Jim Walter’s Nested Large Solo Canoes

Background and Prep Work

I started getting interested in building a pair of canoes over 2.5 years ago. I soon discovered Cape Falcon Kayak and decided to buy the canoe building course. It is extremely detailed and customizable to your needs. With that and the detailed instructions I felt I could come out with something I would be happy with.

I have only modest carpentry skills but enjoy building things. My twin brother and I built a skin on frame tandem kayak decades ago when we were in HS. It was made with plywood frames, 1 x 2 stringers and epoxy resin over polyester fabric. It came out pretty good but was not lightweight and maneuverable like Brian’s designs. I am looked forward to the challenge and started collecting tools. I bought a table saw and planer on Craigslist and bought or borrowed other hand tools I needed. I bought some locally milled fresh oak and mostly clear cedar from a local lumberyard. I got enough oak for four canoes for about $80 and most of the cedar for about $100! Now, I noticed it is much higher at $4.00 per rib (premilled) and cedar at $100 per board. What a difference.

Unfortunately, I got delayed in my start due to some unforeseen circumstances and got going again a few weeks ago. I am building two solo boats for my wife and myself. Brian consulted on sizing and we settled on the larger at 15′-6″ by 31.5″ and 12″ deep. This has a r/b ratio of 142 and a d/b ratio of 0.38. The medium boat is 14′-8″ by 29.5″ and 11.75″ deep with a r/b of 144 and d/b of 144. We will check this with some test ribs and adjust if needed. I plan to add some tumblehome to both and will fatten up the bilge stringer on the big boat for extra stability for my wife. I am using five stringers per side on the big one four per side on the other.

I started on January 11 by making a the steamer box, a long straight building platform and a work table. I realized these were critical for the long rips and planing on the 16 foot lengths. I am working out of my garage, as I don’t have a shop. It is cold in Wisconsin but thankfully – no snow.

This was not ideal. I added another long ‘table’ in front.
My ‘strongback’ as an out feed table combined with another table in front worked well.
The little Ryobi did better than expected and we made a big pile of shaving together.

Gunwales 1/19/23

I moved operations into my basement for the gunwale lamination. I plan to do all my cutting in the garage and the assembly and skinning in the basement. Yes, I have a way to get the boat up stairs and out. ; – ) It went pretty smoothly with the help of my son. We used gorilla glue and worked off of blocks on the strongback. With setup time and futzing extra long on checks we took about 45 minutes overall. I waited five hours and removed all clamps and cleaned the glue of one side. I came of easily and cleanly.

Cutting Gunwales 1/20/23

This operation was a little tricky. I had been thinking about it for a long time knowing that ‘any’ side to side movement on a 15 foot lever arm would show up in a marred gunwale. I was aided by my son, Daniel. We practiced some dry runs and started to feel more comfortable. I gave myself a little margin and added a 1/32″ plus to my finished widths. Daniel supported the end behind me at the start and then switched sides to support the pieces coming out. The cutting went surprisingly well with only minor saw scuffs. The crowd rejoiced! I finished by planing each piece to exactly 3/4 inch. Very glad to have that done successfully.

Finishing Gunwales and Measuring Shear Heights 1/21/23

I was excited to make more progress and spent a good part of the day outside working on the boats. Cold but not too cold. I came in every so often to warm up. I marked and joined pairs and cut the gunwales as Brian describes. Set up the router and started morticing. It went well. The routing jig with side runners works great! Finished by CAREFULLY measuring shear heights.

Measuring shear. Was really starting to get cold and probably did each canoe twice


View posts by Jim
Semi-retired architect developer living in Bristol, WI, SE Wisconsin.

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