Building a Cedar-Strip Canoe: Final Steps

Updated on July 20, 2017
jimmar profile image

Jim is a retired software/electrical engineer who enjoys the outdoors. He likes to challenge himself with creative projects at home.

My Home-Built Cedar-Strip Canoe

This is the last of a series of articles on how I built my second cedar-strip canoe. For an overview, see Building a Cedar-Strip Canoe: The Basics.


Sanding the Hull and Removing Dust

Now that you have a beautiful shiny hull it is time to make it dull by sanding the epoxy so that the varnish you apply will adhere. Epoxy is sensitive to UV light and will degrade over time with exposure.

I first blended (by hand using a coarse grit sand paper) the edges of fiberglass where I double layered sections on and underneath the stems. Then with a random orbital sander I covered the entire hull with 100 grit paper. You can use 80 grit but need to be a little more careful not do “dig” too deep. Once the hull is completely dull, almost white, all the sanding dust should be cleaned. I used a brush, vacuum, a damp rag, and tack cloth. The inside is more difficult as always to sand.

Applying Spar Varnish

The varnish you apply should be a spar (marine) varnish. Marine varnish has qualities of elasticity, UV resistance, and water resistance. It also provide a sort of sacrificial coating to take the small scratches that WILL occur if you actually use your canoe.

I purchased 1 quart of System 3 Marine satin varnish for the outside of the hull. This will take the most abuse and this varnish is supposed to be quite tough, at about $120 per gallon. I applied the varnish using a cheap chip brush to apply and kept going back over to brush out runs, but this leaves visible brush strokes. I used the entire quart which was about 3 coats. The first coat can be thinned a little with mineral spirits, and successive coats were applied prior to 24 hours without sanding in between. Once it dried tack-free, I flipped the hull over and applied 2 coats of Helmsman Spar exterior semi-gloss varnish.

Second Sanding and Varnishing

After that gunnel varnish was hardened I flipped the hull again. I was not happy with the runs on the outside nor the dull satin finish. I once again sanded the hull with 220 grit and the ROS to remove the runs and visible brush strokes. Then I applied about 1-1/2 spray cans of Helmsman Spar Glossy Exterior varnish. I was happy with this finish and glad I decided to sand the runs out.

Bolting on the Seats and Yoke

Next I attached the seats and yoke with the galvanized carriage bolts. I coated the caps of the bolts with a little epoxy which had some graphite power added. This gave a them a shiny black finish. I seated the bolts by applying a dab of Gorilla Glue under each cap. Gorilla Glue will expand as it dries.

The Finished Product

Test Drive

Some of the Mistakes

Wood chip buried in the epoxy
Wood chip buried in the epoxy
Poor stem fit
Poor stem fit
Filler color mismatched
Filler color mismatched
Runs in the varnish
Runs in the varnish
A twisted plank left a gap to fill.
A twisted plank left a gap to fill.
Bow height slightly high
Bow height slightly high
Sloppy inside stem fiberglass and fill
Sloppy inside stem fiberglass and fill

The Last Step

Use the thing!

It's much more beautiful and satisfying when it is on the water, with a few scratches to show you care, than when it is hanging in your garage.

Questions & Answers

  • How have the reduced weight seat frames, mentioned in this article, held up with the laminated maple/cedar?

    So far, so good. I've used the canoe the most and no problem yet. I do wish I had put a bigger radius on the edges. I can start to feel the edge after a week long trip.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Andreas Pedersen (DK) 

      3 years ago

      This guide is awesome

      I barely can imagine how good it must feel after completing such a project. I dream of doing a canoe this way one day!

      Best regards, Andreas from Denmark

    • jimmar profile imageAUTHOR

      jimmar 

      5 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for reading and yes, it does have a certain charm. Perhaps I would use the word satisfaction or phrase "pride in accomplishment" to describe how I feel using a boat I've constructed by hand.

    • profile image

      yankee2 

      5 years ago

      It hardly matters if it's not perfect, it LOOKS beautiful. I'm sure that if you gave it more time, it would be more perfect (of course there is no such thing as actual perfection), but hardly a better companion (being more precious) than your imperfect jewel. This one you can take wherever you go, not worrying about making a scratch! Making one's own boat has a certain timeless, for want of a better word, charm, does it not?

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