Hull ID # plate on homemade canoe

Hi all,

I have a homemade canoe that had to be issued a hull ID # by the state of Wisconsin when I registered it. The regs require a permanently affixed number plate on the transom. My canoe has no transom. Wondering three things: how/where to get a plate, where to affix it to the boat, and how others have attached the plates to wood/fiberglas canoes with minimal damage but still “permanent”.

I am not interested in burning it into the hull, though that is one suggestion in the regulations booklet.



Brass plate
Have a 1" x 3 or 4" plate engraved with the hull number, and rivit it to the starbord stern under the gunwale, just like Bell does.


reg numbers
Easy way is to get a label maker and make a label a put it under a piece of glass, makes it permanant. Btw, on a double ender it’s normally on the right side near the stern. It doesn’t have to be btw, can be inside too as long as it’s a permanant part of the structure and can’t be easily removed without damaging the boat.

Not sure a brass plate “is” legal regardless if a major manufacturer is doing it that way, it’s not permanant.

Bill H.

engraving shop
Hows about going to an engraving shop/jeweller, and getting a plate made up with your name and #1, or some such, on it. Then rivet it to the hull.

should keep 'em happy.

And also don’t forget to engrave:
“Thank you Bureaucrats for over-regulating

my state, by requiring hull registration

on my beautiful homemade canoe.”

Trophy Shop
I would think just about any local trophy shop should be able to make a custom engraved metal plate for such purposes.

Otherwise, look around for some online vendors such as this one I found at random:

As a fellow Cheesehead, I’m surprised to hear that our state requires registration of any sort on paddlecraft. Is this new, or only required for boats which may utilize an optional motor?

Hope this helps!


Didn’t have to register it, but…
I didn’t HAVE to register the boat, but because I anticipated using it in other states, many of which do require all boats to be registered, I decided to do it. A lot of lakes and rivers nearby are in Illinois, for example. If I remember right, you have to have registration to get Boundary Waters permits.

I’m tempted to just not affix any numbers, stickers or plates until it actually does leave Wisconsin–I hate sticking things to my precious boat.

Thanks to everyone for the responses.


What I did
I have two strippers that I built and got fancy with the ID plates. I inlaid a small oval of birds eye maple, which is a fancy contrast to the cedar. Then got on my computer and designed a cool badge with real fancy script that fit in the oval. Print this out on rice paper. Cut out the rice paper to the size of the oval, lay it on the oval. Put glass over it and when you wet it out with epoxy the rice paper disapears and you only see the script.

Works really well and looks nice even on a stripper.

Do some experimenting on scrap first to get a feel for working with the rice paper.

The only draw back I have noticed is on the first canoe I built I put this on the decks, and after 9 years of light use the sunlight has faded the black ink. It is still ledgable, but would guess in another 10 years it will be faded beyond reading. The second canoe I put it under the gunwales on the inside of the hull. Sees much less direct sunlight.


Just get someone with neat
handwriting (know any calligraphers?) to write directly on the hull using India ink and put a couple of coats of varnish over it or use WindWalker’s idea and write it on a piece of Japanese tissue or all-cotton artist’s paper and decoupage it to your boat. Old fashion India ink is pigmented with lampblack (carbon) and will never fade.

heavy rice paper - surf boards
Is it a wooden boat? Have you used epoxy before? If so…

Get some heavy rice paper and use your injet to print the info on it. It’s pretty flimsy so I like to tape it a piece of regular paper before running it through the printer. Might take a couple of attempts to get it right.

After you get the print out to your liking, do a light sanding of the area you want to mount it. If it’s varnished, you’ll want to try sand away the varnish in that area.

Then place the rice paper and wet it out with some epoxy just like you would fiberglass. You may want to apply an extra THIN coat of epoxy after the 1st coat cures. Or maybe even cover with some light weight fiberglass, like 2-ounce or 4-ounce.

Then just smooth the edges so it makes a nice even transition to the hull and reapply the varnish or clear coat paint.

