How to Build a Canoe With Power Options

How to build a canoe with power options. Part two of "How to Build a Still-Water Canoe" shares step-by-step instructions and diagrams for powering a canoe with wind (sail), motor or muscle (paddle).

| August/September 1997

Part two of "How to Build a Still-Water Canoe" explains how to build a canoe with power options. (See the canoe diagrams in the image gallery.)

How to build a canoe with power options. The Puddle Duck canoe is designed to be muscle-powered with a kayak-type twin-bladed paddle. You can buy one in plastic or (for more money) in wood. The illustration shows such a paddle you can make for about $3 worth of 1/8-inch to 3/8-inch plywood and a length of clotheshanger hardwood dowel from the hardware store. The WoodenBoat Store sells a two-part stainless-steel ferrule you can install in mid-shaft so that the paddle can be split in half for easier transport and storage.

Design your paddle to suit the arm length and strength of the paddler. A 6-foot length is good for small kids. An 8-foot to 9-foot total length from blade-tip to blade-tip gives an adult more purchase.

Easiest to use is a paddle with both blades set in the same plane. You just reach forward and dip one paddle in, pull that arm back, dip the other in, pull back and so on. More sophisticated is to arrange blades at 90-degree angles to one another. Here you must feather each blade: dip one in, pull back, drop hand at wrist to feather the blade to a horizontal position while flip ping it back and out of the water . . . which sets the opposing blade at an angle to dip in . . . and so on.

Make single paddles of 4-foot to 6-foot length the same way. You'll need a palm-grip at the end. Easiest is to epoxy a 4-inch length of dowel into a blade-parallel groove cut in the top end of the shaft with a rasp and sandpaper wrapped around a length of dowel. Carve or sand the "cross-T" to shape your hand. You can drill through the "T" and into the shaft and insert a long screw for extra good measure if you don't quite trust epoxy alone.

Before attaching blade to shaft, plane and sand 8 feet of the paddle-end of the shafts to taper gradually to half their thickness. Round the tips.

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