Building a Strip Canoe: Full-Sized Plans and Instructions for Eight Easy-To-Build, Field Tested Canoes

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An expert outdoorsman and canoe builder who has supervised the construction of more than 500 canoes, shares his voice of experience in guiding both novice and accomplished woodworkers in building a canoe with easy step-by-step instruction.
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An expert outdoorsman and canoe builder who has supervised the construction of more than 500 canoes, shares his voice of experience in guiding both novice and accomplished woodworkers in building a canoe with easy step-by-step instruction.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
There are many things I want to do in my lifetime. I can check off skydiving, writing a book, and a few others that I've counted myself fortunate enough to complete, but still there are more. I grew up in Florida, and I was lucky enough to have access to a number of rivers, a few bayous, and, of course, the Gulf of Mexico. During my high school days, one of my favorite summer activities was canoeing. I spent many days on Coldwater River or Blackwater River either with friends or solo (often on an ocean kayak because it was lighter and more fun to me). I will never forget one summer day by myself on Coldwater (frigid water year round) when I quietly rounded a bend on the water and came face-to-face with a mother bobcat that had come out from the woods with her two babies to drink from the river. She looked at me and gave the scariest deep growl/screech I'd ever heard - I think I almost flipped my canoe trying to get back out into the center of the river. She scurried away, but my heart was pounding an hour later.

Another time I was out by myself was right after some major storms. I would often show up at the canoe outfitter north of town around 8am or 9am to get on the river before the crowds. On this particular day, I had asked them to drop me off about 15 miles north of the outfitter's final stop, considered The Day Trip. Probably thirty minutes down the river, I ran into a series of downed trees that completely crossed the river, forcing me to climb out of the canoe while standing on foot wide tree trunks. The tree line was too thick to try to go around the trees by pulling the canoe through the woods, so I was forced to carefully pull, push, and slide the canoe and my supplies over three or four trees that moved up and down in the water under my weight. When I finished the route about 7 or 8 hours later, I informed the outfitter about the trees and was told they'd dropped off about 30 other people at the same starting point, many with larger coolers and kids. Bad day for canoers.

I haven't been canoeing in a few years, but I've got two boys, ages 2 and 5, who I hope will get a chance to do some canoeing on those same rivers someday. But before I take them, one thing I've always wanted to do is to build my own canoe. Specifically, a cedar strip canoe. I'm thinking an 18 foot flat hull might be nice for a trip with the boys. Maybe even a few handmade paddles to match. But I'm getting ahead of myself first, I need to actually figure out how to build one.

And for that, I'm going to be eternally grateful to Gil Gilpatrick. Gil's been a guide in Maine for over 30 years, having carried his share of tourists down rivers galore. But it's not his river skills that I need right now (although he's got those in spades). What I need are his detailed instructions for constructing my own canoe, all covered in his book, Building A Strip Canoe, 2nd Edition.

Before I tell you a bit more about this book, let me tell you that I've spent hours and hours hunting down techniques and discussions on the Internet related to building canoes. There's a lot out there, believe me. You'll find dozens of differing techniques and conflicting advice. It's a mess out there. But if you pay careful attention to many commenters and builders and check out who they often refer back to it's Gil Gilpatrick. When I started noticing his name on many websites, I quickly discovered that many canoe builders who have documented their own builds used the instructions provided by Gilpatrick.

Be aware that many of Gilpatrick's earlier books, including the first edition to this book, are difficult to find or expensive to obtain. I tell you this only because if you ever think you might want to build your own canoe, now is the time to grab a copy of this book before it too becomes difficult to find. This one is in full color, and it even comes with removable templates in the back of the book for cutting out the patterns used to shape the eight different canoes he covers in this single book. It's a large sized book, too, so you won't be squinting at the photos wondering about any particular step.

I've been mulling over building my own canoe for a little over a year now, and I've finally decided to do it. (My wife reads my posts, so I imagine as she's reading this she's shaking her head and considering calling her attorney.) I've got the space in my garage ready. I've got all the tools minus one (a router table fence for doing the bead/cove on the cedar strips - call my dad, Ashley, and he'll tell you the correct fence I need for my upcoming birthday). And I've read the book probably five or six times now, so I'm confident in the order of the process. The only part that makes me nervous is the fiberglass portion of the project, and I plan on practicing on scrap before I approach the real hull.

