Beardy Richy’s 66 Canoe, Bristol, UK

The raw materials

My aim is to make a single pack canoe 11’ 8” long by 27” wide and 10” deep (3.55m long x 685mm wide and 255mm deep). I always work in metric dimensions but for this project I have used a mix of imperial and metric – mainly building to the imperial measures in the plan and double checking every dimension in metric (because fractions make my head ache).


I made all the jigs etc described in the plans long before starting the canoe build, and the most interesting one was the steambox. I was loath to buy a half sheet of ply just for this, but I had some old bits of polycarbonate roofing sheet lying around and I thought that would be OK. It has three layers and so should hold the heat OK – and I will be able to see what goes on inside! The pictures tell the story of the construction. I bought a second-hand wallpaper steamer off Gumtree to produce the steam, making a hole in the bottom polycarbonate sheet for the hose and making a small plate attached with screws to prevent the hose dropping out.

When I came to use the steambox for the first time it worked OK. Steam arrived in the box about 10 minutes after switching on the steam unit and the temperature inside the box rose to ~97°C (206°F) within just a couple of minutes. I could clearly see the steam in the box and just about see the bits of wood too, through the condensation. The only issue was that the top layer of polycarbonate bowed upwards between the screws as it expanded more than the wooden frame, but I remedied that by slotting the attachment holes in the polycarbonate and putting washers under the screw heads to stop them pulling through. The tape covering the joints to limit the steam/water leakage did melt in some places but generally did the job – I only needed one bucket under the hose connection at the back to save a puddle on the workshop floor. However, if I were building a steambox again I would just spend the money on the ply…

Cutting Gunwale Stock

I have a bench saw but I couldn’t manoeuvre the 2.5m long 2” thick boards into it accurately, so I elected to use a circular saw with an edge guide to cut strips off the side of the board. It worked OK. You can see in the photo that I placed the strips I had already cut on the other side of the board to provide some support to the circular saw base as the original board got narrower. I would usually borrow a planer-thicknesser from my father but with the covid restrictions I was unable to travel to collect it, so I just cut the gunwale strips as close to the final dimension as I dared and got the belt sander out to remove the worst of the saw marks.

I couldn’t get 2” thick Western Red Cedar (WRC) boards longer than 2.5m so I cut six strips and scarfed them together to make the three gunwale boards. I cut the scarf at 20° and bonded them together using West System epoxy thickened with 404 high density filler – I had this epoxy left over from a previous job. When I cut the gunwale boards to length I ensured that the scarf joints were all offset so they didn’t sit together in the lamination.

Measuring the Rocker

I have always found string lines awkward so I splashed out and bought a laser level (£55 from Amazon) and it has been brilliant. It self- levels, and projects vertical and horizontal lines.

First I used the horizontal beam to level my work surfaces. I then blocked up the marked gunwale board as Brian suggests and took measurements from the top of the gunwale to the laser line at each end and each rib position. Zeroing all the measurements relative to the measurement at the centre location gave me the rocker profile for the rocker layout sheet. It was possible to measure to 0.5mm on the steel rule. The only tip I would give is not to use your shiny steel rule for this as the reflected laser light can make your eyes sting – my brushed finish steel rule was fine.

Stringer Preparation

I cut strips for the stringers and keel from 1” thick WRC boards in the same way as the gunwales – using the circular saw. I then ran them through the bench saw to reach final size. Again it would have been ideal to run them through the thicknesser but some hand sanding had to suffice.

I used my new slick plane to round the corners. Brian, if you every find yourself wondering what video to make next I would suggest ‘how to set up a slick plane’! What a fiddle! But when it is set, it is great. I found it easier to pull the plane rather than push but maybe I’m just a weakling. I did get carried away and rounded the keel too – oops. I’m never going to get that flush joint with the stems now…

Laminating the Gunwales

I used West System epoxy thickened with 404 high density filler for this because I already had it and I was nervous about getting the boards together and clamped in the short working time of Gorilla glue (which I hadn’t used at that point). Again, I used the laser level to set up my work surfaces and check the curvature of the gunwale stack when it was assembled. I placed my clamps at 5” spacing and I could have done with a couple more towards the ends (that thing about never having too many clamps – it’s true). Following Brian’s clear instructions meant that the whole process went well and I ended up with a good lamination. My imposed 150mm (6″) shear during the laminating process ended up being 137mm (5 7/16″) in the cured lamination. I took the excess glue off with a rasp next day and ran the lamination through the bench saw to create two gunwales.

