Northwest Canoe Company, Inc. 308 Prince Street Saint Paul, Minnesota 55101 651-229-0192


Copyright Northwest Canoe Co, Inc April 6, 2002


Table of Contents

Canoe Plans Lines and Drawings or “How to Read Lines” Strongback Drawing Station Spacing Drawing Building the Strongback Forms & Mounting Set-Up Notes Strongback Details Drawing Strongback Endview Drawing Selecting Wood Stripping StemLap Joints Beveling Strips Stripping Patterns Cleaning and Fairing the Outside Hull Notes on Stripping Glassing the Outside Glass Techniques Drawing Glassing the Inside Trimming Out Trim Placement Drawing Trim Notes Tool List Epoxy Instructions Notes

4 5 6 6 7 8 9-10 11 12 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 23 26 & 28 30 31 32 33-34 37 38-40 40-44



CANOE BUILDING Lines and drawings There are canoes for every purpose, racing, tripping, whitewater, day trips... Consider what you are going to use it for; about all the things you are going to want to do with your new boat. If you’re a person who fishes and hunts, or an incipient racer or triathlete, or a day-tripper with the partner and kids, that should affect the canoe you build. If you’re a white water paddler, get an ABS boat; it will last much longer than a stripper will. If you’re a wilderness tripper, a lightweight strip canoe, with a straight keel, a semiarched, constant flared hull, is the canoe for you. If you’re a day-tripper that carries coolers and kids on lakes and streams a more traditional designed stripper might suit you best. The best course of action is to define what your needs are, and then talk to some other canoe owners with requirements like yours and see if you can test drive their canoe. Wood strip canoes are wonderful, durable boats that can render decades of fun and envious glances. It’s going to take you somewhere between 150 and 200 hours to build your first canoe and about $700 in materials, so give some serious consideration to the style of canoe that will suit you best. How to read lines The plans for most canoes appear to contain very little information until you learn how to read them. Generally all the necessary information is contained on one sheet of paper consisting of a series of half sections and miscellaneous lines that can appear to be of doubtful origin. The drawing on page 6 shows all the necessary information to set up the forms to build a 9 Station, 17-foot canoe. Note that only 1/2 the canoe is shown because the canoe is symmetrical. [Meaning that it is evenly formed, with the back half-identical to the front half, and the left side an identical match to the right.] There are nine stations [also sometimes called forms or molds] shown, 1-9, 2-8, 37, 4-6 and 5. The profile of the stems is shown and marked with a bow and stern profile drawn to the left of the centerline. The “sheer” is the top edge of the hull ans is the line that connects the points, or ears, of the forms. Note how all the stations do not come to a 5 common point at the keel. This indicates that this canoe has slight rocker. The distance


#1-9 is moved upward on the centerline indicates the amount of rocker, in this case about one inch. The length over all [LOA] is given as 17’ and the length of the strongback as 180”, or fifteen feet. The common interval is 20". Common interval is the distance between stations (It need not be common ... in some older canoe designs the forms are not equally spaced apart) and the plans will show that. Normally the station spacing is 12” for most modern designs. In the case of this demonstration plan we used less stations and a longer common interval to simplify the drawings. The top surface of the strongback is marked on the forms drawing. When inverted and installed on the strongback, the forms will automatically assume the proper sheer line when mounted at this common line. Building the Strongback The stations are mounted on a trestle of wood called a strongback. The strongback can be built as a sandwich of 2 x 4’s or as a box beam. Either way, take your time building the strongback. The straighter you build it the fewer hassles you’ll have aligning the forms. With any of the construction steps in building a canoe remember it’s not rocket science, just take your time and be neat. You can fix anything with one notable exception.... The strongback and the forms must be neat and well constructed, for they are the matrix around which you will build your opus. If they are crooked and miss-aligned the canoe you build on them will never be fair For building a single canoe a 2 x 4 strongback is more than adequate to meet the job. You can build a box beam if weight and re-use are considerations. Refer to the drawing on page10 for construction details of a 2 x 4 strongback. The length of the canoe 7 you are building determines the length of the strongback. Refer to the plans for the

overall length and station spacing. Make the legs removable so you can store it between canoe buiding projects. Forms The forms can be made from any suitable material that will hold a staple or nail driven into its edge grain. 3/4” or 5/8" plywood is excellent. Cabinet grade hardboard is also good; chipboard or strand board is less satisfactory because they don’t hold fasteners as well when driven into their edge. Next transfer the outline of the stations from the line drawings to plywood. This can be done in a number of different ways. The important thing is that the centerline is established and the halves are exact mirror images of other. Any copy place with a large size printer [like Kinko’s] can run off enough copies to cut and paste-up full size paper patterns directly on the pasteboard. Barring that, use carbon paper to transfer the forms to pasteboard. Fold the plan drawing along the centerline and inset a piece of pasteboard beneath, with a square edge tucked into the fold. Place enough carbon paper under the drawing [carbon side down] to transfer the form, and carefully trace the forms. Do this carefully and it will result in a perfect copy of one half of each station. Mark each one with its’ number. Cut the plywood into suitable size squares for each station and carefully mark a centerline on each piece. Align the pasteboard pattern on the centerline, and carefully draw around the outside.... Flip the pasteboard, align the centerline again, and carefully draw the other half and then mark the plywood form with its number. A bandsaw is the perfect rig to cut forms, but a saber saw will work well too. Just be sure to cut the outside of the line ... then with a belt or disk sander, rasp or block plane, fine trim right to the line. Finally check and recheck your forms and patterns against each other to insure they are correct. Pay close attention to their symmetry. See page 18 for altering the stem forms to accept the solid sabots. Mounting the forms Set up the strong back on its legs, making sure it is rigid and straight. It will need a centerline inscribed on its top. This can be a chalk line, but even better and more indelible is one that is painted on. Stretch a string down the center of the strongback and spray over it with dark colored spray paint. This will provide a durable, easy to read line.


