Build a Small Open Canoe

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To develop the canoe that would become NeoBoat, Igor bought a strip-planked canoe from Canada and, after testing it and feeling impressed by its strength and steadiness, ordered technical blueprints online so he could build his own version of the craft. Aiming to create a boat that looked beautiful as well as handling beautifully, Igor began hand building NeoBoats with his son. The pair use highest-grade tropical wood, including sapele, merbau and meranti, as well as oak and ash.

Following the Canadian blueprint, the boats are built using carvel construction, with thin strips of wood selected to reduce the need for manual shaping commonly referred to as strip plank construction. In total, building the boats usually takes between and hours. They are consistent and predictable and give me everything I need for coating and bonding: no other material could do this job for me. The wires only served as temporary clamps to hold everything together until I could get some glue on it. At this point all that is holding everything together is the small CA glue spot-welds.

The boat can be safely lifted and moved around, but is still a bit fragile. A sharp knock could break the spot-welds.


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The sharp angle joints I have between the panels at this point are inherently a bit weak. This makes them more susceptible to breakage. What I need to do is somehow make a rounded transition between the panels. By squeezing a bead of schmutz into a seam and shaping it with a rounded object like a plastic spoon, I make a smooth structural fillet between the two pieces that transitions forces smoothly between the pieces.

Wood flour is fine grade of sawdust similar to sanding dust, but you could actually use bread flour. I first mix up a batch of epoxy before adding the wood flour.

Quick Canoe

The best way I have found to distribute this schmutz into the seam is to scoop a batch into a 1 gallon ziplock bag, then cut one corner off the bag. This can then be used like a cake piping bag to inject a bead of the gunk along the seam. The radius of the back of the spoon does a nice job of forming a smooth fillet.

I try to drag the full length of the seam in one go, starting and stopping only makes a mess. I clean up any excess that got squeezed out with a plastic squeegee and recycled it back into my mixing container to be added back into the ziplock bag as needed. The fine ends of the hull are hard to reach with the spoon, so I just dragged my glove covered finger up the seam. I repeated the dispensing and spooning process on the deck seams. While the fillet was still wet I draped 4oz fiberglass cloth into the interior.

It is desirable to lay the glass in while the dookie schmutz in the seams is still wet as this avoids the need to do any sanding after the fillet cures, but since the glop is still soft, I need to be careful not to poke at it and mess up the fillets.

The secret to getting smooth layup on the interior is to get the cloth lying smoothly before adding any epoxy. Any bunching or wrinkles existing in the dry cloth are even harder to get out when there is sticky epoxy everywhere. I used a dry chip brush to smooth out the wrinkles.

I mixed up about 8oz of epoxy. Epoxy needs to be thoroughly mixed in order to cure properly.

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Canoe Plans

Once it is mixed it starts to cure. Since it is an exothermic reaction, it will put off heat. If mixed epoxy is filling up a large container the heat it generates will accelerate the cure, which means more heat, which means more acceleration. By mixing small batches and using them quickly, I eliminate the chance of a run away reaction.

Once the epoxy is spread out into a thin film, the cure slows down substantially so I had time to work. I just pour the mixed resin directly in the bottom of the kayak. I first bring some up the sides on both sides and then start working down the length. I attempt to maintain a straight, uniform front of epoxy moving from the middle of the boat towards the ends. Any remaining wrinkles get pulled from the wet epoxy towards the dry areas of cloth where they are easily disbursed.

When the first batch of epoxy had been fully distributed I slit the glass near the ends so it would conform into the stems. I trimmed it so there was a bit of overlap on either side of the stems. I mixed up another small batch of epoxy and instead of just doing the dump-and-spread distribution, I used a chip brush to apply dollops of resin onto the fiberglass, then used the squeegee to further spread the resin. I needed to be a bit careful brushing the epoxy on to the trimmed glass at the end.

Overworking the raw edge may dislodge strands and cause a tangle. After fully saturating the fiberglass, there is almost always a bit more resin in the cloth than I need. This excess just adds weight without improving strength. I scraped off the excess into a grunge cup made from a paper cup with a slit on the top edge.

