Building a Peterborough Canadien Canoe

The Peterborough Canadien design is a copy of a particular canoe once made by the Peterborough Canoe Company. The Peterborough Canadien is a just-under 16 foot canoe, designed for speed, not stability. There are offsets for this design in Canoecraft.

The building of the Peterborough Canadien canoe started in early March, 2000. I wanted to try a simple canoe first, so I used the techniques in Building a Strip Canoe by Gil Gilpatrick, with no stems. However, I decided to try staple-less construction.

I used my garage as a workplace. This is not an ideal location, but who has one? At least the garage is mostly clean and mostly dry and I won't have any problems with getting the canoe out when I'm done.

The Forms

Designing the Forms

I took the offsets for the Peterborough Canadien canoe from Canoecraft, by Ted Moores and Merilyn Mohr. As I wasn't going to use a stem, I had to change the bow and stern offsets.

The offsets needed considerable modification. There were some obvious typographical errors, which I fixed first. I then plotted forms with several different interpolation methods. This showed quite a few places where the offsets did not result in smooth lines. I fiddled with the offsets until I had a set that resulted in smoother lines. Altogether I changed about 20 of the offsets. I found this fiddly work rather frustrating, particularly as someone must have had to have done it before.

[Forms glued onto 3/4-inch MDF] I then produced full-size plots for each of the forms and printed them. These plots were then glued onto 3/4-inch medium-density fiberboard (MDF) using wet contact cement. The base of each plot was put on an edge of the MDF panels, and the bow and stern plots were placed on corners of the panels. With wet contact cement I could move the plots and place them accurately against the edges of the panels. I was able to fit all the forms onto two 4'x8' panels.

I really like this method of producing forms, as I could put reference lines on the plots when they are printed and didn't need to transfer any lines to the MDF. The plots are well-stuck to the forms. (The only problem with MDF, which I found out much later, is that it mildews very easily. I think that this strongback is essentially useless, as it it full of mildew.)

Cutting the Forms

[Form 3 smoothed] [Form 3 rough-cut] [Form 7 rough-cut] I next roughly cut out the forms with a jig-saw. I had to be fairly rough with this as I found that my jig-saw didn't always cut exactly vertically in the MDF. (Perhaps I wasn't using the best kind of blade for the work.)

I then screwed each pair of forms together (except for Form 0). I next sanded the forms down very close to the line with a drill sander and finished sanding to the lines with a hand sander. I found that the drill sander with 80-grit sandpaper worked quite well for this purpose on the 3/4-inch MDF. Working with double forms was also easier as it allowed me to sand on an angle to the lines both top and bottom and then sand out the middle. The hand sander was mostly used to smooth out the result and get rid of any waviness.

[Form 1 with groove] Next I routed a 1/4" groove in each form about 5/8" away from the edge. I will use this groove when clamping the strips to the forms. (If I decide to use clamps.) I found that routing in MDF was a pain - the router bit didn't dig into the MDF, resulting in slow progess and lots of heating.

Building the forms took about 10 hours overall spread over about a week, from 17 March to 23 March.

Building the Strongback

[Box Sides uneven] I decided to use a box beam for my strongback. This is similar to the design in the Illustrated Guide to Wood Strip Canoe Building by Susan Van Leuven. I bought two 3/4-inch 4'x8' MDF sheets from Home Depot and had them each cut into 2 roughly-12-inch planks and 4 roughly-5 1/2-inch planks at Home Depot. This was a mistake. Even though Home Depot has a fancy cutting station, none of the cuts were even. (Of course, Home Depot specifically denies that the cuts they make are not precision cuts, but I thought that the cutting station would at least make even cuts.)

I had to redo all the cuts to make them even. The cuts were so bad that I had to reduce the width of the strongback and make it narrower towards one end. The strongback ended up 11 5/8-inch wide at one end and 10 7/8-inch wide at the other.

[Strongback Construction Almost Done] [Strongback Construction] I used the narrower planks for the sides of the beam and the blocking inside the beam and the wider planks for the top and bottom of the beam. I cut the strips so that the joints were a different places on both sides. At every joint I added an overlapping strip.

