|1. What is the easiest
way to build my own canoe?
||The easiest way is to
use the stitch and tape method.
|2. Just how easy is
stitch and tape?
||Unlike the more trad
way of ply construction where you make a frame first and then sheath
this with a plywood skin, stitch and tape involves marking and cutting
out the ply hull planks/panels first and then stitching these together
without a framework - this cuts down on time, cost and the skill level
Our stitch and tape canoes are built by many first timers, Scout and
Youth Groups, Prison training groups, schools etc. - see the photo
|3. What about the
||Most of our stitch and
tape canoes are built using Exterior WBP ply, joinery grade Deal (White
Pine) and exterior household paints and varnishes.
Typically in the UK, a 16' canoe will take :-
cost in Sterling
sheets of 4 to 6mm WBP ply
for the gunwales etc
kg of epoxy resin, tape etc
and sundry screws etc
The expensive item is
the epoxy resin - 2kg has been allowed although in some simple canoes l
have just about got away with 1kg. The above price includes for cleaner,
dispensing pumps and filler powder. Also, although much stronger than
conventional polyester fibreglass resin, polyester is still often used
and this would halve the cost of the resins.
Going to a good Marine
plywood plus exotic timbers to do a really nice job will obviously
|4. Is WBP Exterior
plywood really ok to use?
||Yes, l have used many
sheets of it. It sometimes has voids or even overlaps in the central
core and paper thin outside veneers but the canoe is going to spend much
of it's time upside down in the back garden or hung up in the garage, so
marine plywood is not necessary. The first Waterman 16 was built using
Exterior plywood over 18 years ago and as far as l know is still going
|5. What skills do l
need to build a stitch and tape canoe?
||So long as you can
follow simple instructions and mark out reasonably accurately anc cut a
relatively straight line, you are ok - if you have the basic skills
needed for simple home DIY and learnt a bit at school you will be fine -
plus we run a back-up help service over the phone/e-mail and there are
two SFDesign User's Groups full of helpful home builders to offer
|6. What tools do l
||Nothing more than
simple home DIY tools - measuring tape, pencil, ruler, a drill, single
speed jig-saw, a hand saw, small chisel, the usual screw drivers, as
many G-cramps as you can get hold of something to hold the canoe hull
off the floor (a couple of cheap plastic saw horses) and a workmate type
|7. Are the plank shapes
given full-size on the plans?
||No, for one main reason
- accuracy - first the sheet of paper would have to be at least 8'x4' in
size. Unless this was high quality drawing paper or better still Mylar
film it would be subject to stretch and distortion - for the long narrow
planks involved in canoe building this is disastrous and causes major
problems when stitching the hull planks together - if full size patterns are given it is
essential to have a 4' wide piece of paper so that the plank shapes are orientated onto the ply sheet accurately - the centre join between the
fore and aft pieces of the plank is critical - a small discrepancy in
angle here will produce all kinds of problems.
The only way to mark the panels down yourself with millimeter accuracy
is to use dimensions - with each set of plans we send a 2 page instruction
sheet on how to
draw the planks directly down onto the plywood accurately so that you
will have no problems when you come to stitch the planks together - the
process is simple - typically pencil lines are drawn across the plywood
at 305mm (12") intervals, the tape measure is then laid along each
of these lines and the computer generated dimensions we give are ticked
off along the lines - these are then joined up - the curves are very
gentle and l use a piece of plastic conduit or curtain rail held in
place by nails and weights.
|8. Is there any
alternative to marking out the plywood planks myself?
||Yes, we can e-mail or
post to you the DXF computer files for the plank shapes and these can then be
used to have the plank shapes laser cut or plotted out full-size with
someone who has the equipment - there are companies like
Jordan Boats (www.jordanboats.co.uk) who are happy to laser cut the
plank shapes for you using our DXF files.
|9. If the canoe is
longer than a standard plywood sheet, how do l make up the plank
||Because the planks are
longer than 8' (2440mm) they need to be made up out of 2 or 3 pieces of
plywood. The way we draw out the plank shapes for canoes up to
15'10" (4.8m), the planks are joined in their centre (mid point) -
this can be done with a scarf join but typically for home DIY
construction a simple plywood butt strap or glass butt strap is used - l
like the glass butt and this consists of a glass tape in epoxy resin
applied over the join on both sides of the join - the planks are simply
butted together, the glass tape applied, the resin allowed to cure then
the plank is carefully turned over and the tape applied to the remaining
|10. How long does it
take to build a stitch and tape canoe?
||Depending on how many
planks are involved, your skills and available tools, anything from 35
to 60 hours - for a typical 16' open canoe (a Raven or Waterman) l
reckon on a Saturday morning and part afternoon marking the plank shapes
onto the ply by hand - the remainder of the afternoon to cut the planks
Sunday morning to plane the plank edges to shape, the afternoon to do
the glass tape butt join to join the 2 parts of each plank on one side
of the planks and to mark and cut out the temporary centre mould and any
Monday evening gently turn the planks over and do the other side of the
glass butt join. The next 2-3 evenings to stitch the planks together
(this is the fun bit!) and run in the first epoxy fillets to lock the
The next Saturday to tape the inside of the chine seams, Sunday to fit
the inwale and outwale turn the hull over and tape the outside of the
Monday evening sees the seats made up and fitted - Tuesday the decking
and bottom runners.
The canoe is now complete bar the sanding and painting.
|11. How do l finish my
||Unless l am doing a
Boat Show job (when l use marine Polyurethane paints - International,
Blakes etc), l use a good quality exterior product. You can get
International Marine Varnish from your B&Q store (UK) and l use this
on the inside - l wait a good week for the epoxy on the tape to properly
cure and attack the tape with a palm sander using heavy grit sand paper
- this removes much of the bumps in the epoxy and tape and then apply a
thinned coat of varnish as a primer and then simply build up using a
total of 4 or 5 coats, sanding between each - the varnish goes over the
For the outside of the canoe l attack the glass tapes in the same way as
the interior and then apply a good quality primer (Dulux, Crown etc) and
after this has dried l apply a filler (Tetron, Polyfiller etc) with a
wide knife. Once this has dried l lightly sand and coat with a good
undercoat. I apply 3 undercoats filling between each coat as necessary
and finish with 2 coats of gloss.
|12. How does a Strip
Plank canoe compare with a plywood canoe in terms of cost?
||For a typical 16 (4.8m)
open canoe you will need approximately 1400' (430m) or 1/4" x
3/4" (6x18mm) Western Red Cedar and this is going to cost between
£450 and £600 sterling depending where you get it from and how much
machining is involved. on top of this you need materials for the
building jig and the hull is usually sheathed inside and out in
glass/epoxy - so the cost may be at least 4 times that of a similar
sized plywood canoe.
|13. What about the
skills required for a strip planked canoe?
||A canoe is a long thin
shape, so planking in Cedar presents few problems and l have seen very
nicely built strip canoes built by first time builders and those with
few wood work skills but you do need to be able to use a hand saw, plane
and chisel and you do want a good work bench and at least a decent set
|14. And the time to
build a strip planked canoe?
||4 to 6 times the length
of time for a plywood canoe, but then, you are going to end up with a
real craft of beauty and something you can feel really proud of.