start building my first cedar strip canoe!
I’ve been wanting to build one for a very long time and I finally have the time and space..
I’m a woodworker and have a home workshop with all the tools needed.
My plan is to build A 17’ Micmac using David Hazens book and plans.

I have a question I hope someone can help me with.
I’m not sure how to put on a stem.
Hazens Micmac plans show the cedar strips glued to each other at the
stem, forming what appears to be an end grain stem, with extra fiberglass cloth for strength.
I would like to add a hardwood stem, but can’t seem to find any direction on how to do that.
I’ve seen some that have screws in the front (later to be replaced by plugs).
I don’t think I want to do that.
Can I simply square off the cedar strips at the end and epoxy a bent hardwood stem on the cedar end grain?
Would this be strong enough? With extra strips of cloth?
Any help will be appreciated.
thanks!
Dave

PS: this boat will be used mostly in flat water, maybe some class 1.
 
The book to get, that is pretty much the bible of woodstrip canoes, is Canoecraft by Ted Moores. It is available through the bookstore here on the site, or at Amazon. It is a FAR better book than Hazens, which was written at the dawn of time.
 
I've built my boats without internal stems like you describe. I don't use internal stems. After stripping, I plane/sand back the strips flush with the bow and stern forms. I use a few laminations of 1/8" thick ash or mahogany to build up the outer stems to the desired thickness. I use thickened epoxy as the adhesive. Strapping tape and bungies are sufficient to hold everything in place until the epoxy dries. The stem is shaped in place once dried. Fiberglass is added over the stems when the hull is fiberglassed.

Kurt

May_2_stem-304x264.jpg


Different canoe. In case you are wondering, that's an anchor lock attached to the deck.

anchor_cleats-600x451.jpg
 
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Stripper canoes

Throw away the book that you have and get a copy of Canoecraft and follow Ted Moore's instructions. You will have a better chance of a good outcome.

Good luck with your project, it should be fun and rewarding.
 
Thanks for the replies!
Kurt, it sounds like your method of adding the stem is what I'm looking at.
I'm going to add an inner stem & outer stem. My wife and I paddle areas with large rocks. A strong glue joint, especially in the bow,might be worth the extra work.

Thanks for the advice.

-Dave
 
First of all, don't throw away Hazen's book. The method works just fine and the 17' and 18' Micmacs are the without a doubt, best paddling general recreational and tripping hulls I've ever used after being a canoe/kayak dealer for more than 20 years, carrying most of the top brands (Old Town, Mad River, Sawyer, We-No-Nah, Lincoln, Beaver, Grumman, Perception, Phoenix, Klepper, Hyperform, Blue Hole, Vega/Moore, and Wilderness Boats) and paddling a hell of a lot of canoes. That suggestion is just stupid and most likely coming from someone who has never paddled one, because when you find out how fast the big Micmacs are, how much maneuverability they maintain despite that speed, how dry they ride in big waves with a load and how secure they feel in bad conditions, they'll put a big smile on your face that very few other canoes can match.

There is certainly nothing wrong with Ted Moore's book, it's excellent and absolutely worth having and reading - but Hazen's book will do a perfectly fine job of showing you how to build the boats inside of it and come out with a great canoe - and isn't that the point of the whole thing? The various strip-building books on the market all have some variations in technique, but as far as I've been able to see, they'll all produce a pretty well-built canoe if the directions are followed and the workmanship is good. The book doesn't build the canoe - the builder does.

Design-wise, the 17'x34", 18'x36" and 18.5' Micmacs are the ones to build from Hazen's plan selection. I always found the 16' Micmac a bit short on glide by comparison - a decent canoe, but not as special as the longer ones. The Abenaki canoes and the two double kayaks are out of date designs that have been surpassed big-time by other designers and aren't really worth building these days.

