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How to Build a Canvas Canoe, Jon’s Bushcraft

Via West County Explorers Club: Are you looking for a winter project, maybe something you can use come spring? Well, how about this canvas, skin-on-frame canoe build from Jon’s Bushcraft? It’s about 14.7 feet long, 3 feet wide, and big enough for two.

The canoe is made mainly from hand-sawn ash. The ribs are steam-bent hazel. A little bit of oak trim along the gunnels, and some cane for the seats, round out the project. A skin of stretched and painted, 9.5 oz canvas keeps the water out. There aren’t any plans for this canoe. You just build it by eye.

When I followed up with Jon, he said that it took him 3 or 4 months worth of weekends to build it. His materials costs were about £180 (about $285, at today’s rates). Most of the cost is in the ash and the canvas. The hazel for the ribs was free. He collected it from a nearby woodland.

He reports that the canoe feels light on the water, turns well, and that the canvas is pretty sturdy. Of the three canoes he’s built, he’s never had a puncture. Still, he recommends to only paddle on calm lakes and streams.

If you paddle solo, especially in a breeze, the bow can be tricky to control (as with any canoe). The solution I like is to fill a 3 or 4 gallon dry bag with water and place it in the bow. The extra weight, far forward, will keep canoe on a steady course no matter what the breeze.

Start now and by the time the warm weather hits, you’ll be taking your first test paddle. More photos after the jump.

Link trail: Jon’s Bushcraft, 3rd SOF Canadian-style Canoe