NOTES ON FORMS & SET-UP The first picture is a good angle to look at the component parts of the basic setup. Note the relationship of the string, the centerline on the form and the painted centerline on the strongback... They all have to “stack” each above the other. The “sighting vane” is still attached too, and I usually leave that up until the last. Note too the oversized “fender washers” used on the bolts. They are what makes it possible to line everything up correctly. The 1/4” bolts pass through 3/4” holes in the forms and cross pieces and the big washers allow infinite adjustment. Take all the time you need to set it up, because it’s the only thing you can’t redo in the entire process... Just remember that your are delineating the shape of the canoe in space and the forms need to be in agreement with each other and perpendicular to the stem pieces...but the whole set up need not be either plumb or level...only in agreement with itself. It’s a good idea not to tighten down the bolts until everything is aligned because there will be many adjustments to be made when you are “fairing” up your rig. when you are convinced everything is “right” then you can “white knuckle” down the bolts. And do tighten them up real snug because you are going to be doing a lot of pounding and sanding of this framework during the building process.



The length of the strongback and the common interval is given on the plans. Find the center of the strong back and drive a small nail there on which to hang a tape measure’s lip. It is from this point that all the measurements for the stations will be taken. Hook the lip of the tape measure over the nail and carefully mark off the intervals. Use a square to draw lines across the top at each point, and 90 degrees square to the scribed centerline, not the edge of the strongback. The forms are mounted to 2" x 2" cleats of wood mounted to the top of the strongback at each one of these station lines. The length of each 2" x 2" will vary, depending on the width of the form that is to be mounted to it. Before mounting the 2” X 2”cleats, draw a line around their centers and drill a 3/4" hole 1 1/2" in from each end. The bolts that hold the forms to the crosspieces will pass through these holes. Now glue and screw the 2" x 2" cross pieces to the lines on the top of the strongback paying careful attention to getting them square to the line. The Lower diagram, on page 11, is an overhead view, looking down on a strongback and forms. The common interval is 12" and form #5 is the center form. Note that form #5 straddles the marked line, while forms 4 and 6 are offset so that the face of the form is on the measured line. Note too how the strips touch the forms at “A” and “C” while at the midline “B”, the strip lies flat. This means the blocks are mounted to the far side of each measured line. Proceeding in this manner insures that face of the form is at the correct position with regards to the measured line. Just remember that the forms do not straddle the marked line, but are offset by their own width. Imagine what would happen is form # 6 was set on the other side of the line ... an unfair bump in the finished hull. With many new model canoes the stem forms are attached to the first form at either end, with some of the older models this was not the case. If the stem is mounted to the first form in, make



sure it straddles the centerline and is perfectly perpendicular to the form, and mounted securely. A 2" x 2" mounted to the top of the strongback, parallel to the center line, and off set by the half-width of the stem form itself will secure the stem pieces. Drill 3/4" holes through this block too. Remember to bevel the leading edge of the stem forms to about 1/8” before you mount them. Start setting up the forms by aligning the stems with each other. Line them up by fastening a strip of wood two to three feet lon to the flat side-surface of each stem and extending one to two feet above the assembly. Sight down from either end and any discrepancies will be apparent. (See the photo on page 9.) Next place each form in turn against its mounting block, aligned as perfectly as you can, with the centerlines on the forms and mounting blocks in agreement. Clamp the form in place and mark where the holes in the mounting blocks are on the forms. Remove the forms, and drill the mounting hole in the form. Use at least 3/4" holes in both the blocks and the forms, and bolt them together with 1/4" #20 -2 1/2" round headed bolts through 2" fender washers. The oversize holes will allow movement in all directions. When building a canoe with no rocker when the forms are aligned, and secured in place, stretch a string line from bow stem to stern stem and 1/4” above the each stem at each end. Using a spacer block 1/4" thick, start aligning the forms with the string ... the centerline on the form ... and the centerline on the mounting block and strongback ... making sure all are in agreement with each other. Don’t set the string line right on top of the forms... if one form is high it will throw off the line... use a spacer block instead. If building a canoe with rocker at the ends, set the height of the string at the amount of the rocker at the first form in form each stem plus 1/4 “. If the string is allowed to touch any one form it becomes comprimised and all the others are open to question. Aligning the forms is the most important part of setting up the canoe. However long it takes to complete this step is OK. Check and recheck your work. Lay strips along the forms at various places and insure that they touch all the forms without undue humps and bumps. 13

Remember to only tighten up the mounting bolts “finger tight”.” When you are completely satisfied, tighten everything up... then check it one last time.

Selecting the wood Canoes can be built of almost any clear, resin free wood. The best however, is western red cedar. Western red cedar is lightweight, strong, bends and shapes easily, is dry, and bonds well with different types of resins. Northern white cedar is the traditional wood of birchbark builders. From the most part the northern white obtainable today is filled with knots and is not a good choice for building strip canoes. Sitka spruce is sometimes used, but the results are inferior. The grain of the spruce is so defined that it doesn’t sand well, leaving a very uneven surface. Sitka is very expensive, and is best used for trim where weight is a consideration. An eighteen-foot canoe will take 70 strips to complete. The strips need not be full length. Butt joints in strip canoes do not affect the strength of the hull or the integrity of the finished hull. You do not need 20’ clear planks to build a strip canoe. You will have less waste by purchasing three 1“ x 8 “ x 16’boards, and two 1 “ x 8 “ x 14’boards. When purchasing canoe lumber, patronize a lumber supplier that will let you select the lumber. You will have to sort through a number of boards before you find suitable stuff, so be neat, put everything back in the right stacks, and the next time you want wood they will let you back in. Generally you won’t find select grades at Knox or Menards. They deal in construction grade lumber. You want at least “D” grade, S-3-S. That means select top quality and planed on two edges and one side (Sided-three-sides). Here are the simple criteria for selecting cedar boards for a canoe. Sort first for perfectly clear boards, no knots, checks, splits, etc. Set all the clear boards in a pile, and then lift each one separately and compare the weights... Select the lightest ones because they are the driest. Finally, select for color. Be sure to select the light, dry, boards. Wet boards will not accept the resin when applying the fiberglass and will result in delaminations. Saw the strips yourself if at all possible. Do not ask the yard to do it. They will use a wide kerf sawblade and you will end up with less usable stuff and lots of sawdust. A table saw with one of the new narrow kerf (1/16 inch) rip blades is your best bet. A bandsaw can also be used if you can get a wide blade, and support the wood as it passes over the narrow table.