Building a Strip Canoe covers everything - safety, prep work and supply assembly, building the backbone (the frame you'll first need to build along with the patterns from the included templates) that will provide your canoe support as you glue, staple, and form your canoe. And while I'm not 100% convinced that just anyone can build a canoe, I'll be the first to admit (as a technical writer by trade) that the instructions Gilpatrick provides are the clearest I could imagine, and after reading the book just once I knew that it contained the right details for me to follow along. I'm comfortable working with wood and many of the tools required, but I believe that even a novice with the right help (and maybe a friend with a table saw and some time) can build a canoe. Gilpatrick covers it all, including putting together authentic cane seating and paddles as well as a list of specialty supply vendors (in case you live somewhere that doesn't offer access to the fiberglass/epoxy materials and even the wood). This is really the only book you'll need should you decide you want to now (or ever) build your own canoe. I'm much more confident in this upcoming project with this book in my hand.

Step-by-step instructions and plenty of photographs explaining how 10 build a strip canoe; full-sized plans for eight different canoe models.

There are two ways in which people are likely 10 start building a canoe. The first is when they are already accomplished woodworkers and they see the building of a canoe as a development of their interests and skills. The second is when they have little knowledge of woodworking but have an interest in and possibly a better than average knowledge of canoes.

This book has been written with both types of reader in mind; it contains a single project with a number of variations.
After a brief introduction and a discussion about safety issues, Chapter 2 begins with an examination of some of the variations which are possible in canoe design. For example, the bottom of the canoe may be flat or rounded and it may be built with or without a keel. Four profiles are suggested: General Purpose, White Water, Streamlined and Freighter.
These variations are condensed into the 8 designs presented; they range in length from 4.9 to 6 metres. Construction of a canoe is undertaken by first making a strongback and mounting it at a convenient height at which to work. The strongback allows erection of the 'stations' along its length. Full-sized patterns of these stations for each of the canoes are contained in a sealed packet on the inside back cover of the book. These are the key to achieving exactly the shapes required.

The pre-formed strips of wood that form the hull of the craft are then laid over and secured to the stations. Once the structure of the hull is complete, including the necessary filling and sealing, the stem is reinforced and the fibreglass applied. The inside of the canoe comes next then the decks, thwarts and seats.

Each step in the construction process is explained in easy-to-read text supported by clear photographs. A special chapter is devoted to the making of repairs where these may be necessary and the final part of the book covers the construction of the paddle. The author claims to have supervised the building of some 500 canoes over a period of 30 years. His intensely practical book is a revision of an earlier work which was published under the same title.

I read it front to back immediately and have returned to review selected chapters since. The directions and illustrations are excellent. Thanks for making your vast experience and knowledge accessible to the rest of us. I now wish that I could take one of those Allagash trips with you.

Library Journal
This revised version is much more polished and better illustrated than the 2002 edition. Canoe trip guide and outdoorsman Gilpatrick provides detailed and straightforward instruction. Be warned: there is a back pocket with patterns that will never survive circulation. This volume is not for the casual hobbyist but for the devoted craftsperson. For readers who want to expend the time and money to build a beautifully crafted wood strip canoe rather than buy a fiberglass one, this book is strongly recommended.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565234833
  • Publisher: Fox Chapel Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/1/2010
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 149,756
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Gil Gilpatrick has been a Master Maine Guide for over 40 years and taught Outdoor Resources at the Skowhegan Vocational Center in Maine for nearly 30 years. He has written extensively about his experiences in the outdoors and his knowledge of how to build outdoor equipment.
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Safety

Chapter 2: The Canoe Models

Chapter 3: The Preliminaries

Chapter 4: Building the Hull

Chapter 5: Fiberglassing

Chapter 6: The Woodwork

Chapter 7: Seats

Chapter 8: Paddles

Chapter 9: Repairs


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Customer Reviews

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( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2013

    The book is wonderful.  I built the Wabnaki canoe last summer, a

    The book is wonderful.  I built the Wabnaki canoe last summer, and had a question about what type of urethane to use for the final coat, so I emailed the author, and he replied within a day or two.  Building my second canoe as we speak, and can't wait to build the other models.

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  • Posted July 25, 2012

    Highly recommend

    Step by step guidelines are great.Well written,easy to understand.I've only read it once so far. Plans are are to read it twice more. Then open the plans and get started.

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