Type of wood needed for Canoe


New Member
Hi everyone,

I'm planning aon building a canoe in the near future but my only concern is what type of wood I would use. I want the wood to be light yet durable, something strong and that could last a lifetime. What would you recommend me? Any info would be a great help.

Thank You!

Seb. C.
First, what kind of construction are you planning to use? Will this be all wood, or covered with convas, fiberglass, or other?

A lot of canoe builders use cedar (red, white, a combination of both), but basswood, redwood, and others are used as well, again alone or in combination with others. There are a lot of options, and you, as the builder, get to make that choice ... it's one of the many benefits of being the builder.

There are several books with build details & instructions, even plans, available in the WCHA Store at this site, or at Amazon.com, and maybe local libraries.
Traditionally, a wood/canvas canoe has a cedar hull. Some of the early builders chose red cedar for planking and white cedar for ribs, with a clear finish that permitted the color-difference to stand out.

Cedar is light weight and rot resistant. Looking at the old catalogs in "the Historic Wood Canoe and Boat Company Catalog Collection" CDs available from http://www.wcha.org/catalog/ and http://www.dragonflycanoe.com/cdrom.htm on the web, I've noticed that B.N. Morris initially used pine planking for the hulls of second-grade canoes, but early-on he switched to using cedar for the planking on all his canoes. Decades later, many of these canoes are still in use. Cedar is the standard, for planking a wood/canvas.

Mahogany has traditionally been the wood species used by many of the early canoe-builders for trimming the hulls of first-grade wood/canvas. First grade Rushton Indian Girls were trimmed in cherry. Seems to me that "fashion" influenced what was thought of as "first grade"... but weight of the wood, durability, ease of use (in bending and shaping) and other factors probably influenced what was "fashionable".

As Paul said, the choice is up to the builder-- here is where you can make your mark, follow your artistic dictates as well as consider what's practical.

Evan Gerrish used American Chestnut to trim his early canoes.... beautiful grain (similar to oak), yet very light in weight. Too bad it isn't available anymore (unless you cut up an old diningroom table). It's one of my favorite woods. I think we all have favorite woods, just as we have favorite colors... and you can use your favorites on your canoe.

Thank You!

I think when I begin working on it I'm going to go primarily with red Cedar and mix it with other types of wood to make a design with it.

My other question now is is there any place in the forum or on the net that has designs step by step to build different variety of canoe designs?

the comments are greatly appreciated and helpful,

Thank you once more!!