see it clearly

One of the most interesting boats to build, and one of the safest and most serviceable when properly handled is the canoe. To construct a strong, safe canoe is not difficult if adequate directions are followed. It is the purpose of this chapter to tell you in detail how to work and what materials to buy. It is written for the average boy who has only a hammer and saw and plane to work with and but a few dollars to spend on pleasure craft.


Materials Needed:

  • Base (Temporary) -- One piece, 14' x 4" x 2" pine.
  • Stem Pieces -- Four pieces, 50" x 1 3/4" x 1" oak.
  • Gunwales -- Two pieces, 16' x 1" x 1" oak.
  • Side Strips (Temporary) -- Four pieces, 16' x 1" x 1" oak.
  • Ribs -- 190', 1 1/2' x 3/8" ash, elm, hickory, or cypress.
  • Planking -- 275', 2" x 1/4" x 3/16" cypress.
  • Keel -- One piece, 14' x 3" x 1/2" oak.
  • Seat Raisers -- Two pieces, 14' x 1" x 1" oak.
  • Seats -- Ten feet, 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" oak.
  • Thwart -- One piece, 31" x 3" x 3/8" oak.
  • Fenderwale -- Six pieces, 16' x 1 1/8" x 1 1/4" cypress.
  • Deck -- Two pieces, 12" x 6" x 1/2" cypress.
  • Canvas -- 28" wide by 18' long.
  • Paddle, Sail, and Leeboards -- Dimensions given on cuts.
  • Paint -- Two gallons.

It will occur to you at once that the hardest part of boat construction is the shaping. Anyone could build a long box, but how are we going to accomplish the graceful curving of the sides and the neat tapering of the ends? We must build forms or molds for this purpose, and the strips to be bent must be pliable and softened by immersion in boiling water or steam for hours.

The very first thing to do is to set up a heavy plank on two strong trestles. It is marked Z in Fig. 1, Plate 1. Mark the center and a line four feet each side of the center. Then make one mold or form like A and two like B. Figure 2 shows exact dimensions for one-half of mold A, Fig. 3 is one-half of B. When you have the molds completed, set the big one A on the center line of the plank and nail it securely; the two smaller ones B are fastened to the four-foot lines you have drawn. We now fasten to each end of the plank the curved piece shown by Fig. 5. The exact curvature of this 50-inch oak or ash strip is indicated by the figures. It is shaped by being softened and bound to a form as shown for several days. The first two long strips or gunwales W are screwed to the stem and stern pieces and to the molds. Next temporarily fasten the pair X and the pair Y. The work so far described is by far the most difficult to do. When complete the skeleton of the canoe will look like Fig. 1 in Plate 1. The joint and shape at the ends of those long strips is shown by Fig. 7.

The putting in of the ribs is our next concern. They should be green elm, hickory, or ash, three-eights inch thick and one and one-half inches wide, and long enough to make the curve from gunwale to gunwale. The center or longest one is the first to be put in, as R in Fig. 6 shows. It goes outside of X and Y and inside the gunwales W. The ribs are placed one inch apart and are fastened with galvanized nails. The boiling or softening of the ribs may be done by making a steamtight box as in Fig. 2, Plate 2. The opening in the top is set over a vessel of boiling water and the ribs are placed in through the open end. In this way one burner on a gas stove may be made to keep the box full of steam. After a night's immersion in the hot vapor the ribs can be bent without fear of breaking or cracking. When the ribs are well set after being in place two days, remove X and Y. Figure 3 is an iron pipe four inches in diameter, with one closed end driven into the ground at the angle indicated. It is filled with water and a bonfire built under it. Strips may be placed inside the pipe, and by maintaining a hot fire you have a fairly satisfactory apparatus for steaming the ribs.

We now remove the plank and substitute a strip two inches wide and one inch thick, and long enough to run along the bottom of the canoe, being fastened to the curved stem and stern piece. The framework of the canoe being completed, we proceed to cover it either with canvas or planking or both. The planking process is shown by Fig. 1 in Plate 2. The material used is cypress, three inches wide and one-quarter inch thick. It is shaped like the siding or clap boards used on houses and one board overlaps the other. Begin at the center and work to the sides. Clout nails are used. They are clinched on the inner side as shown in Fig. 5. The joint used in fastening the long bottom piece to the stem and stern is shown in Fig. 4. If you wish to use canvas as a covering, observe Fig. 1 on Plate 3. The canvas should be extra heavy and may be used without the planking; that is, it may be nailed directly on the skeleton, as it appears in Fig. 1, Plate 2.

Lay your wide strip of canvas on the framework and tack the center line to the center line of the canoe bottom strip. Use copper or galvanized tacks. Stretch it as you go, leaving no wrinkles or fullness. At the ends it will have to be cut with a shears and lapped over two inches, the surplus being snipped off and thrown away. A coating of glue may be put on the canvas to shrink it and fill up the meshes, but it is of no use unless it is afterward covered with three good coats of paint, inside and outside. The deck shown by Fig. 3, Plate 3, is now put in and a thin strip of molding nailed along the edge of the canvas to the gunwales, also an outer stem and stern strip A. A long two-inch board or keel is nailed to the bottom outside the canvas to prevent injury to same when the boat scrapes the bottom. Fig. 8 shows the floor; Fig. 7 is a sectional view of the same. A picture of the seat is marked Fig. 2; C is one of the inside strips to support the same. Fig. 6 is a brace used in the center of the boat. Notice it under the sail in the complete sketch. The boat is now entirely finished. It may be varnished on the inside to look like light oak.

To keep the water from running down to the hands a rubber washer or wrapping of cord may be used. Fig. 4 shows size and shape of leeboards, which extend down over the sides of the boat into the water. Fig. 5 is a view of same. Fig. 6 shows how the leeboard device is clamped to the boat at the point X. The whole thing, including sail, may be lifted off or added to any canoe. Fig. 2 is the sail plan, Fig. 3 a home-made cleat for swinging it. The base of the mast rests in the block (Fig. 9) and passes through the strap (Fig. 8), which is made from a heavy tub hoop.

This about finishes the canoe equipment. If you follow instructions you will have a good, serviceable boat.