Morticing the Gunwales

I have a double edge guide for my plunge router and so I used that rather than making Brian’s jig. I got a spiral router bit and it does make a huge difference to chip removal. Despite watching Brian’s video just before routing I immediately fell into the trap Brian had described; cutting outside the 1” markings and wondering when the next mark would appear…TWICE! Actually, the second time I cut between a rib mark and that mark I had made to show where the screw was, meaning that I also hit the screw (cheap screw – 1, expensive carbide router bit – 0, ☹). After that I put waste marks (a squiggle) between all the rib mortice marks to make it obvious where material was to be removed, and I erased the marks above the screw locations. No more errors after that. I remedied the false cuts with some WRC blocks and Gorilla glue.

Again, I got the laser level out to measure the sheer heights of the finished gunwales.

Making the Stems

As mentioned earlier, I didn’t have access to a planer thicknesser so to take the 1” WRC board down to 11/16” I set the blade height on the table saw to 8mm and ran the board over it to make lots of grooves. This then gave me a depth guide when using the electric planer and sander to get down to a reasonably consistent depth over the entire board. I could only get 6” wide boards in 1” thick so I ended up cutting a section out of each stem, cutting a tongue and groove on the table saw and bonding the two together to create sufficient board width.

Building the Deck

Building the deck went pretty smoothly. As you can see from the photographs, I made extensive use of the laser for ensuring everything was straight and plumb. This was particularly useful when setting up the stems; – I marked a vertical (7°) datum line on both of the stems and used the vertical line of the laser to get them sitting upright while lashing them to the gunwales, and more importantly while attaching the keel.

Setting the rocker I found a little frustrating/worrying. For some reason I moved the trestles part way through the set up and got different rocker measurements without changing anything else. I was measuring the rocker by taking measurements from the horizontal laser line at the bow, stern and centre. I would average the measurements I got at the bow and the stern (because the deck wasn’t completely level) and then subtract the measurement at the centre to get the rocker. The table below shows how much the rocker changed depending on where the trestles were located relative to the rib locations. This made me conscious that I needed to be careful and consistent with my trestle locations for the rest of the build. My rocker target was 25mm (1″).

Trestle Positions (rib locations)Measured Rocker (mm)
5 ½ and 18 ½20.0
7 and 1725.0
8 and 1626.5
Effect of support position on measured rocker

I also found it rather disconcerting how easy it was to move the stems sideways despite them being tightly lashed on. I tried using pieces of card to stabilise them. This wasn’t very effective and the card got in the way, although it did reassure me during all that ‘sighting along the keel’ when bending in the ribs. I think there must be a better way of achieving a bit more stability in the stems during the build – I’ll think of something better next time… or perhaps you will!

Cutting Rib Stock

I learned more about timber grain in half an hour watching Brian’s video than I had learned in my whole life; another excellent bit of education! Without it I would have made such a hash of cutting the rib stock. As a result I was able to identify that some of my timber was rift sawn and some flat sawn and modify my cutting appropriately. All my cuts were on the bench saw because I didn’t have a planer thicknesser but I got them pretty close to the required dimensions. I bound them with tape and bagged them in polythene because I wasn’t going to bend them immediately. This was a good move as the offcuts took up all sorts of strange shapes and became much stiffer within just a couple of days.

Trial Bends

I trial bent ribs 2, 7 and 12 (middle rib). After watching the videos many times it went pretty well. I bent these three ribs using the three basic methods Brian describes without any breakage, albeit with quite a bit more ‘adjustment’ needed to get them to be symmetrical than Brian’s seemingly effortless style (OK, he’s done a few thousand more than me). I didn’t have a belt that I wanted to consign to the workshop so I used a piece of seatbelt fabric cut down to 1” wide – I found this much less extensible than tie-down straps and about the same as my (good) leather belt.

