Building a Cedar Strip Canoe: The Details: Stripping the Hull

Updated on August 29, 2018
jimmar profile image

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

This is an expansion on the directions in my article, "Building a Cedar-Strip Canoe: The Basics." When you attach the strips, you finally start to feel like you are making some progress. When you have attached the last strip and stand back to admire your work, it actually looks like a canoe. Don’t be fooled into thinking you are almost finished, however; you still have a lot of work to do.

Starter Strip

The first thing to do is to attach the starter strip at the sheer line mark you have on the forms. I attached that strip just below that mark because I want the canoe just a tad deeper than the design calls for. I’ll see how this works when it is done. This strip is cove side up so there is a channel to hold glue. My canoe is just under 16 ft. and my longest strips are 12 ft.

Scarf Joint Vs. Butt Joint

I scarf joined that first strip. A scarf joint is just a joint cut at a sharp angle. I soon decided just to use butt joints, which made stripping go much quicker. When attaching the first strip the tendency is to follow the sheer line, bending the strips to follow at the bow and stern. Too much of a bend here looks unnatural on the water. It is better to let the strip just droop to where it wants, attach it then add short filler strips at the bow and stern. I didn’t follow that advice, exactly. I thought that since this design does not have a very drastic curve at the ends, it would be ok to follow the sheer. Again I’ll have to wait and see if that was a mistake. Make sure the strips extend a little past the stems. This will be trimmed later.

Leveling the Strips

The starter strips need to be level across the canoe. I attached one side then attached the other side while laying a level between the right and left strips all along the length of the canoe. Now the rest of the strips can be attached. I found it best to attach only about 3 or 4 on each side then letting the glue dry.

Before you start randomly laying down strips I would advise that you sort them first. Discard the ones that have thin or very thick spots or are damaged in some way. Also it is a good idea to sort them by color so you can match them to make a natural colored/shaped design as the strips are applied.

Stripping the Sides of the Canoe

I have chosen to staple the strips to the forms but some builders use clamps and jigs to hold the strips down. I want to go fast and don’t mind all the tiny staple holes, I think it somehow looks more traditional. Like I have said before, I’m no artist. My objective is a functional boat. I use 9/16” staples and a cheap staple gun. In the book Canoecraft, the author suggests using a syringe to dispense a uniform amount of glue. I use Titebond II and apply it right out of the bottle. With a little practice the glue dispensed is fairly uniform. Titebond is waterproof but it is not necessary, since everything will be encapsulated in fiberglass and epoxy.

After the first few strips are glued and stapled, I go back with a wet cloth and wipe up the excess glue from the inside and outside. It can be a pain to remove once it has dried. I then check that all the bead and cove joints are mating the best possible. My strips are not perfect so the mating surfaces are not always perfectly matched. Oh well. I try to press the strips together between the stapled points on forms, then if there is some movement, masking tape is used to hold them together.

Rounding the Corner

The sides of the canoe are fairly easy to strip. It gets more difficult to attach strips where the hull rounds the bilge from the sides to the bottom. The strips not only need to be laid along that curve on the forms, they become twisted since the bow and stern stems are not following the same curve. You may eventually get to a point where staples just won’t hold the strips down. The twisting wants to pull out the staples. This is where the clamps and jigs become handy. The butt joints will sometimes want to twist out of shape also, so clamping a short piece of scrap strip, covered with tape, on the hull inside and outside over the joint will hold it in place. I didn’t worry too much about cracks of dips or butt joints, I’ll be doing a lot of patching. Oh well, I’m hoping to get this boat done in 2 more months to use on my Canadian fishing trip.

Finishing the Bottom One Side at a Time

Once you round the bilge, you want to continue to attach strips to just one side until they cross the centerline of the forms. They can then be cut along the center line with a utility knife. Next the other side of the bottom can be stripped. However these strips must be cut at angles on the ends where they butt against the center line.

Some other observations during stripping: I have a tendency to put my tools on the strongback between the forms and I spend a lot of time walking the length of the canoe looking for them. I advise resisting that urge and having a table to set them on. I should have taken more time sorting strips, I have a lot left over. You can make some cool effect with the natural color in cedar. My forms are not perfect which cause a few flat spots in the hull. With the previous boats this happened also, but it seemed that when the staples are pulled the hull sprung out a little, making these areas disappear.

A Note on Clamps

You will need lots of them. Mostly I used hand spring clamps and 4 inch C-clamps as you can see in the photos. If you don't have many then get more before you start the project. I did need a few C-clamps larger than 4 inches. For the spring clamps I recommend the heavy duty 6 inch size

Skip is excited to help
Skip is excited to help


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    • profile image

      James Bixler 

      24 months ago

      Curious about your solution with glue driping from the bead and cove?

      I noticed you mentioned nothing about fairing the hull after the glue up.

      Letting the glue drips dry leaving the mounds of glue to dry would be easy to fix when fairing the hull with spoke shave and small hand plane! Follow up whith a medium grit sand paper. Shaping in the flowing lines. Spray the hull with a small bit of water looking for glue spots absorbed into the wood fibers. They look like dark spots on the wood. Mark each spot and continue with the whole boat. Lightly sand these spots until all the glue has been removed from the surface fibers of the wood. Fine sand the whole boat and wet it out again. Looking for more spots missed. When no spots are visable your ready to wet out the boat and fiberglass.

    • jimmar profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Michigan

      I just let it drip. I trial fit all the strips and only did a few at a time so they could be placed immediately after applying the glue. It is a bit messy.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I'm totally with you on that one!

      Question: I'm working on the sides of my 1st canoe now. It's going well but I'm curious about something for the next step. How did you apply the glue to the strips for the bottom of the boat without it dripping everywhere? (since gravity will be pulling the glue out if the cove instead of keeping it there)

    • jimmar profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Michigan


      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I'm also glad to hear there are others who have similar struggles.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      "I have a tendency to put my tools on the strongback between the forms and I spend a lot of time walking the length of the canoe looking for them. "

      I'm glad to learn I'm not the only one who does this. I probably spend 20% of my time looking for my stapler/glue/drill and it's inevitably hiding on the "other" side of the stem form.

      Loving this walkthrough. Thanks so much for posting it.

    • profile image

      ed olsen 

      3 years ago

      Thank you very much for taking the time to post this good info. Ed


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