A hand held skill saw will also work if fitted with a narrow kerf blade and a temporary fence affixed to the sole plate and set to 1/4". Support the cedar with some old scrap 2 x 8 and “walk off ” the strips. Cut your strips 1/4" thick ... Not 5/16" or 1/8", but 1/4 “. With thinner 1/8th or 3/ 16ths strips there is a real possibility that a first time builder will sand or scrape through the hull, and the weight saved in the construction is nil. Thicker strips will not necessarily add strength and will result in fewer strips per board cut. One quarter inch thick strips work just fine. Stripping First cover the edges of all the forms and the stems with two layers of masking tape. This will prevent gluing the strips to the forms, a most lamentable situation. Next assemble all the tools, (refer to the tool list in the appendix.) You will need a good grade dovetail saw or Japanese saw, two staplers [one for 1/4" staples and a second for 9/16" staples], a small 13 ounce hammer, glue bottles, a good grade, low angle, block plane, a few wire nails, a utility knife and an old carpenters canvas apron to carry your stuff around. Eugene Jensen, the noted canoe designer, worldclass canoe racer, designer and builder, says the secret to fast stripping up is to never walk from one end of the boat to the other without something in your hands. I believe him. Use regular carpenters glue. The yellow carpenters glue dries quickly and crisply. Don’t wipe off any excess glue with water the wood gets sized with glue and later there is a terrible glue smear to sand out. Invariably some never does get sanded out, and an ugly smear sneaks in under the resin where you will least want it to be. The crisp, dry yellow glue will snap off when you plane or surform the hull later. Begin stripping at the sheer, as in the picture. Staple the strip to the forms with 9/ 16" staples. Start in the middle and work toward each end. Pull slightly towards the ends as you staple down the strip. Put the first strip on right to the bottom edge of the form [or 15 top of the boat, if you prefer]. If you cut the forms right, and aligned it all up, it should

<#1 Cut the sheer strip at the beveled edge of the stem form #5>The fourth strip placed on top of the sheer and cut off flush with strip three.

<#2 The sheer strip cut off flush #6> The fifth strip is placed on top of number four and cut flush to the stem form.

<#3 The second strip layed up to the sheer strip and cut flush to it. #7> The sixth strip is placed and cut flush....


<#4 The third strip is placed on top of the second and cut to the beveled edge of the stem. #8> The seventh strip follows the rotation...

inscribe a clean sweet line. Use 1/4” staples between the forms to compress the joints and align the inside surface of the strips, it’s easier to sand the inside later if you do! Butt joint the strips in between the forms with a 3” piece of strip as a“backer block” covered with masking tape. and not within two feet of the stems. Trim the ends of the first strip to match the bevel of the stems, [see pg. 17] and apply the sheer strip on the other side exactly as the first. The next strip is placed on top of the second sheer strip and is tangent only at the center of the canoe. Proceeding with this stripping pattern accomplishes two important

things. First, the sheer comes out even on both sides, and second, keeping the pattern horizontal prevents excess torque developing when “hooking” strips down toward the sheer, in addition to bending them around the forms. At some point the torque becomes excessive. That is the point to begin a herringbone pattern, like that in the drawing on page 19. Let the succeeding strips fall off towards the center of the canoe, mark them from the inside, and block plane them to fit. Different model canoes will strip differently, so it’s impossible to say exactly when to start the herringbone. What generally happens is you start too late. If it becomes difficult to bend the strips and hold them down to the forms, start herringbones. The wood itself will tell you when it has had enough...because you’ll have to use undue force to hold the wood to the forms. When the strips are laid about the forms only the inside edge of the strips touch. In order to get complete glue joints, and to avoid unsightly gaps that will have to be filed later, the strips should be beveled with a block plane. A few passes with the plane will



be sufficient; the tendency is to over bevel. After beveling a strip, look inside the hull, if the gap is now on the inside, the strip is over beveled. Generally beveling will not be required until stripping reaches the chine. The football section of the bottom will not require much beveling, except perhaps at the very ends. Notice in the pictures that the bottom edge is the only edge of the strip that is beveled With the strip setting on top of the forms, bevel the edge towards you ... then glue and roll the beveled edge right on top of the proceeding strip. Often the strips will not have to be beveled for their entire length. At the stems the strips are more vertical, and they twist more as they approach the center of the hull. The bevel, therefore, will not be constant for the entire length of the strip, but will vary from little or nothing at the stems, to a noticeable amount in the center. Stripping at the stems requires the interlocking of the strips much like folding your hands together when praying for guidence about starting this project in the first place. (Refer to the pictures on page 16) The first two strips are mated at the stem and form the upper part of the “birds mouth” that you will fill in later, after that the strips are applied in pairs to each side in rotation. That is, two strips on the right side of the hull, then two strips on the left side of the hull. The first strip fo the pair is cut off “long” to match the mated pair below, and then the strip applied on top of that one is cut “short” to match the stem form itself. To make this more clear refer to the schematic drawing in the photos. We advocate the use of a “sabot” at the knuckle of the stems to simplify the stripping and to prevent sanding through this area when doing the final profile. Sabots also add “bangability” in this high wear area. “Sabot,” is a wooden shoe in French, and fits the description of this piece of wood perfectly. When cutting the stems forms remove a horizontal 1 1/8” section of the form at the very bottom at the knuckle of the stem and the keel. The sabot itself is made from an 1 1/2” thick piece of cedar 2” X 8” of suitable length, that is set in to this “cut out” when the strips are laid up to this level. The 1 1/2” thickness of the cedar will rise above


