How to Make A Cheap Canoe by W. P. S.
The labor and ingenuity expended in one season by a boy who has any
taste for the water in building rafts, and converting tubs and
packing-boxes into sea-going vessels, would, if well directed, build a
good-sized ship; but, from lack of knowledge and system, the results of
such attempts are generally failures.
After some experience with rafts that would sink, scows that would
leak, and other craft that showed a strong preference for floating with
keels in the air, we found in the canvas canoe a boat at once handsome,
speedy, and safe, and capable of a great variety of uses, while the
small cost and easy construction place it within reach of all young
To produce a good canvas boat care and patience are more necessary than
great skill with tools, though it is supposed that the young mechanic
can use his rule correctly, saw to a line, and plane an edge reasonably
The first proceeding in any building operation, after the plans are
decided on, is to make out a "bill of materials" and an "estimate," and
ours will read as follows:
|Keel, oak, 1 in. square, by 15 ft. long||} Sawed from an oak|
|10 rib-bands, oak, 1 x ¼ in., by 15 ft. long||} board 15 ft. X 6 in. = 7½ ft. @ 5c.|
|2 gunwales, oak, 1 x ¾ in., by 15 ft. long||}||$0.38|
|Keelson, 3 x 1 in., 10 ft. long.||} 10 in. pine board|
|Bow, stern, coaming, and ridge pieces.||}||.35|
|Moulds.||} 2 pine boards 12 x ½ in., 13 ft.|
|Floor boards,||} long = 26 ft.,@ 3c.||.78|
|Paddle, 1¼ in. spruce plank, 6½ in. X 13 ft.||.25|
|Canvas, 5 yds., 40 in., @ 45c.||2.25|
|Canvas deck, 5 yds., 28 in., @ 25c.||1.25|
|1 package 1 in. No. 7 iron screws.||.30|
|Tacks, nails, and screws.||.50|
|Rubber cloth for apron.||.50|
|Sawing moulds and paddle.||.50|
Having all our material ready, it will be best to mark out the different
pieces, and have them all sawed at once by a steam-saw.
Beginning with the bow and stern, we will lay off on one corner of the
ten-inch board a line two feet long, representing the dotted line
c d in Fig. 1.
A line is drawn half an inch from the edge from the point 11 to 12,
making a notch for the end of the keelson; and the two feet are divided
into four parts, and perpendiculars drawn at each point.
Now measure off on the line a d nine and a half inches, giving the
point a; on the others three and a quarter inches, an inch, and a
quarter of an inch; then draw a line from a to c through all these
The shape of the inner line is not important, so it may be drawn by eye,
making it thick enough for strength.
As the bow and stern are alike, two of these pieces are needed.
The keelson must be cut from the same board, being three inches wide at
the centre, tapering to one inch at the ends.
To obtain the shapes of the moulds or sections we must enlarge Fig. 4
four times to its full size.
The horizontal lines in the drawing are one-fourth of an inch apart, so
in our large drawing they will be one inch; then taking the line marked
2 (Nos. 1 and 13 require no moulds), we find the distance of the point
g to be one and seven-sixteenths inches from the centre line, so we
make it four times as much, or five and three-fourths inches, and
continue with the other points until we have enough to determine the
line pretty closely, after which we join them with the line g h,
giving the shape of one-half of our first mould.
The lines on the right represent the half sections in the fore end of
the boat, and those on the left the after end.
When all are drawn, they should be transferred to the half-inch board,
each mould, however, being a whole and not a half section.
The outline of the paddle being drawn also, all may be taken to a
saw-mill and sawn out, or else they may be sawn by hand with a
Having all cut out, we will first screw the bow and stern to the
keelson, and secure the three pieces on a plank set upright, the upper
edge being curved to fit the keelson, which is a little rockered.
Moulds Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, and 12 are next notched to fit the
varying widths of the keelson, the first and last also fitting over the
bow and stern; then they are put in place, and the gunwales notched into
them, and also into the bow and stern.