I then ran the blade of the squeegee through the cup to remove the resin. This looks like a bubble of trapped air over the fillet. Since this is just a sign that there is insufficient fabric to lay down on the fillet, the solution is to just push more cloth down the side with a brush until the bridging cloth conforms to the fillet again.

If I had tried jamming a squeegee down into the bridge, I would have only messed up the still soft fillet and the bridge would quickly reappear. Bridges like this are almost inevitable on the interior of a kayak, and by basically ignoring them until near the end of the epoxying process, I am able to move quickly and then rectify the problem just once instead of fighting them every time they appear.

When I finished the hull, I propped a few sticks across the top to hold it at the right width while it cured. As soon as I finished the hull, I moved onto the deck. The whole process of filleting through fiberglassing took about an hour. I left it to cure over night. The next day I attached the deck to the hull.

I started by just strapping the deck down with filament style packing tape. I stuck the tape to the deck, then pulled it tight down onto the hull, aligning the edge of the deck with the top of the hull. I end up with tape pieces every 6 inches or so. Once the deck was securely positioned, I ran a strip of masking tape down the length of the seam to seal it up. I was careful not to allow too many wrinkles in this strip as they could cause a mess later. I laid this strip of tape down on sheet of waxed paper and slathered on some mixed epoxy with a chip brush to completely saturate the strip.

I also brushed some epoxy on the lower seam between the deck and hull on the inside of the boat. Then it was just a matter of unrolling the tape on to the seam. Using the chip-brush I worked the tape down into the corner between the deck and hull, smoothing out any wrinkles or bubbles. Each side took about 20 minutes with a few hours break in between.

The next day when the epoxy had cured, I stripped off the masking and packing tape. At this point the long seams between all the panels were fairly sharp. Fiberglass does not wrap around sharp angles, and sharp angles are delicate and weak in the finished kayak, so they need to be rounded over.

Once I have a consistent chamfer down the full length, I knock the corners of the chamfer to create the beginnings of a round-over. A couple more passes with the plane completes the radius. The epoxy seal coat over the stain has had a chance to set up hard by now so it really should be scuffed up with grit sandpaper to take the gloss off. At the same time as I sanded all the flat surfaces, I tuned up the round overs at the corners. Because the planing and sanding cut into fresh wood and removed the stain, I used a cotton swab as a brush to touch up the bare wood with stain.

Again, I keep the swab wet and move quickly to get a nice even coverage. The next step was glassing the outside of the hull. To keep drips under control I ran some masking tape on the deck following the sheer line and then turned the boat upside down. Laying glass on the outside is easier than the inside, you can just roll it out and then brush down the wrinkles. When I reached the ends of the kayak the cloth needed some trimming to fit the stems. I was then able to gently lift the cloth off one side, wrap the excess from the other side around the stem and the lay the lifted side back down before wrapping it around to the far side.

This left a little tuft of strands sticking up at the knuckle, but there is really no way around it. Once the fabric was fully wet out, I came back with a squeegee to scrape off the excess like I did on the interior. When the epoxy had dried to the touch I came back and trimmed off the excess glass along the sheer using a utility knife. This produces a lightweight canoe, still easily carried on the shoulder but with that extra room to carry more kit.

The drawings show the same sit down seating position with swiveling backrest as the Little Kate but positions for 2 fixed seats for a lightweight crew have also been shown and she could be fitted out with both configurations.

How to build a traditional canoe paddle

Dry Weight 35lbs She has a similar hull shape with a flat but rockered bottom hull panel and two chines per side. This makes her construction quick and simple and gives her a very stable hull shape. She uses 3 sheets of 4, 5 or 6mm plywood exterior or marine and depending upon the thickness of ply used, will weight around 48 lbs. The Baby Wren canoe has one seat but she could take two if she is to be used by a couple of children. Dry Weight 46lbs 21kg Approx.

Dry Weight 48lbs 22kg Approx. She can take 2 adults plus camping gear and uses the same simple stitch and tape construction process. Again, stowage and buoyancy is built into the bow and stern. The pictures show a nice example by Andrea Bugarelli. Dry Weight 51lbs 23kg Approx. Left is an example by Warren Botha.

