What Is a Strip-Built Boat?

Dan Cavallari

A strip-built boat is a vessel constructed from numerous thin pieces of wood laid across a temporary form that holds the strips in place. The strips are glued together as they are laid over the forms and they are set to dry until they are cured completely. The strips are secured to the forms using nails or staples, and once the strips have cured, the staples or nails can be removed; the strips will retain the shape of the form once they have set. Most strip-built boats are quite small — canoes and kayaks are commonly built this way — though the technique can be adapted for building larger boats as well.

Various Native American tribes used strips of wood to create the hulls of canoes and kayaks.
Various Native American tribes used strips of wood to create the hulls of canoes and kayaks.

The process of building a strip-built boat is labor-intensive and will often take much more time than other boatbuilding techniques. The finished product, however, is exceptionally beautiful and quite durable, and building a strip-built boat is not an exceptionally difficult process when compared to other boatbuilding techniques. Plenty of space in a workshop will be necessary, as the forms must be laid out on a work surface to mimic the overall length and shape of the finished boat. The builder will need to be able to move around the work surface freely during the process as well.

Once the strips are all laid out, end glued, and nailed or stapled to the forms, the glue can cure to give the boat its structure. The staples or nails are then removed and the surface of the hull can be sanded or otherwise finished. A layer of fiberglass cloth is then laid over the hull; this finish will help keep the hull watertight and will add durability to the wood as well. The fiberglass will also need to be sanded down to a smooth finish. This process essentially concludes the strip-built process, though other finishing projects must take place afterward.

One the fiberglass is sanded and finished, the boat can be removed from the forms and turned over. Additional features of the boat, such as seats, gunwales, and thwarts can be added to the interior, but only after the interior of the boat has similarly been reinforced with fiberglass and sanded to a finish. This process can take quite a while, as the fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin will need to dry completely before being sanded. Fumes from this process can also be hazardous to one's health, so proper precautions will need to be taken for ventilation.

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