Building the strongback took about 8 hours overall from 24 to 25 March. Much of this time was spent evening the planks.

Mounting the Forms

[Mounting Forms Detail] I laid out the positions on the strongback for each form and each mounting block, which were cut from 2"x3" stock. I used the fishing line and spray paint method to set up a straight center line. I also shimmed the strongback (with newspaper) to lie straight and flat. The fishing line turned out to be a great tool for making the strongback straight from end to end.

I took a hint from Green Valley Boat Works and used carriage bolts to bolt the forms onto the strongback. I drilled oversize holes in the forms and regular-size holes in the mounting blocks. This allows the forms to be easily repositioned. (In a couple of cases, I had to redrill the holes in the forms even bigger, as I needed more adjustment. Next time, I'll make the holes in the forms quite large.)

[Mounting Forms Done] [Mounting Forms Progress] I then put each mounting block and each form on the strongback, starting with the center form and moving to the ends of the canoe. The mounting blocks were uniformly placed towards the center of the canoe.

Attaching the mounting blocks and mounting the forms took about 4 hours on 26 March.

Aligning the Forms

I used a laser pointer to align the forms both horizontally and vertically. I drilled reference holes in each of the forms about the size of the laser pointer's beam. I set up the laser pointer on a camera tripod and shined it through the holes. However, I wasn't satisfied with this method, so I instead used fishing line threaded through the holes and pulled very taut as a reference line. This made the alignment process quite simple.

Doing the alignment took about 3 hours on 27 March. Much of this was to remove some forms and redrill their holes.

Extending the Bow and Stern Forms

Well after I had set up the forms, I realized that I should have made the bow and stern forms longer (as specified in Canoecraft). Perhaps the canoes in Building a Strip Canoe don't need such long bow and stern forms. I added a ``bridge'' between the last two forms on each end of the canoe by printing the missing part of the bow and stern forms and cutting them out in MDF. I then had to fair the parts of the bow and stern forms so that they merged together correctly.

Adding the bow and stern extensions, and the fiddling around to make them fit in well, took about 2 hours on 27 and 28 April.

The Strips

Ordering the Strips

I ordered a set of White Cedar bead and cove strips from Classic Boat Kits. I ordered short strips (longest just over eight feet), not full-length strips. The only problem with Classic Boat Kits was that it took over a month from the time I sent in my order to the time my strips showed up. About half of this time was the time to send the payment to them and for the strips to be shipped. If I order from them again, I would allow for this lead time and perhaps send the payment express.

I decided to use a method for attaching the strips to the forms suggested by Classic Boat Kits. This method uses fiber tape to hold the strips to the forms, plus short sections of small dowels (coated with wax or vaseline to make any wood glue not stick to them) to protect the cove of the strips. For more details see ``Tips and Tools'' on their web page.

On 3 May the strips finally arrived, in two packing tubes. The strips looked great!

Fairing the Bow and Stern Forms

Now that I had some strips, I could put the angle in the bow and stern forms. I clamped two not-so-great strips to the last few forms and used them them give me reference angles for the bow and stern forms. I used a sanding disk attached to my drill for most of this work. I found that I could achieve quite good control of the process this way.

Once I had the bow and stern forms done, I screwed the not-so-great strips to the top of the forms to hold them exactly vertical. I then stuck duct tape on the edges of the forms, so that wood glue would not stick to them.

Creating the angle in the bow and stern forms and making the forms vertical took me about 3 hours on 3 May.

The First Strip

I laid out the initial strips and attached them to the forms. Along with the fiber strips, I used spring clamps on every other form to attach the first strip to the forms. This first strip follows the sheer line for the middle forms, but then just drops in a natural curve to the end - not trying to follow the sheer the entire way.

One problem with setting up the first strips was that I didn't have any full length strips. I got around this by using two pairs of strips, joined on the center form. I did a rough setup with the spring clamps in the middle of the canoe only. This did not bend the two pairs of strips much. I then attached and glued another strip to each of the first pairs of strips, using yellow wood glue. This second strip was centered on the canoe. Once the glue dried, I could then continue clamping and attaching the first pairs of strips all the way to the end of the canoe.