finished level of the bottom by 1/8” and allow it to be fitted flush in the final sanding. This simple solution will save hours of labor compared to the cutting and fitting of the many strips that comprise this setion of the hull. When the bottom is finished all that will be left to strip is the small “birds mouth” section at the stems between the sheer strip and the horizontal strip above it. Start stripping from the top down, marking the strips from the rear and plane them to fit. The pieces will become smaller and smaller. Fit the last two or three dry, then take them out, glue them, and fit them back it place. Some general remarks about stripping are in order. Use just enough glue to get a good bond. Some excess will be forced out when squeezing them together and stapling, and that’s OK, just don’t use so much as to have it running down the sides. A couple of strips and it will become apparent how much is enough and how much is too much. Don’t be afraid to use extra staples in critical areas. Sometimes there will be places where it will take a lot to hold a strip in a high torque area. Try to keep the staples in nice neat rows between the forms. You can’t completely hide the staples, they are part of the building process, but you can keep them lined up in neat rows. Later, after the sanding is all done and before the glass goes on, the holes can be reduced by wetting them and letting the them swell shut. Get the kind of staplers that load from the rear; they won’t get all glued up like the inexpensive trap door kind. Cover the sole of the stapler with masking tape to keep glue out of the works and change it often. The DuoFast staplers, with the adjustable power spring, seem to be the best. Set the hammer spring so it just drives the staples flush to the surface of the strips. There will be less marring of the strips to sand out and the staples will be much easier to pull later. Buy chisel point staples. Do not use Ceiling-Tile staples that are designed to hold ceiling tiles. The legs’ splay to hold the tiles up and they are difficult to pull out, and tear up the wood. Use 9/16-inch staples into the forms and 1/4 inch staples between the forms. Mark the two staplers to identify them. If you drive 9/16" staples between the forms by mistake they will leave ugly “blow-out” holes on the inside of the hull that are difficult to sand out, or fill. Cut out all knots. Not only are they unsightly, but sometimes they are resinous and the epoxy will not adhere to them because of their own oily resin and cause delaminations. Keep the block planes sharp and do not over bevel the strips or there will


be big gaps to fill on the inside of the hull. Dry fit the strips and check the quality of your bevels often before you glue them down. Cleaning up the hull Start by removing all the staples from the hull. Check that there are no loose or unglued strips. This is the last chance to correct any major errors in the stripping. A good tool for removing staples is a slightly reworked church key. Sharpen the point with a file and wrap some black plastic tape around the handle. The 1/4" staples between the forms will extract easily with a flick of the wrist. The 9/16" staples driven into the forms may present a little more challenge. For them, nothing works better than a small pair of diagonal cutters with padded handles. Start them on their way with the church key, and finish pulling them out with the cutters. After pulling what one hopes are all the staples, take a freshly sharpened block plane, set to a moderate depth of cut, and start knocking off the ridges and glue bumps in a horizontal direction, following the run of the strips. This will clean off much of the glue and begin the process of fairing the hull. After clearing the major imperfections, resharpen and reset the block plane to a fine cut, and begin going over the hull again, only this time at about a 30-degree angle to the strips. The first horizontal pass with the plane cleans up a lot, but by running your hand over the surface you will note a series of ridges. The block plane has planned a series of 2" flats in a fore and aft direction ... by going over the hull again at an angle, these flats are knocked off and a fair surface is obtained. The stems can be worked fair with the plane too. Work in a direction towards the ends, and from the bottom up, so as not to split out the strips at the stem’s sheer. Clean and fair the sides first, leaving the stem profile until the last. If you have not installed stem sabots be careful not to plane or rasp through the strips at the stems. The tendency is to make a knifeedge of the stems. Don’t do it. A radius about the size of a yellow lead pencil is about right. Any less than that is too fragile, and besides fiberglass material doesn’t like to wrap about sharp corners.



This partially finished job nicely shows the “birdsmouth” section of the stems to be filled in later and the placement of the accent strip in the center of the hull where it will show. This is about the point where the “herring bone” pattern begins relieving the torque of twisting the strips at the center chine. Notice the cut out for the sabot in the stem form.

The “accent strip” was made up on the bench and applied as one piece. It can be done on the forms too but this seems to work better. Here we used Mahogany outlined by top and bottom strips of white Aspen.


The bottom is filled in with “fore & aft” strips. Lay the center strip first, from Sabot to Sabot, and then fill in either side with progressively shorter strips until the area is filled in. Do the “birdsmouths” at the four corners last. Fit all the pieces dry and then remove them, apply the glue and put them back in place. Otherwise fitting the saw into that diminishing space to cut the laps at the stems becomes increasingly difficult.

Next, sand the hull. The best tool is a random orbital sander. Note the random part of the preceding sentence. Regular orbital sanders will not do. They leave swirl marks that can never be hidden. If you do not have a random orbital sander, the next best thing is a vibrating pad sander. Do not even think about using a belt sander. The canoes ruined by belt sanders, when laid end to end, could reach from the Earth to Mars. Sand first with 40-grit paper, and then go over it again with 60 grit. Then stop. That is as good as it’s got to be. Fair it up. Sand out the imperfections. Stop. If the staple marks are giving you seizures, wet them with warm water and dry them with a hair dryer, most of them will disappear. Re-sand those areas with 60 grit. The six ounce fiberglass material that will be applied to the hull looks like burlap, and is far rougher than the hull it’s going over. Additional sanding is a waste of time and accomplishes nothing. Concentrate on leaving no swirl marks, or sanding across grain while trying to remove some blemish, because those kinds of marks will show through the cloth and resin. Always wear a respirator when sanding cedar, the dust is toxic. Severe allergic reactions are not unheard of. Keep fresh air moving through the shop. Close off all access to living areas and if possible do it outside. Buy the best respirator you can. The paper masks are just a minimum of protection. Glassing the outside hull There are two kinds of resin available to the strip canoe builder, polyester and epoxy. Both have their adherents and detractors. For years strip builders have used polyester resins with wonderful results. Thousands have been built with poly, and most of them are still in use. Polyester resins are cheap, easy to use, wet out the fabric quickly and easily, and cure fast. These older poly formulas have a few idiosyncrasies. One, they stink, and two, they aren’t quite has hard as epoxy, and the hardener is very toxic. Polyester resins are