The moulds for Nos. 6, 7, and 8 are sawn from three-quarter-inch oak or
ash, each being in two pieces. The inner edge of No. 6 is shown by the
dotted line K C, Fig. 4, and of Nos. 7 and 8 by m b. They are put in
place the same as the others.
Now the rib-bands are planed off and tacked in place, being spaced
amidships as shown in Fig. 4; then the points where they cross the bow
and stern and all the moulds are marked, and notches one inch by
one-fourth of an inch cut to receive them, the edges of the bow and
stern being tapered off at the same time to half an inch; then all the
parts are placed in position again, and fastened with one-inch screws,
except where the keelson joins the bow, stern, and moulds, where one
inch and a half screws are used. Each screw is dipped in white lead
before inserting, and the head afterward puttied over.
The highest point of the deck is at No. 6, where a deck beam is placed,
the shape of it and of the deck at No. 9 being shown in Fig. 4.
The other moulds may be easily shaped by using these as guides; then
pieces two inches wide and three-fourths of an inch thick are notched
into each mould, down the centre of the deck, from No. 6 to the bow, and
from No. 9 to the stern, making a ridge over which the canvas is
A piece of one-inch pine is next set in between Nos. 9 and 6, and
screwed to each, as well as to Nos. 7 and 8 and the gunwales, and
forming the sides of the well.
The frame is now carefully smoothed off, and painted with two coats;
then a floor of half-inch pine is screwed to moulds Nos. 6, 7, and 8.
The canvas, forty inches wide, is first oiled, and then laid on the
frame-work, and tacked along the centre of the keelson from No. 2 to No.
12; then it is tacked lightly to the gunwales; then cut to fit the
curved bow and stern, and tacked, the edges overlapping half an inch,
after which it is stretched tightly over the gunwales, and tacked on the
The deck is of drilling, twenty-eight inches wide, tacked around the
gunwale (a half-round head being screwed over the joint), and turned up
and tacked around the coaming, which is of three-eighth inch pine,
rising an inch and a half above the deck, and screwed to the side
pieces, mould No. 9, and the deck beam at No. 6.
The keel is of straight-grained oak, one inch deep from No. 3 to No. 11,
tapering to one-half by three-eighths of an inch at the ends, and may be
soaked in hot water before bending. When cold, it is screwed to the
keelson and the bow and stern, the canvas under it being painted.
The stretcher for the feet rests against a strip nailed to the floors,
and a small block on each gunwale.
A half-inch hole is bored in bow and stern for the painter.
The paddle is seven feet long, six and a half inches wide, and
three-sixteenths of an inch thick at the edges; the handle being an inch
and a quarter in diameter at the middle, tapering to seven-eighths where
it joins the blades. A rubber ring is slipped over each end to prevent
the water running down. In using, it is grasped about seven inches on
each side of the centre, keeping the hands about the width of the body
apart. The stroke should be as long and steady as possible.
It will be found at first that the boat will rock from side to side in
paddling, and the paddle will throw some spray; but both these faults
disappear with practice, and the boat should be perfectly steady at any
speed. A slight twist as the paddle leaves the water, hard to describe,
but easily found on trial, shakes off all drip.
For an apron, a strip of pine one-quarter by one and a half inches is
fastened to each side of the well by brass straps hooking over the
coaming, shown in Fig. 6.
A piece of rubber cloth is gored to fit around the body, and is tacked
to each side piece, a rubber cord fastened to each strip, and running
around the front of the well, serving to keep it down, and the after
ends being tucked in between the backboard and the body, all falling off
in an upset.
The backboard, Fig. 5, is seventeen inches long, the strips being two
and one-fourth inches wide, and the same distance apart; it swings on
the coaming at the back of the well.
Two coats of paint should be put on, and the paddle varnished.
A deck of half-inch pine, laid from No. 9 to No. 10, under the canvas,
allows the canoeist to sit on deck sometimes in paddling.
In entering the boat, step in the centre (facing the bow), and, with a
hand on each gunwale, drop into the seat.
When not in use the canoe should be sponged out and stored on shore.
WORKING PLANS FOR A CANVAS CANOE.