Got a question about how to get started, facing an unusual problem, or just need to clarify a point from Canoecraft? This list of common questions can help.
- Can an inexperienced person build a canoe?
- What is the average amount of time taken to build a canoe?
- I’m an inexperienced paddler. Which model would you recommend for someone who is just starting out?
- I plan to paddle with kids. Any special advice?
Shipping & Orders
Plans & Lofting
- Since many of the plans are shown in the table of offsets in Canoecraft and KayakCraft, what is the advantage of buying plans?
- I'm lofting my own plans and found a typo in the stem offsets provided in Canoecraft. What should I do?
- Why do the plans show only one side of the hull?
- Why not print the complete mold station on separate pieces of paper?
- Why not print the plans on drafting Mylar?
- Are your plans available as a digital download?
- I’d like to scale my project to a custom size. Is this advisable?
- I want to double-check – do the offset measurements for the molds make an allowance for the 1/4 inch strip thickness, or are they the outside finished size of the hull?
Materials & Woodworking
- I’m wondering about using my locally available woods rather than western red cedar. What considerations should I be aware of?
- I'm planning on milling my own strips. How much wood do I need?
- I'm unable to get full-length planks. Can I use joints instead?
- One of my stem laminations developed a split during steambending. What should I do?
- A staple broke off in the hull while I was trying to remove it. What are my options?
- Will my canoe’s tumblehome affect the installation method for the gunwales?
Epoxy & Varnish
- I’ve found a deal on fibreglass. What weight should I look for?
- Do you recommend a sealer coat on the bare wood hull before fibreglassing?
- Can I stain my canoe before fibreglassing, or will this interfere with epoxy adhesion?
- Should I use a fresh container every time I mix epoxy?
- Can you use a roller to apply epoxy?
- Bear Mountain Boats strongly recommends WEST System 105B resin with 207 hardener. Have you experimented with other types of epoxy?
- How many layers of varnish do you recommend?
- Should I apply epoxy to the trim as well as the hull for extra protection?
- How often should I re-varnish my canoe?
- What type of varnish do you recommend?
Can an inexperienced person build a canoe?
Absolutely! Be prepared to take your time and read our books completely before you start. You can buy the plans to shorten the process and give you confidence in the design. There is lots of tech support available either through the Bear Mountain builders forum and directory as well as from the companies selling the materials you will be using.
What is the average amount of time taken to build a canoe?
This varies depending on how many of the parts the builder makes and how many are purchased already machined. It also depends on the skill level of the builder. Ted suggests that it should take anywhere from 100 to 250 hours with 200 hours a good average. Visit our blog for a more detailed breakdown.
I’m an inexperienced paddler. Which model would you recommend for someone who is just starting out?
The Freedom 15 or Ranger 15 are very stable, versatile, and responsive designs and should please paddlers of all types. If you’re not an experienced canoeist these two are your safest choices, while the Nomad 17 offers similar conveniences as well as a larger capacity for extended tripping. Some of our more specialized models like the Hiawatha and Redbird are excellent canoes, but are less forgiving in terms of stability. Refer to our comparison chart for more info.
I plan to paddle with kids. Any special advice?
How much is shipping?
For the kits, it can vary depending on location, weight and size. Once you've placed your order, we will contact you with a final quote. See our Shipping Page for details on costs.
I’ll be in the Westport area. Can I pick up my order in person?
Yes, of course. We are happy to show folks around our workshop. Pickups can be made if you’re in the area and would like to save on shipping costs. Call (705) 740-0470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss details.
Since many of the plans are shown in the table of offsets in Canoecraft and KayakCraft, what is the advantage of buying plans?
There are some builders who want to cut the wood on their own property, saw the log on their own mill and then draw their own plans. The point is, our method of small boat building allows you to get involved in the process where you choose. If you feel the need to loft your own boat, there are several good references that will teach the process. If the building process is of more interest to you than learning the craft of lofting, plans are probably a good place for you to begin your project.
I'm lofting my own plans and found a typo in the stem offsets provided in Canoecraft. What should I do?
The offsets in Canoecraft are for the station molds. There is no need to reduce the offsets for the thickness of the planking - that has already been done. Unfortunately, this is stated incorrectly in the text on page 42, second column, fourth paragraph of the 2000 edition.
The revised and expanded edition of Canoecraft contains offsets for 8 fine canoes. The stem offsets for the Rob Roy, the Bob's Special and the Ranger contain some typographical errors. There are also corrections in the half-breadths for the Freedom 17 and the profile for the Hiawatha 15. Many thanks to our sharp-eyed builders for pointing these out. We present here the correct offsets for these boats. If you wish to make your life even easier you may purchase the full size drawings (including all stations and both stems, full size).
