Richard’s – 66 Tandem Canoe – 16 ft. – Wisconsin

– Richard (of Valtris Woodworking) decides on a Cape Falcon, 66 canoe –

Intro and Steam Box

It is fair, to say that the reason I chose to build a Cape Falcon was Brian’s use of real woodworking. Things like mortise and tenon gunwale design, etc. I have looked at several skin-on-frame companies and this looks really good to me.

But, to build anything Cape Falcon – you need a steam box. So I made one. Pieced together odd wood from around the shop. Different from Brian’s was the insertion of the small steam head into the bottom of the box so the hose could be screwed on and off. Left the hose full length. Box is 48 inches x 11 inches. The canoe will be 32 inch at the beam and will need about a 45 inch rib at center.

I tried some different woods like Kentucky Coffee, White Oak, Poplar, firewood ash. Final picture is the air-dried white oak I will try to use on the build. Staining is from dirt on wood. I will clean up before real ribs are bent. Bent pieces are very surprisingly strong after they cool.


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I decided to move through the gunwales and not follow the order of the videos exactly. (Sorry Brian.)  I started by selecting 17 1/2 ft. mahogany from my stores in the basement. It had been sorted into heavy and light material when I purchased at an auction. I finally choose the “medium” material for a balance of strength and weight. After cutting into 3″ widths, they were planed to 11/16″. (Filled the length of 35′ shop.) I want the finished gunwale detentions at 2″ when lamination was finished. (Had to make little adjustment just before glue-up.)

Next, I select and orientated boards for natural defects to minimize effects. Marked centers and laid out length for a 16′ canoe plus 2″ on each end. (It was OK not to use the checked ends of the boards.) Set out the mortise marks. For this I used a square block with a lip to gauge off one side of the board. Cut it just a little under 5″, so your pencil marks on the 5″ mark exactly. Lastly, mark the end of the boards for later orientation.

Now the glue-up. I chose to use Titebond III. I set up much like the video. Blocks on floor to correct sheer depth over two sawhorses. I did a “dry fit” make sure I had enough weight and clamps. When set, spread glue and clamped in place. Checked level and used a long clamp to twist just a bit to get it all positioned.

Happy with the results. Lessons: Should have put more glue on the ends, had to fix two spots. Should have moved sawhorses closer to the end. Should have sagged it 1/2 ” more because of spring back. But all is good.

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After sawing the glue-up into two gunwales, I moved ahead and cut the mortises in the gunwales today. Since I do furniture, decided to use mortise attachment for my drill press. Went smoothly and worked well. This is just another method for doing what Brian does with a router.

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Rib Length Worksheet and Measurement Accuracy

Update: After the release of the tumblehome material, I went back and redid my canoe design and calculations. Now it is 33 inches wide and still 16 feet plus long.Here are the new sheets. Stick unit problem was the same as last one but here are the new corrected sheets.

I was working on my Rib Length Worksheet and got through all the math. But as I marked out my Rib Length Stick, I found the gaps between ribs marks were ragged. Not consistent at all. So, I reproduced the paper worksheet as an Excel spreadsheet. My suspicions were correct. The actual measurements were not consistent and not as simple as shown in video.

Here is my worksheet. Fractions are converted to decimals for easy math and converted back for the workshop.

With results you can see in first chart that not all points are hitting the parabolic trendline. This is enough to mess with your measurement stick.

Some adjustments were made to the numbers to smooth the line. See red numbers in “Sheer height” column above. I found it useful to adjust both sheer and rocker measurements to get the curve smoothed out. I stopped at 1/16 inches. Trying for finer measurements is not practical. The final rib adjustment seems to be the most critical chart. See below.

I would encourage you to be very careful with your in-shop measurements. Check your recording and math carefully. I found errors in mine. But the final rib adjustment stick looks very good. (Brian says he has seen this too. Built boats with and without corrections and both produced good results.) I do believe that the “system” has a fair amount of flexibility in it.

When all the recalculation was done, I bent a couple of test center ribs. I did a test at .38 as calculated and a .40 which looks better. That will be the final adjustment (base) measurement.

This is too shallow at calculated .38 length


this looks good at .40 length. Refer to “Understanding the Rib Length System” video.

Next we bend the ribs and it will look more like a boat.

