Building a Cedar Strip Canoe

Building a cedar strip canoe necessitates a great deal of labor and love, including stripping the boat from scratch, building the strongback, stripping the boat, sanding, fiberglassing and adding trim to the boat.

| July/August 1982

Building a cedar strip canoe 1

1] Formers go on.


MOM's boatmaker learned that labor and love are required when one tackles the task of building a cedar strip canoe. 

"I do not recall ever seeing a properly designed boat that was not also a beautiful boat. Purity of line, loveliness, symmetry—these arrive mysteriously whenever someone who knows and cares creates something that is perfectly fitted to its work . . . Nobody styled the orb web of a spider, nobody styled the . . . canoe. Both are beautiful, and for a common reason: each was designed to perform a special task under special conditions."
— E.B. White  

A good canoe, cleanly cleaving a glassy lake or haystack wave as it transports its passengers in silence and harmony with the outdoors, has a functional beauty that's unsurpassed by any other of the tools that connect humanity with the natural world. And surely the finest examples of such a craft's ability to combine utility and loveliness are found in handmade wooden canoes. While the boats may not withstand the mishandling that aluminum or plastic vessels can tolerate, their fluid grace sometimes lets them seem almost a part of the water . . . and, if treated with care, they can prove surprisingly durable.

In this day and age, though, the beautiful canoes—at over $1,600 apiece—are pretty damned expensive! The folks at MOTHER hated to think that less-than-wealthy paddlers would be limited to dreaming about such elegant craft, so we set about learning what it's like to build a wooden canoe. We selected the strip construction technique (which produces a boat consisting of long, thin wooden slats that are fiberglassed—inside and out—for extra strength), since it's the best method for novice boatbuilders to attempt. And to make matters easier still, we decided to work from a quality kit manufactured by the very reputable Old Town Canoe Company when building a cedar strip canoe.

bob ringler
1/3/2013 2:41:44 AM

I have built a total of 6 canoes based on Hazen's design and book. I was able to use recycled cedar decking AI salvaged from a carpentry job. It is well seasoned and occasionally when ripping, I would run across a screw hole that displayed the screw threads. Gives testament to the extent that frugality can become part of the process. It is quite believable that Mr. Webb put 160 hours into a canoe. A lot depends on your tolerance for slight imperfections versus the perfect sanding/glassing job.