Introduction: Building a Cedar Strip Canoe

Picture of Building a Cedar Strip Canoe

A practical account of my experiences and a brief guide to building a cedar strip canoe. It includes links to stories of using the canoe for wilderness camping and fishing.

I also now have an instructable for a cedar strip kayak:

for more information on the canoe see:

for more information on the kayak see:

estimating epoxy costs:

estimating cedar strip costs:





stripping the hull:

seats, decks,yoke:

sanding and fiberglass:

final details:

using my canoe :

Step 1: Gather Information – Getting Started

Picture of Gather Information – Getting Started

Read books about cedar strip construction techniques. Canoe Craft by Ted Moores, Kayak Craft by Ted Moores, Building a Strip Canoe by Gil Gilpatrick. I read Canoe Craft twice before I started the project.

Step 2: Select a Design

Picture of Select a Design

Determine what the boat will be used for, a canoe for the cottage, a canoe for camping and tripping, or a work of art just to look at hanging in the garage.

Step 3: Plans

Picture of Plans

These can be purchased from Bear Mountain, Chesapeake Light craft ( or a number of other sources. They can also be created from tables of offsets, using a process called lofting.

for more info on lofting:

Step 4: Build a Construction Platform

Picture of Build a Construction Platform

A sturdy, level, long thin table needs to be built on which the canoe can be assembled.

Step 5: Cut Out the Forms

Picture of Cut Out the Forms

The outlines of the hull cross sections are drawn on sheets of plywood, particle board or MDF.

Step 6: Attach Forms to Strong Back

Picture of Attach Forms to Strong Back

The forms are attached to the station blocks on the strong back with drywall screws, taking care to line up the centerline of the forms with the centerline of the strong back.

for more information on making forms:

Step 7: Cover Form Edges

Picture of Cover Form Edges

The strips will be glued along their edges and stapled to the forms. Some protection on the forms is needed to keep dripping glue from permanently sticking the hull to the forms.

Step 8: Cut and Mill the Strips

Picture of Cut and Mill the Strips

Use the table saw with feather boards clamped to the guide and table to keep the strip thickness uniform. A circular saw with a guide jig for cutting the strips is shown in the photo.

for more information on cutting strips:

Step 9: Laminate the Stems

Picture of Laminate the Stems

The strips used for the stems need to be steamed and clamped onto the stem forms then allowed to dry before gluing them together.

for more information on making the stems:

Step 10: Attach the Inner Stems

Picture of Attach the Inner Stems

Once the glue for the inner stems has firmly set up, they can be attached to the stem mold with a screw through the last hull form into the end of the stem and a screw through the other end of the stem into the stem from.

Step 11: Strip the Hull

Picture of Strip the Hull

Now comes the fun part. Start attaching strips to the forms at the part of the form closest to the strong back and work towards the center of the hull. The strips are glued together at their edges and stapled to the forms.

for more information on stripping the hull:

Step 12: Trim Strips at Stems and Attach Outer Stems

Picture of Trim Strips at Stems and Attach Outer Stems

Once the hull is completely stripped it is time to trim the strips flush with the bow and stern stems.

Step 13: Remove the Staples

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Now all the staples are pulled, being careful not to dent the soft cedar. If a few staples are forgotten they will be found in the next step for sure.

Step 14: Plane, Sand, Sand, and Sand Outer Hull

Picture of Plane, Sand, Sand, and Sand Outer Hull

The joint where strips meet at curves in the hull are a little squared off. These joints need to be planed to make the hull smooth.

Step 15: Fiberglass the Outer Hull

Picture of Fiberglass the Outer Hull

Fiberglass cloth is laid over the hull so that it extends just past the stems, then smoothed with a soft bristle brush. Epoxy resin and hardener is then applied to the cloth in small batches, working from side to side, in about 2 to 3 foot long sections. Three coats are needed.

for more information on sanding an fiber glassing :

Step 16: Remove Hull From Molds and Flip

Picture of Remove Hull From Molds and Flip

A cradle must be constructed to hold the upright hull. Carpet scraps suspended from brackets attached to the strong back will work.

