Introduction: Cedar Strip Canoe

Picture of Cedar Strip Canoe

The following is the quick and simple version of how I built my first cedar strip canoe. I'm in the process of building my second canoe right now and I've been posting detailed, short instructional videos for all the steps on my YouTube channel -

If you want to see a more detailed description of the steps check out my channel! I am also documenting the process on my Instagram -

Step 1: Strongback and Molds

Picture of Strongback and Molds

The first step is to build this long skinny table called the "strong back". The canoe I have plans for is 15' long so I made the strong back a couple inches shorter than that.

I used plans I got from to cut the molds out of plywood. I wrap the cedar strips on to the molds. I mount the molds at every foot along the strong back.

Step 2: Milling the Strips

Picture of Milling the Strips

You can order pre milled strips online or you can spend a weekend cutting your own strips. I cuts strips on a table saw at 3/4" wide by (a little over) 1/4" thick, plane them to exactly 1/4", then route a bead and cove onto them (kind of like a rounded tongue and groove). The bead and cove lets the strips fit snuggly into one another even when rounding the contours of the hull.

Step 3: Bending the Stems

Picture of Bending the Stems

I didn't get very many pictures of this on my first canoe. There is an inner stem and an outer stem - each of which are made from 3 strips of Ash. I didn't want to mess around with a steam box so I soaked the ash strips in my bathtub overnight in hot water. The next day I add boiling water again, wait 15 minutes, then bend the strips onto the "stem mold" (as seen in the picture). After I let them dry for a couple days I glued the 3 inner stems together and the three outer stems together. You build the hull onto the inner stems, then you cap the ends with the outer stems.

This is kind of a complicated process - it's one of those steps that is easier understood by watching my video...

Step 4: Building the Hull

Picture of Building the Hull

The next step is to mount the strips onto the hull. I used staples for my first canoe - you staple one strip onto the molds at the waterline (cove side up), then start gluing strips on upwards (I did 3 at a time). You glue the ends of the strips onto the inner stems. Some of the more dramatic curves are tricky to bend the cedar strips onto but staples make it pretty easy to form the shape.

After I rounded onto the bottom I start working one side only past the middle...

Step 5: Closing the Hull

Picture of Closing the Hull

I work one side past the middle the cut the centerline with a circular saw. From there, I custom fit each strip until the gap is closed.

Step 6: Attaching the Outer Stem

Picture of Attaching the Outer Stem

After I strip the hull, I cut the strips at the inner stem and cut a mortise into the strips as the end curves onto the bottom of the boat so the outer stem lies on the inner stem... There's also a video on my channel for this step.

Step 7: Fiberglassing the Hull

Picture of Fiberglassing the Hull

After the outer stem is attached, you pull the staples and sand the hull.

Once the hull is sanded to 120 grit I put a fiberglass seal on the outside of the hull. You drape 6 oz fiberglass cloth over the boat then pour two-part epoxy resin and hardener directly onto the fiberglass and spread it around with a squeegee. As the resin soaks into the fiberglass the cloth turns completely transparent.

I put three coats on - waiting three hours between each coat. After it cures I sand it to an even finish (orbital 60g>120g, wet sand to 220 grit).

For more instruction you can use this West System's website, or watch my youtube video about it:

Step 8: Fiberglassing the Inside

Picture of Fiberglassing the Inside

After the epoxy on the outside is cured you pop the canoe off the molds, flip it right-side up and do the same process to the inside of the hull.

Step 9: Gunnels and Decks

Picture of Gunnels and Decks

Again, I don't have very good photos of the first canoe for this step. After the hull is fiberglassed you mount gunnels (rails made of ash) on the sheer line. There are inner gunnels and outer gunnels that sandwich the edge of the hull. I use epoxy glue and screws to attach the gunnels. I also put small decks with handles in the ends.

I don't have videos for these steps on my youtube channel yet but it should be posted sometime in the next couple weeks/months.

Step 10: Seats and Yoke

Picture of Seats and Yoke

I carved the yoke and sanded it clean. The seats are pretty simple to put together also. I coated these with epoxy also for water resistance and I wove the cane on the seats by hand.

Step 11: Varnishing

Picture of Varnishing

I put a couple clear coats of epoxy directly onto any exposed wood on all of my trim before I varnish. I used Epifanes high gloss clear varnish. It's pretty easy to apply onto the epoxy as long as you follow all of the manufacturer instructions:

The yoke and seats are varnished also but they are removable to make it easy to revarnish everything every couple of years.

Step 12: Put It in the Water

Picture of Put It in the Water

The whole process takes several months. My best guess for the number of hours I spent on my first canoe is somewhere around 300. It cost me about $1500 but it could get way more expensive than that depending on wood accessibility and several other factors. For a project like this there are so many variables and different ways of doing things. There are more and more people posting instructional stuff for cedar strip canoes online all the time so there's really no shortage of how-to resources. I have worked really hard on my YouTube videos to make them fast paced while still providing thorough instruction - if you're interested in seeing more of an in depth description of the processes watch my videos and feel free to leave comments on them if you have feedback.

I have done a lot of woodworking but cedar strip canoes are definitely the most fun, engaging, and difficult project I have ever taken on. If anyone has the resources, time, space and drive I would highly recommend giving it a go!


cavalier19 (author)2017-01-19

Classic piece of wood working. Hats off. Stunning look. Worth mounting ona wall.

