Build your own Cedar Strip Canoe

Repaired 11/27/10

Preamble and Intent of this site.

The following information I have compiled from building my own cedar stripper.  The information supplied on this site in no way implies that I am an authority on the subject, nor does it imply that my way is the best way to do something.  As you probably know, there are many ways to do things.  Some work well, others not as well but get the job done. The information I'm supplying here is only what I found worked for me.  Using this information, I expect you to improve upon it and do a better job.  So, the intent here is to help you do a better job of building your dream canoe . . . all by yourself.

I also admit this was my first stripper. I also do not represent myself to be a woodworking expert.  Though I retired as a Commercial photography owner, my main background prior to that was mechanical.   i.e., AC Flightline Mechanic with several of the major AC companies, and Aerospace Missile Mechanic with several of the largest aerospace companies in the business at Cape Canaveral, FL. & Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX. I mention these only as a description to give you an idea of my type of background, none having anything to do with woodworking.

Now that you know I'm not an experienced woodworker, the point of all the above is to say to you 
"if I can build the cedar strip canoe you will see below, with no past experience or expertise in woodworking what-so-ever,   . . .
you can probably build a better one."

I also would like to give a few words of praise to those whom were extremely helpful with my project, taking time from their busy schedule to field and reply to my inexperienced questions.

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I purchased several items from Michael Vermouth the owner of Newfound Woodworks, Inc. such as a "How To" video and several components, so as a customer, I found his customer service and help to be outstanding. He never failed to promptly answer a question.  http://www.newfound.com/  By the way, should you decide not to attempt building your own, he builds some of the most beautiful strippers and of the highest quality in the USA.  Bar-None.  I was very impressed.
 

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 Next, I used the book written by Gil Gilpatrick, and the plans. (in the book) for his  Wabnaki 16.  Gil also was very helpful answering stripper questions. His book is full of photos and "How -To" tips which walk you all the way through the building process. He's a 30 year shop instructor in building strippers and has built over 100.  There are more than a dozen books on the subject of "Building a Cedar Stripper" but I chose his since it was explained in simple language, very thorough and had a good choice of plans of models to chose from. The cost was also reasonable.
 

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And my canoe paddling partner, Joe Fennell who pulled me out of the mud on several occasions with his excellent advice and suggestions. He and I get along well since we both were in Naval submarine service years ago. I relied on him often.  Joe is a retired boat builder owner, building the big stuff like yachts and large sport fishing boats. But most of all, he went out of his way . . . way out of his way . . . to be helpful when it came time to install the glass on the outside.  He drove over one hundred miles one way, twice, to assist me.  He was going to do it again when I was ready to do the inside but I felt this was imposing a little too much so I did the inside alone.  His reasoning here (and he was right) was when you get ready to do the glassing, you almost need an extra person.  One mixes while the other applies. One person CAN do it, but it is far better to have that extra pair of hands. Many thanks to all three of you guys.  If you had not been there for me when I needed you, I doubt my stripper would have turned out nearly as nice as it did. My heartfelt thanks and my hat's off to all three of you.

Also, when doing my research trying to decide to build or not, I visited several nice "How to build a Cedar Stripper Canoe" websites. Most were excellent. All were pleasant and had helpful suggestions . . .  but one in particular whom I feel also deserves special recognition, (though I will be pleasant and not post his name or address) he had a large and well documented site and listed his e-mail address in case someone had a question, but when I contacted him, he actually was a rude butt whom I suspect posted his site to inflate his own ego. Nothing more.  He told me that he was too busy to answer questions.  When I questioned his reasoning for posting his e-mail address for questions, he was quite rude and asked me not to bother him again. I have to admit that of all those whom I contacted - researching, before deciding to begin my project, this guy was the only rude nerd I ran across who did not want to be helpful.  Trying to understand why he was so rude, I later suspected that because I had told him I was first building a large workshop so I could have a place to build my stripper, he probably thought I was some joker blowing smoke. I guess he must be a very small minded individual.  I hope he reads this and it makes him ashamed of his egotistical attitude. Old story, "what comes around, goes around."

 Therefore  . . . .  should you or anyone needing help with their project, rest assured you will get a pleasant reply and I will be as helpful as I possibly can.  I don't guarantee I'll have all the answers, however, if I'm not able to answer your question, I will at least try to give you an address of someone who can.

NEXT- - - Most all of the sites I visited did a very good job of photo documentation and at the end, showed what their stripper looked like, though in my opinion, some did not do as good of a job of displaying their finished product as they did the construction. Only one or two photos.   So, I'm going try and do a better job and show the finished product at the beginning, (to be different)   then  I'll show how I accomplished the construction in detailed small steps.

My completed cedar stripper details:
16.5' long, 34" beam, a solo with removable custom dog deck, weight 54.8 lbs., (was shooting for 47 lbs but missed it) dull red is western red cedar, lighter red is Aromatic cedar, white accent strips are white pine, 3 black accent strips are Peruvian Walnut, light strips on bottom are white cedar, inner and outer gunnels are ash and spacers are deep mahogany, bow and stern decks are black walnut burl as are both removable bulkheads (under the decks) They hide the closed cell fitted foam flotation inserts at each end. The yoke is sculptured Cherry and the single thwart is shaped ash. She has a small (1/2"X3/4") ash keel, tapered and ending about 14" forward of the stern. This was so the bottom would at least have some protection from sharp rocks or shells. (My friend Joe's suggestion)

 The black mark visible at the center of the accent stripes in first photo is the name of the canoe with a beautiful Monarch butterfly.  ("Logan's Monarch" - decided on this name since as I was building last year, a Monarch butterfly lit on the part of the canoe closest the open door. She was beautiful and sat only for a  minute or so. Though I'm not superstitious, I considered it a lucky omen and decided that would make a good name for her. I also pondered Mohammed Ali's favorite cliché about floating like a butterfly (she does) but decided that would be a bit much so let it pass.  {:o))    
 
  Name on side (click to enlarge)

She has 4 sheets of glass on hull.  Two coats of 4 oz. glass on both exterior and interior with another extra piece shaped to the bottom on the inside to add extra strength to the bottom. 4 coats of epoxy on exterior, and two final on interior. 4 coats of varnish on exterior and 3 on interior with an extra coat where I rest my feet.


