Shorter and Lighter


LOVES Wooden Canoes
I've decided to shorten my 16' Pal form by two feet as soon as I finish planking the present canoe. Due to recent surgery I won't be able to lift a sixty pound canoe for a long time to come.

If successful in ending up with a 14' form, what are all the options I have to end up with a 35# canoe of that length? I suppose I can always go with thinner ribs/planking, lighter wt canvas, all-cedar decks, etc.

Any input will be much appreciated. Thank you in advance.
Tom MacKenzie has probably built more lightweight canoes than anyone I know. As I recall, he used thinner and narrower ribs, simliar to Peterborough, thinner planking, and aircraft Dacron with Cecofil. If you get a chance, you might look at one of his canoes.
Not high.

My 14' Red Fox canoe usually comes in at about 40 lbs., and its 6" narrower than the Pal. You'd have to do some extreme building to get it lighter than 45lbs, and not all of that will result in a better canoe.

Where are you thinking of removing length? 2' in the middle? 1' in the middle and 6" off of each end? I'm not really sure that shortening a Pal is the best way to go if you're looking for shorter, lighter, canoe.

From my experience, its not really the length of the canoe that sets the weight, its the accumulated weight of ALL of the parts, especially the trim. You can save a lot of weight by using lighter trim.
You may get to the desired weight just by using aircraft dacron and the STITs paint procedure (I posted a routine a number of years ago); rather than shortening a nice canoe. I did the same recovering to achieve a lightweight canoe, (an 18 ft chestnut) and it now weighs in at 49 lbs. with the lightweight covering; down from a dry weight of 75lbs. It is not as durable as a thicker or multi-layer covering but has lasted me the last 25 years, and does not put on weight after being filled with some water. Most weight gain (I believe) is from the inner surface of canvas cover wicking water.
The two 16 footers I've built out of the form have weighed in at 64-1/2 lbs using ash gunwales, cherry seats, thwarts and decks. The #10 canvas had three coats of conventional filler, two coats of primer, and four light coats of Kirby's paint. The interior got four coats of Captain's varnish.

As far as shortening the form, I figure if I remove the two center feet of length of the form and mate up both #1 stations I will end up with a 14+ foot long canoe with a narrower width amidship than my 16'. Those two center feet have a lot of material as compared to the rest of the tapering sections.

Going with something other than canvas, i.e., dacron, may present a problem with durability on the river rocks, etc. I could be wrong, but that's the message I get. I could possibly go with a lighter weight canvas that weighs less and may require less conventional filler (smoother weave), use cedar for the decks, seats (?), and thwarts other than the center one. I can also use it as solo -- single seat and fewer thwarts.

I have to think over the gunwales since going with cedar may not be strong or resilient enough. I really would like to stay with ash for the gunwales, but ash is pretty dense and one of the major contributors to overall weight.

I'm open for any comments on my thoughts. Thank you.


One of my Northern Fox models came in at 42 pounds. This a 14' x 30 Peternut, same as Douglas's Red Fox - plans did come from him, after all.

It was built with standard thickness ribs and planking, sitka spruce inwales, black cherry outwales, black cherry decks and kneeling thwart, and number 12 canvas with Cecofill filler.

I always thought I could save a bit of weight by using spruce for inwales and outwales (don't use cedar, not appropriate). Next one would get two small quarter thwarts and a Seavey Saddle Seat. Could also use spruce or cedar for decks. I could be built a little thinner on ribs and planking (like an OT 50 pounder), and dacron (with its caveats) would save considerable weight.

Anyone every try lighter canvas (like 10oz.)? It's not duck, but might work?

X's 2 or 3
its the accumulated weight of ALL of the parts, especially the trim. You can save a lot of weight by using lighter trim.

While not exactly the same, I've been trying to build a striper tripping canoe under 50 lbs, I'm on my 3rd try and won't make it this time either, it will likely be around 54 -55 lbs. Not too bad but not under 50 either.

Anyway, weight every piece you put on the canoe to the fraction of an oz, don't use ANY hardwoods, and make your cross sections as small as possible.
And I'd try the dacron. (and plan to one of these days.)

And I've been resisting but, if this is just short term, just get a kevlar, 40-45 lb 18+ ft trippers are the norm. And sub 40 short canoes are common.

I just finished a 15' Fox 29" beam. Used #12 canvas and Ecofill. 1/4" thick ribs. Spruce inwale and spruce outwale with a thin cherry rub laminated on the outside of the outwale. Cedar decks and single seat. Weighs in at 42lbs +/-. Can be easily carried with one shoulder under the gunwale.