[First Strips] [First Strips Closeup] When the first strip (and one-half) was done on each side, I carefully checked to ensure that everything was level and fair. I found that both Form 2s were a bit narrow, so I just let the strips float away from these forms. I then filled in the rest of the second strips.

[Strip End Jig] For where I had to join two strips together to make a full-length strip, I used a 1-to-1 scarf joint instead of just butting the two strips together. I made a simple sawing jig out of some 8-inch lengths of 1x2 pine and a short cedar strip and cut guides into the jig using a backsaw. I could then put a cedar strip in this jig, cove side down, and quickly and reliably cut it using a hacksaw blade. The cove of the cedar strip nestled against the bead of the short strip in the sawing jig so was protected against breakage.

At the joints, I used an extra dowel piece and tape piece to ensure that the two strips joined together correctly. All this made joining the strips quite painless and quick.

Attaching the first strip, and ensuring that everything was correct, took me about three hours on 3 May.

Stripping the Sides

I modified the method for using the fiber tape a bit from that suggested by Classic Boat Kits. For the tapes between the forms, instead of centering them over the top of the strips, I wrapped them completely around the collection of strips - starting at the bottom, going over the top of the strips, and ending up by sticking the tape back onto onto itself at the bottom. Any left-over tape was just left to hang down. This resulted in a strong attachment and the possibility of reusing the tape, as the left-over part would generally stick well.

The tapes at the forms did not stick well to the forms, except where the duct tape was, so I put some extra duct tape on the forms where the tape attached to them. This resulted in a much stronger attachment between the tape and the forms. Further, these pieces of tape could also be reused several times, as they came off clean. I again started these pieces of tapes at the bottom, generally by attaching onto the bottom of the form, and continued up the side of the canoe, finally attaching to the duct tape on the form. I eventually put this duct tape on the ``wrong'' side of the forms so that I could clamp into the clamping groove on the ``right'' side of the forms where necessary.

Before putting glue in the cove of the the top strip, I would just pull the pieces of tape partly off and leave them hanging. When the strip for the next layer was placed onto the top strip, I would reattach these hanging tapes by wrapping around the dowel placed in the cove of the strip for the next layer and attaching the end of the tape to either the beginning of the tape that was wrapped around the bottom strip (for tapes between forms) or to the duct tape on the form (for tapes at forms).

Eventually a piece of tape would be too short or too dirty to be reused. I would then either pull it off completely and start with a fresh piece of tape or use (part of) the old piece of the tape as an attachment for a new piece of tape.

Attaching the strips on the sides of the canoe went quite easily. I found that if I was careful I could do adjacent strips without any delay - the glue would have set up sufficiently to hold by the time I was ready to remove the dowels and tape that held the previous strip in place. This method worked best when I removed only the dowels and tapes necessary to attach the first partial strip to be added on the next layer and these dowels and tapes had not been used on the last portion of the previous layer. However, I did not control the strips adequately in some spots, so I ended up with a bit of waviness that had to be smoothed out later.

[First Five Strips] [First Ten Strips] I had ordered Western Red Cedar strips for another canoe, so I decided to make an accent strip out of Western Red Cedar. This accent strip was the fifth strip. The White Cedar strips had quite a color variation, so I selected lighter strips to lie up against this accent strip, for further color contrast. I also made a secondary accent from darker White Cedar strips on the ninth strip.

[Doing The Ends] I didn't join the strips at the end of the canoe right away. Instead, I just cut them off, first roughly and then accurately, and let the strip(s) from one side lie against the strip(s) from the other. This let me add new strips without worrying about fitting the end right away.

When I had added six strips on one side and four on the other I fixed and glued the ends. I continued by putting four strips on the first side, then cutting the end of these four strips and putting four on the other side, gluing these four to the previously-cut strips.

Selecting, preparing, and attaching the side strips took between 1/2 and 3/4 hour for each full-length strip. Fixing the ends took another couple of hours total.