After this success I went ahead and cut the other ribs to length, using a rib-length-to-beam ratio of 1.37. This was my first time steam bending any wood and it was so cool – to be able to shape the wood into tight bends without it breaking and then for it to stay in that shape when it cooled was a revelation! It left me quite positive about bending the rest of the ribs the following day as I shut down the steambox for the night.

Bending in the Ribs

I got set up as Brian describes and went for it. I used an interval timer, setting it to go off every 3.5minutes, giving each rib 7 minutes in the steambox. This worked well for me – three minutes to bend the rib, fit it into the gunwales and adjust it was just about enough. The ribs were pretty symmetrical, I just struggled getting them to come up to touch the keel by the same amount. I broke Rib 1, proceeded along the boat, took a break and refilled the steamer after Rib 12 and went all the way to Rib 22 before breaking Rib 23 – all in just over an hour.

Then came the frustration. I re-cut Ribs 1 and 23, and then broke them again. I just couldn’t get them to that tight radius without them breaking. Using one of the broken ribs as a template I made a ½” ply form shown in the photo above. I cut more rib stock and bent a rib over the apex, pulling it into shape with the strap and getting my wife to position the clamps – that rib broke too.

Eventually I had some success (photos above) bending the rib stock around the form in a different way; I clamped the rib on the long edge of the form, and while pushing the rib stock and pulling the strap managed to form a rib with minimal break out at the apex. The key, I think, was to put as much compression along the rib stock while encouraging it round the apex. After a few minutes of cooling I released the clamps and the strap, put some gorilla glue in the broken out areas (with plastic film to stop any adhesion to form or strap) and again pulled the strap tight and secured with clamps for a couple of hours. This gave me a rib of the required shape which I could subsequently cut to length. I made a second rib for position 23 in the same way. Again, pushing the rib stock into compression while bending it round the apex of the form resulted in only a small amount of (repairable) breakout rather than catastrophic breakage I had seen every time I tried bending free-hand. I think I spent about 11 hours getting those two endmost ribs bent, all told.

The minor breakout on the other ribs was fixed with a little gorilla glue and local clamping.

On reflection I think that my rib stock, while OK, was just not good enough for those very tight bends at the end ribs. The weakness always appeared to be where the growth rings/lines were spaced a bit further apart – was that a good summer, short winter, wet year for the tree? More timber research needed into that I guess…

Attaching Stringers

Not much to say here. It went just as Brian describes it in the video. The spacers I used to position the stringers were as follows; Rib 1 & 23 – 1.5″, Rib 7 & 17 – 2.25″, Rib 12 – 2.5″. I was a little concerned that the twist achieved along the bottom stringers was not enough to achieve a perfect match with the slope of the ribs towards the end when clamped – see photo taken inside with clamps and no lashings. However, when I started lashing them on this improved – I was amazed how much tension I could get into the simple square lashing, producing indentations in the WRC and securing the ribs and stringers incredibly tightly. My only pain was from the blister I developed on my ‘tensioning’ hand – those soft office worker fingers!

Because it was so easy to measure the rocker at every rib position using my laser level, I measured it many times between bending in the ribs and putting the skin on. The results aren’t great and I will write a separate post to talk about my results/thoughts. The source of my problems I think was the difficulty I had getting all the ribs to consistently touch the keel, meaning I didn’t end up with a lovely progressive rocker along the length of the keel. After some deliberation I decided not to cut down the stems to introduce more rocker at the ends before permanently fixing the keel. I may regret that when I get the canoe in the water, but we will have to see.

Attaching the Stems and the Keel

Shaping the stems was very satisfying and lashing them on was simple. Again, I was amazed at how simple the lashing process was and how effective the wraps are to get it so tight. I had rounded the keel on all sides at an early stage (whoops) so I made a couple of side plates to contain/shape the gorilla glue in the offending gap while permanently fixing the keel to the stems – it sort of worked.

Trimming the Stringers and Finishing the Frame

While a little nerve wracking, trimming the stringers to blend with the stems went well. I made a thin one-sided-file from my steel rule, double sided tape and abrasive – see photos above. This helped me correct the angled cuts that didn’t go so well for a good connection with the stems.

