Justin’s 66 Canoes, North Dakota


Hello, I’m Justin, I live in the middle of nowhere North Dakota (ND). Living in the middle of nowhere as you can imagine makes getting proper material a bit of a challenge as most of the lumber yards around me just have your typical building materials. If you know anything about North Dakota you also know we are not known for our plentiful tree populations as we have none. However, there are two places that cut and sell wood for projects and I’m hoping ill be able to get good bending stock from them.

I have build one canoe already It was a 15.6′ x 29″  fuselage frame with painted skin. It weighs in right at 53 LBS  (Right)

I am planning on working on two canoe builds in the next month (minus the skinning). I’m looking at building a 15′ x 30″ for a more stable and higher sitting canoe.  The second will be a nesting 13’8″ x 28″ smaller canoe that will mainly be for a more agile and quick sailing canoe. I should be able to do a little fishing from them as well as take a few day trips if I wished to. The wind is usually somewhere between 10-18 MPH so the sails will be put to good use in some of our larger waters. The waters here in ND are choppy when the wind picks up they are not very fast moving and we don’t have white waters here although there are parts that can get a bit speedy during certain times of the year.

This last month has been filled with the preparation of tools. I ended up needing things like a router, thin kerf saw blade (wow are they pricey) along with a few other things. I ended up getting myself an Irwin Marples chisel set that came with a stone, three chisels and a sharpening jig. The Jig will allow me to sharpen the chisels as well as several hand planes I have access to.  I also have watched the how-to videos although I will be watching them all again this time taking notes.

I plan on updating this as I build them. I will be building the 15 footers first then the smaller one after. I sadly don’t have the room to build them both in my little shop area I have access to. I look forward to reading your alls build logs as well as sharing mine. I will be updating on my Instagram more often then here so if you want to see more images follow me there as well.

Instagram: @DoingProjects

5/31/2019 WOOD & MORE

Well, this week has been a bit slow on the progress of the canoes, However, I did go to the lumber yard and tell them what I was looking for and he is going to see about getting it ordered in and get prices for me Hopefully within this next week. I also got ahold of a small mill about an hour and a half from me. Yes, that really is the closest one to me, hey im in ND we arent knows for our trees haha. anyway, I was seeing about white oak for the bending wood and he said he only had one log there that he thought would be good enough but that he has a tone of green ash logs. I did a little looking and asking on a few facebook pages and many said that green ash should bend well, so I told him that I’d be ok with that as well since he never cut boards in a rift cut before figured better to let him practice first if he wanted to. below I have included my wood list for the most important stuff anyway. it should cover both canoes if I did my math right

3= 1x4x16′ Gunnels Pine

1x8x8′ stems pine

1x4x16′ or 2=1x4x8′ rub rails Ash/Fir

1= 1/4″ half sheet birch ply, steam box, and jigs

1x3x16′ low-grade straight pine for workbench

Bending Green Ash – wet

43″ long x 1″ thick x total of 50″ wide

I am hoping I did the math right. I probably could bring the price down a bit just by figuring the wood out separately for each boat but honestly don’t see a need to as I don’t think it would be that big of a difference. Plus doing it this way makes it so if I decide to make 2 big ones or a different dimension for the 2nd one I will have enough to do so. I should be hearing back from him sometime this week as well.

I also got my steam box built this week it’s not perfect but I think it should work and get the job done. I’m guessing I over-engineered it with all the screws I used but I’m ok with that as I hope I never have to make another one. Well at least till the mess ups drive me nuts anyway. I’m planning on getting it running a few times this coming week and maybe see about bending some pine just for fun.

I am also trying to figure out where or who to have the sails made for these canoes… going to have to think on that one for a while I think.

Can’t say I’m not a bit anxious to find out how much all the wood will cost me. I’m going to try and keep in mind that I’m not just building one boat with it but two, might take a bit of the sting off the wallet.

This is all I have to update for now anyway.

6/27/2019 Wood Arrival

The wood has arrived….and I calculated wrong or am calculating wrong.. But First! steam box update:

Unfortunately, I went with the thinner and nicer looking option of using 1/4″ birch plywood given in the 66 instructions and it did not go so well for me.  On the first heat, the outer layers disconnected and made a wave type pattern when dried (right). this may have changed with having the grain going the other direction however as it didn’t really help the bottom I have a feeling it would not really matter. I ended up tossing this one out and rebuilt it using 1/2″ ply construction grade plywood (left). Using this ply it worked perfectly and had no issues. It also seems to be able to get 2 degrees hotter and keeping it there. and yes I removed ALL the screws from the last one like I was hoping to never need to do lol. I ran it for a while and it held right about 219 degrees. As stated in my last post the crossbars were not very good in my first one however it is so much better in this one and I also only used about half the screws as they were not needed.