The stem offsets are horizontal measurements from the station listed in the table to the outside edge of the inside stem. Therefore the stem mold that you make should be cut back to allow for the thickness of the inside stem (normally 3/4" on the canoes). Units are feet-inches and eighths, +=sixteenth. See sketch below.
Rob Roy 12' 11" Stems (page 45)
Bob's Special 15" Canoe Stem (page 47)
Bow and Stern Stem
Ranger 15 Canoe Stem (page 51)
Bow and Stern Stem
Freedom 17 Half-Breadths (page 56)
Hiawatha 15 Heights (page 48)
Why do the plans show only one side of the hull?
The problem with full-size paper plans is that like wood, the paper is affected by humidity; a rise in humidity will cause the fibers to expand and the size of the paper will expand. We address this problem a number of ways.
Our plans are printed on high quality drafting paper with a high-rag content. The stability of this expensive paper is far superior to copy paper but there is still the possibility of some change. Working from plans that are on one sheet means that if there is a change in the size of the paper, the change happens to all the stations equally and they stay in proportion. Tracing one side of the mold and flopping it on the centerline ensures that the hull will always be symmetrical. We also seal the plans in a plastic tube immediately after printing so we can be sure they arrive at 100%. Storing the plans in the plastic sleeve when you are not working with them is recommended.
Why not print the complete mold station on separate pieces of paper?
If the paper does expand or shrink, the width of your boat will change twice the distance that it would have if it had been drawn on one side and the plan flopped on the centerline. The big consideration is who knows if all the sheets have changed at the same rate.
Why not print the plans on drafting Mylar?
Mylar is the most stable material for plans but most builders would find the added cost unreasonable. If our plans are stored carefully in the plastic sleeve, the added stability of the Mylar is redundant.
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Are your plans available as a digital download?
For those wishing to use a CNC router, we can provide .dxf format digital plans. The charge is $210 for the files, plus an additional $40 royalty for each set cut after the after first. Please contact us at email@example.com for purchasing details.
I’d like to scale my project to a custom size. Is this advisable?
You can increase or reduce a model’s length by up to twelve inches without drastically altering performance. Our rule of thumb is to make the changes evenly over the length of the mold. Beyond that, we can’t say with any certainty what the boat’s final characteristics will be. There is a section in Kayakcraft which will assist in you in understanding the design principals involved.
I want to double-check – do the offset measurements for the molds make an allowance for the 1/4 inch strip thickness, or are they the outside finished size of the hull?
Yes, all our designs make an allowance for planking thickness.
I’m wondering about using my locally available woods rather than western red cedar. What considerations should I be aware of?
The building system we use relies on core composite construction with two strong layers of glass and epoxy with wood planking as a spacer. The structural strength is supplied by the fibreglass and epoxy, meaning you can use almost any type of wood. The main consideration will be the final weight - look for a species that will weigh about 25 lb/cubic foot.
Weight consideration applies to the trim you choose as well, though to a lesser degree. You should also factor in whether you will be able to mill strips at the required length, and how easy the wood is to work with. Knotty wood, for instance, necessitates numerous joints and will affect the final appearance. With those caveats in mind, feel free to experiment! Using local wood just makes sound ecological and economic sense.
I'm planning on milling my own strips. How much wood do I need?
As a general rule, you will need about 50 board feet for a 16' canoe. A board footage calculator may be helpful if you are unsure. A number of factor influence wood choice - see page 67 of Canoecraft for more.
I'm unable to get full-length planks. Can I use joints instead?
Yes, a simple butt joint is enough to join small pieces. Make the joint between two station molds and stagger the joints to avoid structural and visual weak points. Canoecraft recommends using full-length planks for the first few strips if possible, but you can use short lengths here as well. Just be sure to examine the curve from both ends of the canoe and see that it present a continuous, fair curve without any hooks or waves. See pages 122-124 of Canoecraft for more or the Kayakcraft milling excerpt.
One of my stem laminations developed a split during steambending. What should I do?
Epoxy is sufficient to repair minor damage. See this short blog post a helpful visual.
A staple broke off in the hull while I was trying to remove it. What are my options?
Ted has encountered the same problem before. He suspects staples are being manufactured more cheaply now, since they aren't usually expected to be removed anyway. If possible, try removing the fragments with a small pair of cutters. If they've broken off flush with the hull, go ahead with sanding and glassing. When it's time to work on the interior, flip the hull with the non-stem station molds still inside. This will make it easier to extract the forms with the staple "legs" still in place.
Will my canoe’s tumblehome affect the installation method for the gunwales?
No, in our experience we have never had a problem with installing seats or thwarts despite not making a special allowance for the tumblehome.
I’ve found a deal on fibreglass. What weight should I look for?
Fibreglass cloth is not a good area to make economies, as cheap varieties could be difficult to work with but more importantly have poor longevity and adhesion strength.