Step 17: Sand, Sand, Sand the Inner Hull

Picture of Sand, Sand, Sand the Inner Hull

Now it is time for more sanding and scraping. Glue beads can be scraped away. Sand paper wrapped around a plastic bottle will help fit into the curves of the hull.

Step 18: Fiberglass the Inner Hull

Picture of Fiberglass the Inner Hull

Fiberglass cloth is laid inside the hull and held in place with clothes pins, then smoothed with a soft bristle brush. The cloth is just short of the inside stems. Epoxy resin and hardener is applied as was done on the outer hull. Only 2 coats are necessary.

Step 19: Attach the Gunnels

Picture of Attach the Gunnels

Gunnels are long strips of wood which are attached inside and outside to the top edge of the hull to give it rigidity when combined with the thwart.

Step 20: Attach the Seats

Picture of Attach the Seats

Seat frames are usually made of hardwood. Ash is typical since it is flexible, but other wood varieties will work. The seat pad can be made with chair caning, strapping or webbing, left over cedar strips, or plywood.

for more information on making seats, yoke, decks and gunnels:

Step 21: Sand the Epoxy

Picture of Sand the Epoxy

Now you have a beautiful shiny new canoe! It is time to get out the sander one more time and make it look dull. Use a 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface, both inside and out.

Step 22: Varnish the Hull Inside and Out

Picture of Varnish the Hull Inside and Out

All of the wood components like the gunnels, seats, decks, thwart need to be sealed with a 50/50 mix of mineral spirits and varnish before final varnish is applied.

for more information on finishing:

Step 23: Last Step.

Picture of Last Step.

Paddle your canoe..

follow this link to see me using this canoe:

for more information see:

estimating epoxy cost:

video of 2016 fishing trip in Quetico Provincial Park Ontario, using one of my canoes.


poofrabbit (author)2013-08-31

Just wanted to say congratulations on being a finalists in the Great Outdoors Contest! This was a fantastic instructable and just stunning to look at! This goes beyond being a canoe, but just plain art! Love it!! Good luck!

jimmar57 (author)poofrabbit2013-09-02

Thank-you for the kind words. I didn't really expect to become a finalist, nor did I expect 146000 view in less the a month and a half. I just like to create something I can use and enjoy documenting and sharing the process.

Reiff (author)2013-07-26

I just can't get over how beautiful that canoe is. I would love to know what you do with these besides show them off. What I'm saying is what kind of waters do you take them in? Or do you even take them out at all. Also, where do you buy kit for these canoes, or did you make it from scratch. I do have a lot of questions because I'm really interested in these kind of canoes.

BigMrTree (author)2013-07-23

Amazing work!! Truly a functional work of art!!

texasmaintman (author)2013-07-22

I really enjoyed the read on this project. It was well thought out in its planning and in your explanation of the steps and details. Thank you for sharing this, and I look forward to your future projects.


clazman (author)2013-07-21

This is absolutely beautiful!

I love your fixtures

I love your attention to detail.

I love your quality of workmanship.

Someone posted an alarming question as to paint color. Paint!? Hide such beautiful work, such lovely wood grain.

I just cannot say enough.


godson1952 (author)2013-07-21

BEAUTIFUL!! well built and I love the way you explained how to do it.I have 3 plastic Coleman 14' canoes and I'd sooner have a wooden canoe than a plastic.For to ride in a canoe is nothing like the "SILENCE" of gliding through water with out any noise.You see wildlife as it was meant to be.Also you can sneak into places to watch the wildlife with out scaring them.LOVE THE canoe build.

TheTutor11 (author)2016-03-06

Dude this boat is beautiful!

jimmar57 (author)TheTutor112016-03-07

Thank-you. Thanks for reading.

TheTutor11 (author)jimmar572017-10-09

Thanks for posting.

Tangski (author)2017-07-06

Wow, what a beautiful creation! So proud of your work! I wish I could make one, but, no cedar here on the Prairie that is not gold cost,and above all, no garage...some day perhaps!:) Would love to try doing this!! You do make it look easy, which I know for sure it is not....takes skill!:) NICE JOB!!!

John_Singleton_ (author)2016-04-02


lsippell (author)John_Singleton_2016-08-19

The seat is one designed by Martin Step at Green Valley Boats. A bit of work but worth it for the comfort and comments.

