Duct Tape and PVC Canoe





Introduction: Duct Tape and PVC Canoe

Browsing Imgur one day I saw some guys that made a duct tape canoe, and decided to try my hand at the same. I saw a few other Instructables on this site that made kayaks or canoes, but they seemed a little smaller in scale and I wanted to build one I could use more than once and for it to be comfortable and enjoyable. Using a few ideas pulled from other DIYers, my wife and I built a canoe that we could both enjoy!

Edit: Here's the video of our launch!

*We definitely recommend life jackets, we just took a small test in relatively shallow water since its already winter and we wanted to avoid getting wet at all costs. We also learned, as you can see in the video, that kayak-style paddles was a bad idea. We're going to cut the ends off and make them typical oars.

Step 1: Materials

We wanted our canoe to be about 14' long (after researching basic canoe sizes/shapes on Amazon) and just under 3' wide. Here is a basic list of things we bought/used for the canoe:

  • 6 sections of 20' 3/4" pvc pipe
  • 1 section of 10' 1" pvc pipe
  • 6 rolls of duct tape
  • lighter
  • pliers
  • 25'x10' painters plastic
  • pvc cement
  • 2 plastic school chairs from craigslist
  • 2 sections of 2'x3' thin but sturdy plywood

And for the paddles:

  • 2 sections 10' 1" pvc pipe
  • a few 18"x6" sections of thin but sturdy wood from Home Depot's scrap lumber section (free)
  • length of rope

Step 2: Building the Basic Frame

Cut 2 sections of the 3/4" pipe into 14' lengths, and 2 more into about 13'8" lengths. I wanted the bottom of the canoe to be a little more narrow than the top, so the 14' lengths are for the top and the others for the bottom.

Wanting the canoe to be a little sturdier than just being held together by duct tape, I used an idea from this guy's pvc kayak (https://www.instructables.com/id/Duct-Tape-and-PVC-...) to make some guiding pvc pipe to help hold everything in place, sort of like open-faced pvc connectors. Using 1" pipe, I cut a few 6" sections of pipe down the middle, leaving me with two long semicircle-ish lengths of pipe. The 1" pipe cups the 3/4" pipe very snugly, so I could heat the middle of the sections (to make bending easier) and then bend it into my own open connector and apply where needed. This way I could still get the long sloping curve of a canoe (I originally planned on using normal PVC connectors, but then the canoe would be very boxy and can't curve normally).

I cut and bent two "V" shape sections of the 1" pipe (from here on known as open-faced connectors, or OFCs) to help hold the ends of the 14' pipes together, which would be placed on the inside of the ends and and 13'8" pipes together, giving me 2 large pointed ovals to use as my upper and lower frames. I cut the ends of the 14' and 13'8" pipes at a sharp angle so they could be flat when they meet at the ends as shown in picture #4. The "V" shape OFCs were applied with pvc cement and then taped on, holding my 2 upper frame lengths together and my 2 lower frame lengths together.

I made more 90 degree OFCs to hold the rest of the guiding pieces together so that it looked like Picture #5 - giving me a basic frame to work wtih.

Note: I made the middle of the canoe about 2' high and the ends about 2'6" high - more like a normal canoe shape would be.

Step 3: Fleshing Out the Frame

Here I needed to add more support for the canoe so that it wasn't very flimsy and would hold up when the water pressure was applied.

As shown in the canoe diagram, the open top of the canoe typically has 2 thwarts and a yoke spanning the width, as well as a seat for each person. Those pieces were added while leaving space for my two seats (shown in the picture as a reference).

I also added 6 more pipe lengths to stabilize the bottom (3 on each front and back half), and 4 on each side of the canoe (2 towards the front and 2 towards the back), making 8 total on the sides.

Each section of pipe was added by using 2 OFCs bent in 90 degree angles to hold the new piece to both the upper and lower frame, with pvc cement and duct tape to guarantee it wouldn't move. If you look at the closest section of Picture #2 you can get an idea for how this worked.

Sorry I should have taken better pictures of this part!

Step 4: Making It Water Tight

I bought painters plastic to make it water proof, since I didn't trust the duct tape to do the job, especially once it got wet. The 25'x10' piece I bought made sure that I could wrap the whole canoe in one go, leaving no spaces for leaks. I laid it out on the ground, set the canoe on it, and cut/taped it to fit.

One I had the painters plastic on, I got out the duct tape and went to town. I started from the back and moved towards the front, so when using the canoe the water wouldn't be peeling away at the tape (if that makes sense). Kind of like shingles on a roof, the water runs the direction of the overlapping tape for better protection.