also “hydrophobic.” The humidity and the amount of water in the wood itself can cause delaminations and cloudy finishes. A good rule of thumb is to never laminate with polyester resin between before 11 AM or after 3PM, and only on warm clear days without a chance of rain. It’s true that polyester is not completely water resistant and will let some water penetrate their film, but unless you plan to store your canoe “wet”, that is leave it in the water, that is inconsequential. Most canoes get pulled out every night and never spend weeks in the water. The rate of cure [how fast it sets up and gets hard] can be varied with polyesters, depending on how much of the hardener is added. Generally it’s mixed to kick off in about 20 minutes in the pot ... which means slightly longer on the hull. Because the hardener generates heat to cause the exothermic reaction to setup the resin, it’s dependent on volume; the greater the volume, the greater the amount of heat and the faster it cures. Therefore, thin films applied to the hull cure at a slower rate. That’s good because it allows time to brush out any runs or drips. A word to the wise; if the can starts to get warm when you are in the midst of application, set it aside and mix a new batch. Once it starts to “go” it can’t be used, it goes on like Jell-O and makes one hell of a mess to sand out later. Always use any resin with lots of ventilation, during application and later when sanding. Use body protection too. Rubber gloves and respirators are a must. Keep your sleeves rolled down and clean up with soap and water. Don’t use acetone to clean up anything but your brushes. We no longer build strip canoes with polyester resins at Northwest Canoe. For all of the above reasons we use only Epoxy. Epoxy resin is superior to the older polyester. Epoxy is totally impervious to water. It will not pass water through to the underlying substrate. It cannot absorb water, and is not as hydrophobic as poly.

Epoxy bonds more strongly with the wood and epoxy is absorbed into the surface of the wood itself and imparts some strength even with out fiberglass. It produces a harder surface that is more abrasion resistant. Epoxy is almost odorless, but like poly it is toxic and care must be observed with its use. Epoxy mixed with an extender like micro balloons of silica, makes an excellent glue, poly does not. Epoxy is temperature sensitive. It should be above seventy when laminating and ideally remain there for 24 hours after completion. The type of hardener used determines rate of cure. Generally there are two hardeners available fast [20 minutes] and slow [40 minutes]. Adding more hardener will not necessarily make the epoxy cure faster, and fact it may become more brittle, so it’s not advised. As with the vinyl esters, if the can becomes warm during application put it aside and mix new resin. With all the resin applications keep working the wet edge. Fiberglass cloth comes in different weights and widths. The heavier the weight the more coarse the weave of the cloth. Generally six-ounce cloth is the standard for most stripper construction. Four-ounce is very fine, and although it wets out and fills very easily, it can be like working with wet nylon stockings, and it is not adequate for most strip construction. Seven ounce is so coarse that it’s hard to fill and therefore takes more resin [read weight] to fill the weave of the cloth and develop a smooth surface. It’s important to remember that resin alone doesn’t provide strength; only multiple layers of cloth build strength. Once the cloth is adhered to the wood, that’s as strong as it is ever going to be... To increase stiffness, strength and abrasion resistance, multiple layers of resin and cloth are required. Boat tape is a heavy weight material of different widths used for re-enforcing areas of high wear or to add strength to specific areas of the hull. It comes in 50' rolls and has selvedge edges. Because it is woven as tape at 90-degree angles [warp to woof] it doesn’t wrap well about stems. Bias strips cut from regular cloth at 45-degree angles to the weave are best for adding reinforcement to curved areas like the stems. Boat tape is used extensively in plywood construction [stitch and glue] but the joints are filleted with a paste of resin and fillers to allow the tape to lie flat in the corners. Tape is excellent for repairs to interior cracks that sometimes develop from extensive flexing of the hull. Lay out the full-length piece of cloth that will be used to cover the exterior over the top of the prepared hull. It will be apparent that there is plenty of excess from which to cut 3” to 6” bias strips. Each of the four corners should provide at least two or three 25 strips of varying length and width. Trim them neatly and cut the ends round. Note that


when formed about the stems the bias cut cloth will conform exactly to the stems. Next line up the bias strips by width and length; from shortest and narrowest to widest and longest. This is the order in which they will be applied to the curve. There should be three strips for each stem. Refer to the top of page 25. Check over the hull for any holes or voids. Apply masking tape to these areas on the inside of the hull. Mix up a moderate sized batch of epoxy (about 12 “pumps”) and squeegee it over the entire exterior of the hull. This prime coat seals the surface and insures that the resin we apply with the cloth will not soak into the wood leaving starved areas. This skim coat need not be heavy, but make sure every bit is covered. [With polyester resin the skim coat is not necessary.] Next mix up a batch of thickened epoxy and fill any imperfections ... the masking tape on the underside will keep it from running out, and also insure the glass we will apply will not have any resin starved spots.... Mix a slightly larger batch of resin, and with a brush, paint the stem in a strip about 6" wide and back far enough into the hull to accommodate your longest and widest bias strip. Starting with the shortest and narrowest strip, lay it into the wet resin, and wet it out completely Continue by laying the next strip right on top the first, overlapping the first. The last and largest strip should continue well back into the hull behind the knuckle of the stem to provide extra re-enforcement in this vital area. The first bias strip can cover the stem from the sheer to just around the knuckle, the second from half way down the stem around the knuckle and into the hull, and the third from the 3" waterline and well back into the hull. This will provide a pattern that will put the maximum amount of layers in the area that needs it most. Done correctly there should be very little ridge showing. Refer back to page 25. The skim coat that was applied should by now be soaked into the wood and the full-length cloth can be draped over the hull. Fold the ends back away from the wet stem bias strips, and smooth out the cloth over the surface. It is not necessary to wait until the bias strips harden completely and then sand or feather out these ridges of the strips. In fact, new information is that laying multiple layers all at one time in to wet resin soaked previous layers, results in significantly stronger bonding between the layers. 27

For best results get a helper when putting down the cloth and applying the resin. Start by mixing a pint sized batch of resin in a clean container and pour a pool right in the center of the bottom. With squeegees pull the resin towards the ends and down the sides, working in a diamond shape pattern and always towards the ends. Again, if the resin becomes warm, or starts to heat up in the container before its is applied, discard it and mix a new batch. It should take about 1/2 gallon to wet-out the entire canoe. Cut, trim and wrap the stems with about a 3" over lap. This will give five layers over the stems including the bias strips. Again see page 25. This coat is the adhesion coat that forms the bond with the hull. It is not necessary to completely fill the weave with this first coat; subsequent filler coats will do that. The second and third coats should be applied after the resin has cured. A light sanding with 100-grit paper will knock off any high spots. A second coat applied with a brush will fill the weave completely, and a third coat may not be necessary. Remember at this point all additional coats are cosmetic; they add weight, but not strength. All the above is the same for polyester resin, except use a low nap roller for all coats instead of a squeegee. The poly will wet out the cloth on contact. Use strong pressure on the roller for the first coat. Second and third coats can be applied as soon as the preceding coat is dry [about 30 minutes between coats on a 75-80 degree day.] In this respect poly is much faster than epoxy because of the fast cures. The final step is to wet sand the hull with 200 or 300 grit wet sandpaper and apply a two coats of exterior polyurethane varnish. This step can be done now, but it is best to wait until the canoe is completely finished, when you can varnish both inside and outside at the same time.



