A Place to Build
You can build a canoe anywhere.
Well okay, not anywhere, but almost.
To build a canoe you will need space, you will need light, and will you need protection from the elements. Let’s talk about each of those things in turn.
It’s true that builders have made many canoes in that interstitial space between their car and garage wall. You can too. But keep in mind that you’ll be moving around the boat constantly. You’ll find the whole process more pleasant if you don’t have to squeeze between your bike, your wife’s new Audi, and the composting bin.
The whole build will be smoother and easier if you have roughly 3 feet (1 meter) clear space around your boat in all directions. For an Ashes 15 foot Solo Trip that means a rectangular foot print of roughly 21′ x 9′.
And, it would be really really nice if you had a bench along one wall. That’s another 3′.
If You Don’t Have the Floor Space?
If you can’t find the square footage however, an alternative would be to build your boat on a rolling or lifting strongback. In the first scenario the boat is stored in an out-of-the-way spot such as an infrequently used hall or passage, and rolled into a clear space whilst being worked on. In the latter case, the strongback is attached to pulleys and lifted out of the way when needed.
The caveat I have with both of these solutions is that each time you move the strongback with the boat on it you will need take extra care that you haven’t introduced twist and that the forms remain remain square and level.
As for lighting, there’s nothing quite so horrible as taking your newly finished boat into the sun for the very first time and discovering a wavy sanding pattern or uneven varnish.
Having light come from two direction on both sides of the hull is extremely useful when it comes time to fair and finish the hull. Not only does it make your tasks easier, good lighting will help you achieve tighter joins, more fair curves, and better finishes
Protection from the Elements
If you can build inside do. If you have temperature and humidity control, even better. Epoxy cures best at the temperature it’s designed to cure at. Finishes dry better within certain parameters. And wood likes stable humidity.
That said, many canoe builders have built their boats under a porch or tarp cover. That’s fine, but if that’s your chosen or only option it’s important to keep in mind that wood will swell and shrink depending on moisture in the air, or exposure to sun and heat.
Try to mitigate exposure to the elements as much as possible.
In a perfect world you’d work in a temperature and humidity controlled environment. But that’s in a perfect world, you can build a perfectly adequate hull so long as you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when applying glues, epoxy and finishes.
“I think I fell for canoe building when as a 12 year old, I read a book called “Rascal” … it written as a memoir and was sorta’ about the author’s relationship with a racoon kit, but the thing that caught my attention was how he and his professor father took over the living room to craft a canoe.
Years later a neighbour set up under a clear tarp in an alley in central Toronto, and I’d walk by as envious as could be. I had three young kids at the time and there was no way I was going to steal the spare hour or two a week needed to get a boat done.
And then I did.
In the late 90’s we’d spend 4 weeks or so in an unplugged cottage in Georgian Bay and the kids wouldn’t wake up until 10am. That give me 4 hours every morning and since I was working with handtools, it was quiet and I could put in a good daily effort.
I built my first boat on the deck under a scrub oak and white pine, 10 feet up from the lake. No cover. No power.
She wasn’t perfect, but she’s still there.”
Building a Canoe
Everything You Need to Know Before You Start