Step 5: Adding Seats and Making Paddles

I bought some cheap plastic school-type chairs off Craigslist for about $10, drilled the legs off, and mounted them on some 2'x3' pieces of wood I picked up from Home Depot. I used some blocks from the scrap pile so they sat a little higher off the base wood so that we weren't sitting so low.

I made paddles using more pvc pipe and some 18"x6" sections of thin sturdy wood using a guide I found here


We discovered that kayak-type paddles don't work very well for something so wide, so in the future we'll cut the ends off and just make them oars.

Taped it up so water wouldn't get to the wood and make it waterlogged!

Step 6: Enjoy!

Took it out to Utah Lake to test out and it worked like a dream! My wife and I were able to get in and paddle around no problem. It only sat about 6" down in the water, and since it was about 2' tall in the middle (and taller at the ends, as a normal canoe would be) we weren't in any danger of getting wet.

We didn't finish it until winter had started, so its now back in storage and waiting its shot at some sunshine!

Hope you enjoyed this and if anything was unclear let me know!



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    63 Discussions

    How much did this project cost?

    uttarakhand tehri dam

    Hey! Awesome project!

    I'd like to know how wide it was in the end, and also how long and wide were the duct tape rolls.


    Great DIY! Looks like y'all had fun with this project! Keep up the great brain work! There's nothing like seeing a plan come together!

    How much did it cost

    since you took the chair legs off anyway, would stadium seats sit at the same height in the canoe?

    1 reply

    I had to mount my chairs up on some blocks so they sit high enough - stadium seats would work just as well, but i'd drop the sides of the canoe by at least 6" and then you might not have to boost them up

    For your next project, look up 'plywood fiberglass boat building'. I bought some plans for a 10' boat, for sail, row, motor. You cut out 1/4" plywood for the hull, do the seams with 6" wide fiberglass tape, then fiberglass cloth both sides. A LOT more work, heavier, but it's not hard at all. And for a couple hundred bucks, you get a real boat.
    This looked like a lot of fun to make. (my joke - buy a box of latex gloves, in case you need flotation...)

    2 replies

    I'd suggest a skin on frame canoe either from green wood or cheap construction lumber. No glue at all, everything lashed. You can cover it in clear Vinyl or painted polyester fabric. Varnish or oil the frame.

    Either use traditional bent in ribs or plywood frames.

    Such a boat would be really cheap (under 100 bucks) and the frame would last a lifetime. The last picture in my first instructable shows a 2m kids canoe built that way.

    Rather then plywood use foam insulation you can buy from lowes in a 4x8 sheet. It can be cut with a razer and shaped any way you wont it. then cover it with fiberglass. very strong, durable and light.

    Interesting project! Low score on the whole sustainability index, but great to see the build. Make on...

    What a beautiful boat! Was there any trial and error or did you just go straight from conception to completion? I really want to try this next summer, how do you think it will handle on a lazy river?

    1 reply

    Thanks man, I appreciate it. Actually it worked from conception to completion - but there was a LOT of conception. I went over several plans and thought about it for weeks before I went about building it. It would handle a lazy river no problem, as long as the water wasn't too shallow and you didn't hit the edge. If you scraped the bottom of the river you'd probably tear it wide open, but the benefit is you can always tape it right back up!

    Smooth lines! I'm hoping to get a Kayak (or two) done this summer...

    Friendly warning though -- burning PVC (or using a heat gun to melt, as mentioned in the comments) releases some pretty nasty stuff. The 'C' in PVC stands for Chloride, so you want to make sure you have plenty of ventilation and/or protection. You may want to add a disclaimer to the 'ible, since I learned this from reading other PVC related ones myself.

    Great job!

    This is awesome! If any of my students came to me with this I would be so happy. This is a fantastic fun project. Keep doing something, you have a wonderful imagination. Keep safe, enjoy life.

    You could probably cut about 6 - 8" off the height and it would still have more than enough floatation and it would be a lot easier to paddle

    1 reply

    I agree. Unfortunately at this point its quite a bit of work to shave that off the height, I saw some other canoe/kayaks on this site that sat too low in the water so I was being cautious.

    Great job. Don't pay atention to comments critical of nomenclature or paddling style. If you want to sit with back support in your canoe than DO IT!. That is one of the benifits of DIY it you can design it to be to your liking. My bigest question is; How much does it weigh?

    1 reply

    Thanks for the support - I would much rather sit comfortably in a chair than do anything else!

    Probably weighs under 40 pounds - maybe 30? about half of what a normal canoe that size would weigh. I'm not very good at estimating weight, nor do I have a scale to put it on