66 Touring Canoe by Charlie

Long time maker, first time boat builder. I’ve had a strongback hanging in the garage for quite a few years. After watching some of the intro videos I decided that it was time to get started. I’m building in Harrisburg, North Carolina for nearby rivers and lakes and blogging here for fun. After some guidance from Brian, I’ve decided on the 13′ 8″ touring model with a 28.5″ beam.

07/24/2021 Gathering wood and tools

B. E. Kluttz lumber in Concord, North Carolina is where I go for lumber. DeWayne culled through some 14′ western red cedar until he found what I needed. He told me it was expensive so he was willing to spend time finding something I’d be happy with. I’m taking Brian’s advice to pay-up for good wood since I’ve never done anything like this before.

I’m short on spring clamps and a good set of sawhorses. I’ve had a pair of yellow steel knockdown sawhorses for quite a while. They are , in a word, evil. I found plans for the kind that I remember my grandfather having in his shop. A couple of 2x6s and some plywood and I have my own now. I am happy to be rid of the yellow knuckle busters before they could claim a finger.

I’ll spend the next couple of weeks tuning up the table saw, getting infeed and outfeed supports and generally getting ready for slicing up that expensive cedar. Once those things are taken care up the gunwale glue-up will start.

08/07/2021 Gunwale Glue-up

The cedar that I have is very dry – so I needed to add some moisture to the wood to kick-off the urethane bond. I’ve never used Gorilla Glue so I spent some time planning this work. Everything went well.

08/09/2021 Cutting Stringers and Prepping the Gunwales for Mortising

Spent the morning cutting stringers and dressing the edges with the SlickPlane. In the afternoon my good friend Craig stopped by and helped me split the gunwales on the table saw. I went to the planer to get them to final thickness. Next up is routing the rib mortises.

08/10/2021 Mortising the Gunwales

I fitted a set of guide rails and dust port to a small Makita plunge router. It fit nicely in my hands and allowed me to guide the router steadily along the gunwale and plunge with a gentle squeeze. Getting the chips out with the shop vacuum helped keep my eyes on the cut lines.

08/11/2021 Hey, that’s beginning to look like a boat!

With the capture forms in place, the symmetry looks good!

Added the intermediate spreaders with the help of a 5 gallon bucket adding water until the gunwales just kissed the face of the spreaders. The bucket was leaking so I had to work quickly!

I tried to kerf the gunwales with an aggressive pull saw but I was making a mess of it. I turned to my oscillating tool and a piece of 36 grit Klingspor paper glued to an old saw blade. My grandfather would have had one of these in his toolbox!

08/12/2021 Stems

After watching the video on cutting stems I looked at the red cedar that I had remaining and decided that it was probably not great for this application. So I’ve decided to laminate the stems from walnut or sapele and use the piece of cedar for a floorboard perhaps. I then cut temporary stems on the CNC. These will be installed so that the build can continue. Before skinning, the temporary stems will be removed, the new stems laminated, and then replaced on the boat.

08/13/2021 Boat Deck

With the temporary stems in place and the keel attached – a check of the rocker heights looks about right. The video of this step indicated that the line should just touch the keel at the center of the boat. However, the instructions on p.19 indicate that a keel height of 7/16″ should be used in determining the height of the center blocking “regardless of the actual keel height”. My keel is 9/16″ creating interference of about 1/8″. I sent a quick note off to Brian for a sanity check and got a quick response.

It’s now time to begin looking for some bending wood. In the meantime I’ll be working the rub rails from a nice piece of ash I picked up this week.


I am scarfing together some ash strips for the rub rails. After the glue-up these were ripped to 1/2″ width, planed to 1/4″ thickness, and then drilled and countersunk for the wood screws.

This is what happened when I hurried the job with a cheap drill press and dull countersinking bit. The dull bit had me cranking on the press arm a little harder. The plastic stop on this Harbor Freight press flexed and some of the holes went a bit deep.

I am going to cut and scarf another set of rails and redo these with a new countersinking bit. With what I had on hand I rigged up a new way of stopping the depth – very Rube Goldberg. I cut a set of test holes and all were within 0.02~0.03″.

I’m glad that I watched the skinning video at this point in the build. I hadn’t realized earlier that the rub rails were installed while the skin was wet. I can imagine breaking the first set of poorly drilled rails while skinning the boat and creating a panicked mess for myself. That is why I’m remaking these! (I can’t imagine doing this with a hand drill.)

08/17/2021 Rub Rails (Take 2)

Instead of ripping these, as with the first set, I chose to plane them to size. It was raining today so I had to stop a couple of times since these 14′ lengths are longer than my shop can handle.

All of the rub rail holes were drilled, the edges were rounded with the SlickPlane, and sanded down nicely. I’ve used Rubio Monocoat 2C oil before and really like it. It is the kind of finish that makes me work a little longer on the sanding step which I usually hurry through.

08/18/2021 Rib Length Adjustment Stick

I took the shear (+1″ in the bow) and rocker (symmetric) measurements into a spreadsheet. The curve looks smooth enough, so I made a simple CAD drawing with the adjustments for each rib. I’ll print that 1:1 and glue it down on my rib length stick.

The rib at the middle of the boat (#14) will be approximately the beam width (28.5″) + the base measurement (~10.5″. r/b=1.37). It seemed to me that a 39″ long rib could hardly reach across the beam to a depth of 10.5″? So I found a simple online calculator to get me comfortable with that. The conclusion is… check your math, then trust Brian’s system!

78 / 2 = 39 !

I’ll take the rib stock to the canoe and mark the gunwale measurement at each location and the rib number. Then I’ll mark the cut length using the stick below. Ribs 16-27 are on one side of the stick and 1-13 on the other. Ribs 14 and 15 get cut at the base measurement.

Steam Box

I made a much smaller steam box than in the plans. I won’t be working that quickly and I’m hoping to get better temperature profile with the smaller volume. I shortened the hose from the steam generator chopping off at least 8′ and was getting about 205 degrees F with just a couple of towels draped over the top.


Waiting for bending stock.

Trees are great – and you can be too! They give us air to breathe, food to eat, shade for hammocks, and so much more during their long lives. When a tree comes down, we can help that tree continue its usefulness. Instead of paying someone to throw that tree away (it’s not garbage…), you can turn that tree into a shed or siding or a canoe or furniture or firewood.


I’m looking for bending stock so when I saw this I thought that these folks might be helpful. Jamie is great and tomorrow a white oak is coming down nearby and he has arranged with the property owner to sell me some for this project.

In the meantime I’ve been building jigs in the workshop. Here is a simple jig to thin the rib tenon ends. “Overkill?” “Yes – and thanks very much for noticing!”

A small piece of a coping blade acts like a spring to square the tenon up for cutting.

Brian says that the canoe build is about 55 hours – I’ll spend that much time thinking about jigs, building jigs, throwing jigs away, and building replacement jigs. The real shame of this undertaking is not that I’ll never get this canoe built – it’s that I’ll only build one canoe. If that happens, every time I see one of these jigs they will mock me.

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