Introduction: FAIL Making a Canoe With Fire

Picture of FAIL Making a Canoe With Fire

I tried to make a native american dugout canoe...... it didn't go so well: I got a second degree burn from kneeling on a hot coal, got a log burned through it, got another log burned through it and got a log and burned a hole through it as well.

Fun fact: I built this in an area where lots native americans were known to live

Step 1: Obtain REALLY Big Log

The first step to failing is to obtain a REALLY big log I got my first one from a tree that fell over in a creek.

Step 2: FAIL Number One

Picture of FAIL Number One

This was my first try

Why it failed: it failed because some relatives were over and I forgot to check on the fire and it burned through the bottom

Lesson learned: DO NOT kneel when EXTREMELY hot coals are scattered everywhere

Step 3: FAIL Number Two

Picture of FAIL Number Two

Second try

Why it failed: It failed because the coals dropped into the hollow spot and the log was up in flames within an hour

Lesson learned: don't use hollow logs

Step 4: Fail Number Three

Picture of Fail Number Three

third and closest to success

Why it failed: I didn't put it out enough

lesson learned: put the fire out totally ( I also came up with a rhyme: when in doubt flood it out)

Step 5: Float Your Boat

Picture of Float Your Boat

Now time to float your boat! My sisters didn't want to get on it so they put their Instructables shirt (they won it in the makerspace contest) on a stuffed animal. :)

As you can see it's maiden voyage didn't go so well.


fw 190D (author)2016-04-07

"Fun fact: I built this in an area where lots native americans were known to live"

And I bet their spirits had a good laugh watching you that day.

grahamgamer2447 (author)fw 190D2017-04-11

Nice man nice.

Jack Rodgers (author)2016-04-07

The natives used propane blow torches since the coals were difficult to handle with bare hands.

mlbosque (author)Jack Rodgers2016-04-08


BetsyFartBlossom (author)2016-04-07

Well, the one that sunk wasn't a failure, it's a secure place for frogs and little fish to hide in. You did a good thing! Remember, if at first you don't succeed, you're doing it wrong! Story of my life:)

tedhaubrich (author)2016-04-07

Hey, your canoe looks fine! Just the passenger is too big.

Aubrienna (author)2016-04-07

I'm sorry you got hurt, but it is a little bit funny.

Wildchildontheroad (author)2016-04-07

A note from an anthropology major: great attempt! I think part of the theory is slowly transferring coals to the log from a fire, it would allow you a bit more control. (It's a really slow process but has a beautiful result)

Yes, I've seen this done in a couple of living history displays. Hot coals are moved from the fire onto the log to be burned out. The coals are fanned as the area burns, then coals are moved to another area (or removed and replaced by new coals if they've burnt out or away) and the burnt wood is scraped out. Repeat until the desired burn is created. And yes, it takes a very long time.

Fotmasta (author)2016-04-07


richlisa (author)2015-12-02

Good attempt, looks like you had fun. Did you take the opportunity to cook anything on the log as it burned?

no but I did try: making glass, firing clay, and melting aluminum foil :)

LOL! Melting glass bottles is a fun thing to do with a fire. Getting them out without any cracks is an art.

TimothyJ999 (author)2015-11-25

Thanks for posting your failure!

Couple of suggestions for next time: you've already realized that the log wasn't long enough; I'd also add that it wasn't thick enough. A "really big" log nowadays would have been a piece of kindling to someone 200 years ago.

You need to remove your own weight in wood, plus enough for several inches of freeboard (distance from waterline to to top edge of the canoe. Most American hardwoods run between 30 and 40 lbs per cubic foot, so if you want to carry (say) 350 lbs of people and cargo, you'll need to remove 10 cubic feet of wood PLUS about 50 percent more for freeboard. That's a half-cylinder 2 feet in diameter and about 7 feet long (so a canoe hollow 2 feet wide, a foot deep, and 7 feet long)--a lot more wood than you removed I think.

Last point: when I saw this done as a kid, it was done in dozens of separate burns. They'd let the fire go until just an inch or two of char developed, then they put it out and chopped/scraped out the burned parts down to bare wood. Then they'd do it again and again--this allowed for much finer control over the removal of wood.

