Is there an Adirondack canoe?


Wooden Canoes are in the Blood
I am using yahoo to load pictures. This is a 14' 55# canoe. Mahogany or ash? construction. Canvas on stringers. Very simple but well made. Interesting upsweep to the bows by unusual stem pieces. Pronounced rocker required this. Seats are plywood and this would date it post WWII? Decks VERY simple and thin, thus warpage. Paddles well, a bit flimsey and flexes with the waves. floor rack is nailed in place. I have seen this type construction attributed to Adirondack Guide boats. Is there a such thing as "Adirondack Canoes?"
Any comments welcome.


There are guideboat-style canoes, and at least some are known to have been built by Adirondack guideboat builders. This one looks like a home-built canoe, perhaps from a kit. Some of our members know these kit manufacturers and where plans have been published in magazines like Popular Mechanics, but I've never kept up with them.

True guideboat-type canoes are apparently very uncommon, but the Adirondack Museum has a few, and there are photos of several in the book "Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks" by Hallie Bond. Attached is a photo of one such canoe from our collection- one we believe was built by a guideboat builder. While it is lapstrake (most Guideboats are smoothskin), it has the wide bottom board characteristic of guideboats, and its stem bands and bottom board-protecting bands are also like those of guideboats.

Oops... can't post a photo. Will edit when this function becomes available again.

One of the most popular builders of these kit-canoes was Trailcraft. Here's an example of a thread where a Trailcraft canoe was "diagnosed":

The one in that discussion appears quite substantial.

Many wooden canoe enthusiasts were turned on to wooden canoes and building their own wood/canvas or strippers due to fond memories of building a Trailcraft or other such vessel in scouts or with their dad.

I can't get to the pictures because the firewall where I am at restricts access to Yahoo or Flickr, but I would sure like to see the boat if you can upload an actual picture to the forum.

Many years ago, I owned a boat that sounds a lot like this one. I was told by the person I bought it from that it had been built by his father using plans from Popular Mechanics.

Mine had plywood bulkheads, stems, and seats, with mahogony stingers, gunwales, decks, and a nice floor rack.
I was able to get to the thread Kathryn posted. Wow, that looks just like the one I used to have, so maybe the person I bought mine from just guessed at where his dad got the plans.

I have always missed that little boat, and often thought of building one like it, but I have three canoes right now, so don't really need another, but it is nice to find out what it was, and see a picture of one.
Not Trailcraft

I have three Trailcraft and can see the differences. If this is a kit it is very well made. The ribs are obviously steam bent, something Trailcraft never did. The design of the stems is complex, needed to build the rocker. I would question anyone putting out a kit this complex. Still, canvas over ribs always brings to mind kits. This precedes Trailcraft by a decade at least. I'll post pictures when our site comes up.
Thanks for the input.

TREE: Your pictures look interesting, & quite old.. Maybe someone repaired the seats & decks at one time . ?. Style is nifty.
.. There is similar trend in the inboard history where a major company employee would build himself a boat over the winter months of upstate NY. Use for fishing guide or eventually sell. .Hard to later document.
Another kit information members were just talking about .. The major Calif co from the 50's , with mag ads is called GLEN-L .
I looked thru the on-line catalog under "human Power" did not see any plans close to the pic in Kathy thread reference.
However, Glen-L is very active with modern forum / builders & have two rallies each year . One on west coast & one here in the S.E. . Last two years it was in Oct in Alabama, but Sept 24-25 will be in Tennessee , Nick-A-Jack lake ,just west of Chattanooga. The East coast event is called "The GATHERING" .
. Believe West coast is called "Rendezvous" (?)
. Also late 40's early 50's was a big Kit company out of Buffalo , NY called Custom Craft. .They went into fiberglass speedster design early 60's , but out of business with a fire about 1964.
This is a very sharp skin-on-frame canoe. If anyone does know of the plans for it, I would be interested in getting a copy.

It is not from the plans published in Popular Mechanics in 1938 and republished in their book of boat plans a few years later -- those plans were for a one-off standard canvas-covered plank-on-ribs canoe. There were two articles in the WCHA journal, in issue #7 in 1981 and issue 134 in April 2006 on the PM canoe.

