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Building a Cedar Strip Canoe: The Details: A Guide to Making the Forms

Updated on August 20, 2012
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Jim is a software/electrical engineer who enjoys the outdoors. He likes to challenge himself with creative projects at home.


This is the second part of my more detailed description of building a cedar strip canoe, a shortened Freedom 17 design. It will be my third cedar strip boat.

Now the plans are lofted or you have purchased plans and have hull outlines on a large sheet of paper. Since the cross section of the hull is symmetric only half of the hull shape is needed for each form. I cut three small windows in the plans each about ¼” X 1/2 “, at the top of the vertical center line, at the end of the horizontal baseline and at the intersection of those lines. Then I aligned the plan lines with the edge of a poster board and traced the hull outline onto the poster board using carbon paper. Care must be taken to not allow the alignment to slip. Tacks or tape could be used to hold the plan sheet to the poster board. This results in a tracing of a half-hull cross section. I repeated this for each outline then using scissors cut the half hull poster boards. I was hoping the poster board edges were square.

Next I purchased a 4’X8’ sheet of 5/8” particle board. I had a sheet of similar thickness OSB laying around so that was used also. Using a carpenters square I drew a straight vertical line on the sheet of particle board, far enough away from its edge for the half hull cardboard cut-out I was about to trace. I drew a line perpendicular to the vertical line 4 inches from the edge of the plywood. The side and bottom edges of the cut-out was lined up along the horizontal and vertical drawn lines Then I traced the outline, flipped it and traced the opposite side. I repeated this step until all the cut-outs were traced onto the plywood. I marked each side of the hull outline where the sheer was located. I also drew a rectangular area below each outline between the edge of the plywood and the 4 inch line. This would be the pedestal for the form, which is the area where the form is mounted to the station block. The I drew a line from an inch below each sheer point to this rectangle. I used a jig saw to cut out the forms. I had a newer saw but the blade tended to wander around the curves so I switched to my old saw with a broken base plate. That worked much better but was slower. After each form was cut out I smoothed the edges a bit with a sure form plane.

Next a center line was drawn the length of the strong back table (mine already had one from before) and the station blocks (1-1/2 x 1-1/2 inch 12 inch long blocks) were mounted. This design was for a 17 foot canoe but I wanted mine to be about 16 ft or maybe slightly less. The design called for the forms (or stations) to be spaced every 12 inches. I spaced mine every 11 inches. First a line in the center of the table was drawn perpendicular to the long center line then repeated every 11 inches towards the bow and stern from there. The forms should be centered over each line so the station blocks need to be mounted one half of the form thickness from each of those lines. The station blocks should be on the bow or stern side of the forms depending on which side of center. I drilled clearance holes in the forms and mounted them to the station blocks, being careful to align the vertical pencil line on the form with the one on the strong back table center. A string stretched from end to end can help with alignment The forms were attached with drywall screws.

The stem forms are mounted at each end along the center line of the strong back and butted up against the second to last form on each end. The top the stem forms should be about ¾” below the top of the form it touches to allow for attachment of the inner stem, which is a laminate of three ¼” strips. I attached some guide boards along the base of the stem forms. I cut 2 inch diameter holes in each stem form to allow the laminations to be bent around the forms and clamped once they are steamed. A long strip thin should be nailed to the top of each form to tie them together. This will be removed later but helps with stability during the stripping process.


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    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Great pictures with your project! Someday I'll get around to building my own canoe. Thanks!

    • 4wardthinker profile image

      4wardthinker 5 years ago from Sierra Nevada CA

      You have a work of art. Beautiful work!

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