What I've been up to...

Dan Miller

cranky canoeist
Staff member
It's not a canoe, but it is a place where canoes will be born and reborn... and it was created entirely with hand tools. The only electricity used was to power the XM radio...


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That's a real beauty in itself, Dan! How about some detail (joinery) photos? What is the footprint? And do you plan to have a second story, an open loft, or completely open high ceiling on the one side?

Nice work!
Happy to oblige with more photos...

The footprint is 20x24, with the section under the high-peaked roof being 20x14 and under the lean-to 10x20. It's purposely designed for small canoe projects, though there is other space (the garage) for larger projects, and there is also the potential to easily expand the "main" room to 14x30 and even another 10' leanto on the other side, should I decide to do that in the future... The main section will have a loft floor with gable end door - for scale, the outer (shorter) gable studs are 6' so there is a lot of usable space upstairs. The leanto attic space will be storage space.

Here are some closer photos of the joinery.


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Wow Dan, that looks great! Isn't there supposed to be a fir branch or tree on the ridge pole during construction for good luck?

Frame material?

What is the timber, and where did you get it? And I assume you had the traditional party to raise it?
Don in Vermont
We did put up a white pine bough after these photos were taken - didn't want to move ladders twice...

Don, the timbers are all white pine (except the sills are all-heart white oak), and came from a local fellow who runs a WoodMizer bandsaw mill. It is much easier to hand plane the surfaces of timbers that come off a band saw mill than come off a circular saw mill (which we've also done in the past). Lunch was indeed served to all the soaking wet folks who helped on raising day.
As one of the "soaking wet" crew - I have to say this was great fun. It is amazing how easy the structure went up when the joints were properly cut and aligned! A few hands helped with the heavy liftin' and peg poundin' but the craftmanship was all Dan's.
Once again, nice to see som real 'traditional' wood work. Looks ready to stand for a few centuries.
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Prior to getting involved with wooden canoes, I spent about 15 years volunteering restoring old cabins, so I have some idea of the effort and skill that went onto her. She's a real beauty, and a wonderfully appropriate home for your projects. I bow in your direction--well done.
dan, that looks great! my first thought though was that sure looks small for canoe building. i asssume you have another area for canoe storage?

That's a truely spectacular structure. The hand work is magnificent! I'm curious as to how many hours went into the preparation for the raising and what kind of hand plane you used on those timbers. The finish on them looks perfect. The structure is so striking, it's almost a shame to cover it up with siding.

Bob, it is intentionally on the small side, to force me to concentrate on my primary interests - lapstrake canoes, 15' and smaller... I do have a barn for storing canoes, as well as a two car garage with substantial loft. So, I do not have to store any canoes or lumber in the new shop. Also, the tablesaw and other large stationary tools will live in the garage. Only the bandsaw and lathe are likely to make the move. I can also do larger projects in the (unheated) garage...

Andy, I didn't keep track of my hours, unfortunately (I was supposed to). It was pretty much 2 months of solid work to plane the timbers and cut the joinery, and also build the stone foundation. I used a run-of-the-mill Stanley number 5-1/2 jack plane to smooth the surfaces, and a drawknife with a chamfer gage fixed to the blade to cut the chamfers. It might look good in the photos, but they aren't perfect. I had to keep reminding myself that it "is just a workshop"...


They may not look perfect to you, but I'll bet can't see the rough edges from a trott'n horse! Besides, it's those imperfections which say loud and clear "lovingly done by hand!"
C'mon, not imperfections...they're 'Beauty Marks'...

I remember an old hotel w/ exposed beams. Building went back to the early 1800's and the broad axe marks really made the timbers look special...You could really appreciate the fact that they were shaped by hand from round logs...
Built to last!


Thanks for preserving some of the craftsmanship of the past...and doing a GREAT job. Your canoe shop is right out of the Eric Sloan books. Here's a shot of my kitchen ceiling and the construction methods used 179 years ago that has stood the test of time waiting for the next millenium. If they had used MDO, plywood or OSB do you think the same results could be had?

What do you think the canoe shop will be 100+ years from now?

Again, GREAT work.

Ric Altfather


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Dave: the foundation is dry-laid bluestone. We live on a fairly good gravel bank, so all the local stone is round cobbles and the like, so we had to have this trucked in...The sills simply set on top of the stone, gravity does the rest.

Ric: looks like the fellow that hewed your timbers was right-handed... My house has timbered hewn by a right-hander as well, but my folks next door was done by a leftie...I've tried hewing a little, its a lot of work. Despite my proclivity for hand tools, I really do appreciate the WoodMizer...

What do you think the canoe shop will be 100+ years from now?

it'll probably be where the next schmuck who buys this place parks his garden tractor... either that or a chicken coop.