I had to make a couple of thin shims to fit under the keel at Rib 1 and Rib 23, and fettle some of the adjacent ribs due to the angle they made with the keel. As noted above, measuring the rocker at every rib position gave me plenty of information to procrastinate over; measuring with the keel clamped at every rib position, just the ‘low’ ribs clamped, just the ‘high’ ribs clamped, etc. However, I resisted the temptation to shim at all 23 rib positions to create a smooth progressive rocker and lashed on the keel. Maybe you can have too much information…

After attaching the keel and going over the frame to tidy up all the holes and rough bits, I took it outside and liberally coated it with Teak Oil, as per the instructions. My neighbour asked me what the lovely smell coming from my garden was – each to their own I guess!

Assembling the Mast Foot

I greased the tiller extension and chamfered the internal diameter of the 5/8” tube, but a good pounding only saw me get the tube down about a third of the way, and no further. After fighting to get the tube off again I put the rubber bit in the freezer overnight and heated the tube to 100°C in the oven. With just a little grease it required only minimal pounding to get the two together.

That chat Brian makes before lashing the stringers to the stem was essential – otherwise the mast foot wouldn’t have fitted in my narrow front end.

Attaching the Skin

I didn’t get any response from Skinboats when I emailed them about shipping to the UK. The only obviously comparable fabric I found on the internet was in Germany, but with the UK being in the throes of the post-Brexit fiasco they wouldn’t ship to me. However, I did find some uncoated 950dtex/~290gsm/~9oz/yd2 ballistic nylon supplied by Point North in the UK (link below), but not in white, only in blue or green. I went for the blue which is quite dark.

Web link:

Being something of an unknown I attached a sample of the fabric to a wooden frame, checked that it shrank after soaking with water, and accepted my PolyUrethane (PU) OK – it did, but it became really dark blue (almost black) after the application of the PU.

After these checks I proceeded to attach the skin to the canoe. The coloured fabric made it a little difficult to position on the frame as you can’t see through it, and it made my white nylon stitching highly visible – which isn’t great (my stitching that is).

I didn’t have a hot knife so I made one from a 75W soldering iron, 10mm threaded bar and a scalpel blade, as shown in the photo. It takes about 15 minutes to reach a maximum temperature of 290°C. It cuts (melts) better using the base of the knife than the tip (less heat flow in the narrow section). If I was making it again, I would grind off the tip and dull the cutting edge because sometimes the knife cuts the fabric without melting the edge – if the cutting edge was dull this wouldn’t be possible.

I stitched up the stern as per Brian’s excellent instructions and then tried stretching the fabric to see how much movement there was. I could only pull about 1.75” – I am guessing that Brian is stronger than he looks or the Skinboats fabric is more stretchy than the stuff I got. I shortened the fabric by only 7/8” and stitched up the bow. I think I could have gone for a little more shortening than this but definitely not the full 2”. Stretching the fabric longitudinally wasn’t too difficult but holding the fabric whilst pinning it in place was at the limit of my strength. It looked OK when that was done with some longitudinal ridges in the fabric, just like on the video.

I took the boat outside to soak the fabric – it was raining anyway! The most difficult bit about stretching the fabric laterally was getting the staples in the right place – I couldn’t see through the dark fabric and had to guess where the edge of the gunwale was. Fastening on the rub strips went OK. I was a little frustrated that I didn’t get the rub strips totally level with the top of the gunwales because I was feeling-for-level with the top of the gunwale, but that had a thickness of fabric folded over it. I thought that thickness would be insignificant, but it wasn’t. I only realised this when I cut back the fabric later. I did have some slight ‘bag’ under the gunwales when the fabric was wet (see photo bottom left) which went away when it dried, but then came back when the fabric was impregnated with PU. I guess if I had shortened the fabric by more than 7/8” in the length this wouldn’t have happened.

When the fabric was dry, I trimmed off the excess along the gunwales. This was tedious using my homemade hot knife – it took over half an hour per side to complete. Next time I’m going to buy a proper hot knife. I thought sewing up at the stems was going to be tricky, but it went surprisingly well – excellent instruction again Brian!

