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Staple free canoe building

Staple free canoe building is a popular choice for builders to get an unmarked hull.

There are many different ways to build a cedar-strip canoe without staples. The method I use utilizes a set of specially made cleats as well as masking tape to hole the strips in place.


When starting the build, the first cedar strips are attached along the shear or gunnel edge of the boat. Since the gunnels will eventually be placed along this line, I staple the first two strips. The gunnels will cover any staple holes and stapling the first couple strips helps to ensure that they are secure in place and I get off to a good start.

As with all cedar-strip canoe building, you want to use regular carpenters wood glue to glue the strips together. Work from side to side and at a pace that will allow the glue to dry. Since this is a staple free canoe building method, there is very little to hold the strips tight against the station forms. This is fine as long as you allow the glue to dry and don’t layup too many strips all at once.

Although it will vary from shop to shop because of local climate (humidity, temperature etc), in my shop, I typically layup two or three strips per side (alternating sides) and then allow the glue to dry for 5 to 10 minutes so that it is tacky enough to hold together. In some cases, like on a rainy day, I’ll allow the glue to sit for longer.

Staple free canoe building

In this video, I begin stripping a cedar canoe. This canoe is being built without an inner stem and staple free construction.

If you choose to use a staple free canoe building method, be sure you have enough clamps ahead of time to save yourself frustration during the build. If you think you have enough clamps, get a few more.