As far as the construction, you can certainly plane the strips square on the ends and epoxy a hardwood cap over them if you want and then glass over it with bias strips. There is a spot on the lower stems where they meet the bottom where wear tends to concentrate from landing and launching. They should get a pretty hefty buildup of localized bias strips (as shown in the book on page 40) over the wood. Don't make the stems too fat as you want the leading edge about 3/8" thick. Do not monkey around with the hull shape, sheer-line shape, rocker amount or the glass layup, because you're not going to improve it - and do not add a keel!. The sling seats in the book are a real pain in the ass (literally). Replace them with normal caned seats. I usually raised my stern seat 1" above the plan height because I have big feet, but I wouldn't go much higher. The combination of the sheer's shape and depth in the paddler areas and the seat height generates a really nice, high-sided, nestled-in feeling that's quite different from a lot of canoes and done without excessive hull depth and the wind it catches. You feel more secure and the ride is substantially drier than most boats if you get caught out in big waves.

The double-thwart yoke is pretty strange looking, but works better than any other yoke you will find. You can pick the boat up from either direction and start walking (which can be quite handy at portages with poor or cramped landings). Also, while carrying the boat up or down a steep trail, you can easily slide the whole canoe slightly forward or aft on your shoulders, tilting it so that one end isn't bouncing on the hillside as you climb or decend. Again, it's different from most canoes, but once you try it, it delivers! We usually used the end handles, rather than end decks. The design doesn't take water over the ends, so decks look nice, but are mostly just a little bit of added weight - builder's choice.

If you simply follow the directions in the book and avoid getting creative or messing around with the design or layup, it will produce a very nice canoe. This is my 18x36" Micmac in Quetico in about 1975. It's my all-time favorite tripping boat and without a doubt the boat I'd own if I could only have one canoe. The 17' Micmac is very similar, a little better for solo work and has slightly less capacity. The other photo is the Nanaimo I built about 1973-ish. The first boat I ever built. OK at the time, but not up to the performance levels, stability and capacity of modern double kayaks.
 

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First of all, don't throw away Hazen's book. The method works just fine and the 17' and 18' Micmacs are the without a doubt, best paddling general recreational and tripping hulls I've ever used after being a canoe/kayak dealer for more than 20 years, carrying most of the top brands (Old Town, Mad River, Sawyer, We-No-Nah, Lincoln, Beaver, Grumman, Perception, Phoenix, Klepper, Hyperform, Blue Hole, Vega/Moore, and Wilderness Boats) and paddling a hell of a lot of canoes. That suggestion is just stupid and most likely coming from someone who has never paddled one, because when you find out how fast the big Micmacs are, how much maneuverability they maintain despite that speed, how dry they ride in big waves with a load and how secure they feel in bad conditions, they'll put a big smile on your face that very few other canoes can match.

There is certainly nothing wrong with Ted Moore's book, it's excellent and absolutely worth having and reading - but Hazen's book will do a perfectly fine job of showing you how to build the boats inside of it and come out with a great canoe - and isn't that the point of the whole thing? The various strip-building books on the market all have some variations in technique, but as far as I've been able to see, they'll all produce a pretty well-built canoe if the directions are followed and the workmanship is good. The book doesn't build the canoe - the builder does.

Design-wise, the 17'x34", 18'x36" and 18.5' Micmacs are the ones to build from Hazen's plan selection. I always found the 16' Micmac a bit short on glide by comparison - a decent canoe, but not as special as the longer ones. The Abenaki canoes and the two double kayaks are out of date designs that have been surpassed big-time by other designers and aren't really worth building these days.

As far as the construction, you can certainly plane the strips square on the ends and epoxy a hardwood cap over them if you want and then glass over it with bias strips. There is a spot on the lower stems where they meet the bottom where wear tends to concentrate from landing and launching. They should get a pretty hefty buildup of localized bias strips (as shown in the book on page 40) over the wood. Don't make the stems too fat as you want the leading edge about 3/8" thick. Do not monkey around with the hull shape, sheer-line shape, rocker amount or the glass layup, because you're not going to improve it - and do not add a keel!. The sling seats in the book are a real pain in the ass (literally). Replace them with normal caned seats. I usually raised my stern seat 1" above the plan height because I have big feet, but I wouldn't go much higher. The combination of the sheer's shape and depth in the paddler areas and the seat height generates a really nice, high-sided, nestled-in feeling that's quite different from a lot of canoes and done without excessive hull depth and the wind it catches. You feel more secure and the ride is substantially drier than most boats if you get caught out in big waves.