Impregnating the Skin

Having gone off-piste with the fabric, I now went even more off-piste with the PU. I had a little over 1 litre (~34 floz) of clear two-part PU that I had used to coat a wooden canoe I had build previously. This is good stuff for a very UV stable, high gloss, resistant finish on wood but it is not the same as the PU Brian uses. A good point is that it has a pot life of ~7 hours, a bad point is that you need to wear a vapour mask if you don’t want a severe chemical headache. I did deliberate if this was the right thing to do, but the nil response from Skinboats nailed it, and off-piste I went!

I should note that with the fabric in its dry, unimpregnated form my tight blue boat looked wonderful!

Masking the gunwales was as per Brian’s instructions. Then I took a deep breath (metaphorically), put on my vapour mask (literally), and mixed some PU. Because the pot life was so long applying the coating wasn’t a stress. I did mix smaller batches as Brian suggests but it wasn’t really necessary. In fact, waiting around between coats for the tacky stage was pretty tedious. I did a single coat on each half of the boat followed by two coats all over, which with the long pot life was a long day. The major difference was that my PU was thinner, soaking into the fabric easily but not really filling the weave like the Skinboats PU. I also found that after applying the PU and waiting for half an hour or so I would come back to find a gazillion (yes really, that many!) tiny bubbles in the resin. I tried to get rid of these by ‘dry brushing’ – brushing with a brush barely wet with PU – which was partially successful, but had to be repeated periodically until the onset of the tacky stage. The real indicator of how much I had deviated from the plan was when I noticed a boat outline of resin on the floor and found that my PU was so thin it was draining down through the fabric between the gunwale and the rub strip and onto the floor. At that point I decided to draw a line and see how things looked next day. (Actually several days later, this PU was really slow to harden.)

When all was dry, the good point was that the fabric was well impregnated and obviously stuck to the frame – see internal picture on left. The bits of resin sticking up between the gunwale and the rub strips were rather unsightly and not that easy to trim off because someone hadn’t got the rub strips level with the gunwales (doh!). And there were some stalactites/-gmites of resin to remove from the bow and stern. My main worry was that instead of that smooth glossy finish on the outside of Brian’s boats I had a decidedly matt finish with a slight fabric texture. I could have gone back and applied more coats of PU but at this point but  my heart wasn’t in it. I was also slightly down that my lovely blue boat had become a very sombre black. This was a low point – but it wasn’t going to last long…

Initial Testing

I weighed the canoe and it was only 7.6kg (~16.7lbs) – brilliant!

I grabbed my buoyancy aid, a foam sleeping mat, a double-bladed paddle and the canoe and walked the 15 minutes to my nearest river. The canoe was slung on my shoulder and I didn’t have to stop on the way – that canoe is so light. It was with some trepidation that I first got in the canoe; it all felt a bit flexible and I was still a bit worried about my thin PU, but the canoe didn’t fold up around me and no water came in, so I was off. The river is pretty shallow and very slow moving so I could take my time getting to grips with my new canoe – and it was awesome! I spent around 1.5 hours paddling up and down, spinning round, going backwards, going forwards, lying down looking at the sky etc. The only frustration was those drips from the double-bladed paddle – why have a boat that is beautifully watertight and then gradually fill it with water at every paddle stroke? I tentatively swapped to a kneeling position and used the paddle as you would a single bladed paddle – onlookers would have been bemused. It felt a bit wobbly but I was thinking about the next step…

(Sorry, no pictures – I was having too much fun)

Further Outings / Developments

After fitting some pool noodles for floatation and trimming my foam sleeping mat to tuck under them, I ventured back to the river with a single bladed paddle. Again, getting in was a bit wobbly but once I was settled on my knees it was fine. I don’t have a lot of experience of canoeing (I have watched Bill Masons Path of the Paddle – Quiet Water over and over and over…) but I have found canoeing with the single blade much more satisfying than the double bladed paddle.