Going Around the Corners

[Clamping Near the End] [Going Around the Corner] Going from the sides to the bottom was not particularly difficult. I did have to wait until the glue set up to do the next strip, but it only took about 15 minutes extra time for this. I also had to clamp the strips to the forms near the end of the canoe. This was partly because of the edge curve required in the strips and partly because the ends of the Peterborough are recurved quite a bit in this section.

[Finishing the Bow/Stern] As I put these strips on, as I had to wait for the glue to set up between putting in the main strips, I filled in the bow and stern of the canoe with short strips. I did an entire side, then cut off the ends of all these strips before going on to the other side. I glued and clamped the ends of the new strips to the old strips to make a firm bow and stern.

I also shaped the bow and stern as I was putting on these short strips, again to give more time for the glue to dry.

Moving to the Bottom

[Before the Herringbone Pattern] When the strips started meeting more end-to-end than sideways I had to start fitting them together, as I had decided to do a herring-bone pattern on the bottom. This also was not difficult, although I probably left it a couple of strips too late so I have a few strips that overlap quite a bit. On these overlaps I had to shape several of the ``underlapped'' strips.

[Shaping the Bead] To make the strips fit end-to-end, I measured the correct angle and cut the new strip off correctly. I then sanded a simple bead into the angled end of the strip so that it fit well into the cove of the previous strip. This ended up with a nice-looking joint (except that I didn't do this quite well enough for a couple of strips and ended up with a few small gaps).

I accidentally started out putting two strips on one side, thus creating a ``double-herringbone'' pattern. I actually like this even better than the single-herringbone pattern.

[The Strip in Place] [Bending the Strip to Place It] As I progressed well into the bottom, I now needed only one strip to fill in the remaining length. I made angled and beaded ends to measure on both ends of these strips and bent them into place fairly easily, at least until the last five strips. The fifth- and fourth-last strip were quite a struggle to fit in, as there was less room to bend them and also they needed more extra room, as the angles at the end were becoming more and more accute.

[The Last Strips In Place] [The Last Strips] I decided to fit the last three strips in together. I cut the third-last and second-last strip into two strips, because I knew that I wouldn't be able to bend them in. I placed these strips in with gluing them and then I made the last strip up by measuring, whittling, sanding, and repeating.

I had the last three strips set up and in place. I could put them in fairly easily without glue. However, when I tried to glue them in things went badly wrong. (I believe that the wood glue makes the strips expand somewhat and it also becomes sticky very rapidly.) I had to do quite a bit of violence to these strips to get them in, including whittling the top cove off the second-last strip to fit the last strip in and, even then, cutting the last strip into two. Oh well, the result wasn't too bad.

The last strip was put in on 14 May.

Putting the Epoxy and Glass on the Outside

I decided to use System Three Clear Coat resin for the canoe. I also bought 60-inch 6-ounce fiberglass from System Three for both the inside and outside of the canoe.

Smoothing the Outside

[Smoothing Tools] I smoothed the outside using a combination of a small plane, a spokeshave, a random-orbital sander with 80-grit paper, and a piece of semi-hard foam with sandpaper glued to it. I started by using the plane to take off obvious ridges. Where the plane didn't work I used the spokeshave.

Then I used the sander with 60-grit and 80-grit paper to smooth everything out and checked for ridges using a movable lamp and my hands. Where there were ridges I either used the plane and spokeshave to trim them off, followed by more sanding, or just the sander by itself. The final sanding was done with the foam, as it seemed to do the best job of removing the final waviness.

[Outside Smoothed] During the smoothing process I also shaped the ends of the canoe, first cutting them very close to the final shape with a saw and then using the sander to finish the process. I also rough-cut the sheer line, mostly to give more room between the strips and the strongback.

The smoothing took about 10 hours spread out over 14 to 18 May.

The Sealer Coat

[Outside with
Sealer Coat] I first put on a sealer coat of epoxy. I used a roller for this, and most of the other coats. The roller worked perfectly fine with the Clear Coat. I only had to do minor work with a squeegee to level the coats.

