What Are the Best Tips for Building a Canoe?

Dan Cavallari

There are two general ways to go about building a canoe: the builder can either buy a canoe kit or build the canoe from scratch. The planning phase of the process should be done before any materials are purchased; the builder will need to research the different techniques for building a canoe, and the tools necessary to complete the job. Investing in the tools is one option, but if the builder intends to only use the tools for this project, he might consider renting or borrowing the tools instead.

Builders of traditional canoes often prefer to make hulls out of stretched animal skins or soft wood planks.
Builders of traditional canoes often prefer to make hulls out of stretched animal skins or soft wood planks.

The builder will need to have an open, well-lit workshop in which to operate when building a canoe. This space should have plenty of room to allow the builder to move around the canoe at all times, and a workbench on which tools can be stored safely. It is very likely that a jig will be necessary when building a canoe; it is possible to buy prefabricated jigs, though it may be less expensive and more efficient to build the jigs from scratch to accommodate the specific size and shape of the canoe being built.

Once the tools are all assembled and the workspace is prepped for the job, the builder will need to decide what materials he or she wants to use to make the canoe. Building a canoe from wood will take a bit of research so the right woods are bought; metal canoes will require a different set of tools as well as a different set of skills; and fiberglass canoes will require special machinery, adequate ventilation, and the proper safety equipment. Most canoe builders work with wood, since it is the most traditional material choice and the easiest material to work with.

One of the most important steps in building a canoe is ensuring all seams are sealed to prevent water from entering the canoe. Be sure to research the different methods for sealing any seams, and choose the best one for your purposes. Epoxies and glues are common ways to do this sealing, but other methods can be used as well without the use of chemicals or glues. Some traditional canoes made from seal skins were sewn in such a way that the interior of the canoe was mostly watertight; if the builder plans on building the canoe using fabric, he or she may want to research such sewing techniques.

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