Scratch build a Trailcraft?

Tim the Inspector

Hey all, after looking through older threads it seems like a SOF canoe might make a fun summer project. Seems to me like it would be a little less labour intensive than other traditional construction types and still yield a great boat when all is said and done.

A little reading has me sold on a Trailcraft. Cut plywood ribs, no steaming and from what I understand they don't need a strongback. It's not that I'm lazy, just that I don't have a lot of space to work with and no spare cash to make things that aren't a boat (jigs, steambox, etc.). I'm pretty sure I have or can borrow any tools I need.

The question is, does anyone anywhere have a set of patterns to scratch build a Trailcraft? I would think with the number that have been shown on the forum and a guess that this place represents a fraction of what's out there in the world, somebody had to have at least traced the formers and stems.

Can anyone help me out? Maybe more importantly, is what I have in mind even a good idea? I'd love to hear from anyone who has anything to say on the subject.

Here's a link to a recent discussion that includes images of plans for a Trailcraft-type canoe. Others here may have additions.

Have you considered finding a "used" canoe that needs minimal repair/restoration-- such as refinishing the interior and applying new canvas? If you want a canoe that you've totally built yourself, this may not be an option for you-- but if you want a nice paddling canoe that you've brought back to life, this is how many of us began.

Welcome to the Forums!



Contact Ron Overstreet at his blog

Sign his blog and ask him to sell you a set of plans. I have recently been in contact with him and there are indeed plans for the 16 ft that are available, perhaps other lengths also, He is a great guy and the blog has the history of TrailCraft. This maybe the only time I would recommend fiberglass, but it adds a lot of strength to this design. Tell him I sent you and say howdy.

Have a ot of fun with this craft I know I as well as many others in the WCHA have.

Tom Widney
Thanks guys.

Kathy, I had thought about the used canoe route but to start out I think I just want to build something up from nothing. My long-standing hobby is building balsa wood stick and tissue model airplanes from scratch. There's just something about making something unique from a big pile of the most basic elements that gets my attention. I'm sure you know that sense of accomplishment I'm talking about, that ability to proudly stand back and think, "This thing is mine. Every glue joint, every fastener, every brushstroke and even every flaw is there because I put it there." That's just where my head is at the moment. Plus, this way I could build up a kit first that takes up relatively little space until it was time to make a canoe out of it.

Thanks for the warm welcome and don't worry, I like restoration work too.


Just like a Trailcraft, only smaller...

Thanks Tom, I went over and read everything Mr. Overstreet has put on his blog and I've emailed him asking for more information on the plans he offers.

With regards to glassing it, I'd be worried that the skin would surely flex a fair bit. Would that not cause cracking in any kind of hardened coating?


With the Trailcraft kit, you apply the canvas first then the glass, unlike traditional w/c canoes where they applied the glass directly over the cedar planks where it has a tendancey to bond with the planking its self, causing flex issues as well as being a real bear to remove.
If I recall correctly 45 years ago my dad and I figured that the canvas by ir's self didn't seem sturdy enough because it did not have the benifit of a solid cedar backing, so I ordered the Fiberglass option towards the end of construction.

The original directions recommended painting the interior. We sanded before construction, stained after construction, varnished then applied the canvas then fiberglassed.

I still have the little guy, restored it during the late 70's and had minimal trouble with the glass/canvas removal,maybe I had a poor glass job but the canvas prevented the glass from adhearing to the wooden stringers making removal not so bad that I even remember that phase.

I have not used the canoe since the early 80's when it tried flying from a truck on the interstate. The canoe was drug several hundred yards by the tie down rope and suffered very little structural damage except for a broken rail. While using it as a kid I never had any problems with flex, I think that the glass not being bonded directly to the wooden frame/stringers themselves allows every thing to flex at it's own rate. I may just be blowing smoke here but the fiberglass canvas combo is still good with out showing any cracks since the 80's.

Attached are a couple of photo's I dug up from a late August river tripI organized from Tulsa Oklahoma to New Orleans in 1967 on the Arkansas River. There was about 2 inches of water and we spent most of the time dragging the canoes across the sand banks. We had to take out early because of an eye infection I recieved from a scratched cornea getting infected by the river water.
Good luck with you project and keep us posted

I'm the skinny one on the left.


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I don’t doubt that putting a layer of fiberglass over the canvas on a Trailcraft will add strength – but it will also add considerable weight to a canoe that is not particularly light to begin with. It also means more than twice the work and twice the time to twice cover the canoe – you are really doing the work of covering it three times – canvas, fiberglass, and then the epoxy. Why, when once is sufficient? (I do agree that if you should fiberglass a Trailcraft, it should be over a cover of canvas, in order to allow the frame to flex – a large part of the durability of a SOF boat come from the ability of the skin and frame to flex. Gluing a thin fiberglass shell to a bare Trailcraft frame seems like asking for trouble.)

When I built a Trailcraft some 40 years ago, I covered it with painted canvas only, and had no problems with the durability of the canvas – but then, I did not use that boat for white water, for which the canoe is not well suited in any event. I found the canvas more than adequate for flat water canoeing on the Housatonic River in Connecticut (one very brief stretch of class 2 ww), salt water creeks up and down the New England coast, and the streams and lakes of Nova Scotia’s Kejimkujic park as well as the near shore tidal waters of the Bay of Fundy. It was well able to withstand the occasional bump into the odd rock in shallow water, and was light enough to be readily lifted on and off the top of the car many times.

If you are truly concerned about durability, you might consider urethane-coated Nylon instead of canvas. There is considerable discussion of nylon for covering SOF boats in George Dyson’s “Baidarka,” in Christopher Cunningham’s “Building the Greenland Kayak, and in Robert Morris’s ‘Building Skin-on-Frame Boats” (which is out of print, but really good if you can get it from a library – even has plans for a 16’ SOF canoe). I’ve never used this material, but suspect it is a bit more difficult than canvas to stretch over a hull like the Trailcraft.

Just for information, you also ought to take a look at Platt Monfort’s Geodesic Airolite Boats – a variation on the theme of SOF boats, and very informative – his boats use Dacron over a very light frame.

But since it seems you want to build simply and rapidly, I see no reason to use anything except canvas – strong enough, light enough, probably cheaper than nylon, and certainly cheaper, faster, lighter, and easier than covering with canvas and then covering again with ‘glass. You have to treat the canoe a little more carefully than a plastic-covered canoe – just as you have to treat that wonderful balsa and tissue model airplane more carefully than you would a Revell model.

Sounds good to me, I have allways wondered if canvas would be enough. Your experience shows it is and will save Tim a bunch of work. When I come to think about it... that little sucker was a bit on the heavy side.


The truck which had my desire self all in a twitter at the time was a 50's era Ford panal truck designed for the oil fields which was donated to my Scout Post. She was built high off the ground and had a super low gear which allowed us to go through dang near any thing. In 1967 my post took it from Oklahoma up to Sommers Canoe Base in Ely for my second summer as a scout there. Alas, the miles were to much for the old beast as she threw a rod somewhere in Kansas on the return trip. Dad sold her for $50. I had never before, or ever since, shed a tear over a machine.... I wanted so bad for her to be "MY" truck to fix up as a camper.

Keep your feet dry,