Ryan’s 66 Large Touring Double-Paddle Canoe, Houston, TX

Couch to canoe in 5 weeks.

I have nearly no woodworking experience and didn’t have many tools when I started this project, so it has been a slow start. I’m using fir since all the red cedar I have found is knot full. Finding green oak locally has been near impossible, I found some white oak that was cut late last year so I’ll be playing with steam bending in the next week.

I laminated with a 7″ sheer, but after cutting apart the gunwales it was already down to 6″. High heat and humidity gave me only 2 minutes before the glue started foaming.

The middle board was curved so the clamps were particularly important to keep it from sliding out from the other two, which it still did somewhat, but small enough to safely cut it away.

Cutting the mortises was a bit unwieldy, and I went a bit too far on several, but the clamps on the base of the router worked well.


In the past week I have framed up and started ribbing the canoe. Framing it went well, the supports, capture forms and kerf cutting all went as planned. The rocker was closer to 5 inches than the 6 I was expecting, but that could have been affected by the sawhorse locations (close to the end). I cut the stems and attached the keel, which, even with piloting, started to split on one of the stem screws. It wasn’t severe and I am hoping it won’t be an issue.

Unfortunately, the oak was 1″ rough, so I am having to cut ribs in the other direction, which takes longer and produces a lot more waste, but it got done and I have a decent amount of different qualities of ribs. Since I was unsure on having enough, and I went 4 hours away to get the wood, I cut it into full length strips (8ft) and then cut ribs out of those, so I wasn’t limited to 1 rib per strip. I could get 2 or 3 depending on which rib location lengths I was cutting on any given strip. I also sorted the 8ft strips by quality so I could use the poorer quality ribs in the least stressful spots.

One other thing, since I over sized my mortises in length and I was going to have excess wood to cut off the ribs anyway, I made the 1 1/8″ wide to fit the mortises I had already cut, and then used the slickplane to break the edges instead of the block plane. The only problem that may come from this (that I can think of) is the ribs wanting to open up more than the gunwales pull in. Will have to wait and see.

Steam bending day! I marked the depth of the mortises on the ribs so I could easily know when I had it fully inserted. Since they were pretty tight on a few of the ribs this turned out to be a big help. I started bending in ribs and immediately realized some of the misconceptions about what a good rib is. My wood was air dried for a year, but did pretty well once I understood how breaks in layers affected bending. I cracked a few right off the bat, but realized if you can put the harshest part of the bend on the best part of the rib it goes a lot easier. I had some vertical grain ribs,  that I used for the kindest curves, and while tough to bend, they worked pretty well. I snapped a few, but managed to get the vast majority in without incident. Since I had to fight a few of them to not lift the keel, (since they were on the edge of cracking I didn’t want to force the bend much beyond were it was) I gave myself 2 minutes between ribs and it worked pretty well. I could shape the rib, get it in, and then hold it while it cooled to lock in the shape without lifting the keel.





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