I ended up having to wait almost a full month to get the wood that I ordered and it looks very good very few knots in one board and they are nice and tight so shouldn’t matter at all. from left to right in the picture (right) we have pine, pine, fir, pine, oak, oak. I was really surprised at how red the fur is as I had never worked with it before and was under the impression that it was closer in color to the pine. I really like the light salmon pink that the oak is that I got. its darker in this picture than in person.


I have started on the building prosses by cutting the 3 pine boards down to 15 feet 2 inches. Today I measured and marked out for the mortises. I also cut my 1x8x10 down into 2-foot increments for the stems. after doing some figuring and realizing I am one 1x4x16 short to be able to finish the 2nd canoe. I’m debating on finding the best one I can in stock at the lumber yard and then using it as the middle board on the gunnels. I would then be able to use the straight grained expensive board for the 4 of the 8 stringers. think I may go look and see what they have tomorrow.but that’s for another update.


In my last post, I talked about switching a few boards around and I did end up doing that and ordered another clear pine board as well. I meant to put up a post the other day but it seams that when your brain gets on building its hard to want to do anything but. I have only been putting in a few hours at the shop each day as I watch a few instruction vids and take notes then go and do what I learned using my notes and the written instructions for the 66 that I printed out as a guide.

Bending Wood

I was able to find a Mill an hour and a half away from me that was willing and happy to work with me to get the best wood for bending. Buffalo Coulee wood products has a lot in stock and had some 1x slabs already cut up for me that he thought would work out. there probably would have been enough from what he had already cut in preparation for me but I overestimated how much wood I would need for the bending stock. I didn’t realize I could have gotten away with 3 boards for 2 boats. I’m ok with that overestimation though as I’ll have more for other boats or other projects. while I was there I got a couple of nice slabs for some toboggans as well as a few other random pieces. Got it all for a great price and I have to say I’ll be going back for any other wood projects I may have as the customer service was outstanding. heck, he even let me run the mill to cut a few more of my boards.


I have made a bit of progress the last couple weeks and so I guess I’ll tell you about some of what I have come across.

First thing was for me to get the gunnels glued up and sure glad I didn’t rush into that as I realized that I did indeed need to mill the pine boards down a bit. Unfortunately, I have no way to do that so I reached out to a stranger that I saw selling a woodworking tool that only those that have more tools would have and he was nice enough to help me out and planed the gunnel boards down to what was needed. thank goodness to as that would have been a huge issue.

Then was the time to glue the gunnels up. I found that it is a bit hard to make sure that they are not twisted when the glue is drying if you’re not on a hard floor. I suggest making sure to flatten out your horses before you start the glue up. I didn’t think about doing this and it caused me a bit of an issue and panic when I was trying to get it all to lay at least somewhat level end to end. I ended up with no issues due to that when it dried, or at least that I have noticed so far. If you don’t have access to enough claps or are on a budget I suggest making some PVC clamps. they are easy to make and are very cheap. I cut a slit down a pipe and then cut them on the chop saw to my desired width. I found that about 2 inches gives a good tension and holds tight. the downside is they may leave marks that need to be sanded out later. I also made the mistake of putting the PVC clamps on before I put the clamps on to hold the boards even with each other all the way down. This was almost an issue when it came to separating the 4 gunnels with the saw, but ended up just right.

I got all my rib stock cut out a couple of days ago and ended up only using about 3-4 of the 8-9 boards I had bought for them so I should have plenty left and made about 7 extra for each canoe. I still need to make the 2×4 Holder be able to soften the corners then give them each a quicksand over with the palm sander with decent grit sandpaper. I tried to use the little corner shaper I bought but I don’t think that’s going to work as it was ripping into them badly even after adjustments. I’m sure that the holder and a regular hand plane will do the job better.

I also managed to get the gunnels cut along with everything else for both canoes, minus one board for the 2nd canoe. I have also gotten one set of gunnels morticed. it’s not the best mortice job just glad I practiced first anyway. I’m thinking I may have to clean a few of them up somehow, as there are a few that are a ways off of being the right size. I also made a few bobos and ended up doing exactly what Brian says some people do and to make sure to pay attention and I started my cut at the wrong line, Luckily I didn’t get further than an inch so it was an easy fix. then when I was cleaning up a couple when I still had the router set up I didn’t let it go all the way up so there was a bit of a valley for a few inches that I fixed with wood filler. also had a few go a little too deep when somehow the bit came loose so I’ll be trying to put a very small piece of wood at the bottom of those to compensate.

