Do You Have the Time?
It takes 10 weekends to build a canoe.
And I’ve just made a liar of myself.
In our shop we budget 60 hours for our most simple, smallest boat. It’s a thirteen footer with no decks, glued gunnels, a single seat and single thwart. At the other extreme, it’s not uncommon for us to budget in excess of 250 hours for a kayak. And we’re professionals with a production schedule and many boats under our belts. What can an amateur builder expect?
As a guideline a first time builder who is making a stemless 15′ Anglers Day with purchased seats and thwarts, simple decks, and no fancy marquetry should commit a minimum of 10 full weekends. That’s 20 full days or 160 hours. And that’s optimistic, believe me!
A Quick Look at the Steps
Perhaps the best way of explaining how the hours are used would be to break the process into the broad steps making a cedar strip canoe requires. Keep in mind that some of these steps will only take a few hours; others, like stripping will take many days.
- Sourcing Materials
- Building the Strongback
- Lofting Stations and Stems
- Cutting and Installing Stations
- Cutting Strips
- Stapling and Gluing Strips
- Pulling Staples
- Fairing Outside
- Epoxy Outside
- Fairing Inside
- Epoxy Inside
- Shaping and Fitting Gunnels and Decks
- Fitting Seats and Thwart
- Preparing for Finishes
- Applying Finishes
- Installing Hardware
The other thing to keep in mind is that there will be days where you can only work for two or three hours because a particular step requires it … a coat of epoxy needs to cure for instance; if you’ve applied a hot coat to the exterior of the hull at 10am in the morning, there is nothing you can reasonably do on the boat until the following day. This is one of the reasons that you can’t rush a boat … if the manufacturer of your varnish tells you to wait 8 hours before the next coat, you will have to wait 8 hours.
That’s not to say you can’t stack steps; work on shaping the gunnels while epoxy cures for instance; but it does mean that in my experience it’s highly unlikely that a builder will work on the same boat 8 hours a day without coming to a point where he or she will have to put down the tools and spend some hours elsewhere.
Different Boats and Techniques require Different Time Commitments
Those wanting to build a larger or more complicated hull shape, install accent strips or hardwood stems, use sliding seat rails or scuppered inner gunnels, will need to consider the 10 weekend estimate a starting point only. If time is precious there are a number of things you will want to think about
- A boat with more surface area takes longer to plank and fair
- A boat with simple curves requires less wrangling of strips than one with reverse tumblehome or a sharp turn of the bilge
- Stemless ends remove a step
- Decks aren’t required; handles work just fine.
- Seat hangers take less fitting than a sliding rail or cleats
- Full length strips are less time consuming that butt joints
- Simple finishes require less time than luxury finishes
- Inlays and fancy marquetry take the most time of all
So there it is; 10 full weekends is a best case scenario, you will probably spend many many more. If you can’t commit to that, stop now as it won’t matter about your skills, your workshop, or your wallet, you’ll never finish your boat. Otherwise, read on …
And for those looking for a simple boat from Ashes, I’d respectfully recommend the following, the Anglers Day.
Build a Instant Classic
The Anglers Day from AshesThe Anglers Day
15′ x 33″
for cedar strip construction
Building a Canoe
Everything You Need to Know Before You Start