This canoe would be lighter, but probably not much easier to build. As you note, there is a very nice upsweep to the sheer at bow and stern, unusual in SOF boats. Simply sweeping the stringers up on an SOF boat to create nicely curved sheer will often cause the hull to hog over time -- the upswept stringers want to straighten out and push the stems down. The construction of the sheer on your boat gives a nice line, is intended to avoid creating a hogged hull, and seems to have been successful.
Who knows forms?

I understand the idea that a fabric on stringers would be kit built, largely due to Trailcraft, but I'm skeptical for this boat. It has 18 ribs. To get 18 ribs as well in place as these are would require a form. Trailcraft uses four ribs in their 17 ft canoe, three ribs in their 12 and 14 ft canoes. There is a 14 ft canoe for home builders in Popular Machanics 1966 using one rib in the center to hold the plywoold skin out. My canoe is quite well made, (pride of ownership of course) very symetrical. I measure 15ft long at the tips, 34 inch at middle, 11 inches high, four inch rocker on the stern, three inch rocker on the bow (sitting flat on the garage floor). Someone who builds from scratch can weigh in on the techique to lay out 18 ribs. I doubt it is possible to align w/o a form. But I never tried either. :) Thus said, there have to be more of these out there. Who made them?

Fabric on stringers pictures

A thank you to Dan Miller for fixing the picture problem.
Here's the canoe;


  • IMG_0355.JPG
    141.3 KB · Views: 434
  • IMG_0360.JPG
    118.1 KB · Views: 426
  • IMG_0356.JPG
    132.7 KB · Views: 430
No form needed

Tim –

Check your private messages.

Not much of a building form would be necessary to build a canoe like yours. Indeed, it could be readily built with no form or mold whatsoever.

A Trailcraft canoe had three or four plywood frames/ribs plus two plywood stems. The frames/ribs and stems were held in position by the inwales and the keelson – these pieces, in effect, becoming the building form. The stringers were then installed, the canvas was stretched and fixed in place, and the keel was screwed on. To the best of my recollection, no strongback was used – the keelson served as the starting point, to which the stems and frams/ribs were attached, with shape and symmetry being provided by carefully-measured placement of the inwales.

The 1938 PM canoe is built with a form using 7 hull molds, the 2 stems (built up from plywood and sawn lumber), fixed to one plank that served as a strongback. Ribbands (temporary stringers), a keelson, and the inwales are placed in or on the molds and stems, then steamed ribs are placed inside of, and clamped to the ribbands, keelson, and inwales. When the ribs are cool and dry, the ribbands are removed and the planks are fastened to the ribs and stems. There are many more ribs than there are station molds for the hull.

I would speculate that your canoe was built by some combination of these techniques. A form with several molds could have been used, to hold ribbands in place while the ribs were shaped and installed, after which the ribbands were removed and the permanent stringers then fastened to the ribs. Alternatively, and I would think more likely (since fewer temporary framing molds and ribbands woud be required), 3 or four heavy temporary molding ribs similar to the Trailcraft ribs could have been fashioned, then temporarily fastened to the inwales, keelson, and stems (or perhaps temporary stem frames). The stringers would have then been installed, after which the temporary molding ribs would have been removed. Depending on where the temporary molding ribs were located, it may or may not have been necessary to replace them with permanent ribs. The framing stems could have been the permanent stems, or they could have been temporary, to be replaced with the permanent ones at this time.

I would be interested in seeing a detail photo or two showing how the stems are built in your boat.

With a good set of plans, construction would probably have been relatively simple, and may have required nothing more than building a few simple temporary framing ribs/molds\, perhaps with a strongback.

A kit certainly would have been possible, containing not only the canvas and wood for decks, keel, keelson, gunwales, and stringers (as did the Trailcraft kits), but also the temporary molding ribs, just as the Trailcraft kits contained the three permanent framing ribs for their canoes (one of which I built many a year ago). If a strongback were required, I would expect the seller of the kit to presume that a local lumberyard could provide a satisfactory piece or two of dimension lumber.

It must be noted that neither strongback nor molds nor a frame are really needed. Robert Morris gives instructions for building a 16’ skin on frame Canadian canoe that has 20 thin, steam-bent ribs, and his technique requires no mold, no shaping frames and no strongback. His book “Building Skin-on-Frame Boats” is a well-written guide to building SOF canoes, dinghies, and of course, kayaks – all without the need for forms. Shape is created and held during construction by thwart-like temporary braces between the gunwales. I would recommend the book to anyone owning, or wishing to build, a canoe such as yours.

