This is my journey through my first canoe build. I have learned a great deal about the history of canoes, canoe crafting, and boatbuilding as a whole. The plans for this canoe were purchased from Dreamcatcher Boats, I encourage anyone that wants to complete this project to purchase their plans from them, to complete the project the right way.

Purchased, printed and notebook plans

STUDY PLANS
After purchasing any large project like this, it is always encouraged for anyone to study the plans. During this phase I spent time studying the building process that Dreamcatcher Boats used, along with other designer/builders of skin-on-frame canoes and kayaks. By doing so I was able to make notes on how I wanted to complete the building process. This helped greatly as I went through the building process, especially I since while making the notes I headed them with particular build phases. I would occasionally refer back to my notes to see what was next, what to expect, or what size of drill bit to use. I also am a large fan of documenting builds in case I decide to build the same project again, or if someone I know wants to build it as well I can refer back to my notes and see what I might have observed along the way. I will include those notes in as I go, so don’t worry you wont have to make the same notes I did.

I also used adobe software to blow the plans up so that they could be used later in the frame building process. I found later that in the plans section they have published larger plans already, but by the time that I found it, it was too late.

Base of the strongback
Base of the strongback

 

BUILD STRONGBACK
Supplies:

(2) 16″Wx8’Lx5/8″D particle board
(2) 2″x4″x8′ Pine/Construction Grade (optional)
1.5″ Screws
Scrap 1″ thick wood
Carbon paper
Tools:

Jigsaw
Bandsaw (optional)
Cordless/Corded Drill

I started by framing up the strongback base with the 2×4’s on each side of one of the pieces of particle board, this is an optional step but I would recommend it, it makes the strongback stronger and stiffens up the base.

I then transferred the frame shapes from the plans to other particle board. After doing so they were cut out with a jigsaw, and then finished up with a bandsaw.

Carbon paper was used to transfer the outline of the forms from the plans
Carbon paper was used to transfer the outline of the forms from the plans
Outlined out after using the carbon paper
Outlined out after using the carbon paper

After the frames were built, they were placed on the base with spacing according to the plans. The frames were then stiffened by making some 90 degree braces out of some scrap cedar I had in the shop. This helped keep all of the frames vertical and centered.

Over half of the strongback mocked up
Over half of the strongback mocked up
Close up of how I attached the forms to the strongback
Close up of how I attached the forms to the strongback

CUT STEMS
Supplies:

2’x2’x.5″ Birch Plywood
1″ Screws
Carbon paper

Tools:

Jigsaw or Bandsaw
Cordless/Corded Drill
Clamp

How the stem was mocked up to the strongback and Form 1
How the stem was mocked up to the strongback and Form 1

Just as I did with the frames, I used carbon paper to transfer the shape of the stems to the birch plywood. After doing so I cut them out using my bandsaw, but this could also be completed by using a jigsaw.

The stems were clamped to the temporary jig that is offset the distance of the thickness of the stem. This will continue to be this way until the stringers are trimmed, pegged, and lashed.

I wanted to see the lines of the canoe, so I clamped up a line from end-to-end
I wanted to see the lines of the canoe, so I clamped up a line from end-to-end

RIP STRINGERS, RIBS AND FLOOR
Supplies:

2″x6″x12′ Dimensional pine lumber
Scrap 4’L Mahogany (optional for the floor)
Tools:

Tablesaw
The cut list, is listed on the plans, but the planning part of using dimensional lumber made it a bit difficult, but with some help I almost had enough wood for two canoes. It also helps if you have someone help you, when ripping 12′ boards at thicknesses as little as 3/8″ without an outfeed table and feather boards, Im not sure how you would be able to accomplish it.