Glassing the Inside The best tool for cleaning out the inside is a paint scraper with a blade filed to a slight concave shape. With a properly sharpened scraper the results are as fine as using a block plane was on the exterior. Sharpen your scraper blades with a file and leave the “burr” from the file. Proceed as you did on the exterior, first in the direction of the strips and then at a 40 degree angle to the strips. Keep the scraper handle almost vertical for the best results. With a little practice you can pull off shavings as fine as a plane. Do as much as possible with the scrapers before you begins sanding. Sand the inside with 40 or 50 grit sandpaper on a random orbital sander, then go over it again with 60 grit and stop. Be careful of the top strip, don’t round it over with the sander, or it will give you problems when installing the gunwales. As with the outside hull, give the inside a good drink with a seal or skim coat and then fill any and all voids and blemishes with thickened resin. Mix up a good sized batch of thickened resin, and with a piece of left over cedar strip rounded at one end, fill in the stems with the mixture to a depth of about 3/4". “Cove” in the mixture with the strip, and be as neat as you can. If you have help, put the glass on in one continuous piece, if working by yourself consider using athwartships pattern shown in the drawing on page 28. The benefits are that a single person will not be working with yards of wet cloth that wants to keep falling back into the bottom. Either way, keep plenty of snap type clothes pins on hand to hold up the edges. If you elect to use the athwartships method, overlap the edges about 2 inches. As soon as the center sections are complete re-install the spreader and leave it there until the cure is complete. This will insure that the intended shape is maintained while the glass is curing. Set the slings in about 1/3 the length from each stem while working and while it cures, don’t set them way out towards the ends or allow the hull to sag. The end pieces do not have to reach all the way into the stems. The filet and the deck will provide the strength. Give that area a good covering of epoxy and that will be sufficient. One coat of resin is all that’s required for the interior. Concentrate on a nice even coat of resin that does not completely fill the weave of the fabric. We want a non-glare, non-skid surface on the interior.


Trimming The best choice for trim lumber is ash, 3/4" stock that is straight and clear with no knots, shakes, checks or other imperfections. Many production canoes of fiberglass have large gunwales of 3/4" x 3/4" material. The reason being that the hull itself is often thin at the sheer and these large systems add significant stiffness to the hull and provide attachment for thwarts and yokes. Strip canoes have an inherently strong, stiff hull at the sheer because of the thickness of the strips and the strength of the fiberglass covered wood. Large gunwales are not necessary for strippers, and along with oversize decks are the most common way excess weight is added to a canoe. If you have not made slings by this point in the project, now is a good time to do it. Slings will support the boat while trimming and allow positioning the bull for the best advantage. Slings can be constructed of scrap materials, but use clean carpet. Dirt and grit in old carpet will scratch the outside of the hull. Determine first where the position of the seats will be keeping these points in mind; seats placed near the ends of the canoe are easy to paddle from because of the narrow beam towards the stems, but they will also place undue weight towards the ends which means the canoe will loose some responsiveness because of the loss of bouancy. White water canoes often have the seats placed well back into the center of the canoe to overcome this problem and insure the stems will not be burried in heavy going. Generally seats that are from 48” to 54” from the extreme stem to their forward edge are at a place in the hull that is easy to paddle from and still provide enough bouyancy. With that general starting point [48" to 54”from the bow] the front thwart would be 48", plus the width of the seat, 10", plus 6" of relief or a total of 64" from the bow. The rear thwart would be 48" + 32” = 80” from the stem. [Exclude the seat’s 10", because it’s 48" to the front edge of the rear seat] . See page 31. Again, the inwales are installed first. Select a clear piece of ash and rip strips 3/4" x 3/8" and long enough to fit the canoe. Now is the time to do any machine work. If you are going to round over the edges with a router, do it before any installation work. There are a number of different ways to install the gunwales and the first decision to make is if you want to use spacer (or scupper) blocks. When canoes were made with ribs, and the ribs were sandwiched between the inwale and outwale, they formed natural slots or “scuppers” in the rail. The spacer blocks duplicate this look and are necessary if you plan to hang the seats from the gunwales with long bolts and have the inwales cut to 31 the 3/8” width. The blocks will provide the extra width required supporting the heads the


Trim Notes A good drill motor, sharp bits and a power screwdriver with a torque adjustment will make installing the trim much easier. Be sure to remember to wax all the screws and pre-drill all the holes when working with the gunwales to avoid cracking the wood. The scupper blocks are first glued on to the inwales and then the inwales are fitted for length. Using a 4” scupper block with a 4” space between them means the seats rails will align with the blocks and give enough support to the heads of the #8 machine screws that the seats are hung with from the inwales. Pre-drill the inwales with a #8 countersink and drill bit combination bit. Once the inwales have been clamped in place, don’t remove them. Determine and cut the mitres while they are in-place. Always “leave the line” when you cut the mitre and final fit them by sanding or rasping them to a snug fit. Leave the inwales in position, clamp the outwales to the outside of the hull. Pilot screw holes into the outwales through the predrilled holes in the inwales with the

same #8 countersink bit. Now the decks can be fitted. Note the black walnut spacer strip on the inside of the inwale against the hull. That matched the scupper block’s 1/4” thickness to maintain a nice even transition as the inwales are fitted into the peak of the stem. The decks are run


over a 3/4” box router bit to match the profile of the inwale. That way they just slide into place. Screw through the outwales with 2 1/2” screws to hold the decks in place. It is not necessary to glue the gunwales system to the hull or to be concerned about the top edge of the hull’s last strip which is unfinished cedar, The final oil finish will coat the edge of the cedar and IF you ever need to replace the gunwales it will be easier to accomplish if they have not been epoxied to the hull. No additional stiffness seems result

from gluing the gunwales in place. Note that there is some relief behind the rear edge of the forward seat, Mount the thwart at least 4” behind the rear edge of the forward seat. The seats are hung from the gunwales with the “drops” remaining when the seat rails are cut to length with 6” stainless steel machine screws and self locking nuts. The yoke is positioned at the exact center of the hull. Trying to balance the hull exactly is not necessary; a wet sponge stuffed in either end will do that.


