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The building of my canoe - a 1908 BN Morris reproduction

Updated on November 5, 2015

Why buy when you can build?

1996 I went canoeing with some friends in Hayward WI. and thought 'hey I need a canoe' - no I didn't need one but wanted one. Rather than buy stuff ready to use I like to build it, however my completion rate is low. This lens tells of the 14 year journey of my canoe.

Searching for a canoe

So my search was on. I started looking around the internet and found the Northwoods Canoe Co. Contacted them and a week later my catalog showed up. My dad and I selected the reproduction of a 1908 BN Morris. Up until this point all we had build were square things like kitchen cabinets. $60 later our plans arrived. Not being boat builders our learning curve was steep, but enjoyable.

Canoe websites and supplies.

These are some sites that I used in researching canoes before, during and after building.

Kat and the canoe form.
Kat and the canoe form.

Building the form.

The plans for a canoe are actually two projects. First you have to build a form in order to build the actual canoe. Any of the detail or thinking that 'oh that little bump won't be a problem gets magnified by ten into the final project'. The form took us approximately 100 hours to build. Considerable time was spent in sanding it smooth. There are lots of compound curves in this project. Many times in this en-devour that we questioned why we built one of the harder canoes. The canoe is then built over the form to retain its shape. Pictured is Kat (my wife) and the canoe form. A 17' foot canoe and form takes up quite a bit of space. Did I mention that she was helping so that her car could get back in the garage?

Here are some canoe books I read during my building journey .

These books were invaluable during the construction of our canoe. The Wood and Canvas Canoe contains study plans as well as step by step instructions. Lots of great pictures are also included. It's Sunday afternoon and I had a question - found it in this material.

Northern White Cedar

Traditional materials were used in the build of this canoe. Back to the internet (remember Prodigy and their bulletin boards?) I went and was able to locate the lumber that we needed in Hibbing, Minnesota. Road trip! Dad and I took off north. Great trip, I was able to spend some neat time with my dad, plus we saw some of the country that we haven't seen.

Steam box
Steam box

Steaming the wood

This is the steam box. It is used to soften the wood and make it easier to bend. Once the wood dries it retains its shape, however it will spring back a bit.

Rib bending
Rib bending

Rib bending

After the ribs come out of the steam box they are bent over the form and nailed in place.

Ribs installed and ready for planking

All ribs in place
All ribs in place

Here is the canoe with all the ribs installed.

Planking the hull.
Planking the hull.

Planking the hull

The planking holds the ribs and the shape of the canoe. All the planks are nailed in place with a special canoe tack. The iron is used to steam the stubborn planks in place.

Hull in canvas / interior varnished
Hull in canvas / interior varnished

Canvas applied and interior varnished.

This photo shows the canoe in the canvas. Canoes from this era were covered in canvas fabric and the weave filled with a proprietary filler. Once filled the canvass hardens and keeps the water from leaking in. The inside of the hull has been sanded and varnished at this stage.

Upside down and painted!


Here the canvas is finished. The paint is applied. When we were looking for colors we were after richer colors. Most of the modern colors we found were loud and fast not fitting for this canoe.

Caning the seat frame
Caning the seat frame

Caning the seats

Here is an almost finished seat

Finishing touches

Finishing touches
Finishing touches

Cargo rack, gunwales, and thwarts installed. The cargo rack and thwarts are mahogany, gunwales and seats are ash. The ash in from Mooresville, IN, we stayed as local as we could when getting out material.

In the water!

We launched our canoe in 2010! From start to finish it took us 14 years, 10 of those years doing absolutely nothing. Finally in 2008 I made a decision that it's going to float or the project has to go away. My thinking was if I touch it I work on it for one hour. It became a family event. This link

B.N Morris canoe progress will show you all of the pictures. I took most of the photo's for this album. I'll add more as I learn more. Thanks for looking!

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    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @TransplantedSoul: Thank you very much. I appreciate the comments!


    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 5 years ago

      Your canoe is a piece of art! What a huge amount of work, but the satisfaction must be enormous!

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @ajgodinho: Thank you for the great comment, I greatly appreciate it. Happy new year

      to you also!


    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Wow, what an amazing project to undertake. Great to see that you and your dad have worked on a life's worth of woodworking projects together. You definitely found yourself a niche for creating some DIY Squidoo lenses. Wishing you all the best with your future projects and all the best for the year ahead. Happy New Year ~ stay blessed!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Beautiful.craftsmanship. Gorgeous canoe!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      This is so beautiful - what a skill and what a gift to share it!