SO without going into to much more detail where I sit as of right now is that I have the spreaders in and have tied my first ends together. I also have my measuring stick made up. My next steps will be to remake the stems that I kinda goofed on and then it’s on to soften the corners on the ribs get them cut to length then test fit them into there correct places. I also have to connect the stems into place and get the keel mocked up. Then come the bending and the rest of it. I also need to sit down and commit to how I’m going to skin this thing as I have not yet thought much about that. I painted my last one but not sure if I want to go the cheapest way again or if I want to go with the 2 part epoxy… guess I have some thinking to do.

Hopefully, I’ll post again here In a few days before I have a huge update again.

Well, a few days turned into months as I got rolling on the first canoe and then onto the smaller sleeker canoe immediately after that, Then winter and other things have put this next update off for way too long.

Something Id like to add about the step before tying the ends together is that cutting right down the center of the ends as Brian teaches to get that angle correct works really well as long as you pay close attention and have a sharp saw. I was a bit nervous on the first end that I cut as I wasn’t sure how it would go, however, it’s simple but you do need to make sure the ends don’t try and miss align if they do just readjust and you will be fine.

The next step was to remake the stems (left) that I had messed up for the first time. I did make them out of pine not my preference however its what I can get here that was in my budget.

This time I made sure that I had the measurements correct and that all parts where sanded while making sure that where the piece goes for the eventual sail was not touched as I wanted to be sure I have enough material there to connect that Lil plastic piece to.

Next, I made the 2×4 sanding jig (right) like brian says to make and boy was it helpful. when sanding and rounding corners off of 30 plus ribs anything that can hold them during that prosses is well worth it. I like that I can just keep this jig and use it for any canoes in the future that I may build. or heck any projects that I will be doing with slats this will come in handy for. After sanding all the edges to a satisfactory curve (just enough to take the bite off the edge) I then did a test fit of a couple after rounding one side of an end of the lats and found that they were just a hair too big to fit in my mortices nicely. Back to the table saw I went to just take a sliver off one end.

Once that was done it was time to measure and cut the ribs using the measuring stick that was made. It really is helpful when you only have to measure once instead of each board individually. first I went through my ribs and found the ones that I thought would be the best for this canoe and layed them out to where I wanted them to be. I then measured and cut them to length since they were a bit to thick on the cut side I then took them back the table saw to thin them as I did with the first side. I made sure that I was thinning the same side of each lat as I could make those face out so the curve from the blade would not be showing inside the boat and no one would know any the wiser.. except me that is. as I did that to each rib I put it into its place on the canoe. as the instructions say it should look like a stegosaurus or something, I’d say that’s a good description.

I placed the stems and the keel into place and made up a depth gage for the keel so that the canoe would have the correct depth when finished.  Then came the time to start up the new steam bender and to actually turn this thing into a boat rather then a pile of sticks that is was at this point.  I started with the center one as that one has a measurement stick on it to make sure that the canoe is the desired depth I then worked my way back and forth from the middle as I steamed and placed them into there correct mortices. as I went I would look down the keel to make sure that the shape was what I needed it to be and if not id make the adjustments as needed. I reheated a couple of the ribs so that I could get the adjustments that I needed. Unfortunately, my rib stock wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be so I did break quite a few ribs and in the end, had to redo a few of them at the ends of the canoe as they seemed to come up much shorter then what I thought they were supposed to. I’m not sure if I measured my measure stick wrong or if the directions are wrong when I fallowed them. I got this same result with both the canoes I build both with different measuring sticks. I contacted Brian and went over it with him and he said my math and measurements where right so not sure what happened here. but I had to guess on the right measurements to get something that worked correctly.

This is a picture of it while I was putting the ribs in place as you can see there are a few of them that are rather messed up and don’t look right. these all got fixed either with re-steam and refit or by just steaming a small portion of the rib that I could then bend and manipulate to be how I wanted or needed it to be.


  1. leslie
    July 13, 2019

    This is Awesome Justin. I didn’t know you had a build blog.

    1. Justin
      July 13, 2019

      Yea it’s on the guy’s site that I got the awesome plans from hope you like following along.


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