The cedar-strip canoe is an incredible craft.
I never knew that canoes or building them would lead me on such an interesting journey.
I first really discovered cedar-strip canoes while living in Australia when I started to pick up a copies of Wooden-Boat magazine from a local news stand on my way to work. Most of the boats in the magazine were larger yachts, but inside those pages there was encouragement for new and potential builders to grab some hand tools and build their own boat. There was even a special section in the magazine where new builders could send in photos of what they’d created and share those images with the world. It was then, during those lonely evenings working on the government railway (when I should have been focusing on work) that I first became interested in the idea of building my own canoe.
Cedar-strip canoe building
It wasn’t for another half-decade that I finally had the space and time to attempt my first build. I had reasonable woodworking skills and was a keen learner. Before beginning I had accumulated a number of books on the subject. “Canoecraft” and “Kayakcraft” by Ted Moores, Gil Gilpatricks “Building a Strip Canoe“, and an “Illustrated Guide to Wood Strip Canoe Building” by Susan Van Leuven, to name a few. These books provided inspiration and guidance but they also demonstrated that it was ok to do things a little bit different so long as you don’t stray too far from the functional form.
The build went very well and resulted in the creation of a great canoe that I enjoyed for years.
I’d say the worst part of building that canoe was that I became addicted to the process, and let’s face it, how many canoes does one person need? I built more of them, kept some and sold some too.
Of course the next part of the story a lot of people know… I posted how to build them on Youtube, sharing step by step how it’s done. Those crude videos became surprisingly useful and popular, reaching near 20,000 views per month and what encouraged me to get into film and video.
Why do you need to know all of this?
Well, while I don’t expect everyone to have the same experience that I’ve had there is a trend that comes from building canoes. For me, thanks to building that first cedar-strip canoe, I’ve travelled around Canada, met some of the most influential builders, paddler and historians and explored some very beautiful places. The boats I’ve built have also taken me to those quiet places that exist out there that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. The cedar-strip canoe has also given me a little more insight into who I am, a creative side. Future builders may not have the same experiences but it does seem that there is a special community of canoe builders who have a similar respect for their craft.
I’ve learned that cedar-strip canoe building requires commitment, patience and perseverance. If you have those things to invest, your canoe will take you on an incredible journey.