Gone Outdoors

How to Build a Canoe

by Sports & Fitness Editor

There are many ways to build a canoe, including going the serious explorer route and cutting your own wood with which to create the craft. However, without making things too complicated, it's possible to build a canoe from plywood in just a few days.

Choose Between Wood and Fiberglass

Choose a wood and canvas canoe if you want making your canoe to be as cost-effective as possible. Choose a fiberglass canoe if you want a sleeker boat.

Build a fiberglass boat only if you are making it from a kit of pre-molded fiberglass pieces, or if you have a mold. Ensure that you have your mouth and nose covered with a filter to keep dangerous fibers out of your respiratory system. Local hardware stores often carry these in the paint section.

Build a Canoe From Plywood

Cut two sheets of plywood about 1 foot wide and between 8 and 10 feet long. If there will always be two or more people in the canoe, opt for the longer length.

Place the two plywood sides together, one on top of the other, and drill four or five holes in a line down each end a few inches from the edge. "Sew" the two plywood side panels together using zip ties, cable ties or wire. These ties are simply to hold the wood together until you can join the seams later, so make sure the "loose" edges of the zip ties or wire are inside the boat, so you can make a smooth seam on the outside of the boat later.

Set your two side panels, which are affixed together, onto the sheet of plywood that will be the bottom of the boat. Spread apart the two side panels until the opening (which is now in the shape of a canoe) is as wide as you like. It should seat you comfortably and allow some room for maneuvering. Wider canoes are more stable, narrower canoes are easier to turn and guide.

Join the bottom of the boat to the sides by drilling holes every foot or so around the edge of the boat's bottom panel, and affixing it to the sides with the same type of zip ties or wire that you used to bring the front and back ends together. Again, the ends of the ties should be inside the boat.

Seal the inside seams with resin (or one of the marine epoxies on the market) and glass tape, and allow resin to dry. Wire or zip ties can be cut when the inside seams are sealed, and then the outside seams can be sealed with the resin.

Insert a cross bar between the two sides of the canoe to add strength.

Varnish the craft when you are done assembling the sides and the base. Let it dry and you are ready to take the canoe out onto the water!

Items you will need
  • 3 sheets of 6mm plywood
  • Wire, zip ties or cable ties
  • Sawhorses
  • Garage or workspace
  • Resin or marine epoxy
  • Glass tape
  • Breathing filter

Tip

  • Plan a short, close-to-shore trip for your inaugural voyage. This will allow you to assess the boat's joints and ensure that they are watertight.

Warning

  • Assess the plans for any canoe you are considering, and make sure that you have the tools and the time to finish the project. You don't want to decide to make a canoe to save money, and then find that you need to purchase expensive drills and parts that will take you over your budget.