Attmos (author)TimothyJ9992016-02-19

Out-riggers might have helped with the displacement problem, although I'm not sure Native-Americans used them. :)


thank you

and I did do this in probably 10-20 different burns for the first and last log and chiseling the char out between

What date is prize giving day!?

Big Projects (author)2015-12-05

you should have planted plants in it after it failed. That would have made a cool looking planter!

guidess (author)2015-12-05

Great Instructable because it was super instructive! I can totally see why you tried the things you did, how the mistakes could happen to anyone, and what you learned from each one. Sometimes people make it look too easy, and that can be way less helpful than showing the inevitable flubs. Thanks!

bravoechonovember1 (author)2015-11-25

I used a shovel in the process but how would you do that with an ax?

What you really want is a tool called an adze. An adze is sort of a sideways axe. They were a lot more popular when folks were still making dugout canoes.

Tool Using Animal (author)pfred22015-11-29

Still easy to find, any good woodworking store has them.

pfred2 (author)Tool Using Animal2015-11-29

I meant they are hard to find used for a reasonable price. Of course if you want to shell out $175 a new one should not be too hard to come by.

really? hmm I will have to look into that

Woodcraft's sell them, but you could buy a canoe for the price...Cheap one on ebay for under $50, but I'd be concerned about the quality.

I wonder how long a bent shovel would hold up as an adze

AnubisAndIsis (author)2015-11-29

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. - Thomas A. Edison
But more importantly:

"A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying." - B. F. Skinner

bravoechonovember1 (author)2015-11-28

That is what I did with the shovel though an ax would have been a big help

bravoechonovember1 (author)2015-11-28

no problem (that is why they have the delete comment button :) )

Kentish (author)2015-11-26

Would it be safe to say it burned down fell over and sank into the swamp?

Fugstar (author)2015-11-25

Nice. Not many consider allowing others to learn from their mistakes. You generally only end up learning from your own! Keep engineering :-)

mikeasaurus (author)2015-11-25

Thanks for sharing the process, even though it didn't turn out like you expected.

Any plans to try again?

I dunno

I might try to make an "inner tube" out of part of a log

mlawing (author)2015-11-25

This was enjoyable. I think a controlled burn would help. Consider ax cutting an outline for the cavity to act as a firebreak. No experience with that, but thought it might help when the burn gets there to slow it down.

well I did use clay to control it

Sure. I'm just supposing that a deeper well would allow more burn before needing to be put out. Great project.

nschrock (author)2015-11-25

Anyone can post an Instructable that works! One of these days, you'll be able to look back and laugh about it!
I admire you for posting yours that didn't work! I know it was disappointing, especially since you injured yourself.

Mysterious_Gal (author)2015-11-24

LOL :)

dflynn5 (author)2015-11-24

Legend! Love it :)

pisham (author)2015-11-23

I cheer you for posting your fail. It is not total failure. You have learned. Einstein, Edison and so many others learned from their failure. Keep doing!!

thank you! I intend to keep making!

edyvanellende (author)2015-11-24

respect for your fail.takes a man yo admit fsilure but we know what not to do, and i hsd fun reading it to
keep up inventing maye, were almost home

josh (author)2015-11-24

This is great!!! Thanks for sharing

MandalorianMaker (author)2015-11-23

Tip: when you do another make it a lot longer, like 10-15 feet or more, the log has to have enough space inside to support you weight. Good try though, the maiden voyage photo was amusing to say the least.

yeah I realised that when I chainsawed of the ends.......

LOL!! Thats something I would do :P you should attempt it again at some point, remembering what you have learned.

4WantofaNail (author)2015-11-23

Neat attempt. Where i live i wouldn't have enough space to even make the attempt. also, good on ya for giving it another go despite the burn. if at first you don't succeed...

Yotch (author)2015-11-23

Failures are a good thing. Use what you've learned from these to make one to be proud of, I'd like to see a picture of that. This was entertaining thanks.

bravoechonovember1 (author)Yotch2015-11-23

thanks for the nice comment! though I don't know where I will get another 2 ton log

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm16 and in my free time I control cockroaches, weld, make canoes from duct tape, 3D print, make helmets, light big pieces of wood ... More »
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