I was worried about the epoxy setting up too fast, given that the previous weekend had been hot, but the weekend that I did the sealer coat was cool and rainy so my problem was more that the coats took almost a day to become tack-free.

[Reinforcement Strip] Just after I put on the sealer coat I put a pair of bias-cut strips on the ends of the canoe and epoxied them in place. The bias-cut fiberglass was easy to form to the hull. I didn't have to make any cuts in the glass.

[Fibreglass Loose] The Glass

I put the fiberglass on the canoe the morning after the sealer coat went on. This was a mistake as the sealer coat had not yet become completely tack-free. I had to handle the fiberglass quite a bit to get it positioned correctly, and this ended up disturbing the fibers in spots, which then had to be pushed back into place. However, eventually I got the glass in place and trimmed.

[Wrapping the Fibreglass Around the Ends] [Fibreglass Epoxied] I then epoxied the glass to the hull. This step also went fine, as the Clear Coat wet out the glass quickly and evenly. At the ends of the canoe I cut the fiberglass just off the centerline. I wrapped both sides of the fiberglass around the end of the canoe and trimmed them. The fiberglass formed around the end of the canoe just fine. I didn't have to make any darts to get it to lie down.

More Coats

I then put two more coats of epoxy on the canoe. Next I sanded out the ridges at the ends of the fiberglass. Finally, I put one more coat of epoxy on the canoe, taking extra care to make sure that this coat was smooth all over.

Altogether glassing and gluing the outside took about 10 hours over the period 19 to 22 May.

[Canoe Stands] [Canoe Stands] Turning the Canoe

I made a pair of stands from the plans in Canoecraft. This took about an hour on 22 May. I took the canoe off the strongback and put it on the stands.

Putting Epoxy and Glass on the Inside

Smoothing the Inside

[Inside Sanding Tools] On the inside, I didn't use a spokeshave or plane. Instead I went directly to the random-orbital sander, but this time starting with 40-grit paper. (Actually, I first tried with 80-grit paper, but this didn't work well and the sandpaper didn't last long.) The 40-grit paper did a great job, removing the excess material quickly and reliably. The paper even lasted fairly long - I had to use only three pieces on the entire canoe. I tilted the sander as appropriate for the curved sections of the canoe.

I then used 80-grit and 100-grit paper to fix up the scratches left by the 40-grit paper. This paper did a reasonable job, but, again, the pieces didn't last long, even just for finish work. I went through about 10 pieces of this paper. As I was tilting the sander a lot, the edges of the paper wore out before the middle. (I should have done more of this finish sanding, as I left some scratches that showed up later.)

[Sanding Inside Ends Tools] To do the ends of the canoe I tried a number of methods, including a foam block with 60-grit paper. What finally worked in the extreme corners was sticking a piece of adhesive-backed Velcro to a flexible 1-inch scraper using the sander paper on that. As I had a number of pieces of paper that were only worn on the edges, that is what I used. I would just cut off the worn section and attach the paper to the Velcro.

[Inside Sanded] This combination worked great, as it was able to get right to the inside corners and the flexible scraper allowed me to apply just the right pressure. The 40-grit paper was perfect for the rough shaping and the 80-grit and 100-grit paper performed the finish work. The only problem, as stated earlier, was that I didn't do quite enough finish sanding, and left some visible scratches from the 40-grit paper. I should have wet down the inside to see such scratches.

All told, smoothing the inside took about 12 hours from 23 to 25 May. At least four hours of this was wasted because I didn't use the correct tools at the beginning.

[Inside Fillet] [Inside Seal Coat] The Sealer Coat

I also put a sealer coat on the inside, again using a roller. As I had several voids in the bottom, where the last strips didn't quite meet and where the ends of the previous strips didn't quite fit, I mixed up a small batch of epoxy with wood flour and filled in these voids.

I mixed up a batch of epoxy with wood flour and plastic minifibers and made a fillet for the inside ends. This was a bit of a pain, as the ends were very acute. Eventually I used my gloved finger to smooth out most of the fillet, and a foam brush to get at the parts my finger wouldn't reach.