    • orange3 lm profile image

      orange3 lm 5 years ago

      Wow! You all are very talented! This is a beautiful canoe!

    • Two Crafty Paws profile image

      Two Crafty Paws 5 years ago

      This is awesome! Looks great and you certainly have some skills. Knowing myself I would also be making something like this for ages as I also tend to khm do nothing when I am doing something haha.

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 5 years ago from Keller, Texas

      Wow! A beautiful piece of work and I hope you enjoy it for years to come.

    • profile image

      grebe 5 years ago

      An amazing labor of love!

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 5 years ago

      An incredible 14 year DIY project - it turned out beautifully, a work of art and practical!

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Awesome post! Keep working ,great job!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What a beautiful canoe! I may have taken a long time, but at least you finished! Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @Elyn MacInnis: Thank you. The caning was fun. Just repetitive. It is a sad sight to start breaking ribs while bending them. But a joy when it all works!

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @Kailua-KonaGirl: Very cool. Every day I learn something new. Awesome! Squid Angel


    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @Kailua-KonaGirl: I appreciate the feedback - thanks! Not sure what I want to build next.

      So many projects!

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 5 years ago from New York

      Oops! Forgot to tell you that it has been *Squid Angel Blessed* and added to "My Squid Angel Blessings for 2012" in the "Hobbies, Games & Toys » Outdoor Toys » Water Toys" neighborhood. In fact, yours is the 1st lens to be featured in this category this year! Whoohoo!

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 5 years ago from New York

      This is an amazing lens! The work you and your family put into this project is awesome to say the least. I am so glad you finally finished the project and hope you are inclined to build more canoes & more lenses. This one is certainly well deserving of your LOTD award.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very beautiful lens.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Wow. You are really courageous! I have caned seats - it isn't easy! And making wooden ribs? Smokies. Squid angel blessed!

    • profile image

      kayla_harris 5 years ago

      It is a beautiful canoe! Thanks for sharing this useful Lens!

    • sus1974 profile image

      sus1974 5 years ago

      Very, very nice canoe! Wonderful backstory as well!

    • AstroGremlin profile image

      AstroGremlin 5 years ago

      Beautiful and tasteful choice of colors. My dad and mom made the gunwales, end caps, spacers (cargo holders), etc. to add onto a fiberglass body. Years later we wrapped it around a rock in some rapids!

    • MillBucks profile image

      MillBucks 5 years ago

      Wow, what a nice looking canoe! Love the way you defined and illustrated each step, congrats on being selected as LotD

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @Arun2012: Thanks! Sounds like you do some neat projects. Thanks for sharing.

    • Arun2012 profile image

      Arun2012 5 years ago

      I love wood works.At home we build sound box,stool,Table etc.I ask my father if I've any doubt on woodwork.He was very good in it. We've also build a l home theater system which need lot of woods .My father helped me great.My brother is also a good wood worker he bought many machine to make wood work easier.And making a home theatre was his idea.

      After reading I am thinking about to making a small canoe.

      This article is great


    • signexpert profile image

      Hubpages Sucks 5 years ago from Alaksa

      Terrific story with great pictures. Thanks for sharing!

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @lclchors: Thank you! Most of them have never seen the garage. I'm kinda working my way there -kinda.

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @sbpickering: Great story! Stuff is stuff - but the adventure is what it's about.

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @favored: Thank you! No Kat didn't get the garage back - yet. I look at it as a 22' X 28' reach in closet!

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @Gatortail2: Sound like a great project. Have you posted pictures anywhere? I'd love to see it! Thanks for the compliment!

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @DebMartin: Thank you for the compliment! I'll pass the message on to Kat.

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @flycatcherrr: Please borrow away. I have started way more projects than I have started. It's good to finish and use them.

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @Kandy_Kid: Awesome! Post some pictures I'd love to see your project! Think of

      how many more cool projects we would complete if we eliminated the

      "tomorrow syndrome"

    • profile image

      Kandy_Kid 5 years ago

      I am re-canvasing a Chestnut canvas cedar canoe, and I understand the "tomorrow" syndrom. I will get it done, and maybe even have one as nice as uours.

    • gregorygawlas profile image

      gregorygawlas 5 years ago

      I like it!

    • wilderness29 lm profile image

      wilderness29 lm 5 years ago

      Wow! Your canoe looks amazing!

    • xtraneus profile image

      xtraneus 5 years ago

      Wow that canoe is a true work of art! Well-written and interesting lens.

    • ShariBerry profile image

      Sharon Berry 5 years ago from Michigan

      A thing of beauty. What an amazing journey. Congrats!