6” machine screws used to suspend the seats and add a significat amount of “stiffness” to the gunwales without adding weight. Spacing of the scupper blocks is all-important. Start by cutting the two inwales to the correct length plus six inches extra. Find the center of this length and mark it; this will be the location of the first spacer block. The blocks themselves are 1/4" thick, 4" long and 3/4" wide. It’s important that all blocks are uniform in size because mounting of the seats, thwarts and yoke are dependent on location of the spacer blocks. The four-inch long blocks are mounted starting at the geographical center of the inwale (and canoe) and spaced out evenly on 8" centers to within 18" of the stems (i.e. 4" between spacers.) Glue the spacer blocks to the inwales with wood glue. It does not have to be water-resistant Glue. After the glue is set, drill screw holes from the inside through the center each spacer with a drill and countersink combination bit to fit # 8 screws. Now dry fit the inwales and outwales to the canoe and clamp them in place. Next re-bore the holes for the screws through the hull from the inside and into the outwales so the will not split the wood when the screws are tightened up. Predrilled holes are not necessary at the ends of the inwales because the deck will cover them up, so skip drilling the last 16" or so. With one side in place, but not glued, fit the other side in the same manner. When you are satisfied with the fit, screw the gunwales together over the hull using 1 1/2” Stainless Steel #8 flat head Phillips slot screws. Remember to wax or soap the screws and set the ratchet on your power screwdriver so you don’t drive the screws completely through and crack the gunwales. With everything screwed in place, fit the inset, flush, decks. Any hardwood will do. Fancy walnut, or birds eye maple, look great, but don’t use a veneer, use solid wood only. Keep the decks small; 12 inches in length is plenty. If weight is a consideration, install ash grab rails and just skip the decks entirely. Lay the deck piece over the stemsand trace it from the underside. Remember to bevel the edge about ten degrees so it fits the “V” of the hull at the stems. Mounting the deck is done from the outside using 2 1/2" # 8 screws, set flush with the hull. When you are satisfied with the fit, screw the gunwales together using 1 1/4” Stainless Steel #8 flat head Phillips slot screws. Remember to wax or soap the screws.



Remember when placing the seats that the lower they are the more stable the canoe will be [lowers the center of gravity] but the harder it will be to paddle. If the boat is a design that may be paddled from a kneeling position, keep enough space under the seat to allow placement of feet and the extraction of same in the case of an upset, that’s about 9" minimum above the bottom . This is a good time to mention finishing the trim. Varnish is hard but will require more maintaining than a rubbed oil finish. When varnish is nicked the water gets in under the surface and starts the process of sloughing itself off. Oil soaks into the wood, preserves and protects it and requires less maintaining in the long haul. Fancy oil finishes are great, but a mixture of 1/3 turpentine to 2/3 linseed oil, works just as well and costs a lot less. Pick a sunny day, let the boat warm up, soak a rag with the mixture and keep applying it until the wood will take no more. Wait a bit and then polish it with a soft dry cloth. The only thing left is to sand the exterior hull with 200 grit wet sandpaper and then coat both inside and out, excluding the trim, with a good grade of exterior polyurethane varnish. UV rays are the bane of all fiberglass canoes and the UV inhibitor inhe varnish will protect the hull and give a nice even finish. Holes for lines and ties downs can be added if you wish, using 5/8th inch PVC pipe, mounted through the stems 2 inches above the waterline. Drill a hole through the stem 1inch back into the hull, and glue in a piece of pipe with epoxy. Sand flush when dry. the varnish will protect the hull and give a nice even finish. Holes for lines and ties downs can be added if you wish, using 5/8th inch PVC pipe, mounted through the stems 2 inches above the waterline. Drill a hole through the stem I inch back into thehull, and glue in a piece of pipe with epoxy. Sand flush when dry. In conclusion the best advice it to take your time and don’t rush. It takes a “first time builder” a minimum of 150 hours to build their first boat, no matter what size it is, solo or tandem.Remember you can “fix” anything at any time during the building sequence, with the exception of setting up the forms and strongback... That has to be night, because they will determine the quality and fairness of the finished product. In a world where people design canoes because other canoes were built that way, there are better alternatives. Good design and building methods are improving all the time. There are always better ways of doing things. Study every canoe you see, question every design, and simplify everything, always remembering complexity falls, and usually at the most inopportune time

Tools of the trade... It doesn’t take a million dollar shop to build a strip canoe....Hand tools are all that is necessary for the most part. The most carpentry is involved in building the strongback and cutting out the forms. A sabre saw and a skill saw are required for those jobs, but the actual construction of the canoe is done with common hand tools...A good quality random orbital sander is a must however, along with 40,60 and 100 grit sanding disks and a good respirator. Here is a basic list... Block Plane Hammer Dovetail saw String line Diagonal cutters Pliers Screwdrivers Wrenches Two staplers Paint scraper Masking tape Church key [to pull staples] Canister respirator Sand paper & disks Can of dark spray paint Sabre / Band saw Circle saw Builders square Disposable bristle brushes Plastic squeegees Cup & cans Plastic drop cloth


