Paper canoe?

Just finished reading “Voyage of The Paper Canoe” by Nathaniel Bishop. Seems in 1874 he paddled a canoe made of paper from Quebec to the gulf of Mexico, around two thousand miles. The canoe was made with layers of paper sealed with varnish and was made by E. Waters & Sons of Troy NY. From what I gathered you can use any canoe as a mold. What you do is drape and roll out wetted paper over it, let it dry then apply a sealer. Then you lift off the hardened paper shell and add gunnels, rigging, etc. Said no ribs are needed, as the shell is stiff enough as is. The process seems quite simple and I’m tempted to have go at building one. Anyone out there ever heard of, seen, paddled, built or owned such a boat? Any ideas? Suggestions?

no ideas or experience with
the concept but your profile shows you have paddled some interesting places.

Internet search for paper canoe. You
will find a lot of info on paper canoes both old and new. Epoxey resins are easier to care for than varnish and shoule be stronger. Also make boats out of normal fabric and a lot of other things.




Students in our Engineering Department make a canoe out of concrete every year. There’s some competition they take it to.

The town next to us has a cardboard
regatta on our local river. I’ve thought about entering and this design sounds like a winner.

But why?
It seems like it should work. I like the epoxy idea, as it would be more robust than varnish.

But, if you already have the canoe to use as a mold, then you already have a canoe. So why go to the trouble?

Also, there is debate amongst builders and designers over the legality of such things. Designers tend to consider their hull shapes to be their intellectual property, subject to protection under copyright law.

Thanks all for your posts
Interesting point about the possible copyright infringements. As far as already having canoe, like a lot of P.netters I have a number of canoes and kayaks. It isn’t that I would want to copy one so much as try out what sounds like an interesting historical project (winter is coming up after all). Could design and build a mold but the idea is not to try and design a boat so much as see how the end result of the building method/material worked. Ideally I would find a wrecked stripper or wood and canvas from the period where there was just enough left to use as a mold. Until I read the Bishop book I had no idea paper was ever used as a hull material let alone in the 1800’s. I’ve no doubt the various epoxies around today would work better than the original varnishes however Bishop did manage to paddle one for 2000 + miles, some of which was on open ocean so they certainly seem strong enough as is. I have been perusing the net for info but so far have only come up with modern versions of construction and references to the Bishop book so I’m still looking.

In the 19th century, before quality
western red cedar was affordable, rowing shells were often made of paper mache.

paper canoe

Not sure if you found this yet, but is interesting nonetheless.

As for trying this when you already have a canoe, I’d think you could experiment with weight. Adding more layers of paper to stressed points, and easing up on layers in less critical points might allow you to create a hull lighter than you already have.

I remember reading somewhere that a few builders could actually mold in notches for thwarts and seats as they built with paper. Using that, you could really create an entirely different boat than the one you’d be using as a mold.