The finish on the glass is important since it is the interface between the glass and the resin. Most common fiberglass cloth is formulated requiring a resin with a solvent to bond properly. Since epoxy is 100% solids it does not have a solvent in it. We sell high-quality 6 oz x 60” fibreglass, selected for its compatibility with the woodstrip epoxy method and coated with a special finish to be compatible with West® System epoxy. Use caution when purchasing discount fibreglass. You might ask for technical data on the product you are purchasing.
Do you recommend a sealer coat on the bare wood hull before fibreglassing?
No. West System 105B epoxy with #207 special coating hardener is specially formulated to bond with wood, so you want the epoxy to saturate the cloth and pass directly onto the wood fibres. Sealing the wood first is only counterproductive.
Can I stain my canoe before fibreglassing, or will this interfere with epoxy adhesion?
Yes, you can use stain as long as it is not oil-based. For more info on aniline dyes, see Kayaks You Can Build, which includes details on three kayaks Ted built using a cherry red, a green and a black stain over plywood. They looked amazing, though it is important to experiment first as the colour of the wood combines with the colour of the dye to produce a new tone.
Also note that West System technical staff did testing and found some oil-based stains will work. See this article for more.
Should I use a fresh container every time I mix epoxy?
It is not necessary to use a fresh container each time you mix epoxy. However, it is important that you do not add an old (i.e. previously mixed) batch to a fresh one. As you come to the end of the contents in your container and it is empty (you can scrape out any leftovers in the bottom if you are worried), add the fresh batch.
If there is a tiny bit of the previous batch left on the sides and in the bottom, as there will likely be, it will not be a problem.
Can you use a roller to apply epoxy?
You can, but first we prefer the brush and squeegee method to apply epoxy, which will work best to fill the fibreglass weave and offer better control. The roller will build up the depth of the layer of epoxy. See the fibreglassing videos in the Canoecraft Workshop Series on YouTube for more.
Bear Mountain Boats strongly recommends WEST System 105B resin with 207 hardener. Have you experimented with other types of epoxy?
In Kayaks You Can Build, Ted Moores and Greg Rossel included an informal experiment using three brands of epoxy. The test looked at several characteristics, including the time it took for the mixed epoxy to "kick," the time to sand without plugging the sandpaper, how long it took for the mixed epoxy to wet out the cloth, how transparent it was, and the number of coats to bury the weave of the fibreglass.
The test used MAS low-viscosity resin with slow hardener, WEST 105B resin with 207 hardener (slow), and System Three resin with slow hardener. Conditions between all three tests were kept as close as possible. While all three seemed to saturate the wood and cloth equally well, the MAS and System Three brands caused the wood panels to warp as the epoxy cured. This curling away from the coated side suggested that the lengthy cure time had allowed the wood fibres to absorb the epoxy and swell. Below you can see a breakdown of the cure times between all three.
|6 hrs||ready to cut||sticky||sticky|
|8 hrs||ready to sand||rubbery||sticky|
|11 hrs||ready to cut||rubbery/sticky|
|14 hrs||ready to sand||rubbery/sticky|
|21 hrs||ready to cut|
How many layers of varnish do you recommend?
It depends on your varnish’s ultraviolet inhibitor. Marine varnish should list the percentage protection per coat, and you should aim for 12% total. Using Pettit Hi-Build this amounts to four coats.
Should I apply epoxy to the trim as well as the hull for extra protection?
Some builders choose to do so, but we don’t recommend it. Varnishing the trim will provide adequate protection from the elements. Because varnish is not as hard, it is more resistant to cracking, which can happen easily to epoxied gunwales when thumped by a paddle, etc.
For a quick primer on gunwale maintenance, see this short video with occasional Bear Mountain collaborator Andrew Szeto.
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How often should I re-varnish my canoe?
With normal use, you might re-varnish every 3-4 years to ensure optimal protection and longevity for your craft. Always store your boat out of direct sunlight. Of course it will depend on how much you use your boat. Regular inspection to check the integrity of the varnish will tell you when to re-apply – if it is wearing off then don’t wait to apply more.
What type of varnish do you recommend?
Ted recommends either Epifanes Clear Gloss Varnish or Pettit Hi-Build varnish because it builds up layers easily and offers excellent UV protection. You can order Epifanes varnish from our shop here.
How is Bear Mountain Boats affiliated with Noah's Marine?
Since the retirement of Ron Frenette at Canadian Canoes, we have partnered with Noah's Marine in Toronto, Ontario so we can continue to supply canoe, kayak, and small boat kits and materials. While the high quality standard of our products has not changed, the partnership allows us to offer a wider variety of components and much better shipping rates especially for our US customers. We will continue to provide technical advice and support to builders via phone and email.
Who is Steve Killing?