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Stapleless Canoe Building Retrospective by Svein Løvaas

Posted on August 08 2018

An unfinished woodstrip canoe built using the stapleless method

Guest post by Svein Løvaas

As I mentioned in my last post, I live in Norway and organized a course in cooperation with The Coast Culture Center here in Bergen. This August we finished a stapleless canoe building course, and the owner will take the boat home to his new workshop in order to sand, polish and lacquer it. As a result, final pictures will not be accessible for a while.  All I can show you now is an unfinished boat, but it is already obvious that this will be very nice!

Compared to the canoe/kayak building environment in Canada, our community is quite small. The main disadvantage is that we do not receive as much input and inspiration as the active community in Canada does. The main advantage is that, because of the long distance, we have had to develop our own way of doing things. That is where the T-bar and bungee tools ideas from the previous post came out. I didn’t have anyone to discuss problems/issues with, and I couldn’t ring Bear Mountain every time I had a “crazy” idea. It was easier to try out the new ideas on my own.

For instance, when I see pictures of fine woodstrip canoes, I often see the same seats, straight thwarts and simple decks. For those with the time and inclination to make additional customizations, here are some ideas on how decks, thwarts and seats can be built in a truly personal way.

Birch Burl Canoe Decks

Deck:I have almost always used birch burl for decks that shows fantastic patterns. We can find such knots in almost all types of trees, but they are not easily available. However, this type of material can be bought on the Internet. Just check first what you have in your own backyard. For example, in USA and Canada you can find “curly redwood,” which is used to make instruments. Beautiful patterns! Why not be innovative in regards to the choice of materials used to build decks?

Canoe Photo Showcasing a Curved Thwart

Thwarts:  I find this support beam almost always looks completely straight. Often finely formed, but still straight. Yet the decks in wood boats are always curved. So why not build a fine curve on this support beam? I have done this in all the canoes that I have built. A lightly curved thwart is still strong and a curved line matches better with the form of a canoe. I have followed Ted Moores’ sketch to build most of the thwarts that I have built, but I have added a third alternative. I have curved these as well.

Unique Canoe Seat Design

Seats:The seat is an important element in all canoes. I wonder why almost all the seats are similar in spite of the great variation in the canoes themselves? When it comes to seats, there are several things that we should think about. When we build the stringer for the seats of the canoe right, automatically the distance up to the inwales becomes long. In my opinion the stringers on the seats should have such a form that the distance to the inwales could be minimized or eliminated. I haven’t been capable of eliminating these caps yet, but I have shaped (steam bent) the stringers in a way that the distance to the inwales become shorter. I use one piece for bridges on each side rather than two thin pieces.  Countless variants can be used to build the seats. For example: The seats on the canoe that we built in our course are cut from a plum tree that belongs to the owner of the canoe! This gives a personal touch, and a tight link between a beautiful canoe and the place where the owner lives. Another alternative is to use the same material used to build the deck, for example curly redwood.

These are only some reflections that I have made from the other side of the Atlantic. Everything that I have commented in this document is also implied by Ted Moores in his fantastic book Canoecraft. Let’s build fantastic hulls with fine and personalized decks, thwarts and seats!

Oh, and last but not least: The inspector in deep contemplation.

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