Wood strip building

I’ve been kicking around the thought of building another (would be my third) cedar strip canoe.

I’d like to build it as light as possible but yet not be fragile. So I am looking for ideas and options on things to do to keep the weight down.

Thanks for any tips and suggestions.

Use High Density Foam, s-glass and

– Last Updated: Dec-07-12 8:25 PM EST –

pigmented, U.V. stable epoxy.

A few ideas
While red cedar seems to have about the best strength to weight ration of the readily available woods, not all red cedar is equal in weight, so suggestion #1 is to look for light weight boards from which to mill your strips.

Use spruce or similar for gunwales instead of hardwood.

If the canoe will be used with reasonable care, use 4 oz cloth instead of the more common 6 oz. Double the cloth on the outside of the hull in the “football” area. A 2nd layer “football” on the inside would add to the strength at minimal additional weight.

Do not fill the weave on the inside of the canoe. The extra coats of epoxy, necessary to fill the weave add minimal strength but do add to the weight. An added benefit is that a little “bite” on the inside of the hull keeps things from sliding around too much.

Adhere the gunwales with epoxy in place of screws.

Keep the decks small and thin or use carbon fiber decks or skip the decks altogether.

Most strip canoes that I’ve seen have overly robust thwarts. Sometimes that’s the case with seats as well. However, don’t skimp on the seat frames if the likely paddler is on the robust side.

Whip the epoxy in a blender, while infusing helium …Just Kidding

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Canoe Paddles and Woodstrip Canoes


– Last Updated: Dec-07-12 8:52 PM EST –

Like the idea of picking lighter boards to start with. Any thoughts on how thin I could make the strips? My others are a hair under 1/4" was thinking 3/16"? Too thin?

Not filling the weave on the inside was one of my plans.

I was going to cut back on the decks and type of wood used, same with thwarts. Seat also. I'm pretty light on the seat and mostly use it for a kneeling thwart and only sit to stretch. Probably a lamination of mostly basswood with cherry facing for thwarts, decks and seat.

Spruce rails sounds good, are you talking spruce like a 2X4? I noticed Dave Curtis offers Sitka Spruce rails as an option saving 3# on a 15' boat. That's incredible. I may contact him for a source, or maybe you know of one? Maybe this would make good decks, thwart and seat also?

Gunnels already epoxyed on. was thinking of eliminating one?


I have used 3/16 but find the bottom can “oil can” upward in the water or when walking on the bottom will push down. Ribs are necessary if you use 3/16 planking. This is how I make mine.

If you can get it paulownia is lighter than cedar. I used it for my Guideboat and found it very easy to work with and the dust isn’t as bad as cedar.

Look on the builders board

As for spruce, I was referring to sitka.
Other soft/light woods including pine, hemlock fir etc. could be considered, but Sitka likely has the best overall characteristics.

Laminating the seat rails (and thwarts) using soft, light woods for the core and facing with hardwoods works well. My good friend Paul Conk makes some components that way. I have such a seat, made by Paul in my Wildfire.

I’d keep the strip thickness to 1/4". Thinner strips will reduce beam strength and lead to oil canning. Also, it’s hard to find bead and cove cutters for thinner stock. Finally, the likelihood of sanding through or nearly so increases dramatically with thinner stock.

Pawlonia is neat wood. I use it for some paddles. Some Pawlonia is on a par with balsa wood when it comes to weight. The downside is likely to be supply. The nature of the trees is that you’re unlikely to find long lengths. If you’re willing to scarf or otherwise join shorter strips together, it may be a good option.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe Works

Custom Canoe Paddles and Wood Strip Canoes

thiner strips
3/16" strips, 4 oz glass both sides. or kevlar if you can afford it.