 

Just returned from river and drying out gear

  

   

When empty, she sits on the water perfectly level, paddles and maneuvers perfect. Better than any other canoe I have ever owned.  And my navigator likes his deck. (which has plenty of storage underneath for misc. items like his food, his life jacket (should we have rough weather, he's 11 years old) , extra propane bottles, water, etc.)

 

                                                CONSTRUCTION                 

Though it has nothing to with the actual building of the stripper, this is the beginning sequence of this particular project. I had waited over 40 years to build my dream workshop. My garage was so full of stockpiled (hoarded :o)  ) equipment that I could barely walk through. I wanted to build a stripper but had no place to work so the idea of finally building the shop was born. After all the hassles and permits from the city, etc. hired help and I began building in June of 03.  Being in Florida, it had to meet state hurricane standards so the shop was not completed until late August. It's a 14' X 24' concrete block with 10' ceiling - inside dimensions, with all 2X6 trusses. No 2X4's  The high ceiling was so I could hang my canoe from the rafters. It went through the infamous three hurricanes in 04 - 2 with sustained 80 to 100 MPH winds in our area, without a scratch.


                                                
  Cedar Strip Canoe info:
                                                Not the average "How To" seen on most other webs.
Click on photos to enlarge . . . 'back'  - to back to normal.

I will attempt to give you a complete step by step description on what I found worked for me to build a stripper, with far more detail and three times the photos as I have seen on other sites.  It may be overkill and even bore you, but as an old (very) Aerospace Technician, I always try to go the extra mile. It is mainly aimed at those who have never attempted to build a stripper and were afraid to try. Those of you who have, can grin and move quickly through. But --- maybe you'll find something useful.                                                  

Starting point.  The sawhorse or other strongback supports should be very sturdy.  In this case I began by building three 32" sawhorses all alike with fresh new lumber, light enough that they could easily be moved or stored later, or if necessary, could be easily disassembled, since I used #12 Phillips head wood screws at all joints and cross braced well so they were strong and there could have no movement whatsoever.

   I built my strongback of new 14' 2X6's with 2X4 cross pieces spaced 18" apart to hold the stations, and 1X4's diagonally placed underneath to prevent any distortion over time. Also assembled with #12 Phillips head wood screws. Gil said it was not really necessary but I made certain the strongback was perfectly true and level not only front to back but from corner to corner. Due to my concrete shop floor not being perfect I had to use shims in a couple places.  OH!  (my opinion) To build a 16', you should figure on a minimum of 19' shop space. I had one foot extra at the bow and 2' extra at the stern. You need this to be able to move from one side to the other while working. My shop is 14' X 24' inside but I have a lot of other stuff taking up too much space.

   With my sawhorses 32" tall, the strongback made a good work bench. I added a small 1/8th sheet of the material I used to make my patterns,  to one end and made a small drafting table which worked well as a temporary work bench to calculate my patterns from Gil's book. This is a critical stage and your calculations MUST be correct and right on or your whole project will end up a mess. Check and recheck several times to make certain it is right. NOTE: When doing your layout, it is important to also lay out the centerline on the patterns exact and clearly.  You will need those later and they are extremely important.

    I elected to first make paper patterns on vellum, then transfer that pattern to a 1/8" chalk board seen here, purchased from Home Depot. Using this pattern I was able to check everything and fine tune, and in one case, I caught a problem and was able to quickly and easily make another.  Had I not had this step, I would not have caught the problem until I had already made the station out of plywood. Just made it faster easier. When the patterns were done, then they were traced onto 1/2" plywood. The other plus is I have these original patterns to work from should I ever have damage or ? to one of the stations. Note the bold centerlines on the patterns.

     It may be overkill and a waste of time but I set my patterns in place and with centerlines all lined up I checked (eyeballed using a long flexible strip) all edges for a glitch.  Luckily everything was fine. Satisfied all was well,  I then began the task of cutting the stations from 1/2" plywood.

    Again the strongback comes in handy, being an easy height to work with. After the pattern is transferred to the plywood, each station is cut into sections then each station is clamped to the strongback and are cut out with a scroll saw.

    Special tool I made.
If you have ever done a lot of cutting with a scroll saw you know it's a pain in the rear keeping the saw dust from obscuring your line of cut.  I came up with the idea of a way to solve that problem. In my extensive junk bin, I had a small brass valve for adjusting the air flow in a aquarium.  I also had some used medical poly tubing from my wife's oxygen bottle. (She's disabled) So I mounted the aquarium valve to the saw with a small screw on a thin piece of metal which allowed me to bend it and place it where I wanted to direct the flow of air to remove the saw dust ahead of me. I then hooked the other end of the tubing directly into my shop air hose blow gun. Since the small valve was adjustable, I set my shop air regulator at 25 lbs. Then turned on the air with a clamp on the air nozzle, (see next photo)  and adjusted the flow just enough so I no longer had any saw dust in front of my saw blade while cutting. Problem solved.  It worked great.  Have used it many times since.

    Note the plastic oxygen hose had a perfect end that slipped over the blow gun. The clamp kept the air turned on while I was cutting.

This web page is going to end up being so large that I had to break it up into multiple pages. 


Double Click here for page 2