new to wood strip canoes

jstawz

Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hi I am new to this forum and also to wood strip canoes. I am a woodworker (hobbyist..........serious hobbyist) and I want to build a cedar strip canoe. I think I have all the power tools. I've built tables, chairs, cabinets etc and now I want to build a canoe. Basically I would like to know a few things. Am I getting in over my head? Are they difficult to build? I've noticed they are called cedar strip canoes. Can they be built with pine strips since pine is a little cheaper than cedar? I know that there are router bits that can mold the wood strips. Do you guys recommend that you mold the wood yourself or should I purchase a kit with the wood already formed? I hope you guys can answer all my questions. Please have some good news for me because I am very eager to get this project started.
 
If you're used to basic woodworking and can follow directions, you should be able to build a canoe. Most beginning strip builders have more trouble with the fiberglassing parts of the project than the woodworking part. Not that it's overly difficult to fiberglass a stripper, but since you're working on large expanses of hull using resin that has a limited pot-life and at the same time trying to get a nice, bubble-free clear finish, the glassing days can be kind of high-stress until you get used to working with the stuff.

The best advice I can give you is to get a good book on the process and really follow the directions carefully. Far too many of the problems that beginners have are self-created. Before they've even built or used a strip canoe they start making changes to the design and construction. Stretching designs, changing fiberglass weights and other departures from the plans and process are fine after you've built a few boats, but all too often they create big problems when folks try it on their first boat. I can't tell you how many posts on strip-building forums I've followed where beginners go into long explanations of how they plan to knock 15 lbs. off of their first canoe by substituting this, or deleting that. You can often just sit back and wait for the post a couple months later that basically says "My boat broke - what do I do now?"

Pine will work, as will spruce, fir, redwood, mahogany, basswood and a number of others. Western Red Cedar is light, strong enough, often nicely colored and fairly easily found in long, reasonably straight-grained, clear lengths, so it tends to be the most popular. I learned to build strippers back in the dark ages and we just used straight-edged strips, right off the saw. A lot of people these days prefer strips routed to have bead and cove edges and find them easier to work with, but you can still build a lovely boat with square-edges strips.

Making strips isn't that hard as long as you have a means of supporting the boards well while sawing and/or routing them. Building a good boat will be much easier if the strips are very uniform in thickness, so being able to run a long board or strip through the sawing and routing processes is quite important. If you don't have a good in-feed/out-feed system that allows this, then pre-milled strips may save you a lot of grief down the road (though they tend to be pricy). As to whether it's worth compromising on materials to save a little money on something where you are going to tie up a lot of labor hours, it's hard to say. If it makes the process any more difficult, it probably isn't worth it, so the answer probably depends upon the quality of the pine that you can find.

In general though, GO FOR IT! There are a lot of people building some very nice boats these days - even on their first attempt. Here are a few boats built from "alternative" woods. The dark ones are mostly redwood, the last one is spruce with a few mahogany stripes tossed in for contrast. Pine would look fairly similar to the spruce.
 

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Thanks for all the info and pictures. It was all very helpful. You mentioned that I should read-up on the subject. Can you tell me some informative books on wood strip canoes? Will the plans I purchase be enough?
Again thanks for all your help.
 
The ultimate book for strippers is "CANOECRAFT" by Ted Moores and can be ordered through the WCHA store... Everything else comes in second to this one, IMHO and many others...
 
Yep. Canoecraft is the best of the lot. Another one that's worth looking at is "The Stripper's Guide to Canoe Building" by David Hazen. It shows a slightly different building method at times and isn't as big and as fancy, but the fact that it also contains plans for his 17' and 18' Micmac canoes (among a few other canoe and kayak models) alone is worth the price. I started paddling canoes about 42 years ago and was a dealer for many years for most of the high-end brands. The Micmac 17 and 18 are two of the finest general-purpose and tripping canoe designs that I've ever seen from any material.
 
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