Want to build cedar dugout canoe


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Hi Everyone!

I Live In Hillsboro, Oregon. MY kids Go To A Waldorf School AIs The School is Building OnIt's Property And Need's To Remove Some Cedar Trees. I WantTo Use These Trees To Make A Couple Of DugOut Canoes. Any NameS of folkS Out Here That Might Be Able To Guide Mre In This Process?


(Typed On My Phone)


Curious about Wooden Canoes
I don't live close to you, but I could help a bit. I am in the process of making my own dugout (almost done), and had to figure it out through research, asking on this forum, asking an Amerindian friend of mine who has made them, and trial and error.

You'll want at least 1 ax and 1 adz. The ax needs to be handy and versatile, I used a Condor Swedish style felling ax. Some folks might also suggest a broad ax. The most useful adzes will be two-handed flat and curved (gutter) adzes, but especially the curved one. These can be hard to find at good prices. A machete or hatchet may come in handy at times, as could a large chisel or slick. Some folks may use a plane, draw-knife, or scorp for smoothing. A chainsaw can be BIG help... but some folks see it as cheating.

Lastly, fire can be a great tool. You may use it to help remove wood, to help cure the wood, and/or to help heat the wood to widen the canoe. The North American 'indians' usually used fire to help weaken and eat away at the wood. The Yekwana in South America use fire in the hollow of the dugout to heat it in order for it to be widened. The Ket in Siberia have their dugouts held over a fire to heat it enough for widening. The Haida (and other NWest coast 'indians') steam it. I believe some Caribs (in Caribbean area) dump water into the hollow and use heated rocks to bring the temperature up and thus make the canoe more pliable. There are dugout styles from Europe (simpler perhaps), Africa (the West African ones are amazing), and Asia (check southern India, China, SE Asia, Papua New Guinea, etc.). Polynesian dugouts with outriggers and sails get even more complex.

I think it would help for you to envision the style(s) of canoe you'd like to make. Then gather the necessary tools if you haven't already.

Here are some youtube videos I found very helpful:
Swinomish style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOCfbQrWuDU
Using Power Tools: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mpkp1TZSNhs
Ket/Siberian style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvrNqyX7XPQ
Yekwana method: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67MLM6JrIKE
Another one from S. America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_YZ6N0tGlA
Using fire to help hollow it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu2p_EbH-lw
Another good one for that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKnD9ixM0eM
In the Peruvian Amazon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEIOee9NYKA
Steaming a Canoe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qpwqzwIdgg

Hope this helps. I am building one in the Yekwana style, in Venezuela called a 'curiara'.

Keep us posted, and ask any questions.
I'm sure the many knowledgeable folks here can weigh in with their experiences and opinions.


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Thanks so much for the input! I will start "digging" in to that...;)

I would really like to find some folks from a tribe locally that can possibly help with the ceremonial aspect of taking the trees down and any other aspects of building a Pacific Northwest Native canoe (not like the one Lewis and Clark brought down the Columbia:rolleyes:). I am curious as to the minimum size required to build a functioning canoe. Our property floods every winter and I like to take the kids out on our lake. If anyone has any Pacific Northwest connections, please let me know! Thanks!

Dan Miller

cranky canoeist
Staff member
Try contacting the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle - when I was there a few years ago, they had an artisan building a dugout on their campus.


Curious about Wooden Canoes
Thanks Dan!

That was the ticket! I spoke with their native carver and he is happy to come down and help. He has worked with Waldorf schools in the past. So very excited to find such a great resource not only in the Seattle boating community, but also here at WCHA! I appreciate you all here very much. I am in the beginnings of exposing the children to canoe restoration and paddle makings as well as canoeing on our school property when it floods every winter. For information about the school here is our web page.


Thanks again Dan. I will let you know how it goes.

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