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 Prepping Stringers and Keel

Got stringers and keel stock ready today. Used 1/8 inch round-over bit to run edges. Using light mahogany for upper stringers and dense mahogany for the lower stringers. Ten (10) total. I also incorporated finger joints in 4 stringers to get the length I needed. Those ribs tied in well later.

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Bending Ribs

Yesterday started well. Prepared the ribs and got everything ready to go. Last picture is of ribs laid out after reducing the ends. My ribs are 9/32 and need to be trimmed to 1/4.

Then the bending. Well, this did not go as well as it could have. This might be the most difficult part of this build. Maybe my wood was not as good as I thought, but the end ribs came up 2.5 inches short (that may be too much extra for the shape needed), the second rib was an 1 inch short and several others broke.

I was bending at 6-8 min steam times on air-dried white oak. That seemed fine when I was testing. For me, the center ribs bent easier than the end ones. I am going to try longer time tests with the left over junk pieces I still have.  Tomorrow, I’ll get out some more wood from my stash and try again.

The next day. Things are less disappointing. Brian makes it look easy. But remember he has had lots of practice. I admit that I am not exactly following Brian’s directions on wood, etc. So in perspective, not to bad for my first time. It is starting to look like a canoe. I’ll get there. I try to remember that I have never had a “perfect” wood project yet. But I won’t point out the issues if you cannot see them. Additional thought: One could try the new “cold bend wood” now available on the web. It is pricey, but I would reduce the stress of the first three ribs.

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Stringers Tied On

There is an artistic side to this canoe building and this picture was photographically interesting. Thought I would share it to let you all know I have moved on after the discouraging rib bending sessions.

I worked through the problems of the ribs and started tying on stringers. This has gone well. Happy with the general shape of the canoe. Amazingly, the stringers did pull ribs into place pretty well. I did check the rocker, part way through, and adjusted sawhorses to try to keep rocker on track. At the end, I shortened the stems and came down closer to the end ribs (as noted in videos). Note: Ribs mortises were pegged with bamboo skewer sticks and I did more than suggested but not all. Note: Blue tape in picture above is where I CA glued a wormhole in hopes to add strength.

I did have to block up in a few spots to compensate to smooth shape because I did not want to pull to far away from the keel. I also pulled a few ribs out of the mortise on one side and cut off 1/8 to 1/4 inch right in the boat. I was trying to get keel contact the best I could. One should be careful not to block too much. This is a wood project and nothing in my world is perfect.

The stringers finished off at the stem more easily than I thought they would. I tried Brian’s pruning saw method but scared up the stem a lot. So, I cut ribs with my dovetail saw first and used a 3/4 inch (very sharp) chisel to make adjustments and fitted the stringers to the stem easily. Glued the keel on earlier and left my stainless steel screws in place (no pegs). When we build the stems we could have bull-nosed the outside right away. It was not too bad rounding it on the boat but…

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Finishing Touches to the Woodworking

Working currently on getting the frame cleaned up and finishing touches done. I used a 1/8 inch round over on the inside of the gunwales to ease the edge, added 5/8 inch thick “gunwale blocks” to the ends. Cutouts are to remove weight and add a handle at each end. Will also use for rope to tie up. They are glued in with Titebond III and screwed with stainless steel screws.

This canoe incorporates Mahogany for gunwales and stringers, White Oak for the ribs, and Mulberry for the “gunwale blocks”, seat frames and yoke thwart.

I am trying to leave the stem proud of the gunwales. We will see as I get the cover on and sewn. Planning floor boards, and seat blocks yet. Then put on finish and skin. More to go.

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View posts by Richard
Retired dairy farmer, consultant, and USDA Ag Economist. He has worked with wood most of his life. Built skateboard, and night stand cabinet with his grandpa at 10 years old, and continues working with wood to this day. In the last few years projects include household furniture, front-door for the house, slab-wood walnut breakfast bar, Victorian column base replacements, real woodworking bench, fashionable used-wood barn doors. He enjoys working with different woods, and tries at least one new technique on every project to build skill levels. “He doesn’t hunt or fish, but gets his wood from the wild.”


  1. Richard (too)
    January 20, 2019

    I am enjoying your building notes. I am also building the ’66’. My frame is nearly completed and it ended up at 16′ 2″. I used .39 and .37 for my width and rib base length. My first 3 ribs on each end were short, like yours, but the rest were a better fit.

    1. Richard
      January 21, 2019

      Thanks for the note. Glad you are reading it. It takes some work to get good pictures and not too much text.


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