During the building process I was worried about how much rocker to build in (and I will do a post with my measurements at some point, but I ended up with about 5/8” over the 11’ 8” length) but I find the canoe just great. It is really manoeuvrable on my little local river which is only about 1.5 canoe lengths wide with many overhanging trees and other obstacles, but I can go reasonably straight (if I concentrate) on larger bodies of water. I certainly wouldn’t put any more rocker in if I was building the canoe again.

I made a simple carrying yoke out of WRC. It is simpler than Brian’s design but I didn’t intend to use it as a back rest, and it made carrying the canoe even easier. Securing it with those bungee balls is genius – thanks Brian.

Kneeling Thwart

I now paddle the canoe in a kneeling position all the time. My yoga practice has prepared my legs somewhat, but after about half an hour I wouldn’t feel my feet. To avoid this I have made a combined kneeling thwart/carrying yoke. It makes the canoe a little less stable because I am sitting higher but I can paddle for much longer – and I haven’t taken a swim without intending to, yet!

Thwart positioned for kneeling

Thwart reversed for carrying

Hopefully the pictures show a lot of the details but some salient points follow:

  • The thwart is 18mm thick faced-five-ply, 57mm wide (approximately 3/4” thick x 2¼” wide) and angled to the horizontal by about 18°. It is reversible; one way up as a kneeling thwart with the shoulder rests underneath, the other way up for carrying with the shoulder rests  (bits with white padding) on top.
  • I positioned the kneeling thwart about half way down the gunwale for three reasons; 1) because the canoe is marginally more stable than if it sat on top of the gunwale, 2) because it is not so low that I cannot get my feet out from under it, and 3) because when I reverse it to use as a carrying yoke I want it to sit above the gunwale so the bottom of the canoe does not hit the top of my head with every step as I walk!
  • I glued the two shoulder rests to the underside of the thwart rather than shaping the thwart itself into a yoke shape to minimise the width of timber required – the ply is heavy compared to WRC. However, I feel the ply is the right material as it has to support a good proportion of my weight while I paddle.
  • For carrying, the thwart is secured in place with bungee balls above the centre rib.
  • For kneeling, the thwart is reversed and loosely secured with a pair of cycling toe-clip-straps around rib 14 (two back from the centre). It can shift forwards and backwards a little, but it doesn’t seem to move while I have my weight on it. Those straps are easy to tighten but by pressing on the clip with my thumb I can easily release one side of the thwart if my feet were to become trapped during a capsize – an idea I borrowed from Ray Goodwins Book Canoeing – thanks Ray!
  • I minimised the amount of overhang outside the gunwale so I don’t hit my fingers on it while paddling.

Rocker Measurements

I mentioned earlier that with my laser level it was really easy to take lots of measurements of the rocker progression along the keel, and I also promised to do a post on what I found, so here it is. Looking back at the data I kind of wish I hadn’t taken so many measurements because the level of detail makes it look like I did a really awful job – which really doesn’t show when you look at the canoe or paddle it. But anyway…

 The method I used for measuring was to simply set up the laser level somewhere near the inverted canoe frame with the horizontal laser line projected a convenient distance above the keel – a convenient distance being within the scale of my ruler – so anything from 50 to 250mm (2 to 10”). The laser line self-levelled and the beam was wide enough to cover the entire length of the canoe even when the laser was sitting off to the side. I didn’t worry too much about how level the canoe was bow to stern because I could remove that error later. I would then go along the canoe measuring the height from the keel up to the laser line at both ends of the keel and every rib position in between. It literally took less than 10 minutes. As noted in an earlier post, I kept my trestles under Ribs 7 and 17 throughout the build. The pictures show me measuring the finished (and somewhat used) canoe. Because I couldn’t see through the skin I made a tape to indicate where the rib positions are.

To process the data, I would type the numbers into a spreadsheet, apply a function to even up the measurements at the bow and stern (effectively taking out the error caused by the bow and stern not being at the same height), and then take away the smallest value recorded from every measurement. This meant that the highest point of the keel was always measured as zero and every other point as a positive number.

Below is a graph showing the rocker measurements at different stages in the build. I took more sets of measurement than this, but some are very samey – I thought these were the interesting ones.

This table describes what build stage each line relates to.