PLACE KEELSON AND STRINGERS / LASH KEELSON AND STEMS

Supplies:

ZipTies
Artificial Sinew
ZipTies
Clamp (x2)
Tools:

Cordless/Corded Drill

First I started with the Keelson. I placed it into its position on top of the molds and worked my way down each side. As I did, I ZipTied them into place using the holes already placed in the stongback molds
Now that the Keelson is in place and the lined up with the stem that were already in place, I drilled holes in each one of them. I then laced them together in a crisscross pattern. After tying each end off the stem was not secured to the Keelson. After each were secured I released the clamp to allow the Keelson to form the way it wanted, neither moved so I was pretty happy.

Before working on the stringers I lashed the Keel to both stems
Before working on the stringers I lashed the Keelson to both stems

 

Starting to look like the shape of a canoe
Starting to look like the shape of a canoe
Just need to let the stringers hang over the ends of the stems, I tried to alternate them but it really doesn't matter
Just need to let the stringers hang over the ends of the stems, I tried to alternate them but it really doesn’t matter

 

A few of the supplies used to build a steam box
A few of the supplies used to build a steam box

BUILD A STEAM BOX
Supplies:

Tea Kettle
Hot Plate
Duct Tape
PVC pipe (3″ diameter)
Water
Tools:

Hacksaw


I had to build a steam bender in order to bend the ribs. The build was quick and easy. I picked up a tea kettle at Goodwill and the rest of the parts at the hardware store. First is to break off the “whistle” part of the kettle. Fill up the kettle with water and get that on the hotplate so it starts warming up.

I used a chop saw to cut the pipe to length
I used a chop saw to cut the pipe to length

As the kettle is starting to get to a boil, I took the PVC and cut it to a manageable length. After I had the length figured out I duct taped one end. It is now time to steam up the ribs.

STEAM BEND RIBS

VIDEO++++

The rib wood planks were placed into the PVC at about 3 each time. I let them sit for a few minutes and then took them out with some gloves. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GLOVES ON IT IS HOT!

VIDEO++++

PLACE RIBS
After I took the ribs from the steamer I put them on the outside of the stringers. This gets them into a general shape and allows me to move quickly while the steamer is up and going. Later after all were bent and temporarily placed, I started back at the beginning and put them in their position ZipTying to each stringer but starting with the Keelson first.

Ribs all placed on the outside of the stringers just to get the initial bend, they are moved to the inside shortly after they are all bent
Ribs all placed on the outside of the stringers just to get the initial bend, they are moved to the inside shortly after they are all bent

LASH STRINGERS TO RIBS

Supplies:
Artificial Sinew

Tools:
Glove

Working from the Keelson I moved my way down to almost to the gunwale I lashed each crossing of the ribs and stringers.

Lashing the stringers to the ribs
Lashing the stringers to the ribs

NOTE: After I did a few joints I quickly realized I needed to wear a glove on my right hand to it would protect it so that I could tighten each joint tight as possible.

TRIM, PEG AND LASH STRINGERS TO THE STEMS
Supplies:

Pegs (Bamboo Skewers)
Artificial Sinew
Bow or Trim Saw

Tools:

Coordless/Corded Drill
Glove
As the Stringers and Gunwales are sitting on the stem it is time to trim them off. I first tried a bow saw but quickly moved to a trim/dovetail saw the better rigity allowed it to line up the proper cuts.

After the all of them were trimmed they were drilled and pegged. I used bamboo skewers because they have straight grain and they are cheap. As you can see in one of the photos I had an issue after trying to pound in the first skewer. What happened was that I did not have proper hold/backer so as I was hitting the peg it was going through the gunwale but would sit in between it and the stem. To solve this I used a weight in one hand hold it ‘behind’ the stem and the other pounded the peg in. This method proved effective on the entire build.

After everything was pegged and lashed on each stem I started in the middle of the boat and worked my way to each end lashing each joint. I started off trying to figure out a method to keep them all uniform but I could never remember what I was suppose to do so I just shot from the hip and continued on.

A look at all of them pegged and glued
A look at all of them pegged and glued

After pegging and gluing them each of them were lashed as well.

REMOVE THE FRAME FROM THE STRONGBACK
Tools:

Wire Cutters


With every joint lashed I started to cut off all of the ZipTies. As the boat releases from the strongback it changes shape a bit but let it go. You can go back after and convince the joints to realign in a linear fashion.