As I noted above, the way the sheer is shaped at the stems is of great interest, and solves a problem of hogging that can too easily develop in SOF boats that do not have longitudinal deck structures as have kayaks – a problem described by Morse.

Anyway, I would hope that plans do exist for this canoe, and that someone has a set of them that can be shared in some way.
Very good

Hello Greg,
That is an impressive description. I have several kit boats but have never built one. Obviously, you have. From what you describe, I have come full circle and can believe this is a kit built canoe. That was my first impression. Like you, I'd be interested in the plans. For anyone who is interested, I have the Trailcraft assembly pages, 26 pgs. I have seen the rib patterns in a museum in Glasco, Kansas.
Of the four, now maybe five, kit boats I have there can be a wide range of workmanship. Some owners built with clear pride and skill. Others cobbled together a poor job. Most all choose to add/modify according to their interest. In a kit canoe, the options are yours.
Thanks for your description.

One off canoes

Thanks Greg for all the information and plans. For those interested, this idea of kit built or one-off canoes can go on forever. I had a traditional wood and canvas canoe at the meet last summer. It was never identified. Was it from a PM plan or a kit?
Anyone could have built the traditional canoe shown in Popular Mechanics 1938. They might even have taken a deck from a wrecked factory canoe, or just copied it. Either way, non-factory built canoes are out there. Some will be better than factory jobs, some worse. I can safely say that some one off builders choose their materials more carefully than the factory either because they had access to good wood or because they felt better wood would make the difference.
So what if I have quite a few "orphan canoes?" They look good and paddle well. So much for peigree. I'll just call this the "Canoe Orphanage." :)
Hello Tim. Are you still on this forum?

You wrote the following several years ago.

I am using yahoo to load pictures. This is a 14' 55# canoe. Mahogany or ash? construction. Canvas on stringers. Very simple but well made. Interesting upsweep to the bows by unusual stem pieces. Pronounced rocker required this. Seats are plywood and this would date it post WWII? Decks VERY simple and thin, thus warpage. Paddles well, a bit flimsey and flexes with the waves. floor rack is nailed in place. I have seen this type construction attributed to Adirondack Guide boats. Is there a such thing as "Adirondack Canoes?"
Any comments welcome.

Did you ever find any origin data for that canoe? I know of some old published plans that look very much like the source used. Several details are different, but the things that were changed were mostly dumb anyway, the changes on yours would certainly be improvements... for example, the oddball tip-sweeps on yours are thin-framed where the original is shown as a solid chunk wedge.

Another set of plans I know of does show your framed tip-sweep, but is more different in other details. It's not at all unusual (it may actually be more the rule) that home builders will mix details gleaned from poring over several sets of plans.

Let me know if you want links so you can go look at the plans, which are available on the net.

Larry Westlake
Larry --

I've been following your thread "Building without forms" with considerable interest, just as I followed this thread some time ago. I, for one, would like to see your links to plans for canoes similar to Tim's, and I am sure there are others who would like to see plans for building a one-off canoe.
Greg Nolan wrote...
Larry --

I, for one, would like to see your links to plans for canoes similar to Tim's, and I am sure there are others who would like to see plans for building a one-off canoe.

So here goes.
The links I pasted in are a bit awkward - I couldn't figure out how, with the online editor, to iconize them as an anchor like in HTML code, so that the blanketyblank was hidden. I think they will work.

These are the plan sources I know of that I think may have influenced the design of "Treewater Tim’s" canvas canoe…

A. Russell Bond, 1905 – in "Willow Clump Island" story
SOF construction.
I think this is likely the source of Tim's design. This design has several flaws that a sensible and experienced woodworker would likely correct even if he had no previous boatbuilding experience, and it seems to me that THOSE ARE THE ONLY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES between this design and Tim's boat (length is not significant – everybody fiddles with that). If anyone ever built ONE of these the way the book says, he would certainly never build a SECOND the same way – he would make changes about like what we see on Tim's. Published by Scientific American, and included in an enjoyable boys’ story, it is very likely that these plans stayed available for many decades in Libraries and personal collections. The story and plan are now available from Google books. They are the kind of thing that a man who had built with his father would want to do with his son or grandson, by this mechanism carrying it on to a third generation in the 60’s, 70’s, or possibly 80’s. As an example of the persistence of good boat plans in books, the "Popular Boating" series of plan books published by Hearst Corp from 1928 to 195? could still be checked out of some big-city libraries in the early 1990’s.
LINK: Camp at Willow Clump Island&pg=PA119#v=onepage&q=The Camp at Willow Clump Island&f=true