Step 1: Buy Some Plywood

Dry Weight 50lbs Being wider than the typical Canadian canoe of this length, she is a very roomy stable craft with the capability to carry a good sail area and to be used to carry a lot of baggage or to fish from. The hull design has 3 chines allowing a wide bodied design for stability whilst at the same time having a low water surface area. Below is an example by Andy Twort. Right and below is an example by Jon Stratford Right is a lovely example by Maurizio Rafanelli - the decks and seats add a touch of individuality to her. Waterman 13 Particulars LOA 13' 3. Dry Weight 52lbs Note - see also 14'x39" version below.

Left is the first example by A. Bootz Below a lovely example of a clinker version by Mick Sanderson. Above an example stitched by R. Below, an example by George Miller stretched to 15'8". Dry Weight 55lbs 25kg Approx. New - plans to make a model of the Christine Canoe There are now plans available for a model of the original 4 plank Christine design - go to www. Christine Particulars LOA 13'9" 4. Below is another varnished example by Michael Fields. The example below is by Michel Barbier.

Right is a nice example with open gunwales by Paul Mason. Dry Weight 42lbs 19kg Approx. Woodland Particulars LOA 15' 4. Dry Weight 60lbs 27kg Approx. This gives a flatter sheer line more like a guide boat—she retains the 5 plank per side shape with tumblehome for ease in paddling and stability. The ends form tanks for stowage or buoyancy and construction uses the simple stitch and tape method. Below is an example by John Mules. Hazelnut Particulars LOA 14'6" 4.

Construction is simple stitch and tape using 4mm ply. Waterboy 10' Particulars LOA 10' 3.

Leading Canoe, Kayak & Paddle-Sport Specialist Store in the UK

The canoe can take 2 adults and more if required and is ideal for trekking with camping gear, food etc. If the stretcher is made removable, the hull would be relatively comfortable to sleep in and the design would be ideal for a simple sailing rig, rudder and leeboards or daggerboard we can supply the sail details if required from another of our designs.

Below is a beautifully made example by Evgeniy Krysko with modified Ranger floats - at her launch! Below is a nice example made by Andy Short. Over the years, the 15'8" Prospector has been cut down by those wanting a shorter version simply by cutting a piece out of the middle - this works but is not ideal and so I have drawn up this new version. She retains the 5 planks per side of her bigger sister and a similar high capacity. Dry Weight 50lbs 23kg Approx.

Capacity lbs kg Hull Shape Multi-chine with 5 planks per side and tumblehome Construction Method Stitch and tape Plywood Requirements 4 sheets of 4, 5 or 6mm Guidance Use General purpose - high capacity - 2 adults plus 2 children. This new version has been requested by a client who wanted a similar canoe, slightly shorter and with 7 planks per side rather than the 5 of the original design.

The 15' Fisher Prospector has the same beam as her bigger sister and is still a high capacity canoe suitable for 2 to 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children. The plans come with the same sail, spar, rudder and leeboard details used on the 15'8" version. Below is Michael Ewbank's 15' Prospector. Dry Weight 61lbs 28kg Approx. The Marathon series of open canoes started with the Marathon 18 which was designed as a fast long distance canoe for a crew of 2 who would use her to race and portage around locks etc - so good straight line speed and light weight were essential.

She retains the same asymmetric hull design with a fine entry and fuller sections aft to help prevent squatting.


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  6. Below is the start of Matthew Swainson's 15' Marathon. I am often asked to modify one of my stock designs to suit individual requirements and that is how the 14' Adirondack came about - this design is a development of the 12' x 39" Adirondack canoe see earlier on this page and is a roomy guide boat capable of being rowed as well as paddled.

    She could also take a rig, leeboards and rudder quite well too and the seat layout can be altered to suit. Back to Canoes Main Page. She has a length of 10' 3. Mid hull depth is 10" and she is designed for use by children or a small adult with a double paddle.

    Step 2: CAD - Cardboard Aided Design

    She can be made from a couple of sheets of 4mm ply and she weighs around 20 lbs. She is an ideal single canoe for portaging around normally inaccessible back waters. NOTE - the plans now give the plank shapes for a 32" beam version for greater carrying capacity. The example left is by Jordon Boats - www.