LegendKeyBuild stage
Measured (0)Green line – no dotsIdeal rocker curve measured from deflected gunwale board
Measured (1)Blue line with dotsRibs bent in & stringers lashed on, but keel only clamped in place where the rib-keel gaps were largest (11 clamps)
Measured (2)Grey line with dotsStringers & keel lashed on, centre spreader still in place
Measured (3)Orange line with dotsStringers & keel lashed on, frame complete, centre spreader removed – gunwales sprang in by ~25mm
Measured (4)Yellow line with dotsFrame complete, fabric attached, shrunk & dried, centre spreader removed – distance between gunwales ~18mm wider than the centre spreader
Measured (6)Black line – no dotsResin applied to fabric and fully cured – distance between gunwales ~5mm wider than the centre spreader
Measured (7)Black broken lineTwo months after completing the canoe, ~eight hours on the water – distance between gunwales exactly the same as the spreader

(Note that some of the lines are shorter than others – this is because when I cut back the keel and shaped the stems the bow and stern positions I had been measuring at weren’t there anymore.)

These are my observations looking at the data:

  • I didn’t achieve that lovely progressive rocker shown by the green line at any stage of the build.
  • There is a pronounced hump towards the bow and the rest of the keel is rather flat – but it’s really difficult to see this on the canoe.
  • The shape smoothed out when the keel was lashed on.
  • The rocker reduced a lot when the centre spreader was removed, but then came back strong when the fabric was applied and shrunk. (I say strong – it was less than half an inch total movement on a 12 foot canoe!)
  • After applying the resin to the fabric the rocker is virtually identical to the rocker measured on the completed frame.
  • I ended up with a rocker measurement of ~14mm (~9/16”) over a length of 3.1m (10’2”). (After two months it measured up as ~16mm rocker).  The canoe is 3.55m (11’8”) overall but the keel is shorter because of the angle and curved shape of the stems.

When I saw how unbalanced the rocker measurements were about the middle of the canoe I thought it would perform differently if I paddled it bow first or stern first, however, I can’t detect it if it does. The effect of me shifting my sitting position forwards or backwards has a much greater effect on the tracking than the direction I sit in the canoe.

Travels With My Canoe

A random collection of canoe photos… which be ever expanding!

[Footnote: this blog was written subsequent to finishing the build, using notes and photos I had taken as I went. For the record I started cutting the gunwale boards on the 25-Feb-2021 and the last coat of resin was finally dry on the 03-May-2021.]


View posts by Richy
I live in Bristol UK with my wife and two teenage children. I am an aerospace engineer and work for a multi-national engineering consultancy - desk-bound. I love the great outdoors, but spend most of my free time at my allotment or in my garage - which is packed with everything but a (working) car. Maybe I will get out more when I have a canoe...


  1. Ant
    May 25, 2021

    Hello Rich. I’m based in Bristol too. If you ever want to pop round to the workshop you’d be very welcome. Ant (Shipshape Boatbuilding – Underfall yard)

    1. Richy
      May 27, 2021

      Hello Ant. I Know, it was one of your lovely postcards that I picked up in the harbour masters office that set me off on this skin boat path – so thanks for that! Next time I am at your end of the docks I will pop along and see if you are in. Richy.

  2. Corey
    September 13, 2021

    Hi Richy,

    Congratulations on a beautiful pack canoe. I absolutely love the dark blue, nearly black skin. It sets the wood frame off nicely. I chuckled at your comment about fractions! As a metric using Canadian, I was not enthralled with doing all that math with fractions. Fortunately there was an app for that!

    I built a Greenland style double blade paddle for my pack canoe, but could not handle the constant dripping of water into an otherwise perfectly dry vessel. It was literally water torture. Since then I have been using a 51 inch canoe paddle while sitting on my heels. This works great, except not for long periods of time, as the circulation to my feet gets cut off. So I decided to add a kneeling thwart to my boat.

    I was delighted to see your pictures of your kneeling thwart because I quickly realized I was over-thinking how to attach it to my boat, without interfering with nesting my son’s boat inside mine.

    Once again, great looking boat, enjoy getting out on the water!


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