Josehf Murchison (author)2017-01-11

Congratulations 2 Grand prize and 1 first prize.

Thanks Josehf! I probably wouldn't have even entered it in anything if you hadn't told me to! Thanks so much I appreciate it!!!

It's funny but, I get a big kick out of your wins.

pawtanwar (author)2017-01-11

congrats!on winning buddy.

aguydoingstuff (author)pawtanwar2017-01-11

Thanks man! You too!

r5473c (author)2016-12-23

That is not a DIY project. That's a work of art. Beautiful. Congratulations. You really know how to live.

Josehf Murchison (author)2016-12-07

Congratulations on the Grand prize.

RoguePirin (author)2016-12-06

Congratulations on the win in the Glue contest!


makjosher (author)2016-12-06

Congratulations on winning! I thought you might. :-)

aguydoingstuff (author)makjosher2016-12-06

Thanks man! too bad there weren't different levels for the glue contest - your boat was frign awesome and should have been up there!

jose7528 (author)2016-11-27

me gusto muchisiomo pero me gustaria hacer un barco mas grnde como par el mar

Josehf Murchison (author)2016-11-22

Congratulations on the first prize.

offseidjr (author)2016-11-21

Nice 'ible!

tatebullrider (author)2016-11-20

Hey there, I was just checking out the competition for the survival ready contest lol. I am the one who built the wood gasifier. I would just like to say great job, that thing is absolutely amazing. You truly made a work of art. I would also like to say best of luck, and may the best 'ibble win. :)

Thanks Tate! Yeah I saw your post - Very well thought out! Thanks good luck to you too!!!

csokl (author)2016-11-20

Great job! Thanks a lot.

manuelmasc (author)2016-11-18

voted!! it's awesome!!!!! :O

mdheath (author)2016-11-16

This is amazing, nice work.

Pask Makes (author)2016-11-16

Awesome work and dedication! That is a beauty!

I recently started following you on Instagram but didn't realise you had a Youtube channel. I'll check it out.

I just posted my first instructable too.

Artisanlocal (author)2016-11-16

Wow that is an incredible project. Very well done

caracoda (author)2016-11-15

Woooow.... This is a gorgeous canoe and one hell of commitment and patience! Well done! You have my vote and I hope you win the Grand prize! You so deserve it!

aguydoingstuff (author)caracoda2016-11-15

Thanks a lot!:)

boatmakertoo (author)2016-11-14

That is one beautiful canoe. The patience and discipline required for such work is amazing. I certainly don't have it. Congratulations.


John Gray 1 (author)2016-11-14

Dude that is a nice canoe.

Thanks man!

Pat White (author)2016-11-14


aguydoingstuff (author)Pat White2016-11-14

Thanks Pat!

Josehf Murchison (author)2016-11-14

That is a beautiful canoe, What contests is it in?

Thanks Josehf! It's not in a contest - I don't think it's eligible for any of them right now. It's my first Instructable post and I'm really happy with how it did. I think I'll start doing more and see if I can get into a contest in the future.

Try entering it in the Survival Ready Contest, the Glue Contest, and the Tables and Desks Woodcraft Contest.

I know it is not a table or desk but it is a woodcraft.

Such nice wood work deserves a prize.

Thanks - I just entered it. I totally wouldn't if you hadn't said anything, Thanks!

Good Luck

st3v3nywwt (author)2016-11-14

very nice!

Muddypaws (author)2016-11-12

Wow! That is a stunningly beautiful canoe you have built. Great instructable, I shall make a note for future reference, as I would like to build a canoe of my own one day. If is is not even half as nice as yours I will be well pleased.

aguydoingstuff (author)Muddypaws2016-11-14

Awesome! Thanks:)

cyberminusie (author)2016-11-12

It's a very beatuful job


4DIYers (author)2016-11-12

Wow that is art! I'd be afraid to use it.

aguydoingstuff (author)4DIYers2016-11-14

haha thanks!

ML Hutch (author)2016-11-13

I watched a cedar strip canoe being built at a nautical museum in Cedarville Michigan. The technique was similar to yours but the cedar strip bead and cove forming was formed on a one pass process using two routers and home built machine. They used bungee straps to hold the strips on the formers when gluing up. Your project turned out well and well presented.

aguydoingstuff (author)ML Hutch2016-11-14

That's awesome - yeah milling the strips is TEDIOUS! Thanks!

Dr. Joe (author)2016-11-13

I enjoyed your build. What plans did you use? What would you do different? I have built several plywood canoes but may have to do a stripper soon.

aguydoingstuff (author)Dr. Joe2016-11-14

Thanks! I used plans for a "Bob's Special 15'".
The first one was a really good experience for me. For my second one I'm not using staples to build the hull and I did a little bit of a fancier design strip - both these things made it a lot more tedious - I kind of liked using staples. I'm wanting to do a plywood stitch and glue sailboat soon. Got any good resources for that?

nchey (author)2016-11-13

so beautiful !!!

nice job

wana make now now :-)

acheide (author)2016-11-12

Really nice. Thanks.

makendo (author)2016-11-12

beautiful craft, great job

About This Instructable




Bio: Watch me do stuff on my youtube channel:
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