Also it is necessary to sit in it to get the feel and reaffirm the motivation to finish what you’ve started.

BUILD A CRADLE

As you can see I did this after I mocked up the floor but I would suggest doing it prior to.
As you can see I did this after I mocked up the floor but I would suggest doing it prior to.

MOCK UP THE FLOOR
After setting up a cradle of 2×4’s that were screwed to a set of saw horses it is time for me to mock up the floor. I laid out each place trading them in their perspective spot playing with the way I wanted the floor to look. After I had the look that I wanted I ZipTies each piece into place. As you can see in the one photo though I alternated the location of the ZipTies because when I lash them, it will make the process easier.

TRIM, PEG AND LASH RIBS TO GUNWALES
Supplies:

Pegs (Bamboo Skewers)
Artificial Sinew
Bow or Trim Saw
Artificial Sinew
Tools:

Coordless/Corded Drill
Glove


Just as the Stringers and Gunwales were trimmed and pegged at the stem, the same process happens to the ribs at the Gunwales. One exception is that I cross the lashing with the grain, this way there is not a strain on the holes they are lashed through.

LASH THE FLOOR

Supplies:

Artificial Sinew
Tools

Glove


Somehow I made it thought the whole project without taking a picture of me doing the floor. This step is completed just as the other lashings. Put on your glove and methodically work your way from one side to the other.

CUT, FIT AND LASH BREAST HOOKS
Supplies:

Plywood
Painters Tape
Artificial Sinew
Tools:

Bandsaw
Coordless/Corded Drill
Glove
Ruler

I used a cheese box lid to create the arc in the breastplate
I used a cheese box lid to create the arc in the breastplate
Using tape to keep lines straight without marking on the wood. The best part about using this technique is that you do not have to sand afterwards
Using tape to keep lines straight without marking on the wood. The best part about using this technique is that you do not have to sand afterwards

POLY EVERYTHING
Supplies:

Rag(s)
Tarp
Optional: Pot and some hot water
Tools:

Paint Brush
On a chilly day in my ventilated garage I started to poly everything. One thing I did not do that I recommend is to lay a tarp on the ground. There will definitely be drips and you do not want to clean it off of the floor, trust me. There isnt really any magic to this step except follow the directions on the manufacturers container. For instance it was a cold day when I started mine so I had to continually use hot water to keep my poly from gelling up.

ADD THE SKIN
Supplies:

Dacron
Nylon Thread
Tools:

Heat Gun/Iron
Stapler
Upholstery Needle

Starting at the Keelson working towards the top of the stem the seem was sewn

Using 1x2's as stand ins while doing all dacron work
Using 1×2’s as stand ins while doing all dacron work

ADMIRING MY WORK

During the entire process it was amazing to watch all of the lines and shapes appear from each piece of the puzzle. However nothing came close to the time she went outside for a photo op., it was awesome!

FINISH THE GUNWALE

Many months later I was able to complete the new dowel crossbeams and the outer gunwale. Unfortunately this is where I had to use screws. Had I thought about it before hand I would have tried only completing the doweling and lashing of the inner by doing every other. Then when it was time for the outer I would have completed the opposite ones allowing for even less mechanical fasteners.

POLY THE SKIN

Supplies:

Rag(s)
Tarp
Optional: Pot and some hot water
Tools:

Paint Brush

Working from middle to each end I used a paint brush to spread the Poly around. This process from start to finish took about 10 hours. The first coat was put on in the morning and the last in the evening. I allowed around 3 hours between each coat.

ADMIRING THE COMPLETED CANOE

After letting the canoe sit for a few days allowing for complete curing it was time for the final picture and weight. I understand its never polite to ask woman what she weighs but this beauty comes in at 27 lbs, not too shabby, and she has some pretty lines as well.

Thanks for checking out my Skin-On-Frame Canoe build. Make sure you check out some more of my projects..