I built the Ranger in about 6 or 7 weeks but that included taking one hull, completely glued up, and burning it. Too many gaps. Great learning experience. worked 7 days a week for at least 8 hours a day and a lot of them 16 hours.

I didn't loose money selling them, but your figure per hour isn't far off! Their both hanging from ceilings of the purchasers.

I'm in the process now, of getting everything together to build the 16' Prospector and another Wee Lassie for my grandson who just turned 7.

One trick i learned is to sand the outside down with a 9" air opperated DA designed for autobody work. 30 minuets with 36-40 grit and your ready to do the 80grit sanding with a 5 or 6 inch electric da. No plane, scraper or anything. Very easy to keep fair with that 9" disk.

lsippell made it! (author)2016-08-18

Beautiful canoe. How long did it take you to build it.

I built a Prospector Ranger about 5 or 6 years ago, and a year later a Wee lassie. I
used cypress for both of them since it was locally available.

It's strange, running across this today because just this morning my wife
said I should build another one.

I sold my forms a few years ago and in a computer crash shortly after, lost all
the pdf files I had of the forms I had lofted out. Going to have to start from
scratch again!

jimmar57 (author)lsippell2016-08-19

Very nice. Very decorative. Did you make the seats? I saw a photo of those somewhere on line. My first was a prospector ranger and took me about 5 months working a little at a time. I also made a Freedom 16ft. with an asymmetrical hull, and 2 strip kayaks.I use the Freedom for most of my trips to Quetico.

I've been thinking about building to sell but figured I figured I'd be making about $1.50/hour.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

cronosamv (author)2016-03-09

She's gorgeous, a floating piece of art! Amazing work mate, really.

jimmar57 (author)cronosamv2016-03-09

Thank-you and thanks for reading.

TrevorP19 (author)2016-01-15

Thank you for sharing!
Building a strip canoe is a lovely way to spend one's spare time.
If you don't mind horribly I'm going to share a link to plans I've developed for a Solo Canoe ... they are wonderful boats suited for folks who like to get up and get out on their own, and don't want to be weighed down by a heavier tandem. I've built them under 30 pounds just by being very careful about materials usage.

In any event, the plans can be found here if you're interested:

I should note too, that they're discounted until June 01 of this year!

jimmar57 (author)TrevorP192016-03-07

Nice boats. I'm thinking of building a solo canoe. Questions...

1. what's the best way to print your plans for making the forms?

2. could they be adapted for a stemmed design?

3. do you solo canoe 30 lb. weight targets assume 4 oz. glass inside and out, with 3 coatings of epoxy?

TrevorP19 (author)jimmar572016-03-07

I get the plans printed at the local UPS store ... I think the local Staples can do it too, but if you're having problems finding a place to print, I can get it done for you and send you the printed plans. Just make a note in your order.

The plans can be built as a stemmed design.

The solo uses 4 oz inside and out with an extra layer laid on the bias over the football. I use 3 coats of epoxy on the outside (just enough to fill the weave) and 1 on the inside leaving a slight texture. Weight savings are also accomplished by using carrying handles instead of decks and glued (instead of screwed) gunnels.

RushFan (author)2016-03-05

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!!

jimmar57 (author)RushFan2016-03-07

Thanks. Thanks for reading.

nkatic (author)2015-08-15

you sir deserve that prize, congratulations!

smilesfromnowhere (author)2015-08-12

The finished product is beautiful and truly a work of art. The Instructable for creating the canoe is also very nicely done. I hope you win something for all your hard work. Two thumbs up!

Thanks for the comment. I did win a first prize in the Great Outdoors contest in 2013.

Verga (author)2015-08-09

Very nice work. You might save yourself a bit of sanding if you used router bits that gave you a concave profile on one side and convex on the other. You would need to use 2-3 additional cedar strips per side, but this would be a small price to pay to reduce the sanding and get a tighter fit on yhour joints.

jimmar57 (author)Verga2015-08-11

see photo

jimmar57 (author)Verga2015-08-11

Thanks for the comment. I did use that type of joint, it's called bead and cove. The problem I had was that I cut mu own straps with a table saw and they were not very consistent in thickness, even along the length of the same strip. I would invest in a thickness planer if I build another strip boat.