General Instructions for AdTech Epoxy Resin Surface Preparation After all the staples have been removed use a low angle block plane to remove any glue drips and smears and to begin the fairing process. First plane the hull in the direction of the strips and then go over it again at a 45-degree angle to the direction of the strips. The more you fair the hull with the block plane the less you’ll have to sand later. Finish the stems with a radius no smaller than a yellow lead pencil. The fiberglass material will not “wrap” around anything smaller in radius and a knife-edge will only be easily damaged. Next sand the hull with 40-grit paper in a random orbital sander. Do not use a conventional disk sander. If you don’t have, or can’t borrow, a random orbital sander, a vibrator pad sander will work, but will take longer. Next sand again with 60-grit paper. Stop sanding. Wet out the staple holes with warm water and a sponge, them dry with a hair dryer. The size of the holes will be reduced dramatically. Resand these areas by hand to remove the rise of the wood where it was wet. Epoxy Instructions Remove the pumps from the package. Note the “extensions” included. The small diameter fits the resin (RED LABEL) pump and the larger diameter fits the hardener (YELLOW LABEL) pump. Cut them to length to fit their containers so that you can pump all the liquid from the cans. Cut the bottom of the extensions at an angle so they don’t fit flush against the bottom on the can. The pumps are “metered” to supply the correct amount of resin and/or hardener with each stroke. To mix correctly take one stroke from the resin container and then one stroke from the hardener container. (NOTE: Without pumps, the mix ratio by volume is 3.3 Resin: 1.0 Hardener) Always mix “one for one.” That way you won’t lose count of how many strokes of resin are in the can when the phone rings and your kid


tells you he just cracked up the family jalopy... You may think you can count to five...but... This stuff is way too expensive to mess up by mis-mixing, or mixing too much and having it set-up in the can before you get it on the canoe. Mix small batches to begin with. Ten strokes are a good size to start. Pour your “ten-shot batch” in the center of the canoe bottom and spread a “skim” or “sealer coat” over the entire surface of the hull. This ensures that the wood is “sized” and you will not loose resin into the wood when you apply the next coat with the cloth. It will eliminate “starved” areas where the resin soaks into the wood and leaves the cloth not fully wetted-out. Mix up more resin if you need it, but generally 15-20 “pumps” will do an 18-foot canoe. Next make a “3 Pumps” batch and thicken it with silica until it is the consistency of peanut butter. Add a small amount of sawdust for color. Use this to fill any larger holes or imperfections. It may be wise to put a piece of masking tape on the underside of the “hole” so the patch doesn’t run out even if it is thickened. Now put on the bias cut strips of cloth over the stems. I generally put on three; with the longest and widest being last. These will provide that extra “bangability” at the area of most wear. At this point you can stop until everything is dry and set, or continue. If you choose to stop you will have to sand out the edge of the last bias strip you put on, and lightly sand the entire hull with 100 grit paper just to take off the fuzz. If you continue...take the pre-cut to length, six ounce fiberglass cloth, and place it over the hull...right into the un-cured resin. Smooth it out. Roll it back from the stems. Mix up a 20-pump batch and pour it on the center of the bottom. Work out towards the ends of the canoe with either a foam roller or squeegee. Do not over work the resin and cause air bubbles to form. Give it a moment to “wet-out” the cloth and turn it clear. Remember, you have plenty of time...don’t rush! This is 20minute pot life epoxy. That means it takes 20 minutes to set up in the 39 can.but as much as two hours to set up on the boat depending on the

temperature. It’s a function of volume.... It generates it’s own heat. The larger amount of it in the container generates more heat and “sets” more quickly that then same amount spread over a large area. That’s another reason why you should mix small batches. If it does “go” you won’t be loosing a large amount. Cut and over lap the extra cloth at the stems...neatly if you can...with about a two-inch wrap around the stem. If you have some mistakes here you can sand (feather out) and clean them up when the cure is complete. As soon as the epoxy is of a “honey” consistency, and you can’t move the cloth with your finger, apply an additional coat over the entire hull, the object being to “fill the weave” of the cloth and make it glossy and smooth. Let this coat cure for 24 hours. Then if needed you can “spot-coat” any additional area that may still need filling. At this point remove the hull form the forms, install temporary thwarts, and clean, sand and glass the inside. Only one layer of resin on the inside (after the skim coat that is....) Do not try to fill up the weave in the inside. Leave a matte finish. Last...when the trim is all done…lightly sand the exterior with 120240-360 grit “wet/dry sandpaper” and water, and then coat the hull with two coats of POLYURETHANE varnish...NOT SPAR VARNISH! (Spar varnish is formulated to go on wood and will never completely dry when applied over the epoxy resin!)

{Notes from a first time builder} -Don’t over sands the bare wood hull. 60 grit is fine...80 grit is maximum. -Mix one stroke from the big can, one stroke form the little can!


-Mix small batches ‘till you get the hang of it.

-Plan ahead. Have all the bias strips and cloth cut before you start mixing resin. -Wear rubber gloves. DON’T CLEAN UP WITH ACETONE. Use waterless hand cleaner. -Use either a squeegee or a foam roller, which ever you’re most comfortable with. And then..... 1.) Make a plan for construction. Honor thy plans. Deviation shall result in problems. 2.) Take thy time in form layout. 3.) Choose the wood strips carefully. Use slightly thicker strips than you think you’ll need. 1/4” works just fine! 4.) Don’t be afraid to plane and sand to the shape of thy wants. 5.) If the epoxy is going on in a manner that doesn’t want to lie down properly, (i.e. the cloth is floating) stop and go at it the next day with the sandpaper, and lay it on again. When it is done, you will not remember the cost of the extra tools and raw materials. 6.) Don’t be afraid of course sandpaper grits, they are time savers, and your friend. Sequence to finer ones. Skipping grits adds time in the end and does NOT save it. 7.) Use the proper raw chemical materials. Make sure that they are compatible. Make sure that thou art receiving advice from those what dost have proper knowledge. Investigate their advice.


8.) Do NOT set time deadlines. It will be done when it’s done. (But, remember you are building a boat, not a watch.) Not before. Do not log your hours. Just do a good job on every step. Remember that this is a hobby, not a profession. If the project must be halted before completion, make sure that the wood moisture level will escape from all or no sides in an even fashion. Imbalance for long periods of time will result in warping. 9.) Be mindful of a proper workspace. Lighting, heat, ventilation, breathing apparatus. 10.) Remember and respect thy family. You will still want them when the project is complete.






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