Introduction: Stitch and Glue Canoe With Cedar Strip Top
About 6 months ago I bought my [Canadian] wife a canoe, it was a 17 foot touring canoe made of some sort of tuffened composite plastic. It fit both of us with plenty of room for the 2 youngest children. The problem is that it weighs just slightly less than two baby elephants making it impossible for one of us to head to the lake and go for a tranquil paddle (having two children in it also made it... not very tranquil).
So with quite a few supplies laying around, from a Cedar Strip Paddle Board I'm in the process of making, I set about making a one person canoe that could be transported and launched by one person (and wouldn't fit any children).
- Plans for a 10' Peasemarsh 10 Canoe purchased from Stanley Small Craft (https://www.stanleysmallcraft.co/)
- 1200 X 2400 x 5.5mm exterior grade ply (2 of)
- 200 X 2.5 mm cable ties (~100)
- Plastic coated wire
- Epoxy resin and hardener (i probably used ~ 2kg in total)
- Silica fillit (to bulk out the resin)
- 50 mm woven fiberglass tape (~20m)
- Cedar (~ one 3600 x 150 X 22 mm board milled to 2900 X 19 x 9 mm strips + 700 x 80 x 20 plank for the yolk)
- 2 x 750ml pots (one green, one white) of marine enamel paint
- 2 x hatch covers
- M4 countersunk hex head bolts with nuts
- Glue (polyurethane and 5 minute clear epoxy)
Step 1: Cutting the Panels
Following the very well detailed template plans in the instructions I marked out all of the panels on one sheet of the plywood. Then by clamping the 2 sheets together and cutting out the templates I had all of the pieces I needed. I also chose to pre cut out the bulkhead panels (which is optional as you can do it once your have the body stitched together)
Step 2: Scarf Joints
Then for something completely new... scarf joining plywood. I opted for butt joints as opposed to anything more complex.
Laying a strip of fiberglass tape on some polythene and soaking in epoxy I then placed the 2 pieces of ply butting up to each other in the middle of the tape I then put some epoxy mixed with fillit across the joint and then another strip of tape across the top. After soaking the top tape with more epoxy I covered it all with polythene and weighted it down until dry. I did the same for each joint until my 14 ply sections became 7.
The joints were extremely strong and I'd hazard a guess that the ply would have broken before the joint, had I tried to ruin 2 days hard work.
Step 3: Stitching
Then it was time to stitch.
I started by marking where I wanted each stitch and its corresponding hole on the adjacent panel, I only did this for the first panel as it was taking too long and it was much easier just to eyeball it on the first panel and drill the second panel when it was laid up next to the first. I then went round and cable tied very loosely all of the sections together.
Then I went round and started to tighten the ties so that the canoe began to take shape... 2 points of note: 1) it's much harder than it sounds or people on YouTube make it look and 2) this is where the quality (or lack thereof) my template cutting out shone through, quite a bit of cutting lumps and bumps where the panels met was required. Also quite a few of the cable ties snapped in the tightening process so I moved onto using wire , which in hindsight I should have just used from the start.
I also figured that the glass tape and resin would fill a lot of those gaps so, what the heck, I just cracked on!
Step 4: Glueing the Inside
I then ran painter's tape along each seam on the outside to stop the resin leaking out and went to town on putting epoxy and fillit along each seam on the inside. Now at this point I had to come up with a solution to dry the epoxy. My aforementioned paddle board project had stalled because little beknown to me when starting that build, epoxy doesn't cure if the temperature is less than 15 degrees celsius, it was currently hovering between -2 and 1 degrees celsius in my workshop however I got around this with a space blanket and an oil heater.
Once cured I went round and removed all of my ties and started sanding back the untidy epoxy. Lesson learned : epoxy resin and silica fillit is nigh on impossible to sand back, they say scientists have found 6 materials which are stronger than diamond... make that 7 !
Step 5: Taping the Outside
Now it was time to flip it and start taping. First I did a bit of sanding on the seams so that it wouldn't tear the glass tape and then started applying the tape. First wetting the seam with epoxy, then laying the tape down and then soaking it with more epoxy. I'm not sure why I was surprised, as I had no point of reference for this, but it was not very easy at all to get a good flat finish; the tape would slide around, bunch up or start to separate. Also because most sides and seams were close to vertical, applying a fill coat was also a bit of a pain. It was by no means perfect but would do and after good sand down (to try and make up for the very drip ridden sides) I put one last "didn't quite fill the weave'' fill coat and I was good for the final stretch.
Step 6: Adding the Cedar Strip
As I mentioned I had quite a bit of cedar strip left over so I started putting a strip all the way round the top of the boat (i'll mention now that i'm sure each one of these bits of a boat have a proper name but I'm buggered if i know what they are).These strips were glued on with a combination of polyurethane glue (where there was little strain) and quick set epoxy ( where there was more strain).
For each of the bulk heads I sized the tops up with cardboard templates before cutting some ply to glue in place. Then purely for aesthetics I laminated up some strips of cedar and attached to the top of the ply, squaring these off with a flush trim router bit and it was starting to take shape.
I continued the strips around the inside and along the top of the... side rail things.
Everything was then softened up with a roundover bit before sanding my way down through the grits.
Step 7: Painting
For any exposed wood I gave 2 coats of epoxy, the inside 3 coats of white semi gloss enamel paint and the outside 3 coats of green gloss enamel. I then finished the wood with some marine varnish (the paints were also marine quality).
Not a lot I can say about painting other than I don't like doing it and still probably need another coat on the outside.
Step 8: Adding the Hatches
I picked up a couple of waterproof hatch covers on ebay for about £8 each and think they look pretty good.
Step 9: The Yolk
For the yolk I did a bit of research on shapes before sketching it out and cutting a template. With some left over Cedar (this was a mistake but i'll come to that) I cut it out, rounded off and sanded down. I gave it a couple of coats of epoxy and a coat of varnish before fixing in place.
I attached it with removable bolts as I understand that the yolk and seat (which i opted not to put in as it will be a kneeler) should be removable (this was not a mistake and i'll come to that now)
So Cedar is very light, has a low density and is semi water repellent which is why it's so good for making canoes and other watercraft, It is also however very brittle and I was going to find this out on only the 2nd time of picking it up and that yolk snapped clean in 2... d'oh! Oh well I think I have some larch in the workshop for Yolk number 2.
Step 10: Ready to Paddle
And there we have it, my wifes mothers day present in 2022.
I filled it with water just to check for leaks and it was ready to hit the lake, although I did offer to take it on its maiden outing just in case it tried to sink.