    • Jack2205 profile image

      Jack 5 years ago

      That's amazing. I love your canoe.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      I like your resolution "if I touch it I work on it for one hour" - that can be applied to so many projects that seem to want to stay on the back burner; I do believe I'll borrow that motto! It is a beautiful canoe, and you have such amazing memories now of building it as a family project. Well done, indeed!

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 5 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Wow. What a project! I admire your dedication to complete this task after so many years. I probably would have sold it as an unfinished project!

      Congrats on LOTD too. :-)

    • PickupTrucksFan1 profile image

      PickupTrucksFan1 5 years ago

      I am impressed by the fit up of the strips. There aren't really any straight lines in a canoe. Everything is curves. Great job.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 5 years ago

      I'm so impressed. I love your canoe and everything about it, including the colors. I admire your efforts, your Dad's support and give my best to Kat. Blessed. d

    • profile image

      Gatortail2 5 years ago

      Very pretty canoe, like you I built my own canoe, mine less traditional, I used ceder, black walnut and yellow pine strips and laminated the whole body with expoxy resin. I think I will build another canoe in the style of the canoe you created, for use on salt water bays. Thanks great lens you inspired me to build again.

    • profile image

      mymoodswings 5 years ago

      ... wow! that's really amazing... so impressed with the patience and the outcome ... congratulations!

    • EbooksFreeWeekl1 profile image

      EbooksFreeWeekl1 5 years ago

      Amazing lens! Congratulations.

    • Madonaa profile image

      Madonaa 5 years ago

      You are really a hardworking man you have done all the things perfectly great

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @CanonCameraLover: I stopped adding - I think we have about $1500 in material, tools plans -etc. I have to go back and look. Thanks!

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @thegrayrabbit: Rib bending is part science, part black magic, and part luck. Awesome when it works aggravating when it doesn't.

      Thank you. Stan

    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @Johanna Eisler: Hello,

      C'mon - the garage is just an over sized closet - I might get the van in

      there by December!

      Thanks for the feedback!


    • sjewula profile image

      sjewula 5 years ago

      @sbpickering: Hello!

      Thanks for the compliment. Yes - we could probably build one in less than

      a year.


    • profile image

      ACGroup1 5 years ago

      Nice job and thanks for documenting the project. I think I might tackle something similar

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LotD with this gorgeous lens!

    • profile image

      JadaFuego 5 years ago

      WOA...that actually looks cool...and entertaining

    • profile image

      johnsja 5 years ago

      That is really impressive! Great pics. Thanks for sharing and congrats on LOTD!

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 5 years ago from GRENADA

      A masterpiece! Congratulations on winning the Lens of The Day (LOTD)!!!

    • Earnlat profile image

      Earnlat 5 years ago

      Just completing this project in whatever time it took, must feel wonderful!! The canoe looks really cool. Nice lens!

    • LaLaPress profile image

      Jaime 5 years ago

      Okay so I really feel like building something now lol.

    • kitsiu lm profile image

      kitsiu lm 5 years ago

      Beautiful art work.. Awesome canoe.

    • espressoman lm profile image

      espressoman lm 5 years ago

      WOW That looks like fun. Makes me want to try to build one myself. Good Job.

    • profile image

      SolarEclipseWatcher 5 years ago

      Wow! What incredible perseverance! It really is beautiful--thanks for sharing.

    • JBradshaw profile image

      JBradshaw 5 years ago

      Awesome canoe!! Sounds a bit like my projects that take forever but the payoff is always worth it.

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Congrats on LOTD! You made a gorgeous canoe, by the way!

    • thegrayrabbit profile image

      thegrayrabbit 5 years ago

      Very LOTD worthy. That rib bending looks to be the toughest part of building one of these.

    • choosehappy profile image

      Vikki 5 years ago from US

      Wow, that's really amazing! Great job! Congrats on LOTD too!

    • randomthings lm profile image

      randomthings lm 5 years ago

      Very cool! Happy canoing!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      The main thing is that you completed the goal, not the amount of years. You did it! Yeah!!! Such a wonderful "family" project and memories for a lifetime. By the way, did Kat get her garage back? Congratulation on LotD. It was a nice journey, so what's next?

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      What an amazing job you did. Wow!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      That is just an outstanding accomplishment. That canoe is absolutely beautiful. Congratulations on getting LotD!

    • Im Horse Crazy profile image

      Im Horse Crazy 5 years ago

      awesome lens!

    • GoAceNate LM profile image

      GoAceNate LM 5 years ago

      Wow how cool is that. Consider this lens blessed.