[Inside Strip Glued In] [Inside Strip] The next morning I put a pair of bias-cut fiberglass strips on top of the fillets. This went quite easily. I could slide the strips down on top of the fillets with a foam brush. The brush also did a good job of wetting out the strips.

Sealing the inside, adding the fillets, and putting in the bias strips took a couple of hours on 25 and 26 May.

[Fitting and Gluing the Glass Inside] The Glass

As soon as the sealer coat was tack-free, I put fiberglass on the inside. I cut the glass to size before before applying any epoxy. To keep the glass from moving, I clamped it to the sheer line. This method worked great. When I epoxied the glass, I had no problems with the glass moving, very few problems with folds developing, and only minor problems at the ends. As I wanted to have a textured inside, I didn't put any more coats on the inside.

The Trim

While I was waiting for the inside seal coat to dry, I started working on the trim.

[Scarfing the Gunwales] [Scarfing the Gunwales] Scarfing the Gunwales

I bought pre-formed gunwales from Classic Boat Kits. Each one came as two pre-scarfed sections that I had to glue together. I used epoxy thickened with plastic minifibers and a little bit of wood flour (for color) to glue the gunwales together. I laid all four gunwales out over the mounting blocks on the strongback, applied unthickened Clear Cloat to the joints, and followed that with the thickened epoxy. I then clamped the pieces together and left them to cure.

All this took about an hour, on May 26.

[Sanding the Outside] Sanding the Outside

To attach the outwales, I first had to sand the outside of the canoe, at least where the outwales would attach. I decide to sand the entire outside of the canoe, using the random-orbital sander with 80-grit paper. This went quite well, except that I sanded a bit close to the fiberglass in a couple of spots.

Sanding the outside took a couple of hours on May 28.

[Gluing the Middle of the Outwale] Attaching the Outwales

Attaching the outwales was quite a pain. The gluing was easy enough, but bending the outwales at the ends of the canoe took quite a bit of time. Fortunately, I used Clear Coat epoxy for the glue for the first outwale. As Clear Coat takes a long time to set up, I had a long time to work on the first outwale.

I first put unthickened epoxy on in the inner edge of the outwale. Then I made the same thickened mixture as before, applied it to outwale, and clamped the outwale to the canoe at the middle of the canoe with spring clamps. I continued clamping with spring clamps until I got near the end of the canoe.

[Gluing the Outwale] [Gluing the End of the Outwale] At the ends of the canoe I used a couple of bigger clamps, as I needed more pressure to maintain the curve I wanted. I clamped these clamps on and adjusted the position of the outwale. I couldn't bend the outwale by hand for the last portion of the curve, so I had to use a board placed on top of the canoe and bend the outwale by means of a c-clamp. This worked fine, except that I had to do it several times before I had the correct pressure on the previous clamps to maintain the desired curve. I ended up with quite a bit of epoxy in various places, most of which I was able to clean up before it set. Then I had to wait until the epoxy on the first outwale cured, as I didn't have enough clamps to clamp both outwales at once. As I was using Clear Coat, this took an entire day.

[Gluing the Other Outwale] For the second outwale, I used regular System Three epoxy with the fast hardener. The temperature was quite cool, in the upper-50s, which gave me just enough time to work before the epoxy set up. I used the same technique of applying epoxy glue (first some unthickened epoxy to penetrate the wood and then the thickened epoxy) to the entire outwale and then attaching it to the canoe. I did have to work rather fast to get the entire outwale done before the glue set up, particularly when adjusting the pressure on the end clamps to obtain the desired curvature.

Attaching the first outwale took a couple of hours on 28 May. Attaching the other outwale took about an hour on 29 May.

[A Deck] [Template for the Decks] The Decks

As I had pre-formed gunwales, I had to install the decks before putting in the inwales.

I cut a cardboard template and transferred the measurements to a 3/4-inch piece of interestingly-grained maple. I then cut out the two decks, cutting straight across, except for where the deck would but up against the inwales. I dry-fitted the decks and trimmed them appropriately

[Gluing the Decks] I epoxied the decks in, again using regular epoxy, and lightly clamped them in place until the epoxy glue set.