This is how some surf board builders apply their graphics.


JEM Watercraft

Source of rice paper
Hi, I have been wanting to do the rice paper trick on the boat I am building, but I am having trouble finding the right kind of rice paper. Can anyone offer a better explanation of what kind of rice paper, or where to get it?



Hull ID #
the hull identification number (HIN) has nothing to do with registration per se.

All vessels built after 1972/3 are required by the feds to have the 12 character HIN#. Just like your vehicle has the VIN# that is 17/18 characters long. Homemade vessels are required to have one assigned, and is usually regulated by the state’s boating or vehicle regulating entities.

And the location is starboard stern, transom or not. Manufacturers have what is called a ‘clandestine’ HIN# that is the same as the one on the outside, placed interior of the hull to assist LEO’s with theft recovery, etc.

“Registration” is a tax and just like your vehicle license tag, that is the ‘registration’. Some states require registration as a means of generating money. They get matching federal dollars based on registered vessels to assist with ramps, marinas, and docks.

Therefore, you need a HIN first in order to register (pay tax) the vessel, if required by that particular state. The state may charge an admin fee to process the HIN documentation.

In Florida, if you put a motor, gas or electric on a canoe/kayak, it has to be registered.

Other states may be different as to motors.


Type of rice paper
So I tried rice paper from the art store, but it was fairly thick and did not go clear. Then I found a different type of rice paper at a cake decorating store, but it did not go clear either. The only other type of rice paper I have heard of is for making egg rolls and such, but I heard you have to soak it to get the pieces apart, and is not something you would run through a printer. I am at a dead end. I have found many, many posts about this type of graphics, and they all just say rice paper, not what kind or where to get it. I feel like I must be missing something so obvious to others they do not even mention it.

So can anyone help me out and fill me in on the type of rice paper, or at least what kind of store you get it from?




The rice paper they are talking about is like actual paper. The stuff they make eggrolls from is food and not what you’d want to put on the boat.

Go to an art supply or stationary store to find it. I’m not sure that it needs to be made of rice to suite your purposes. An art store will have all manner of thick paper.


Thanks, I have been to a third art store and bought a forth type of rice paper, this kind came on a roll but still seemed thick to me. No Dice, did not go clear enough. I talked to a guy who thinks his wife did something similar, and told me where he got his paper. Of course it happens to be a store I have been too, but they did not show me the rolls, I will try that when I get back from a trip in a few weeks.

Thanks for the info.


parchment paper
try parchment paper

it is used for lining cake pans to prevent sticking

find it in the typical plastic wrap, wax paper, al foil rolls in the baking section

haven’t tried it yet but it looks like it will work

“Rice Paper” is a generic term used to
describe various forms of “Japanese tissue” papers. Some are thick and used for scroll backings and Shoji, while others are quite thin and will turn nearly transparent when soaked with a varnishing medium, as when using a decoupage technique. A thin tissue made from mulberry fibers would suit your needs, I think. A good art supply store should be able to help you if you explain your project.

If you want to run it thru a printer, an all-cotton drafting (tracing) paper might be better, as most thin Japanese papers are unsized and quite flimsy. Experimentation is key.

Thanks for all the ideas
I have been away from this for a few weeks. Fish to catch, kids to play with, a pig to roast…so I’m a little late in saying thanks. I like the idea of using paper that will become transparent. I have to sand the whole boat (get rid of 20 year old varnish and wax that have not aged well and/or have been scratched up) and refinish it anyway, so I’ll do this at the same time. Just have to find the time and a dust-free (and spider-free) place to do it. The garage at the lake is an arachnid’s paradise (an arachnophobe’s hell) and I really don’t want to find a bunch of moths and spiders suspended in my finish like ants in amber.

Anyway, thanks for the suggestions. I’m a paper freak, so I have good ideas for what kind to use.


I bought a roll of rice paper at Michaels (MJ Design). It wets out pretty well.