Now for another project to my wife’s surprise. I have had the idea of building my own boat for a long time now. I was contemplating a rowing boat or sailing boat at first but thought I would start with building a Canadian canoe, hoping this would be easier to learn with. I have not done this before so wanted to keep things as simple as possible.
First I had to do some research on how to build my canoe. Once again I turned to YouTube for tutorials on how to build DIY boats. I found that the best way to go for a beginner was the stitch and glue method. This is where two pieces of wood are held together with wire or tie wraps and then epoxy resin glued together. So this is the way I will build my first boat.
Next I needed some plans. I can’t just go ahead and build a boat without them as the structure of a boat is calculated so it floats properly on the water. After a bit of looking I decided on a 14’ canoe, plans from bateau. Click on the link below to see the download site for the plans.
This is also a great site for some technical help, just click on the technical link at the top of the site. Another great little site to check out for help is Toledo's Community Boathouse, if you click on the boat building link to the left and work through the building examples they have done I’m sure you will pick up some tips. These guys are really good, I only wished I lived nearby to pop in for a chat.
I decided I would make my canoe from 1/4” external ply rather than marine ply. The reason for my decision was purely cost. I know this may not last as long as marine ply but felt for a first attempt any mistakes will be cheaper to overcome. In the end I did not make many big costly mistakes with the wood work and wished I chose marine ply.
The next source of material I required was the epoxy and fiberglass. I had done a lot of research and knew what I wanted but all my measurements where in American weight. So I called fyne boat kits in Cumbria, and a very helpful man guided me in the correct kits I needed. He was also helpful in technical assistance and said if I had any problems to call him back for advice. Very good service, so I bought his Small canoe building epoxy kit and 10 meters of 162 gsm weight fiberglass. I already had some wire so was ready to start building.
First I had to mark out the ply using the plans and cut the wood out with a jigsaw. Once all was cut out, I planed a chamfer on the edges that would join together so I would get a nice tight joint. This will save on epoxy filler which is not cheap.
I move the build to my side garage as it would not fit in my workshop. The first job was to glue the long pieces together to make it 14 foot long. This was done by doing a but joint with an overlapping square piece of ply epoxy glued over the joint and weighed down overnight. By the morning it was as strong as the ply itself, I did a test piece and could not get it apart without splitting the ply apart. Next I had to start stitching the canoe together. I did the first stitching with small tie wraps, once all together I replaced some of the tie wraps with wire to get a tighter joint as the plastic ties kept snapping.
Now that the canoe was all stitched together I placed some braces to keep the canoe in shape ready for the epoxy filler to be placed in the joints. I also put masking tape along the joint edges to try and keep a neater finish. The first course or epoxy was placed in between the wire ties and allowed to set over night. Once set the wires could be removed and the joints filled.
Next I turned the canoe over and filled the external joints with an epoxy mix. I then filled the holes where the wires went through with tooth picks and wood glue. Later these were chiseled off and sanded down ready for the fiberglass coating
Now for the fiberglass coating, I was not looking forward to this after reading a lot of horror stories. So I did a lot of reading and with the advice from fyne, I managed to cover the outside with no problems.
First I carefully laid the fiberglass cloth over the canoe. Then I made up a small portion of the epoxy resin and poured it over the fiberglass. I was advised not to mix up to much at a time so I only did one pump. I had a large squeegee which I used for tile grouting which worked very well moving the resin around and getting it into the cloth. You know when you’re done as all the cloth will be clear and no white cloth will be showing
After 24 hours the external resin was cured enough to turn the boat over so I could do the internal fiberglass. This was no where near as easy as I could not get the cloth to sit flat and so it took a long time. Next time I make a boat I will fiberglass the internal panels before stitching together.
After the internal fiberglass was cured, I fitted wooden blocks for the internal rub rail to sit on. These were glued in place with epoxy and then screwed through the ply into them. Later all this will have a coat in epoxy to make a water tight barrier. The reason for the blocks as you will see is to let the water out when I tip the canoe over.
On the ends of the canoe I glued and screwed some wood to later be molded and shaped with a planner. This is to provide some protection when the canoe noses into walls or beach landing. The external rub rails have also been fitted and screwed through the plywood into the wooden blocks. All the rub rails were glued on with epoxy resin.
Below you can see the rub rails have been planed flat and the end bow and stern decks have been cut in and planned to shape. All this will be epoxy filled sanded then epoxy coated again before painting.
10th August 2014, we took the canoe out for boating trials on a nearby lake. All went well as you can see from the pictures below. It maneuvered very well and fast. Little wobbly when my boy decided to rock side to side to try and tip us in, luckily for me he failed. I was very happy with this first trial. No leaks which is good so turned out to be a good project, took about 3 months to complete this one.