Dan Beard, 1911 – Page 34 in boy’s book "Boat-Building and Boating" SOF construction. This design is so bad that anything built from it would HAVE to be altered, just to be buildable. However, it clearly suggests two unusual features of Tim's canoe: the framed sheerline tip-sweep, and the plank stems, and is very similar in many other respects. I think it is borrowed/stolen from Bond, but made worse, not better.

I have searched for DIY canoe plans right back to the 1860’s, and have found no others that are so strikingly like Tim's boat… but I’m sure there are many plans that I know nothing about. However, an awful lot of these "boy’s" authors just plagiarized plans that had been published a decade or so earlier, so there are many similar versions of some types. Boy’s books were often published in huge quantities and widely circulated to libraries, so had tremendous influence and ability to influence many generations. People are still building from some of the books today, especially those that are now available from Google. This is not always a good thing, since almost all of the designs have flaws and many are abominable. Actually, it’s worse than that – very few of the early DIY designs are any good at all.

One interesting characteristic of Tim's boat is the wide-plank stem. This is an uncommon feature that is also shared by the oft-mentioned 1938 design by R.O. Buck. But I mention this mostly as a caution that shared characteristics do not prove causal connections. There are really no other significant similarities toTim's.

Last edited:
I'm still here and thanks for the holler. I have that book by Dan Beard and no, that is not my canoe. The Russell Bond canoe differs also. I have to say, I sold the UFO a few months ago but it still peaks my interest. It was the steam bent ribs that seemed distinctive of the canoe. It was light, 52 lbs, but did not have the carrying capacity I wanted though it had the weight I liked. I re-finished another Trailcraft in the meantime and sold it as well. No money made with either canoe but they are out of the shop. The oft mentioned “bonding,” father son, and even grandfather grandson interests me obviously due to my age. Trailcraft testimonials are poignant with these. Canoing is a pleasant and even more, can be a meaningful sport. This re-finish/build your own of wood canoes brings the best of our society, or any society. Imagine if instead of joining gangs young boys were joining their fathers building and paddling canoes.
Thanks for the links. I’ll keep looking.
The Russell Bond canoe differs also.
Since I sell DIY plans/instrux I know very well that boats are often built quite differently from the instructions. For the free plans found in old books, changes are often necessary just to make the boat buildable.
Another link you might be interested in is this one: canoe&lr=&as_drrb_is=b&as_minm_is=1&as_miny_is=1900&as_maxm_is=12&as_maxy_is=1950&as_brr=0&as_pt=MAGAZINES&pg=PA88#v=onepage&q=canvas canoe&f=false
This article is quite interesting quite apart from the rather shabby boat that I think is probably derived with at least an awareness of Bond and/or Beard, and probably of some of the many other inter-related DIY's in circulation at that time. There are actually at least two different boats shown in the photos - carefully compare the strake patterns and frame placements. This seems to be a multi-boat group project such as might occur at a scout jamboree. The descriptions also do not quite match the boats in the photos, so some leader here was learning as they went. This is the other fascinating aspect of generation-joining designs - like langage and other vernacular transmissions, they evolve as they go.

The oft mentioned “bonding,” father son, and even grandfather grandson interests me obviously due to my age... Imagine if instead of joining gangs young boys were joining their fathers building and paddling canoes.
Girls are included!. One photo I posted in another thread shows my daughter with a stack of ribs we had just finished bending together. She helped in the boatshop since she was about four, starting with fetching, passing, and holding things. By the time she left home she helped build over a dozen planked rowboats, poxy-strippers, itch-&-goopers, and W/C canoes. She learned responsibiilty in other places too, but the boatshop was a big one.

Pic below of us doing a public demo at the local museum - we've paused boat-building to sing a sea shanty.