BenTauer (author)2015-08-10

Why the fiber glass?

jimmar57 (author)BenTauer2015-08-11

For waterproofing and rigidity. The wood strips alone are held together with glue and the hull eventually would swell and leak without the fiberglass or some sort of water proofing. The fiberglass cloth on inside and outside of the wood makes a laminated core structure which is very stiff and strong.

Laral (author)2015-08-09

I got the book years ago but never made it. :(

You did a great job on it and gave so many details. Great Instructable.

jimmar57 (author)Laral2015-08-11

Thanks for the comment. You should go through with building one. It's a little overwhelming at first but once you get started it's not bad.

ctwistedpair (author)2015-08-09

I'm stunned. A cousin of mine makes these and they never cease to amaze me. The quality of your work is astounding. Thanx for posting this.

JNiece (author)2015-08-09


Phil_S (author)2015-08-09

Outstanding boat-building craftsmanship.

I love wooden boats way over the utilitarian glass fibre offerings.

The nearest we get to see boat -building craftsmanship in the UK are some of the Lake District and Thames vintage steam and petrol cruisers - the Italians still make nice speedboats.

buck2217 (author)2015-07-01

That is a beautiful Kayak

ChaseN2 (author)2014-12-28

Check out another example of a cedar strip build at

ChaseN2 (author)ChaseN22015-03-10

I updated the site!

jimmar57 (author)ChaseN22014-12-28

Superior work! Nice looking canoe. Sometimes I wish I would have taken a little more time to add the artistic detail like you have done.

Wonder what the common traits are that make people do similar things. I also own an Outback and play guitar.

ChaseN2 (author)jimmar572014-12-28

For some reason I'm not surprised. I think building a canoe must be a lifestyle!

david.peters.5667 (author)2014-10-27

Check out my blog on my Senior High School project of building a cedar strip canoe:

leifforrest (author)2014-09-11

nice work!

nic nak (author)2014-06-14

Just beautiful.

Woodlandboy46 (author)2014-01-21

This project looks amazing. My grandpa said he would help me build this, as I don't have the necessary tools. I have looked at estimating cost websites, but my grandpa is insistent upon me asking you what your final cost actually was. I am an avid canoe/kayaker, as well as a big fan of Doing it Myself, so just the thought of making my own canoe just makes me feel awesome

jimmar57 (author)Woodlandboy462014-01-23

Hi Woodlandboy46,

This instructable includes links to help estimate epoxy and wood costs, which are two of the larger components of the cost. I have started on my 4th cedar strip boat, another kayak this time, maybe I'll try to keep an account of costs this time. Your final costs depend a lot on the type of wood and how much you have to pay and the epoxy costs which can vary a lot depending on manufacture. I would say that 1/3 of the cost is wood for strips, 1/3 for epoxy and fiberglass and 1/3 misc such as wood for gunnels, material for the station forms and strong back, tools, sandpaper, wood glue, screws, brushes, plastic, tape, squeegees, deck, yoke & seat frame material, Varnish. I tried to cut costs where I could by making every thing I could. I even reused some old white pine lumber I salvaged when I rebuilt the front porch on my farmhouse. It was used for the hull on my kayak. I think you could estimate about $500 on the low side if you find ways to salvage material and make everything yourself. If you purchase a kit you could spend $2000 or more.

Good luck!

Woodlandboy46 (author)jimmar572014-02-16

Thank you sir i have decided on the Prospector Ranger 15 im just waiting for the weather here in ohio to warm up so the wood doesn't freeze as soon as i steam it

Just to clarify the Prospector Ranger 15 is the is the canoe plan i decided on and i did use the site you suggested">

ivan_stephens (author)2013-12-31

Beautiful canoe. how many hours did it take to complete?

jimmar57 (author)ivan_stephens2014-01-03

didn't count the hours, but I started in October and finished the following April and worked maybe 5-10 hours / week

spylock (author)2013-09-08

Really nice job,to buy a canoe like that one would dent the bank account for sure,but worth it.

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