The double-thwart yoke is pretty strange looking, but works better than any other yoke you will find. You can pick the boat up from either direction and start walking (which can be quite handy at portages with poor or cramped landings). Also, while carrying the boat up or down a steep trail, you can easily slide the whole canoe slightly forward or aft on your shoulders, tilting it so that one end isn't bouncing on the hillside as you climb or decend. Again, it's different from most canoes, but once you try it, it delivers! We usually used the end handles, rather than end decks. The design doesn't take water over the ends, so decks look nice, but are mostly just a little bit of added weight - builder's choice.

If you simply follow the directions in the book and avoid getting creative or messing around with the design or layup, it will produce a very nice canoe. This is my 18x36" Micmac in Quetico in about 1975. It's my all-time favorite tripping boat and without a doubt the boat I'd own if I could only have one canoe. The 17' Micmac is very similar, a little better for solo work and has slightly less capacity. The other photo is the Nanaimo I built about 1973-ish. The first boat I ever built. OK at the time, but not up to the performance levels, stability and capacity of modern double kayaks.


Thanks for the encouraging words!

I have two canoes at the present, an 18' Wenonah Sundowner (Kevlar) and a 16'-6" Old Town Discovery 169 (fiberglass).
I'm hoping to build a boat that's in-between the two I already have.
Your description of the Micmac sounds perfect.
The Wenonah, my lake canoe, has a 3/8" wide stem and it cuts the water like a knife and tracks very well. The Old Town, my river canoe, has a stem maybe 2" wide (haven't measure it). It doesn't track as well, but it rolls off the rocks nicely. I'm thinking a 3/4" wide stem w/ a build up of bias strips and a finished stem of 1"...?
We live in Colorado and paddle mostly lakes or reservoirs and do bump into rocks once in a while. You know, the ones that lurk a few inches below the water line.
We may also find ourselves in some class 1 rivers now and then.

I'm not using all the techniques in Hazens book. I am, however, using the micmac plans and will take your advice and not change anything, as far as shape.
I'm going stapless, with 3/4" wide x 1/4" thick (maybe 3/16"...still thinking) cedar strips, cove and bead w/ solid ash gunnels, seats, stems ect.


Thanks again!
-Dave
 
Your Disco 169 is actually three-layer rotomolded polyethylene. Tough stuff, but it doesn't usually make for the most sophisticated canoe shapes and one compromise they have to make on rotos is a fairly wide stem edge (one of those "radius of curvature" things). Unlike the other boats in the Discovery series, the hull shape for the 169 was based on the "Tripper", one of Old Town's most successful Royalex touring and whitewater hulls for many years and originally built in 15', 17' and 20' lengths. They were pretty slow and boring to paddle in flat water, but had a lot of volume for a dry ride and high capacity and had more rocker than most canoes for increased whitewater maneuverability.

I suspect you'll find the 17' Micmac has as much speed and tracking ability as the Sundowner and as much or more maneuverability than the Disco. You don't normally get both of these things in the same boat. Fast boats tend to be hard to turn and maneuverable boats tend to be slow. Back in the early '70s when Wilderness Boats was building and selling strip Micmacs, we originally bought them for their looks and were very pleasantly surprised when we put them in the water at both their speed and maneuverability. They pretty much blew away anything else we had in the shop in the touring canoe range. Hazen wasn't a boat design genius and the basic hull shape for the Micmacs supposedly came from the Minnesota Canoe Association's plans, but with the changes that Hazen made to the hulls, he managed to come up with some really great handling, quick boats which also had good capacity and a dry ride without going excessive in hull depth and windage.

I can't prove it, but I've alwas thought that the unusually high speed/maneuverability combination was due to two things. The hulls' lines as you approach the ends are straight (no hollows) for speed (like a marathon boat), yet the Micmacs have quite a bit of rocker. Unlike most rockered hulls though, the Micmac rocker is done in a nearly straight line from the center to the stems - rather than being fairly straight in the middle of the hull and then having accelerating rocker curves as you approach the ends of the boat, which is how it's done on most canoes. This is one of the main reasons that I caution new builders not to mess with the hull's shape. Change the rocker, or how it's done, and you're likely to lose performance.

Stem width - I'd keep it pretty narrow. The difference in damage between a fiberglass-covered 3/8" stem nailing a rock and a 1" stem doing the same thing is probably pretty minimal. In either case, if you hit the rock hard enough, you'll be putting in some repair time.
 
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