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 5 years ago from California

      Congratulations on LOTD. Your canoe is pretty fancy. When I was kid growing up in Canada, we acquired a few canoes that floated a shore from the Indians in BC. We would stuff cotton batting in them to keep from leaking and have one or two of my grandfather's old tobacco cans for bailing out the water if need be. Which we had to do a few times, then it was back on the shore for repacking the cotton in the holes. But since they were Indian canoes they rode extremely well in the water, never had to worry about them tipping over.

    • profile image

      CanonCameraLover 5 years ago

      How much does the canoe cost?

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

      Impressive and beautiful. Great lens.

    • Angelina Gherna profile image

      Angelina 5 years ago from California

      Great photos and beautiful work.

    • lewisgirl profile image

      lewisgirl 5 years ago

      Beautiful! I can tell a lot of hard work went into this. Now to reap the rewards!

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 5 years ago from Somewhere in England

      What a beautiful canoe! Now there's a phrase I never imagined I'd be using today when I woke up.

    • profile image

      Pete Schultz 5 years ago

      I know what a project this is, and I am familiar with the trip to Hibbing, however, I travel south, rather than north. Great lens and worthy of LOTD honors. Thanks. Incidentally, the previous post is from RobertZimmerman, which happes to be the given name of Bob Dylan, who happens to be from Hibbing. Small world, huh?

    • robertzimmerman2 profile image

      Robert Zimmerman 5 years ago from SE Florida, USA

      Glad to see you finished it, great job!

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 5 years ago

      congrats on the LOTD...great lens

    • Teapixie LM profile image

      Tea Pixie 5 years ago

      Wow! What a reward for your work - a beautiful, shiny, FLOATING boat.

      This summer I had the pleasure of paddling/swimming the Colorado River in Utah and there were kids on the river in kayaks they had built themselves. They had frames, canvas, varnis, and loads and loads of duct tape that fixed the accidents they had along the way. It was very inspiring to see their boats.

      It is even more inspiring to see the process you used to create a solid, long-lasting canoe. Great work documenting this with photos and words.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Deborah Swain profile image

      Deborah Swain 5 years ago from Rome, Italy

      what an amazing labour of love...congratulations on LOTD!

    • MrWidemouth profile image

      MrWidemouth 5 years ago

      nice canoe - great job.

    • ferginarg lm profile image

      ferginarg lm 5 years ago

      Congratulations on finishing the project, I bet it was a great feeling and what an awesome canoe!

    • profile image

      myspace9 5 years ago

      Congrats on the Lens of the Day. Very Impressive lens.

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 5 years ago

      It's a beautiful canoe! I know you'll be as careful with its use as you were with its construction. Congratulations on finishing your project!!! (Is your wife happy to get her car space back?) Very happy you received Lens of the Day for this well-"constructed" lens! :)

    • MoniqueDesigns profile image

      MoniqueDesigns 5 years ago

      Nice work!

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 5 years ago

      You did a neat job and I like your persistence and it is good to see dad and son working together.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Your 1908 BN Morris is a work of art with beautiful craftsmanship, I'm so glad the vision was renewed and brought to life after 10 years and now presented to the world as LotD, congratulations!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very cool!! I've thought about building a canoe myself. When we live on a lake, I'll do just that. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    • C-Diddy profile image

      C-Diddy 5 years ago

      What an interesting project, I could only imagine the amount of work you guys put into it!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      What an amazing project to undertake. Very impressive. Like Gibbs on NCIS :)

    • eilval profile image

      Eileen 5 years ago from Western Cape , South Africa

      Congrats on LOTD ! Truly amazing stuff !

    • etrendw profile image

      etrendw 5 years ago

      Great details, good job

    • profile image

      sbpickering 5 years ago

      Quick question for you - now that you have constructed the form, do you feel as though you could build another canoe in a reasonable span of time, say, one year?

    • profile image

      sbpickering 5 years ago

      You guys did a great job - it came out beautifully! The woodwork is especially well done. The shine on the wood is very rich, and the paint job is quite attractive.

      Forty + years ago when I was 12, my Dad and I built a canoe using a kit we saw in Boy's Life magazine. That had a fiberglass cloth covering, and a much simpler design, but it did take us most of a winter. It lasted many years, but the pine gunwales began to rot a few years ago. While ours was not much to look at, it got lots of use between myself and my two brothers, not to mention hundreds of Boy Scouts on our many trips.

      Would like to try something along the lines of your canoe, but know it will take quite a bit of time. A good retirement project, I suppose...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Congratulations for the LOTD.... (:

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 5 years ago

      Amazing work.