Making the decks and gluing them took about three hours, spread out over 27 to 29 May.

[Gluing the Inwale] [Fitting the Inwale] The Inwales

The inwales went much as the outwales. The only difference was that the inwales had to be trimmed to fit between the decks. I clamped the inwales in place, measured, and cut them to length. I then glued them in with epoxy glue them in just at the outwales were.

Trimming and gluing the inwales took about three hours, on 29 and 30 May.

[The Thwart] The Thwart and Seats

I made a simple center thwart out of maple. I cut a 1x2 piece of maple to length and rounded off its edges, except at the ends. I drilled holes and secured the thwart to the inwales at the center of the canoe.

[Trimming the Seats] [Installing the Seats] I was going to make seats, but I wanted to use the canoe shortly, so I took a pair of pre-made seats, drilled holes in the inwales where I wanted the seats, and cut the seats to length. Then I secured the seats with 4-inch brass bolts.

Preparing the thwart and seats took about 4 hours on 30 May.

[Varnishing the Inside] [Varnishing the Outside] Varnishing

I removed the thwart and seats to prepare for varnishing. But first, as the decks and gunwales had been permanently epoxied in, I decided to put a sealer coat of epoxy on them. I mixed up some Clear Coat epoxy and brushed a very thin coat on the decks and gunwales. I used some masking tape to prevent (most of the) drips and runs from reaching the rest of the canoe.

As I wanted to use the canoe shortly, I didn't put a full set of coats on at the beginning. First I lightly sanded the decks and gunwales and used a scrubbing pad to roughen up the inside. Then I put a two coats of varnish (waiting for the first coat to dry a bit) on the outside and left that to dry. When this dried, I flipped to boat over and applied one coat to the gunwales and inside.

I had some problems with the varnish as it kept on running. Oh well, I'll have to sand a bit before applying the last coat. The final epoxying and the varnishing took about 5 hours from 30 May to 1 June.

[Preparing for Launch] [Preparing for Launch] Launching

I launched the canoe on the Delaware River on June 3. My son and I went on a Boy Scout trip on the lower Delaware on June 3 and 4.
[On the Delaware]

Finishing the Canoe

Even though I had already launched the canoe, it wasn't quite finished. I still had to do the final varnishing and install the spacers for the seats. This was done in small increments after launching.


After a summer of use, there were a number of scratches in the canoe. I sanded these out a bit and put a new coat of varnish on the outside of the canoe.

Mistakes Made


I made numerous mistakes in building the canoe, but most of the were fixable. The main non-fixable mistakes were: 1/ I didn't fit the strips in the bottom together tightly enough, and thus ended up with gaps in the wood. These were filled with epoxy, but light does shine through. 2/ I didn't finish sand the inside of the canoe enough and ended up with scratches that can be seen. 3/ I didn't squeegee the inside of the canoe in two spots and thus ended up with the fiberglass texture not visible in these spots.


I made a number of mistakes in ordering supplies. I ran out of some things, and had far too much of other things.

I ordered the minimum amount of silica thickener, phenolic microballoons, and quartz microspheres. I didn't need any of this. I used a bit of quartz microspheres for the fillets, but the amount in the System Three trial package was more than enough. On the other hand, I used a considerable amount of plastic minifibers to make glue, so this was a necessary purchase. I didn't need any wood flour, as the random-orbital sander produced more than enough.

I ordered some fiberglass tape to be used for covering the ends of the canoe, but cutting bias strips from the regular fiberglass cloth worked better.

I didn't order any regular epoxy. I could have used more than was in the trial package, however, as regular epoxy is much faster to set and cure, and thus can be more-easily used in many gluing situations.

I only ordered 6 of the cheap brushes (for two canoes). I used all six of them on the first canoe. I also ordered only one 3-inch roller cover, and it broke part way through. I also ordered only 12 pair of gloves and had to buy more. I ordered only 2 1-quart mixing pots and broke both of them.

Updated 7 November 2000 by Peter F. Patel-Schneider.