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The Wood and Canvas Canoe

Discussion in 'Wood Canoe Basics' started by Dan Miller, Oct 18, 2012.

  1. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    [H=1]The Wood and Canvas Canoe[/H]
    [image]wood_canvas_WC731.gif|thumb|right|border|Reprinted from Wooden Canoe Issue 73[/image]
    Wood & canvas canoes are the direct descendant of birch bark canoes. While very similar to bark canoes in the use of ribs, planking and a waterproof covering, their method of construction is completely different. Wood and canvas canoes are built by bending ribs over a solid mold. This mold has metal bands in the location of each rib, and when the planking is next fastened on, these metal bands serve to clinch the brass canoe tacks, thus fastening the planking to the rib tightly. Once removed from the mold, the decks, thwarts and seats are installed. Canvas is stretched tightly over the hull, and fastened only along the gunwales and the stems. A durable canvas filler is applied to fill the weave, add durability, and make the canoe watertight. Following the application of interior varnish and exterior paint, the canoe is ready to be used.

    The method used to build canvas canoes use standardized parts – typically the rib blanks and planking stock are milled to a standard width and thickness. This, coupled with the use of the metal-banded form, made this type of canoe construction readily adaptable to the factory situation. A large number of companies built several hundred thousand of this type of canoe from around 1886 to the present day, and are perhaps the most common form of wooden boat in the world.

    [H=2]Builders and Restorers of Wood & Canvas Canoes[/H]

    A number of WCHA members build and/or restore canvas-covered canoes. A list of them can be found on the WCHA Builders and Suppliers Directory.


    Stelmok, Jerry. Building the Maine Guide Canoe. Lyons and Burford, New York. 1980.
    Jerry’s earlier book, it is a thorough explanation of the process of building a canvas covered canoe. No plans are included.
    Stelmok, Jerry.The Art of the Canoe with Joe Seliga. MBI Publishing Company, Minnesota. 2002.
    A noted canoe builder himself, Jerry Stelmok provides an in-depth look at Ely, Minnesota’s renowned canoe builder Joe Seliga. A biography of Seliga, and a thorough examination of Joe’s construction techniques are the result. Stunning photography by Deborah Sussex only enhance the volume.​
    Stelmok, Jerry and Rollin Thurlow. The Wood & Canvas Canoe: A Complete Guide to its History, Construction, Restoration and Maintenance. The Harpswell Press, Maine, 1987.
    This book is considered by many to be the “bible” of the wood & canvas canoe, and should be the first purchased by any interested in this type of canoe. It includes study plans for three proven wood & canvas canoe designs.​
    [H=2]DVD/ Videotapes[/H]

    Northwoods Canoe Company. Building the Atkinson Traveler
    A thorough look at building a Maine guide canoe, lobster in the steam box and a canoe tossed from the roof. What more can one ask for? (100 minutes)​
    Stewart River Boat Works. Building the Wood & Canvas Canoe. 1997.
    Alex Comb takes the prospective canoe builder through two volumes describing how he builds a wood and canvas canoe. (3 hours, 40 minutes)​

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